"The Power of the Church"  (May 2005)

   When Jesus left the earth, He left specific instructions for His church- "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.  So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." (Mark 16:15-18)  "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:7,8)  "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)  He intended for us to carry out these instructions, but as a whole we haven't.  Why?  Where are the signs that should follow those who believe in Jesus?  Why aren't devils being cast out of people who are being held in bondage?  Where are the healings that are to be taking place?  Why do the sick stay sick; why do they come for prayer and still leave with the same illness in their bodies?  Why don't we see blinded eyes opened; deaf ears healed; sight restored to the blind; the dead raised?  The Bible gives us several reasons.  "These signs shall follow them that believe."  "Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.  Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:19-21)  In these verses Jesus addressed the issues of "unbelief", lack of "communion" with the Father (prayer), and "self denial" (fasting) as the reason why the disciples were powerless to cast out this demon.

   There is another reason that I would like to address this month- it's the issue of not recognizing the power that has been made available to us in order to carry out these instructions.  Jesus knows us- He created us.  He knows we have no power in and of ourselves to do anything; even what He has instructed us to do.  "...The things which are impossible with men..." (Luke 18:27ff)  "For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." (Psalms 103:14)  "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)  So when He left us these instructions, He left us the power that we would need to be able to carry them out.  What is this power?  It's the same power through which He did the miracles, signs and wonders.  "And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.  And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, '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 4:14-19) It's the power of the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost). "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)

   When Jesus went back to heaven, He not only sent the Holy Spirit to be our Comforter- "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.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." (John 14:16-18)- He also sent Him to empower the church for service and to be a witness for Him.

   "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:1-4,16-18) The fulfillment of the promise to send the Holy Spirit has come.  The Holy Spirit- the power from on high- is here.  So why is there still a "power shortage" in the church?  It's like I said earlier, "We don't recognize the power that is available to us".  Let me take it one step further and say, "We don't recognize the 'person' who is the Power- the Holy Spirit.'"

"He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?  And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." (Acts 19:2)  Sadly, many don't even know that there is such a thing as the baptism in the Holy Spirit, who the Holy Spirit is, or that He has been sent to empower them in their walk with the Lord.  They didn't know then, and many still don't know today. 

   Why don't they know about the Holy Spirit baptism?  Let me give you a couple of reasons.  Many denominations teach, and believe, that the Holy Spirit and the miracles died out with the apostles.  That's not what the Bible teaches. "Then 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)  "And to your children, and to all that are afar off."  That means that it is for "future" generations- my generation included.  Let me ask you a question, "If the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to empower us for service and to empower us to live the Christian life, then don't we need it as much today as they did then?"  Don't we need power to us help us in our walk- especially since we live in "perilous times"?  If we need it today just like they did back then, but the Lord did away with it after they died, then wouldn't that mean He has respect of persons?  If He empowered them to live for Him, but He didn't empower me to live for Him, then isn't He showing respect to one above another?  If it's for those who are "afar off", then that's us today. 

   There are also churches that teach that the baptism of Holy Spirit and the whole idea of "speaking in tongues" that is associated with it is not of God.  "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." (Acts 7:51)  The word "resist" means to "oppose, to be adverse, to run against".  If we don't believe that it is of God, then there is only one other alternative belief in where it comes from.  "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:  But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.  Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:28-20) We must be careful when it comes to matters concerning the Holy Spirit that we don't oppose, or even blaspheme, Him and His work.  (This is the most serious sin there is because there is no forgiveness for it.)  Even if we don't fully understand what this is, or Who He is, we must be careful about the judgments we make about it.  "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)  Our judgments must not be based on the judgments of the flesh but on the Word of God.  And, yes, there are "abuses" in everything so we must "try the spirits" to see what is and isn't of God.  Before you reject the baptism of the Holy Spirit and His work in your life, you need to find out the truth for yourself and not just discount it because your church does not teach it or believe in it.  You need to be like the Bereans who Paul commended for seeking out what was the truth and what wasn't for themselves.  (This is where we miss it a lot.  This is one of the biggest problems that I see in the church- we don't seek out the truth of God's Word for ourselves, we depend on others, our pastors and teachers, to do it for us.)  "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)

   Many in the church have a misunderstanding of Who the Holy Spirit is.  He is a Person, with personal attributes.  He is not an "it".  He is not enthusiasm, emotions, or goose bumps.  He is not an impersonal force or energy, He has substance.  He is not a personification of what is good.  Space doesn't permit me to give you all the scriptures that confirm His personage, but I will give you a few.  He has a mind- Romans 8:27; He has a will- 1 Cor. 12:11; He has emotions- Romans 15:30; He speaks- Heb. 3:7; He can be grieved - Eph. 4:30; He can be insulted- Heb. 10:29; He can be lied to just like any human- Acts 5:3-4;  He hears- John 16:13

   The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead- God the Holy Spirit.  The Bible also teaches that the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) is God.  He shares equality with God, because He is God.  He is divine in nature, attributes, and characteristics.  There are not three separate Gods, but only one eternal God- Father, Son, and Spirit.  Only God can create, know the future, has all authority and power, is all knowing, omnipresent.  This also, according to the scriptures, describes the Holy Spirit. He is the Creator- He was there in the beginning- Genesis 1:1,2; He knows the future- Acts. 21:11; He has resurrection power- Omnipotent- Romans 8:11; He bears record along with Father and Son- 1 John 5:7-8.

   The power shortage in the church comes because we don't understand that this power has been made available to us and we don't understand Who this power is.  Even many of those who have received the Holy Spirit in the baptismal measure don't understand Who He is and the role He plays in their lives.  They think that He's just about speaking in tongues and is given to make them feel good, or so that they can consider themselves more spiritual.  I wish I had the space to help enlighten your understanding of the Holy Spirit by giving you the scriptures concerning Him, but I don't.  And in saying that I must also say that I don't fully understand Who He is and what He does in my life.  I can say this though... I am glad and thankful that the Lord has sent Him into my life to walk beside me as I endeavor to live a life that is pleasing to my Savior, the Lord Jesus.  This one thing I do know is that the Holy Spirit, because He is God and because He is a person, desires to have a relationship with us.  If we are going to do the work that Jesus instructed us to do, we are going to have to become more intimately acquainted with the Holy Spirit just like we do Jesus or the Father. 

   The Bible tells us to be "led by the Spirit".  How can we be led by Him if we don't recognize that it's Him who is leading?  If we don't recognize that it is Him leading us to lay hands on the sick, to cast out devils, to speak deliverance to the captives, we won't do anything.  The only way we are going to learn how to recognize when it's Him Who is leading us to do something is by developing a personal relationship with Him.  The purpose of a relationship is to help you get better acquainted with some one.  In getting to know the Holy Spirit through a personal relationship we will begin to recognize His voice.  As we recognize His voice we'll become more aware (sensitive) to when it's Him who is speaking, and what He is saying.  "And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19:12)  "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith..." (Revelation 2:7a) The work that will be accomplished (signs, wonders, miracles, healing, deliverance) won't be by us, it will be by the Holy Spirit working through us.  "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)  As we work with Him, and allow Him to work through us, then we'll see the fulfillment of Jesus' words, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12)