Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying,
This [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying,
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,
saith the LORD of hosts.” – Zechariah 4:6

     The true church has survived for the past two-thousand years, not by power nor by might, but by the Holy Spirit. In Scripture we see the reflection of the Holy Spirit most clearly in the life of Jesus. Since Pentecost, our Lord’s promise of the Holy Spirit, His might and His power is evidenced by the fulfillment of John 16:8-11,13,14, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged…Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

    While mankind may strive through his own might and power to do great things, construct impressive edifices, explore outer space, and make great scientific discoveries, climb to the top of the social or political ladder, or even rule the world for a season, none of it has any significance or lasting value in light of eternity. That which is of the earth is earthy, and temporal. Only that which is of the Spirit has any eternal significance. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” Mark 8:36? “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” Romans 8:6-9. [Emphasis added.]

    Jesus Christ was begotten of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Hebrews 9:14 tells us that Jesus Christ led a holy, spotless life, and offered Himself to God, through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus for His ministry (Acts 10:38; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:14, 18, 19; 3:21, 22; 4:1, 14.).  Consider how necessary it was for the Holy Spirit to descend from heaven upon Him. “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 Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Matthew 3:16, 17.”And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” John 1:32. It was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan (Luke 4:1). Jesus Christ was taught by the Spirit who rested upon Him. The Spirit of God was the source of His wisdom in the days of His flesh. (Isaiah 11:2; Matthew 12:17, 18, John 1:33.) The words the Holy Spirit spoke to Jesus were the words of God (John 3:34). Acts 1:1-2 tells us that Jesus Christ gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles Jesus had chosen. Matthew 12:28 shows us that Jesus Christ performed His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). Therefore, if Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, lived, performed miracles, cast out demons, healed the sick, and rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, then how much more are we dependent upon Him at every turn of life, service and conflict with Satan and sin! Without the Holy Spirit in our lives we cannot accomplish anything of spiritual consequence, influence, or eternal benefit.

      In his excellent book, The Power of the Spirit, William Law (1761) explains, “All Religion that proceeds not from the Immediate Working of the Divine Nature within us is Selfish and Vain. A religious faith that is uninspired, a hope, or love that proceeds not from the immediate working of the divine nature within us, can no more do any divine good to our souls, or unite them with the goodness of God, than an hunger after earthly food can feed us with the immortal bread of heaven. All that the natural or uninspired man does, or can do in the Church, has no more of the truth or power of divine worship in it than that which he does in the field, or shop through a desire of riches. And the reason is, because all the acts of the natural man, whether relating to matters of religion or the world, must be equally selfish, and there is no possibility of their being otherwise. For self-love, self-esteem, self-seeking, and living wholly to self, are as strictly the whole of all that is or possibly can be in the natural man, as in the natural beast; the one can no more be better, or act above this nature, than the other. Neither can any creature be in a better, or higher state than this till something supernatural is found in it; and this supernatural something, in Scripture the Word, or Spirit, or Inspiration of God, is that alone from which man can have the first good thought about God, or the least power of having more heavenly desires in his spirit, than he has in his flesh.

      “A religion that is not wholly built upon this supernatural ground, but solely stands upon the powers, reasonings, and conclusions of the natural uninspired man, has not so much as the shadow of true religion in it, but is a mere nothing, in the same sense, as an idol is said to be nothing, because the idol has nothing of that in it which is pretended by it. For the work of religion has no divine good in it, but as it brings forth, and keeps up essential union of the spirit of man with the Spirit of God; which essential union cannot be made, but through love on both sides, nor by love, but where the love that works on both sides is of the same nature.”

    Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” Luke 4:18, 19. Jesus said to His disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” John 14:14-20. Concerning the Spirit of truth, Jesus also said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” John 15:26.

    The Bible tells us to “watch and pray,” “earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints,” build ourselves on our “most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,” and to worship God “in spirit and in truth.” Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” John 15:12. The commandments of our Lord are, of course, too extensive to list here, but the question is for us living in these perilous times, how well do we know the Person and work of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to walk in obedience and victory? Are you listening for the voice of the Spirit? We are told repeatedly by the Lord Jesus, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” How is your spiritual “hearing” and discernment? Can you discern when the Holy Spirit is speaking in the church today in the music, in the message, in the prayers, and through the gifts of the Spirit? Do you know when He is present and moving in the church, exalting Jesus, touching hearts, bringing people to repentance? Can you also discern when He is quenched, vexed or grieved and departs? The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and when He is not received and allowed to have His way in the church, or when He is in competition with, or replaced by man’s unholy programs, clever methods, unscriptural traditions, and fleshly practices He withdraws His manifest presence. This leaves a spiritual vacuum that the undiscerning and zealous “cheerleaders for Jesus” seek to fill with fleshly, emotional hype. It is so vital that we learn how to discern the Spirit and hear His voice! The only worship that is acceptable to God is expressed in Jesus’ words, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” John 4:24. Therefore, how can we expect God to be pleased if our manner of living and religious practices is man-centered rather than Christ centered? Are many of the modern churches so far removed from spirit and truth that they truly believe that a Holy God is being worshipped in “spirit and in truth” when the pagan sounds and music of hell reverberate through the assembly, or when our gatherings are man-exalting and man-centered rather than Christ-exalting? There is a very real and grave danger that lurks in the post-modern churches today, a danger that exists because so many have left their first love and replaced it with a man-centered, feel-good, cheap grace, easy-believism, counterfeit “Christianity.”  Thus the door has been flung wide open for a variety of antichrist spirits disguising themselves as “ministers of righteousness” whose goal is to undermine true faith in the Word of God and replace it with a powerless counterfeit “Christianity.”

    In Ephesians 4:30 we read, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” 2 Thessalonians 5:19 says “Quench not the Spirit.” In Isaiah we read, “But they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” In Acts 7:51, Stephen said, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” To quote a small portion of a sermon by the great evangelist, Charles Finney (on how and when the Holy Spirit is grieved): “1. The great object of the Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Bible, is to sanctify the souls of men. Men are to be saved by ‘the sanctification of the Spirit through the belief of the truth.’ 2. He can sanctify men only with the truth. Sanctification is holiness. Holiness is voluntary obedience to God. Voluntary obedience certainly cannot be produced but by the influence of the truth. Hence Christ prays, ‘Sanctify them through thy truth.’ The Holy Spirit himself has no other means of sanctifying the soul but with truth. 3. A moral agent can resist any and every truth. Moral agency implies power to resist any degree of motive that may be brought to bear upon the mind. Wherever force begins, moral agency ends. Were it possible for motive to force the mind the forced action would have no moral character any more than the operations of the physical universe. Action must be free to be moral action. Necessary action is therefore neither virtuous nor vicious. I repeat it then, that moral agency implies the power to resist any and every truth. Whether any man ever did or ever will as a matter of fact, resist all truth, is entirely another question. But certain it is, that men are able to resist the utmost influence that the truth can exert upon them; and therefore have ability to defeat the wisest, most benevolent, and most powerful exertions which the Holy Spirit can make to effect their sanctification. 4. Every moral evil must be counteracted by truth, and can be counteracted in no other way. 5. Whatever, therefore, hinders the truth from producing its sanctifying effect, grieves the Holy Spirit just in proportion to his desire to have it produce that effect.”

      Are you asking Jesus for the baptism of fire? “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” Matthew 3:11. The fire of the Holy Spirit is a refining fire. The Holy Spirit is a holy fire—He is the fire in the burning bush from which Moses was called. He’s the pillar of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness. He is the tongues of fire that rested on the heads of the believers on the day of Pentecost. He is the fire that burns in our own souls when we’re convicted of sin and wrong. He is the fire that empowers us to witness to others about the greatness of our God. (Acts 1:8).

    Leonard Ravenhill said, “Proofs of being filled with the Holy Spirit are offered by many. How they Vary! The first and foremost evidence of a baptism with the Holy Spirit is that one lives a holy life.” And, “I can give you one simple reason why we don’t have revival in America. Because we’re content to live without it. We’re not seeking God—we’re seeking miracles, we’re seeking big crusades, we’re seeking blessings.” On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter “said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” Acts 2:38, 39. Has the Lord called you?