Today I want to continue my previous discussion on how many evangelical (and even catholic) churches are embracing the re-evaluation of their doctrine concerning the person of the Holy Spirit. In previous generations, fear of excess (emotion, disorder and discomfort) prevented many church leaders from even trying to teach and preach about His nature and qualities. However, as anyone who has ever had a spiritual revival can attest, His presence is truly intoxicating, liberating and the amount of love you encounter and subsequently give away to others is exponential.
That alone is worth the price of admission and well worth the investigation!
New Year’s Eve 2005
So, allow me to step back in time to the year 2005. Spiritually, I sang on the worship team and was a servant leader in our singles group at church. Professionally, I was training collegiate and professional athletes. Socially, I had tons of friends and never had a dull moment with activities every weekend. Mentally, I was exuberant and always in pursuit of greater knowledge. Life was exciting…but I still felt like something was missing. Unable to put my finger on the cause for restlessness, I spoke with my close friend and senior pastor and he handed me a book called, “Surprised By the Power of The Holy Spirit“, by Dr. Jack Deere. That was a first step towards asking God if there was something I was missing in my theology, then I wanted to be open to receiving more of the X Factor (Holy Spirit for the sake of this blog post). Dr. Deere contended that any believer who read the entire bible would NEVER end up with the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for a short period of time. That was an eye opener because I had to admit I had never systematically studied for my own purposes whether or not I should be a cessationist or continuationist.
Now, when I say I was missing something, it’s not to say I believed “wrongly”. It’s more of a statement of incomplete acknowledgment. Kinda like when I buy something electronic (let’s say a tv) that has a detailed instruction manual. I can still enjoy it when I turn it on, but if I make a sacrifice of time and effort to investigate thoroughly all the things the device can do, I’ll truly experience greater satisfaction with it.
That is exactly what happened when I read Jack’s book. Concurrently, a few other leaders in my group were asking the same question and the result transformed our ministry. If you’re a pastor or leader looking for growth in your body of believers spiritually and/or numerically, please consider reading through this blog article even if it challenges or offends you.
Personally, I began to see the Holy Spirit as my best friend. I began to practice quiet times that started with 30 minutes and eventually became 2-4 hours a day. It wasn’t something I willed myself to do. It was as though He was inviting me to go deeper…into the Word, into Prayer, into the “restricted areas” of my heart, into my areas of pride and even into my longing to find a wife. In other words, I was allowing God to have full access to me and likewise He was teaching me that I could have full access to Him as long as I was willing to take the time to search “the deeper things of God”. This journey helped me see certain books like Acts and 1 Corinthians through an entirely new set of spiritual lenses.
The Usual Christian Pursuits
Singles groups can often serve different purposes. They can be mobilized to do community outreach. They can serve as a talent pool for new dating partners. They can provide awesome social events for people to meet others. They can minister to adults who are in a transient time of life. They are a very needed ministry campground for adults.
However, in all my years of being involved with various Christian groups, I had never seen people utterly transformed from the inside and out to the extent that I witnessed in the revival that was occurring. My small group c0-leader was going through the same thing and we had candid discussions about this season with our small group. The spirit (because of the Spirit moving) of love and passion for Jesus as well as for each other was contagious and started spreading to other groups. I had always longed to see people develop a mature and fulfilling personal relationship with God but it always seemed like hard work trying to lead people in that direction. This, however, wasn’t work. AT ALL! I would say ministering within and outside the church was becoming easy but I think it had to do with all the joy that the Holy Spirit was producing in and through us. People with very little confidence in their evangelism skills and gospel-sharing talents were radically discovering what it looked like to preach the Gospel with boldness. Again, this was not flesh willing itself to be strong Christians. This was something unique.
I couldn’t describe what was happening but I found a book by Wesley Campbell who described something similar that happened to his church. People didn’t know how to explain what was happening when revival began to occur in his conservative church in the mid-late 1980’s but he lovingly and voraciously and with great humility addressed his congregation’s fears and surprisingly very few people left the church.
Striving For The Prize
I’ve spent my entire life in the pursuit of “being a better person”. However, it didn’t really take full bloom until I found myself truly discovering who I was as an individual in college. Specifically, my senior year in college I had fallen in love with personal training, sports conditioning and nutrition and since that time my education has been a pervasive, life-long quest for information to help others grow in some way. I remember a company that used to advertise itself as never making a certain product…only making someone else’s products BETTER! Everything about LeadershipDude is concisely described in this commercial.
Professionally, I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition industry for almost 25 years. I’ve trained pro & Olympic athletes. I’ve worked with cardiac rehab patients who were fresh off the operating table/death bed. That’s a pretty wide continuum of clients to develop customized programs for but it has helped me become the person I am today. In other words, I don’t apply cookie cutter formulas to people. I’ve taken that same mentality and applied it to leadership development, spiritual mentoring, relationship coaching and even parenting guidance.
There is a systematic approach to evaluating where a person is starting from and then I attempt to evaluate where a destination would occur depending on a person’s particular goals. This necessitates a partnership with the person i’m coaching. I’m not a fitness chauffer. I prefer to let the person I’m coaching have ownership in the results we seek together. I think God loves that we seek someone to teach us spiritual guidelines but i don’t think He intended for us to let others do all of our religious thinking for us. (Remember when Moses replied to Joshua, “Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!“? It’s tough doing all the work for people.)
Thanks to the countless experts in other fields who have written, studied, meta-analyzed, criticized, and re-assessed data and shared it in books or on the web, you and I have access to all this information and can make…put your seatbelts on…we can make our own educated decisions rather than simply take the status quo belief as the “right way to think or believe”.
Trust me, every field has major tenets that have to be revised and rescinded because they were founded on shaky assertions. It’s healthy and it’s even biblical (test the spirits; Bereans studied every day to test what Paul said as truth or not). Jesus, himself, did this with much of the Jewish law. He was hated for it. Nonetheless, it made a huge difference for those who followed Him.
The field of nutrition is dealing with this in the wake of continued research in areas of low carb, high fat diet studies. The “obvious” healthy approach isn’t so cut and dry and yet fat has been vilified and maligned for decades because of some rather shaky “research”. Ancel Keys ring a bell?
But let’s get back to the Holy Spirit.
Suggested Reading To Dive Into This Subject
I want to mention a few other books that were crucial to my current theological understanding of both the Holy Spirit and the continuation (Continuationists are the other side of the spectrum from Cessationists) of revelatory gifts still in operation today. Sola Scriptura and the Revelatory Gifts, by Don Codling, was a thesis presented at Westminster Seminary that looked into how modern day Christians should consider various revelatory gifts often believed to be a part of only the early church. The other more intensive book is, “On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-biblical Miracles“, by Jon Mark Ruthven. I point you to these two books as well as Dr. Gordon Fee (God’s Empowering Presence) and D.A. Carson (Showing the Spirit) to present a starting point for your theological journey.
A word of caution: Your theology can be a major help or a tremendous hindrance to the actual spiritual encounter of the person of the Holy Spirit. Without spending another article on the difference between Eisegesis and exegesis (read this for some insight), I can tell you that oftentimes our beliefs can handcuff the text we read rather than the text shaping our beliefs. A good way to start this study is to first ask the Holy Spirit directly to open your spiritual eyes and ears to discern what He would lead you to understand…and make sure you PERMIT him to lead you to consider something that may seem counter to what you believe on the surface. That doesn’t mean leave yourself open to error…simply be open to “new thoughts, ideas or inspirations”.
Where does a person seeking to ignite a relationship with the Holy Spirit start?
I have noticed that there are some major common denominators present BEFORE people have a spiritual revival:
- Holy Spirit’s “presence” is manifested in a physical location (glory filled the temple so priests could not even stand; Saul’s soldiers sent to kill David ended up prophesying instead because the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them; in a weird way, I consider Samson’s continued powerful displays of strength to be a union with God that wasn’t taken away even though he wasn’t the perfect saint…at least until his covenant was broken through the cutting of his hair)
- People going through a pretty exhausting struggle in their life that causes them to (re)consider what, how and why they believe what they currently believe. (Jonah, Moses, Joseph, Job, Peter, Paul…just to name a few spiritual juggernauts). This was a precursor that softened up my mind to consider something else was stirring in my future.
- Repentance is on the hearts, minds and lips of the person seeking change or some kind of breakthrough (David: reveal in me any offensive ways; Daniel crying out and 21 days later having an angelic visitation)
- People were hungry and crying out for God (The Israelites, much like us today, were asking for forgiveness every few generations after becoming distant to God usually because of allowing other gods to get in the way)
- People were convicted or edified by someone through a prophetic word or preaching through the power of the Holy Spirit (Jonah: people of Ninevah, Jews at Pentecost, church at Corinth; my own experience here was the impetus for my pursuit of the Holy Spirit). This is one of the major reasons why this gift is needed today. Paul said of all the gifts, the church at Corinth should eagerly pursue the gift of prophecy. Yes, the gift is pursued because the gift is developed by practice and continued intimacy with the Word of God and quiet time with the Holy Spirit…much like the oft-used gifts of teaching and preaching are developed and refined.
- Worship (in your car, bathroom, living room with the kids, with friends in a small group gathering, dirty men at a campfire, etc) is an easy way to spark His entry into your heart, soul and mind. (Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!)
The key from here is to stay and rest awhile. The thing is…He (Holy Spirit) was given to us to help us live the life Jesus modeled for us. If Jesus did it, we should try it…with the same power He used. Jesus didn’t cheat and use his God-powers. He memorized scripture tirelessly and allowed the Holy Spirit to christen His ministry with power from on high and Jesus made sure to instruct His followers to do the exact same thing. However, Jesus never forgot to stay and rest awhile. His quiet time allowed Him to rejuvenate His inner world when the outer world was weary from giving and giving some more. The Holy Spirit would speak to us in a variety of ways and through all of our senses but we have to train ourselves to listen…listen again…and listen even more.
Our executive pastor at church was giving a sermon on the Lord’s Prayer a few weeks ago and noted that he recognizes the extreme importance of staying in a lifestyle of prayer…but his busyness keeps him from doing it. How honest and how true for many of us if we’re not careful. Do you find yourself too busy to spend listening to and for the leading of the Holy Spirit? If so, you may find it challenging to take your relationship further. Trust me, I know the struggle.
I’m reminded of a scripture I memorized for a men’s bible study group. 1 Peter 2:11…although allow me to quote some scriptures around it:
9-10 But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among (the people around you) so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.
Colossians 3 also states:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Well, that’s exactly what I do when I find it difficult to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit. I’m allowing the other voices and responsibilities to crowd out my quiet time. This is where you see your non-spiritual side influencing your mind, will and emotions (soul). When Christians struggle with anger, lust, addiction, or other strongholds…it’s usually because a provision for the flesh is made to allow those thoughts to remain in the same room with the thoughts that usually turn to Jesus on sundays. Some call it mixture…like salt water and fresh water.
I’m reminded of Nehemiah who was charged with rebuilding the temple. He was constantly being asked to stop his mission by Sanballat and Tobiah, enemies of the mission to rebuild the temple. Later on, the temple had been completed and in chapter 13 we see this:
4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5 prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
Here is the very temple of God housing the enemy where offerings to God used to be kept. Isn’t this exactly what makes it difficult for us as believers to conquer those deeper struggles and sins? Wow, that’s a powerful scene. I can guarantee that the Holy Spirit wants to reclaim that room in your heart that you’ve offered to the enemy. However, He prefers that you hand him the keys rather than Him bust the doors down. That’s what makes His love and grace absolutely stunning and unbelievable. Yet, it’s our inheritance and it’s time we take hold of it as overcomers!
It’s simple…but maybe the hardest thing to do
We started this blog yesterday by describing how we approach most of our life without holding back. We love our children with reckless abandon and even get rowdy at their youth soccer games. We get overly angry when someone drives horribly in front of us. We shout and act crazy at sporting events or with a tv and a beer in hand. We treat our coworkers with kindness to their face and then look for ways to gossip behind their back. Come on, we’re human right?
Yet, we show up in our sunday best (sorry, that was last decade before generation Y influenced our casual sunday clothes) and stand properly during worship (because God prefers worshippers to behave calmly) and sit quietly while we hear a sermon that teaches us to understand the bible better and maybe even incorporate that into our weekly lives for the “more committed believers”. From our vantage point on stage (worship singers), we LOVE to watch you (anyone in the audience) raise your hands, clap, dance, close your eyes, kneel on the floor, sit with head bowed low or even lay prostrate on the ground because it reminds us that you (and others around you) believe God is actually here among us…taking His seat on the Throne!
People that practice this at home feel much more comfortable trying it in public worship. That’s why I suggest you try to engage your full senses when you engage the Holy Spirit. Don’t hold back in private. Practice that for as long as you like. And introverts, take note. I’m not saying everyone has to raise their hands. What I’m suggesting is that however you invite the Holy Spirit to move in you, do it more and more until even your quietness in corporate worship causes the earth to shake in our assembly.
But look out. A personal revival may cause you to catch spiritual fire and your hunger for God may radically change the world around you. (fingers crossed!)
P.S. After rereading this article I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite speeches from the movie Troy so here you go to finish out your consideration of just how much your actions during worship inspire others…especially those like me who enjoy worshipping with my brothers and sisters in unity.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Have a great week.