Don't miss the first part of this two-part message: 'The Basis Of Intimacy With God Through Prayer'...
I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 8, and the title that I have been given is 'Intimacy With God Through Prayer'. I said this morning that I didn't really want to preach on prayer, and I explained why that was - if you want to get the recording, or watch it online, or whatever you do here, and try and catch up from where we've been so far, because it's very important as we laid a foundation and a basis for intimacy with God through prayer just this morning.
Before we come to the Scriptures, Romans chapter 8, and read a couple of verses, let's pray together. So let's bow our heads and quieten our hearts in prayer, and I want to ask you to do something, would you? Would you pray for yourself that God might speak to you? Would you do that? Just say: 'Lord, speak to me', OK?
Abba Father, we approach You in the mighty, all-victorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we reverence You, Lord, and worship You, we thank You for the intimacy that we can have with You through Your Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. We just pray now, as we come to Your word: Holy Spirit, break out. Would You fall upon us, would You come and meet with us in a very intimate way, a personal way, like never before? For some folk here, Lord, in a way that is completely new. We thank You that You are the God of the new thing, You're the God of the surprise, and You're the God of the encounter - that's the Bible is, it's Your book filled with God encounters - so, Lord, could we have one tonight please? In Jesus' name, Amen.
Romans chapter 8 verses 14 through to 16, and then down to verse 26, OK? Romans 8, and I'm reading from the New King James Version. Romans 8:14: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God". Then down to verse 26: "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God". Now, keep your Bibles open at Romans chapter 8.
Christianity is essentially summed up in one word: relationship. You remember in John chapter 17, what has commonly become known as the great high priestly prayer of Jesus - just before going to the cross He prayed to His Heavenly Father in this very intimate scene. One of the things He said in many precious jewels there is found in verse 3, and it's insightful in regard to how Jesus defines eternal life. Now most evangelical churches, if you were to ask, 'What does eternal life mean?', they might quote you a Gospel text, they might talk about going to Heaven when you die, making sure that your sin is forgiven, you have peace with God, you're trusting the cross alone for your salvation, you've repented and believed - and we know that that is very much the core of the Gospel. But Jesus defined eternal life in these terms: 'This is eternal life: that they', that's us as Christians, 'may believe in You, and know You' - that they may know You - 'the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'. So Jesus couched our understanding of eternal life in the now, that it is actually embarking - through repentance and faith, of course - in an intimate relationship, personally, with God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, by the power and instrumentality of the Holy Spirit. OK, so He didn't mention anything about heaven or hell - although that's in the package, thank God for that - but He defined it in terms of our present personal experience of walking with God in this world.
Now we saw this morning that the basis of intimacy with God through prayer and, indeed, in general, is sonship, being sons and daughters, being related to God, knowing God as our Father, our Abba Father - we saw what that term meant - and that has been revealed in Jesus, the Son. Now this is wonderful - I could go off on one here, but I'll not - but you want to know what God is like, and really that's the existence of theology, philosophy, even aspects of anthropology, people who are searching after God - this great debate: 'What's He like? Is He like Allah, is He like Buddha, is He like Mohammed, is He like Jesus?'. Well, that is the answer - He is not only like Jesus, He is Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus - isn't that marvellous? I mean that just answers every question! Is God good? Look at Jesus! Does God want to forgive? Look at Jesus! Does God want to heal? Look at Jesus! Does God want to set people free from demonic empowerment? Look at Jesus!
So Jesus came from the Father to reveal the Father, and of course this is reiterated in our texts tonight, if you look at chapter 8 and verse 14: 'If we are sons of God we will be led by the Spirit', there's sonship. Verse 15: 'we will have the spirit of adoption within us', this is the relationship, and this Spirit, Galatians chapter 4 verse 6 says 'God has sent the Spirit of His Son' - the actual Spirit of the Son of God is in us - 'rising up and crying', like a baby, ''Abba, Father''. It's wonderful, isn't it?
But tonight we're not looking at the basis of intimacy with God, which is the Father heart of God and our sonship with Him, but we're looking at 'The Dynamic', or the power, the momentum, the life-force, 'Of Intimacy With God Through Prayer'. Very simply put: that is the Holy Spirit of God.
Now early this morning we contrasted the difference between mere discipline, that you could have some semblance of a prayer life, and have a prayer rota, and various ways to approach God, but lack intimacy with God. They are not synonymous, they're not the same thing. Essentially that's the same contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. Now I'm not talking about the 'bad flesh' that we find in Galatians 5, the list of all those dirty things, but we're talking about the 'good' flesh - that part of us that has the propensity to live in a 'good living' way. You know the way people talk about Christians being 'good living' - and you can do that in the flesh. I mean that's basically the explanation for religion. There are so many Christians who are operating their Christian existence in the power of the flesh, and not in the power of the Spirit.
Paul gives us the essential definition of religion when he talks about 'a form of godliness, without the power'. So there is the superstructure, the framework, of what looks good, right, and even spiritual - but the power of God is not in it! As that relates to prayer, practically speaking, you could pray more than anybody else in this room, anybody else in Belfast, anybody else in Ireland or the world for that matter; and yet you could be praying in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Sadly, those who have a burden to pray often fall into this trap. Now please note this: it's the most conscientious, the folk who want to be good Christians and spiritual Christians, who are most in danger of falling into this trap. What do I mean? Adopting a prayer scheme, getting a prayer plan, some kind of method or style that, in fact, though making you feel a little better about yourself, is actually an utter waste of time! We talked this morning about how you could go through some of these things for a week or two, and then the novelty wears off - some innovative new way of praying, or method of getting through with God, but ultimately we are ignoring the essential shortfall in our experience: and that is that we don't truly know God, we don't truly know what He thinks about us - but we are moving a step further tonight and seeing that true Christianity is summed up in a relationship not just with God as our Father, but it's a relationship with the whole Godhead, the Three in One, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Now it's probably correct to say that we are most familiar with Jesus, because He became a man and we can relate to Him most. Of course we have seen that He reveals the Father, and through Jesus we come to the Father, we find out what the Father is like, we find out that He loves us, He likes us, and He wants us. He wants to forgive us, set us free, and bring us to Himself. Jesus reveals the Father, but I want to ask you here this evening: how is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Because here's the crunch: as Jesus reveals the Father, the Holy Spirit reveals and witnesses Jesus to us, and effectively brings both the Father and the Son into our personal experience. So, again, how intimate are you with the Holy Spirit? If you even have a prayer life - and, you know, some of us have never even got onto the plan and the scheme and the fads and all the rest - but if you have a prayer life, are you conscious of the input of the Holy Spirit into your prayer life? If your prayer life is almost non-existent, could it be because you are not engaging with the Holy Spirit as you should, and He is not energising your prayer life as He should?
Romans 8 is emphatic, that all true Christian life is in the Spirit - go home and read it, and it's contrasting what it is to live in the flesh, live according to law, and living in the Spirit, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has set us free from the law of sin and death. If you look at verses 8 and 9, we see that sort of way summed up: 'So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you'. Therefore it's obvious, if the whole of the Christian experience is meant to be lived in the Spirit, and walked in the Spirit, our prayer life should be in the Spirit also. We read in verse 15 that it ought to be the Spirit of Jesus within us, rising up and crying 'Abba, Father'. If you look over to verses 26 and 27, we read that when we don't know how to pray - that is the weakness and infirmity we so often have - we don't know what the will of God is, but the Holy Spirit within us intercedes, and with groanings which cannot be interpreted He prays within us. You see, this is the cycle of prayer: God puts His desires in us by the Holy Spirit, some of them will be intelligible to us, most revealed in His word that we know is the will of God, but others will not be. We can't know the will of God about everything in our lives from the Bible, there's not a verse for every single happenstance in the word of God, and yet in those cases - when we are weak in knowing the will of God - if we are in relationship, intimately, with the Holy Spirit, He will intercede from the depths of our being with groanings that cannot be uttered. Verse 27 says that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God and He knows our hearts, and He can bring those two together.
Listen, I don't have time to go into it tonight, the many scriptures that emphasise the role of the Holy Spirit in our praying. One very famous one is in the armour of God passage in Ephesians 6:18, Paul says: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit'. Of course, 1 Corinthians 14 talks about praying in the Spirit and singing in the Spirit, and that refers to the gift of tongues - which is not always the same thing as praying in the Spirit, but the point remains the same: whether it's that gift of singing and praying in tongues, or whether it's actually praying, knowing you're in the will of God, or just groanings, gutteral, anxious cries to God our Father for things that we don't know what the outcome is going to be; the bottom line is that the animation comes from the Holy Spirit.
So, what is the answer for a dead prayer life? Maybe you haven't got to that stage yet, but your prayer life, if you're honest, is weak - what is the answer? Well, it's the answer for all the Christian life: life in the Spirit. Just as we saw this morning, the answer is 'Our Father who is in heaven'. So the Holy Spirit is the dynamic, the power, the momentum that there ought to be within our prayer life, and indeed our life in general. Give the Holy Spirit His rightful place in your life and, listen, your prayer life will look after itself. I'm not saying you'll not need discipline, you will - we saw this morning that discipline comes out, as a fruit of the Spirit, out of relationship with the Holy Spirit. It doesn't work the other way, you can't get that through mere discipline.
I want to make a statement here, and it may be hard to take in at first - not because it's complicated, but because it's new for many. The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead that you are meant to have most direct dealings with now, did you know that? The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead, Three in One, that you are meant to be most intimately connected to, directly in the here and now. He is the One who brings Jesus to us, and brings us to the Father, effectively. If you look at the Olivet discourse, which is John 14, 15 and 16, it's so insightful into what Jesus taught the early disciples about this One who He would send after He had left them. In fact, at one point in chapter 16 and verse 7, He says: 'I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper', the Encourager, the Strengthener, the Comforter, 'will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you'. Do you hear what Jesus is saying to these disciples? They've been looking for the Messiah right throughout Jewish history, He comes, and they recognise Him eventually - even though most of the Jews don't - He spends day in and day out with them teaching them intimately, and the multitudes. They see the miracles, they hear the wondrous words that fall off His lips, and then He tells them: 'I'm going away, I'm going to die, I'm going to rise again, and then I'm going to ascend to heaven, and I'm leaving you - but it is to your advantage'. Now, how would you take that? How was it possibly to their advantage? Well, there are a number of things we could look into: Jesus' ministry in general was local, He didn't go outside His confines of His home country generally; His ministry was external, He touched people and healed them of course, and I'm not suggesting that He didn't reach into their lives, but generally speaking it was an external ministry as He walked around Judea and Galilee - but the Holy Spirit would bring the ministry of Jesus to become universal, to the four corners of the globe, and it would be an internal work that even the disciples, when Jesus was there, had not completely experienced yet. That's something, surely, of the greater works that Jesus said we will do after He had gone.
There is a sense in which to live as He did, Jesus, in this world - and that's what we are meant to be doing according to the New Testament - to live as He did in this world, (that is, in total dependence upon His Heavenly Father in the power of the Holy Spirit), He had to go back to heaven in order that the Spirit would come to us. So, to put it bluntly, we are better off with Jesus away - and you should be saying: 'You're kidding me, aren't you?'. Well, yes and no. We are meant to be better off. It's incredible to me, you know, to think of this. We often think - I certainly did as a child reading the Bible stories, hearing in Sunday school - wouldn't it be wonderful to have walked with Jesus and His disciples, to have seen the miracles, to be at the edge of the crowd when He was teaching. Actually Jesus is saying: 'No, it is to your advantage that you're here and now, because whilst you might have been stuck at the back row in the crowd when the great supernatural signs and wonders were being performed, you don't have to be in the back row any more. I am inside you, I'm inside you, and I can be at the four corners of the world at any time by my Holy Spirit'. So now Jesus has returned to heaven bodily, it is the Holy Spirit who brings the life of the Father and the Son to us.
Probably my most favourite verse in the Bible is found in John chapter 14:23, listen to this: 'Jesus said, 'If anyone loves Me'' - do you love Him? - ''My Father will love them'', listen to this, ''and We will come to them and make Our home with them'' - that sends a shiver up my spine. Is that not amazing? If you love Jesus, the Father will love you, because He loves Him too - in fact, He will love you with the love that He loved Jesus, and the two of them will come by the power of the Holy Spirit and make their home, their habitation with you. Now that's what your Christian experience is meant to be! Is it? Do you know God as your Abba Father? Do you see God the Father through Jesus Christ, who is your Great High Priest, your Saviour, your Lord, your Elder Brother, your Intercessor? Are you knowing the dynamism of the Holy Spirit in your walk with God every day, and in your prayer life specifically?
Do you know what a great tragedy is within Christendom? That the One we most need to be intimate with God has become a figure of controversy, the Holy Spirit. Listen, I've got my views on the Holy Spirit and certain aspects of His ministry that you may not agree with, but whatever our theological differences and distinctions might be, the fact is that neglect of the Holy Spirit is perilous in our individual personal walk with God and in the church corporately. His absence in our churches and in our lives is glaringly obvious if we are honest!
A Sunday School teacher was required to teach his class the Apostles' Creed - and some of you will have learned it as children. They were to repeat it verbatim, clause by clause, and each pupil was given his own clause. As the recitation began, the first pupil said: 'I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth'. Then the second wee fellow, his turn: 'I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord'. The recitation continued until it reached a point where one of the boys said: 'From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead', and then there fell a silence that indicated something had gone badly wrong. The silence was broken by the next boy in the line, who stuck his hand up and said: 'Please Sir, the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today'. At which the teacher commented: 'Lots of folks are absent when it comes to that clause, son'.
Let's be honest, I mean blatantly honest: is there something missing from your Christian life? Could it be Someone? Is there something missing from your prayer life? Is there something missing from our church life? I don't go that far afield in churches, but there is something drastically missing. If you compare our experience in the 21st-century in the West with New Testament Acts of the Apostles in the first century, there is something, Someone, whose absence is conspicuous - it's the Holy Spirit of the Living God. I know it's blunt, but if the Holy Spirit didn't turn up on Sunday morning, would our services go on with clockwork mechanical precision without Him? Would it be any different? Would we notice if He was not here? Those who are the sons and daughters of God are led by the Spirit, but would we notice in our lives when we are making decisions, turning in our careers, choosing study pathways, marrying, moving house - do we actually invoke the guidance and instrumentality of the Holy Spirit? So if you're here tonight and you want more power in your prayer life, but you want more power generally in your Christian life, it's simple: you need the Holy Spirit!
So let me ask you three questions as I tie all this together tonight: is the Holy Spirit in you? Is the Holy Spirit in you? Look at verse 9 of Romans 8, at the end Paul says: 'If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His'. So, if you don't have the Holy Spirit, you're not a Christian in the truest sense of the word. What we're talking about here is being born again, and let me give you a bit of a lesson - I'll go into this in more depth one of the nights in the week, probably Wednesday night - but you are made up of three parts. You are a unity, and we have to be very careful in dividing the parts of man because he is a unity; just as God is a unity, but He is Three Persons - we are made in that image, and that's one aspect of being made in His image. You have a spirit, you have a soul, and you have a body. Your spirit part is the part that God breathed into Adam at the very beginning, 'ruach' breath, and he became a living soul. Your spirit, a lot of people talk about the soul as being the real you, that is not strictly correct - your spirit is the real you, your soul expresses the real you. Your soul is made up of the mind, the emotions, and the will, the volition. So your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions express who you are - but who you are is found in your spirit, and then your body acts out your thoughts, your feelings, and your will.
So your spirit is God-conscious, or it's meant to be - that was the intention - your soul is self-conscious, and the body is world-conscious. Now God's intention was that through the spirit of Adam - and there's a bit of a debate, I'll not go into it, whether the spirit was on the outside or the inside, but anyway that's for another day - through the spirit He wanted to influence the thoughts, the feelings, the actions of man, and the body would become an instrument of righteousness. Now when man fell into sin, what happened was his spirit died. A huge misconception that many evangelicals have is that dying means to cease to exist, and it does not. You've got a spirit in you, whether you're a Christian or not, if you didn't have a spirit you would be dead - I mean physically dead. The spirit is the real you, but death in the Bible means 'separation'. What happened when man sinned in the Garden of Eden was: his life source was separated from God, and his spirit turned in on himself, and his soul became selfish, and his body became sensual. Do you understand? Now being 'born again' is whenever God's life comes and creates a resurrection in your dead spirit. Your spirit already exists - it could be worshipping yourself, it could be worshipping your body, your senses, it could be worshipping intellect or emotionalism, it could be worshipping an idol of some kind, materially or spiritually, it could be in connection with all sorts of spiritual entities; it doesn't mean it's not there, but it's cut off from God, the line has gone down - but when the Holy Spirit comes, you have a resurrection, you come from death into life. Have you had this?
It's like the baby, the embryo in the womb, that becomes the child just ready to be born, and it comes from darkness into light. Now, it already existed in the womb, but it wasn't in the light. We only attribute the birthday to the day it came out of the darkness into the light, isn't that right? Are you born again? What God wants to do is come in and live in your spirit, and the Bible is very clear that you cannot be a Christian without the Spirit of God - and if you are Christian, you've got the Spirit of God, He has come, the gift of the Spirit has come to live within you. So if you don't have the Spirit of God, you're not a Christian - you need to become a Christian tonight, you need to repent of your sins, believed the Gospel, and start this great journey. So come and sort that out tonight, ask the Lord to save you, get it done, and move on quickly and get filled with the Spirit as well - because that should all happen, really, in the one night if possible.
But the issue for most, probably, here tonight is not whether or not you have the Holy Spirit, but to put it a different way entirely: does the Holy Spirit have you? He's in you, but does He possess you? Some people talk about, 'How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?', and there might be a bit of truth in that, no doubt, but sometimes that can be misleading. A better way to put it is: 'How much of you does He have?'. How do you answer that? Well, here's what God wants to do, in answer to another question: is the Holy Spirit upon you? Now I'm choosing my terms very carefully, so that I'm not going to enter into any controversial theological debates. He is in you when you become a Christian, born again, regenerated, but is He upon you? Now, the disciples had their Holy Spirit experience of course, they were born again, they had the gift of the Spirit - but they still needed their Pentecost, didn't they? There was, indeed, at the end of the Gospel narrative, an occasion when Jesus, resurrected, breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit' - so they got a wee bit more, somehow, whatever that was - but they still needed their Pentecost.
Turn with me to Acts chapter 1 verse 4: 'Being assembled together with them, He', 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''. Verse 8: '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, whatever your terminology might be, this fact remains concerning the early Christians: that they had the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Spirit, some extra experience of the Spirit through Jesus at His resurrection, but they still needed Pentecost. What Pentecost was, this baptising in the Holy Spirit, was a clothing of power, a giving of a mantle of power for the disciples to witness. It's clear in verse 8: 'You shall receive the Holy Spirit, power from on high to be My witness'. Someone has put it like this: 'The Holy Spirit is in you for your sake, but the Holy Spirit is upon you for the sake of others'.
You see, at Pentecost - of course, when they received this outpouring of the Spirit, they prayed in the Spirit, that was evident - but the ultimate goal of this outpouring was that they would save the world in Jesus' name. Do you understand? 'Be My witnesses', and this is completely in agreement, as you would expect, with John chapter 16 where Jesus said: 'When He has come, He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. He will testify to Me'. Maybe you think I'm being a bit harsh here, but I think a great deal of what we do in Christendom - particularly the evangelical conservative wing - in our programmes, our projects, and even in our evangelism, is not being directed and fuelled by the Holy Spirit because we don't have time to wait on the Holy Spirit, we're too busy doing God's work. We've got a problem, because 'You can't do anything without Me', Jesus said, 'and the way you get Me now is through the Holy Spirit'.
Henry Ward Beecher, a great preacher from centuries ago, said: 'I should as soon attempt to raise flowers if there were no atmosphere, or produce fruits if there were neither light nor heat, as to regenerate men if I did not believe there was a Holy Ghost'. Yet so much of what we do, even prayer, is devoid of power if we're honest. At some point, both individually and as a group, we need to face this crisis: we need more! You know that song: 'There must be more than this', do you know that one? There is more than this - and it's just as well. I'm not saying that about you or anything, not at all - but there's got to be more, eh? There's always more, do you know that? There's always more! It is said of Jesus that He had the Spirit of God without measure. Now, that's what we are meant to be attaining to, and I'm not there - I'm only dipping my toe into the edge of the ocean! There is always more! We owe the world an encounter with the Living God! He is the supernatural God of heaven, He is the God of the Old Testament and the New, He is the God of miracles, He is the God of signs and wonders, He is the true God - but we are the ones who are meant to have this mantle of power upon us to show this to the world! Boy, does our world need it! In fact, our debt to the world, as someone has famously said, is a supernatural life - that's what you owe the world. To put it very bluntly: your Christianity is either superficial or it is supernatural - which is it?
Right, is the Holy Spirit in you? Are you born again? Are you a true Christian? Is the Holy Spirit upon you? What am I asking you? Do you know the experience of having God's power upon you as you do His work, and as you witness in your life for Him? This is not a one-off experience, Ephesians 5 and verse 18 says: 'Be filled with the Holy Spirit' - the literal language in the Greek is in the present continuous tense, 'Be continually being filled by the Holy Spirit'. It's also in the passive mood, which means it's not something you do for yourself, but it's something you get into the disposition for God to do for you - but you have to pursue Him in it. That is what is abiding in Christ and allowing Him to live His life through you as you abide in Him and His truth. In fact, in Romans 8 and verse 14, where we were, that is also in the present continuous tense - look at verse 14: 'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God' - so this is an ongoing experience of God leading you by His Spirit. So this is not a once and for all experience, but I have to say to you: it is an experience.
I know I'm in dangerous waters here, because there is so much controversy - it's so sad - but let me ask you a question: is salvation an experience? Do I need to change my message to John 3:16 right now? Is salvation an experience? Yes! There are varying experiences - there is the child like myself, who grows up through a Christian home and knows the Gospel from an early age, and you just, sort of like an apple falling off a tree that is ripe, you just believe; there are others who have a Damascus Road experience from a very colourful life of sin, and God's grace comes in - alright? So there are different, varying experiences - but it is an experience, nevertheless, isn't it? A lot of Christians are afraid of experiences. I've been in meetings where I've preached, and people have nearly pulled the carpet from under me afterwards, trying to undo what I've said - and saying, 'Now it's important you don't pursue experiences, don't be running after experiences' - what? Where did this come from? What they are tantamount to saying is: 'It's enough to know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in your head' - that's what they're saying, I'm sorry, but that's what they're saying - 'That's enough, don't seek anything else'.
Now just imagine: how do we understand Christianity? How is it summed up? Relationship, OK? Imagine you fall in love, and you get engaged, and you go to the clergyman for marriage counselling, and he puts you over the vows, and then he marries you on your wedding day. He gives you the marriage certificate, and he says: 'Now, this is enough, alright? Don't be seeking any experiences with each other, OK? No memories, no memories, just keep looking at this every now and again, and you may get a warm fuzzy feeling inside - that's the Holy Spirit - but don't seek any experiences'. Imagine you're given your birth certificate, with your parents on it, but you're not allowed to interact with your parents - as long as you know you've got them, that's enough. As long as you know God is your Father - they don't need to bring you up, you don't need to have any memories of them or photographs - it's ridiculous, isn't it? Yet somewhere along the way, Satan has sown this in - now I know there are some wacky things that are done and said in the name of the Holy Spirit, but do you know what? The Holy Spirit does some strange things at times, that has to be said, and so does God - if you read the Bible you'll know all about that. I just want God, I'm not interested in trying to explain the inexplicable - I'm not interested in what some television evangelist is doing, per se - I know the personal relationship is often on the basis of experience. How can you get to know someone personally if you have no experience of them? The Bible, as I prayed earlier, is a book filled with God encounters, and I want more of those! I'm not afraid of those! I think! I might be a little bit afraid, still, of what people think of some of those - that can be a problem.
So, how are you related to Him, the Holy Spirit? There is a story told of a certain guide who lived in the deserts of Arabia, and he never ever lost his way. He never got a tourist lost. The secret was: he carried a homing pigeon everywhere he went, and there was a very fine cord attached to one of the pigeon's legs. Whenever he was in doubt about the path that he should take, he would take the pigeon, and he threw the bird into the air - this is true - and the pigeon quickly strained at the cord to fly in the direction of home, and thus led the guide accurately to his goal. Because of this practice, do you know what they nicknamed him? 'The Dove Man'. We are meant to be Dove men and women of the Holy Spirit, who are led of the Spirit of God in our prayers, in our lives, in our evangelism, in everything we do and everything we say - but, look: we are not! We are not! I'm not, the way I ought to be!
We need the Holy Spirit in us, we need Him upon us, and thirdly, the question: is the Holy Spirit flowing through you? Now specifically, chapter 8 here of Romans, verses 26 and 27, when you don't know how to pray 'the Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered'. Some of you have had that experience, going through great turmoil and trial. Verse 27: 'He searches the hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God'. In prayer, the Spirit is meant to be flowing through us - but in general this is meant to be our experience! John chapter 7 verse 37 says of Jesus: 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out' - and you've got to understand the context, we will not go into it, but it's one of the Jewish feasts at which the High Priest would stand at the door of the Temple, and they would outpour gallons upon gallons of water, and it would all run down like flood down the Temple steps, and right through the streets of Jerusalem - that's what they did, it was on that day Jesus cried with a loud voice, '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'. Listen to verse 39, which we don't often quote: 'But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified'. Had they believed in Him? Yes. Did people believe in Him that day when He cried this? Yes. But had they received this great in-filling of the Spirit? No. What was the result of it? Listen, this is amazing: you take one drink, one drink, and out from your innermost being flows mighty torrential rivers. Do you know what that is? You see, a lot of people want the Holy Spirit for themselves - 'I want a buzz', and maybe they do stop at experiences in a selfish way, and that is a problem. But the Holy Spirit wants to flow through us to touch the world around.
So I want to ask you: is He in you? Have you taken the drink of the Holy Spirit as a Christian? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you continually being filled with the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit flowing out of you? You know that the Dead Sea is dead because it doesn't have an outlet - is the Holy Spirit flowing out of you? I'm going to close in just a moment, but on the screen I want to show you the largest hydroelectric dam in the world - does anybody know where it is? Where? The Hoover Dam? No! What? Brazil? No! China! Well done! You get a cup of water afterwards! China, it's called 'The Three Gorges Dam', and it's in Hubei, China, which is on the upper Yangtze River. It's the world's largest instantaneous generating hydroelectric plant. It has a capacity of 22,500 megawatts - it's incredible. Now in this dam - as you can imagine, this is only a snapshot of the centre of it - but in the bowels of this great monster there are many gigantic electrical components, there are generators, circuits on site. But here's a question I want to ask you: do you think the electric causes the water to flow, or the water flow causes the power to generate? It's the water, and you would be forgiven in thinking, when you see all the electrical appliances and capacity, for thinking that that power source is shooting all the water out - watch this jet, this is one of those jets, look at the power of that! There is a slide with people standing beside it, to show you the hugeness of this. We so often as Christians in our prayer life, or whatever capacity, holiness or whatever, we are trying to generate energy, when it is the flow of the Holy Spirit that is meant to make us go!
Are you seeking to generate power, to drum it up through frantic activism in Christian work, or doing your quiet time? I'm not despising reading and praying, but listen: it's not right, 'Read your Bible, pray every day if you want to grow', it's just not true. You could read your Bible and pray every day and go to hell, that's true! But you can read your Bible and pray every day, and be truly saved, and the Holy Spirit be in you, but not filled, not overflowing with the Spirit, and not truly intimate with God. I know people who have read their Bible, pray every day, they have witnessed, they have never missed a meeting - and yet they don't truly know God as their Abba Father, they have never seen the face of God in the glory of Jesus Christ, and they certainly don't know anything of the movings of the Holy Spirit in their day-to-day experience. Listen: if you're going to be intimate with God through prayer, you need to be intimate with the Holy Spirit.
Let's pray. Now let's just take a moment before we sing or do anything else, and just in the silence I want to quote a verse to you. Luke 11:13, now listen, there is so much argumentation and debate - and I don't want to debate with anybody. It was Billy Graham who said: 'I don't care what you call it, just get it' - and he wasn't talking about the Holy Spirit, he was talking about the experience of knowing that you are filled full and carrying the mantle of the Holy Spirit. So let's not split hairs, OK? The Bible is clear: you need Him, and you need all of Him, and you can't get enough of Him. Luke 11:13 goes like this, Jesus is speaking and He says: 'If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'. Now He had been teaching and saying that if the child comes and asks his earthly father for bread, will he give him a stone? I mean, who would do that, what cruel person would do that? Or would you give a scorpion when they ask for fish? Or a snake to harm? We are so conditioned to think that the weird and wonderful things that the Holy Spirit might do could be the devil, and we could get something from the devil, and we don't want anything from the devil - this is a masterstroke of the enemy himself, because he has made us afraid of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says: 'Don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit'. You're not to be a fool and not have discernment, but don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit. Would your Father - we were learning so much about Him this morning - would your Father give you anything that would harm you? Would He? No.
So all you do is you come - if you're not converted, if you're not a Christian, you ask Him to save you, you repent of your sins, believe in the Gospel - do that now, right now. If you need help, wait behind, seek help from someone you know or myself. But Christian tonight, how much does the Holy Spirit have of you? Do you need to surrender areas of your life that you've been withholding from Him? Do you need to repent of that? Do you need to renounce of certain practices that you know are wrong? It's not a case that you just don't want to repent, but you can't seem to get there - and we will touch aspects of that later on in the week that might help you - but you've got to engage your will, and say 'Lord, I want to be set free, and I want to be filled with You, and I want to have that mantle of power within me, and I want to outflow' - and it's something that overflows, it runs over - 'I want to run over, and I want it to touch others around me in my workplace, and my family, and my community'. So, will you come to Father just now, and say: 'Lord, I'm sorry for this, that, and the other; I'm sorry for putting You in a box, I'm sorry for unbelief, I'm sorry for operating in the flesh, I'm sorry for doing all that stuff just in my own steam. Lord, there must be more than this, and I want all of You, I want all that You've got, I want the whole works, the whole package, everything that Jesus died for, I want. I don't care what it looks like, I don't care what other people think, I just want all of You'. Who is going to pray that?
Just bow your head now and say: 'Father, give me all of the gift of the Holy Spirit that I need and that You want me to have'. Confess whatever need to be confessed, surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and say: 'I renounce Satan and all his works, and I ask You to come now and fill me to overflowing with the Holy Spirit'. Let me just say, I'm going to pray and then hand over to the praise group. There is prayer ministry available afterwards over here at the cross, I'm available too. I would say this, and we've chatted about this together: I hope you sense God's presence here tonight, I hope you feel - and that's not a bad word, we don't look for feelings, but feelings were created by God and they help at times, and sometimes we feel the presence of God - I hope you feel that weighty presence in this meeting. What we would love to do is to try and conserve that, preserve it. We're not putting an embargo on talking, but I think there is a cup of tea outside in the foyer, and there is plenty of room here in Newtownbreda - but would you maybe respect the fact that God is here, and people are dealing and interacting with God, and maybe keep it quiet - that would be great. If you want to sit on in God's presence, go right ahead, He doesn't mind! If you want to put your watch in your pocket, what an idea! Maybe do that.
Father, I thank You for this company of people, and I thank You that there are people here tonight who have a heart after God. They want to meet You, they want to pursue You, and they want to encounter You. Lord, I believe that there are some even right now who have been crying out from their hearts for more, and have realised: 'Yes, I wasn't a fool, I wasn't misled, I'm not just confused - but it's the Holy Spirit witnessing in me, and drawing me to Himself to say that there is more than this'. Lord, we want not just rivers up to our ankles or our waist, we want rivers over our heads, we want rivers to swim in! Lord, we want and we need more, this church needs more, I need more, this village needs more, this city, this land needs more. Lord, would You, in individual hearts tonight, and indeed in this corporate gathering, would you open the windows of heaven where, from the throne of God, there flows a mighty torrential river - and would You let it flow tonight to our hearts. Lord, would You give us grace to realign ourselves in the flow and trajectory of that river, let no one miss out on it tonight. May they know that experience of the Spirit-filled life, if never before, this evening. We thank You that wherever that river flows, whoever it touches, we thank You that the River of God is filled with life, and whoever it touches shall be revived. Lord, do that tonight we pray, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Newtownbreda Baptist Church in N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "The Dynamic Of Intimacy With God Through Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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