The Spirit in your life: conditions for endowment part 1

The Spirit in your life: conditions for endowment (part 1 of 2)*

As a young man, I attended a charismatic church service on the outskirts of town. Being raised in a conservative Protestant denomination, I suspected the experience would be quite different than my usual fare, but I was ready for a new adventure. . .

-director of the North American Division Evangelism Institute, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

As a young man, I attended a charismatic church service on the outskirts of town. Being raised in a conservative Protestant denomination, I suspected the experience would be quite different than my usual fare, but I was ready for a new adventure.

The service was very loud and free-flowing. It looked disorderly to me, bordering on the sacrilegious. I reminded myself I was there to observe and learn, and not criticize. Folks all over the small sanctuary prayed fervently for the Holy Spirit. Some stood, some walked excitedly about, some sat, and some laid on the floor. Some spoke in other tongues. The worship leader was the loudest, while moving from one person to another placing one hand on them, or striking them gently, while holding the Bible with the other. Eventually, quiet resumed, we sang a song, and I left with many questions in my mind.

Years later, I had the opportunity to do serious personal and academic study on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. There is a great hunger in the Christian world for the reception and power of the Spirit. Today, the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is in its third wave, or stage,2 and has over 600 million adherents worldwide. In barely a century it has grown at a faster rate than even the early New Testament church. Practically 90 percent of the growth of the Christian church in the Third World today is found in charismatic or Pentecostal churches.

A number of important questions arise in respect to the charismatic movement, such as when does the Spirit come, or how does He manifest Himself in the believer? But the question I would like to consider is this: What are the conditions found in the Bible for the reception of the Spirit? Although the list may vary in number, I have found seven significant conditions in the New Testament—four of which we will discuss in this issue.

Repentance

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37, 38).3

Repentance is first because without it, no other conditions would matter, even if thoroughly met. The word in biblical usage implies “a radical, moral turn of the whole person from sin and to God.”4 This is not simply changing our minds about the direction we are going, a common understanding by many Christians, but a radical departure from who we are and what we do. It is not the eight-year-old boy kneeling with his mother before going to bed, praying, “And forgive me for all my sins,” without a notion of what they are. The context from Peter’s sermon is clear: they needed to repent from the act of rejecting and crucifying the Savior (vv. 22, 23)! This is repentance from unbelief in what Jesus is capable of doing for us, the reason for Jesus’ preaching: “ ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mark 1:15). The repentance alluded here means a total taking in of who we are in view of who Jesus is, of His long-suffering towards us, and His great love in spite of our great sin.

The Bible tells us what will produce repentance leading to life: exposure to God’s character of love and goodness. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4). This is why it is simply imperative that we look for Jesus every day. We must sit at His feet and contemplate His love and goodness toward us. This and only this will bring about genuine repentance, the kind leading a person to surrender all. The kind that makes you give up yourself in the arms of God, knowing full well you deserve nothing of what He did for you. You are then absolutely reduced to nothing before such love.

A number of years ago, while teaching at a Christian university, I went to my office very early in the morning to do some research. My eyes casually stumbled on a paragraph from a well-known nineteenth-century classic on the life of Christ, The Desire of Ages. It spoke of Jesus’ sacrifice for me. It spoke of Christ being brutally abused for me: His head, His hands, His feet. It articulated the “unutterable anguish” that filled Christ’s soul at “the hiding of His Father’s face” because of my sin. And then, in a crescendo of painful reality, it pointed its literary finger at me: “It is for thee that the Son of God consents to bear this burden of guilt; for thee He spoils the domain of death, and opens the gates of Paradise.”5

I could not finish reading it. I started weeping right then and there. I tried to finish reading the paragraph but I could no longer see. My eyes turned into rivers of pain, sorrow, mixed with relief. I dropped to my knees, reduced to a violent heaving that would not stop. I cried aloud, “Why, Lord, why would You love me so much? Who am I that You would give Yourself up for me?” I cried and cried that morning, until my tears ran dry. The love of my Savior, my Master and Lord, was presented to me in a way I had never fully grasped before. I had been a pastor and Bible teacher for years. I had grown up in the church, constantly exposed to the work of Christ on behalf of sinners. I led hundreds of people to the foot of the cross. I had read that passage a number of times before. But that morning, the windows of heaven opened with a flood of light on God’s grace I did not suspect coming. On that floor I stayed for the better part of an hour, weeping for having caused His death on my behalf, for living so long without fully appreciating what God had done for me, for wantonly sinning without taking a care of what sin does to Him. How could the God of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One to whom we owe everything, from our every breath to eternal life, yield His life, His all, for me!

As you would expect, my surrender to such love was nigh inevitable. My repentance ran deep because the love of God was deeply perceived. The Spirit of God invaded my heart that morning in ways hard to forget.

Implicit trust

We would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).

There is a difference between belief and trust. While trust is moving forward based on certain convictions, belief is simply intellectual assent. Someone may need to go to Wal-Mart at midnight, and believes the store should be open at that time. But her faith in that belief can only become trust once she gets in her car and drives there. The driving proves her trust. She is doing something about it.

In the Bible, faith is always trust, never mere intellectual assent. When my daughter was three years old, we were walking on a trail and I decided to put her up on a tree stump as high as my shoulders. Then, I said with my arms forward, “Stefani, put your arms out, don’t look behind you, and fall back without bending your knees, and Daddy will catch you!” She did it without a moment’s hesitation. She liked it so much she kept climbing back up the stump to do it again! That is trust.

Trust is a condition for the reception of God’s Spirit in our lives. So often people look for signs and wonders, for something powerful and supernatural that would indicate the Spirit has finally arrived. But we are to trust God that He will send the Spirit because He has promised, not because we feel something. Christians must remember that what defines their walk is faith, not sensory experience. It is holding on to what God says even when unable to perceive any external evidence of the fact.

Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, was a tutor in philosophy when he heard F. B. Meyer speak about the Holy Spirit. From that night on, he earnestly sought for the better part of four years the outpouring of the Spirit in his life. However, he felt frustrated because nothing extraordinary was happening. “I was getting very desperate,” he wrote, “I knew no one who had what I wanted.” Until one day, while reading Luke 11:13, he determined “to take God at His Word,” and then and there claimed the gift of the Spirit for himself.6

We receive the Spirit by faith, without the need to wait for any supernatural manifestation. So, as you meet the various conditions pointed out in Scripture, claim the promise of the Spirit in your life. Thank Jesus for giving you His Spirit, and for heaven’s willingness that you be filled to overflowing with His love, His power, and His grace. Then, get up from your knees, telling yourself that this day, the Spirit of Jesus is in control of your life, not because you feel it, but because He said so.

Obedience

“ ‘And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him’ ” (Acts 5:32).

In the Bible, faith and obedience go hand in hand. If you love God with all your heart, you will obey His commands because you trust Him. If you obey Jesus from your heart, this happens because you have come to know Him enough that you trust Him. “ ‘If anyone loves Me,’ ” said Jesus, “ ‘he will keep My word’ ” (John 14:23). “But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5, 6).

This obedience is not Pharisaic legalism—obedience in order to be saved or be blessed. This obedience comes from the heart, as a genuine desire to please God, to make His day.

Dwight L. Moody was converted in Chicago as a late teen, and led the largest Sunday School in the nation for many years. He was an excellent businessman, and had made considerable money over the years. But now his struggle was whether or not to give all to the Lord. On a trip to Ireland, he heard British evangelist Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God will do with, and for, and through, and in, and by, the man who is fully consecrated to Him.” Moody thought for just a moment, and then pledged: “By the grace of God, I will be that man.” He became the most effective American evangelist of the last half of the nineteenth century.

The Holy Spirit will be given to those who obey Him.

A burden to share

“ ‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’ ” (Luke 11:13).

In Luke 11 we find a fascinating story containing additional conditions for the reception of the Spirit. One morning the disciples found Jesus praying. They must have heard Him pray aloud because they were deeply impressed. Even though they had known to pray for some time, to them it was as if they had never learned how, so they asked Jesus, “ ‘Teach us to pray’ ” (Luke 11:1). Christ obliged them, and then illustrated the seriousness and intensity of the task with a story. A man arrives at his friend’s at midnight. His host, having no bread, asks the neighbor for three loaves. The neighbor refused because the hour is late, “ ‘ “the door ha[d] already been shut,” ’ ” and his children were in bed (v. 7). However, the man persisted in his request, and kept knocking. The man’s bold and persistent petitioning originated from his desire to satisfy the hunger of his traveling friend. The persistence finally paid off, and the man got his bread.

This may be an excellent gauge to evaluate our desire to be filled with the Spirit. Why do we want Him in our lives? Some want the Spirit to feel something wonderful, otherworldly, in their lives. Some wish the gift of the Spirit to become spiritual giants of some sort. But it is not until we ask for the Spirit in order to be a blessing to others that God will respond to us. If we have little interest in the salvation of others, if we have no burden for them to know our Savior and grow in Him, the coming of the Spirit in our lives will not make any sense. The Holy Spirit is all about leading people to Jesus. How could we have the Spirit while ignoring others’ greatest of all needs?

Evan Roberts, the man God used as a catalyst to start the great Welsh Revival of 1904, expressed such a burden this way: “I was filled with compassion for those who must bend at the judgment, and I wept . . . the salvation of the human soul was solemnly impressed upon me. I felt ablaze with a desire to go through the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Savior, and had it been possible, I was willing to pay God for doing so.”7 If we have such a burden for the lost, the Lord of glory will give of Himself without measure to those who ask.


REFERENCES

* 1. First of a two-part series, adapted from the author’s book: Adventism’s Greatest Need: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2011).

2. The First Wave began with the birth of modern Pentecostalism, when Agnes Ozman, a student at Charles Fox Parham’s Bible School, spoke in tongues as the result of an earnest schoolwide search for the Holy Spirit. The Second Wave—or neo-Charismatic movement—began with Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian minister who started speaking in tongues, in early 1960. This so-called neo- Charismatic movement impacted many mainline Protestant and some Catholic churches. The Third Wave began sometime in the 1980s, as evangelical churches sought supernatural manifestation of the Spirit such as speaking in tongues, miracles, and gifts of healing.

3. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture passages in this article are from the New American Standard Bible, updated edition.

4. William D. Mounce, ed., “Repent, Repentance,” in Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 580, 581.

5. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1940), 754, 755.

6. V. Raymond Edman, They Found the Secret (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1960, 1984), 33, 34.

7. Cited in Brian H. Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 1997), 152.


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-director of the North American Division Evangelism Institute, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

July 2011

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