The Power of the Spirit; March 4, 2019

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This verse is endlessly quoted, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Jesus had already told them to wait for “the promise of the Father” before they left Jerusalem, (verse 4) which reminds me of a credit card ad of several years ago: “Don’t leave home without it.” Here He makes it very clear what He is talking about, specifying the Holy Spirit. Actually, He had talked about the Spirit a good bit in the Upper Room Discourse, but here He is saying that they are going to experience what He had been talking about. The Holy Spirit has been active in believers throughout the past 2000 years, but with widely varying degrees of awareness and acceptance. It is the height of irony that the Holy Spirit would not be welcome in a church, but that sadly has happened more times than we could count. The thing is, the Holy Spirit insists on sovereignty, and when we won’t give it to Him, He leaves. Paul refers to that as quenching (1 Thessalonians 5:19) and grieving (Ephesians 4:30) the Holy Spirit. That applies on the personal level and on the corporate level. Individuals can welcome or reject the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and organizations can do the same. In both cases the big issue is control. I think that’s the biggest reason the gift of tongues very often accompanies the baptism in the Holy Spirit, because with that gift we control whether we speak, but not what we speak. (Prophecy is similar but more complicated, and deserves separate treatment.) Both individuals and organizations can be hungry for power, but until we are ready to release control, we won’t get the Holy Spirit. That sometimes provides entry to various lying spirits, and actually that’s what witchcraft is all about. It is sadly true that witchcraft is operative in many churches today, and sometimes even with good motives. We get so fixated on what the kingdom of God is “supposed to look like” that we try to force things to go that way and in the process lose our connection with God. How tragic! It is interesting that the power of God comes on those who are hungry for more of God, not on those who are hungry for power.

I almost missed the baptism in the Holy Spirit because I was trying to dictate how it would happen, and God had other ideas. I had totally connected it with the gift of tongues, which was hardly surprising considering the books I had read about it, and God wanted to show me that the baptism and the gifts aren’t the same. When I realized that God had indeed baptized me in His Spirit, though I had felt nothing, it was by God reminding me of this verse as I was sharing Christ with a total stranger, probably for the first time in my life. It hit me that was what I was doing, and this verse came to my mind and I knew that God had been faithful to His Word. (Luke 11:13) As a pastor I naturally want every believer in this church to be totally open to the Holy Spirit, allowing His gifts to operate through them for the sake of the Body of Christ and for His glory, but I can’t force anyone to do anything, nor should I try. I can model and I can proclaim and I can pray. The rest I must leave in God’s hands.

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. Thank You for the reports of Your working at the church I pastored before coming to Omura, and that I’ll be speaking there this coming Sunday. Thank You for how You have arranged things to be at this church during our absence over the next three weeks. I pray that I would be totally available to You for Your power to flow through me, both there and here, so that Your plans may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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