WE NEED THE RELATIONSHIP!
DOING “GREATER THINGS” IN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
In our last session we saw clearly that Jesus did the amazing things He did (teaching, healing, miracles, casting out of demons, raising the dead) through and by the Power of the Holy Spirit who was Present in His life…and He declared that we would do even greater things than these!
Let’s see how all this works out in practice now…
Jesus returned to Heaven (Acts 1: 2) and told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were “baptised” in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1: 4-5). Do you get it? They weren’t able (or equipped) to fulfil their calling to “go into all the world” UNTIL they had been filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit – just like Jesus wasn’t ready to begin His public ministry until He had been baptised and the Spirit had descended on Him. There’s a clear “don’t you even try until that time…otherwise it will just end in tears”.
And then the Book of Acts goes on to describe the great things that the disciples did ONCE they were moving in the Power of the Holy Spirit. I love how the Book of Acts, written by Luke, opens:
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach
All that Jesus did while He lived on earth was just the beginning…now that the Holy Spirit had filled the disciples, He was going to do so, so much more – through them – through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
Yes…it’s that word “power” again. Listen to what Jesus said to the disciples before His ascension:
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 8)
The Presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit in our lives gives us the Power we need to be His witnesses. Without this Power…we can’t!
The rest of the Book of Acts is the account of the results of the outworking of the Power of the Holy Spirit: the world is turned upside down, the Gospel is preached across the Roman world, the sick are healed, the dead are raised, prison doors are opened, demons are cast out, shipwrecks are survived, snake bites fail to kill…it goes on and on and on…
…until you and me today. The same Holy Spirit. The same promises of Jesus. The same Presence, Person and Power of the Spirit…BUT, you say (and I say, I confess) “I don’t see these things happening in my life, or even in my nation…I hear about them happening ‘somewhere else’ every now and then, and I am told that in other countries – particularly the Third World – they are far more common, but I kinda wonder whether the Spirit has forgotten all about me…I struggle to just live a good life!” What’s going on? Or, maybe more pertinently…What’s NOT going on?
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON AND NOT A FORCE
Wiser people than me have said that the problem isn’t the Holy Spirit, the problem is me…and the relationship that I have with God.
If the Power of the Spirit were a “Star Wars” type “Force” then there wouldn’t be a problem – a little more practice, a little more gritting of the teeth and screwing up the eyes, and KERBANG! Out comes the power that zaps or heals all around me.
But, the Holy Spirit is NOT a “Force”…HE’S a PERSON – a person that you can embrace or push away, listen to or reject, live with or live without. You might have BIG expectations of your spouse…but if you fail to love her and spend time with her and thank her for all she does and keep turning up late in the evening, then you might find the dinner in your lap rather than in front of you!
In the same way, as we grow in relationship with the Spirit, as we walk with Him throughout each moment of our lives, as we listen to Him, talk to Him, learn from Him, delight in being with Him, then we will live in His Power. It’s meant to be a real mutual relationship – a real deep friendship. Can you move a Grand Piano on your own? Isn’t it best to ask your strong friend to help you? But what would be the result of your simply going up to a virtual stranger and saying “Heh you! Get over here and help me when I tell you!” I think that they’re going to reply somewhat along the following lines: “I don’t know you…I’m not being told by a complete stranger what I have to do – get away from me crazy person!” The Spirit isn’t a power we turn on or off, or a tool that we get out of a box when we need it. He is a Person…it’s all about relationship…
Therefore, there is a reciprocity between the relationship we have with God and the Power that we have to be able to rebuild the Church in our land.
A wise man has given an equation that many find really useful in understanding this principle of discovering the Power of the Holy Spirit. Now…like you, I am VERY wary of the idea of “do this and God will do that” kind-of approach to our life. But this one I do find very helpful…and it is:
INTIMACY + HOLINESS + FAITH → POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Let’s very simply break this one down and see whether it helps you too…
It really is a case of “know Jesus” or “no Jesus”…there’s no half-way house. If we are not intimate in our relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then why should we be surprised if we do not see the Power of the Spirit moving in our lives?
But when we KNOW Jesus, are in relationship with Him…THEN the Spirit will be moving in Power in and through us.
This is really what God wants – He longs to be in intimacy with us. He loves being with us and He loves it when we are listening to Him.
And how do we come to KNOW Jesus -with a real intimate relationship?
It begins with reading the Word and talking to others about Him…the more we do this, the more we get to know about Him.
Next, we really DO have to come back to “the heart of worship” – move away from our selfishness and acknowledge that “it’s all about You, all about You Jesus” as we say “I’m sorry LORD for the thing I’ve made it”.
Spending quality and quantity time with Him comes next: we do this through our “quiet times” – “waiting on Him” (by which we will renew our strength), talking with Him through prayer, just thinking about Him, and listening to His “still small voice” in the quietness of the space that we create to meet with Him. John Stott’s mantra of “an hour a day; a day a month, a week a year” to just go on a retreat with Him, cannot be poo pooed. There is no short cut here – it’s a marathon, it can be hard work, it’s time consuming in a world of busyness. But it’s going to pay dividends. When you know someone really well; when you are really close to them; then you are strong together – we all know this. It’s the same with the Spirit: we need to become really intimate with the Godhead – then we will be strong together – and the Power shall be released through us and for us.
But there’s something else REALLY IMPORTANT here…you see I can be in a wonderfully intimate relationship with my spouse but when it comes to help, advice, support and letting go, maybe I have a problem of “I don’t need your help here! I’ve got this!”. Maybe our problem is we have learnt to rely on no-one except ourselves. Maybe we think we can “do” and “solve” and “sort things out”….and like the perfect gentleman that He is, the Holy Spirit will stand back and not force Himself into where He is not wanted.
Yes – intimacy is part of the equation for seeing the Power of the Spirit in our lives.
He’s the HOLY Spirit, right?
It doesn’t matter how intimate your relationship might be with the one you love, but if you smell really bad, then they are going to back off you and advise you to go and get a bath first.
When Jesus hung on the cross, He cried out (Matthew 27: 46) –
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
Some take this to reflect the belief that, as Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, God just had to look away because He couldn’t look on sin.
Well, how can we expect the HOLY Spirit to be in us, on us and working through us with Power when we are living in our sin? He is crying out to us to repent and get our lives right and THEN He will be able to work with us in Power.
We’ve got to embrace our wonderful calling to be holy too:
- Set apart FROM the ways of the world – not living like the people without God. We say no to anger, greed, hatred, materialism, gossip and slander, lust and promiscuity. We look the same on the outside as all other people…but inside we are very different, and this is manifested in being…
- Set apart FOR the ways of God – living for Him, serving Him, dedicated to Him, doing all the things that we see Jesus doing. We say yes to being more like Jesus, spending more time with Him, being dedicated to speaking Good News, hope, peace, love, justice etc etc etc.
Yes – intimacy and Holiness are part of the equation for seeing the Power of the Spirit in our lives.
The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 11 and verse 6, when talking about the Heroes of the Bible declares –
without faith it is impossible to please God
When Jesus was in His hometown of Nazareth, we are told in Matthew 13: 58 that –
he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith
WOW! The Son of God, God-made-flesh, was unable to do many healings and miracles…because they just didn’t believe He could, they couldn’t get past the little boy who had grown up amongst them.
It’s actually very simple…in Third World countries we hear rumours of amazing miracles, fantastic healings, awesome deliverances from demons and jaw-dropping tales of people being raised from the dead. How come these are not happening here? Is it the Spirit’s fault? Or could it be that our westernised worldview based on science and reason finds it hard to believe that such things can take place – “surely there’s a rational and natural explanation for all these things?”.
There’s a key difference between “belief” and “faith” – they’re not interchangeable:
- “Belief” says that we hold a view about something: so, I believe that God is all-powerful.
- “Faith” says that I completely TRUST in God to do what is right: so, I KNOW that God can raise the dead but now I completely trust that He is going to do what is best – His Will be done – I’m just going to let go and let God “do His thing”.
Faith means that I say to the Holy Spirit: “I believe that You can do all things through me, more than I could ever imagine; I’m going to trust in You; I’m going to step out and risk in You – that what I’m hearing You say really does come from You; I’m going to just go for it – I know sometimes I’ll get it wrong – but I’m going to just Trust in Your leading”. Oh, the Holy Spirit just loves that kind of faith – and will work through us when He sees it.
Yes – Intimacy and Holiness and Faith are the equation for seeing the Power of the Spirit in our lives.
So…here’s the simple concluding challenge for us all:
Just how badly do YOU want the Power of the Holy Spirit to be working in you and through you and out of you?
If you do…then seek intimacy, holiness and faith – for the Holy Spirit is a Person and His Power will only be seen when we seek His Presence through relationship…me and Him.
It never ceases to amaze me that Almighty God, the creator of the Universe, longs for an intimate relationship with me…one of 8 billion people on this earth. Yet, He knows me, separately from all these teeming billions, and He wants the Presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit to live in me, and work through me in Power. He wants me to be with Him – now and forever. It is love so amazing and so divine that I have to keep coming back to the heart of worship, I have to keep on reminding myself that this is what He longs for. Am I going to keep on ignoring such a call? Are you?
He’s calling me and you to WAKE UP and come back to Him…
“Awaken”, says the LORD:
“You’ve forgotten who you are
My children, I AM with you,
Yet you stray ever afar!”
“Awaken”, says the LORD:
Why have you become so meek?
You were born to roar like lions,
Yet you cower there like sheep!”
“Awaken”, says the LORD:
“You were made for something great.
Stop deferring to the world
When there’s eternity at stake!”
“Awaken”, says the LORD:
“And your faith shall lead the way.
With your hands I build My Kingdom,
And the work begins today!”
A poem by Abby