Tag Archives: missions

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

HolySpiritAnointingTo understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we must keep in mind the Big Picture:

After Adam’s fall, Satan rules, and the whole cosmos falls under sin and corruption. God’s plan is to redeem humanity and the cosmos. He will destroy sin and corruption through Jesus Christ and reconcile the world to Himself. He will do it in relationship with redeemed humanity through the agency of the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer, giving new life and power to those who cooperate with Him.

John the Baptist anticipates this New Day when he says, “I baptize with water, but the One who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The Holy Spirit is key to destruction of Satan’s dominion, restoring God’s original purpose in its fullness. The Holy Spirit will work through the lives of Satan’s former subjects, once captive to sin, now free in Christ, to bring about his total destruction.

In short, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is key to effective witness and completion of the Great Commission, which will usher in the triumphant Second Advent of Jesus Christ.

This plan terrifies Satan. He desperately wants to limit the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s redeemed children. He does all in his power to blind God’s children to the reality and power of the Holy Spirit. He works overtime, getting us to waste time and energy in pointless arguments about the Holy Spirit.

He bends over backward trying to get us to fear the mis-use of Holy Spirit power so that we take the opposite extreme of dis-use. This keeps us from being open and receptive to His infilling so that the Holy Spirit can use us in supernatural ways.

He tries to turn the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its many blessings into a curse that separates members of God’s family from one another.

All of this grieves the Holy Spirit. Let us not fall into Satan’s traps. Let us remember how Acts 2 began to fulfill the prophecy of Joel 2. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit radically transformed the disciples. Let us remember how the Holy Spirit turned that first-century persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, into Jesus’ most faithful missionary.

Let us remember those first centuries of church history when the Holy Spirit caused the church, weak in the eyes of the world, to grow in spite of persecution and outlast their persecutors through our own day.

Let us remember that the Holy Spirit has planted within each of us as His children His New Life. As His children, we have the life of God, Creator of the universe, living within us.

Because life in the Holy Spirit is a relationship, we must renew our relationship with Him day by day as a husband and wife must renew their relationship with one another day by day and even hour by hour and minute by minute for the marriage
to work.

Let us remember the Big Picture of who we are in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit. Then we will become His more effective witnesses in the world to fulfill the Great Commission and usher in the fullness of His kingdom. We will become His agents to answer the prayer we have long prayed: “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”

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Set Back

adventure-ancient-antique-697662Years ago, the late Billy Graham, held one of his large evangelistic crusades in a certain city. A prominent minister of that city was approached by a reporter who asked him how he thought the crusade was going.

The minister grumbled, “Billy Graham has set back the churches of this city fifty years!

Later, the reporter told Billy Graham what that minister said. Billy Graham replied with a smile, “I pray I will set back the churches of this city two thousand years!

Billy Graham was referring to those days immediately after the Day of Pentecost. On that day, the Holy Spirit descended upon a group of 120 men and women in an upper room, and their lives (and ours) were changed forever. That day, the church was born.

On that day, Peter, the arrogant and cowardly fisherman from Galilee, found within himself a newfound ability to preach his first of many eloquent sermons before a crowd of thousands of people from all over the then-known world.

That day, the former coward, Peter, boldly preached a hard-hitting sermon, and when it was over, 3,000 people were added to the church. From that day, the gospel spread like wildfire throughout the known world, and within 30 years, the gospel had spread to Rome and even to Spain.

What were the marks of that first Spirit-filled church? Luke tells us in Acts 2:42-47 that the Jerusalem church was characterized by:

  • Teaching the Word of God
  • Worship, praise and prayer
  • Fellowship
  • Evangelism
  • Stewardship
  • Spirit-envisioned leadership
  • Care for the poor.

We are told that every day, the Lord was “adding to the church those who were being saved.”

Satan hates Spirit-filled churches. Such churches quickly fulfill the Great Commission, the one condition that must take place before Jesus comes again, sets up His kingdom and puts Satan out of business! Thus, Satan does all he can to quench the Spirit through persecution, corruption and distraction. He is a master at persuading churches to major in minors or avoid too much “fanaticism”, i.e., do nothing.

Has your church been “set back two thousand years”? Do you have a Spirit-filled church where the Lord is adding daily those who are being saved? Is your church marked by the same signs of the Jerusalem church that accomplished so much in so little time?

How many new believers (not church transfers) have been added to your church lately? Is your community transformed because of your church? What sacrifices do you and your church make to transform others by the gospel, both at home and abroad, especially where the gospel has never gone before?

In the life of every church, policy debates arise over the church’s function. Without a model other than our own feelings, the church always goes off course and fails at God’s mission for the church—to take the gospel to all peoples whom He loves and become salt and light, preparing the way for His glorious kingdom on earth.

We have a timeless biblical model in the church of Jerusalem. As we confront new challenges in the days ahead, let us keep this model before us. Any deviation from this model is less than satisfactory to God, however satisfied we may feel.

Pray that all our churches will be set back two thousand years!

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Your Life, His Grace

In the Greek New Testament, the word for “witness” is also the root word for “martyr.” When Jesus tells His disciples, “You shall be my witnesses…,” He is also saying, “You will lay down your lives for My sake.”

This does not mean that we must seek martyrdom to become a “witness” for Christ. But it requires that we count the cost of discipleship. We must see ourselves as soldiers for Christ. When a new recruit takes his oath of loyalty, he gives his superiors the right to send him anywhere, even into battles that require great risk to his life, from which he may not return.

A-bigger-lifeTo become a “witness” for Christ means that we serve a life bigger than this earthly life. The circumstances of our lives are short and uncertain. There are other things better and eternal, centered on Christ. A true “witness,” like Jesus, has compassion upon people and a world that wander like sheep without a shepherd. Whether in life or death, true witnesses trust Jesus to provide everything they need, to go wherever He says to go.

Jesus warns His “witnesses” that He may assign them to take the gospel as “sheep to wolves.” Many will gladly accept the Good News, but others will hate the “witness,” claim that he is destroying society and seek to defame him or her.

Like Jesus, witnesses may also have to stand before the authorities in trial for their faith. But their suffering will further the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will give them the words to say at the right time.

We are to become Christ’s witnesses with the perspective of Christ’s own suffering and of His Second Coming. We are to know that whatever suffering we face will bring glory to God, a great reward in heaven and ultimate judgment for those who persecute us. We are to know that even if we lose our lives, human power over us ends at death, but God’s power is eternal.

Grace is costly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us. The gift is free, but it costs our lives. Beware of “cheap grace,” he warns, “the grace that we [not God] bestow on ourselves…forgiveness without repentance…baptism without discipline, communion without confession.”

“Costly grace,” he goes on, “costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew what he was talking about. God called him as a witness to serve Him in Nazi Germany—a place unfriendly to the gospel. He became a leader of the Confessing Church when other German churches were giving in to Hitler. His friends wanted to save him by bringing him to America, but after a few months, Bonhoeffer knew he must return to the place God called him.

Bonhoeffer indeed paid with his life, but he became the ultimate winner. Days after his death, Hitler went down to defeat—and suicide. Bonhoeffer’s witness continues throughout the world in his writings and his example of commitment to Jesus Christ.

This month, as we celebrate Christ’s costly sacrifice and His triumphant resurrection, may each of us also count the cost of discipleship and commit ourselves to effective witness however and wherever Christ calls us.

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His Witnesses

witnessThree years before he became President, Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer, was called to defend an old family friend accused of murder. The murder took place at night, and a key witness said that he saw the defendant kill the man “by the light of the full moon.” This seemed compelling evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.

However, during cross-examination, Lincoln used a simple almanac to prove that on the night of the murder, there was no full moon. The accuser could not have seen what he claimed to see.

Today, we all stand accused by Satan of crimes against our Creator. His evidence against us appears beyond reasonable doubt: we all stand guilty before God. But through Jesus Christ, God has evidence on our behalf that saves us from our arch-accuser, Satan.

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they would become His witnesses to His power to save, and that their witness would carry them to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What kind of compelling “witness” did Jesus have in mind for us? How effective is our “witness” to others?

The Greek word for “witness” used by Luke has more than one meaning. First, a “witness” is one who speaks from first-hand experience about actions in which he participates. Specifically, this “witness” means our testimony to others of our relationship with Jesus Christ and what God has done in our lives.

Second, a “witness” is one who makes an evangelistic confession of specific truths. In Luke 24, Jesus said that this “witness” must include the truths involving His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day—the key to our salvation. It must declare the need for repentance from sin to receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God.

Luke tells us that Jesus sent His disciples forth on their mission as “witnesses” with the promise of His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words, an effective witness depends upon trust in the word of God to empower us and bless our witness in great and marvelous ways.

Before He left them, Jesus grounded their “witness” firmly in the scriptures. He systematically showed them how the entire Old Testament—“the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”—was the foundation for His saving life, death and resurrection.

In short, effective “witness” comprises four major elements for compelling communication to others: (1) personal experience, (2) clear evangelistic confession, (3) trust in Holy Spirit power and (4) solid biblical foundations. If one or more of these elements is lacking, our “witness” suffers, and a needy world fails to hear the Good News and escape Satan’s accusations.

How well are we doing? Is our society becoming more or less committed to the Christ of our “witness”? Too often, we must admit, our words and actions have denied Jesus. Too often, we have played the coward, fleeing from opportunities and hiding from opposition.

Clearly, as we read our daily news today, we have much for which to repent. But let us not become discouraged. Let us remember that the success of the disciples’ witness followed only after their own abject failures and cowardice. Let us heed their example of repentance, for God’s forgiveness and renewal is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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Appointed Leaders

Jan-2015Brutal, tyrannical, extravagant, persecutor, murderer, cruel, opportunistic.

These are just a few of the words that describe the Roman emperor, Nero. Roman historian, Suetonius, said that Nero “showed neither discrimination nor moderation in putting to death whomsoever he pleased.” He killed his own mother and other relatives, and kicked his pregnant lover to death.

Still, Paul urges Timothy to offer “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings…on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

The Bible was written by people who lived in times when the government was not friendly to the people of God. Yet Jesus says to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Paul had a clear sense of God’s sovereignty over both church and state. He did not regard God as part of one realm and human institutions as part of another. All rulers, he said, are in power because God ordained them.

In spite of the horrible tyranny of Roman emperors (Nero put Paul and many other Christians to death), the general peace made it possible for the gospel to spread rapidly through the Empire. The very regime so fiercely devoted to emperor worship became the catalyst for the proclamation of the gospel. A wicked government may have twisted aims, but God uses its dysfunctional rulers to accomplish His higher purposes.

Why does God appoint rulers like Nero, Herod, Pontius Pilate and Hitler to serve as rulers? We cannot know the full mind of God on these matters, but we can say this:

  • God has the long term in mind; though the short term looks bad to us, it always serves His larger purpose and works for ultimate good.
  • God’s ultimate aim is to complete the Great Commission and glorify Himself.
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God uses rulers to discipline His people and bring them out of complacency and ingratitude to depend upon Him.
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God demonstrates through wicked rulers that He is not limited by human wickedness in accomplishing His greater good.
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Bad rulers have a way of deepening our faith in God so that we call upon Him to work in marvelous ways.
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Bad rulers move us to pray better prayers, develop more godly voting standards, and seek more godly ways of persuasion and action to influence political leaders.

Whenever we fail to pray for our leaders, regardless of their political persuasion, we sin against God. Evangelist Billy Graham has met privately with all kinds of political leaders. He says, “We sometimes forget that some of the loneliest people in the world are those who are constantly in the public eye. They have spiritual needs just like everyone else. I have found many world leaders who sense that our problems today are so complex as to defy [human] solution. They know that the only answer is to be found in God.”

We often forget that the halls of government are also mission fields for the gospel. In India, we have had many opportunities to befriend numerous political leaders—not all of them Christian—who regularly come asking prayer for help with the deep burdens they carry.

Both church and state are God’s avenues to do His will. Let our prayers for our leaders come out of the abundance of our certainty in God and our own daily dialogue with Him so that we might prepare the way for completion of the Great Commission.

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