The Power of the Spirit

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.

Judges 14:5-6

Samson was set apart from birth. The angel of the Lord came to his mother and father and directed them regarding how to consecrate themselves and the baby to the Lord. Samson was set apart with a Nazarite vow from the time of his conception. God had a calling on his life as one who would begin to deliver the people of Israel from the oppressive rule of the Philistines.

This kind of exceptional consecration and calling resulted in an unusual level of anointing on Samson’s life. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, he was able to operate with an extreme level of power and authority. Samson didn’t always use this power wisely, but it was always available to him.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle.

Judges 14:19

Samson’s early life is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s birth and anointing. Jesus was similarly set apart from birth and operated in a similarly powerful anointing. And Jesus was the fulfillment of all that Samson wasn’t.

Samson is also a picture of what is available to us in the Holy Spirit. Samson had the Spirit come upon him in power. We have this same opportunity. As people who have surrendered our lives to Jesus, not only do we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, but we have access to the Holy Spirit coming upon us in power. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us for our sake but often comes upon us for the sake of others. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, the enemy gets torn to shreds.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person who is preaching. What is released in the room is more powerful than the words that are being spoken. People are cut to the heart by the word of God. People give their lives to Jesus for the first time. People respond with their whole hearts and their whole lives.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person in prayer. Power is released on the person receiving prayer in such a way that dramatic things happen. Demons flee. They can’t seem to get out of there fast enough. Instant physical healings take place. The person’s body conforms to the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of this world. Things are set right. Wounded hearts are repaired as the love of the Father is tangibly experienced.

Without the tangible demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, Christianity devolves into just one religion among many. But when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon us in power, and the reality of the Kingdom of God is on display, Jesus is revealed for who He really is–King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

This is how the apostle Paul describes his own ministry:

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 

Romans 15:18:19

For Paul, to “fully proclaim” the gospel of Christ meant that signs and wonders through the power of the Spirit had to be on display. Anything less than that was not the full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. We are called to daily walk in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Ask the Lord

..when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

…The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them…

Joshua 9:3-6, 14-15

This story is a great example of why it is so important to hear from the Lord. The people of Gibeon knew Joshua would never make a treaty with them if he knew they were neighbors in the Promised Land. But, if Joshua thought they were from a distant country, he might make a peace treaty with them. And he did.

Their ruse worked! Joshua had to keep his word not to kill the people of Gibeon. The ruse worked because Joshua and the people of God used their physical eyes instead of their spiritual eyes to try to discern the truth about the situation. In order to have eyes to see and ears to hear, we need to check in with God and hear from Him. We need to see what He sees and hear what He hears.

As the Lord told the prophet Samuel about David:

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

We need to listen for the voice of the Lord, hear the voice of the Lord, and obey the voice of the Lord. Without the ability to hear from God for ourselves, we are blinded by what our eyes see in front of us. We must develop the discipline and practice of first inquiring of the Lord. We have to posture our lives in such a way that we are in continual listening mode to the Holy Spirit.

If you don’t feel like you know how to hear from the Lord, this sermon is one place you can start. If you want a couple books to help you become better at hearing the Lord, try this one and this one.

Crossing the Jordan

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:21-24

The people of Israel were to set up memory stones, a memorial, to help them and future generations remember the miracles of God. Just as God created a way through the Red Sea when they were getting free from slavery, God again created a way–this time through the Jordan River–as the people entered the Promised Land. The purpose for both miracles was less about Israel and more about the nature of God. These miracles demonstrated the power of the Lord.

The Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism. It was a type, a foreshadow, of our baptism in water when we trust in Jesus. Jesus saves us from slavery to sin. As we leave our old life behind, we go through the waters of baptism.

If the Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism, what was the Jordan River crossing?

This second crossing wasn’t about being set free from slavery but about entering the promises of God. It was about stepping into the fullness of the inheritance that God had for the people of God. The Jordan River crossing was a kind of baptism in the Spirit. It was a type, a foreshadow, of what we see in Acts 2 when followers of Jesus are filled with the Spirit.

This second crossing was necessary for Israel to step into the fullness of what God had for them. He didn’t just set them free from Egypt so they could wander around the desert. The purpose of the Red Sea crossing found its fulfillment in the Jordan River crossing.

The same relationship exists between baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit. We didn’t get saved from sin and death just so we could continue to wander around as a slave to sin. We must also be filled with the Spirit in order to experience the fullness of the inheritance that we have been given in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who had the Spirit dwelling in them and said, “…be filled with the Spirit“(Ephesians 5:8). In other words, having the Spirit dwelling in you because you are saved is not the same thing as being filled with the Spirit. Israel was technically “saved” in the desert, but they didn’t enter all that God had for them until they crossed the Jordan.

Baptism in the Spirit isn’t you getting more of the Holy Spirit; it’s when the Holy Spirit gets more of you. It’s when your surrender and obedience allows Him access to more and more rooms in your heart, mind and body. As He fills your house with His Presence, there is an overflow that happens. More and more of the Kingdom of God is not only within you but begins to pour out of you.

Have you crossed the Jordan? Have you been filled to overflow with the Spirit?

Following the Presence

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before…”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua 3:3-5

The people of God were directed to follow the ark into the Promised Land. The only way to enter into the promises that God has over our life is to follow His Presence. The ark represented the Presence of God. We follow His lead by watching to see where His Presence is and moving in that direction. We have to do this because we’ve never been where God is taking us. We’ve “never been this way before.”

If God seems to be moving in one area of our life, we go with it. We follow it. We pursue it. While they had the ark, we have the Holy Spirit. We have to grow in our ability to sense the movement of the Spirit. When He moves, we move. When He stops and stays, we stop and stay. This is what Paul was trying to describe when he told the Galatians, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit“(Galatians 5:25).

Consecrating our lives to the Lord is a big part of seeing God move in powerful ways. If we want to see God do amazing things among us, we must live lives of surrender, obedience, and holiness. The fire of God is a purifying fire.

I was talking to my oldest son the other day about the difference between following the law and following the Spirit. He asked me if there was a movie rating beyond “R.” I explained that there was NC-17 and pornography, both of which show things that no one should be watching.

He asked me if mommy and I watch rated R movies. I told him that sometimes we do but that, generally, we don’t. I told him that just because we are old enough to watch them doesn’t mean that we should watch them. We are allowed (the law) to watch but that doesn’t mean it would be spiritually or emotionally healthy to do so (the Spirit).

I went on to explain that sometimes following the Spirit means breaking the law (as Jesus did when He broke sabbath law to heal on the sabbath). And sometimes following the Spirit means not doing things that the law allows us to do (like watching movies that feed our mind harmful things).

I explained to my oldest son that sometimes mommy and I have started watching a show on Netflix only to realize that it was too violent or had too much graphic sexual content. So we stopped watching it. It’s not that we weren’t “allowed” to watch it but that it wasn’t feeding our mind and soul things that were helpful, holy, and healthy. Then I paraphrased Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8

Following the Spirit is about both consecration and direction. We follow the Spirit as He directs us into places in life we’ve never been before. We also follow the Spirit as He consecrates us and makes us holy. Both ways of following the Spirit are exercises in the submission of our will to His. The Christian life is more than a life of following religious principles. It is a life of following a Person.

Terrified

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Luke 2:9

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Mark 4:41

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

Matthew 14:26

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.

Matthew 17:5-6

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:54

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid…”

Revelation 1:17

Angels show up to announce Jesus’s birth and the shepherds are terrified. Jesus calms the storm and the disciples are terrified. The disciples see Jesus walking on the lake and are terrified. Jesus gets transfigured on the mountain, the Father shows up and speaks words of love and affirmation over Him, and the disciples fall down terrified. Jesus dies on the cross, the ground shakes, and the guards are terrified. John sees the glorified Jesus show up to him in a vision, and John is so afraid that he falls down as though dead.

People who say that the Lord would never act in a way that would scare people must have never read their Bible. Over and over again, Jesus does things that absolutely terrify people. American Christians have so often made Jesus out to be a tame, passive, stoic teacher. The real Jesus was way more unpredictable than that. He often left people shaking in their boots!

Today, sometimes the Holy Spirit moves in a way that people don’t understand. And when people don’t understand something, they are often afraid of it. Fear causes people to reject all kinds of good things. Fear is often the wall that prevents people from having a radical encounter with the Lord. Then, in order to compensate for their fear, they rationalize that it can’t really be God. He would never do something that would scare people.

Really?

Go read those passages of scripture above and tell me with a straight face that God would never do something that would scare people. He did it all the time. He does it all the time.

Don’t let fear of not understanding the movement of the Holy Spirit keep you from an encounter with the Holy Spirit!

What are you scared of when it comes to the Holy Spirit?

Releasing Peace

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.

Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 

Matthew 10:7-13

Jesus sent out His disciples to do what He had been doing–preach the message of the Kingdom, heal the sick, drive out demons, raise the dead. They had freely received the authority of Jesus and now they were to freely give it away, freely release it to people in the surrounding towns. And they were to take nothing with them as they went. They were sent out with total dependence on the Father to provide for them.

Jesus gave them a strategy for entering a town to do supernatural ministry. They were to find a “worthy person” and stay at their house until they leave the town. They were to give the household their greeting. In the Jewish culture, the greeting was to say “shalom” which means peace.

Jesus then advises that they let their peace rest on the house if the home is deserving but to take it back if it is not. When Jesus sends out the 72, He says something similar in Luke 10:

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.

Luke 10:5-6

I believe this indicates that peace (as well as other aspects of the Kingdom of God) is something that believers can “release” into an atmosphere and onto people.

Every aspect of the Kingdom can be found in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” One of the fruits of the Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). So, I believe the Holy Spirit in us can release His peace through us into a room and onto a person. In other words, the peace that resides in us can be sent out of us to rest on a house or on a person.

Philippians 4:7 says, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Peace here is described as something that can stand guard like a sentinel. It is something that can rule like a king. The peace of the Kingdom is not a weak, ethereal, whisp that evaporates with the slightest disturbance. The peace of God is dominant, invasive, and blanketing in the best possible way.

The peace of the Kingdom is a peace that dominates chaos (see Mark 4:39). The peace of Christ has the ability to rule; it has the ability to guard our hearts and minds from anxiety, fear, and worry. I believe this means we can see the impact of peace when it comes to rest on a person or in a room.

As followers of Jesus filled with the power of Spirit who walk with the delegated authority of Christ, we have the ability to release tangible peace wherever we go. I’ve experienced moments praying for people where I released the peace of Christ upon a person and watched as peace completely blanketed them. The peace of Christ completely dominated the fear, hopelessness, and despair they were just experiencing moments before.

I believe that sometimes when we are waiting for God to bring peace into a situation, He is actually waiting for us to release peace into the situation.

Where can you release peace today?

He will baptize you…

“I baptize you with (or in) water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with (or in) the Holy Spirit and fire. 

Matthew 3:11

John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to come. He prepared people’s hearts by preaching a message of repentance. He baptized people in water as they came to confess and seek forgiveness for their sins. But John also declared that the Kingdom shouldn’t stop with repentance and forgiveness of sins. John pointed to Jesus, the One who would baptize with more than water.

So many of our conservative evangelical and liberal mainline protestant churches have people who are only baptized in water. The gospel that is preached is mostly about repentance and forgiveness of sin, which was the message of John the Baptist. Many churches have yet to move on to the gospel of Jesus which offers much more than that.

Some people believe that when you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within you, that is what it means to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Even if we assume that is true (which I’m not sure it is), then what about being baptized in fire?

John prophesied that Jesus would baptize in both the Holy Spirit and fire. Where is the baptism of fire? Where are the messages that preach and teach about the baptism of fire? Unfortunately, it gets glossed over and lumped in with the salvation experience. I’m convinced there is more available to us because I’ve experienced it firsthand.

In the Gospel of John (John 20:22), we see the resurrected Jesus breathe on the disciples in the upper room, and we see them receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus’s very next words were about forgiveness of sins. Receiving the Holy Spirit within us is about being forgiven of our sin and being able to forgive others when they sin against us.

Then, before ascending back to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus says to His disciples (who’ve already received the Holy Spirit within them), “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high“(Luke 24:49).

Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, reiterates this same point in Acts 1 and brings meaning to the words of John the Baptist. Speaking about the resurrected Jesus before He ascended, Luke writes,

On one occasion, while he (Jesus) was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with (or in) water, but in a few days you will be baptized with (or in) the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:4-5

Then in Acts 2 we see the disciples “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This experience in Pentecost was very different than what the disciples experienced in the upper room when Jesus breathed on them. This was a much more powerful and violent experience of the Holy Spirit. There was a sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. This was the disciples being “clothed with power from on high.” This wasn’t about forgiveness of sins like the upper room experience in John 20. This was about the Spirit empowering the disciples for purity and powerful ministry.

One way to say it is that first the disciple received the Spirit within them and then they received the Spirit upon them. The first was the breath of God; the second was the wind of God. The first was for their own salvation; the second was for the salvation of others. The first came gently, intimately, and quietly; the second came powerfully, outwardly, and loudly.

If one still wants to maintain that we as Christians are baptized with the Holy Spirit at salvation when we receive the Spirit within us, then we could still call the event that happened to the disciples at Pentecost a baptism of fire. It was still something more. John’s words stated that Jesus would baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

For others, it is clear that baptism in the Spirit is a second event that results in us being “filled with the Spirit“(Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18) similar to what happened at Pentecost. Some experience this second event months or years after salvation and others experience it simultaneous with conversion. I didn’t experience it until over two decades after my conversion experience.

Either way, (whatever you want to call it – baptism of the Spirit or baptism of fire) the truth remains: There is more available to us than most Christians are experiencing! There is more power of the Spirit, more gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12), more supernatural encounters, and more freedom from sin.

So many churches in American have stopped at the ministry of John the Baptist. They preach a message of repentance and baptize with water, but never introduce their people to the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. They have a room full of people on Sundays baptized in water but hardly anyone (if anyone) baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire.

No wonder the world is so skeptical of the gospel message. We claim to proclaim the message of Jesus but only experience the ministry of John the Baptist. We proclaim a supernatural God who came in the flesh in Jesus, performed signs and wonders throughout His ministry, and rose from the grave. Yet, people come to our churches and don’t see any of this: no supernatural gifts of the Spirit, no healings, no casting out demons, no supernatural encounters with God. It’s not too hard for people to see that, while we preach a supernatural God, there is nothing supernatural happening in the lives of many Christians or in the life of the church.

We need to be teaching our people that the Christian life is more than water baptism, repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. There is more than the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus made available to us a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

Have you had that kind of baptism?