Before Jesus left this earth to ascend to the Father, He promised that He would send us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He spoke of the Holy Spirit as not just being with His disciples, but being IN them (John 14:17). And then they would know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (vs.20). Are you also His disciple? Do you believe this is true of you?
If this is true, why is it that the church has historically taught such a helpless Christianity? Why have we been taught that the best we can do is simply trust God that one day it will all be ok in the end? If the Holy Spirit is in us, and if it is true that Jesus is in the Father and “ye in me and I in you,” then we are in cahoots with the Almighty! We ought to be living in the power and victory of God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ (2Corinthians 2:14).
We are supposed to be Acts 29. If you are familiar with the book of Acts, there are only 28 chapters recorded. It’s been suggested that the church today should be making up the record of a chapter 29. But too many in the church are not experiencing Acts kind of victories because they have neglected or shut out the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave the disciples power to heal and cast out devils while He was with them, but before He left He instructed them to tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49). They were to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
In our day, many believers don’t know anything about receiving the Holy Spirit. Consequently, they walk out most of their faith with minimal power, when all the while they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter preached, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39). To all that are afar off: this refers to you and me!
The disciples had to tarry, or wait. But at Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the church. The waiting is over, and the Spirit can be received now by faith. This is important, because many believers are still waiting for something fantastic to happen like tongues of fire coming to set on their heads (see Acts 2:3). Indeed, we should be open to fantastic occurrences, and not limit what God can do. But the point here is that He has already done that. He has already sent His Spirit, and now it is simply a matter of receiving the promise by faith. The Holy Spirit can be received through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6) or simply by asking the Father for Him (Luke 11:13).
A Powerful Difference
Someone may object, “I thought we received the Spirit when we believed in Christ.” You did. No one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost (1Corinthians 12:3). Being born again, you were born of the Spirit (John 3:6). Every believer has a measure of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible indicates an additional measure of the Spirit that brings power from on high. That’s why the disciples had to wait in Jerusalem. That’s why Paul asked the disciples at Ephesus, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” (Acts 19:2). Paul himself, after his conversion to Christ, received the Spirit by the laying on of hands (Acts 9:17).
The point in all of this is that our faith walk should be spiritual. The church must not settle for a Spirit-less Christianity. As one pastor said, “a church without the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a book club.”
It is the Holy Spirit who makes the difference between having power or just having religious form.
There are religious people sitting in the pews every Sunday who never really get the message. They can be sitting right next to someone else who is soaking in every word of the sermon and getting built up and edified, and yet they are unmoved and ready to fall asleep! Others put on a nice front and smile while the pastor speaks, but later reveal they totally missed his points.
Why does this happen? Well, anyone can have an off moment or a bad day and miss it. But often it is because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1Corinthians 2:14). They have not become spiritual people, and therefore they can’t connect with the spiritual truths in the words that are being spoken or read. And if they live more in the natural, their Christian walk is hypocritical at worst or an inconsistent journey of ups and downs at best.
In the gospels, you can see the ups and downs of the disciples. But after the second chapter of Acts, when the Holy Spirit fell upon them, you see powerful change. You see the cowards who fled at Jesus’ arrest become bold witnesses in the face of hostile authorities. They turned the world right side up after Jesus had told them, ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The Greek word for “witness” in this verse is where we get the word, “martyr.” How many of you would like to be martyrs today? Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that you have to be persecuted and die to be a witness. But every believer should in fact have already died with Christ on the cross, having yielded their selves to God. Romans 12:1 speaks of being a “living sacrifice,” which means you have willfully given up your life in order to live for Him who died for you. “Martyr” believers are the ones with a powerful witness to the world. The world scoffs at inconsistent Christians, those who walk in the flesh and not the Spirit of God.
Every believer should be supernatural and functioning in spiritual gifts. There are people in the body of Christ who have spiritual gifts, and I believe that includes those listed in 1Corinthians 12:1-11. Many fail to function in them, however, because they mistakenly think that the gifts just suddenly come upon them and compel them to act. Although that could happen, I don’t think that is how gifts generally work.
More often, one has to step out in faith and learn how to operate their gift. A gifted musician has to start from the beginning and learn the notes. Then there has to be lots of practice. We all could learn how to play the piano and we all could do it to a degree, but not all of us are gifted at doing it. The gifted pianist will do it better, but it didn’t just come upon him or her in a miraculous rush. The gift has to be developed and worked.
I believe it is often the same with spiritual gifts. The reason most of the church is not functioning in spiritual gifts is because they have not taken steps to practice them and develop them. They just wait for the “miraculous wave” to come upon them. I hope it does! But in the meantime we can step out in faith and see what might already be lying dormant on the inside.
This may be more than some of you are comfortable with in our modern day setting of religious unbelief. Well, you don’t have to speak in tongues or do miracles to be supernatural, but you still should be supernatural! It takes the supernatural to forgive those who have severely wronged you. It takes the supernatural to love your enemies. It takes the supernatural to be at peace in the midst of a storm. It takes the supernatural to love Jesus fervently in this fallen and corrupt world.
Each believer has already received their first spiritual gift: No one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost (1Corinthians 12:3). This is not talking about simply saying the words, “Jesus is Lord,” but about the declaration and confession of your life. If this is your life’s confession, it is a supernatural result. You have a degree of the supernatural working in your life, whether or not you are seeking or functioning in the spiritual gifts. Even so, Paul said to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1Cor.14:1; ESV). How sad that theologians have succeeded in getting people to fear the gifts!
It is not about the gifts in themselves, but about becoming all we can be in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is about intensifying our relationship with God and being His “martyr” witness with power. As I said, it takes faith, and one way to receive the Holy Spirit is by simply turning to God and asking Him. Then in faith, believe. Then in faith, speak. Speak praises and thanksgiving. Don’t be afraid of letting loose and speaking in tongues.
Led by the Spirit
It’s not enough just to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Corinthians were operating in the spiritual gifts, but they were not bearing the fruit of the Spirit. It’s like they caught the football and played with it, but never ran toward the goal. We desire the Spirit so that we might bring more glory to Jesus. That is the Spirit’s purpose, according to John 16:14: He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.
Paul said, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8:14). To be led by the spirit, or walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:25), is not as mystical as some might think. It doesn’t mean you just float ethereally and get wafted along in a hypnotic state of righteousness. It means that all you do, you do in the spirit of the gospel. In other words, you are not trying to earn God’s favor by works, but you are resting and rejoicing in His grace, and this gracious relationship with Him motivates all you do.
That is how you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body (Rom.8:13). You will always fail to get control over your sinful flesh if you are trying to do so through a law or performance mindset. But if you are led and influenced by thinking on the gospel of grace, you will rejoice in how Jesus paid it all, and love will move you to put to death the deeds of the body.
My kids went to a school that had “spirit week.” This was a special week to show school spirit, and each day was arranged to do that in a fun way. One day might be “Hat Day,” and everyone shows school spirit by wearing a hat. The next day might be “Tacky Day,” and everyone has to wear bizarre and ugly clothing! Each day it’s something different. The kids love it and feel out of place if they don’t participate.
We walk in the spirit the same way. As the students became intentional about each special day of that week, we become intentional about each day in the spirit of the gospel.
When we receive the Holy Spirit and get intentional about walking in the spirit of Jesus Christ, we receive power. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Is your Christian faith a matter of creeds and doctrines, or are you allowing the very nature of God to dominate your life? Are you just a mouth that claims Christian values, or are you moving from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2Cor.3:18)? Rise up to your high calling. Receive the Holy Spirit and be led by Him.