ELEPHANTS IN THE CHURCH
THE HOLY SPIRIT (Continued)
By Jeannette Haley
“Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy holy spirit from me.” – Psalm 51:11
In the first of this two-part article on the Holy Spirit we looked at the appalling lack of knowledge of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the lack of His presence in most of the churches today. Discussed was the fact that in order to be saved “Ye must be born again,” not merely give lip service to Jesus as Savior and Lord, or put faith in your particular doctrine or your favorite “brand” of religion. After examining the promise Jesus gave in John 16:7-10, we now go on to verses 11-14 beginning with the third convicting work of the Holy Spirit which is “judgment, because the prince of this world (Satan) is judged.” In John 12:31 Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
Jesus’ triumphant victory over sin, death and hell is a glorious victory for His Body, the Church, if she would but appreciate and appropriate the incredible privilege and the awesome power that He has given to her, what an awesome impact she would have on a lost world. The conviction of the Holy Spirit that stands in judgment of Satan and his works should be received by the church with thankfulness and joy, as well as jealously guarded lest any temptation to limit, nullify, or misuse that power be employed. Luke 10:19 tells us, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Serpents and scorpions are in reference to Satan and demons. Luke 10:20 says, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
The power contained in the convicting judgment of the Holy Spirit over the works of darkness is so little understood, rarely utilized, and horribly unappreciated in the organized church, that she has become like a battleship without arms or canons, blithely bobbing about through enemy waters while being totally unprepared for war. Instead of taking her place in the battle for souls, the fight for truth, and maintaining her territory against the enemy, she is merely drifting on the changing tides of the world, hoping to attract admirers, no matter how ungodly they are to come aboard and go along for the ride. “It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment” Proverbs 18:5.
How does a committed, born-again believer know these things are so? How can one detect an apostate church? The answer is, by the Word (Truth) and by the Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are given discernment to know the things of God. He is the Teacher who reveals the Word to us. He can be trusted to show us the truth of all matters, and to “show us things to come” what has, and is, being fulfilled. Therefore, if the Word is not “rightly divided,” or is handled out of context and deceitfully, and if the Holy Spirit is not welcome or present in our gathering places, then you know that it is either an apostate church, or an aberrant group altogether. Remember, if a group has a “form of godliness,” but “denies the power thereof” it is not acceptable to God, or a part of the true Body of Christ because you cannot “separate” God into acceptable “pieces.” In other words, you cannot extract and believe parts of God’s Word, while rejecting the Word as a whole. You cannot take Scriptures out of context about Jesus and “patch” them together in order to make a “Jesus” that is to your liking because He fits into your emotional or mental concept of what Jesus “should be like” in a given situation. Neither can you ignore Scriptures concerning the Holy Spirit, His power, work, and gifts to the church, or re-define who He is, and believe at the same time that you are truly born again of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit always lifts up and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus, it all goes back to the Word and the Spirit. Without the Spirit the carnal man cannot discern, or understand the Word, and without the Word man digresses into a state of “doing whatever seems right in his own eyes.” This is made clear in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Therefore, those who are truly born again of the Spirit are spiritual and empowered to “judge all things” concerning sin and righteousness. Jesus said, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” John 7:24. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to judge righteously according to the Word of God and the Spirit of truth. John 16:13 says, “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.” What a beautiful promise to those who love the truth! Loving the truth is loving Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life.” We cannot receive Christ without also receiving the truth. John 1:12 tells us, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” That “power” is the mighty power of the Holy Spirit who works the life of Christ in us as we yield to Him and obey His Word. This is the power given to those who are filled with the Holy Ghost that enables them to be witnesses unto Jesus in all the earth.
The Bible is clear that we must receive “the love of the truth” if we are to be saved. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12.) In verse 13 we read, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” [Emphasis added.] Concerning sanctification and truth, Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” 1 Peter 1:2 speaks of “sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience.”
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would show us things to come, and that He shall glorify Jesus, and reveal to us that which pertains to Jesus. When the Holy Spirit is rejected, vexed, grieved, ignored or downplayed in our assemblies, He will quietly lift and depart, leaving us to our own foolish devices that lead to a “form of godliness” that has denied the power thereof. Such churches find themselves sailing in a dangerous type of “spiritual Bermuda Triangle” where their doctrinal “compasses” wildly swirl out of control, and where all sense of direction is lost in a dark whirlpool of confusion that eventually pulls them downward into a death spiral of destruction.
A.W. Tozer said, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” This is a sobering reality, and one that should make all of us stop and honestly ask ourselves where we are spiritually, what are we doing, and why are we doing it. Let us go before the Lord and pray with King David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” and “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” Psalm 139:23, 24; Psalm 51:10, 11.
Touching on the Day of Pentecost, when it came those gathered together “were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1b). A. W. Tozer preached that the Day of Pentecost will not be repeated, but it should be perpetuated by the Church, and Jesus told us why when He told them before His ascension into heaven, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” Acts 1:8. That power has not been withdrawn from the earth, but it is being withheld from those who desire power for their own aggrandizement and glory. Only the pure in heart shall see God and be given the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to witness and present the Gospel with the power and authority of heaven.
In the New Testament alone there are some 261 passages which refer to the Holy Spirit! He is mentioned fifty-six times in the Gospels, fifty-seven times in the book of Acts, 112 times in the Pauline epistles, and thirty-six times in the remaining New Testament. Often in Scripture one may learn much about someone simply by studying the names and titles given to that person. This is true with the Holy Spirit. The thirteen titles ascribed to him provide much insight into his true nature. He is Called: The Spirit of God ( I Cor. 3:16); The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9); The eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14); The Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13); The Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29); The Spirit of glory (I Pet. 4:14); The Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2); The Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17); The Comforter (Jn. 14:26); The Spirit of promise (Acts. 1:4,5); The Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15); The Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4); The Spirit of faith (2 Cor. 4:13).
In studying the Book of Acts, we need to remember that it is not only a history book, but even more importantly, it is the book which records the acts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostles and thus establishes the reality and importance of the Holy Spirit in the entire Church Age, until our Lord returns. Nowhere in the New Testament are we given a “cutoff date” indicating when the Holy Spirit, His gifts, His presence, and His power would no longer be necessary in the Church, even though some twist Scripture and use 1 Corinthians 13:10 out of context to push their heresy. Today about 77% of the mainstream Protestant churches in America declare in their statement of faith belief in the Holy Spirit; however, in actual practice they generally reject, avoid, ignore or greatly diminish any references to His presence and work in the lives of the people, or in the customs and activities of the church. Is it any wonder, then, that confession of sins, repentance, salvations, deliverances, and healings (both spiritual and physical) rarely happen, if at all? Besides, when the Holy Spirit is moving in a church, usually demons begin to manifest, and our man-centered social club churches certainly don’t want that to happen, so they try to keep a lid on anything they can’t control, let alone properly respond to!
Allow me to share three examples for you from some of our experiences in the past. In a certain large church that we once belonged to, many years ago, the head pastor was gone on a trip to Israel. Therefore, an evangelist from another state was scheduled to hold meetings there. What happened was totally unexpected as everyone in attendance was accustomed to, well—nothing happening. But happen it did! The Holy Spirit came down in mighty power as people lined up for prayer, and before we all knew it, there were people laying on the floors of all the aisles and in front of the platform. God was doing a work in every one of them, including a friend of ours who was healed of a fractured bone (which before and after X-rays proved.) I might add, this was all done quietly, gently and in order. But, when the pastor returned home and found out what had happened, he was not at all happy about it, and the church went back to its “routine” and eventually slid into the emergent, seeker-friendly movement, as well as embraced the toxic, fleshly hype of ear-splitting, so-called “worship music.”
The second example took place in another state, in a very small country church where a certain man was employed as the pastor. God directed us to go to this pathetic church for a short season because He had a plan. The “pastor” was motivated by an evil spirit, but the Holy Spirit, for the sake of a few sheep, would come down heavily to bring a contrast. I’ll never forget one Sunday when sitting near the front, this man became very agitated and began pacing. Then he walked towards us, his eyes wildly rolling as he muttered to himself. When he walked past us, I distinctly heard him emphatically declare under his breath, “Something’s happening in here! I can feel it! But I don’t know what it is!” He went into his little office, shut the door behind him, and left us all sitting there. What he sensed, but did not recognize because he was a hireling shepherd, was the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit! (Needless to say, God removed him from his position, and eventually he moved to another state.)
In another church we attended for about three years, we witnessed times when the Holy Spirit so powerfully anointed worship songs that you felt your heart would burst if there was no recognition of His presence and time given to simply bow before Him in worship and adoration. Even the pastor seemed to sense “something,” but would blink back tears, ignore His Presence, and carry on as usual. Once, in another setting, after powerfully anointed praise and worship, the air was thick with the Spirit’s presence, the people hushed and open, but instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way, this same pastor stepped in, ignored and quenched the Spirit by reciting silly jokes! This not only grieved the Holy Spirit, but us as well. The holy, living flame that had risen from deep within us, filling us with glory and joy unspeakable had been suddenly “aborted,” which left me in a place where I had to fight with everything within me to keep from literally doubling over and crying out in agony. The awesome power of the Holy Spirit was so great I knew that people could be healed, saved, delivered and filled with the Holy Spirit if only He was discerned by the pastor, received, honored and humbly obeyed. But, instead, the Spirit was grieved and we all felt Him lift off of that entire room full of spiritually needy people.
When the Holy Ghost comes upon His people, regardless of where, when or how, we need to be not only open and receptive, but we need to respond as we yield to Him in the Spirit. Jesus did not send the Holy Spirit to entertain us, make us feel good about ourselves, or cause us to work up some emotional, fleshly demonstration, all of which are soulish. The believers who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit were humble believers of faith, fully consecrated to God, who were in one accord (in their faith, commitment and love for Jesus). Acts 2:4 tells us, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” At another time, “When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” Acts 4:31, 32a. The response of the Gentile, Cornelius, his kinsmen, and near friends to the Gospel surprised the Jews when, “While Peter yet sake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” Acts 10:44-46a. Our response to the Holy Spirit should always be to glorify and magnify God. (See 1 Chronicles 29:11; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:11; 7:10-12; 15:3,4; 19:1.)
In Ephesians 4:8 we read that after His ascension, Jesus gave “gifts to men.” Of course, these are spiritual gifts, not bigger church buildings, bigger houses, more lands, or buckets of money, etc. all of which pass away. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” Tragically, “ignorant” describes most of the sleepy, Laodicean Church of today, not only concerning spiritual gifts, but ignorant of God Himself, and His Word as well. How many Christians today resemble empty Mason canning jars, all neatly lined up on the shelf, with their shiny lids screwed tightly on. Some even sport fancy labels on the outside that identify the supposed fruit on the inside, yet the jar itself remains empty and will continue to remain empty until the lids are removed and the jars filled. Therefore, as long as the “lids” represent closed minds, and the “empty jars” closed hearts all that remains is the “empty air” of ignorance the Apostle Paul fought against.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul lists nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues and interpretation of different tongues. In Chapter 13 he defines and emphasizes the importance of love, and in Chapter 14 he details how the gifts operate in the Body of Christ. Concerning ignorance he declared, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant” 1 Corinthians 14:38. The sad truth is, some “empty jars” simply don’t want to receive all that God has for them, and no amount of teaching or preaching is going to change their mind, so leave them in their ignorance, and you go on to follow the Lord.
I wish to conclude this article with a few inspiring quotes from some of the Lord’s faithful servants who are now part of that “great cloud of witnesses,” beginning with R. A. Torrey who said, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering for service.” And, “There are certainly few greater mistakes that we are making today, than that of setting men to teach Sunday school classes, and do personal work, and even to preach the Gospel, simply because they have been converted and received a certain amount of education—perhaps including a college and seminary course—but have not as yet been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Any man who is in Christian work, who has not received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, ought to stop his work right where he is, and not go on with it until he has been ‘clothed with power from on high.’”
“There are many who hold back from this total surrender because they fear God’s will. They are afraid God’s will may be something dreadful. Remember who God is. He is our Father. Never an earthly father had so loving and tender a will regarding his children as He has toward us. ‘No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly’ (Ps. 84:11). ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ There is nothing to be feared in God’s will. God’s will, will always prove in the final outcome the best and sweetest thing in all God’s universe.”
“One of the subtlest and most dangerous snares into which Satan leads us is seeking the Holy Spirit, this most solemn of all gifts, for our own ends.”
“If we would continuously know the power of God, we should go often alone with Him, at the close of each day at least, and ask Him to show us if any sin, anything displeasing in His sight, has crept in that day; and if He shows us that there has, we should confess it and put it away then and there.”
A.B. Simpson said, “The chief danger of the Church today is that it is trying to get on the same side as the world, instead of turning the world upside down. Our Master expects us to accomplish results, even if they bring opposition and conflict. Anything is better than compromise, apathy, and paralysis. God give to us an intense cry for the old-time power of the Gospel and the Holy Ghost!”
A. W. Tozer, “Before there can be fullness there must be emptiness. Before God can fill us with Himself we must first be emptied of ourselves.” Another good Tozer quote, “I say that a Christian congregation can survive and often appear to prosper in the community by the exercise of human talent and without any touch from the Holy Spirit! All that religious activity and the dear people will not know anything better until the great and terrible day when our self-employed talents are burned with fire and only that which was wrought by the Holy Ghost will stand forever! When we have the Holy Spirit we have all that is needed to be all that God desires us to be.”
Dwight L. Moody said, “There is no use in running before you are sent; there is no use in attempting to do God’s work without God’s power. A man working without this unction, a man working without this anointing, a man working without the Holy Ghost upon him, is losing time after all.”
And, finally, Corrie Ten Boom, said “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”
(Continued in next issue.)