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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gott

EMPLOYED BY CHRIST, EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

There is a great need to emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit’s being allowed to work with us and through us, so that is my declared purpose in the words that follow.  There is, no doubt, a vast and embarrassing difference that exists between what we see in Christianity today and what you observe in the New Testament after Pentecost.  If that were true, all the deficiencies often seen today could be and would be non-existent.  If God’s people were filled with the Holy Spirit, there would be an evangelistic explosion with a full release of the Spirit of God.  Suddenly the world would unfold before us, and what were once seen as blockades and barriers would become open avenues of God’s kingdom.


One simply asks, where are the examples of the powerful Christianity that we see in the early church revealed in the Book of Acts?  The very same Spirit is available so we say with confidence that the power of the Holy Spirit is available for all who would live for God’s exclusive glory.  Michael Green wrote, “The enthusiasm to evangelize which marked the early Christians is one of the most remarkable things in the history of religions.”  The records of that time show that nothing was allowed to stand in the way of their passing on this good news to others and their secret was the presence of the Holy Spirit empowering them.


It is evident that when Jesus spoke to the apostles in those final days and dramatic hours before He ascended to heaven, He indicated that He was expecting the church to bring glory to His name throughout the coming ages so He promised them empowering, they would be “endued with power …”


For example, C. H. Spurgeon said, “Pentecost? … I see no reason why we should not have a greater Pentecost than Peter saw …”  In the early church, because of the empowering of the Holy Spirit they became an eager witnessing force.  We see the Spirit moving powerfully on the apostles, we see enormous growth of the Christian faith and its wide expansion for about three hundred years.  Jesus never indicated we would lack power from on high to fulfill His purpose and be adequate for His Great Commission.  I do not know of a more needed heart-cry than that, all who love Jesus and have such potential as His Spirit gives; we must desire it.  We should be filled with the Holy Spirit and give evident witness of His empowering now as they did then.


Others have written on the subject exploring the true place and blessing of the Holy Spirit at work in the mission of telling the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And yet, I feel a desire to emphasize this topic on which we can never say enough, let alone say too much.  Out of respect I will quote others who have impacted my thinking, they will strengthen my writing.  It seems to me that it all needs to be said again for a fresh challenge, its full thrust, and the force of it to be reclaimed.  As you read, occasionally I will repeat details, but only for emphasis.  In fact, we have evidence that not only Jesus did this, but so did Peter and especially Paul.  For example, Paul wrote, “To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.” (Philippians 3:1, NASB)


Men of God like Andrew Murray often say something like this:  No, there will not be another Pentecost, but neither has there been retraction of it either!  He said, “This is the era of the Holy Spirit.”  And it should be added, in the words of A. J. Gordon, “Before Pentecost the disciples found it hard to do easy things; after Pentecost they found it easy to do hard things.”


Respected men from Finney to Lloyd-Jones speak in terms of “a kind of repetition of Pentecost” or something like an awakening that is “substantially the same …”  Jonathan Edwards wrote a letter to George Whitefield and reminded him that “we see that God is faithful and will never forget the promises He has made to His church … even in the darkest of times.”  Certainly we can say with confidence that the Spirit-filled life of all believers was not an option for the early church and it must not be seen as an extra today.  The Holy Spirit is forever essential and indispensable.  We must fully believe this!


But in the most mainline evangelical Christianity where is the evidence of anything like that today in ministry?  The early church was absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit was an irreplaceable necessity and always vital.  But often it seems that in our Christian activities He is almost a temporary guest who occasionally attends our worship.  Even then He is more of a feeling, not a presence, a rare mood that temporarily comes over people—even a benign, feel-good presence and nothing much more.


A. W. Tozer was a twentieth century prophet who used some strong words of rebuke, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.  If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”


In contrast, look at God at work worldwide, you get a glimpse of something like the New Testament Christianity in South America and Korea and Africa.  For over thirty years Africa is gaining over 16,000 Christians a day.  All of this blessing is happening in non-white nations.  It has to be realized that the spiritual center of gravity has shifted away from the West; it is among people of color.  It has to be said that “by My Spirit” is the keynote of all true advances of the work of God in the world today.


It seems to me that you must equate the Holy Spirit with life.  We see it in creation from the start, and then, empowering in life giving ministry of the patriarchs and the prophets.  He is the life giver perpetually throughout Old Testament Scripture.  We see in an even greater way as we turn to the New Testament, it is even more overwhelmingly true from Mary’s experience to the evidence that even Jesus did not start preaching until the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit—He explained His work, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me …” (Luke 4:18)  Jesus Christ himself attributed it to the Holy Spirit!


In his writings, John Stott reminded us all that Jesus did not send the church into the world until the Holy Spirit had come as tongues of fire and empowered them.  Nothing was to be done with the energy of human charisma or in explainable personal giftedness.  He said, “Tarry until … ye be endued.”  According to Jesus there was nothing of anything of value done by human engineering, it was all to be the product of the Holy Spirit.  As Spurgeon said, “He is your credentials as a Christian; he is your life as a believer.”  There is no dispute He intends all of us to be “endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)


Having searched the Scriptures under the guidance of God’s greatest spokesman and asking constantly for “more light, more light,” I can find no limitation upon the Spirit’s work of bringing glory to Jesus Christ and for the breathtaking expansion of the kingdom of God.  His fullness kindles the fire of Christ in all the work and witness in His servants.  By His Spirit they know His heart and His life and His passion and His commitment of devotion to the will of the Father.  The Holy Spirit energized Jesus and He will us.  We see His supernatural work was through their witness which began in Jerusalem and then spread to Judea and Samaria and on to the ends of the earth.  A. W. Tozer was clear in pointing out in his many writings that it is highly significant that Jesus himself, even as God in human flesh or as the creeds say, “God of very God,” did His work in the power of the Holy Spirit, but it did not start until He was anointed by the Spirit.  Peter explained it, “And you no doubt know that Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power … for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38, Living Bible)  All this has often been repeated by others as well, yet it somehow does not seem to impact today’s generation of believers in mainline American churches.  Yet, if that was a necessity for Jesus—how could we ever attempt to represent Him in the world today without that same empowering? We reflect and realize the extraordinary fact is that within only weeks after the crowds had cried, “Crucify him!” the very same hostile city of Jerusalem was visited by a supernatural outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The very same people who had condemned Him were now crying out for salvation.  We could say that almost the whole city stood humbled and awestruck before the powerful presence of God.


It was in the most unlikely place, Jerusalem, that we view God’s love and grace at work in a mighty demonstration.  This outpouring of the Spirit was the result of a handful, the church of about 120, aligning themselves with God’s promises and purposes.  They were the reason God poured out His blessing.  Why should it not be the same today?  It could be summed up as the mighty minority who said, “God made us alive … even when we were dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:4-5).  All this puts us in a role that is vital, we can be that remnant that produces something glorious.


Our world can be penetrated only by the power of the Holy Spirit.  He breaks down the erected barriers of culture, walls of pride, and massive spiritual strongholds.  Long ago, F. B. Meyer pleaded that cause as he wrote, “Nothing can compensate the church, or the individual Christian, for the lack of the Holy Spirit … we shall stand powerless and abashed in the presence of our difficulties and our foes until we learn what He can be …” in our lives.  The Holy Spirit is God and He does what God does.  Never must we somehow compartmentalize the Holy Spirit.  The work of the Holy Spirit is not something beyond the norm God desires for the church, He is not an additional or something special, rather He is the authentic work of God.  All this must be settled in our mind and heart.  Again we fall back on A. W. Tozer, who said, “The Spirit filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity.  It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for his people.”


Therefore we must say the Spirit-filled life is the normal Christian life just as Tozer said.  By the Spirit we serve God with an overflow employed by Christ and empowered by the Spirit.  Billy Graham spoke of “power from a fresh, daily anointing of the Holy Spirit,” saying, “There is no shortcut to such power in the ministry.  Nor do we ever reach a point in our ministries where this is no longer needed.”  And so, we need fresh infillings, new empowerings, new anointings, and fresh outpourings of the Spirit from time to time.  Paul said, “… be you continually being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says plainly this “is not something ‘once-for-all,’ it can be repeated, and repeated, and repeated many, many times.”  Let that be plain to all of us.


Now, a balanced word more, we are now speaking of the Holy Spirit not a holy emotion.  These repeated fillings and outpourings may not be accompanied by any visible evidence or outward emotions.  Rather, the results are that we sense a special spiritual authority, a growth of our faith, a new inner strength, and an enablement from above.  Only the Holy Spirit Himself imparts this and we know with certainty that this is not of ourselves.  But, I have not even touched on the dimension of profound joy and the flooding of the inner life and a heart glorying in a profound presence of God; that too is evident, that will come in later writings.


As we close, some will say—“Wait!” comes the protest, “We are not without the Holy Spirit; Paul said we could not be and be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 8:9)  It is true—the Holy Spirit authenticates that God is alive within us, He gives supernatural assurance.  Yes, but more than that.  Forcefully let it be emphasized, He gives His supernatural assistance.  Many people who have full assurance of being a child of God are not living in the full power of Him enabling them to be all God desires them to be.  D. L. Moody said simply, “God commands us to be filled with the Spirit, and if we are not filled, it is because we are living beneath our privileges.”  That is the point that needs our full attention.


Again I fall back on Martyn Lloyd-Jones as he addressed the Westminster Conference, “No more mischievous and misleading theory could be propounded, nor any more dishonoring to the Holy Spirit, than [to suggest] … because the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, the church has no need, and no warrant to pray any more for the effusion of the Spirit of God.”  He went on to say, as never before we need to long for it and seek a fresh outpouring.  We are not praying for an exact reproduction of Pentecost, any more than we pray for an exact reproduction of other “once-for-all” New Testament events.  But to say there will never be another Pentecost is not to be used as an argument to discourage spiritual expectation and to keep people from entering into the full flow of God at work today.  As never before, in our lifetime we need it!


Here is the “fly in the ointment,” it seems; we believe, as the Bible teaches, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit for Christians is experienced at conversion.  But, this should not blunt a promotion and a regular requesting for fresh enduement of His power.  It seems it leads some to think that conversion means they have all that God ever intends them to have and so requesting further blessing is pointless.  Can we not say, “We cannot get more of God, but He can get more of us,” and we can be full of the Spirit and know an enduement with power?  Why not?


Those who study early church history, certainly will find, for over the first two hundred years or so, record of Pentecostal type blessings reappeared from time to time as the church spread into the world.  F. B. Meyer, the Baptist quoted earlier, declared, “We have thought that the fullness of the Spirit was a specialty for the apostolic age, instead of being for all time, and thus the majority of Christians are living on the other side of Pentecost.”  Wesley told of an unforgettable prayer meeting when “the power of God came mightily upon us.”  In the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, the Spirit of God fell on some men in an extended prayer meeting and the dishes in the next room in the Scottish croft shook when the Spirit came upon them.  Duncan Campbell said he was there and saw it and heard it and an awakening came the very next night that swept through the population.


The first things first, let each of us seek full forgiveness of sins past and present and even make restitution when it is called for.  It is necessary before we ask for anything more from God.  Our hearts must be clean and our sins must be pardoned; from that point on we proceed.


We need today an extraordinary visitation of the Spirit with men and women who love Jesus Christ endued with power for burning witness.  Let us long for the presence, the awe, the majesty of an awakening sent from God by His Spirit. 


We must ask for heaven to come down in full spiritual activity.  Acts must never be considered a historical glimpse of the early church but rather as an encouragement for a display of God’s power in any and every generation until Christ comes.  Until His climactic return, let there be on the part of all of us a longing for a full, Biblical visitation and demonstration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

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