By David A. Huston
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
On January 2, 1992, a sixteen-year-old Baltimore girl took a pistol into her mother’s bedroom and killed herself. Why? What drove this attractive girl, who had friends and who was doing well in school, to such a desperate act? The note she left said only, “I’m hurting.”
Inner pain is a powerful force. It can drive an otherwise healthy person to extreme behavior, often yielding tragic results. In the world of the unsaved, such behavior should be expected, since pain came into the world in the beginning as a consequence of sin. But since the ministry of Jesus Christ is to deliver people, not just from sin, but also from the effects of sin—inner pain included—it is His will that His people be free from such destructive influences.
We must recognize, however, that even after a person has entered into a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, his growth in the life of faith will take time. The healing of inward wounds from the past is a part of the growth process, a part which is not accomplished either automatically or quickly. By definition, healing is a process. Only a miracle heals instantaneously, and while we do not want to rule out the possibility of a miracle in any given situation, this book will focus on the healing process, a process that often requires specific ministry from someone who cares and who understands how to help hurting people. This is the work of the sons of oil.
We often think of the ministry of the Messiah as one of preaching the Gospel, healing diseases, and casting out demons. But there was much more. Jesus described His ministry in this way:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19
This passage is a beautiful encapsulation of the ministry of our Supreme Example. The Bible says He came to save His people from their sins, but He also went about “healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). His ministry was not just to heal cancer and diabetes, however; it was also to heal the hearts of those hurt by rejection, to deliver those taken captive by their misdirected desires, to give understanding to Inner Healing:
What Is It? Those walking in spiritual darkness, to give liberty to those oppressed by their own brokenness, and to let them all know that this is the time of God’s acceptance, not of rejection and wrath.
After Jesus ascended into Heaven, the sons of oil became God’s primary agents of this messianic ministry. These anointed ones are called and equipped to work with the Healer, as He ministers to the broken and oppressed people around them.
This ministry is not limited to “the professional clergy,” a concept not found in the New Testament pattern of ministry. A person need not have a ministerial license to receive the messianic anointing from God. The truth is, any believer who genuinely loves people, is committed to a local assembly, is open to instruction, and is willing to submit his or her work to appropriate oversight can serve as a son of oil.
Defining Inner Healing
Many contemporary teachings being presented under the mantle of “inner healing” are not very helpful, and some are even dangerous. To avoid these counterfeit approaches, let’s establish in clear biblical language what inner healing actually is.
The term “inner healing” implies that something needs to be healed. It implies that something is damaged, diseased, or for some other reason not functioning properly. What exactly is it that needs to be healed?
The Bible distinguishes between two aspects of man—the outward and the inward (see Luke 11:40 and 2 Corinthians 4:16). We could also call these aspects the physical man and the spiritual man—the body and the soul. Medical science is man’s attempt to repair or heal the components of the physical man. This is commonly done through the analysis of symptoms, the prescribing of drugs, and surgery. But medical science pays little attention to the spiritual man.
The Bible, on the other hand, suggests an intimate interaction between the physical and the spiritual, suggesting that many physical problems have their roots in the spiritual. For example, John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). Prosperity of soul is one way we can describe the goal of inner healing. In this verse, the word “soul” is synonymous with the spiritual aspect of man.
The idea that there is a parallel between the physical and the spiritual indicates that just as the physical body has many parts, so does the spiritual. These parts can best be understood by considering their functions rather than attempting to assign names to them. For example, there is something within our spiritual man that has the capacity to think. Yet we also know that the ability to think is an integral part of the functioning of the brain, which is physical. The purpose of this book is not to attempt to explain these interactions, only to recognize that they exist and to make the point that we are complex creatures. As David wrote, “Your eyes saw my substance [an embryo], being yet unformed. You formed my inward parts [the inward aspect]…in my mother’s womb. My frame [the physical body] was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-16, reordered by the author).
Thinking is an obvious function of the inward man. Other functions include volition, desire, affection, trust, love, passion, and compassion. These functions seem to be somewhat less under our direct control than conscious thought is. We can change our desires and affections over time, but a healthy person can change his thoughts instantly. Other functions seem to be even further removed from our immediate grasp. For example, a person cannot simply choose to trust someone who has violated his trust in the past. In most relationships, trust must develop over time. Similarly, a person cannot simply create passion by an act of the will. If a person is not passionate about a certain thing, he cannot simply decide to be passionate. Passion and trust come from deep within us.
One way of understanding our inward man is by studying the Tabernacle built by Moses. According to the description given in Exodus, the inward aspect of the Tabernacle consisted of two areas. The first was the Holy Place, which was where the priests ministered and which was therefore accessible to man. Likewise, there are areas within our inward man that we have immediate access to. This includes whatever we are consciously aware of. The second area was called the Holy of Holies, which was the innermost part of the Tabernacle, where the Presence of God dwelled. This area was off-limits to man. Only once a year did the high priest enter in, the man who serves as a symbol of Jesus Christ.
We all have some degree of awareness that there is an innermost area deep within us, but none of us can understand it or explain it fully. Only the Lord sees the heart exactly as it is. We just know it’s there. This is what might be called the core of our being (the Latin word for “heart” is also the root of the word “core”). It is more profound than our conscious thoughts or attitudes about ourselves; it is that part of us where we can connect directly to God. This is a sensitive area, one that is purely spiritual, and it can be easily wounded and damaged.
Remember, in the beginning man was made to dwell in relationship with God in a perfectly safe environment—the Garden of Eden. God didn’t construct us to live in a hostile, violent environment such as we find ourselves in today. Because of this, the heart of man is easily bruised, and this affects all the other functions of the inward man.
When we speak of spiritual wounds, what we mean is not simply damage to the thinking capacity, but damage to this innermost part of us. And for ministry to this area to be effective, it must go far deeper than the conscious mind and touch this innermost place. Therefore, truly spiritual ministry must be founded on the love and truth of Jesus Christ, not just human speculation and concern. It must reach beyond the limitations of our human reason and logic to the depths of the heart.
The Mind is the Gate
Simply improving the way a person thinks is not inner healing. Certainly, spiritual wounds will affect the way a person thinks, but they are nevertheless wounds to the spirit, not to the conscious mind. Similarly, improving the way a person feels about himself is not inner healing.
For ministry to those with inward pain to be genuinely effective, it must go far deeper than the conscious mind—it must touch the heart. As sons of oil, we must minister in the love and truth of the Lord. Nothing else can reach deep enough into the wounded heart of man.
KEY THOUGHT #1
Effective ministry to those with inward pain must go far deeper than the conscious mind; it must touch the heart.
The devil would like ministering Christians to believe that inner healing is a difficult and complex matter—one that may actually require “professional help.” He would like us to think that the Word of God is not enough, that it must be mixed with the “wise counsel” of trained men. But, as we have seen, psychotherapy is limited to the realm of the psyche (the mind) and cannot reach into the spirit of man, where spiritual wounds are located. The Bible says that God’s Word, all by itself, is “living and powerful.” It alone divides the “soul and spirit.” It is able (without the help of a psychotherapist) to discern the “thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The fact that inner healing deals with the innermost part of man, that part which cannot be seen by the natural eyes, has given rise to much confusion and false teaching on this subject. After all, who is to know what works and does not work? This is why we must reject all theories that do not line up fully with the teachings of the Scriptures. The truth is that inner healing is not complicated—if it is approached from a scriptural and truly spiritual perspective.
Some inner healing ministries have focused entirely on building up the “self-esteem” of wounded persons. These people are prayed for and ministered to hour after hour and day after day, in the vain hope that they will begin to feel better about themselves. When this doesn’t happen, the only recourse, for those who have fallen into this error, is more prayer and more ministry.
Spiritual healing, however, is not defined as “feeling better about yourself and being better able to cope with past sins.” That is the goal of psychotherapy, whose practitioners invariably seek to accomplish this by focusing their patients on their selfish concerns, telling them they ought to love themselves more. God’s purpose in healing hearts is to set people free from the bondage and oppression of self-love, so they can truly know and love Him, becoming servants in His Kingdom and partakers of His holiness. He instructed His disciples not to love themselves, but to deny themselves, to take up their crosses, and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24). By denying themselves and following Christ, they were set free from the bondage of self-love.
God’s goal for every one of His children is complete wholeness of being, both inwardly and outwardly. In biblical terms, this is called conformity to the image of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29). Jesus Himself is our model. He is the One after whom we are to pattern every aspect of our lives. As Christians begin to attain to “the stature of the fullness of Christ,” through fellowship with His Spirit and faith-filled obedience to His Word, they will discover an ever-increasing desire to serve other people in love. Then, and only then, should they expect to begin to feel better about themselves. It was alienation from God and disobedience to His will that gave us a distorted self-image in the first place. Only spiritual intimacy with Jesus Christ and obedience to His will can restore a correct biblical self-image and keep it intact.
Counterfeit approaches to inner healing have allowed many believers to rationalize away their disobedience. Their thinking is: I’ve been wounded and I hurt; therefore, I cannot do what God wants me to do. This could be a valid excuse if the Messiah had not come with His gracious offer of healing for all. His ministry strips away every human justification for continuing in sin. Since Jesus has made His offer of inward healing to all of humanity, this means that a broken heart, a darkened mind, and an imprisoned spirit are not legitimate excuses for failing to do the will of God. (See Appendix A for descriptions of false approaches to inner healing.)
Those who use their wounds as excuses for being unfaithful to church, unsubmitted to appropriate over-sight, or unable to minister to others, are self-deceived. While wounds may hinder spiritual growth temporarily, the will of God is that ultimately every believer be whole.
This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The word “perfect” means “mature and complete.” This is God’s goal for every believer. And it is in the pursuit of this perfection that the wounds will be healed and the believer will go forward to know and serve the Lord.
Believers must be discouraged from the common tendency to use their wounds as a cloak to hide what is actually self-centeredness, stubbornness, or apathy. True faith produces obedience from the heart to the Word of God. This is the real goal of inner healing: to set believers free from the effects of pain so they can know Jesus Christ, keep His Word, and love others as themselves.
KEY THOUGHT #2
The goal of inner healing is to set believers free from the effects of pain so they can know Jesus Christ, keep his word and love others as themselves.
The goal of the sons of oil should be to guide God’s children into the complete inner wholeness His Word ordains. And genuine wholeness in Christ will always exhibit itself outwardly in conformity to the image of Jesus Christ, with the wonderful inward blessings of righteousness, peace, and joy. This process of transformation into the image of Christ begins when a person is born-again. This spiritual birth provides the foundation for subsequent spiritual growth.
The result of the new birth must be a conscience washed free from guilt by the blood of Jesus Christ. Transformation will then progress through many stages, as the mind is renewed and the believer learns to think as Jesus thinks and act as Jesus acts. This process will involve many occasions of hearing the Word of God and deciding to accept it and obey it. As submission to the Word increases, so will revelation and understanding of spiritual truths.
The transformation process is equivalent to growing in “the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). This is God’s goal for every one of His children.
The prophecy of Ezekiel foretold, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (36:27). According to this promise, God’s purpose in giving the gift of the Holy Spirit is to cause His people to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments. This is His way of manifesting Himself to the world. Yet many who receive the Holy Spirit struggle to obey God’s Word, and we have to wonder just why that is.
Why is it that so many new believers progress well for a while, but then suddenly stumble? Some stumble within the first few months; while others stumble only after many years. And if we are to maximize our effectiveness, we simply must understand why these breakdowns in the transformation process occur, so that we can deal with them. I have found that ministry to the innermost being of a believer is what is required in these instances.
The whole issue of a believer standing or falling always hinges on his or her personal obedience to God — not ritualistic obedience to the rules of a religion, but obedience “from the heart,” the “obedience of faith” (Romans 6:17 and 16:26, KJV). The real struggle of every believer always revolves around whether or not he will do whatever God is specifically telling him to do. It may well be that God wants the believer to give up something. It may be that God wants him to start doing something that he is not presently doing. It may even be that God wants to see just a change in attitude. Whatever the case, the issue is ultimately obedience to God—the conflict between God’s will and self-will. Despite anything a believer may say or do, if he is ultimately unwilling to submit to that which the Almighty God has personally commanded him to do, the result is that transformation into the image of Jesus Christ comes to a standstill.
KEY THOUGHT #3
The real struggle of every believer always revolves around whether or not he will do whatever god is specifically telling him to do.
But why is it that a person will go just so far and then say to God, “I will go no further than this”? It cannot be, as many imagine, that the Lord’s expectations are just too difficult, for He is a just and merciful God. What He requires of every one of us can be fulfilled, if we are willing. Micah the prophet declared: “He has shown you, 0 man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). That doesn’t seem so difficult.
In a similar vein, John wrote: “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). And Jesus Himself said: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). It’s the way of the unfaithful that is “hard” (Proverbs 13:15), not the way of the obedient.
Why is it then that some people shake their fists in the face of God and defiantly refuse to do His will, despite the obvious consequences? And what is really going on when, in their minds, some people think they truly want to obey God, while at the same time something deep within them seems to hold them in invisible bondage? Outwardly, the manifestation of their feelings is disobedience and rebellion, but what is the root cause? The only way we can know the answer to these perplexing questions is by turning to the Word of God. The Bible is the window into the invisible spiritual realm that lies deep beneath the surface of our outward efforts to live for God.
Let us look into the Word for understanding as to how we can become the sons of oil.
Discussion Guide for Small-Group Study
- What are some of the differences in the functions of the mind and the spirit?
- How would you describe “inward wholeness”?
- Tell about a time when you suffered a deep wound to your spirit. How did it affect your thinking? Does it still affect you today?
- Talk about the role of the Spirit of God in bringing His people to perfection.
- Why do you think obedience is so important to God?
The above article, “Inner Healing: What Is It?” was written by David A. Huston. The article was excerpted from chapter two in Huston’s book, The Sons of Oil.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.