I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Acts chapter 1, and tonight we're going to look at 'Hunger for Reality: do you long to go deeper with God?', and specifically we're looking tonight at 'Being Empowered By The Spirit', or 'The Power Of The Spirit'. So our initial reading tonight is coming from Acts chapter 1, and we're going to read verses 4 through to verse 8, and then we will pray before we begin. So Acts 1 verse 4: "And being assembled together with them, He", that is, Jesus, "commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which', He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'. Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'. And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'".
Now, keep your Bible open there. We're going to pray just now, I know we've been praying already, but I want you to pray now a very simple prayer. I'm going to tell you it in a moment, but before I tell you the simple prayer, I believe that some of you here tonight have come with spirits that are closed to God. Now I am talking about your own human spirit. I sensed this just sitting here before I got up to the pulpit, that some of you are closed in your spirit right now to God. Now, I don't know why that is. It might be that there is an offence, that you've been offended today, or maybe you're anticipating you're just about to be offended tonight by what I'm going to preach on. I don't know. But it's just a picture like a flower, a flower can be opened, the petals are all open, soaking in the sun; but some of you are like flowers that are closed. Now, I don't know why that is, but I want to encourage you to open your spirit to God. We're about to pray, I want you to open your spirit to God now - and this is the simple prayer: 'Come, Holy Spirit', alright?
So let's pray that. Is your heart open? I hope it is, because you're going to miss out if your heart isn't open. If you've been offended in the last 24 hours, or 24 years, now would be a good time to say: 'Lord, I'm going to choose to forgive minor and major things, because I want to receive from You tonight. I don't want anything to be in the way, nothing blocking, nothing between' - so that when you say that prayer, 'Come, Holy Spirit', it's not tongue in cheek, you really mean it, and you know that it's possible because you've removed the obstacles. OK? So let's pray it together, maybe you might even want to pray it audibly, OK?
'Come, Lord Jesus', let's say it together: Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Heavenly Father. Lord, we do ask You to come to us, Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we ask You to come and meet with us tonight in a very special way. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
I heard a quote recently from Stuart Briscoe, some of you might know Stuart or remember Stuart, and he said this - it's remarkable: 'All that is being done in evangelical Christianity can be done with good equipment, modern media, and a few gifted people. Very little that is happening in the church is explainable solely on the basis of God's activity and authority'. It makes you think, doesn't it? Much of what is being done could be done by other means, but very little that is happening in the church is explainable solely on the basis of God's activity and authority. In other words, how much of what we are doing in church could be done without the Holy Spirit? Just think about that for a moment. You don't have time really to contemplate it right now, but it's worth considering, isn't it? I mean, let's face it, most of the places we will turn up to tomorrow at 11:00 or 11:30, or whatever time, they often do go on with clockwork precision - and would any of us notice if there was a distinct absence of the presence of God in the proceedings?
Now, I'm not casting aspersions on any of your places of worship, but I think that's a question worth asking. If the Holy Spirit was not to show up tomorrow morning, or tomorrow evening, would you notice? Would there be any discernible difference? Is He there most weeks? I thought of this when I was thinking of that: some of our churches are 'Keep Calm and Carry on without the Holy Spirit'. That's a great danger as churches, that we are so caught up in our programmes, in our parochial concepts of what ministry is, the weekly calendar, monthly and yearly, that we can just keep going on, carrying on regardless - ignorant of the fact that maybe God is not in a lot of what we do.
Now it's easier to exist in that capacity as a church than it is as an individual. What I mean by that is simply: when it is you, and you discern a distinct absence of the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, it's more obvious to you as an individual. So your hunger for reality, as we are considering this subject over these months, your hunger for reality, that sense of an absence of engaging with God and encounters with God, of real substance, could be because you are not interacting properly, you're not connected intrinsically with the Holy Spirit as God intended you to be. Now the individual and the corporate scenario can be compounded by the fact that some sections of the church actively have divorced themselves from the power source of the Holy Spirit. That could be for a number of reasons which we're not going to go into tonight - one of them is liberalism, another is any deadening theology that in some way denies the Person or the works of the Holy Spirit. Listen, what I'm talking about tonight, I really don't want you to flounder thinking that this has got to do with denominationalism, or something to do with charismatic Pentecostal versus the rest - it's nothing of the sort.
C.H. Spurgeon was a Baptist, one that is lauded even by Baptists today, and he said: 'A church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing'. I'm glad I didn't say that! 'If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else's way, you are a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow'. Now, is that not true concerning the church even in Ireland? To a large extent, the absence of the power and the dynamic of the Holy Spirit of God has meant that a great deal of religion has become a curse to us. I believe Spurgeon is alluding to that incident where Jesus walked by the fig tree that was not bearing fruit, and remember He cursed it. That was a picture of Israel, God's supposed people in Jesus' day, they were taking up space, there was a visible presence, but there was a lack of fruit, life. That can be the way the church is, that can be the way our lives are.
We need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Listen, if you have got a hunger for reality, you cannot circumvent the Holy Spirit, you cannot bypass the Spirit and the things of the Spirit, you cannot appendix it on to your Christian experience. It is the answer to those who are hungering for reality: you've got to - yes, experience the love of God as we saw last time, you've got to be aware and have a revelation of the reckless love of Christ, but you've also got to be wrecked by love - but once that happens at the cross and you understand the revelation of God's heart, you need then to be filled, endued, immersed, overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit; empowered by Him; unctionised by Him.
So I want to emphasise to you tonight that the power of the Holy Spirit is a non-negotiable. I'm not saying that your particular slant on your theology of the Holy Spirit, or mine, is a fundamental; but I am saying that we've got to all be able to confess, whatever creed we rhyme off, 'I believe in the Holy Ghost'. We've got to be able to say that, because that is Christianity. We've also got to recognise that - and this is what I want to establish tonight - that the power and presence and Person of the Holy Spirit is a necessity in each of our lives. So tonight we read from Acts chapter 1 verse 4: 'Being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, 'which', He said, 'you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit''.
'This is the Promise of the Father', Jesus says, 'which you have heard from Me'. 'Being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart' - in other words, He said to them: 'Listen you guys, and girls, don't lift a finger!'. You remember the Great Commission in Matthew 28, you've got it in [Mark] 16 and various other places: 'Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and I will be with you' - but that was at the end of the Gospels, but here at the beginning of Acts we're given further insight. Jesus is saying: 'Ah, yes, I've told you to go and preach the Good News to every creature, and to make disciples of nations, but you've got to understand that you're not a lift a finger, don't do anything until you get the power that I have promised and the Father has promised'. Now, of course, this is reiterated in the Gospels. Luke chapter 24 verse 49, where Jesus says: 'Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high' - 'You've got to wait on this, this Promise of the Father that You have heard from Me'. So it's necessary.
I want you to turn with me (keep a marker there in Acts, we'll be going back), but I want you to come to John 16 to see what Jesus is talking about when He speaks of 'the Promise of the Father which you have heard of Me'. John 16 verse 7: 'Nevertheless', Jesus says, 'I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you'. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid reading Bible storybooks - I still occasionally read them because I like the pictures, they kind of bring things to life - but I remember reading and thinking: 'Wouldn't it have been amazing to be alive when Jesus was here?'. Yes? Has anybody ever thought that? Wouldn't it be marvellous to have been there and seen the feeding of the 5000, see Him walking on water, see the great miracles that He did and all the rest? Well, the answer to that, now I know, is: no! It wouldn't have been great! 'What do you mean?'. Well, what I mean is, the inference in that assumption is that if we were around when Jesus was around it would be better than it is today, it would be advantageous. But in fact, what Jesus says is contrary to that: 'It's advantageous that I go, it is to your advantage, it's necessary that I go; because if I don't go, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the Strengthener cannot come'.
Now, we need to ask the question: how, possibly, could it be to our advantage, Jesus leaving? Well, Jesus says it is to your advantage because the Encourager - who needs a bit of encouragement? All of us! The Strengthener - who needs more strength? Yes! The Helper - yes! The Comforter - I'll have a bit of that as well! 'He can't come unless I go'. So, this is the Promise of the Father that we heard from Jesus. The old English Bibles call Him 'The Comforter', which is an old English word which has really lost its meaning to a large extent - we think of a comforter as a baby having some kind of towel or a dummy that they suck, or of comfort as being patted on the back, and somebody saying 'There, there, it'll be all right'. The old English word is made up of two Latin words 'com fortis', which means 'with strength'. So the idea, as someone has put it, it's not like a lullaby for the fainthearted; what Jesus is speaking of is more like a blood transfusion for the courageous. It's not 'There, there, all your troubles will go away and you'll be alright', it's rather 'There is a fight ahead, there's a battle, there are trials that you're going through, but I'm going to send the Holy Spirit to give you like a blood transfusion of supernatural strength for you to get through!'.
Go back a couple of chapters, and we see more of what Jesus told was the Promise of the Father. Verse 16 of John 14, I'm skipping over a whole lot of scriptures because we haven't the time tonight, but in verse 16 of chapter 14 Jesus says: 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you'. Now let me explain something to you - I remember hearing John Stott say this, actually in the flesh, he was preaching in the Crescent Church. He said: 'Christ's ministry on earth was local and external' - alright? In other words, He was in the geographical locality of Galilee and Judaea, and largely in His whole life He didn't really go outside there. His ministry not only was local, but it was external. I know He was affecting the hearts of men and women, but He was doing a lot touching the body and so on - miracles in the physical realm. But when the Holy Spirit came, the ministry of Christ became universal and internal. So to look at that verse 17 again of John 14, Jesus speaks to the disciples and says: 'He', the Holy Spirit, 'dwells with you'. So the Holy Spirit was already with them. Later on in John 21 we see He breathes on them and says: 'Receive the Holy Spirit' - but Pentecost had not yet come. But when Pentecost would come, look at the end of verse 17, 'He will be in you'. 'He dwells with you now, but He will be in you. I will not leave you orphans, or comfortless, I will' - future tense - 'I will come to you'.
Now, we've got to understand that there is a difference between how the Holy Spirit works in the Old Testament, how the Holy Spirit worked in the Gospels, and how the Holy Spirit works with believers now after Pentecost. A lot of Christians don't understand that, the church often does not understand that. So they are still relating to the Holy Spirit in the way the Old Testament saints did, or even the disciples in the Gospels did - but it's different than that. Let me explain why: one of the fundamental reasons that Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven was so that we could experience the Holy Spirit not just with us, but dwelling in us. Look at the same chapter, 14 and verse 12 - wow! This is an amazing verse! I'm still trying to get my head and heart round this one. Jesus says: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. Now we'll just shelve that one for another day, OK? I mean, it's incredible, and you can't explain that away, He says: 'You will do the works that I do, and greater works'. Now you work that out, and when you have the answer you come back and tell me. I think it just means what it says, I think that's what it means, yes? What it says, that's what most of the Bible means - in fact, all of the Bible, I think, means what it says, yes? We can agree on that?
But this is what I want you to see: 'Greater works than these shall he do, because I go to My Father', Jesus says. He dies, He rises again, but He ascends to heaven - and because of His death, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit gets poured out so that we can do greater works - that's the connection that is often missed. In fact, if you look down at verse 28 of chapter 14: 'You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you'. If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father', for My Father is greater than I'. So the disciples had their jaw hit the ground, they were downcast at the thought of Jesus now leaving us, 'We've just got used to Him, we're just starting to understand Him after three and a half years, and now He says He's going to go!'. But what is He saying? 'It is to your advantage that I go, in fact you should rejoice that I am telling you that I go to My Father'. Why should you rejoice? 'Because by Me going, the Holy Spirit comes'.
In John 7, if you care to turn back there, this logistical manoeuvre, if you like, of Jesus going to heaven and the Spirit coming is also reiterated. Verse 37, these very well-known verses: 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water''. We love that, and it's marvellous, but we often miss verse 39: 'This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive' - so they were believing in Him, like Old Testament saints believed in Him these Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) disciples were believing in Him, but they would receive the Holy Spirit, who was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified. Do you see the connection again? Rivers of living water coming out of our hearts, but the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet - what? Dead? No, that's inferred. Risen again? That's inferred as well. But He was not yet glorified, He had not yet gone into heaven and, in His glorified state, fulfilled every requirement of Father God so that the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, could be outpoured.
This truth was the basis of the apostolic message that was preached in the book of Acts, and indeed on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Here it is, this is Peter preaching on the birthday of the church when the Holy Spirit was poured out: 'This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear'. I love those verses! There is the Divine mind in what is actually going on, when Jesus dies - yes, for our sins - rises again for our justification, but He ascends to heaven in order that the Holy Spirit would be poured out. This is God's great promise. This is the great Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. I think it was R.A. Torrey who said this is the greatest promise of God ever, the Holy Spirit.
I wonder if you would you go home tonight - I'm not advising you necessarily to do this, I have done it - but if you were to go home and Google the most important person in the world, it's very interesting who comes up - but the most important Person in the world is the Holy Spirit. Jesus, in bodily form, has left. He is here by His Spirit, and it is the Spirit of God who brings the Father and the Son to us. He is the most important Person on the earth - and can I add something to that for you as a Christian: He is the person in the Godhead who you are most directly to be related to as a child of God. God is your Father, and I have touched on the Father Heart of God many times here, and it has revolutionised my life. Jesus is our Saviour and our Lord, OK, He is the one who died for us and was buried and rose again - but you understand that it is the Holy Spirit of God who has been sent to apply the reality of a relationship with the Father and the Son to all of our experiences. So, how much do you know Him? How is your ongoing relationship with Him? Why continue on in the flesh? Remember a few years ago, some of you were here, maybe it was two years ago, we looked at Jacob? You remember how he was always trying to do right things, with the wrong motive, with the wrong energy - the energy of the flesh rather than that of the Spirit?
So, back to Acts 1 verse 8, it says: 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'. This is actually a blueprint, Jesus was giving them a blueprint of how the Gospel would impact the world. It is outworked in the opening chapters of the book of Acts right through into chapter 10 and chapter 16. Now I want you to see this tonight, and this is vitally important, chapter 2 and verse 5, look - the Day of Pentecost: 'There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven' - and you know what happened. The Holy Spirit is outpoured in the Upper Room, the disciples are flushed out, but that is Jerusalem and Judea - that's the fulfilment of Acts 1 verse 8. They are pushed out onto the street, and people hear in their own language these Jews that have come for the Feast of Pentecost, and so this is the fulfilment of the Holy Spirit coming to the Jews. But then you see if you go into chapter 8, and we're not going to read it, chapter 8 we see that Samaria receives the Holy Spirit. So there is a revival, Philip was preaching and the Holy Spirit comes upon the Samaritans. Then we go to chapter 10, and we are in Cornelius' house, Peter receives a vision and he has to go over, and there is a whole issue between the Jew and Gentile, and then the Holy Spirit comes down upon those Italians, and the Roman centurion Cornelius and his whole household - the Holy Spirit comes upon the Gentiles. Now, there is the progression of Acts 1:8, are you following? Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world - it's being fulfilled. Now note please that all the Holy Spirit was not poured out on the day of Pentecost, that's Acts chapter 2, so that's a myth to say that it happened on the Day of Pentecost and it's over - Scripture clearly contradicts that, chapter 8, chapter 10, OK?
But come with me now to chapter 19, and we are going to read this. This is a group of - they are called disciples - and they are Ephesians. Look at verse 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 that word - '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''. Oh, they're some disciples, aren't they? 'Holy Spirit? What's that? Who is that?'. 'And he said to them, 'Into what then were you baptized?'. So they said, 'Into John's baptism'. 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'. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all'. I think that's very interesting, that there are twelve of them, like the twelve disciples in the Gospels. They are called 'disciples', it says that they believed - what did they believe? They believed the preaching of John. What was the preaching of John? That you should believe on the One who would come after him, that was Jesus Christ, so they believed on Jesus Christ.
Now this is a tricky passage, OK? I'm going to grant that to you, it's difficult because there is a great debate over 'Are these fully fledged Christians or are they not?'. Were these disciples of John the Baptist who just didn't really get there to believe in Jesus, although it says they were believers in what John preached - it is obvious that Paul baptises them in water, into Jesus, in other words they are being identified with Jesus now - so, OK, jury is out, I think they were believers. But here's my point: even if they weren't believers, truly fully fledged believers, if the Holy Spirit had been completely poured out on the Day of Pentecost (which we know isn't the case, but let's grant you Acts 1:8 that this happened, He was poured out on Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth, period, all done and dusted in Acts 10) what is going on here if these believers were held behind, or these disciples of John the Baptist, and all that needed to happen was, Paul says, 'Now, trust Jesus Christ as your Saviour, we will baptise you, job done, you'll get the Holy Spirit and all you need when you get converted into Jesus'. Is that what happened? It's plainly not what happened. He baptised them into Jesus, we assume that they believed the fullness of the Gospel, but what did he do then? He laid hands on them and prayed that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and then they spoke in tongues and there was a witness.
Now, that is a big problem for anybody who believes that the Holy Spirit was just poured out in Acts 2, or even right up to Acts 10, and that's it, done. Because here were twelve Ephesian disciples that got stuck, or were held back in some way, and they had to receive the Holy Spirit - hands had to be laid upon them. Now that's not always the way it happened, but that's the way it happened here. Paul looked at them and saw that there was something deficient in their lives. I wonder, as we look at your life tonight, or as you look at your life, do you have to say that there is something missing, something not right? Some of you would have to go as far as to say: 'I hardly even know if there is a Holy Spirit, because I have such a lack of experience of Him in my life, in my Christianity'.
If you go back with me to Acts chapter 2, another point that we need to consider is that it says in verse 17: 'It shall come to pass', quoting Joel 2, 'in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh'. In the last days I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh - now, has that happened yet? Answer me, has that happened yet? Has God's Spirit been poured out upon all flesh? No. We are in the last days, we might even be in the last of the last days, but the Spirit of God has not been poured out on all flesh yet because all flesh have not heard the Gospel and come to Christ. Now there are other end time events, if you read down verse 17: 'that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapour of smoke' etc, etc. So there are other end time aspects of prophecy that have still to be fulfilled, they are unfulfilled in this passage - a fulfilment of Joel 2. But likewise, the outpouring of the Spirit has yet been unfulfilled to completion. That's why, if you look down at verse 39, look at verse 39: 'For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call'. The point of what Peter is saying there in the fulfilment of Joel's prophecy is not afar off in the distance, in the sense of logistical, geographical distance, but afar off in the distance of lineage in world history. So he's not talking about geography, he's talking about history, future tense - that this promise is for you, your children, and all your succeeding generations. This outpouring of the Spirit is going to happen right throughout world history until Jesus Christ comes.
So I want you to understand - and there needs to be a renewal in the mind and a complete shift in our thinking, to stop thinking of Pentecost as a once-for-all event, Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 10, or even Acts 19; but understand that it is an ongoing thing in its nature. The Spirit is being poured out, continues to be poured out. You see this in relation to the gifts of the Spirit, if you turn with me to 1 Corinthians 13. We can't go into this in any depth, but 1 Corinthians 13, and this is the great love passage, and we begin our reading just at verse 8: 'Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love'.
Now I was taught, wrongly, that 'when that which is perfect has come' speaks of the Bible; and whenever we get a finished canon of Scripture we will not need prophetic utterances, we will not need the gift of tongues, etc, these gifts of the Spirit cease. But we aren't perfect yet, are we? It says 'when that which is perfect has come', 'when we know as we are known', 'when we no longer see through a glass darkly', what is it talking about? Is it talking about the canon of Scripture? No! The canon of Scripture isn't even mentioned in this passage of Scripture! It's not in the context at all! What is 'that which is perfect has come'? Well, listen, this is a wee tip for you when you want to know answers to difficult questions in books of the Bible: often the answer is in that actual book, in that specific book. So go to chapter 1, that would be a good place to start in the book of 1 Corinthians, go to chapter 1 for a moment quickly, and the answer is here. Look at verse 4: 'I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him' - now, notice this term - 'in all utterance and all knowledge'. Now, what is 'utterance'? It is the vocal gifts of the Spirit, tongues, prophecy, words of wisdom and so on. 'You were gifted in all utterance and all knowledge' - what's that? Words of knowledge, words of prophecy as well - so they are expressed through the mouth, but they also come through a supernatural knowledge. He's speaking about spiritual gifts, verse 6: 'Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you', watch verse 7, 'so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ'.
He's saying to this very charismatic church, who were abusing spiritual gifts, it has to be said, in Corinth; he says to them: 'I know that you're greatly gifted in utterance and knowledge, but I am praying that you will not be held back or come behind in any gift until Jesus comes again'. What is 'when that which is perfect has come'? Jesus, the eternal state, it's obvious - but this shows us that it was always God's intention that the church should never be deficient in any of the Holy Spirit's giftings until Jesus comes again. Now, I know this is a huge subject, and I'm only skirting around the edges tonight - but this is an explanation for so many of the exhortations in Scripture to Spirit-filled living. The Holy Spirit hasn't changed, He hasn't gone away you know, He is still here and He is still the same, and He's still got the power that He always had. So we see this with the gifts of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit are outlined in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and some other places. But I don't know what you've been taught, I know what I was taught, but rather than the scriptures somehow subliminally telling us these things aren't that important really, on the contrary it exhorts us to pursue spiritual gifts. 'Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy', 1 Corinthians 14:39-40, desire to prophesy, 'and do not forbid to speak with tongues'. I don't know what you were taught about the gift of tongues, I know what I was taught - but that's the last word that Paul says about tongues, don't forbid it. A lot of our churches make a point out of forbidding it. 'Let all things be done decently and in order'. A lot of us really come down hard on that one, 'Oh yes, we believe in decency and in order' - like the order of a cemetery - but what does it say? 'Let all things be done decently and in order '. This is coming at the conclusion of a chapter - 12, 13, three chapters, 14 - expressing to the Corinthian church how spiritual gifts should be exercised. So the things that should be done decently and in order is not the prayer, announcement, hymn, sermon sandwich, but it's all these things, these spiritual charisma, these gifts.
Are you getting it? We are to desire it. In fact, verse 1 of chapter 14 says: 'Desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy'. Now don't forget that 1 Corinthians was written not to an individual, but was written to a church. Some of you might be here tonight and think: 'Well, I'm not against these things, I used to be, but I'm not against these things'. I don't know if you're in leadership in a church, but that is not a place that you can comfortably stay - I don't mean your church, what I mean is that position that 'I'm not against these things' - you are exhorted to pursue them and pursue them earnestly! To desire them and go after them! That's Scripture.
Another scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22: 'Do not quench the Spirit', do not pour cold water on the Spirit. What would happen if there was an outbreak of Holy Spirit power tomorrow morning in some of our meetings? There would be heart attacks, wouldn't there? I mean honestly, if the way it happened in the book of Acts, or the way it happened in revivals - let's imagine, somebody manifests demonically in the front of the church, or somebody gets healed, and you see it, you actually see it. You think, 'Oh, that would be great!' - do you think? Do you think that wouldn't cause a problem in some of our circles? I'm telling you, it would. In the Bible sometimes people said to Jesus: 'Leave us, go away from us, we can't handle this'. It says in the book of Acts, 'Great fear came upon them all'.
I'm digressing, 'Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies'. Right? So here is balance, don't despise people who prophecy. Don't take everything gullibly either, because you need to test all things, hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil. So here we are seeing biblical balance. You see, the church at Corinth was one of the most abusive churches concerning spiritual gifts, and if ever there was a case for Paul the apostle to come in and say: 'Knock that nonsense on the head, all you need is your Bible, it was to Corinth, but he didn't do it. He encouraged them, he gave them guidelines - and the balance is: don't accept everything that somebody says is the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit, but test things, keep what is good and get rid of the rubbish - that's to the church, that's what we are meant to do. But how do we do that if we prohibit the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Rather than prohibition, what Paul gives is prescription, he tells us how to regulate it.
But it's not just the gifts of the Spirit, there is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - the fruit of the Spirit. Now people say: 'Oh, the fruit of the Spirit is much more important than the gifts of the Spirit' - that's not true, that is not true. They are both equally important. It's not either-or, it's both-and. Paul says in Galatians 5:16: 'Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh', OK? These are the fruit of the Spirit, all these virtues, but post-Pentecost, after the Day of Pentecost the Shekinah glory of God - that Shekinah glory that was revealed in the Garden of Eden that had to be shut away from mankind after his sin, but then manifested itself again in the Tabernacle over the Ark of the Covenant; they saw it at night in the Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Cloud by day; then it was localised more permanently in the Temple in Jerusalem; then it was incarnate in our Lord Jesus Christ, His glory was veiled in human flesh - but at Pentecost, that Shekinah glory of God came to be outpoured upon the church, a temple not made with hands, stones that are people's lives, living beings put together as a temple: 'Do you not know that you are the Temple of the Holy Spirit?'. But listen, how is that Shekinah glory manifested in the church? It's manifested through the gifts of the Spirit and through the fruit of the Spirit.
That's how we see God's presence, God's gifts display His power, God's fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, display His personality. Gifts are power, fruit personality. Gifts, divine communication, how God often speaks to us and instructs us; fruit, divine character, His nature comes through. Now all of this is teaching us something, what is it teaching us? Christianity is a supernatural thing! It's not going to church, it's not adhering to a creed alone, it's a supernatural way of life - in fact, it's not our life at all, but it's God's life. In Galatians 2 verse 20 Paul says: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me'. It's not my life any more, it's the life of Jesus. I have died with Christ. You see, the only way to live is dead to ourselves and sin, and alive to God. We've got to understand: Jesus died so that you would die. He is not interested, in one sense, in making your life better, He's interested in ending your life as you have known it up to now! Because really, that's a life of sin, that's a life of self, and He has put that to death on the cross, and when He rose out of the grave He has given you life - so it's time for some of us to die. You see, some of us want a Spirit-filled life, but we also want a sin-filled life - that's true. It doesn't work. Sorry, that's not the deal, it can't work - because Jesus died so that you would die, your sinful nature would die, your self-centredness would die.
The only way to live is to have His power and His character, and the tragedy is: we have divorced ourselves from the supernatural power source of the Holy Spirit - some of us collectively, as groups of Christians, and individually in our own personal walk. The church of Galatia - we don't have time to go into this in much depth, but the church of Galatia began to live in the flesh. The Bible says, Paul writes to them and says: 'You're multiplying the works of the flesh because you're living in the flesh. You bite and devour one another, you're arguing with one another, you're tearing shreds off one another because you're living in the flesh'. He lists for them (you can look at it at home in Galatians 5 verses 19 through to 21), he lists the works of the flesh, the manifest behaviours and tendencies that come out of our sinful nature when we are living in the flesh. Now these were goody-two-shoes Christians, they were naming the name of Christ, but they were not living in the power of the Spirit. They were living by law, they were living by Judaism - that is not Christianity! Listen to Romans chapter 8 verses 2 through to 4: 'For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death'. I am free from the law of sin in me, but I am also free from the law of Moses which multiplies and aggravates sin. I've got another law, it is the law of the Spirit of life. The law of Moses is the law of death, but Jesus' law of the Spirit is the law of life. 'For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit'.
What does that mean? There's nothing wrong with God's law, it's holy, the Commandments are still true, the problem is me - I am weak according to the flesh, I can't keep it. This is a Divine problem, so He sends His Perfect Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to die, bearing the penalty of the law, so that His great justice can be satisfied, so that Jesus can come alive again, go to heaven, ascend glorified, pour out gifts among men, so that I could live His life. Can I tell you: that is Christianity. I don't know what you're living, but that is Christianity, that is the crucified life: where you die to sin and to yourself, but understand - and we celebrate the cross of Jesus, and rightly so - but the cross of Jesus deals with our sin, it is the resurrection of Jesus that gives us life. Some Christians are living the crucified life very well, and that's why they look like the walking dead - I'm serious. But we are meant to be living the risen life, having died we are now alive with Jesus in resurrection power, and as He ascended on high He has made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come and enter and possess us completely - that is Christianity! That is why there is an emphatic command in Ephesians 5 verse 18: 'Be filled with the Holy Spirit'. You can't get out of that one! I don't care what your doctrine is, but that is an emphatic command, and it is also in the present-continuous tense which means: 'Be continually being filled by the Holy Spirit'. It's also in the passive mood, do you know what that means? You let the Holy Spirit do it to you, OK? It's a command, so you've got to come by faith and get what God is giving, but He is the One who does it - but it is to be on a continual basis, because that's Christianity.
Now, right away - and this is not prophetic - many will be having ingrained objections to what I'm preaching, OK? For some of you there are questions rising right away from what has been implanted in your psyche or in your spirit through teaching, wrong teaching, bad teaching. There could be confusion - I create that sometimes. I don't know what your questions are tonight. You've heard me say here that one of the greatest master strokes of the enemy is to make us afraid of the Spirit of God, yes? When Scripture teaches contrary, as we will see in a few moments in Luke 11. Another great strategy of the enemy is to get us to argue over theological terminology, OK? So you might be sitting here and thinking: 'He's talking about the baptism of the Spirit', or 'He's talking about second blessing', or 'He's talking about holiness teaching', or 'He's talking about Pentecostal or charismatic theology', OK? What I'm talking about probably would fit into those categories, but it would also fit in with Spurgeon's category, and R.A. Torrey's category, and D.L. Moody's category, and a lot of other people - OK? But this is where we flounder, this is often where we are offended and we stumble, these are the stumbling blocks of theological argumentation. This came into my imagination as I was contemplating this this week: imagine a young boy who is dying for the lack of oxygen, OK? The ambulance comes on the scene and there are two paramedics, and they begin to argue with one another. One says: 'Look, this is what this boy needs, he needs the colourless, odourless, reactive gas, the life supporting component of air'. The other one says: 'No, I'm sorry, I must disagree with you there, that is not what he needs, what he needs is the chemical element of the atomic number number 8, O2'. Do you know what they're talking about? They're talking about the same thing, they're talking about oxygen. You see, oxygen is a big deal, a really big deal, isn't it, when there is a patient dying? Can I say to you tonight: the Holy Spirit, I say it reverently, is a big deal. We cannot do without the Holy Spirit. We ought not to do without the Holy Spirit. While these paramedics are arguing, meanwhile the patient dies - the church dies without the lifeblood and the oxygen of the Holy Spirit, that's why we're preaching to people in coffins in the pews. Often we are hastening the death by what we are preaching. The church is dying for the lack of the Holy Spirit.
I want to ask you personally: what about you? Because we are the church, we are these living stones that collectively make up the body, and I'm asking you - like Acts 19: what do you know about the Holy Spirit? How do you interact with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis? Did you receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit when you believed? It could happen when you believed. You see, what we need is the complete New Covenant experience of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Do you know the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant? I know this is maybe over some people's heads - the Old Covenant is the Old Testament, everything to do with the Old Testament. You know there is a difference between the Old and New Covenant, don't you? The Old and New Testament we might say. I mean, for instance, take the atonement. You know that we don't need to go around killing lambs and bulls and goats, and ripping pigeons apart and all sorts of things, you don't need to be doing that any more - why? Because Jesus died, the New Covenant is in His blood. Well, is it not the case with the Spirit of God? That there is something new with the New Covenant, that He relates to us differently in the Old Testament. He is not just with us, He doesn't just come upon us, He comes to indwell us - He still comes upon us, but He comes to indwell us, He stays with us and He does stuff that He never ever did before because it's a New Covenant.
John the Baptist said: 'I baptise you with water, but He who comes after me will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire'. Jesus Himself said: 'I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled'. So my question to you tonight is: have you been set on fire? I don't care about your terminology tonight, I don't care! You can object with me, and you can say: 'Oh, I received the Holy Spirit when I was converted'. I'm not asking you that, I'm asking you: are you on fire? Are you on fire, having been immersed by the power of God's Spirit? Because the early Christians were, the revival Christians were.
Can I share with you my story? I was saved when I was about eight years of age, and I do believe - as Romans chapter 8 verse 9 says - that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. So I do believe you can't be born again without the Holy Spirit, when you're born again we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, He is that eternal life that we receive when we become true Christians, OK? But that's not what we're talking about here, and I always knew that there was more than just being born again, there was more to this Christianity. It might surprise you, but very young in my life I was reading about revivals, I was reading all sorts of stuff I will not go into tonight - but I got the sense that the Acts of the Apostles, well, I have it written at the end of the Acts of the Apostles actually in my Bible 'To be continued...'. It's not the end, it's meant to go on, and I saw these flashes of the Acts of the Apostles, or the Acts of the Holy Spirit it would be better put, right throughout Christian history - alright? - where God poured out His Spirit in a very special way. Many of the people who were involved, in fact I would probably say that all of the people who were involved in those movements believed that there were current experiences of the Holy Spirit that we could have. Some called it 'baptism of the Holy Spirit', some called it 'fullness', some called it 'perfect love', Wesley and so on, 'entire sanctification', different terms that they may have had - but I believed there was more. I came and asked God by faith to do this, even throughout my years as a pastor I was doing this, and I believe God heard me. I took it by faith, I believe He heard me, and I also believe that there was some evidence that He had heard me - but the problem was, I was not sure, I was not 100% sure that the Lord had filled me. If you had asked me: 'David, are you filled with the Holy Spirit?', I would have said, 'Well, I asked Him, and I believe He has heard me, and I see some evidence', but I wouldn't have really been convinced.
Can I just share with you, I'm not going into all the personal details of this, but can I just share with you one of the major issues that I had, which was a problem that I didn't realise. I had relegated certain works of the Holy Spirit to history, I had done that in my theology. Now I believed that God could do whatever He liked, OK? So I believed that He could show up with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it would usually be in the back end of the jungle, not around here - if He had to do it, that's where He would do it. You see the crazies that are claiming these things around here, it's nonsense! That was my position, and I preached it. Well, I needed to realise that it's very rude to invite a person to your home, and then refuse their gifts. Imagine doing that at Christmas, it would be very rude, wouldn't it? So I was inviting the Holy Spirit into my life, but I was saying: 'I don't want all that stuff'. Do you know what that really was? It was unbelief. I believe that I grieved the Holy Spirit - He's very gracious you know, He didn't hold it against me - I grieved the Holy Spirit. Eventually, long story short, I repented, and after a lot of repentance - and I'm still probably in that phase - I then had many witnesses that the Holy Spirit did come and had come, but I needed the witnesses. You look in the Acts of the Apostles and there were always witnesses, different witnesses at times, but there was always witness. I try as much as possible not to defend myself when people criticise me, which happens every now and again, but people say I'm preaching 'second blessing', and I'm not - because I believe the whole Christian life is a myriad of blessings, not blessing number two, but millions of blessings, millions of God encounters, every day of my life is a God encounter when I meet with the Lord, when the Holy Spirit comes and ministers to me. It is witness, after witness, after witness.
So what I'm trying to say to you is: you can have an assent, a theological, cerebral belief in the Holy Spirit in some way, but I'm asking you personally tonight - have you had your own personal Pentecost? You needed personally to come to Calvary and bow the knee, didn't you? You needed to enter through the gate yourself, isn't that right? That's what you believe, personal individual faith and repentance in Jesus Christ. Well, it's the same with the Holy Spirit. You need to have your personal Pentecost, you need to come and receive - have received since you believed? Luke 11:10-13, this is in the New Living Translation: 'Everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds', Jesus says, 'to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You fathers - if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not!'. That's addressing the fear issue. If you're in bondage, and I believe there are folk here and you've grown up in churches that have preached against this stuff, and you've been inoculated against it like I was, and you have been made to be afraid of the Holy Spirit so that you're terrified to come and say: 'Come, Holy Spirit', in case you get a demon! That's from hell, that's from the demonic, and you need to rebuke that tonight, you need to repent of it because Jesus says the contrary. Can you pick up things in places that are supposed to be the Holy Spirit that are not of God? Of course you can, but not if you come to Father in the name of Jesus, He's not going to give you anything to hurt you. Read on: 'So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children', if you would never do that, 'how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him'.
Well, do you want to pray to receive the Holy Spirit? Don't please get hung up on my words, 'receive the Holy Spirit', 'Oh, I have the Holy Spirit' - look, you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Let's not hair-split on words. You've got the Holy Spirit if you're a Christian, we're talking about being filled, being submerged, being completely drenched in the Holy Spirit, completely unctionised. The Holy Spirit is in you for your sake, but He comes on you, over you for the sake of others. That's why, in Acts chapter 1 verse 8, it says: 'When he has come on you' - Jesus had already breathed the Holy Spirit over them and said 'Peace be unto you', but it was necessary that they were endued with power from on high to go out and spread the Gospel, that's what we're talking about. Do you want these rivers of living water? Rivers of living water don't dam up within you, that's the Dead Sea, where there is an inlet and no outlet. This is for others! This is so it will spread out and cover the whole world, that's what happened at Pentecost in the Upper Room. Scared to death, and the Holy Spirit comes and they are flushed out into the street and into the marketplace! This is so it will touch others!
Who is ready for this? Amen - I didn't ask you to put your hand up, but they're putting their hands up, it's great, isn't it? You see, who is hungry, hunger for reality? Come on! If you have a hunger for reality, you need the Holy Spirit. He is the ultimate reality, He is the Vicar of Christ on earth, He is the one who makes God real and brings God into our reality - which is usually not reality at all, it is an illusion. Remember last time we talked about virtual reality, He is the reality! So are you ready? I haven't finished preaching, but I want you to pray this now if you're ready, it's a very simple prayer: 'Dear Lord Jesus, we want to obey what You said. We come before You to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill this place and each waiting heart. We come to You thirsty and tired, we are empty' - who can identify with that? - 'we are empty, please pour out Your Spirit into us. Refresh us, renew us, ready to love You and serve You'. Can you pray this from your heart? Some of your hearts were closed before you came here, some of your hearts may have closed down from what you have heard tonight, I don't know. Please, God is speaking tonight, will you open your heart, and would you say: 'Lord, please'.
Now you might need to forgive some people for this to be more effective, you might need to confess your sins if you're not being straight with the Lord - He is the Holy Spirit. But some of you need the Holy Spirit to overcome your sins. You see, this is the problem, some of the teaching that is out there would teach us that we nearly need to become as holy as the Holy Spirit before we get the Holy Spirit. Sure, that can't be, we need the Holy Spirit to be holy - but you've got to be willing, you've got to be repentant, you've got to be surrendered. Will you pray this with me? Let's pray it together: 'Dear Lord Jesus, we want to obey what You said. We come before You to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill this place and each waiting heart'. Let's pause for a moment, just for a moment. Yes, Holy Spirit, we ask You to fill this place and each waiting heart. Let's continue: 'We come to You thirsty and tired, we are empty, please pour out Your Spirit into us. Refresh us, renew us, ready to love You and serve You. Amen'.
Let me share something with you before I close, in John 1:33 John the Baptist said: 'I did not know Him', Jesus, 'but He who sent me to baptise with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptises with the Holy Spirit''. You see, if you want the Holy Spirit to remain on you, you need to be like Jesus. You see, the Dove remained on Jesus in that moment. A dove is a very sensitive creature. You see, maybe you're grieving the Holy Spirit, you're quenching the Spirit, you're sinning against the Spirit - isn't it interesting that when Jesus received His baptism of water, and I'm going to use the term 'baptism of Spirit', it was a Dove that came down upon Him. By the way, if Jesus needed it, I think you do - but anyway, it was a Dove. But when the Holy Spirit baptised the early disciples, what was it that came upon their heads? It was fire. Why? Because Jesus had purity, the disciples needed to be purged. What I want you further to see is this, John 14:16, this is what Jesus now promises us: 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever'. Now that word 'abide' is the word 'remain', in Greek it's 'meno', it's the exact same word as here in chapter 1:33. Just as the Spirit, the Dove, came down and remained upon Jesus, Jesus is saying: 'If you abide in Me, if My word abide in you, the Spirit will remain upon you' - wow! Is that not incredible? So I want to ask you tonight: are you ready? Are you ready?
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'Hunger For Reality' series, entitled "Power In The Spirit" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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