(May 6, 2021) Robert and Maureen McQuillan reflect…
Sunday May 23 this year is regarded by many churches as Pentecost Sunday, especially Holy Spirit-filled ones, celebrating the outpouring of God’s Spirit on those humble first disciples.
Since that Acts 2 experience the church has grown – about 2.6 billion adherents globally in early 2020. Testimonies, Christian books, even secular encyclopedic history, record demonstrations of Holy Spirit assistance, miracles, emboldened men and women anointed by him to move in the Spirit and speak forth genuine prophecy, words of knowledge and wisdom, cast out demons… and more!
Praise God for churches that have been open to the Holy Spirit… and for individuals who have been bold in allowing the Spirt to use them to brighten darkened lives. But… sadly, many churches, many bold Christians have not been regarded or respected for their service (See Erica Grace’s heart-touching April article True Fruit – From Unsung Heroes).
The reality is that it isn’t always been easy to be bold for Jesus and allow the Spirit to take one down a different road to others… yet remaining humble and down-to-earth! Indeed, for all of us, there is the constant challenge to allow the Holy Spirit to keep us under control so that we don’t get bigheaded and move beyond our station – unless of course it’s God directed, and he gets the glory in all that’s achieved for the kingdom.
Such recollecting reminds us that some 40 years we came across the following challenge by the late Bill Britton, entitled Others May, You Cannot)… still fresh, challenging, and meaningful, especially if you’re sold out to the ministry call of Christ on your life.
‘If God has called you to be really like Jesus, he will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility and put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be able to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians. And, in many ways, he will seem to let other good people do things that he will not let you.
‘Other Christians (and ministers), who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull strings and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot, and if you attempt you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
‘Others may boast of themselves, their work, success and writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. And if you begin to, he will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
‘Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or have a legacy left them, but it is likely that God will keep you poor because he wants you to have something far better than gold, namely a helpless dependence on him that he may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
‘The Lord may let others be honoured and put forward, but keep you hidden in obscurity because he wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for his coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great but keep you small. He may let others do work for him and get the credit, but he will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing. And then, to make your work more precious, he may let others get the credit for that work…and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
‘The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.
‘So make your mind up that God is an infinite sovereign and has the right to do as he pleases with his own son or daughter. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in his dealings with you, but if you absolutely seal yourself to be his love slave he will wrap you up in a jealous love and bestow on you many blessings which come only to those who are in his inner circle.
‘Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that he is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that he does not seem to use with others.
‘Then, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are – in your secret heart – pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven!’
What a challenge
Wow! Such a challenge that can only be accepted in faith! It makes one think, think deeply! It can be scary… those challenges centring on ‘Others can, but you can’t!’
That ‘you’ becomes the big ‘I’… I can’t be upset if others get credit when it should have been mine, others gain financially when I can’t, others make it in the limelight but I can’t, others work less hard and productively but I can’t, others may push themselves, pull strings and work schemes to carry out their plans, but I can’t … and so on.
Been there? Going through something like this presently? We can sympathise – empathise – with you. The reality is that we live in a fallen world and sometimes even Christians fall in their attitude, example and actions and fail to honour one another, even God.
By God’s grace we have to look beyond such failings, lack of accreditation and respect, and honour not being given. We’re called to serve God come what may and this may even when sometimes things don’t work out as they should, or we had prayed for. This includes those times when we really believe for miracles, but they don’t happen – such as praying so believingly for healing for someone, but it doesn’t happen.
That and other issues/matters remind us of Jesus’ words to his disciples chosen for ministry: ‘Then he said to them all: “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me”’ (Luke 9:23) and ‘Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:27). Did you note the ‘all’ and the ‘whoever’?
‘Forget yourself’ is ‘deny’ in other translations… it’s aparneomai meaning self-denial and ‘cross’ is stauros, which figuratively indicates exposure to death, that is self-denial. Think about that! Jesus, who himself lived his life and ministry in self-denial (eg John 6:38, ‘I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me’) requires us to do likewise.
Our prayer is that many will discover a new dimension in following Jesus as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday – something special that changes, charges, challenges and commits us to boldly follow Jesus and share the gospel with hurting, hungry people who are searching, thirsting for a new way of life in today’s troubled world.
And who are such troubled, unsaved, unchurched people? People…
- You know
- Strangers you meet
Jesus died for the whole world (John 3:16)! The challenge of outreaching opportunites is everywhere, beginning in ‘our Jerusalem’… round the corner.
Acts 2:37-47 speak of three major happenings – convictions, conversions and continuations.
Under conviction of sin, having heard the gospel message, men and women cried out, ‘What shall we do?’
The answer was simple but contain clear direction – ‘Repent and be baptised’ (Genuine repentance is vital if one is to start a new life in Christ today, not wishy-washy ‘Just give your heart to Jesus, no need to genuinely repent’).
This new life is one of continually going on – continuing daily in the faith, Bible meditation, prayer, fellowship, commitment and demonstrating trust (missing in so many Christian’s make-up today!).
More ‘C’s challenge
Five other ‘C’s come to mind linking with the baptism of the Holy Spirit in power that led to the incredible growth of the new-born church. Spirit-filled on-fire Christians were –
- Changed – It’s been said that they were hiding indoors, afraid of the religious rulers, in their lockdown. If any case, they were now bold evangelists! (‘…going out, they proclaimed everywhere.’ Mark 16:20a MKJV. ‘Proclaimed’ – ‘preaching’ – is kerusso indicating heralding divine truth).
- Charged – Now supernaturally empowered they reached out in dynamic power and with signs and wonders (Mark 16:20b NLT: ‘The Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs’).
- Challenged – No half measures! Theirs was the full gospel message to the whole world, one of authority and power! (‘With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all’ Acts 4:33). It would include healings and miracles, not just worshipping in tongues and moving in prophecy.
- Committed – These disciples were committed to Jesus (Matthew 4:19, John 10:27) and the truth that sets one free (John 8:32).
- Commissioned – Previously Jesus had commanded they only share among local Jewish people (Matthew 10:5-6); now God’s salvation was open to everyone from every nation! The new church had a new commission – Jesus’ great missionary commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
This is what happened to those first followers of Jesus Christ – it can be so today to every Christian who receives the infilling of the blessed Holy Spirit! The gift of speaking in tongues and praising God in a new flow of exaltation is incredible – but there’s more!
Accepting the challenge
The baptism in the Spirit as happened to those first disciples is still the gateway to moving powerfully in the Spirit and blessing the church – to knowing the Holy Spirit in a personal and meaningful way and to operating in his spiritual gifts (as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12)! These free gifts are known as manifestation gifts of the Spirit (v7) … ‘manifestation’ is phaneroris indicating a demonstration, expression, bestowment, revealing of the Spirit’s presence and power.
The moving of the Spirit is not for church leaders only but available to every believer willing to allow God to use everywhere, anytime, any day he desires! Through the Holy Spirit we become active Christians available for kingdom service, not merely Sunday worshippers!
And… most importantly, no matter what we achieve for Jesus, no matter effective in the supernational we may be, let’s remain humble giving all honour to God, accepting that great Bill Britton challenge above and remembering that sometimes ‘others can but you can’t.’
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scriptures mainly NIV/all emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Links: Erica Grace’s Marie Monsen / Timothy Cockes’ Witnessing With Google / Carol Round’s Jesus Cares / Our April Anti Cancel Culture Christianity / Charles Schwab’s Give me Pentecost Afresh / Ask Dr Robert’s More About the Prophetic Word