I am not a man of nostalgia. I don’t particularly like to look back and wonder where the good ol’ days have gone. I recognise that a true disciple of the kingdom is one who brings out of his treasure both new and old (Matthew 13:52). Yet, I am one who is ever looking to keep his eyes fixed on the future, to where God is taking us. Thus, I hope you understand why I am not usually so stuck on reminiscing.
Yet, I will be honest, sometimes I long for God’s people to recover something, or someone, that can seem more active in the past than in the present. His name is Holy Spirit. I do believe that my generation has lost a little confidence in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard countless stories of what the Holy Spirit did in the 1960’s and 1970’s, especially in the UK. And, yes, it was amazing and exciting. But the one word wrong with the previous sentence is this – WAS.
In one of Jesus’ last discourses before His crucifixion, He told His friends this:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. (John 14:16)
The Holy Spirit was to be ‘another Helper’, just as if Christ Himself were actually there in the flesh. Jesus even had the audacity to say:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
An advantage, eh? How in the world is this an advantage?
Because Jesus would be able to pour out on all of God’s people the long awaited blessing – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would be God Himself living inside and empowering His people to change planet earth. And so I believe we must have a renewed emphasis on the person of the Godhead who has come to be with us, live in us and clothe us.
In looking to be stirred towards a renewed emphasis, I highlight three points about the work of the Spirit:
We could easily ask the simple question, ‘Why has the Holy Spirit come?’ It is a good question, no, even more, a vital question to the life of the body of Christ in the world. And I do believe that Jesus made it quite clear as to the reason why the Holy Spirit has come. It is found in a very familiar Scripture:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
There it is! That is the reason! The Holy Spirit has been sent and He has come to empower God’s people to complete the task for which God has called us – to be witnesses in all the earth. The Holy Spirit was not given mainly for tingles, nor to try and contain Him in our Sunday gatherings, but all that we might walk in the power of God so that we are equipped for serving and reaching others in our generation.
Amazingly, Jesus was not even afraid to say this about those who would believe in Him:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
As Christ went back to His Father, He would send the Spirit, and by the Spirit’s power we, as a company of God’s people, would be able to do greater works than Christ Himself. Not a qualitatively greater work, but a quantitatively greater work. One can do a lot, but billions can accomplish quite a lot more. And it is estimated that there are now well over one billion followers of Jesus in the earth.
Remember, what Christ says, He will make sure it comes true!
And so, we are challenged to remember the reason for which the Holy Spirit has come – to empower the saints to accomplish the work of God in reaching to the ends of the earth.
Next, we need to consider that the Spirit is the Spirit of revelation. We are all probably familiar with this passage, which many love to quote:
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
There is a song that is sung these days quoting this Scripture, one I even enjoy singing. But we need to read on, at least for one more verse:
But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (2:10)
How about that? There was a day in which many things were hidden in God, for even Jesus declared:
For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
But we live in a day in which the things of God have been revealed, and even are being revealed, by His Spirit.
Yes, we still live in an age in which we ‘prophesy in part’ (1 Corinthians 13:9). And I believe there will always be things which will not be revealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 55:8-9). But we are still getting glimpses, we are still called to hear the voice of the Spirit who lives within in us.
Some will argue that 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 is speaking about God’s revelation to the first apostles, and thus, this does not apply to us. And, granted, I do understand such an argument. But, remember we have the same Spirit dwelling within us as the first apostles, and thus, we are an apostolic people called to hear our God in our generation.
This does not mean we write another letter to add to Scripture, nor does it mean this revelation will not be in line with what He has revealed in through the whole tenor of Scripture. But, I am convinced God is calling His people to be a verse 10 people, one by which He continues to reveal to us His heart by the Spirit of God.
When is the last time we heard Him speak? Whether it is in the gentle voice as with Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-13) or in the whirlwind as with Job (Job 38:1), we desperately need to hear from the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Jesus said about our ears:
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. (Matthew 13:16)
We have One who lives in us that is a friend, One who wants to speak to us. Remember that He is another exactly like Jesus. With His presence within, it should be as if Jesus were right here with us. I know this is challenging, but I want to be drawn in and cultivate a deeper, intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Finally, if the Spirit is one who speaks, then we must, as the people of God, be willing to respond to His voice. The writer to the Hebrews reminds the Jewish believers of his day:
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7)
Now, as encouragement, keep in mind that we have been given new hearts by the One who drew us to Himself (see Ezekiel 36:26). We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). So we are actually at an advantage in responding to our God.
I, myself, want to understand more and more what Paul meant when He exhorted the believers in Ephesus:
Do no grieve the Holy Spirit of God. (Ephesians 4:30)
In the context, Paul is probably referring to the words that come from our mouths (see 4:29). Oh, that only blessing would come from my lips, emulating the One whose words were gracious (Luke 4:22). But I believe grieving the Holy Spirit can go beyond just our words. The Spirit is speaking. Thus, I want to be listening. But I don’t want to stop there. I want to be obedient to His voice.
Interestingly enough, when the Scripture speaks of God hearing our prayers, it is actually referring to His response to our prayers (see Psalm 6:9; 66:19). The same is to stand true for us. We are to be hearers of God’s voice and responders.
Before Stephen was stoned, he told the Sanhedrin:
Our fathers refused to obey him. (Acts 7:39)
Oh, that we would not be like the Israelites who very rarely listened to and responded to the voice of God. Oh, that we would not grieve our great Friend who dwells within.
I believe that, as we bear in mind the reason the Spirit was given, the revelation of the Spirit and our response to the Spirit, we will begin to walk out the greater works which Christ has called us to. These are the days following Pentecost in which Christ gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Let a passion be rekindled within us to pursue such a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Amen, amen amen.
“Oh, that we would not be like the Israelites who very rarely listened to and responded to the voice of God. Oh, that we would not grieve our great Friend who dwells within.”
Although much of the church preaches Grace, it is all too often tangled up with Law. By this I mean that the saints are more concerned about right behaviour for a saints. ie. a good believer attends all the meetings, doesn’t drink or smoke or swear or steal paperclips from work, he recycles all his waste is kind to animals and old ladies etc etc etc.
Outward effort to be good, steals our inward reliance on the spirit’s leadership.
This is why Jesus was very direct against the Scribes and the Pharisees, “woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, YOU SHUT UP HEAVEN, you neither enter yourselves and you make sure anyone trying can’t get in.”
This reveals the simple truth that religion actually has the power to shut heaven to the saints by loading them with outward requirements. There is little difference in many of todays churches, even charismatic ones.
Although many might feel the warm fuzzies of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, they do not have any sense of hearing his direct voice for them. They still want to be told what to do to be confident they are good and right before God. They live by external requirements, rather than inward security of the Spirit.
You hit the nail on the head with your quote from Hebrews “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7)” Although I am not sure of the translation you use because my King James has a slight variation- ‘today if you WILL hear his voice, harden not you hearts”
The implication of this is that if you wish to hear God, first be soft of heart. This quote is repeated three times in short space in Hebrews revealing its crucial significance if we want to know God’s voice. It is also a quote from, I think, Psalm 85.
The bottom line is that walking in the Spirit starts from cultivating a quiet relationship with the Spirit, and we can’t do that if we are relying on our own self righteous behaviour rather than quiet humility.