Pledge Principle 2
I welcome the Holy Spirit’s baptism, residence, and power, to change my life as a witness evidenced by the way I live, speak and love.
One of my best friends is a pastor in California. We’ve known each other for over 27 years. While on a trip visiting, Mark shared how long he had wrestled with the feeling of obligation to impact and penetrate into the lives of others in the course of ministry as a pastor and Christian. “I finally came to the point where I realized I didn’t have to change anyone,” he said. “That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
His words stuck with me and I remembered well similar occasions where I stepped out in some type of faith or service and because I didn’t get the expected results I was dismayed. Why did trying so hard produce little to no results? What I would have to learn was the difference between power, knowledge and human effort. Sometimes what looks like power is knowledge or even allegiance to what we perceive as “reliable knowledge.” However, allegiance even to things that look good or even safe may be sorely misplaced and produce undesirable results.
The Christian life is a life of freedom. Not symbolic or metaphorically, although there are some metaphorical aspects to our freedom, but the Bible tells us “It was for Freedom that Christ set us free.” Gal 5:1. This scripture sounds impressive but as a reality it escapes most Christians as they examine their own lives and painfully conclude they aren’t free. They still struggle with the same pre-conversion issues of sin, habits, attitudes and behaviors and can’t seem to break the cycle of frustration, that marks their life. They have knowledge they are forgiven but an inability to breakthrough their old self because they simply lack power. These Christians love God for the most part. They have their teachings right, and they understand the Jesus who rose from the dead is most likely powerful enough to cover their back in the storms and frustrations in life. But they simply can’t break free from the “the law of sin and death.’ They want to, don’t misunderstand me, although some are completely enslaved to the passions that dominate their life, these are Christians who sincerely want freedom, because they know and understand their Savoir Jesus provided it.
So, what’s wrong?
They lack power not will, power… true power in fact. You and I don’t break free from the old life by fortitude, or formulas. Jesus clearly tells us what we are to be (if we know Him at all) we are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts chapter 1). But there is a conditional element to being a witness for Jesus; if you want to be a witness for Jesus you see, Jesus tells us you must be equipped with power; not perseverance… power, and it comes from Him alone. Remarkably, you can be a Christian, and be completely devoid of or possess very little of the type of power Jesus is talking about. How is it we miss or downplay that before and after his resurrection Jesus told the first disciples “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria and even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The disciples witness was always connected to the power which came one way, through the anointing or baptism or indwelling (it doesn’t matter what you call it) of the Holy Spirit. Its Jesus who gives us His Holy Spirit. We don’t earn it, and there’s nothing we can do to obtain the relationship with the Holy Spirit apart from Jesus although there’s plenty we can do to minimize that power. Four times in the Gospels this is made clear, it is Jesus who baptizes, or fills us with the Holy Spirit. Now you must be starting to understand why all those prayers, the Bible reading, your acts of service and determination or whatever they might be, have not freed you from the old life. You may very well be saved as I have already made clear its completely possible to be saved, going to heaven and have zero power.
Let me ask you a very direct question. What type of fool (Proverbs 26:1-11) takes a ministry away from Jesus; the administration of power, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit? The bible teaches this power is His ministry and conducted under His authority for His purpose. Who would create some man centered idea of Christian spiritual fulfillment? Now we’re getting to it and undoubtedly touching some spiritual nerves.
I have been a Christian for some 40 years this year. But I’m afraid I spent the bulk of it (around 36 to 37 years) wrestling constantly with the old man and the old life. I never was able to establish any spiritual inertia or momentum to beat some of the habits God wanted to cleanse me from until I got the message right, which God presented clearly in His Word. I had believed or succumbed to the message of Christian intellectuals who teach the following. Christian intellectualism teaches it is by the practice and exercise of spiritual disciplines, i.e. Bible reading, fellowship, prayer and perseverance that our relationship in Christ grows. Christian intellectualism teaches the Baptism of the Spirit takes place for every believer at the time of their conversion and that by practicing the spiritual disciplines we manifest and cooperate with what is understood as the Baptism or indwelling of the Spirit.
There’s only one problem with that, while it sounds good, the Bible doesn’t say that, nor does it teach that. Here’s how I know this as an undeniable reality in my own life.
I prayed authentically, I participated for years in missions, I did the soup kitchen volunteering for years, served as a pastor in a Baptist church, memorized enormous parts of scripture and tenaciously and honestly prayed to God for relief from the old man and his ways (or woman for you sisters out there) and it didn’t make one bit of difference. Oh, there were “cleaner seasons” of my faith and Christian experience but the central issues of the heart, the lusts the covetousness the bitterness and the jealousies were still there waiting for the opportunity to breakthrough in my life and wreak havoc. Why? Why do so many Christians and I have spoken with hundreds at this point in 40 years of faith report similar experiences?
Because they as well as I lacked power. We believed the lie that had become Christian intellectualism and thought we could release ourselves from the old way of life thorough our own efforts. It just looked really good because now it was package with Bible reading, prayer, acts of service, diligence and perseverance, or ‘cookie cutter Christianity.” Isn’t it interesting, the Pharisees and the religious rulers who crucified Jesus were supreme masters of prayer, of fasting, of Bible memorization and acts of service yet Jesus when describing them, used terms like “whitewashed tombs.”
Don’t misunderstand me, all those things are good to practice in your faith and they are assumed by Jesus to be part of our walk with Him, but none of those can access or provide the type of power Jesus was describing in Acts chapter 1. Nor can we presume upon ourselves to take from Jesus hands his ministry of baptizing us with the Holy Spirit which he said he would do (not us) and take from the sovereign God a supernatural ministry meant to address a supernatural problem, (our old life) and engage in a supernatural mission! (being his witnesses).
I’m betting there are a lot of you reading this at this point saying, “that’s me!” or “how come I never heard this before?” Trust me friend, the enemy has his tentacles deep in the realm of Christian intellectualism. Do you want to be free? Do you want to start living the type of freedom you know Jesus promised?
Jesus said something remarkable to his disciples, (that’s right to his disciples not the unsaved) in Luke chapter 11. “I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Traditionally, we are taught this message is about prayer and yes prayer is an important take away here, but prayer is not the focus and it’s not the object of the passage. The focus in on the final sentence. Our asking, our seeking, and our knocking results in the Holy Spirit being given. Remember this is being said to disciples, believers already, the disciple’s salvation wasn’t at stake. Why would Jesus say this? Because their relationship with him was not equipped without the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit. They had a lot of knowledge ministering with Jesus at this point and a lot of experience but that wasn’t enough for the task at hand. Whether or not you want to argue the point is irrelevant. There is no such thing as a relationship with Jesus without a relationship with the Holy Spirit. It’s just for most Christians a matter of degree. Because they insist the Spirit is obtained and developed through their spiritual disciplines they never experience the true power available to them. They never find a ministry, they never experience a “call,” and they resign themselves to dull mediocre lives. Do you really think Christian, your spiritual disciplines cultivates the person of the Holy Spirit?
So what now? Either you’ve been convinced or not, is really the question and between you and Jesus, and ultimately the Holy Spirit. I would recommend this, if you cannot remember a time you specifically asked Jesus to fill you, to baptize you, or fill you with His Holy Spirit, let me suggest you do it now. You may or may not have some supernatural experience associated with this request. That is between you and God. However, if you’re asking for the Holy Spirit to indwell and fill you and something transpires don’t let some Christian intellectual tell you it’s demonic or a Christian psychologist tell you it is simply the power of suggestion. How ridiculous, if you ask for a fish is Jesus going to send you a scorpion? If your unconvinced or confused as a result of this reading go back over the scriptures at the beginning of this exhortation and ask the Holy Spirit, not your pastor, not your elder not even your best friend to help you discern truth that’s accurate. Just don’t tell yourself Jesus doesn’t baptize and anoint us with His Spirit. The Bible makes it clear he does. It’s also clear it appears to be a supernatural occurrence initiated by Him responding to our seeking, asking and knocking. Jesus equips those that are his and protects the interests of His bride, the church. Then if you should ask Jesus to do this for you, believe in Jesus faithfulness keep His promises. Then you might want to consider being involved with like-minded believers. You can however take all you’ve read and place it on the “informational knowledge shelf” of Christian intellectualism and return to living the frustrated life of repeating the attitudes and behaviors of the old nature. Let me tell you something…Jesus died for more than that. I took the leap myself several years ago when God responded to asking, seeking and knocking and it was the best decision I ever made. It also enabled me to part with the frustrating bondage of the “old life.”
JP Grier M.S. Counseling, M.C.M. Pastoral Counseling
JP Grier is the founder and writer and Sentinel For Christ – A network of Christians helping each other to press deeper in Christ.