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Michael Jordan and the Anointing!

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

A preacher interrupts his message to say, "Man, this is anointed! Do you feel it?" I have done that. Sometimes, I am just wondering if the audience is feeling what I am feeling. The anointing on a sermon is a supernatural function that could be compared to a basketball player getting in, what they call, the zone, like Michael Jordan in 1992.

In the 1992 NBA finals, Michael Jordan, who was not a great three-point shooter, could not miss. This famous shrug was when he looked to the announcers as if to say, "I don't know how I am doing this." They said he was in the zone.

The word unction has to do with oil. Just like anointing. And Scripture seems to liken ritual oil with God's grace to do his work. We like to take isolated Scriptures and build doctrines. This can be dangerous. Preachers do that with 1 John 2:20, 27.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth ... I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.(1 Jn 2:20, 26–27)

The word anointing here is the same word used in the Hebrew Bible for the ritual use of oil to consecrate someone for ministry, such as a king or priest. But it refers here, not to power coming on you to preach, but to God's Spirit protecting you from deception by leading you to truth. John remembers well Yeshua's teaching on the Holy Spirit—"He will lead you into all truth" (John 16:13). And he was warning against false teachers.

But I do believe that this same anointing that protects us from deception is what the Apostles experienced in Acts 2, when the Spirit of God anointed them for ministry.

Does the anointing really break the yoke?

Another verse that has been misused is Isaiah 10:27 about the anointing that breaks the yoke. As a young believer, I must have heard that phrase a 1,000 times. I never understood it because I thought a yoke was the yellow of the egg. I was too uneducated to know it was referring to yoke of bondage. But even with that understanding, the passage doesn't mean that the power of God—the anointing—breaks bondage. The text actually says that the yoke of bondage will break because Israel has grown fat (in a good way, like oxen). The idea is that the yoke around Israel's neck from Assyria will snap because Israel's neck has become strong.

Having said that, I still believe that the anointing of the Holy Spirit plays a powerful role in our ministry—in casting out demons, declaring the Word and seeing people get free. And we see that over and over in Scripture, where an otherwise normal person does extraordinary things under the power of the Holy Spirit (like Moses, David, Samson, Peter, Deborah, etc.).

Your Car Needs Oil

Oil is needed to make a car work. You can have all the right parts and even gas, but without oil to lubricate the engine and its parts, as they are in constant friction, your engine will lock up. Dr. Robb Brewer has eight essentials for preaching, but all but one of the eight essentials depends largely on me. I have to formulate my statement and prepare relevant stories. I lead the dialogue. Of course, I will ask for God's help, but you don't need to be a believer to be an effective communicator. Just look at Hitler!

But the one essential that I cannot provide is what Dr. Brewer calls dynamic. And by dynamic, he means anointing or unction. While I can ask God to help me in my preparation, I cannot make Him. While I can ask Him to breathe on my delivery of the message, I cannot force His arm.

You can fake the anointing (just turn on Christian TV), but it is the real thing that changes people's lives. In Bible school many years ago, the great British teacher David Pawson came to minister. His weekday classes were good, but his Tuesday night message left me speechless. There was something on his words that touched me deeply and even moved me to holy fear. That is the anointing.

Lee Eclov writes that "unction" refers to "the anointing of the Holy Spirit on a sermon so that something holy and powerful is added to the message that no preacher can generate, no matter how great his skills."[1] I think of Peter's Jewish hearers—three thousand men—being "cut to the heart" by his mere words. They uttered, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). That is unction. Moses standing before the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's army behind them, says, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again." (Ex. 14:13) That was anointed!

Eclov refers to baptized rhetoric. While there is no substitute for good preparation, "it is only when the Holy Spirit is added to the equation that we have unction … God's Spirit has surely 'filled the sails' of poor sermons and embarrassing preachers from time to time, but for consistency, when logos, ethos, and pathos are baptized into Christ, unction results."[2]

Encoding and the Holy Spirit

"Memory Encoding is the initial learning of information. It is how the information coming from sensory input is changed into a form so it can be stored in the brain. Encoding is transforming internal thoughts and external events into short-term and long-term memory."[3]

For example, I used word association to learn Hebrew. The Hebrew word for crisis is mashbear. I could never remember it until I visualized a bear being mashed. It was burned into my memory. Dr. Brewer states, "You become an anointed teacher when you shift the responsibility of encoding, off of you and onto the Holy Spirit." It is God using our words to produce what He desires in our hearers.

Now that we have defined it, what can we do to obtain it?

  1. Listen to anointed preachers. Read the sermons of the great evangelists. When you do so, it will make you hunger for anointing. It will force you to cry out to God lest you stand before a crowd spiritually naked. When you witness the anointing on others, as a preacher, you realize that you cannot live without it.

  2. Pray for it. "You have not, because you ask not." (James 4:2) The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and in Acts chapter 4. Both times, they preached the Word of God boldly. Two times, they were praying, and two times, they became anointed and two times they preached boldly. We should constantly ask God for more anointing to do His will.

  3. Practice preaching with anointing. One afternoon as a young believer, I was preparing to preach to high schoolers, and I just began to preach in my empty room. I want to be clear; I was not practicing my message. I was practicing pouring out my heart, which up until that time, I had never done before in front of a group of people. If you can be anointed in private, then God will anoint you in public.

  4. Make the Word of God your center. There is an "inherent anointing on God's Word itself."[4] It cuts deeper than an actual sword and will bring deep conviction (Heb. 4:12-13).

  5. Focus on Jesus. "What person, at the time, thought the death of Jesus was anything but a senseless and severe tragedy? Who now would see it as anything but the mercy of God at work on our behalf?"[5] The story of Yeshua is the greatest story of all.

[1] Lee Eclov, The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, eds. Haddon Robinson and Craig Larson, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Kindle Edition), p. 81. [2] Eclov, p. 82. [3] [4] Eclov, 81 [5] Daniel T. Hans, The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, eds. Haddon Robinson and Craig Larson, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Kindle Edition), p. 97.

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