Posts Tagged 'Holy Spirit'

Panic Podcast: Those Who Love Him, Part 5

Good morning!  It’s Friday and the weekend is almost here. In answer to one of the burning questions I was asked earlier in the week:  Yes. I hope to paint my deck over the weekend.

Meanwhile, God bless you as we study the Word together.


Pentecost Sunday Thoughts

We call it “Pentecost Sunday,” but where did it come from? While it’s not found anywhere in the Bible, it does celebrate a Biblical event. As a matter of fact, Pentecost is actually a two-fer. It’s a prominent feast in the Jewish calendar, celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, and it is also part of the Christian liturgical year commemorating the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Some people call it Whit Sunday, Whitsun, or Whit, especially in the United Kingdom. It always falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. Pentecost means “fiftieth day”: it is celebrated 50 days from Easter Sunday (including Easter Sunday in the counting), hence its name.

It’s always interested me that many Churches seem to love celebrating Biblical events rather than taking them seriously. If you look at the kinds of churches that make a big deal of Pentecost Sunday, with their banners, special hymns, and such, rarely if ever do they ever allow the Holy Spirit free reign in their services. Just an observation with a little criticism mixed in.

Something a lot of churches have forgotten is that the Holy Spirit is not just “an influence,” but rather God Himself. The Holy Spirit is as much God as God the Father and God the Son. Together, the form the Trinity. Even though He is always mentioned last, various verses in Scripture put Him on the same level at the other two members of the Trinity.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14 | TNIV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…. (Matthew 28:19 | TNIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4 – 6 | TNIV)

A Person

The Holy Spirit is a Person just as much as Jesus is. It may be because older translations of the Bible refer to Him as “the Holy Ghost,” but a lot of Christians don’t look at Him the way the look at Jesus. But they should. Consider this:

He thinks: And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:27 | TNIV)

He wills: All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11 | TNIV)

He teaches: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 | TNIV)

He shows love and affection: I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30 | TNIV)

He can be lied to: Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3 | TNIV)

He can grieve: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 | TNIV)

Those verses and more tell us that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Only a person can have those attributes.

God Himself

But like the Son who is also Gcd, the Holy Spirit is also God.

He is omnipresent: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7 – 10 | TNIV)

He is omnipotent: I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:18, 19 | TNIV)

He is eternal: How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrew 9:14 | TNIV)

He is the co-creator of the world: When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:30 | TNIV)

So the Holy Spirit is much more than so many Christians think He is. He certainly deserves more than the lip service too many churches give Him. The precious Holy Spirit has always been in the world and He has always been a powerful presence in the lives of His people. But His very public entrance into the new Church marked a turning point.

Incident at Pentecost

We’re all familiar with what happened in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost:

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:2 – 4 | TNIV)

But that was in fulfillment of something Jesus said a little earlier. In the Gospel of John, we read this:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:15, 17 | TNIV)

That’s the promise. But if you just read that bit, you miss the reason for the promise in the first place:

If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15 | TNIV)

That’s what Bible scholars call “a practical exhortation,” and the Bible is full of them. They are what the reader (or listener at the time) was expected to do. “Love one another” is another practical exhortation. In this case, our Lord gave His disciples a simple test to prove their love for Him. If you love Jesus, then you’ll obey Him. It’s a very simple test that involves His moral teachings. The problem is, though, living on earth as we are, it’s very difficult to live every moment of every day in obedience to the Lord’s teachings. Therefore, Jesus said, He would ask God to send the Holy Spirit. We are to depend on Him – the Holy Spirit – to help us live obediently to the teachings of Scripture.

In the lives of believers

Jesus gives us some valuable information about the Holy Spirit and His roll in the lives of believers.

He teaches, John 14:26

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “another advocate.” Other translators use the word “comforter.” The word properly means “advocate,” “intercessor,” “pleader.” The original Greek word is actually a passive word that means something like, “the one who is called to someone’s aid.” The Holy Spirit is the helper, identified as “the Spirit of truth,” which brings us to verse 26:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 | TNIV)

As “the Spirit of truth,” the Holy Spirit is the great revealer of God’s truth. He is able to take the things of Christ – His words, sayings, and actions – and not only make them known to believers, but He makes them make sense. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the believer is supernaturally able to recall the teachings of our Lord. But His work is far more than just helping us to remember the words of Scripture, but rather the true meaning of those words. Barclay wrote,

The Holy Spirit saves us from arrogance and error of thought.

He guides, John 16:12 – 13

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:12 – 13 | TNIV)

Actually, Jesus was wrapping up His conversations with the disciples when He remarked that He had much more to tell them. The Lord’s wisdom and truth are truly inexhaustible! But here, He was laying the foundation for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. In spite of their enthusiasm and devotion to their Lord and His teachings, the fact is they were unable to comprehend or understand the depths of His teachings. It’s not that they were mentally deficient, but that the human mind is incapable of grasping the deep, spiritual truths of Scripture. But, fortunately for them (and us), One was about to arrive on the scene who would lead.   The Greek word translated “guide” looks a little funny, hodegesei, but is very serious. It means “to lead or guide along the way or path.” Jesus Christ is the way in which we must be led by the Spirit, and He is also the truth to which we must be guided.

The power of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with secret revelations and mystical experiences, but rather in getting a believer to the place where he can not only recall Biblical teachings, but also understand them and apply them to any given situation or circumstance.

He intercedes, Romans 8:26, 27

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26, 27 | TNIV)

That phrase, “in the same way,” links the Spirit’s ministry of intercession with the hope of the preceding verses. Never underestimate the power of hope in the life of believers. It’s essential, and it’s an essential ministry of the Holy Spirit. Hope is essential because we are weak. We are so weak that sometimes we don’t even know what we should be praying for! It’s like writer’s block – a strange phenomena that writer’s fear: Too many ideas but not enough words – there are so many needs blowing around the hurricane in our minds that we can’t focus on any one in particular to pray for. When this happens, the Holy Spirit comes along and does it for us. Or perhaps a better way to put would be that the Spirit prays with us. Paul clearly says we are praying with “wordless groans.” I suggest this is what Pentecostals refer to as “praying in the Spirit.” Not all Bible scholars think this, but they’re sometimes wrong about other things, too. You may wonder what the point “praying in tongues” is. After all, who can understand such gibberish? God can! The words of Karl Barth are relevant on this point:

God makes Himself our advocate with Himself. He utters ineffable groaning, so that He will surely hear what we ourselves could not have told Him, so that He will accept what He Himself has to offer.

And once again, God comes through for us! He makes it possible for us to do what He wants us to to.  So, Pentecost Sunday is more than just a special Sunday that some churches celebrate.  It’s a good day to recall who He is and how indispensible His work and ministry in our lives is.  Whether we realize it or not, we can’t get along in this world without the remarkable Holy Spirit.






Life in the Early Church


Considering how the church was born and what God intended the church to become, it’s remarkable so many Christians either ignore it altogether, having no relationship with it or those who actually attend church just don’t take it seriously enough. The church was born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit supernaturally filled 120 waiting believers.

And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in languages they didn’t know, for the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:4 TLB)

Pentecost was an event prophesied in Leviticus 23. It was one of several feast days for Israel, divinely planned and appointed. The first feast day was Passover, which celebrated a new beginning for the people of Israel. This feast was a type, a foreshadow, of Christ our passover sacrifice for us:

Christ, God’s Lamb, has been slain for us. (1 Corinthians 5:7b TLB)

The second feast was the feast of Unleavened Bread. It lasted an entire week and foreshadowed the separated life of the believer; a life lived for God, apart from the world. The feast of Firstfruits was the third feast, and it typified the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fifty days after this feast came Pentecost, also known as the Feast of Weeks. Similarly, fifty days after the resurrection of our Lord the events of Acts 2 occurred.

The church was born by the power of a Person: the Holy Spirit. The so-called “Pentecostal power” is really just the unfettered working of the Holy Spirit in anybody’s life, anytime. When the Holy Spirit fell on those 120 believers, He baptized them into the Body of Christ, literally uniting them as a unit with the risen Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. This is an experience every believer has at his conversion. At conversion, each believer is baptized by the Spirit into the Body of Christ. On the Day of Pentecost, each believer was also filled with the Holy Spirit individually. This “infilling” is something that all believers may experience repeatedly.

It may be said the Pentecost began the “age of the Spirit.”

Acts 2:42 – 47

They joined with the other believers in regular attendance at the apostles’ teaching sessions and at the Communion services and prayer meetings.

A deep sense of awe was on them all, and the apostles did many miracles.

And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need. They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness, praising God. The whole city was favorable to them, and each day God added to them all who were being saved.

This handful of verses gives us the dynamics of a healthy church. The word “church” doesn’t appear in Acts until chapter 5, but the initially small community of believers formed at Pentecost was the first Christian church. In all, four things characterized it:

The teaching of the apostles. These men were eyewitnesses; they walked with Jesus and listened to His teachings for three years. The teachings or sermons of the apostles were probably teachings or sermons that Jesus gave. They probably talked about their Lord’s life and ministry. This was something Jesus wanted them to do:

“Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 TLB)

Fellowship. The first congregation fellowshipped together, often. They gathered together to share their spiritual blessings and their material blessings.

Communion. The early believers gathered together to hear the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship with each other, and also to have communion. They “broke bread.” We know from Jewish tradition that this group of believers also ate meals together.

Prayer and praise. There were two other things the believers in Jerusalem did whenever they met together, which was often. God and the Lord Jesus were central to their meetings. All the other activities they engaged in revolved around prayer and praise.

This is a church that was healthy. They cared for and about each other as individuals but also as a whole. No doubt they fellowshipped with each other out in the community, but they never neglected meeting together as a congregation that had somethings in common. They held a common experience, a common belief, and a common goal.

The results of this kind of healthy fellowship are obvious:

The people were in awe. That is, the members of the group – the church – worshipped and fellowshipped with reverence for God and the things of God. Apparently this sense of “awe” was bolstered by the signs and wonders performed by the apostle.

They shared what they had with each other. Contrary to what some socialist Christians may think, sharing of possessions had little to do with a regular or customary practice within the early church but had a very practical purpose. During this time – Pentecost – Jerusalem was full of travelers and visitors who were miles away from home, and very often they needed daily necessities. Fact is, after chapter 5, we have no record of this kind “sharing in common” taking place.

Good reputation in town. At least very on in the church age, the congregation in Jerusalem enjoyed a very good reputation among the people. Mind you, this didn’t last too long, but for now, this first congregation was in a very good place.

Growth. Lastly, this church grew. The Lord was moving in Jerusalem, people were getting converted and joining the church.

The church of Jesus Christ is now some 2000 years past this Day of Pentecost. We don’t need another Pentecost; the same Holy Spirit that was at work in this first church is at work in the church today. The overriding needs of the Church today are for its members to be steadfastly dedicated to the teaching of Jesus as revealed in the Bible, committed to fellowshipping together, breaking bread together, and praising God together.

Acts 4:23 – 31

As soon as they were freed, Peter and John found the other disciples and told them what the Council had said. Then all the believers united in this prayer… (Acts 4:23, 24 TLB)

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the early church enjoyed a good reputation in Jerusalem but those feelings of good will didn’t last very long. The first persecution of the apostles took place, which wasn’t too surprising. Jesus did warn His followers to expect it. However, what happened following that persecution was a little unexpected. Instead of hunkering down and going underground, the believers all got together for a prayer meeting! Prayer is always the best way to meet any kind of opposition.

That first sentence is very telling. Here it is from the KJV:

And being let go, they went to their own company...

This is not only a statement of fact, but also of a basic Christian principle. When all outward restraints are gone, what kind of company do you seek?

The prayer which begins at verse 24 and concludes at verse 30 is the longest one Luke ever recorded. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of the prayers found in 2 Kings 19:15 – 19 or Isaiah 37:15 – 20. This great prayer is definitely worthy of not only study but of imitation.

First, notice how they recognized God: He was the God who is the absolute sovereign over His subjects. They used the unusual word despotes, not the more common kyrios. Despotes in English is “despot,” and is sort of a negative word but it does serve to describe their attitude about God: He is the absolute authority and has absolute authority over their lives. They also saw God as the creator; the One who created the universe. In that sense He is the absolute Sovereign.

Then they submitted themselves to the will or plan of God. As they prayed, they quoted from Psalm 2, applying it to Jesus and the Crucifixion. This more than affirms the divine inspiration of what David wrote. Who was responsible for the crucifixion? According to those who prayed this prayer, Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel all conspired to do our Lord in. But that human responsibility is mixed in with God’s predetermined plan.

They won’t stop at anything that you in your wise power will let them do. (Acts 4:28 TLB)

God’s plan may not always be sunshine and butterflies, but believers need to learn how to submit to it. The persecution the apostles experienced wasn’t pleasant, nor was it the last time they would be persecuted like this, but it was part of His plan.

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and grant to your servants great boldness in their preaching, and send your healing power, and may miracles and wonders be done by the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29, 30 TLB)

These two verses represent the believer’s petitions – their prayer requests. What they don’t ask for is almost as interesting as what do ask for. Their petition is filled with a sense of praise and glory to God, but they for boldness in preaching the Word of God. In essence, following the persecution, the people were praying for the strength – the boldness – to carry on. Human nature would be to ease off the preaching for a while. But these people wanted God to help them to keep going. It’s not insignificant that what is missing from this prayer is a request for divine protection! These courageous Christians didn’t want protection, they wanted power.

It didn’t take long, but their prayer was answered:

After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly preached God’s message. (Acts 4:31 TLB)

God’s answer to their request for boldness was another infilling (not baptism) of the Holy Spirit which was accompanied by the shaking of their meeting place. As happened during the Day of Pentecost, when they were filled again with the Spirit the went out boldly proclaiming the Word of God. Duncan Campbell’s observation is priceless:

The Kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God.

Indeed. Life in the early church was marked by a healthy, vibrant, highly spiritual and therefore, functional congregation, vitally connected to each other and to the head of the church, Jesus Christ. The early Christians seemed to be more concerned with the mission God gave them than with their own comfort and safety. No wonder that early church walked in, not only the grace of God, but the power of God, as well.

Reflections on Pentecost


“Pentecost” is more than just “speaking in tongues,” although you would think that’s all it’s about these days. “Pentecost” is actually a Jewish feast observed exactly 50 days after Passover, marking the anniversary of God’s giving the Law to Moses. Devout Jews will stay up all night to review the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) in commemoration of this great Feast.

It’s not surprising, then, given the fact that the early Church was made up almost exclusively of Jews, that the new Church appropriated this Jewish Feast and “Christianized” it. To them, it became associated with that great day when the promised Holy Spirit was poured out upon that infant church as they gathered in the now-famous Upper Room during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem.

But is this “Spirit-filled” life a New Testament thing? Did the Holy Spirit have anything to do with people in the Old Testament? One thing is certain, the phenomenon of the Holy Spirit is not just a historical fact. His work in believers transcends history. Let’s take a look.

Filled with the Spirit, Numbers 11:24-29; Acts 2:1-4, 16-17

The Elders, Numbers 11:24-29

Moses had just lead his people out of Egypt; he was their deliverer, and had now become their leader. The burden of this kind of leadership must have been overwhelming and Moses needed all the help he could get. The people faced the grim prospect of having to walk across the desert to reach their destination; they had few provisions and they did what hungry people do: they complained. A lot.

Moses vented to God out of frustration.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why pick on me, to give me the burden of a people like this? Are they my children? Am I their father? Is that why you have given me the job of nursing them along like babies until we get to the land you promised their ancestors?” (Numbers 11:11, 12 TLB)

God always has a plan even though we rarely see it. He shared His plan with Moses:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Summon before me seventy of the leaders of Israel; bring them to the Tabernacle, to stand there with you. I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it upon them also; they shall bear the burden of the people along with you, so that you will not have the task alone. (Numbers 11:16, 17 TLB)

When Moses obeyed God’s instructions, an amazing thing happened:

And the Lord came down in the Cloud and talked with Moses, and the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied for some time. (Numbers 11:25 TLB)

God gave the 70 elders His Holy Spirit, as He had with Moses before, and they began to “sound forth the praises of God and declaring His will,” according to the Amplified Old Testament. What the elders did was not unlike the witnessing done by a similar group on the Day of Pentecost. The elders probably went throughout the Hebrew encampment proclaiming the faithfulness of God so far in their journey out of bondage. Essentially these men built up the morale of the people.

Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad by name, for some reason never showed up at the meeting of the elders. In spite of that, we read this:

But two of the seventy—Eldad and Medad—were still in the camp, and when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied there. (Numbers 11:6 TLB)

Not everybody was excited about these two elders prophesying. They hadn’t bothered showing up at the Tent of Meeting, so what gave them the right to run around prophesying like the others? Joshua was positively exorcised about it and insisted to Moses that they be stopped. Moses’ answer is epic:

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I only wish that all of the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” (Exodus 11:29 TLB)

What a great lesson for Christians of every age: Not all who are serving God effectively are called in the same way nor do we all exercise our gifts the same way. A similar thing happened to Jesus:

His disciple John came to him and said, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons. And we told him not to. After all, he isn’t in our group.” But Jesus said, “You shouldn’t have done that! For anyone who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49, 50 TLB)

“He isn’t in our group.” Yes, the dying words of any church. It’s a mature believer who understands the wisdom of Warren Wiersbe’s words:

We do not use the Holy Spirit, He uses us.

Moses’ answer to Joshua isn’t really a prophecy, but in it he sort of foreshadows what the prophet Joel would utter centuries later:

After I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all of you! Your sons and daughters will prophesy; your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions. (Joel 2:28 TLB)

The Obedient, Acts 2:1-4

Flash forward to the Day of Pentecost, when The Lord poured out His Spirit on the believers gathered in that small, crowded Upper Room. This time, the miracle happened on a Jewish festival which was celebrated on the “day after the seventh Sabbath,” or 50 days after Passover. Originally it was the festival of the firstfruits of the grain harvest, and it was called the Feast of Weeks because it came after a duration of seven weeks of harvesting that began with the offering of the first sheaf of barley and ended with the wheat harvest. It wasn’t until much later in Judaism that it was considered the anniversary of the the giving of the Law at Sinai.

Just before His ascension, Jesus gave His followers some specific instructions:

And now I will send the Holy Spirit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don’t begin telling others yet—stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. (Luke 24:49 TLB)

In all, 120 of Christ’s followers obeyed this instruction to the letter, and like Moses’ 70 elders, each one was individually filled with the Holy Spirit accompanied by both audible and visual signs. The Spirit enabled them to speak in all kinds of languages they had never learned so that their listeners could understand their words.

And we all hear these men telling in our own languages about the mighty miracles of God! (Acts 2:11 TLB)

What an amazing day of miracles this was!

Fulfillment of Prophecy, Acts 2:16, 17

The great crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Passover had come from all over the known world and they were witnessing something truly extraordinary. They needed answers, and it was up to Peter to explain it to everybody.

No! What you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel—‘In the last days,’ God said, ‘I will pour out my Holy Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men dream dreams.’

It wasn’t a “new thing” at all. Joel had prophesied it. Moses had experienced it. God calls people to do His work and in His providence, He empowers them to get the job done.

Spirit-filled living, unity, and service

Fellowship, Acts 2:41-47

The early church was born, and in very short order it numbered into the thousands. Yet for their size, they had no building or buildings and no formal leadership structure. They did, however, have each other – the bond of community.

They worshiped together regularly at the Temple each day, met in small groups in homes for Communion, and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness… (Acts 2:46 TLB)

The fellowship of the early church revolved around worshiping God at the Jewish temple. It’s true that they met in “small groups,” probably in each other’s homes and they shared meals together, but notice neither their worship nor their fellowship was done “in private,” out of public view. While they didn’t have their own church building (yet), they did make use of the temple grounds for their times together.

All this fellowship led to some astounding spiritual results. The church grew at a phenomenal rate; more and more people were accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior and were becoming part of this new church. These new members were not shunned or turned away, but embraced and made part of this new community of faith. The upbeat, positive attitude and behavior of the church, combined with the excitement and joy of the Lord, impacted the community at large.

Worship, Ephesians 5:18-21

Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path; be filled instead with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:18, 19 TLB)

Paul was combatting some strange religions in his day; religions that threatened to split and destroy some of his churches. Often these religions involved drunken orgies and mind-altering experiences. Paul’s bone of contention was that drunkenness is merely the gateway to excess, hence his admonitions like this one: don’t use wine in hopes of having a spiritual experience, instead, let the Holy Spirit lead you. Christians should be “filled” with the Spirit. That’s a present imperative; an ongoing and important experience. Ralph Earle observed:

This is not to be a transitory experience, but an abiding one.

Far from a once-in-a-lifetime experience, believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit continually, on moment-by-moment basis. It’s the indwelling of the Spirit that forms the foundation of our fellowship as believers. Of note here is that our fellowship should involve things of a spiritual nature. That’s not to say that Christians should never get together and talk about the weather or sports, but we ought to recognize that the only reason for our fellowship – the only reason for our being together – is the presence of the Lord in our lives.

A fruitful community, Galatians 5:22-25

This group of verses describes how Spirit-filled Christians should live by describing certain attributes or character traits that should be common in our lives. These are known as the “fruit of the Spirit,” and also represent a kind of test – a proof that one is truly filled with the Spirit.

These character traits are not native to human beings, which is why they are the fruit of “the Spirit.” Naturally, there are people who from time-to-time may exhibit some or all of these traits who may not be believers, but when one is controlled by the Spirit, the Spirit will live through him and there will be peace and harmony within the church. When Christians finally learn to let the Holy Spirit control them, the church will be all that God wants it to be. This kind of life is far beyond the ability and strength of man; it is made possible by the Holy Spirit. And yet, it is available to all people who are in Christ.

William Adams Brown, clergyman and academic, once noted:

The church exists to train its members through the practice of the presence of God to be servants of others, to the end that Christlikeness may become common property.

Just so. The more we allow the Holy Spirit access to and control of our lives, the more like Christ we will become. When we become truly Christlike, we will be able to accomplish great things for the Kingdom. Michelangelo’s great wish will find its fulfillment in us:

Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.

It’s possible!

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