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

What does it take to be endowed with the Spirit of God? In the July issue, we explored four of the seven conditions for the reception of the Spirit, as revealed in the New Testament: repentance, implicit trust, obedience, and a burden for the lost. We will address the last three conditions in this article: persistent intercession, honoring the body temple, and letting Christ abide in your heart. . .

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

What does it take to be endowed with the Spirit of God? In the July issue, we explored four of the seven conditions for the reception of the Spirit, as revealed in the New Testament: repentance, implicit trust, obedience, and a burden for the lost. We will address the last three conditions in this article: persistent intercession, honoring the body temple, and letting Christ abide in your heart.

Persistent intercession

The story Jesus told about the importunate neighbor illustrates persistent intercession. “ ‘I tell you, even though [the neighbor] will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; . . . for everyone who asks, receives. . . . 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 11:8–10, 13).2

The word persistence or importunity is milder than the original Greek word, anaideia. The translation could well be “shamelessness” or “gall.”3 God, of course, is not at all reluctant to give us the Spirit. The question is, Are we so eager to have Him that we will not accept “no” for an answer and will not leave His presence until the door is open? If an irritated person responds to boldness, we can be bold with the Gracious One.

Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian, who suffered much persecution because she and her family helped hundreds of Jews escape the Nazis during World War II, became one of the most ardent proclaimers of God’s grace and forgiveness across Europe. Her gripping story was immortalized in the book The Hiding Place. After the war, she kept busy in various ministries, including helping a fellow Dutch, Brother Andrew, smuggle Bibles and Christian literature beyond Communist borders. At times, it seemed impossible to get the job done due to government restrictions, suspicions, and a myriad of whistle-blowers. The lives of those involved in this ministry were in constant danger. But their burden was getting God’s Word into the hands of those who knew nothing of the God of heaven.

When every door seemed shut, Brother Andrew, Corrie ten Boom, and other leaders would get together to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), convinced the Lord would break through the situation. Witnesses tell of Corrie’s boldness before the Lord. “Lord, You must do something!” she would pray. “There is no time to waste.” Then, like a lawyer at a trial, she would quote God’s Word back to Him, finding the exact passage, and arguing that on the basis of His Word, He needed to respond! With her Bible up in the air, she would cry, “Here, Lord, read it Yourself!”4

This shows no disrespect before a holy God. This is confidence in a holy God. “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), because God is immensely pleased when we put our entire weight of trust in Him (11:6). Martyn Lloyd-Jones, writing on the burden of prayer, says, “You will find this same holy boldness, . . . this putting the case to God, pleading His own promises. Oh, that is the whole secret of prayer, I sometimes think. . . . Do not leave Him alone. Pester Him, as it were, with His own promises. Tell Him what He said He is going to do. Quote the Scripture to Him. . . . It pleases Him. . . . God is our Father, and He loves us, and He likes to hear us pleading His own promises, quoting His own words to Him, and saying, ‘In light of this, can You refrain?’ It delights the heart of God.”5

If you genuinely desire to be filled with God to overflowing, ask and keep on asking, until this happens. And then continue asking for the inexhaustible riches of heaven. God never runs out of grace. He does not need persuasion on our part for Him to grant us everything He already promised; we need to keep praying in order to realize ourselves how important this actually is for our lives. Our hearts need persuasion by insistence.

Honor the body temple

The sixth condition found in the New Testament for the endowment of the Holy Spirit is to honor our bodies as God’s temple. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).

Throughout history, various philosophies and ideas led religious, or otherwise respected people, to consider the human body as solely for pleasure. The Epicureans, for instance, during the time of the apostles (Acts 17:18), believed that the greatest good was the prudent pursuit of pleasure and the absence of pain. Although this appears harmless, and it preached against excesses, the focus was on what made a person feel good. The philosophy’s extreme was some form of hedonism, which taught, unabashedly, that the pursuit of the highest pleasure for the body was the highest good. Hedonists gave themselves to sexual pleasure for that reason.

Today, in the name of individual human rights, people, especially in Western societies, feel very protective of their right to do whatever they wish with their bodies. Thus, no one is to criticize cohabitation, extra marital sex, or even the most hideous and wicked types of freedom of expression readily accessible on the Internet. Pleasure rules. This attitude is also fueled by a belief in dualism: the idea that the physical realm is distinct and separate from the spiritual. But research has clearly established that whatever happens to our bodies deeply affects our minds and spirits.6

The Bible clearly teaches that our bodies are the temple, the residence, of the Holy Spirit. Hence we need to glorify God with our bodies if we want the Spirit to abide there (1 Cor. 10:31). This is also part of the Adventist message to the world: “ ‘Fear God, and give Him glory’ ” (Rev. 14:7). The Holy Spirit even affects our bodies physically. “The Holy Spirit . . . will renew every organ of the body that God’s servants may work acceptably and successfully. Vitality increases under the influence of the Spirit’s action.”7

If we want the Holy Spirit, if we wish to make room for God in our lives, we simply cannot treat our bodies any way we wish. “For if you are living according to the flesh,” Paul reminds us, “you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). We cannot eat what and when we please, use and abuse our bodies, work until we drop, without that affecting our ability to perceive the love and will of God for our lives. If we prosper in health, our souls will prosper (1 John 3:2).

Thus, personal choices affecting our physical health will always impact our spiritual health.

Let Christ abide in the heart

The seventh and last condition found in the New Testament for the endowment of the Holy Spirit is to let Christ abide in our hearts. If we are to have Jesus, we must have the Spirit. Since the ministry of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14), having the Spirit means having the very image of God reproduced in us. “We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24).

If we have no desire for Christ to abide in our hearts, then nothing else about the Christian life makes any sense. It is Christ in our lives that really matters. This is why He is ministering for us in the heavenly sanctuary, and why the Spirit ministers to us here on earth. And if you find your heart does not want Christ to abide in your life right now, but you would like for that to change, do not despair. God always knows of our reluctance to accept Him wholeheartedly. Go to your knees time and again, and simply ask Him to give you a desire to have Jesus in your life on a permanent basis. Do so until it happens. You have not seen miracles until you have seen what God can do with this sincere request from the heart.

Many years ago, while I was still pastoring in California, a certain woman once came to our church. Like oil on water, she instantly repelled people away. A former Adventist, she chain-smoked, swore, practiced an immoral lifestyle, and was demon-possessed. She looked twenty years older than her biological age, had no friends, and kept moving from place to place because no one ever opened their doors to her. I was young and did not know any better than to listen to her and try to see if God’s Word could break through that poor soul. Eventually, I became her only friend.

In those days, the Lord was doing a very important spiritual work in my and my wife’s hearts, and we were growing to love Him and seek His face with relish. One day, the church office got a call from this sister, asking the pastor or someone to come to her home. It was urgent. My secretary and I phoned several church leaders to see if any would be willing to come with me. I knew better than to go alone. However, there was no one to be found. With a prayer, I decided to go by myself.

The place was very dark, one or two candles barely flickering. She asked me not to turn on the lights. A voice came out: a guttural, basso, hellish voice that makes your hair stand on end. That was no human voice. This was not my first experience encountering evil spirits, but it was no less nerve-wracking. I knew better than to pronounce some “scriptural incantation,” recognizing there are many factors at work in cases like these. She said little, while she smoked in the dark. I could not see her face, for which I was actually thankful. Not knowing exactly what to do, I opened God’s Word and read a few passages, which she mocked with disdain. I asked questions she did not answer. After some time passed, I offered a simple, earnest prayer for forgiveness from sin, deliverance from evil, and the grace and peace of our Lord in her heart.

The visit ended without major incident—at least until I reached my van. As soon as I got in, the floodgates opened wide. I cried like a baby for this poor, wretched soul, a prisoner of Satan, who deep down wanted out and did not know how. I told the Lord I would be willing to trade my life for hers. For 30-plus years it had been my privilege to know Him, and He had been so gracious and kind and patient with me, but this woman was worse than dead. I begged Jesus to give her the same joy I had, even if it meant my life, and to flood her with His love.

Except for one time when the life of Alex, one of our sons, was threatened as a baby, I had never willingly yielded my life on behalf of another. You have to understand that selfishness, self-centeredness, has been my god for the bulk of my life. And the love I had for that woman that day was not natural to me. It was the love of Christ working in and through me. Paul reminds us: “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

That was a Spirit moment. Shortly after this incident, she disappeared and we never heard from her again. But perhaps one day soon, when we all stand on the sea of glass, a woman, whom we will hardly recognize, will approach us, and say, “Jesus delivered me from sin and death, and I am here today because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, ever.”


FOOTNOTES

1. Adapted from the author’s Adventism’s Greatest Need: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2011).

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

3. See Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980), 789; William D. Mounce, ed., Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1081.

4. Brother Andrew and Susan DeVore Williams, And God Changed His Mind (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1990), 88, 89.

5. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books,1987), 81.

6. Neil Nedley, MD, David DeRose, MD, eds., Proof Positive: How to Reliably Combat Disease and Achieve Optimal Health Through Nutrition and Lifestyle (Ardmore, OK: Neil Nedley, MD, 1999), 1–9.

7. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, January 14, 1902, par. 8; see also Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1963), 12.


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

September 2011

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