Thursday, May 20, 2010

“The Holy Spirit Who?”

By S. Michael Durham

As we approach Pentecost Sunday, I find myself wondering why so many resist discussion of the Holy Spirit. It seems that many non-pentecostal/non-charismatic Christians are very reluctant to even mention the Spirit unless they are reciting some benediction or creed. Is it any wonder we are so impotent?

Lest anyone label me a charismatic by my willingness—and lack of embarrassment—to say “Holy Spirit,” let me say I am not one who speaks in tongues nor do I encourage such manifestations. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that we should not seek this gift. He commands the tongue-crazed Corinthians to stop seeking to speak with tongues and seek better gifts.

“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).

“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

“Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Therefore, do not assume I am a card-carrying charismatic simply because I believe in the active influence and ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is easy to dismiss someone by sticking a label on them whether it is true or not. We all have done it, and we need to repent from such tactics. Now that I’ve dealt with that, let me move on to my point.

When Jesus returned to heaven, He pressed the disciples one more time on their need of the Holy Spirit. He had told them before the cross that the Spirit would be to them as He, Jesus, had been. The Holy Spirit would be their leader, counselor, guide and teacher. When any one of the disciples had a need or question they would go to Christ and make their request. After Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit would be the One they could turn to. Jesus actually calls the Spirit “another Advocate” (John 14:16). The word another means another of the same kind. And in 1 John 2:1, Jesus is called by the same title: “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Clearly, the Holy Spirit is not to be ignored or relegated to some inferior position in the Trinity. But this is what churches do. We oil our church machines and operate on gimmick, raw emotion, and manipulation. We build buildings, construct choirs, and learn drama; why, we even borrow Hollywood’s theatrics in order to do the ministry. We think we don’t need what the early church did, the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t need prayer meetings waiting for the power of heaven; we’ve got power-packed worship services with first-rate musicians and polished preachers. We’ve surrendered to the idea of ministry by marketing. We rig mood lighting to substitute the presence of God. We don’t want prophets; we want pulpiteers with tear-jerking stories or side-splitting humor.

I’m here to tell you that you may think all of this is awesome Christianity—but it is a sham. It is a museum of wax. Things look real, life-like, but it isn’t. And if the power of the Spirit were to fall on it, it would melt faster than wax. Most professing Christians would not know true Christianity if it confronted them. In fact, it would terrify them. They would reject it out of hand as something unusual, uncouth and unsophisticated.

But a true Spirit-filled church is needed. The world needs to see a people who are not influenced by money, power or fame. They need to see a church sold out to this one proposition: that God—the Holy Spirit—can do more in one minute than all the programs of men can do in a lifetime. It is past time that churches honor the Spirit of our Lord and bow before Him in humble submission. If we would do so, then we would see the kinds of things we read about. We would experience what the Whitefields, the Spurgeons and Lloyd-Joneses experienced. Charles Spurgeon was no charismatic, but he believed in the personal operation of the Holy Spirit in his life and the life of his church. He said,

If we would have the Spirit, beloved, we must each of us try to honour him. There are some chapels into which if you were to enter, you would never know there was a Holy Spirit. Mary Magdalene said of old, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” And the Christian might often say so, for there is nothing said about the Lord until they come to the end, and then there is just the benediction, or else you would not know that there were three persons in one God at all. Until our churches honour the Holy Spirit, we shall never see [Him] abundantly manifested in our midst. Let the preacher always confess before he preaches that he relies upon the Holy Spirit. Let him burn his manuscript and depend upon the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit does not come to help him, let him be still and let the people go home and pray that the Spirit will help him next Sunday.

And do you also, in the use of all your agencies, always honour the Spirit? We often begin our religious meetings without prayer; it is all wrong. We must honour the Spirit; unless we put him first, he will never make crowns for us to wear. He will get victories, but he will have the honour of them, and if we do not give to him the honour, he will never give to us the privilege and success. And best of all, if you would have the Holy Spirit, let us meet together earnestly to pray for him. Remember, the Holy Spirit will not come to us as a church, unless we seek him.

Let us seek the precious Holy Spirit. He is our greatest gift; therefore let us cherish Him as such and be quick to claim Him, to name Him, and to honor Him.

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