Posted on June 24, 2022
How Seeing Jesus Transforms the Heart
John E. Thomas
We don’t have to look far to realize that revelatory encounters and God’s power do not guarantee heart transformation. A person can be incredibly gifted and yet have weak places in their character.
Unfortunately, we all know stories of gifted individuals who fell—moral failures, financial discrepancies, doctrinal error. For a time, much of the church believed that supernatural gifts somehow protected a person from error or were a sign of God’s approval, but now we know that isn’t true. Prophetic reformation is needed—a return to God’s original intent.
Prophetic ministry exists to anchor people in their covenant relationship with Him, point them to His activity in the earth, help them respond to His invitations, and equip them to hear Him for themselves.
The Greek word prophetes can be translated as “one who speaks for another.” So a prophet isn’t just someone with secret knowledge, but they’re a message carrier for someone else. A prophet points to the Lord and proclaims His words, on His behalf, and in those words and the sight of His face, we find the heart transformation we need.
How Streams Ministries Started
John Paul Jackson, the founder of Streams Ministries, had a call from God before he was born. An angel appeared to his mother and told her she was pregnant with a son. She was to name him John Paul and he would be a minister for God. From an early age, John Paul had prophetic experiences and eventually found himself in a season of astounding spiritual activity as prophetic ministry emerged in the church again. Until that time, common ministries included the pastor, teacher, and faith healer, but around 1988 the prophetic launched onto the church’s international stage.
John Paul and nearly a dozen of his friends or associates became involved in prophetic ministry around the same time. Twenty years later, he was the only one in that group who had not fallen morally, left the ministry, or given up on God. (Plenty of others outside the group did not fall, but I’m talking about that group specifically.) Many of these failures were public, and as John Paul saw the confusion and discord that arose in the church, he felt an urge to do something to help prophetic individuals.
In March 1994, after serving other men of God like Mike Bickle and John Wimber, John Paul started Prophetic Reformation Ministries to help bring healing and maturity to emerging prophetic people, so they wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes he’d made and observed. A short time later, he changed the name to Streams Ministries International. As he taught on hearing God’s voice, he focused on character as much as gifting, helping people recognize the process in which God transforms hearts and lives.
I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but when I was fifteen, they discovered I was leading a double life and disfellowshipped me.
I was angry with God and anything having to do with religion. For most of my life, I’d struggled with demonic torment, so I made the brilliant decision to become a drug addict. For seven years I spiraled downward. I overdosed eight times on various drugs, destroyed every relationship I had, and ended up homeless for a season. In and out of jail and various recovery programs, eventually I came to believe there was no hope for me.
But I wanted hope. I stopped doing hard drugs and finally reached a point where I was living as a functional alcoholic and drug addict while working construction. I thought my life was going pretty well, considering where I had been. One day while I was out driving, a sudden thought passed through my mind: The world is going to end. You better figure out what side you are on.
Having grown up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I knew their teachings well and was fully convinced that all Christians were wrong. Since the Witnesses kicked me out and exposed my hypocrisy, I also knew they were wrong. But one foundation remained—I knew the Bible held the truth.
I went to a bookstore, bought a Bible, and started reading it every night. Even when I was high or drunk, I still read it, sometimes passing out with it in the bed. Every night I said the same prayer before I started reading: “God, I know the Christians aren’t right, and I know the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t right, but I know this is truth and I need to know truth. Show me truth.”
People told me to start in the Gospels. Some said to start with John, so I purposefully started in Genesis. (I had a bit of a rebellious streak.) A few weeks into this journey, I was reading 2 Kings. I don’t remember anything special happening, and I hadn’t said any new prayers—it was just a normal day. But I went to my construction job and sang happy songs as I worked. When I got home, I put a CD in my stereo but then didn’t hit the play button, because I knew I couldn’t listen to that music anymore.
God had broken into my life and everything changed—that’s how it seemed. I was delivered from drug addiction; I never had a driving desire for drugs or alcohol again, and I was aware of the presence of God. I knew He was with me, and I talked to Him like I would to anyone else in the room.
I started going to church and learning about this God. My offense at Christianity dissipated with my surrender to His love. For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved. My hunger for His Word increased, and I began having visions and dreams that showed me the truth I held in my head but didn’t really believe. God’s presence would drop on me at unexpected moments, and I cried because of His tenderness.
It wasn’t long before a memory came to me. This would often happen as I struggled with the past—something I had done or that was done to me. This time when the memory came, I responded differently. Instead of berating myself, I started repenting. I thought about everything I had done to hurt that person and asked God to forgive me. I also remembered everything they had done to hurt me, and I asked God to forgive them. I started praying for their salvation and for God to bless them and show them the love He was showing me.
As I prayed about these memories, they began to lose their emotional intensity, and my self-hatred and the rage I felt toward others grew less severe. This continued for a couple of years. I would pray as the painful memories returned to me, and over time the memories started to fade. As the self-hatred and rage left, the cycles of depression I had suffered for as long as I could remember began to lessen. The pain I’d avoided for so long was being healed, and I no longer needed the defenses I’d built to protect myself. I started giving this love away every chance I could.
Having seen the power of God transform my life, I sought out training so I could minister to others. I pursued everything I could find about praying for healing, physical or emotional, and about hearing from God. Because my heart found peace in His presence, I pressed in for a deeper devotional life.
I discovered the desert fathers and mothers and the mystical tradition of the church. In their teachings I recognized the connection between spiritual disciplines, hearing from God, and heart transformation. The path to true transformation was available—but had been largely lost after centuries of disuse.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
—G. K. Chesterton
During my search to learn more about God and helping other people, John Paul Jackson came as a guest speaker to the church where I was being discipled. He gave an encouraging message—but what happened afterward awakened something much deeper in me. He started ministering prophetically. He would have someone stand up; he’d ask their name and then tell them details about their past, present, and future. Some of the people he ministered to were friends of mine or in our home group, and I knew his words were accurate.
As he ministered, I saw people respond with tears or excitement. I didn’t have words for it at the time, but I could tell that something was happening deeper than what my eyes could see. God was letting me see their spirits as His Spirit touched them. I knew something powerful was happening and I wanted to be a part of it. A prayer escaped from my heart: “God, if that is available, I want to do that!”
Hearing from God became a passion for me, and I began to teach others the things I was discovering. Whenever I prayed for someone, I would ask God to show me what they needed the most so they could respond to His love.
One day I spoke with a young woman in the youth group and mentioned that when I looked at her, I saw a little eight-year-old girl crying. She began to weep and asked how I knew about that—the time when her parents divorced. She had been deeply struggling ever since. We prayed together, and God stepped in to bring healing to that place in her heart.
At our home group one night, I began sharing a vision I had seen of someone hiding under a kitchen table. I described the kitchen, where the sink was, the counters, refrigerator, and the style of the table. I could hear angry voices screaming at each other, and I also heard specific words spoken about the person hiding under the table. A member of our home group looked at me, astonished. I had described their childhood home exactly and where they had hidden under the table as their parents fought. We prayed into that memory, and they received breakthrough in how they saw themselves.
A Path to Transformation
God loves to see His children healed and set free. He speaks into our hearts to bring about the transformation that Jesus purchased through His work of redemption.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints;
but let them not turn back to folly. (Psalm 85:8 ESV)
The Holy Spirit within each believer takes the truth about who Jesus is in us and what He has done for us, and He applies it to our hearts (John 16:13–15). The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is not merely to get us to stop sinning, but He works to develop Christ in us (Romans 8) so we can partake in the life that’s available to us (2 Peter 1:3–4).
Because of the work Jesus accomplished and the indwelling Spirit of God, we have access to a new form of life—a life that comes only from God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). That life is so astounding that everything else pales in comparison (2 Corinthians 3:7–11). We are able to see God as He is and recognize what He has done in giving us life (2 Corinthians 3:12–16).
We live in a world that is antagonistic to God, and He’s serious about removing the effects of that world system from our lives (Romans 12:1–2). When He created mankind, He said we were very good (Genesis 1:31), but the fall caused us to hide from Him and opened us up to deception. Now we try to figure out what is good and bad based on our perceptions, feelings, desires, and human thinking (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), instead of finding the answers in God’s voice alone.
As we go through circumstances and situations that bring pain, trauma, and fear, we begin to make judgments about ourselves, other people, the world, and God. Those judgments come from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and inherently carry deception. That deception places a lens, or veil, over our eyes, and the only way the lens can be removed is when we spend time looking at Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:14–16).
In the beginning, God made man and woman in His image (Genesis 1:26–27). We bear the image of God—we look like Him. That does not mean we can look at mankind to figure out what God is like. It does mean we can look at God to figure out what man is like! In the work of Christ, God removed the corruption of sin from His image in mankind, and now we can be like Him again—incredibly enough, even more than the original man and woman.
Everyone who comes to Christ in trust has become a child of God (John 1:12–13). His plan is for everyone who comes to be conformed into the same image, that we would become just like Jesus (Romans 8:28–30).
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2, emphasis added)
One of the ways God transforms us is by giving us a vision of who Christ is in us and who we are in Him. The Spirit of God allows us to see, understand, and experience the truth of who Jesus is and that revelation changes us. Paul put it this way:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18 NASB)
The Spirit of God within us sets us free from the lies we believe about ourselves, other people, the world, and God, so we can see things clearly. The lens is removed, and we are freed from the deception we used to experience as truth. Actual truth is found by looking at the Lord “as in a mirror.”
What do you see when you look in a mirror? Do you see things the way they should be? Do you see your hair exactly the way you want it? What about when you first wake up?
A mirror does not show you how things should be—it shows you how things are. Ancient Corinth was known for the mirrors they made. They were extremely high quality, and the image you saw in those mirrors was true, not distorted. That is what Paul means. When you look in a mirror, you see yourself as you truly are, not as you should be.
James says that mirror is the Word of God: the law of liberty revealed wherever the Spirit is (James 1:22–25). If we trust in Jesus and receive Him, we become a new creation. We shed the “old man,” our old way of doing and seeing things. Not because we are trying to become someone else—but because we are finally living out who we truly are.
If we walk away from our encounters with God where we have seen Jesus—that special place “where our life is hidden” (Colossians 3:3–4)—and we start to live as if we were not a new creation, we deceive ourselves. We become hearers only and not doers of the word. But as we look at Jesus, we see who we truly are and begin living out of that identity.
Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is that we become the image we see. To the extent that we see Christ in us through the Spirit (Colossians 1:27), we can live out that reality. We are transformed into the image we behold! That’s why Paul warned the Corinthians that bad communications and company would spoil the life within them (1 Corinthians 15:33). What we focus on we make room for.
Prophetic Ministry and Heart Transformation
Prophetic ministry should hold a mirror in front of someone’s face so they can see Christ in them, and to the extent they see Him, they will be transformed—into the same image. The image seen.
The prophetic reformation God has initiated will include two elements:
- Prophetic ministers being healed and transformed, and
- Believers being equipped to hear God for themselves, which will result in transformation.
We can help bring transformation to others only to the extent we have been transformed ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). As we become healed, the lens we see and hear God through is cleansed and we’re able to see and hear Him more clearly. We become agents of transformation, revealing the One we stand before and being faithful to His Word. Consequently, we get to see the healing of His children’s hearts (Malachi 4:5–6).
You and I use the gifting God has given us to accomplish the one commission given to every ministry in the church: making disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:18–20). As we do this, the people of God will be equipped to hear from Him for themselves, and Jesus will be revealed in and through His church (Ephesians 4:11–16).
As people recognize that they can hear from God, they will start seeking His voice and He will lead them to Himself. Truth will arise and the path to transformation will be revealed. God Himself revealing Himself, drawing His children into moments of seeing Jesus through His Spirit. Seeing Jesus. Really seeing Him.
And every time Jesus is revealed, God’s children are transformed “into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). They begin to walk out the freedom He purchased with so precious a price—His own blood.
How to Learn More
Streams Ministries is committed to playing a part in this prophetic reformation. We have a number of resources available—books, videos, audio recordings, and a robust online classroom to help you grow in your ability to hear God, recognize His voice, and follow Him into the fulfillment of the purpose He created you for. Visit www.streamsministries.com to learn more.
About John E. Thomas
John E. Thomas is the president of Streams Ministries and the co-author of The Art of Praying the Scriptures: A Fresh Look at Lectio Divina with John Paul Jackson. Teaching on prophetic ministry, dream interpretation, and the kingdom of God, he travels internationally and works to help restore the awe of God to a world that has lost its wonder. John and his wife, Dawna, live outside of Dallas, Texas.
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