Immersed in the Holy Spirit

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 4:31 (NIV)

The baptism in, with, or by the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming experience of the Spirit’s presence, power, and purity: a total submergence within the person of the Holy Spirit. Our individual experiences of the Holy Spirit will often be instantaneous and likely to be reoccurring. The baptism of the Spirit refers to the initial work of the Spirit in uniting believers to Christ as well as on-going encounters with the Spirit bringing refreshment and strengthening in the Christian life. The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings intimacy with Christ, illumination of the Word of God, power for ministry, and a hunger for holiness. 

Question: The same day as your conversion you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Answer: Yes, it happened like this: After dinner we were moving books and furniture to another law office. The thought took possession of my mind that as soon as I was alone in the new office, I would try to pray again.

Later, I made up a good fire in an open fireplace and accompanied Squire W. to the door. As I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out, and the utterance of my heart was, I want to pour our my whole soul out to God. The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room back of the front office to pray.

There was no fire there and no light; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary, it seemed to me that I saw Him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet.

I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind, for it seemed to me a reality that He stood right before me, and I feel down at His feet and poured out my soul to Him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me that I bathed His feet with my tears, and yet I had no distinct impression that I touched Him, that I recollect.

Charles G. Finney, Evangelist. Popular books: Lectures on Revival, Autobiography, and Systematic Theology.

Leona Frances Choy, Powerlines: What Great Evangelicals Believed About the Holy Spirit 1850-1930 (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1990), 79.

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The Holy Spirit in Preaching

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22

As a pastor, I rarely feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit when preaching to my own congregation. I must trust that the Spirit is working irrespective of my mood, the listening audience’s engagement, or the excitement level of the listeners. I stand on the promise written by the prophet Isaiah, who said that God’s Word never returns void (Isa. 55:11), therefore I trust that the Holy Spirit is affecting the hearts of the hearers when I share God’s word. When the Holy Spirit works among his people, he encourages them to trust the Father entirely, love Christ throughly, and hunger for his holiness completely.

I always believe that the Holy Spirit is upon a person when I preach to that person. I do not mean that the Spirit is within the hearts of unbelievers, but that He is outside. What is He doing? He is waiting, waiting to bring Christ into their hearts. He is like the light. Open the window-shutters even a little, and it will flood in and illuminate the interior. Let there be a cry from the heart to God, and at that moment the Spirit will enter and begin His transforming work of conviction and repentance and faith.

Watchman Nee, What Shall This Man Do? 

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Holy Spirit Sweetness

The Holy Spirit Is With You

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 16:13

The sweetness of the presence of the Holy Spirit is hard to put into words: deep peace, love imparted, hope released, and faith encouraged. The Holy Spirit’s job is take all that Christ did on the Cross and make it known to us. Not known in our heads as information, but truth taken, illumined, revealed, and applied in our hearts. The Holy Spirit makes Christ available to us, in us, and through us. He can make the sweetness of Christ’s presence known to us every minute of every hour of every day.

The Holy Spirit makes grace (i.e., Jesus) available to empower us to live the Christian life: make righteous choices, overcome temptations, receive gifts for service, strength in spiritual warfare, and an anointing for evangelism. As believers, we can be assured that wherever we are, the Holy Spirit’s sweet presence goes with us making Christ known to the hurting of this world.

Wherever you have to go, whatever you may have to do, however isolated your life may be, the Holy Spirit is with you and in you to make you aware of the presence of Christ. Christ reveals himself to you thus; and every time of awareness, every time of recollectedness, is the direct result of the operation of the Holy Spirit in your mind bringing you to think about, recollect, and to respond to the presence of your Lord.

Whatever you have to do in the shop, or office, or factory, or home, on the street, or as you travel, as you in these varied senses and occupations recall Jesus Christ, it is the Holy Spirit who is enabling you to do it.

In the special circumstances of life, you may be cut off from Christian fellowship. But you face all such loneliness in the calm confidence that the Spirit of God is always within you to remind you of the presence of Christ.

Christian fellowship is a glad and happy thing, but it is not the chief thing in a Christian’s life. The chief thing is to have Christ Himself. And that gracious presence is ministered to you through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Thus in every of temptation or difficulty the Holy Spirit is ready to reveal Christ as the answer to all your problems and the Savior from all temptations.

J. Russell Howden cited in His Victorious Indwelling, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 12.

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He Knows All Our Shortcomings

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all.

Acts 1:24 ESV

The Lord Jesus Christ is gracious, all-loving, and forgiving. The marvel of Christ is that he knows everything about us, and yet, he still loves us. Our weaknesses, failures, and neediness attracts us to Jesus. He is full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness for those of us who cry out and express our need of him.

The Lord Jesus is very empathetic and full of tender mercy. “As a father pities his children, even so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13.) He does not deal with believers according to their sins, nor reward them according to their iniquities. He sees their weakness. He is aware of their short-comings. He knows all the defects of their faith, and hope, and love, and courage. And yet He will not cast them off. He bears with them continually. He loves them even to the end. He raises them when they fall. He restores them when they err. His patience, like His love, is a patience that passes knowledge. When He sees a heart right, it is His glory to pass over many a short-coming.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Mark (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985), 86.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

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How to Read the Book of Revelation

A Book Like No Other

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.

Rev. 1:1

Apocalyptic writing tells a symbolic story by which eternal insight is given by an angel to a visionary prophet. This heavenly perspective explains God’s eternal purposes to a church that is struggling on earth with persecution, oppression, trials, and sorrow. Apocalyptic literature uses powerful images to prick the imagination and draw the reader into God’s eternal perspective on the events of this world.

First, seventy per cent of the symbols’ meaning are drawn from the original context of  the Old Testament’s use of that symbol. Second, John’s symbols are also pulled from the contemporary Roman world using pagan images to illustrate sources of evil in the world. Third in our culture, we tend to think of symbols as meaning something less than real or true.

John’s symbols are intended to convey deep theological meaning while simultaneously impacting our spirits and emotions. We tend to read a text “literally” as opposed to reading it “symbolically” as if a literal interpretation makes the text more true. In the Bible, symbols are understood to be just as “true” as other more historical or literary passages.

Before Apocalyptic literature can be applied to our day, the text must be read in the light of its original context. In other words, the writing must make sense to the readers of the first century before it speaks to a reader in the twenty-first century.

Apocalyptic literature was written not only to inform the church, but to impact believers’ emotions and encourage their spirits as well. We need to read the Book of Revelation with our hearts as well as our minds. Apocalyptic literature is designed to uplift our emotions by strengthening our wills with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and the power of his redeeming Cross.

What then is the Book of Revelation’s message?

1. That God is awesomely majestic, as well as sovereign in all our troubles.

2. That Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb ultimately brings complete deliverance for those who trust in him.

3. That God’s judgments on the world are often to serve notice on the world that God will avenge his people.

4. That regardless of how things appear in the short run, “sin does not go unpunished,” and God will judge.

5. That God can accomplish his purposes through a small and persecuted remnant; he is not dependent on what the world values as power.

6. That worship leads us from grief over our sufferings to God’s eternal purposes seen from a heavenly perspective.

7. That proclaiming Christ invited persecution, the normal state of committed believers in this age.

8. That Christ is worth dying for.

9. That a radical contrast exists between the God’s kingdom (exemplified in the bride, the new Jerusalem) and the world’s values (exemplified in the prostitute, Babylon).

10. That the hope God has prepared for us exceeds our present sufferings.

11. That God’s plan and church ultimately include representatives of all peoples.

Craig S. Keener, Revelation, NIVAC (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 41.

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Good Friday Was Not a Funeral, but the Victory of God

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Col. 2:13-15).

Many misunderstand, they see the Cross as a defeat. They see Christ’s weakness, suffering, and humiliation as failure to convince the crowds, persuade the Jewish leaders, and empower the disciples. Some grand misunderstanding created this tragedy, surely if all sides could have talked this terrible event would have never happened. In the minds of these bemoaners, Christ’s death was a great tragedy, but nothing more.  For some, God by the power of the resurrection snatched victory from jaws of the Cross’ defeat. He rescued Jesus from utter humiliation. The resurrection saved the day.

Nothing is further from the truth. The Cross is the victory of God and the resurrection is the announcement to the world that the Christ has triumphed over all our foes. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A number of metaphors are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross:

Victory is taken from the military: Christ has conquered Satan and his oppression, our sin and its enslavement, and death and its control (1 Cor. 15:57).

Justification is taken from the law court: God’s declaration that by faith in Christ we are declared righteous before him (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:15-16).

Adoption is taken from the family: we are granted legal status as sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23; Gal. 4:1-7).

Reconciliation is taken from the home: the Cross restores our broken relationship with the Father (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:16-21).

Forgiveness of our offenses that frees from guilt and shame, redemption  and ransom paid to free us from bondage and captivity caused by our sin (1 Cor. 6:19),

Healing is taken from the hospital: we are restored with all of creation from the brokenness created by our sin (Isa. 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

Propitiation is taken from Temple worship: God satisfies his own wrath by offering himself to suffer the just punishment for our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10 NASB).

Representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

The Cross accomplished all these things and more.

The whole story in the New Testament is written, as I have said, from the point of view of the Resurrection, and the Christian faith is inexplicable otherwise. Another point to be made is that the story of the Resurrection is not told in the New Testament as the story of a victory which wipes out the defeat of the Cross.

On the contrary, there is great emphasis laid on the fact that the risen Lord is the crucified one. It is said that when, he showed himself to his disciples, he showed them his hands and his side. In other words he identified himself deliberately to them as the one who had been crucified. And according to the records that we have, in his teaching of them, he emphasised the fact that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer in this way.

Above all in Paul, whose life as a Christian began with a meeting with the risen Lord, it is nevertheless the Cross which is the centre of his message. The Cross, in other words, is not put before us a defeat overruled by God; on the contrary, the Cross is put before us as a victory which was acknowledged and ratified by God.

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, Journey Into Joy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 45.

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Palm Sunday: Day Forty, Forty Days of Prayer

Thank you for joining Lamb of God parish during our forty days of Lenten prayer and fasting. As you prayed with us each day, many of you commented through email and Facebook, that the daily written prayers greatly encouraged you in your walk with God. For that, we are deeply grateful. Thanks to Fr. Glenn, Fr. Scott, India, Nancy, and Nicholas for writing prayers that kept us focused on the magnificence of the Father, the beauty of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit. May your walk with the Lord abound and prosper as you continue to seek, follow, and obey our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

—1979 Book of Common Prayer

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Christ Our Intercessor: Day Thirty-Nine, Forty Days of Prayer

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Dear Lord, thank you that you defeated death, hell, and the grave and are seated at God’s right hand. Thank you, that you entered the Holy of Holies and you are praying to the Father for me right now. I give you thanks because you are in control of all the circumstances of my life. I know that nothing that happens today is beyond your reach. Lord, I trust you to work through me. If there is any thought, word, or deed in me that is not obedient to you, please show me, and help me to change it. In Jesus’s name, amen.

~~Nicholas Beckham

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Fill Us, Holy Spirit: Day Thirty-Eight, Forty Days of Prayer

Be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18 ESV) 

Heavenly Father, through the ascension of your Son Jesus, our Lord, you sent the Holy Spirit to come alongside us and to fill us, to give us power to live lives of faithful obedience, to love our neighbor and minister effectively. We know you to be a good Father who gives good gifts to His children and the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Fill me, my family, and my fellow believers afresh with your Holy Spirit today. Give us the gifts of the Spirit so we may minister to each other and our community in His power. Lastly, manifest through us the fruits of your Spirit so that our lives display Jesus and bring you glory. Amen.

~~ Fr. Scott Howard

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Freedom from Fear: Thirty-Seven, Forty Days of Prayer

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9 NLT).

Lord, forgive us for giving in to fear. We fear debt and poverty, so we don’t give as You’ve directed us. We fear for our children, so we worry about them instead of seeking Your guidance for their lives. We fear how the actions of politicians will affect us so we put our trust in different politicians. We haven’t practiced your presence so we lay awake at night in fear over what has happened, what could happen, and what will likely never happen. We’ve given in to fear and have turned from You, the fountain of living water, and have sought for answers from false sources.

We repent of practicing fear, and seek Your grace and presence to direct our every thought. Your word tells us that perfect love casts out fear. Fill us with Your perfect love that You displayed on Calvary, and let that love cast the fear out of our lives. Let our gaze and thoughts always be centered on You, for only in love can we know perfect love, and experience lives where fear has been cast out. Amen.

–Fr. David Surrett

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