(June 1, 2017) Stuart Reynolds shares a revelation…
From the presumed monopoly by denominations to the limits of our clever labelling, the Holy Spirit has been hijacked and sabotaged!
The sharp-sighted evangelist Vance Havner described the result of this misunderstanding, mishandling and misapplication: ‘Satan has scored a point in making us so afraid of extremism about the Holy Spirit…that we may miss the true in our fear of the false. We can be so wary of getting out on a limb that we never go up the tree!’
We need to let the Holy Spirit be himself, and that we may become and do all we were intended to.
May I introduce you to ‘The Pentecostal Baptist’ – someone the Bible records having these Holy Spirit credentials: ‘Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.’ And in that place many believed in Jesus’ (John 10:41-42, NIV).
1) An inviting clarification
We believe in ‘full salvation.’ The reality of God in the gospel of Christ is radical – God’s book teaches it…truly knowing Jesus Christ demands it…the presence of the Holy Spirit enables it.
Sadly, we have long since lived in a church-day when and where the focus is not so much on being radical for God as on being ridiculous for God! In some church circles the mentality is that the more bizarre something is, then the more it must be God. It is this that has caused the fear-filled fall-out Havner described.
However, where some have failed to apply the safety brakes of scripture in the extreme of unquestioning acceptance of anything; many others have tended to forget to apply those same biblical safeguards in the other direction of paranoid resistance to everything. Scripture counsels us: ‘Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)!
It was John Stott who contended that in our salvation and sanctification God does not so much change the persons we are in the personalities we have, as he uncovers and restores our true identity-potential that he created, but which sin has hidden and marred.
Square pegs in round holes – that’s ridiculous, even for God. Square pegs being the best square pegs and round holes being the best round holes they can be – that’s radical! It was to fishermen that Jesus specifically said, ‘I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). The Holy Spirit makes us extremely better – not just ‘extreme’!
2) An insightful comparison
There are those who would argue that we cannot compare the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in John the Baptist to ourselves, born after Pentecost and its initial outpouring of the Spirit.
But the Bible teaches us that, while John lived before Pentecost historically he did not live before Pentecost experientially: ‘…he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth’ (Luke 1:15).
What was ‘new’ about the Pentecost of Acts 2 was not the birth of the Holy Spirit but his presence – no longer coming only temporarily to a few, but permanently to all who would come to God in Christ. What had been confined to people like John the Baptist would be opened to all – making such a radical for God, just like John was!
John was filled with the Spirit, yet ‘John did no miracle…’ (v41). How does that compare to what the ‘Holy Spirit ministers and ministries’ of the modern church claim and insist on, and measure results by?:
- Was John ‘missing’ something?
- Was John ‘quenching’ the Holy Spirit?
- Do we now know and have and thus live in a way John could not?
We rightly pray and believe for sick bodies to be healed, twisted minds restored, the demon possessed delivered, the needy to be provided for, that all might live in victory, knowing their authority in Christ.
Our plight is that we can get so taken with the ‘miraculous’ – the supernatural intervention of circumstances in the solving of problems that we miss the greatest miracle of all – the supernatural invasion of a person in a changed life, the saving of a soul!
As Jesus put it in Luke 10:20: ‘Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ Augustine said: ‘I never had any difficulty in believing in miracles, since I experienced a change in my own heart!’
The clearest proof to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit is not in any miracle we may do, but always in the miracle we are! Jesus did not come to be just a problem-solver but to be a soul-saver.
3) An imperative confirmation
‘All that John said about (Jesus) was true’ (v41). If there were some ‘lack’ in John, some spiritual weakness, even a quenching of the Holy Spirit, then he could never have told the truth about Jesus to the extent he did, whereby ‘many believed in Jesus.’
Spiritual gifts are to be divine accompaniments of the Holy Spirit but, in themselves, may not prove divine confirmation. When the church council met in Jerusalem to consider if and how gentile Christians were to be accepted into the church, the confirming measure of the presence of the Holy Spirit was not in the manifestation of power but of purity: ‘(God) made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith’ (Acts 15:9).
J I Packer comments here, ‘All through the New Testament, when God’s work in human lives is spoken of, the ethical takes priority over the charismatic.’
He is not just the Spirit – he is the Holy Spirit! The world can mimic, and even manufacture, gifts – many can be found in other religions. The one thing the world cannot compete with is a life made holy. Such cannot be formed, fabricated, or forced by any other than the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. More than any other thing, it is holy living that tells the truth about Jesus. J C Ryle wrote, ‘We may depend upon it as a certainty that where there is no holy living, there is no Holy Ghost!’
4) An inspiring conclusion
‘Many believed in Jesus’ (V42). This is the true power of Pentecost: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses (telling the truth about me) in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
Once there was a minister who wore a cross and went to where there was a war. He got permission to risk his life on the front line. He hopped from hole to hole hugging the soldiers. He never stopped for more than thirty seconds. It was the only way he could get in all the services! One day he held 246 services that way. He never said a single word!
He was like John the Baptist! ‘Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true. And in that place many believed in Jesus.’
In a day when many are endlessly debating what the true representation of Islam is, the church needs to be declaring in demonstration who Jesus Christ truly is, returning to what it means to live for him.
Leonard Ravenhill’s declaration, ‘The greatest miracle on earth is how God can take an unholy person out of an unholy world and make him holy, and then put this made holy man back into the unholy world and keep him holy there!’ – is applicable today.
5) An immediate challenge
Unholy men and women can find their way to God through the salvation that Jesus offers and his Holy Spirit can change them into holy people who can now boldly face an unholy world.
When the Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost, enabled with supernatural power the disciples immediately left the upper room to evangelise and see the world changed! The church was born and many would be added to their number
Yes, signs and wonders followed but the heart of Pentecost was to see unsaved born again and changed within! May this great truth be recognised afresh this Pentecost Sunday by every church and Christian – may there be no more misunderstanding, mishandling and misapplication as Havner declared!
Whether we yet move freely in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit or are like John who did no miracle, let’s nevertheless act as he did – let’s all be a radical ‘Pentecostal Baptist’ who regularly shares Jesus!
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is UK based ministering as an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. Links: firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries.
A caring pastor speaks candidly to the ear of the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting due to feeling like a failure having had the last embers of self-worth kicked out of them. In The Broken Pastor, Stuart Reynolds writes from the heart and pastoral experience encouraging broken pastors that they are not useless, that they can move on and still benefit the kingdom despite the reality of foolish congregational censure and non-appreciative boards that don’t understand the challenges pastors face.