Tag Archives: Holy Spirit power

Poured out at Pentecost and poured out today: the essential fuel for the victorious Christian life.

Love Never Fails (Mirror, mirror, on the wall)

In the last five minutes, I have been frustrated with my internet connection because it has failed yet again, and I have been annoyed by a text arriving on my phone and requiring my attention just as I sat down to write this piece. Of course there is no-one in my study with me to witness these little mini- explosions…

Although that isn’t true, is it? Actually the One through whom the Universe was made is here too. He knows every thought in my head, and every ripple of emotion that ruffles the surface of my heart. He gave his life up in agony so that I might live through him, delivered of the negatives embedded in my flesh and bearing fruit that glorifies Him, and that demonstrates to the principalities and powers of darkness the consummate victory of the cross and the eternal wisdom of God’s Great Plan. Yet in the space of five minutes, instead of spiritually “possessing my soul” by bearing the fruit of patience (“In your patience possess your souls” – Luke 21:19) I have yet again delivered it to to sin and death by yielding to my flesh.

As if to reinforce the point, Anne has just come upstairs with the landline phone in her hands: a friend from church wants a chat to arrange a cup of tea together. This time I smile. I smile because I am writing about love: the love that never fails. How far I am from that love! But as Paul famously writes, I can thank God for Jesus, who delivers me from “this body of death” (Romans 7:25). I may not have offended anybody mortal, but I offended Him.

The Light of Love

Love never fails. One day the sun will dim and the light of the stars will fade, but God’s love endures forever. As part of creation, even the sun and the stars are “subject to decay,” as Paul writes in Romans 8:20. But when The Perfect is come, the New Jerusalem will be coming with it, with “no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory  of God illuminates it. The Lamb is its light.” (Rev 21:23). The love of God is not like the light of the sun: it cannot decay. It cannot be dimmed. It’s not the created light that God separated from darkness (Gen 1:4); it’s the light that created the darkness and shines in it, which the darkness cannot put it out. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all,” writes John (1 John 1:5). Uncreated eternal light is the light of love; it’s God Himself.

I’m not writing this because I think you don’t know it, because I’m sure you do: what I’m trying to put into words is the sense that the love that God pours into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is totally outside and beyond anything in the Universe that could diminish even a single spark of its light and power within us. Not just the abstract idea, but something of the experiential knowledge that it is the power of Life itself, it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead, it is the power that created the universe, and it is the power by which we were born again to eternal life and by which our spirits were resurrected with Christ to be seated with Him in heavenly places. Can anything separate us from this love? (Romans 8: 31-39)

“No!” we say, because we know that this is the truth of the Word. Yet how much of our lives are actually spent in the experience of this truth? When I lost my patience with the internet, then again with the person who dared to send me a text while I was writing, was I living in its glory? The new creation walks by faith and not by sight; after the Spirit and not after the flesh, bathed in the light of this love. It wasn’t the new creation Bob that lost his patience; it was the old one that is supposed to be passing away. Although nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus, we can lose contact with it oh, so easily. And the more we live outside of this contact, the less we see it working through us and wonderfully touching other people. ”You are restricted by your own affections,” as Paul writes (2 Cor 6:12).

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

Yet  “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” What is shining in our hearts is brighter than the sun, and it is not subject to decay. We have this amazing treasure in the earthen vessels of our lives (2 Cor 4:7). But what do we see when we look in the mirror: the treasure, or the earthen vessel? Paul says “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18) Can we really see the glory of the Lord’s blazing love in our own eyes when we study our reflection?

Paul had already written about reflections in the earlier letter to his church at Corinth: “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,” (1 Cor 13:12) Perfection hasn’t come yet, but it’s on its way. And as we allow the Holy Spirit freedom to work in our hearts, we keep moving closer to its glory. We can catch a glimpse of it even now, burning undimmable in the depths of our unveiled hearts – for “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor 3:16) – and He changes us from glory to glory as we become more like Him.

Before I formed you in the womb

The wonder of all this is, that the light of Christ within us is already part of who we are as the spiritual beings who have been raised and seated with Him in heavenly places. In that place that is outside the realms of time, we are already glorified: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom 8: 29-30) Our heavenly body already exists: “we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1) Paul doesn’t say that “we will have” an eternal heavenly body (“building”); he says we have already got it. Since it’s eternal, it actually existed before time. God said to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:4) When “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality,” (1 Cor 15:4) we will finally be stepping into the eternal self that has been waiting all our lives to receive us.

Is this what we see when we look in the mirror? Because it’s what the love of God planned for us before He created time itself. Before He called creation into being and subjected it to decay, our glorified selves were already raised with Christ, and the works that we would do on Earth as we move in contact with the fire of that love were already prepared. (Eph 2:10) To walk by faith is to step through eternity, in the blazing light of perfect love by which we are being transformed from glory to glory.

If you want patience – and love, and joy, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit – take a step of faith now and look at yourself as you really are. I am an amateur photographer, and I long for images that are ‘pin-sharp.’ What you will see will not be pin-sharp yet, but the more you long for it, the clearer it will become. Meanwhile it is no less real, and the light that you see it by is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6) Look, there He is, burning with unfailing love: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Pursuing Love (Teaching)

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1)


We all know the above scripture: it’s wheeled out often enough as a proof text for the prophetic and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And we all know the context: it follows Paul’s famous treatise on Love, and is sandwiched in the middle of the New Testament training manual on exercising the gifts of the Spirit. Both the “command” words are emphatic in their meaning. To pursue is to chase after someone until you have caught up with them, not just jog behind then a t a distance; and to desire has a connotation of a zealous, earnest longing and reaching for something, not just a wishy-washy want, an “it would be nice if…”

Chase after love, reach for spiritual gifts, especially prophesy. How do we respond to this verse in the context of church? And is one of these two injunctions more important in God’s sight than the other? I think the following story can give us some insights:

And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8: 41-48)

There are many points in this story that we can ponder on, but one thing that stands out for me is this: Jesus stopped for the woman who touched him. I can imagine myself in that situation. It would probably go something like this: ‘I’ve just got a call to pray for the daughter one of the city’s leaders; and not only that, but she is dying! So not only am I being called on by a VIP, but this is serious stuff, and it’s urgent. Out of my way everyone! I can’t stop! I’m on an important mission…” And so on. How many snares for the flesh there are in that scenario. And even if had “perceived power going out of me,” I would probably just have thought “Great! Someone ese has got healed too. That’s cool. Now how much further to Jairus’s house?”

How different is the way of the Spirit. “Who touched me?” The disciples just wanted to get to Jairus’s house and thought Jesus was being ridiculous, but they hadn’t understood the meaning of “touched.” They saw just the clamouring of the flesh, but the touch that Jesus felt went beyond the flesh and reached His Spirit. So He put the “important” mission on pause while He stopped to give the woman her life back. Not only did she receive her physical healing, but He affirmed her identity (“Daughter”), He encouraged her heart (be of good cheer), He built her faith, He ministered wholeness beyond her symptoms, and He gave her peace. He did not just impart a gift of healing; He loved her.

Again, when the 5,000 were fed, it was because Jesus allowed their need into His agenda. He had just heard of the death of john the Baptist and was in a “remote place” with His disciples, where the context suggests He had planned to spend some time processing and no doubt praying over what had just happened. But the crowds followed Him, and he had compassion on them (Matt 14: 13-21). On this occasion the gift of the Holy Spirit was the working of miracles, and He empowered the disciples to minister it. But again the vehicle, as it was throughout His ministry, was love.

I see gifting like an Arabian coffee pot with a long curved spout, full of coffee. This is our gifting. We stay full of the Spirit, and we keep the coffee on the heat – close to Jesus. It’s full of everything in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. But the “most excellent way” that Paul shows is in chapter 13 is how we pour the coffee: we pour it carefully, in love, into the cups that come our way. We do not pour unless God tells us to, and He shows us which cups to pour into. Sometimes, as with the 5,000, there may be more cups than we have coffee in the pot, but if God has told us to pour, we pour. And He will keep filling the pot as we do. However it happens. we direct our gifting in Love. Because if we don’t, it goes all over people’s laps…This “most excellent way” is actually the ONLY way: without it, as 1 Cor 13 emphasises, we are nothing.

Jesus Himself makes it clear that it is possible to have gifting without love:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7: 21-23)

To do the will of the Father and to keep the law of Christ is to love. To minister without it is to practice lawlessness: it’s that simple. So to come back to the original question: can we say that love is more important than gifting? The answer, I think, is that we can’t. Not because of the relative values of each, but simply because we can’t weigh them against each other. I think the assumption for first century Christians was that everyone could expect to move in supernatural giftings. I don’t think anyone at Ephesus, or Sardis, or even lukewarm Laodicea would have thought of saying “I don’t operate in any gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I’m full of love!” In His letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Jesus didn’t tell any of them to work on their prophesy and healing ministries: He told them to return to their first love; not to tolerate compromise, and to persevere to the end, even unto death.

I think most churches today are probably a long way from the level of faith of first century believers.  In the last century – since Azuza Street – the Lord has been leading His people to contend for that faith again. And now, since Covid, the world has changed:  one of the consequences of lockdown has been a proliferation of digital meetings, and along with that trend an increase in both the awareness and the availability of training courses for ministry, especially in the realm of the prophetic, to help believers satisfy their biblical desire for spiritual gifts. Even though we can’t meet as churches, the Holy Spirit is making sure that the resources are available for the five-fold ministries to “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” But in this digitised, Covidised world, where we can no longer say “Who touched me?” it is even more essential that we “pursue love.”


Proverbs 25:16 says:
“Have you found honey?
Eat only as much as you need,
Lest you be filled with it and vomi
t.”

If we pour, God will fill. But if we make the filling, rather than the pouring our priority – the pot rather than the cups, the spiritual gifts rather than the way of love – we run the risk of swelling in self-importance rather than growing in faith, and we will “vomit” instead of pouring. We don’t pursue the gifts; we pursue love, desiring the gifts. And as we concentrate on the cups and let them interrupt our agendas, God will give us what He wants to pour into them.

Ministry Gifts

He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children… but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. “(Eph 4: 11-16)

Paul distinguishes three giftings in his letter to the Corinthians:

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. “(1 Cor 12:4)
The Gifts of the Son: “There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.” (1 Cor 12:5)
The Gifts of the Father: “And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” (1 Cor 12:6)

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, often known as the fivefold ministries, are the gifts that Jesus gave to men. They are distinct from the gifts of the Holy Spirt enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and distinct from the gifts of the Father, sometimes called the “motivational gifts,” listed in Romans 12 vs 6-8.

The gifts of the Son are unique in that they refer to people rather than the gifts of the Holy Spirit which can be “given to each one for the profit of all;” or to the “level of faith” imparted by the Father to every individual to serve in a particular way. Everyone in the church is given a “level of faith” for a specific area (or areas) of service; everyone in the church can be a channel for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself through a particular supernatural gift or ”manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor 12:7), and certain individuals in the church are ministry gifts given  by Jesus to the church to bring it to maturity.

Jesus will be returning for a grown-up; not a child bride. The yardstick we are given for maturity is the “fullness of Christ” Himself. When He returns “we will be like Him.” (1 John 3:2) We will be “a perfect man,” we will know Jesus intimately, and our Unity will be complete. The cry of the Saviour’s heart narrated in John 17 will be answered, because we will be one as He and the Father are one. The fivefold ministries are given to the Body so that we can attain to this perfect goal.

How? When the church is functioning and the Body growing according to the Ephesians 4 blueprint, the saints are equipped as for “works of ministry.” The word for ministry – diakonia –means ‘obedient service.’ In other words, the body learns to do what the head tells it to do. And if we untangle the convoluted language of verse 16, the picture that we find at the core is that everyone grows when Love and Truth flow from the head (Christ) through all the connected members. The purpose of the fivefold ministries is to enable that flow of love and truth into and through “every part.”

What comes next is key. This equipping that brings the bride of Christ to maturity is enabled by what Paul calls the “effective working by which every part does its share.” The language  means more in the original Greek than the English translation suggests. The word “Energeia” – ‘effective working’ – is only used in the New Testament  for superhuman power. The body of Christ grows to maturity when, enabled by the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, each member relates to the others through the operation of supernatural connections. Placing this in the context of the gifts of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, this means that we have to apply “a measure of faith” – going beyond our natural abilities or inclinations, and reaching into the Father’s inexhaustible supply – to whatever works of service we are motivated to carry out; and it means that we expect and rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit to touch the spirits of our brothers and sisters in ways that are impossible in the flesh. The gifts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all work together as the church grows into the “perfect man.”

In his book “Into Action,” Reinhard Bonnke saysChristianity was never intended to be anything else but an outpouring of the spirit. It is a reviving, quickening, renewing energy. Revival is not an extraordinary work beyond normal Christianity. Christianity is revival.” Reinhart Bonnke has raised the dead, seen thousands of people healed, and led millions to Christ, so he has some credibility. The church cannot grow to maturity without the power of the Holy Spirit impacting every member and enabling each one to respond to the Head by reaching out supernaturally to others. Jesus has put five ministries in place in order to bring this about, so unless leadership is in the hands of all five the growth will be unbalanced and incomplete.

Revival isn’t just about a lot of people getting saved and healed; it’s about the Church growing up.

The Yeast of the Kingdom

Today I made some bread rolls with fresh yeast. I made the dough in the bread maker before they went into the oven. It was a busy morning: my mother-in-law died recently and we had a van full of furniture and other items from her house to be distributed round various households. One of these was an electric “riser recliner” chair for our friend and School of Prophesy member Linda, who had been asking the Lord for one of these for John, her father. Another item she needed for him and hadn’t been able to get hold of was a commode. We had one of these as well. The timer on the dough had 45 minutes left when we set off for Linda’s house. Also in the van were a coffee table and a bedside cabinet for the charity shop. Linda and David live 10 minutes away.

The chair was perfect. We wheeled it in.

“Linda, you don’t happen to want this table and bedside cabinet as well, do you?”

“Oh yes, he’d love them in his  room! And you don’t happen to have anywhere you could store this carpet for us, by any chance, do you?” (Conversations are summarised.)

We did. We took her furniture out of the van and put in the rolled up carpet. When we got home there was one minute left for the dough in the bread machine. The timing was perfect.

God’s perfect timing

What’s this got to do with yeast?

Linda had asked God for one thing – the chair; she actually got five: the table, the cabinet, the commode, and storage for her carpet as well. And on top of that, it saved us a trip to the charity shop. God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” The power of the Holy Spirit at work in us is the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. Without the yeast doing its work of multiplication we would not have had bread rolls for lunch. God want to feed us from Heaven, but for that to be possible we need to have His yeast at work in our lives. It looked impossible for Linda’s Dad to come and live with them, but she and David both felt the Lord had told them that He would make a way where there was no way, and they believed Him; and today we were part of that way being made.

I felt that God allowed that perfect timing of the bread rolls to show us something that we would have missed if it hadn’t been so exact: the yeast in the dough represented the multiplication of His blessing in John’s life. John isn’t a Christian yet, but the Lord is on his case. I believe salvation will come to him while he is with Linda and David. And it will be because of three things that are all core to the Spirit-led life:
1) A hunger to hear the word of God;

2) A willingness to trust and obey His word, even when it looks impossible; and

3) An everyday familiarity with the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is “the power that works in us.”

These three are essential if the leaven of the Kingdom of God is going to transform the dough of our daily life into the bread of Heaven.

Fresh bread, anyone?

Soldiers in Training: Resistance Esercises

I’m feeling that God wants to remind us this morning that we are soldiers on a training program. There is a war going on, between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Of course we all know that Christ has already won it, at the cross, but that doesn’t make the battles any less intense now. Where we usually experience this war the most keenly in our own lives is quite simply in the war between the flesh and the spirit. The Bible tells us that the two are in conflict with each other: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Gal 5 17 NIV) I think God is going to increasingly give us opportunities to hear and obey his word in personal areas now, so that we can grow as overcomers in the spirit in order to be fit for greater battles that may lie ahead. We cannot grow without exercise.

Above is the word that I had for the church this morning (25th Oct 2020). Some reflections follow.

A common form of exercise is weight training. Weight training is just one form of resistance training, which refers to any form of exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external source of resistance, causing an increase in strength, power, endurance etc. The apostle James gives us an exercise in resistance training. He says “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Paul writes: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” So when the devil – or one of his legions, that is – comes and dangles a temptation in from of our flesh, we need to remember that God has allowed it because he wants our spirits to grow in strength and endurance. Temptation is an exercise in resistance training; spiritual weight-lifting.

However the body of Christ isn’t built up to look good in front of a mirror, but to carry on the work of the Kingdom of God in the hostile environment of a fallen world. On an occasion when Jeremiah was telling God how difficult his life was, the Lord said to him: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5) The answer to the question God put to Jeremiah is that we do it through training and practice. Small steps lead to bigger ones; small weights to bigger ones. The Christian life is not static. One step on the water today before Jesus has to pull us out; but two tomorrow. And the beauty of it is this: when we do “compete with horses” we are ready for them, and it’s no more of a struggle than “racing against men on foot.”

Paul alluded sometimes to the many trials he faced as  he continued to “press (a resistance word!) on towards the goal for the prize of of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) By the time he wrote to the Ephesians Paul had done a lot of pressing. His heartfelt prayer for them, and through the words given to him by the Holy Spirit a prayer of Jesus for us as He intercedes before the Father, is “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 16-19)

The Ephesians 3 prayer lists three wonderful consequences of being “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” – they all start with the word “that.” Do we want to be “filled with all the fullness of God?” Part of God’s plan for us is that we do our resistance exercises.

The Tyres: Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

 “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

“But for those who are righteous,
the way is not steep and rough”
(Is 26: 7, NLT)

A bicycle is not going to get very far without tyres, and those tyres need to be filled with air. For us, as we cycle along the track on the Mountain of the Lord, the air in the tyres is the breath, the Ruach, of the Holy Spirit. Without labouring the point made repeatedly on these pages, we do not progress far in our Christian walk unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit as instructed in Ephesians 5:18; and that filling has to be repeated and ongoing, as the tense of the Greek verb used translates as “be being filled…” We cannot move if our tyres are flat: they need to “be being filled” – pumped up – with the Ruach, the breath of God.

The old “penny farthing” cycles of the latter part of the nineteenth century had a massive single wheel above which the rider perched precariously, that was driven directly by pedals that were affixed to the axle and had a solid rubber tyre. In lots of ways it is a good picture of dead religion, running along a single wheel of the letter of the law, no chain (the connected body of Christ – that’s the next article), without the Holy Spirit, uncomfortable to ride, and certainly impossible to take onto the mountain track.

The penny farthing: a picture of religion.

For a more detailed study on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, see “The Name of the Father,” but for the purposes of this article we’ll just limit ourselves to some basic principles of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. And, as with the other parts of this series, these are just a few (relatively) concise notes for you to unpack further, either on your own or with other believers.

So what do we have in our tyres?

Love

“God’s love is  poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) The pre-eminence of love in the life of the Christian disciple is a given: I don’t need to add here to the millions of words that are already written on the subject: it’s enough that Jesus has commanded us to love one another. What is relevant here is that we cannot love one another as commanded; or love the world as God did by sending His Son, unless it is with the love that He has filled us with. God’s love prefers others, serves , gives unstintingly, blesses, builds, and doesn’t seek approval or reward. These are not qualities of our flesh. If we have compassion on the poor and needy without reaching into the heart of God for His resources we are just another social action group whose work will, ultimately, not stand. God in Christ loved His friends by washing their feet, and reached out in compassion to the fallen world. We need to pray for His compassion to fill our hearts if we, as His disciples, are going to do the same.

Our identity

God has given us the Spirit of Adoption, by which we cry out “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15) The Holy Spirit fills us with the revelation of our identity in Christ: it is only by the Spirit’s power that we know that we are children of God. Anyone can believe in their heads that they are a child of God or call themselves by that name. Some religious worldviews would say that we are all God’s children, because we are His creation and man was made in His image. But sin marred that image and broke the spiritual bloodline. Every man and woman is God’s creation and is a child of the first Adam; but God is Spirit, and it is only as brothers and sisters of the second Adam, Jesus Christ the Son of God, that our original spiritual family line is restored. Galatians 3: 26 makes this clear: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Every Christian is of the Seed of Abraham (See Galatians 3: 29), yet when the Jews claimed that Abraham was their Father Jesus retorted that their father was actually the devil. (John 8:44) It is only by the Spirit of God, through the blood of Jesus, that we can be children of God. And as true children of God, let us be filled with the knowledge of His parenthood.

God’s faithfulness

Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until “The Promise of the Father” was poured out from on high (Acts 1: 1-5). The promise was of redemption and blessing for himself and all his children, who would be numerous beyond count, and can be found in Genesis 12: 1-3. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost this was like the uncorking of a great cask of blessing that had been stored up in Heaven since the time of Abraham, and it has been pouring ever since. Every time a believer is filled with the Spirit, whether for the first time or subsequently, God is re-affirming that He keeps His promises. And this affirmation is in itself another promise: it’s the very promise of Heaven, the deposit or guarantee of our eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Cor 1:22). Meanwhile in this life, the promise that fills us is the promise to bless. Whatever obstacles or pitfalls might lay across our path, it tells us that He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4) We carry within us the promise that, by the power of His Spirit, “in all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Filled with blessing, faithfulness and promise, our tyres will take us over everything that comes our way on Earth, and they will carry us on to our eternal destiny in Heaven.

Power

Paul tells Timothy – and us –“You do not have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) The Spirit that is in us is the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. We all know this Bible verse in our heads, but do we have it in our hearts? If we have within us a deposit of the power of the God who created all things, we don’t want to just know this truth as a fact, but we want to experience it as an aspect of the breath that fills our tyres, the ruach that we are riding on. What did I experience today of the power that raised Jesus from the dead dwelling in me? When I prayed, did I just mumble the first thing that came into my head that matched the need I was considering, or did I wait for the Spirit of God to reveal His perspective and release His provision?  What interactions have I had with other people, in or outside the church, that Jesus may have wanted to touch supernaturally through the operation of a gift of the Holy spirit? Paul says to the Corinthians: “Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor 13:5) Many of us in the church today could probably benefit from following the same injunction.

A sound mind

The word translated as “sound mind” is sophronismos. Sometimes translated as self-control or sobriety, it is more than that: it is actually an admonition to walk in full control of one’s faculties; to be disciplined. The full set of meanings listed in Strong’s concordance under the verb sophronizo are 1) restore one to his senses,” 2) “to moderate, control, curb, disciple,” 3) “to hold one to his duty,” and 4) “to admonish, to exhort earnestly.” Did you spot the word “disciple” tucked into the list? I don’t have an Amplified Bible translation to hand, but if we used the Strong’s definition of the original Greek for the noun translated as “self control,” or “a sound mind” to do our own amplified version, we could say that the Holy Spirit gives us “a restored mind that responds to an earnest exhortation to stay on course and not to wander out of control and go off track.” In other words, a renewed mind that responds to being discipled. Or quite simply, a discipled mind.

As well as filling us with God’s love and power, His fatherhood and His faithfulness, it is the Holy Spirit who disciples us. Jesus called Him the Counsellor or The Paraclete, the One who Comes Alongside. But it is up to us to keep our tyres pumped up.

Pedal Power: Compelled by Love

“Let everything you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14)

One of my grandchildren, who is not yet three, has a balance bike. It is a toddler’s bike without pedals, on which she takes her first steps in learning to keep her balance before graduating to a “proper” bicycle. She can’t go far on it, but she is learning the first principles of riding a bike.

For us, the pedals of discipleship are love. The heart of Christ is the love of the Father, who sent Jesus into the world to pay the price for our sin so that we could spend eternity with Him. Sometimes I forget that God didn’t give me eternal life just so that I can have a blissful time in Heaven when my life on this earth is over, but so that I can spend eternity with Him, as He will spend eternity with all of His children. I cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless I carry His love, the love of the Father, in my heart. Unless I do, I have no power to move forward on the path.

I write a lot about the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always see that power as an expression of God’s love. He heals, makes whole, and delivers because He has compassion on our pain, our  brokenness and bondage. He speaks prophetically into our lives because He wants us to see that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives, to give us a hope and a future (Jer 29:11). He brings revelation through words of knowledge and words of wisdom because He knows we cannot see the way or the truth for ourselves. He gives us the gift of tongues because He loves to see the edification that comes to His children from that connection between His Spirit within us and our own. He gives us faith for miracles because He loves to see us reaching into His abundance and believing that He is who He says He is, and will do all that He has promised to do. But He makes it clear (1 Cor 13) that all of these gifts are worthless without Love. It’s a love that serves without pride, seeks only to bless and to give, and thinks only of the well-being of others, even those whom we consider our enemies. It’s the love that has died to the flesh. Prophesy, faith, miracles, tongues, all the supernatural manifestations of the life of the Holy Spirit within us, are absolutely worthless unless they are delivered and expressed from its heart.

God has already seated us in heavenly places in Christ, and it is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. In Him we have everything we need as we move along His paths to bring His Kingdom to others, but it is only love that matures us, and it is only love that can take us forward. The late Bob Jones, who was a senior prophet with a ministry attested by many miraculous signs, died (for the first time – he died finally in 2014) and went to heaven in 1975. He saw a line of people on what looked like a conveyor belt on their way to eternal darkness, and a very much smaller line, the one that he was part of, walking towards Jesus. The Lord asked each person just one question, and it was the same question every time. It was this: “Did you learn to love?”

Are we learning to love? Without love we have no pedals, and we are no more than toddlers on a balance bike.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.”(2 Cor 5: 14-16)

Next: the brakes.

Two Wheels: Word and Spirit

Two Wheels

Many people are aware of the prophesy attributed to Smith Wigglesworth, from 1947:

“During the next few decades there will be two distinct moves of the Holy Spirit across the church in Great Britain. The first move will affect every church that is open to receive it, and will be characterised by a restoration of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“The second move of the Holy Spirit will result in people leaving historic churches and planting new churches.“In the duration of each of these moves, the people who are involved will say, ‘This is a great revival.’ But the Lord says, ‘No, neither is this the great revival but both are steps towards it.’
“When the new church phase is on the wane, there will be evidence in the churches of something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit. When the word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest move of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed, the world has ever seen. It will mark the beginning of a revival that will eclipse anything that has been witnessed within these shores, even the Wesleyan and Welsh revivals of former years. The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the United Kingdom to mainland Europe, and from there, will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.”

The two wheels are the Word and the Spirit. The word and the Spirit together are what carry us forward. We cannot make progress if we just rely on the scriptures that we read  or hear preached, and we cannot make progress if we just rely on supernatural intervention from Heaven to change our lives. Jesus said His words are Spirit and Life, and if the life of the Holy spirit is going to impact us through the word we have to have a genuine expectation of a supernatural encounter with God as we read it or hear it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Psalm 119: 130 says “The entrance of Your words gives light,” but that light does not come to us through our human understanding, but through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, the Word is only half the bicycle. And unless we “receive with meekness the implanted word (James 1:21), the Spirit has nothing to activate in us and any supernatural experience we may have will just be a spinning wheel going nowhere.

Hebrews 2: 1-4 says this:
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”

The writer to the Hebrews heard the gospel – “so great a salvation” – from “those who had heard” Jesus. This may have been one (or some) of the eleven, or any of the other disciples gathered with them in the upper room at Pentecost. But whoever it was that preached to the writer to the Hebrews, the word that was preached was confirmed by God “bearing witness with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.” They had the whole bicycle: the word and the Spirit.

I believe that there is something special about to happen in the new season that we are in; and it is what will bring this about. The Lord is leading His church off the main road of the familiar and up the mountain track of “the new thing” that He is doing. Across all the denominations and all the different church traditions – pentecostal/charismatic; evangelical; liturgical – there will be those that follow, and those that don’t. And they will all have one thing in common: a heart’s desire to follow Jesus. And the pentecostal will walk with the evangelical; the evangelical will walk with the liturgical; the liturgical with the charismatic. For each one, this unity will be a new thing. And the wheels of the Word and the Spirit will turn, and the harvest will be gathered in.

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths”
(Micah 4: 1-2).

Next: pedal power.

Do not be conformed to this world

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

The other day Anne and I went to Curry’s buy a new vacuum cleaner (If you’re not in the UK, Curry’s is one of the major electrical retailers over here.) Yes, we WENT to Curry’s – we didn’t www it! But when we had made the purchase, the bullying began. “We just need your name and an email address for the invoice, please….”

“No,” said Anne.

The assistant was shocked. This is a normal procedure. People don’t say no.

“Madam, I can’t give you an invoice unless I have your name. It’s for the guarantee…”

“No.” (This is an abbreviated version of quite a few sentences, explaining that Curry’s were not, under any circumstances, going to have out personal details; and that their invoice wasn’t necessary because we can register directly with the manufacturer.)

I won’t spin this out: Curry’s didn’t get our details; we did register for the guarantee as soon as we got home: there was a huge QR code on the inside of the box lid. As we left the shop, Anne said this: “Conform, conform, conform. We’re bullied into conforming with their procedures, just so they can get our personal details on their records. How many other people today have refused to give their details? This week even? This month?”

The episode made me think of Paul’s word to the Romans, and to us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The word “conformed” – syschematizo – is only used in one other place in the New Testament, and it’s  by Peter: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance” (1 Peter 1:13-14) It means to fashion oneself according to another person’s pattern. The word “schema” comes from it. Paul and Peter are both telling us the same thing: we need to free our minds from the schemas of the world and the flesh, so that we can say “No!” to their bullying and “Yes” to the Kingdom of God and to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Peter tells us to “gird up the loins” of our minds. The image refers to tucking one’s long robe into a girdle in preparation for action, free of the restrictions of the garment. The key to not “conforming” – whether to the world, or to the flesh – is to act as “obedient children,” free to walk in “the wisdom that is from above.” (James 3:17) I was praying for someone recently and the Holy Spirit spoke to me about the memory card that I had just taken out of my camera. We need to let Him take out our memory cards that are full of all the mental habits that we have accumulated since childhood, and let Him put in a new one where the memory files consist of what He has promised, what He has done, and what He has told us to do. Most digital cameras today have SD cards, but some newer ones have more powerful XQD cards. SD stands for Sin and Death. We are new creations: we need new, powerful XQD cards.  XQD begins with a cross.

So which pattern are we conforming to? I have just been reading the story of Esther. I love the glimpse that account gives us into the sovereignty and providence of God as He acts for those whose lives are submitted to Him. Haman was the chief minister under Xerxes, King of Persia. He hated Mordecai because he would not bow down to him, so Haman vowed to destroy all the Jews in the Kingdom of Persia where they were exiled. It is interesting to note the meanings of the names here. Haman was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. Agag was the king of the Amalekites, the nation that God had commanded Saul to completely destroy and a biblical type of the demonic. Fittingly, the name means “I will overtop.”  Haman means “magnificent,” and Hammedatha means “double.” Mordecai means “little man.”

Who is the magnificent one who was “the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” (Ezekeil; 28:12), whose desire was to “overtop” the very throne of God, and who, once cast out of Heaven, set himself up as the double of the true ruler of this world? The prime minister of Persia in the story of Esther stands for none other than the devil himself, whom Jesus called the prince of this world. The little man refused to bow down to him, and ultimately Haman was destroyed, having been made to lead Mordecai round the city in one of the King’s own robes.

We too are “little men.” Our enemy is a bully and a manipulator. He starts to build his thinking into us from the day we are born, teaching us independence rather than interdependence; self-preservation rather than trust in God; retaliation rather than gentleness; greed rather than generosity; pride rather than humility, and many other demonic “doubles” of godly values. We need to learn that we can, and must, say “No!” to his schemas; to “set the Lord before us at all times” (Psalm 16:8) just like obedient children looking to their parents for direction; and to let the Holy Spirit renew our minds by replacing our thinking with His.

In today’s world, especially in the West, this still may seem a little optional; extreme even. But even now the scene is changing, and we may already be heading into a very different world. Under the guise of health protection as virus infections threaten, “track and trace” can be used as a tool for persecution. As identity theft and financial crime proliferate, and as the debt burden of printed money increasingly threatens our fragile financial systems, a new, one-world blockchain digital currency (like bitcoins) would protect the interests of world trade and keep individuals safe from scammers. Excellent, for the world system. But for a persecuted Church it will call for endurance, as it would also mean that the authorities could follow the movements of every penny that is spent or given away, and it would have Christians finally staring down the barrel of the mark of the beast as the new financial system requires their unique bank details to be microchipped under the skin of their hand or their forehead.

However, as we know, it is the King of Kings who has the last word, not the prince of the world, who ‘has nothing on him.’ (See John 14:30) He has given us His royal robe, and our names are in the Book of Life: we do not have to put them anywhere else, whatever the pressure.

“For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.
Don’t let the proud trample me
or the wicked push me around.
Look! Those who do evil have fallen!
They are thrown down, never to rise again.”
(Ps 36:9-12 New Living Translation)

This is “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Jesus Talking

According to a personal evangelism course called “Talking Jesus,” a high number of people come to faith as a result of “conversations with a Christian.” I think it was about 35%; the only higher number (over 40%) being those who grew up in a Christian family. This is good to know, as we all need as much encouragement as possible to share the gospel! The lowest figure of the five mentioned (the others were, and I think I am quoting correctly, “attending  a standard church service”, and “experiencing the love of Jesus) was 17%, which is the number of Christians who have come to faith (as I did, in fact) through an “unexplained spiritual experience.” But I can’t help thinking that this 17% is a sad reflection of the state of the church today, and how far removed it is from the pattern set by Paul, for example, who came to the Corinthians “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.” (1 Cor 2: 4-5)

Actually, Jesus never told us to “share our faith.” He told us to “make disciples,” and He said “”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”  (Acts 1:8). The Greek word for witness is “martyr.” We all know one meaning of that, which is something that I don’t think any of us want to be; but the other meaning is “spectator.” This passage seems to be telling us that when the power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will watch Jesus (be spectators) doing His work – the works of the Father, in fact. This is what happened throughout the Book of Acts, and this is what happened with Paul at Corinth. We have consigned the meaning of the word to being witnesses of what Jesus did, rather what He is doing now; and from that we have created an activity called ”witnessing,” which, as far as I can see, is actually divorced from the model that we are given in the New Testament.

“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12) When Jesus (today, through the Holy Spirit) speaks, one of two things happen: people run, or they turn (I’m quoting my wife, Anne, here). They don’t just stand there and say, “Yes, that’s interesting.  Of course you are entitled to your opinion.” In politics and business especially, the power of influence is sometimes called “leverage.” Judging by the figures we are given in the Book of Acts, the leverage of Holy Spirit empowered signs and wonders confirming the preaching of the Word is very high. By contrast, the leverage of other forms of evangelism has to be much lower. What would the figures look like if we were to carry on in the biblical pattern, hungering and thirsting in prayer for the Holy Spirit to come and do the works of Jesus for us to witness, instead of just trying to “witness” ourselves?

It is God’s heart and our calling that we reach out to as many as we can with the good news of salvation. The world needs to see how much we love one another, because that is how it will know that we are disciples of Christ. But Jesus didn’t say that this is enough to make new disciples; He only said that it confirms the truth of who we are in Him. Although there may be some people who are drawn to the light that they see in us, I think the New Testament pattern for making new disciples is to be witnesses of His work among those who don’t know Him. We need to ask Jesus who He is calling and we need to pray for them and ask for opportunities for them to meet Him. But when we are with them, we mustn’t be like tradesmen without a toolkit: we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit if we are to witness Jesus in operation. Without them, our leverage is poor or non-existent, but with them, how many more people exponentially would be coming to faith as that 17% became 37%, 47%, 57% or more? Because this is what happens when revival comes.

A friend at Wildwood Church was saying recently how she was with someone and the Holy Spirit said “talk about THAT” (Whatever THAT was, or who it was, of course she didn’t say.) Her first thought was “No, I can’t mention THAT!” But she obeyed. Tears, repentance, and blessing followed. She simply used a gift from the toolbox – in this case, a word of knowledge. Her talking  was leveraged by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul exhorted Timothy, we need to be ready to preach the word “in season and out of season.” (2 Tim 4:2), so we certainly do need  to be talking Jesus; but most of all we need to see Jesus do the talking.