Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Power of the Holy Spirit

In the first article on the Holy Spirit, I discussed the attributes of the Holy Spirit and how important it is for the Body of Christ to have the Spirit of God living in us so we can obtain to the fullness of our identity in Christ, and eventually be mature enough as sons of God to rule and reign with Jesus during the millennium reign here on earth. In the second article I discussed current, end time reasons for being baptized in the Holy Spirit so that we are able to stand whatever trials or tribulations come upon us and we don't fall away from the faith. Many in the faith believe the day of the Lord is rapidly approaching and it will not be long before Christ returns. I gave the example of the 4,000 Christian pastors and other clergy living in Romania in1945 who bowed their head to Joseph Stalin and elected him as the president of their congressional assembly. 

Acts chapter one contains Jesus' last words to his disciples. “Wait for the gift my Father a few days you will be baptized with the Holy will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” After he said these things, he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. As Christians, if we don't remember any other of Jesus' instructions to us while he walked on earth, we need to remember and obey these three simple commands. Wait, be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Farewell Discourse, depiction from the 
Maesta by Duccio, 1308–1311.
 Yet now as we look around the Body of Christ today, meaning those who have experienced salvation, there is a great discrepancy between those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and those who have not. So the question comes to mind, why have so many born again Christians not entered into this subsequent baptism experience? Well, there are many reasons and I will present a few of the most common ones.

Perhaps the most frequent reason is people have not been taught about the importance of being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. They entered into the baptism as a one time step of faith and went on from there thinking they had all the power they needed. However, like the illustration of the tractor battery given in the previous article, they have lost the power they once had or it was used up, expended in service for God and now their spiritual battery is too low to function properly.

The next reason is the people of God have been erroneously taught that when we received Christ we received the fullness of the Holy Spirit at the same time. Essentially, people have been taught we don't need to experience a subsequent level of sanctification to reach our full potential in Christ, or to do the works of God. Along with this error is the belief that the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost in such a dramatic way primarily to get the early church started in Jerusalem. But that having our own personal, Pentecost experience is not valid for the church today. Many preach that experiencing salvation through Jesus Christ is all that is needed for them to go to heaven. The problem comes when they stop right there and don't go on to explain how to stay saved, or be transformed into the image and character of Christ. It is no wonder 50% of Christian marriages end up in the divorce court, the same as non-Christians.
Salvation through Christ is the first step toward deliverance from sin, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the next and essential step for maintaining our salvation, growing in the maturity of Christ, overcoming Satan, the world and the Adamic nature with which we are born. Therefore, we need to be born again by the Spirit of God to experience regeneration and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to experience sanctification and our full potential in the kingdom of God. Without the baptism as described in the book of Acts repeatedly, we are trying to be Christians in the power of our own natural strength, talents and personal ambition. We have a measure of the Holy Spirit, but not the fullness of Him living in us.

Spirits of rebellion, independence, control and selfishness are the next important reasons why Christians have not waited, been filled or received the power of the Holy Spirit. “I have all I need and don't want any more! I'm saved now and that is all that matters.” Spirits of rebellion, doubt and unbelief have influenced them to think and feel this way. They have no desire to draw closer to God, be transformed by the power of God, or to serve Him with their life. Of course, within this group are people more fully committed to Christ and those who are less committed. This lack of yieldedness keeps them from entering into all of God's promises and potential in Christ. Deliverance from these spiritual influences will be required for them to enter into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. You could add other spiritual influences like: fear of what may happen, fear of man, fear of embarrassment, or fear of rejection. Finally, religious spirits certainly don't want God's people to have more power, anointing or walk in more light and truth. Religious spirits are assigned to every church and denomination by Satan to deceive the people of God and hold them in bondage to such things as traditions of men, legalism, and false doctrines (Eph. 6: 10).

One final reason which needs to be covered is that church leaders themselves are still walking in a measure of darkness or natural understanding without the spiritual experience and anointing to lead their sheep into more of God. A congregation does not usually rise above the spiritual level of its' leadership. A confidential Barna Survey ( published in 2008 stated that 50% of the Southern Baptists pastors had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and received their personal prayer language. Yet these same churches have not experienced the fullness of the Spirit that God has available for them. These churches are still maintaining the same level of limited spiritual revelation and power they have always had. They have a historical perspective on what happened at Pentecost, but have not entered into the spiritual experience for themselves. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders have even taught that tongues is of the devil, the gifts are not for today's church and women should not be allowed to preach. It is sad to say how much darkness exists in some of today's churches where humanism and moralism influence doctrine and practices.

A study on the Hebrew and Greek words for breath, spirit and soul written by Tommy James, Bible student and author, provides greater insight into what it means to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The numbers following the highlighted words are from Strong's Concordance.

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathedH5301 into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. God’s breath (ruach- H5301) or Spirit should be viewed as the source of continuing life for us day by day. This Ruach or Spirit is defined in the NT as Pneuma G4151, a current of air. Pneuma is also used for the spirit of man. 

Matt._3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the SpiritG4151 of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
Matt._26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spiritG4151 indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Matt. 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?G5590 or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?G5590 Another word Psuche G5590 is translated soul.

This word psuche is translated more correctly-- breath. Soul is natural respiration that supports life in the natural man’s physical body. Think of pneuma as spiritual respiration where a new and fresh inhalation continues life and is indeed necessary for life in the spirit. Spiritual toxins are released with the exhalation. There are shallow breaths and deep breaths. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a really deep breath. This often happens in one identifiable experience that brings a strong effect of cleansing and empowering for the individual. The anointing and gifts of the Spirit are imparted and maintained in the same fashion.

The scripture tells us, however, to 'be being baptized' in the Holy Ghost. We can infer that while the single or multiple experiences of 'immersion' in the Holy Ghost are wonderful and life changing, that it is more important to breathe in the Spirit as often as we breathe in natural air. The Breath of Life should be viewed as a dynamic and continuing exercise with God rather than a static, one time occurrence. No one should assume that he gets all of the Holy Spirit he needs when the natural blindness is removed and he has a saving knowledge of Jesus. The objective opportunity for all men is to be transformed into the fullness of Christ likeness. This can only happen by continual respirations, or breathing in of the Spirit of God (James, 2012).

Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean Restout, 1732
Most definitely walking in the Spirit is a risky lifestyle full of unexpected, supernatural events and can be filled with disappointing pitfalls for the inexperienced and immature believer. In some cases, spiritual abuse has been practiced by some charismatic leaders in past moves of God and people are now leary of letting go their natural control over church services and programs. Their mindset is, “Let's just stay safe and stay in control.” They believe God is happy with them just like they are and there is no further need for change, or that it is not important to spend time seeking God for greater revelation and power. These leaders have not learned how to yield control to the anointing and Presence of God in their meetings. These “seeker friendly” churches preach the Gospel message that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins, are very evangelical in nature, incorporate contemporary praise songs in their services and experience huge church growth. However, the Spirit of God is limited in what He can accomplish in their services. The leadership's need to put on a perfect performance has greater importance than the need to submit to the control of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to demonstrate His power and love. As the scripture says, "having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Tim. 3:5).
However, let us not critically judge and condemn these sincere, devoted men and women of God who are walking in all the light they have. These leaders in the Body of Christ need revelation knowledge by the Holy Spirit to move on into greater truth, freedom and power. Let us pray for our leaders and churches to have the courage to break out of their limitations and seek God with all their heart, soul and mind for His power and glory! For a move of God to break into any church's norm, many people in that group will need to pray and seek God for His grace, power, transformation and holiness.

Derek Prince, who was a world renown British Bible teacher, and Hebrew and Greek scholar, commented on the often quoted scripture from 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." The word "Lord" is emphasizing the supreme sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in the church. And where the lordship of the Spirit is acknowledged in a congregation, the result is "liberty" or "freedom." Then he provides a slightly different rendering of that passage. "Where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty." True liberty comes to an individual or congregation in direct measure to the acknowledgment of and yieldedness to the lordship of the Holy Spirit (Prince, p.298, 2006).

Since yieldedness is one of the keys to God's presence and power, we have to be be willing to lay aside our natural mindsets and preconceived ideas of what “church” should look like. We have to let the Spirit of God have His way no matter what traditions of men are offended, or whatever our denominational beliefs have been in the past. Ultimately, we will need to obey Jesus' instructions in Acts chapter one. Wait! Receive! Be filled with power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. This is the complete Gospel message in all its' truth and power! Wouldn't it be absolutely marvelous one day if the Spirit of God showed up at church, like on the day Pentecost, and we all fell down in adoration and worship to the living God. 

James, Thomas. Tree of Life Ministries, November, 2012.
Prince, Derek. Foundational Truths for Christian Living, 2006, Charisma House, Lake Mary, Florida,
      ISBN: 978-1-59185-982-6.
Art work taken from