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Wanted: Holy Spirit
The signs are everywhere. The fields are white to harvest. But they want the real thing. They want to know God. They don't want a concept. They don't want a mere social club. They want to know the God of the Bible. - the God of power, the God of glory, the God of personal touch.
The "church" as they know it does not offer a solution. Consequently some turn away from "church" to spiritualism, some to the occult, some to drug addiction, some to alcoholism, some to secularism, and some to other religions looking for the truth. They want the real thing - not just a bunch of "nice" people, doing "nice" things.
Why doesn't the church appeal to them? Most organizations who have the name "church" on their buildings are spiritually poor, pitiful, blind, and naked. They are sickly representations of the God of love AND power.
Paul, the apostle, said, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (I Cor. 2:1-5)
Paul said that he did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. The "church", for the most part, is the exact opposite!
The minister stands behind the pulpit and preaches with excellence of speech and man's wisdom - but there is little or NO demonstration of the Spirit and of POWER.
Sadly, clergy, overlook, or even twist this simple truth to justify their lack. The church attenders come to "church" full of stinking religious pride, spiritually dead, and dry and they leave the same way they came. Their hearts and their lives are not changed. For them it is just a matter of attending the "social club" and going through the motions.
Start at the Top
Cushy clergy, preaching from peachy pulpits to a cozy congregations may never know, see, or even acknowledge the need for a mighty move of the Spirit.
Many churches need remove the word "church" from their signs, and write the word "Ichabod" over the main entrance. The "ark of His presence" has left, and all that is left is a social group.
In Jesus own words, they are "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked."
In justification of their spiritual deadness church leaders explain-away the true meaning of being filled with the Spirit. Let's look at some common erroneous teachings:
- Everyone has the Holy Spirit to one degree or another. This universalist teaching is erroneous to the core. Teachers of this view have either a) never experienced the true infilling of the Holy Spirit, or, b) have at one point experienced a touch of God, but not being rooted in the Spirit, they fell prey to deception. Briefly stated: Biblical, and sacred texts, the teachings of our Lord, and of the apostles, the teachings of the saints throughout centuries, and recent revivalists clearly, and diametrically oppose this view.
Several years ago I spoke with a person who told me that Jesus lives in everyone.
Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, "be zealous and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me."
Jesus is on the outside. It is also worthy of note that Jesus said this to the church.
- The second erroneous teaching is that everyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior has the Holy Spirit. In other words, when you come to believe in Jesus you automatically get the Holy Spirit.
Let's look at a passage in Acts chapter 19:
1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples
* note we are talking about disciples of Christ here.
2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
* If every disciple of Jesus had the Holy Spirit, then why would Paul ask such a question? They didn't even know of the Holy Spirit.
3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism."
*these disciples were baptized in water.
4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus."
* Paul directs their attention to Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
*They received the Holy Spirit months, possibly years after being baptized in water by John, and becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. It is clear that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was a separate event that may have never happened if Paul didn't teach them about it.
It is clear that they did not have the Holy Spirit, and yet they were disciples of Jesus.
7 Now the men were about twelve in all.
The truth is that the Holy Spirit does not fill every believer. Many people believe only with their heads, and not with their hearts. The Holy Spirit is not imaginary. The Holy Spirit is a living person that you could see, feel, hear and touch.
In my own experience I sincerely prayed the sinners prayer many times, and even decided to follow Jesus. It wasn't until months after when I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When a person truly gets filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit there is no doubt of the genuineness or authenticity of the experience. It is an experience that you truly would not forget.
The greatest problem in the world today is that churches fall short of "book of Acts" commitment to the Lord, and the phenomena of the Spirit. In one place in the book of Acts 3000 people were added to the church in one day. Most churches wouldn't be able to deal with it. But it happened not because of great preaching, but because the apostles knew how to surrender to the Holy Spirit.
Matured to Death
God wants his church to be Spirit-filled, with great glory manifested and awesome demonstration of the fearful, and great power of the Lord. This is what we see throughout the Bible and church history.
What does the "demonstration of the Spirit" look like? The best example is that which God has given us in the book of Acts. When the Spirit of the Lord came, people acted drunk!
What does a room full of 120 drunk people look like? They are "passed out", they are laughing, they are hooting and hollering, they are having a great time! That is what the demonstration of the Spirit and power looks like, but it is not limited to that.
In fact, from the saints of old, to the recent revivalists, this phenomena, and such like it has been happening throughout church history: awesome displays of power that God ultimately used to renew, revive and draw sinners to repentance. This phenomena has a long track record of success and good fruit.
From the flying saint, Joseph of Cupertino, to the mystical life of Saint Teresa of Avila, to the unexplainable and powerful phenomena of Johnathan Edwards to the recent revivals of Toronto and Pensacola (just to name a few) - God has always been, and always will be moving with love and power - changing the hearts of His people and preparing His bride.
But now we have those who say they "matured". Unexplained phenomena of the Spirit becomes a thing of the past, and the church sinks into the dust of death along with their highly respected deadhead theologians.
Church out to be a place that is alive with the power of God. It ought to be a place that vibrates with the love AND power of the risen Christ - not only in good deeds (everyone can do that), but in power.
Jesus said to the church at Ephesus:
"These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp-stands:I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp-stand from its place--unless you repent" (Revelation 2:1-5)
When you truly get "born again" (aka "saved"), you passionately fall in love with Jesus. Everything changes. Just as Paul said, old things pass away, and all things become new. The grass seems greener, the sky seems bluer. You can forgive much easier, knowing how much God forgave you. Your love for the Lord is white-hot. Everything you do is dedicated to the Lord. Every thought in your mind is on Him. Every song you sing is a song of love to Him. This is your "first love". This is what Jesus was talking about.
Sadly, many people fall from their "first love". The glitter in their eyes for Jesus grow dim, the excitement in their voice wanes, they start thinking more about the affairs of this life, and less about the Lord. They are sliding back... But Jesus gives another chance. Repentance! I say that with a joyful tone, and it may seem odd because many people do not put the words "repentance" and "joy" together.
But it is a great privilege to be able to repent. So let's do it.
Some of those who get truly born again go on to Bible school to get more educated, hoping to one day end up in a full-time position in the ministry of the Lord. They go to Bible school and get God talked out of them. They come out much worse than they were when they went in.
And some, even pastors, priests, and bishops never had a true born-again experience. The idea of coming back to your "first love" is a foreign concept to them. They really don't understand what that means because they never experienced that kind of intimate love with Jesus to begin with. This is where the problem lies. They have been deceived by their own pride. The knowledge they have is not true knowledge of the Spirit, but rather knowledge of the letter. Their heads are full of theological information. They have more degrees than a thermometer. But they do not have the "true" B.A. (Born Again) degree. So they explain it away as some theological concept.
We must always keep ourselves in check. We must never take our eyes off the cross. At the same time we must never lose the joy and hope that comes knowing that Christ is not in the grave. He is risen - just as He said, and He is coming back the same way He went.
Paul, the apostle, said that he was determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. When we get to that place where we are truly determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified it is then and only then that we are in the best position for God to mold us in the image of His Son.
What does the cross speak of? It speaks of three things:
- Humility - Jesus humbled Himself all the way to the cross. He could have spoken up in court to justify Himself but He didn't. He could have called 10,000 angels to rescue Him but He didn't. He humbly accepted the punishment for our sins, trusting in His Father that he would be raised.
It was much more humiliating that you can imagine. It was the worst form of punishment, saved for the worst criminals. It was a public display for all to see. And contrary to what you see in the pictures, He was completely naked, torn apart like a ravished piece of meat. It says you could hardly recognize it was a man.
- Vulnerability - Jesus became vulnerable. He gave his cheek to those who struck it. In fact, He gave much more than His cheek. He gave His back to be plowed with the roman cat-o-nine tails. He gave His beard to be ripped off in violence. He gave His head to be crowned with thorns, He gave all His clothes to be torn off and gambled away, He gave His hands and feet to be pierced. He gave His side to be plunged through with a spear, and He gave His life.
- Obedience - Jesus knew the reason for His mission - to humbly open Himself up in love and become vulnerable to His own creation, and to obey the task that was given Him of His Father.
Another disease that has hit some churches is Charismatitis. This is the condition where a person feels that they have "attained" to fullness of the Spirit. They think that they "have it".
The root cause of this condition is religious pride. They experienced a certain gift of the Spirit, or a touch of the Spirit, and they think that is all that God has to offer. Such experiences include, but are not limited to:
- Gifts of the Spirit: Tongues, healing, words of knowledge...etc..etc.
- falling under the power
- ecstasy in worship
- ministry of helps (good works, alms giving, etc..etc..)
For example: Joe receives what he believes to be the gift of tongues. Feeling that he has obtained the highest form of spirituality he looks down on Jane, because she hasn't experienced it. And Joe doesn't seek God as much as he used to because he thinks he "has it". His hunger and thirst for more of the Lord's presence wanes because he believes he has already attained the fullness of the Spirit.
Another example: Helen goes to a meeting and God touches her is a special way. She falls to the floor in what they call being "slain in the Spirit'. She feels that she has attained it - the fullness of the Spirit of God, that is.
Even Paul, the apostle, said that he has not "attained it". There is always more. There is always more that you can experience in God. The Bible says that the angels around the throne of God cry out "Holy, Holy, Holy" continuously forever and ever. They never stop. They never have stopped since the creation of the world. But how can the great angels of God cry out "Holy, Holy, Holy" forever, without getting tired, or bored? Because every time they look at God they see something they never saw before, something new, something fresh, and they fall down and cry "Holy, Holy, Holy" all over again. They look again, and there is something else they never saw before. And again, they fall down and cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy". And this goes on forever and ever.
Likewise, we should never stop seeking Him, and seeing something more, experiencing something more, and adoring Him with a fresh sense of awe each and every day.
Hunger and Thirst: The Fuel of Spiritual Life
When someone loses their hunger and thirst for more, they lose their spiritual vitality. When a person falls into "ho-hum" Christianity, they fall into spiritual death. Jesus said to the church at Laodecia that he wants them to be hot, or cold, but never lukewarm. The word "cold" means ice-cold, and the word "hot" in the Greek can be translated "boiling hot". He wants you to be on fire for Him, or cold, but never in between. Jesus promises that those who are lukewarm in Christianity will be spit out of His mouth to become the vile vomit of God.
Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst..."
If you were to think of the top 5 men of God in the Bible you would most certainly think of Moses, David, Isaiah... These were men of God who have been known and trusted through the centuries to be some of the chosen few that actually know God and have personal contact with Him.
Did Moses teach the pursuit of God? Absolutely:
"But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Notice that Moses said we will find God if we seek Him with all our heart and soul. He did not say we will find Him if we seek Him with all our mind. Moses differentiated between soul and mind in Deuteronomy 6 when he said that we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. So then God is looking for those who seek Him with their heart, and their soul (spirit).
David, one of the most prominent men of God in all history said, "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory."
Let's feel his hunger! Let's share his thirst! Let's us reach out to God in desperate longing just as David did.
David went on to say, "blessed are those who seek Him with the whole heart". God is concerned about heart-led seeking, not mind-led seeking.
God said through Isaiah, "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;"
Did God say He will pour His Spirit on everyone? No. He will pour His Spirit on those who are thirsty.
I once heard a preacher say, "The only perfect gift that God has ever left us was the Holy Bible."
This is not true. I place a very high value on knowing the scriptures, but we much, much more than a book - we have the Author, Himself; the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is by far the greatest and most perfect gift that God had ever given us.
Don't get me wrong. There is a famine in the land for the true knowledge and correct interpretation of scripture. But the only way we can really know what the scripture says is to get it from the Author, Himself.
Don't be confused: Knowing the Bible is NOT knowing God. The devil knows the scriptures, but he does not have an intimate relationship with God.
Our God is not data. Our God is a living person who longs for a loving, intimate, wonderful, deep, and powerful relationship with us. The only way to connect to God in this way is through the Holy Spirit. It is our only connection with God.
The "church" today cannot expect the same fruit that the book of Acts church had, when we value a book that they didn't have more than the Holy Spirit that they did have.