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On the beach, you sometimes pick up a crab thinking it’s alive, but realize that it’s just the shell that’s been discarded by birds.
Have we removed the substance of Christian life and given only the shell? Have we gutted the Spirit out of the spiritual life? Have we gutted the Spirit from the spiritual life? Removed Christ from the Christian life?
1 Cor 2:4-5
The gospel is more than man-made, human words of persuasion. The gospel, if it is only words, is anemic, it is powerless. The gospel that Paul preached was not merely words, but it was a demonstration of Spirit and power.
Paul’s conversion was supernatural. Paul pre-conversion was Saul. He was a murderer of Christians. Then, on the Damascus Road, Saul encountered Christ. A bright light. He was thrown to the ground. He heard a voice. Supernatural conversion.
Then, Ananias, God spoke to him, a word just popped into his mind and God told him to go lay his hands on Saul and welcome him as a brother. This is supernatural.
Paul immediately after his conversion was blind. He encountered Christ. He was saved, yet he was blind until Ananias laid hands on him and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, the scales fell off his eyes.
I wonder how many Christians are technically saved because they have encountered Christ, but they are still blind and they are Spirit-less.
Seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva tried to cast out an evil spirit in a man in the name of Jesus, but they couldn’t. Their lack of spiritual power got exposed.
Anyone can preach a good sermon. Anyone can run a church. If you are a good speaker, you’re a visionary, you have good administration skills, a seminary degree and you’ve read some books about management, you can preach, teach and run a ministry. But when it comes to the supernatural, you can’t fake it. If you lack spiritual power, you can’t heal and you can’t cast out a demon.
A prophet has honor everywhere except one place–his hometown. Why? Because Jesus is familiar to them. Because Jesus did not receive proper honor, Jesus only performed a few healings and that’s it.
Compare that to the verses that follow.
Right after Jesus left his hometown, Jesus sent out his disciples and even his disciples performed supernatural miracles.
The modern day equivalent of Jesus’ hometown is the church. We think we know Jesus. We don’t honor him. We don’t think he is powerful enough to do supernatural things. Isn’t it a wonder why Jesus doesn’t do much in the way of the supernatural in many Christian circles?
The problem is our unbelief.
This is Mark’s version of the Great Commission. We prefer Matthew’s version because Mark’s version makes us feel uncomfortable. Jesus rebuked the Eleven. Why? Because they did not believe those who witnessed the resurrected Christ. Resurrection–no, impossible! That’s supernatural. Miracles don’t happen. Didn’t the Eleven witness plenty of miracles, yet they couldn’t believe the testimony of those who saw the resurrected Jesus?
We are such natural thinkers. I can only believe what I can see and touch.
Mark 16:20–the disciples went out, they preached and the Lord was working with them. Notice that they weren’t working alone. The Lord was working with them. When we are working for the Lord, who’s doing the work? Is it us or is it the Lord? Both. We do the work and the Lord does most of the heavy lifting. Do we ask the Lord for help?
They preached and the word was confirmed. How? By accompanying signs.
Four things that the disciples were called to do: teaching, preaching, healing, deliverance. Many churches stick to preaching and teaching. Safe. Fool ourselves thinking we can do any of these without being Spirit-filled. Healing and casting out demons require the Holy Spirit for sure. Preaching and teaching – we can handle these so we don’t ask to be filled by the Spirit.
Acts 16 – describes the church at Philippi being planted. Started with 3 converts. Lydia, slave girl, Roman jailer. Slave girl was converted through a power encounter.
Signs are scary.
A few days ago, some Kentucky pastor named Jamie Coots who starred in a reality show about snake-handling in church died of a snakebite. Because he refused to be treated after getting bitten.
Jamie Coots died Saturday evening after refusing to be treated, Middlesboro police said.
People like this or others who predict the return of Christ falsely or people who speak in tongues and disrupt the public worship service of God’s people make us wary of signs. I just want to be a preach the gospel, shepherd the flock and be a nice guy.
As of December 2011, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are about 279 million pentecostal Christians and 305 million charismatic Christians worldwide. That’s 584 million Christians. Compare that number with 285 million Christians can be classified as conservative evangelicals. Less than half of the global charismatic population.
Listen to what Tim Keller, conservative, evangelical Presbyterian pastor had to say recently, “As Reformed people, we tend to be dismissive of the charismatic movement,” Keller said. He pointed out that there’s a lot of “unfortunate and bad theology there,” including the “prosperity gospel,” which is often integrated into charismatic teaching. But Keller points out that Pentecostalism is the most vital, fastest growing, and most multiracial, multiethnic movement in the world. It is now bigger than the rest of Protestantism combined. And we [need to] know how in a non-paternalistic to reach out and to learn from them.
My explanation for this phenomenon. OT – God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Over time, living faith was reduced to religion. God sent Spirit-filled judges, Spirit-filled kings like David, Spirit-filled prophets and called the people to repent.
Then, Jesus came. His Church was birthed at Pentecost. The Spirit was active. The Spirit was needed in a special way to get the balling rolling for God’s Name to spread among the nations. Word was preached and there were supernatural signs that accompanied the preaching. But since then, in church history, the same thing happening in the church that happened in the OT. What started out as Spirit-filled discipleship became Spirit-less, heartless, academic, empty religion. The Spirit never left. He’s always been active since the ascension of Christ.
But as the End approaches, the Spirit is bursting forth in a fresh way to call the Church back to Himself and therefore for little over 100 years you see the resurgence of supernatural signs that accompany the Spirit’s activity.
Nicodemus – teacher of the Law, yet he was stuck. He knew something was missing. Jesus says, you are still living a fleshly life. You need to be born again of the Spirit.
Ironic that we are saved by the Spirit and yet do everything in the flesh.
I am a few steps ahead of Nicodemus because I believe I am saved, but I am still fleshly in my approach to Christian life.
You came into the kingdom supernaturally. You will be sustained in the kingdom supernaturally.
Paul confronts a false prophet. Paul was very charismatic. Filled with the Holy Spirit. He calls the false prophet out, you son of the Devil. Then the false prophet becomes blind. Why did the proconsul believe? He saw with his eyes what had happened and he believed.
When the Word is preached, it has to be accompanied with signs. A demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
Even Jesus before he began his earthly ministry was baptized by the Holy Spirit. If Jesus needed the Holy Spirit, it is arrogance for us to do things without waiting for the Holy Spirit.
Healing retreat in Stockton. Forgiveness for father. Healing of back. Easy to dismiss if miraculous healing happens with someone you don’t know. Brother Abraham’s sister was healed of brain cancer – harder to dismiss because it hits closer to home. Much harder to dismiss the miraculous when it happens to you directly.
Picture of a Spirit-filled life. A Spirit-filled life is more than speaking in tongues and prophesying and healing.
“Be filled by the Spirit.” Grammar: Audience is you plural, meaning all of us.
In addition, this is an imperative, a command. Being filled is not optional. It is mandatory for all believers.
Also, the verse is in the present tense, meaning it is an ongoing, continuous filling. This is not a once in a lifetime filling. We need to be filled with the Spirit moment by moment, always.
Lastly, this verb in the Greek has a voice. It’s not in the active voice and it’s not in the passive voice. We can’t say, I must fill myself with the Spirit, it’s not the active voice. Also, we can’t just sit back and be passive and say, well, I just have to wait around for God to do all the work. We can’t be passive.
“Be filled” is in the middle voice, meaning it’s both active and passive. We can’t fill ourselves, but we can do one thing. We can open ourselves to the Spirit. That’s our responsibility.
Lastly, seek the Giver of the gifts more than the gifts themselves. Jesus gives us the gifts. The Person of the Holy Spirit is more important than the spiritual gifts. Ask for His presence. The gifts are a visible manifestation of the presence of God.