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Powerful Intimacy (LifeLift #10)

lifelift podcast Mar 31, 2020

I understand if the previous talk caught you off guard. So before going forward, let’s step back and see just how “in line” the things I communicated to you are.

Here’s how I propose to achieve that: In seminary I learned a deliberate and “safe” process of studying Scripture. I was taught to do the following, especially when approaching new ideas:

  • First, read the text for yourself and determine what you think and feel the Holy Spirit reveals. That’s really what I did in the previous chapter. I told you what I think the Bible says. 
  • Second, read other commentaries to see what the Holy Spirit has already taught others. A wise professor explained that God wasn’t likely going to give me— or any other student in the class— some “new thing” that 2,000 years of the brightest and most devout Christians missed. The prof encouraged each of us to read numerous Christian authors we respected— from a variety of denominational backgrounds— so as not to fall into one theological box. This is exactly what I want to do in the first few pages of this chapter.

This is the same process of exploration I took in studying the the baptism of the Holy Spirit several years ago. Actually, I went one step further. As a young pastor who found himself preaching verse-by-verse through 1 Corinthians and Acts over the course of about a one year period, I continued bumping into each of the verses you and I just worked through in talk 9 of this series. 

After realizing that my experience didn’t match with what’s taught— and done— throughout the pages of Scripture, I leaned in deeper—  just like I was taught in graduate school. And, I began reading outside the Biblical text, exploring what others already said. 

Then— this was the additional step— I sat face-to-face and listened to pastors throughout my city with different backgrounds speak to me about those Scriptures and their relationship with the Holy Spirit. These were all devout men, steeped in Scripture and fervent in heart for Jesus.

 

The bigger picture

I was actually shocked by what I found. I assumed I’d find a lot of disagreement. After all, when I was younger I kinda freaked anytime I saw people raising their hands in worship. The topic of the Holy Spirit always made me nervous, particularly as I heard so many people talk about Him in ways they themselves couldn’t find in Scripture.

If I was like the disciples in Ephesus who conceded, “We’ve never heard of the Holy Spirit,” then some of the people who made me anxious were the ones of whom I might judge, “They don’t seem to have ever heard of the Bible…”

But, get this, I found massive areas of agreement on the topic. 

Here is what I discovered…

Bill Bright (1921-2003), the now-deceased founder of Campus Crusade and the powerhouse behind the Jesus Film, was responsible for taking the Gospel to six billion people during his lifetime. He wrote two popular tracts during his ministry. The first, The Four Spiritual Laws, leads people in a salvation-conversion experience. I’d been trained with other people in our Southern Baptist church to lead people to faith in Jesus using this little pale orange booklet.

He also published a blue pamphlet, a companion volume titledThe Spirit-filled Life, to lead people into a new intimacy with the Holy Spirit— much like we’ve described from the Book of Acts. Bright wrote— 

We cannot successfully live the Christian life in our own strength; the Father has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us; we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

He made a point upon which we can all agree: we desperately need the Spirit’s filling.

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was another author I saw sitting on numerous Baptist pastors’ shelves. His devotional books were also  featured predominantly at Lifeway (formerly known as the Baptist Bookstore), which meant—in my mind— I could trust him. In his book Experiencing the Holy Spirit, he wrote:  

This book brings a simple but solemn message. The one thing needed for the Church in its search for spiritual excellence is to be filled with the Spirit of God. 

In order to secure attention to this message and attract the hearts of my readers to its blessing, I have laid particular emphasis on certain main points:

1. The will of God for every one of His children is that they live entirely and unceasingly under the control of the Holy Spirit.

2. Without being filled with the Spirit, it is impossible for an individual Christian or a church to ever live or work as God desires.

3. In the life and experience of Christians, this blessing is little used and little searched for.

4. God waits to give us this blessing, and in our faith we may expect it with the greatest confidence...

Notably, Murray is quoted at length by Baptist and Presbyterian groups, as he spent time in Scotland, where both denominations have deep roots. However, Murray rejected the steep rationalism that dominated the churches throughout his home country of the Netherlands. His parents were missionaries to South Africa, and Murray felt missions was the “chief end of the church.” Of course, mere reasoning wouldn’t achieve the task. The church needed the empowerment of the Spirit. 

Notice what he says in the same work referenced above. He made a distinction between knowing about the Holy Spirit and living with an ongoing encounter like the disciples nurtured throughout Scripture. He encouraged the second. And, as to the fourth, he said God wants to  send us the blessing.

Murray also penned, 

It is my desire to bring to the children of God the message that there is a two-fold Christian life. The one is that in which we experience something of the operations of the Holy Spirit, just as many did under the old covenant, but we do not yet receive Him as the Pentecostal Spirit, as the personal indwelling Guest. 

On the other hand, there is a more abundant life, in which the indwelling just referred to is known and experienced. When Christians come to fully understand the distinction between these two conditions, they will find the will of God concerning them...

There are two ways in which the Holy Spirit works in us. 

The first is the preparatory operation in which He simply acts on us but does not yet take up His abode within us, though leading us to conversion and faith by urging us to all that is good and holy. 

The second is the higher and more advanced phase of His working when we receive Him as an abiding gift, as an indwelling Person who assumes responsibility for our whole inner being. This is the ideal of the full Christian life. 

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was another popular theologian, pastor, and writer whom I trusted. He was ordained through the Presbyterian Church of America, and had numerous popular books. He determined that, according to the Book of Acts,

1. People were believers and thus born of the Spirit prior to their baptism of the Holy Spirit. This indicates that there must be a distinction between the Spirit’s work of regeneration and the Spirit’s work in baptizing.

2. There is a time gap between faith (regeneration) and Holy Spirit baptism. This clearly indicates that while some Christians have the Holy Spirit to the degree that they are regenerate, they may still lack the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is subsequent.

Notice that he wrote exactly what we saw from the stories in Acts that we reviewed in talk 9 of this series. He continues,

When we consider the current debate about the baptism of the Holy Spirit between advocates of Neo-Pentecostal theology and advocates of traditional theology, we see that there is no significant argument concerning Point 1. Virtually all Christian denominations have agreed that there is a vast difference between the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration (though all do not fully agree on the understanding of regeneration) and the Holy Spirit’s work of baptism. 

That is, though difference abides in the understanding of regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, there is agreement that whatever each entails, each is different from the other.

I love the sincerity he expressed in the final sentence. He acknowledged that we may disagree on what to label the experience and we may disagree as to what exactly happens, but there is something “more” apart from salvation. 

Billy Graham (1918-2018), in his 300-page work entitled The Holy Spirit, made a great analogy which provides us with more insight—  

Our home is supplied by a reservoir fed by two mountain springs. These two springs on the mountain above the house, according to the mountain people who lived here before we did, never fluctuate. Rainy season or dry, they remain the same. We draw on the water as we need it, and the springs continually flowing into the reservoir keep it filled to overflowing. This is literally what it means to “be being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

All Christians are committed to be filled with the Spirit. Anything short of the Spirit-filled life is less than God’s plan for each believer. 

Notice that the great American preacher said that our encounter with the Holy Spirit is to be ongoing. That is, it’s not a “one and done” at salvation type of experience. He continued… 

What does the Bible mean when it speaks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit? 

Let’s define the fullness of the Spirit. To be Spirit-filled is to be controlled or dominated by the Spirit’s presence and power....

I think it is proper to say that anyone who is not Spirit-filled is a defective Christian. Paul’s command to the Ephesian Christians, “Be filled with the Spirit,” is binding on all of us Christians everywhere in every age. There are no exceptions. 

We must conclude that since we are ordered to be filled with the Spirit, we are sinning if we are not filled. And our failure to be filled with the Spirit constitutes one of the greatest sins against the Holy Spirit.

Of course, those are just a few authors from various perspectives I have tried to pull together.  

 

Both-and, not either-or

In his very helpful book The Word and Power Church, Doug Banister presents this idea from a historical point of view. In that text, Banister pulls together the best from the word-head traditions and the best from the experience-heart traditions. By his own admission, he was raised in a word-head tradition, in a denomination where the study of Scripture was primary and experience-heart wasn’t trusted. Or, to say it another way, he was initially more like the early Apollos— not the early Paul. 

He concluded that we need both; we need the word-head and we need experience-heart. He calls the melding of these two the “word and power” church, one that’s rich in Scripture and full of the power of the Holy Spirit. He argues we need both the Word (head) and the Spirit (heart, power).

He writes, 

I am convinced that the great majority of middle-of-the-road evangelicals and charismatics basically believe the same thing about the work of the Spirit. We merely use different words to describe how the Spirit works in our lives...

He continues, 

Can the Holy Spirit encounter us in a powerful way after salvation? Of course He can. Do we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis? Of course we do. Word and power churches seek both kinds of experiences. 

Banister recounts how he was extremely suspicious of secondary works, deeper works, second blessings, anything subsequent— certainly anything labeled a “baptism” that didn’t happen in a pool of water.

He went further than I did in my journey, though. Whereas I grabbed a few resources from trusted sources and then spoke to a group of pastors, Bannister decided to consult Church history to see what saints wrote over the past 2,000 years on the subject. Although they all used different terms to describe their encounters he found the following sampling.

North Africa, third century. The theologian Tertullian teaches that the Holy Spirit is received after conversion through prayer and the laying on of hands.

Asia, tenth century. Symeon the New Theologian describes, in the third person, his encounter with the Holy Spirit. “One day... a flood of Divine radiance appeared from above and filled the room....” he says. “He was wounded by love and desire for [God]... Oblivious of all the world he was filled with tears and ineffable joy and gladness.”

Italy, fifteenth century. Savonrola, a monk with a heart to reform the Church, begins preaching stirring messages on the coming judgment of God. Few respond. Then one day, while speaking with a nun, he has a vision. From that moment on, his biographer tells us, “he was filled with new unction and power. His preaching was now with a voice of thunder, and his denunciation of sin so terrific that the people who listened to him sometimes went about the streets half-dazed.”

England, sixteenth century. The Puritans teach the doctrine of the sealing of the Spirit as a distinct work that happens after conversion. Puritan divine Thomas Goodwin writes in his commentary on Ephesians 1:13, “The work of faith is a distinct thing, a different thing from the work of assurance.” Goodwin describes this second work as “the electing love of God brought home to the soul.”

Throughout modern history there are others who claim to have experienced something secondary, too:

England, eighteenth century. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, teaches that every believer should expect two distinct experiences in their sanctification. He calls the second experience a “second blessing.”

England, nineteenth century. The Higher Life Movement grows rapidly, made popular by the Keswick conventions of the 1870s. Leading Bible teachers such as R.A. Torrey, D.L. Moody, Andrew Murray, and F.B. Meyer teach that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a secondary crisis experience empowering the believer for service. Torrey, who was Moody’s disciple, writes in his book The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, “This is the work of the Holy Spirit separate and distinct from his regenerating work.”

Chicago, nineteenth century. The evangelist Dwight Moody, who founded Moody Bible Church and Moody Bible Institute, writes two months before his death in 1899, “There are two epochs in my life that stand out clear. One is when I was between 18 and 19 years old, when I was born of the Spirit... the greatest blessing, next to being born again, came 16 years after, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit...

    • England, twentieth century. Perhaps the most surprising spokesman for a second-work teaching is the great British preacher D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones, who served London’s Westminster Chapel for twenty-five years, has had a major influence on evangelicals. Yet Lloyd-Jones saw in the Scriptures a baptism in the Holy Spirit that was distinct from conversion. He writes, “You can be regenerate, a child of God, a true believer, and still not have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

Clearly, seeking this secondary intimacy with the Holy Spirit is a mainstream idea— particularly when we get down to the core of why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit.

In other words, many people in Christendom have been wrestling with these ideas for centuries– but no one is talking about them, perhaps for fear of:

  • Being misunderstood
  • Being labeled in the wrong way, or
  • Wanting to be certain not to err theologically and Biblically

 

What does it all matter?

There are several reasons why the Holy Spirit is important to the Christian life. It is not primarily about an “experience” or even about “speaking in tongues.” Rather, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit provides:

  1. Greater focus on Jesus
  2. Power for witness
  3. Increased intimacy with the Lord

Let’s briefly review each of these. 

First, the Holy Spirit provides us with a greater focus on Jesus— not an increased focus on the Holy Spirit. In other words, if you visit a church and they emphasize the Holy Spirit over and above Jesus, they’ve gotten it backwards.

  • Jesus always reveals the Father.
  • The Spirit always highlights Jesus.

John the Baptist said Jesus is the baptizer of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33, Luke 3:16). Jesus confirmed this. He told the disciples that when He went away He would send the Spirit (John 14:16f., John 16:5, Acts 1:5). It's the Ascension (Jesus taking His throne) that makes this possible, according to Peter (Acts 2:33). In other words, in the same way that Jesus’ work makes salvation possible, so also does His work make the gift of the Holy Spirit possible. 

Furthermore, the first reason Jesus sent the Holy Spirit was to replace His presence with them. He would no longer be physically near them, and promised not to leave them orphaned (John 16:6-8). This Spirit would teach and lead them in the same way Jesus had done (John 16:12-15). In lieu of Jesus, the Spirit would be the presence of God with them. 

The Holy Spirit became one with them and becomes one with us (1 Corinthians 6:17-19). Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of the Holy Spirit has been poured in our hearts (NIV, emphasis added):

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The word used for poured out is the same word in the Greek language used of a cascading waterfall. This is the extent to which God lavishes Himself upon us— an unending tidal wave.

The Spirit transforms us from the inside out, planting seeds which grow into the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). As we begin living from the presence of Christ in us, our character and countenance look more and more like His.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t just give you gifts; the Holy Spirit also comes to make you feel the intense love of Christ. Jesus is the focus. And, we reveal His character more and more, as well live the reflection we see “in the mirror.”

 

Power for witness 

Second, the Holy Spirit provides increased power for witness. The Holy Spirit was— and is— given by Jesus in order to empower His people to preach and do miracles so that people are saved (see Acts 2:38f.).

As the Spirit is poured out after Jesus ascends His throne, this Holy Spirit baptism is literally the empowerment of an enthroned King giving tools and resources to His people in order to assist them in fulfilling His orders.

I realize the word baptism is a scary one— particularly because it’s been misused so often. However, it’s a great word for what happens when we encounter the Spirit in this way.

Think about water baptism with me for a moment…

When someone emerges from the baptismal pool, they’re drenched. There’s not only an internal change; something’s different externally. Unless they dry off, anyone who comes in contact with them will get wet.  

The same is true of this subsequent encounter with the Holy Spirit. When someone comes in contact with a person who has experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they should immediately sense the Holy Spirit— just as you would feel water on someone who steps from a pool. Again, there’s an external change. 

Think about the examples we’ve seen throughout our study:

  • Peter transformed from a weak man who denied Christ to a teenage servant girl into a bold preacher who led the apostles in the Upper Room prayer meeting and then proclaimed the Gospel such that 3,000 people were saved (compare Luke 22:54f. with Acts 1:15 and Acts 2:14).
  • Paul, after his encounter, grew “more and more powerful” (Acts 9:22).

The miracles and healings all became such a significant part of the declaration of the Gospel that people in the world took notice: 

  • They said that the “gods” had come down to them (Acts 14:11) after the healing of a crippled man.
  • They said that their world had been turned upside down (Acts 17:6).
  • God did such extraordinary miracles that people were being healed by passing shadows and handkerchiefs (Acts 5:15, 19:11f.).

One pastor writes, “It’s too easy to reduce Jesus’ teaching to what is humanly possible.” However, Scripture doesn’t allow us to do that. 

When the subsequent encounter(s) occurs, the Holy Spirit moves on the person. Something external happens. No longer is Christ simply in us, He moves through us to touch the world. He is now on us. 

People don’t just see an image of Him; they encounter Him living and serving among them, particularly as we not only do what He would do but we would do it how He would do it. With love. With power. This happens powerfully as the gifts of the Spirit are expressed through us.

The following chart will help you “compartmentalize” the material above we’ve just covered.

Increased intimacy 

Third, finally, the Holy Spirit provides us with increased intimacy with the Lord.  That is, we experience a heightened awareness of the Lord’s acute nearness. 

Go back to Acts 1 with me. Before the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the disciples cast lots in the Upper Room to determine who the next apostle will be (Acts 1:26). This was not because they were “random” or “happenstance” in their selection as an act of fairness— like the coin toss at the beginning of a football game. Rather, this was the exact method historically used to select the priesthood, as well as people who would be set apart for special tasks (i.e., see Zechariah in Luke 1:9).

After the baptism of the Holy Spirit (again, this is after the baptism— they already had the “conversion encounter” in the Upper Room), they no longer cast lots. In fact, we never see lots cast again throughout the New Testament. Rather, the Holy Spirit simply speaks to them as we speak to friends. 

Here are a few examples:

  • The Lord tells Ananias to go minister to Paul (Acts 9:10)
  • Peter is given instruction to go to Cornelius’ home (Acts 10:13)
  • The Lord tells the Church which leaders He wants them to send on a mission trip (Acts 13:2)

 

Let’s review

Here’s what we’ve discussed so far in past few episodes. We first took a cue from 2 Timothy 1:7, where Paul encouraged his son in the faith that God had given him a spirit of power, love, and self-control— those three traits.

We’ve reviewed the first two, love and power… 

  • In talk 7 we discussed love as the context for everything we do— and noted that perfect love expels fear.
  • In talk 8 we talked about the Holy Spirit— and how the Spirit brings power from Jesus in order for us to express Christ’s presence in the world.
  • In talk 9 we looked at that notion even more, specifically as we evaluated each of the instances of the baptism of the Spirit throughout Acts.  The single consistent factor we found is that the Spirit always exalts Jesus and empowers the church to witness on His behalf. He does this via the spiritual gifts, which will be our over-arching theme in few more episodes.
  • In this talk, we reiterated the ideas above. We decided that baptism isn’t a bad word for what the Spirit does. In fact, it’s a great metaphor, even if people have misused the term. We concluded that the Spirit also brings an element of intimacy and oneness whenever He comes.

I provided you with one graphic related to salvation and another related to subsequent encounter(s). I used encounters in the plural sense, since we’re called to an ongoing relationship with the Spirit, one in which we progressively experience more and more of the Lord’s presence. Here’s a combo of the two, illustrating the work of the Spirit in your life.

In the next talk we’re going to address the third and final element Paul mentioned to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, self-control. You see, disciples who truly know the Lord aren’t governed by their emotions. Nor or they controlled by the whims— or wind— of the moment. They live in close relationship with the Lord, and they understand the high regard placed on Scripture…

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