I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Neil has already read from that passage, 1 Corinthians chapter 2, and then we're going to go to chapter 4. Then 1 Thessalonians and then Romans. So you're going to be looking up the Bible, which is a good book to read! 1 Corinthians chapter 2.
We have travelled from Wednesday night, looking at this subject of "Kingdom Life". On Wednesday evening, we looked at the gospel of the kingdom, the 'Kingdom Gospel', which is more than just the gospel of the atonement. We celebrate the gospel of the atonement, that Jesus died for our sins, that through the shed blood that we were singing about tonight our sins can be washed away, we can be made white as snow before the throne of God, we can be acceptable with Him. Jesus rose again to vindicate the sacrifice that was made, and now we can have that eternal life ourselves, because He lives.
But the gospel is so much bigger than that. This is what we're trying to tease out each night, because it also tells us that the disciples were commanded to go out and heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. Jesus said, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord'. So there's a bigger gospel than, at times, we preach or hear preached. Then the second night, we started to see that part of that is 'Kingdom Relationship'. Last evening, we looked particularly the Father-heart of God, and that the Father-heart of God is actually the central message of the kingdom message. The kingdom message is central to the Bible's message, but central to the kingdom message is the message of the Father-heart of God, that Jesus came to reveal the Father.
Now tonight, what we're going to consider is 'Kingdom Power', that this message is the most powerful thing in the world. I wonder, do you believe that? Let's read these few scattered verses, and we'll be looking at other Scriptures, of course, but let's look at these. First Corinthians chapter 2 verse 4, Paul said: "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" - not with persuasive words, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Now turn over to chapter 4 of Corinthians and verse 20, a very brief statement, but profound in its depths: "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power" - now that goes against a lot of evangelical thought in the church today. I mean, that has to be said. The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
Now over 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 and, again, just the one verse. Paul says, verse 5: "For our gospel did not come to you in word only", now, of course, there is the word that we preach, but it's not in word only, "but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake". Now that's interesting: it wasn't just the message that authenticated what they were saying, there was a power, a demonstration of the Holy Spirit, but that was actually manifested in the lifestyles of these individuals. You see, it can't bypass your own life. We saw it at the very beginning on Wednesday evening, Jesus said: 'Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added'. No, that's not what Jesus said. Jesus said: 'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you'. So the power of God was manifested in transformed lives.
Then over to Romans chapter 15. I'm actually going to read this passage from the New Living Translation, Romans chapter 15, you may care to read it in your own. Verses 18 and 19, Paul says: "Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced", now watch this, "by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum". So, you see what he's saying here: the way he preached the gospel was through signs and wonders, miraculous things that God's Spirit did - this is a kingdom of power. God's kingdom is a supernatural kingdom.
I've already referred to it, Isaiah 61, when Jesus stood in the synagogue that Sabbath Day, and was given the portion of Isaiah to read, He turned to Isaiah 61, and He began: 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me', to do all these things, 'to preach good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted', etc. But the first statement is 'the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me' to do these things, because this is a gospel that is infused with divine unction from heaven. The power of the Holy Spirit is behind this kingdom message. It's testified by works, and the ways of Jesus. Miracles that we see right through the Gospels, right throughout Acts, we see them even in the tent these evenings, are kingdom signs. But it didn't stop when Jesus died, rose again and ascended to heaven. It didn't stop when the apostles died, and were buried. It didn't stop when the age of the early church transpired. But in fact, Jesus Himself says in John chapter 14 verse 12: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he', or she, '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'. 'Because I go to My Father, miracles will not stop; but, in fact, you will perform, and greater than these'. Now, I'll let you work out what that means, but it means what it says somehow, doesn't it? Because Jesus said it.
This is why He commissioned the apostles in Matthew 28, you know it: 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, making disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded; for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age'. We often leave - we get the 'Go' and the 'discipleship' and the 'baptise', but we often leave this aspect out, 'teaching them to observe', or literally, 'put into practice everything that I taught you', because that's what a disciple is.
You've heard a lot about the shipyard, my grandfather, great grandfather all worked in the shipyard. And you were beginning in the shipyard as an apprentice, and you shadowed a more experienced tradesman, and you learned from how they did things. That's what the disciples did with Jesus, they learned how the kingdom of God comes in miraculous power; and then we see, in the Acts of the Apostles, them doing the same thing. That's how Mark really describes his great commission in Mark 16:17-20: 'These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs' - there it is. That's really a summary of the Acts of the Apostles, what happened, because the Acts of the Apostles effectively is rather the Acts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. But what I want you to understand is: though Jesus gave these promises before He ascended to heaven, He was at pains to tell these followers of His not to move a finger in their mission of going into all the world with this good news without the promise of the Father and the Son coming upon them.
In fact, in John 16:7 Jesus says: 'It's to your advantage that I go away, that the Comforter will come'. But in Acts chapter 1, He says to them categorically: '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 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?''. You remember we saw last evening I think it was, or maybe the night before, we get obsessed with the timing of the kingdom, when, rather than the place, where, here and now. 'And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority''. I have my own ideas about end times theology and eschatology, I have my own views, you can have yours. But let's hear the word of the Lord Jesus here: 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority'. He's saying: 'This is the thing that you need to make a priority, the kingdom will come when you receive the Holy Spirit, you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses, My ambassadors in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'.
Of course, as I say, this was a prelude to the Acts of the Apostles, the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and one of the principal characters in this story of the Church ablaze with the Holy Spirit is Paul. Certainly among the Gentile world, he's a principal mover. We've read his words already, at the very beginning, he operated under the unction of the Spirit. Neil has already said that he was a highly intelligent individual, highly schooled in Judaism, and he could have tied any of us in knots theologically with Old Testament scripture. But he says: 'I have not come with that type of argument. I have not come with cerebral speak of theology and doctrine, per se, but I'm coming to you in the very power of God, kingdom power - because, as Jesus taught us to pray, Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen'. Psalm 62:11 says: 'Power belongs unto God' - and that's all power, you know. Even the devil's power was created by God. Now, it's a prostituted power, it's a stolen power, but even the devil was created by the Almighty.
All power belongs to God. Yet my personal observation is - and I think some of you will agree with me - that there's a great absence of power in much of the church, especially here in our land. Much of that is corporate, individually in Christian's lives, there is a deficit of power. It's an interesting observation that a lot of folk in the United States who turned to the New Age movement were actually former church-goers. One of the reasons they say they turned was that they were disillusioned because there was an absence of reality and power in the church. I'm not against apologetics, you know what apologetics are? It's a reasoned argument to justify belief in God, I think it's a wonderful thing. Some of the books at the back will speak to that - people like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, our own John Lennox are wonderful apologists for the Christian faith. I believe that Peter tells us that we are to give a reason for the hope that is within us, but can I suggest to you tonight that the apologetic that the world needs in this particular hour is the apologetic of the supernatural in this kingdom of power.
I remember years ago before I was really as informed even in this teaching and walking in the fullness of Spirit, perhaps, the way I am now - and I seek more, of course, and there is always more. But I was preaching a Gospel Mission - and it was probably more the gospel of the atonement on its own - but I was preaching it nevertheless, and God was helping me. There wasn't an awful lot happening in the fortnight of mission, it was somewhere in East Belfast - and this one particular night, a young fellow was brought along by an older gentleman. And anyway, during the message, I could see that God's power was coming on this young fellow, and to such an extent that he seemed to be more and more overwhelmed as I came near the conclusion of my message. I kind of instinctively knew - and this happened seldom to me, and I suppose now I would not see it too frequently - I knew this guy was going to come through for the Lord. By the time I got to the sinner's prayer, if you like, the conclusion of a response, I felt: 'This guy's already there, but we'll just do this anyway', and we did it. At the end of meeting, he wanted to see me and speak to me privately in the back room. So I did, and - as evangelists tend to do - I put him over everything to make sure he was fully cooked and all the rest. He was there already, no doubt about it. We came into the room together, and the older gentleman that brought him said to me: 'Did he ask you the questions?'. I said to him, 'What questions?'. 'Did he ask you the questions?'. I says: 'He didn't ask me any questions'. He says: 'Well, he came tonight with all these questions about evolution, about Darwinism, about science and physics, and all the rest'. He didn't ask any of them, do you know why? He encountered the living God! That answered all his questions, that was the apologetic of a kingdom of power.
Bringing you up more to recent times, I was in St. Anne's Cathedral doing a healing service. God came in power and some weird things happened - and sometimes that takes place when God comes, things are exposed, and a certain person became very demonstrative in the gallery, that's all I will say. Some of these church goers weren't maybe used to some of that - but anyway, there was a whole lot of things happening and people were getting healed, and some deliverances that were quite loud and all the rest. At the end, there was an individual there who sits on the fence with regards to faith in Jesus, and she happened to remark to the person that brought her: 'I don't know how anybody could come to anything like this and not believe in God, not believe in God'. She didn't understand what was going on, I wasn't 100% sure of some of it myself, but I believe God was in our midst, and God was doing something - I knew that much. But she was able to see that this was beyond normal, natural or rational. Some Christians can't see that. But that's what we need: we have a debt to our society, to demonstrate the power of the gospel - and the church, if ever it did, needs to plug in again to the power source of the kingdom, who is the Holy Spirit.
If that's going to happen in Ireland, particularly the North, but all over Ireland, there's a couple of things I think need to happen. First of all, I think we need to repent of offending the Holy Spirit. I know what I'm talking about here. I don't claim to know everything that I talk about from the pulpit - I should, but an occupational hazard is that sometimes you have to talk about things that you haven't experienced. I prefer now preaching about things that I know from experience, but I can tell you tonight - 100% - I know what it is to repent of offending the Holy Spirit, because I used to preach against the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I used to preach against some of the things I do now and experience now. One of the areas we need to repent of in offending Holy Spirit is unbelief.
Let me tell you a story. Not long after some significant Holy Spirit revivals in the early 1900s, a revival broke out in a German city by the name of Kassel, but it died very quickly. The reason why it died was opposition from the German evangelical church leaders - isn't that interesting? The reason being, certain theologians critically analysed the phenomenon of the Spirit, some of the unusual manifestations that were going on, and they found them wanting. Could I just interject here with a quote from Dr. A.T. Schofield, who was a missionary to India and experienced revival there. He says: 'As well expect a hurricane, an earthquake, or a flood to leave nothing abnormal in its course, as to expect a true revival that is not accompanied by events quite out of the ordinary experience'. When God shows up, some things happen that are out of the ordinary, because He's out of the ordinary. But anyway, in 1909, back to Germany, 56 conservative evangelical German church leaders issued a joint statement - it's called the Berlin Declaration - in which they condemned the Pentecostal movement, which was the prime movement using the gifts of the Spirit at that time. This is a quotation from that Berlin Declaration: 'This so-called Pentecostal movement is not from above but from below; many of its phenomena can also be found in spiritism. Demons are at work here who, led by Satan's cunning, mix truth and lies in order to entice the children of God. The personal faith and dedication of some leading brothers and sisters cannot deceive us, not even the healings, tongues, prophecies, etc. The movement brings forth powerful spiritual and physical manifestations, like falling, face twitching, trembling and shaking, screaming, ugly and loud laughing. Such phenomena are not worked by God'.
This land of Germany previously had given birth to higher criticism. If you don't know what that is, this was some high theological academics who would critique the Bible to basically take the miraculous out of it and deny a lot of the supernatural things. Now, what's happening is, as one commentator put it: with these - this Berlin declaration and many more references - the German church refused her only weapon against the spirit of antichrist, the weapon of the Spirit's anointing. Five years later, after the Berlin declaration, Germany plunged herself and much of the rest of Europe into the fiery cauldron of World War I - a conflict that consumed the cream of an entire generation of European manhood. You see, what happened was: there was a spiritual vacuum that had been created by Germany's rejection of the Holy Spirit, and intensified in the economic and social devastation that followed the War, it created an opportunity for the spirit of antichrist to fill that gap. Not long after, of course, World War II - Adolf Hitler rose to prominence and the Nazi Party; and that evil spirit engulfed the globe in horror with the unbelievable brutality of the Second World War. Fifty-five million people around the world died.
Now, I know that the church in Germany, a large part of it anyway, has now repented, significantly of the Berlin Declaration, and God is doing marvellous things around Germany. But can I call you to be alert right now at this moment, in Ireland and in Europe, because the spirit of antichrist is at work. The church will be impotent to halt its advance, unless we have this kingdom power from on high in our midst. We need a baptism of the Holy Spirit over our land. That's the only thing that's going to halt the movement of the forces of darkness. So we need to repent of how we, as individuals, as groups, as denominations, as ministries, have spoken against the things of the Holy Spirit, some of which we don't understand, perhaps, but we've spoken against them, or we've spoken against people who are moving in those areas. Whatever theologies we have assented to, or statements we have made, or prayers we have prayed that have grieved and offended the Holy Spirit, we need to repent!
But secondly, we need to repent of offending the Holy Spirit by not just unbelief, but by operating in the flesh. You see, many Christians are living their Christian lives on their own steam - they're just kind of 'good people', 'religious folk', but they don't operate in the power of the kingdom.
Lewis Hastings was a British explorer of the late 19th century, and he noted in his explorations of Africa that his guide shared the unusual insight of some behaviour of chimpanzees. I don't know if anybody is an expert here tonight in chimps, but in the jungle of Angola, he noticed that there were clearings where sticks had been carefully piled as if to make a good fire. He was intrigued by this, and Hastings asked his guide how these things came to be there, and why the sticks were so neatly arranged. He was astounded by the answer. Chimpanzees had gathered them - and in Angolan, by the way, 'chimpanzee' means 'mock man', 'imitation man'. Hasting's guide told him that, even though the chimps had piled the sticks of wood and done it well, that that was all they could do because they were missing the fire. They were mocking, mimicking man – but there was no fire. They had seen somebody building a fire for cooking or protection from wild animals; and they were able to copy the man's actions in building the fire heap, but they had no flame, no spark, no heat - it was absent. That's so often how we live as Christians: read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow; go to church, don't miss the meetings, give your tithe, try and tell people about Jesus even though it's counterintuitive to you and it nearly makes you nauseous - but we're all doing it in our own strength, because the fire is not there!
Corporately, that's often how we move as the Church - you know, you've got some business acumen, or some wisdom, or you're intelligent, you're a lecturer or something like that, and you'll get a place in the Church very easily. But we're missing the fire. We're wondering what God's blueprint is for a new generation that's rising, that doesn't go to Church, doesn't want to go to Church, and doesn't have a clue about anything spiritual other than the dark side - and we don't know how to reach them, because we're not moving in the power of the Spirit.
So we need to repent of offending the Spirit, but we need to actually repent and believe again. You know, repentance is about changing your mind and turning around, but you've got to turn from something to something - and the Holy Spirit is not an option. I'm trying very carefully in my terminology not to isolate anybody, or estrange anybody in the words that I'm saying tonight. We can use terminology that turns people off, and that's unfortunate, but that's one of the prime moves and master strokes of our enemy: that he's got us, in our own camp, fighting over terminology, when the fullness of the Holy Spirit is - not an option - it's vital! It's essential.
Paul said in Ephesians, and it is an emphatic command: 'Be filled with the Holy Spirit' - end of. Being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and being filled with the Holy Spirit are two different things. I don't care about your background, I don't care about your terminology, we could use things that might offend you - but you cannot argue with me that that is not biblical. Being indwelt with the Holy Spirit - when you're born again you receive the Holy Spirit, yes, but being filled with the Holy Spirit is different than that. It's the difference between music playing in your house in one room, and the whole house, the entire building being filled with music to the point where the neighbours and the passers-by, they hear it. It's the difference between a light being on in your bedroom, and a light lighting and illuminating the entire house inside and outside, the property flooded with light. You can have a guest staying in your guest room, or you can welcome the guest to allow him or her to occupy the entire house. It's exactly the same with the Holy Spirit: you can have the Spirit or you can be filled with the Spirit. Jesus wants His kingdom people to be filled to overflowing, that out of your innermost being, He said, will flow rivers of living water. That means it's not just for you to have a feel good, it's actually to flow out of you to the world around and touch and transform them!
So there's a need to repent and believe again in this truth that we need a Spirit-empowered church, and we need to receive the Holy Spirit in this capacity. We need to say again as the Church: 'Holy Spirit, You are welcome here' - and is that the case? I mean, if the Holy Spirit really showed up in most of our Sunday morning services, it would be a catastrophe - because we'd be out of control, and we like to be in control. Can we put our hands on our heart tonight as individuals and say: 'Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. You're welcome to put your finger on any point of my life. You're welcome to ask me to let go of any idol, or repent of any sin, change any lifestyle choice, Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come and meddle in my affairs, shake up my life, change and transform me'. That's kingdom!
The problem is, some of our churches are pneuma-phobic. 'Pneuma' is the Greek word for 'spirit' and 'phobic' is, of course, for 'fear'. We are afraid of the Spirit. Again, this is a masterstroke of the enemy. Jesus taught into this, so that we would know that this is a scheme of Satan. He said in Luke chapter 11: 'Any of you who is a father, or a parent, if a son asked for bread, would you give him a stone to break his teeth? If he asked for a fish would you give him a scorpion, or a serpent, to sting him and kill him?' - who would do that? 'If you being evil', the most evil of fathers might be able to give good gifts to their children, 'how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit and good gifts to those who ask?'. Yet we have been inoculated against the Holy Spirit, because we're afraid to go for prayer and have somebody lay hands on us, because somebody told us we'll get a demon. I'm not saying that couldn't happen ever - make sure people who are laying hands on you, you know least something about them, perhaps. I'll tell you this: your Father, as you heard last night, if you're born again believer, your Father's good. If you come to Him, looking for the Spirit that He promised through Jesus, He is not going to give you a demon. You might have one before you came - that's another sermon. Come on back tomorrow night, and we'll find out about that. But your Father will give you the good gift, He'll give you the good gift.
Jack Taylor tells how, as a Baptist boy he longed to move in the power of the Spirit, but he was afraid of some of the antics he saw among the Pentecostals. He wanted the stripped-down version of Holy Spirit acceptable to his denomination. This is what he says: 'Then we invited a retired Southern Baptist missionary to speak at our church. Miss Bertha Smith had been a missionary in China until all the missionaries were expelled by the Japanese. A mighty revival broke out in the province where she served, and all the American Baptist missionaries had been filled with the Holy Spirit. When Miss Bertha (as she was affectionately called) came to speak at Jack's church near the end of 1969, she immediately asked three questions'. Listen to these: 'Have you been born again? Have you been filled with the Spirit? And are you being filled right now?'. Those are three good questions!
Are you born again? We talked about this the other evening. This means you've received life from God, because you've received Jesus Christ, His Son, and you have the authority and the right now to become children of God - because you've believed you're a sinner who needs Him, and He died for you, and He loves you enough to take you and transform your life. You just come to Him like a little child and say: 'Yes, Jesus, I want You as Saviour'. Have you been born again? Then He comes to live within you - that's receiving the gift of the Spirit.
But then she asked: Are you filled with the Spirit? Is the Spirit overflowing your whole being as a vessel? Do other people recognize that He's spilling out of you, that the Holy Spirit's showing in your life? Then she asked - this is not a once and for all thing, as you would think with some Pentecostals and Charismatics - but: are you being filled right now? That verse in Ephesians is: 'Be continually being filled' - it's in the passive. You put yourself in a position where you are continually being filled from on high, this is ongoing, day by day, moment by moment. Sin can - you might have been filled with the Holy Spirit, I don't care whether you've hung from chandeliers years ago; but something has come in, and you're not filled now, but you're still pointing back to some kind of date. We can do that with our conversion as well. How are things now?
Jack goes on to say that by that time, when he heard these three questions by Miss Bertha: 'By then my desperation level for God had begun to rise above my fear level, and I wanted all that He had for me' - now that is amazing! When your desperation level rises above your fear level - your fear of getting something from the devil that somebody told you about, or your fear of being embarrassed, or your fear of what it might look like. You get beyond that fear, your desperation rises above it, and you just want all that you have from God. So, as I said the other evening, when you get to that place - that, I feel, I probably have got to, I hope I've got to - where I say to God: 'I don't care what it looks like. I don't care what anybody else thinks, as long as it's You'. As we said the other evening: 'Whatever You're up to, Father, I'm in!'. Are you in that place? Has your desperation level risen above your fear? He said: 'I had been fearful and distrustful' - listen to this - 'of the only God who was on the planet, the Holy Spirit'. Wow! We're not getting into the Trinity tonight, but what he means by that is - if I could put it another way - the one Member of the Godhead that we have direct dealings with now on the earth is not the Son of God in flesh, and it's not personally the Father, in the sense in which He's enthroned in heaven, but it's the Holy Spirit who brings the Father and the Son to us - the Spirit of God. He is the One we need, and He is the One so many of us are scared of.
Do we not need to repent? Do we not need to believe again? So many of us say it, around this nation, this land, on Sundays in the Apostles Creed: 'I believe in the Holy Ghost'. Well, you could have fooled me! If you believe, tonight, in the Holy Spirit, in this kingdom power, will you come to receive? Now it's by faith. It's by faith, like salvation is by faith, this is by faith upon God's promise.
Don't miss Part 4 of 'Kingdom Life': "Kingdom Freedom"...
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the New Life Conference 2019 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his Kingdom Life series, titled "Kingdom Power" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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