Intimacy- Loving the Father

In the previous article, we saw that God already knows everything about us. He already loves us as much as we’re ever going to be loved. I mean if we who are evil know how to love our kids, how much more God who alone is good. Almost everything is already in place for intimacy (at least from God’s perspective). So, the only thing missing from this circle of intimacy is love from our end- love being the foundation of intimacy. However, how can we love God?

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3 NKJV

“If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:15 NKJV

We know that we love God by keeping His commandments which is to love one another. Also, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus said that as long as we feed, visit and clothe our neighbors, we do it to Him. Prov 19:17 even says that he that is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. However, to understand why this is so, it’s important we understand the nature of our relationship with God.

The first Adam was formed from the ground and the breath of life was breathed into him. The second Adam was begotten of the Spirit (and so are all those who are in Him). Those are two very different dimensions. The moment we were born of the Spirit, the Fatherhood of God was no longer just a metaphor but a reality. Many believers know in their head that God is their Father but they’ve not realized that He’s actually their Father. This means that the brotherhood of the faith, is not just some social symbolism or metaphor. If you’re a believer reading this, you’re literally my brother or my sister, but I digress. Understanding this concept of us as family will help in clarifying a lot of things.

In an earthly family, what better way is there for a kid to show love to his parents than doing well for himself, showing love to his siblings and respecting and honoring his parents.  Isn’t this what God asks of us? He said we should love our neighbors as ourselves.  Someone once said that if we don’t know how to love ourselves our neighbors are in trouble and this is true.

Loving ourselves here isn’t the “self love” that is condemned in scripture but the one spoken of in Proverbs 19:8 where it says, “He who gets wisdom, loves his own soul.” In other words, to love ourselves is to walk in wisdom. So, we see that the things God desires to see with us are exactly what any father would want to see with his kids. This is why He has said, “If you love Me, obey my commands.” When we obey His commands, we have life and have it more abundantly and this brings Him great delight.

Another important aspect of loving God is trust. What parent is happy knowing their child thinks they have ill-intentions towards him/her? Or like rebellious teenagers, we think God is out to make our lives miserable, making us wary of what He might ask us to do. It’s easy to not think this way in times of abundance and ease, but when the storms come our way, the true state of our hearts are revealed. If we who are bad know how to care for our kids, how much more God? Without faith it is impossible to please God. He is very pleased when we trust Him with a pure child-like faith no matter what we face, knowing that He is good and wants the best for us and will provide for all our needs (more on laying hold of divine provisions in another write-up).

It is important to look at these things in the context of a family because that’s exactly what we are and that’s exactly the basis of many things that pertains to the faith. Jesus referred to God as His Father than any other title. Every believer needs to have that revelation of God as Father and then start looking at everything through that lens; and we need to get used to thinking of each other in the household of faith as one big family in all sincerity. Yes, He is king and yes, He is God Almighty, but all that just means we have an awesome Father!

We are commanded to love Him with all our heart- essentially, the greatest love possible. Jesus also said that there’s no greater love than to lay down our lives for a friend. So, giving God this greatest love requires that we lay down our lives for Him just as He did for us. It is to present our bodies as living sacrifices unto Him. It is to no longer live for ourselves but for Christ. It is to give ourselves to prayer, utilizing all the spiritual tools that have been freely given to us to accomplish that ministry of reconciliation we have been entrusted with.

Laying down our lives isn’t just an optional activity for certain zealous ministers that want to walk in the “anointing” and power. It is for every believer. Rather than seeing this as the price for the anointing, it should be seen as the cost of love. Paul said, “I show you a more excellent way.” The destination is the same, but the motive will be right and your eternal profit assured. As we empty ourselves of our personal desires and seek to determine and do His will, we will be well on our way to experiencing true intimacy with God.

 

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Intimacy With God

I will begin by sharing an experience I had on my birthday sometime back. I was having my time with God and was just giving thanks to God when the Holy Spirit said, “You are amazing, dear friend.” This was the statement that really started the ball rolling on my understanding of what it means to be intimate with God. My immediate reaction was one of disbelief. If it wasn’t so clear, I would have discounted the voice as having come from my own mind. Yes, I had been doing pretty well spiritually, but I definitely hadn’t always been perfect. In my opinion, I barely knew the Holy Spirit so I had no idea when we became “tight” like that. I would reluctantly call myself a friend of God, but a “dear” friend was out of the question; and I most certainly didn’t wake up every morning saying, “Good morning, Holy Spirit” (won’t be a bad idea though).

Anyways, this made me rethink my concept of what friendship with God means. I had been judging my relationship with God by human standards and we’ll see why doing that can be misleading in a moment. Until this moment, I had never really studied from the scriptures what it meant to be a friend of God, so I went to the scriptures to see if I could make sense of the words I had heard that morning.

The first thing we need to understand is that God is not a man. In intimate human relationships, people share their secrets and open up their hearts to each other. It’s also important to note that this is a 2-way street. Well, we have no secrets to share with God. We can keep our hearts closed and we’ll still be just as naked before Him. He knew us even before we were formed in the womb. He knows all about our pain, worry, anxiety, hope and desire. He actually takes notice of them and He takes them seriously. So, as far as secrets go, it’s a 1-way street in our relationship with God.

God sees all the secrets of our hearts and He cares deeply. The Lord is near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). He puts all our tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and has numbered the hair on our heads. Jesus talked about how the Father knows about our earthly needs. Why did Jesus encourage His disciples to ask that their joy may be full? They didn’t complain about their joy not being full… He saw something in their hearts and encouraged them to go ahead and ask because He wanted to grant to them their desires. He cared about their desires (obviously, sanctified desires). Delight yourself in the Lord and He would grant you the desires of your heart.

Man may not love you as much after seeing what’s in your heart, but God already sees all your secrets and loves you anyways. Isn’t that the kind of love people are looking for all over the world- to be loved as you are? This doesn’t mean He approves or overlooks what He sees. It just means He loves you regardless of your failures, shortcomings, insecurities, negative traits etc.

This also means that He notices our desire to please Him. He notices our efforts. He knows exactly what we’re capable of and what our limits are. And when enticing desires come into our minds, He sees it too (and He has provided grace to empower us). When we worship, He sees whether we really mean what we say or not. If we want to claim His promises, we can’t just do a sloppy job of fulfilling the conditions because, unlike man, God sees everything! This is why He desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6).

So, the dynamics of our relationship with God is not exactly the same as that of human relationships. God doesn’t need to spend time with us to get to know us or “connect” or “develop rapport.” That’s for us, not Him. As far as He is concerned, He already knows us more intimately than any person on the face of this earth possibly could (including ourselves). However, this does not mean that He’s intimate with everybody. What then is the key to intimacy with a God that already know us intimately?

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:14-15 NKJV

“But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:48-50 NKJV

Clearly, God considers anyone that does His will to be intimate with Him and walking with Him even if they don’t feel like it. In human relationships, intimate knowledge of another person can be a part of the intimacy they share. However, couples break-up and marriages end in divorce despite intimate knowledge of each other. How can we enjoy intimacy with someone we offend all the time? Don’t get me wrong, God is merciful. His anger lasts but for a moment and His favor, a lifetime! However, you simply cannot enjoy the same level of intimacy as someone doing all God’s will if you aren’t doing the same. We aren’t His friends if we simply believe in Him (without any fruit). We are His friends if we do His commands which is to love one another.

Also, a sign that you’re closer to God is that He begins to reveal His secrets and open His heart to you. Remember the 1-way street we talked about earlier? Abraham was called a friend of God forever and God wouldn’t hide from him what He was doing. In the same vein, Jesus made known to His disciples all that He heard from the Father because they were His friends. In the garden of Gethsemane, He asked most of His disciples to simply sit and wait for Him. However, He took Peter, James and John further, opened His heart to them about how sorrowful He was and asked them to watch with Him.

There are many believers who aren’t aware that God already considers them His close friends. They’ve been faithful in the little they’ve been entrusted with and doing all they can to please God and to fulfill His will. These are already intimate with God, and as they continue in intimacy, God will begin to reveal His heart and secrets to them. On that final day, just like some people would wonder when they saw Jesus and fed Him, some would be shocked when Jesus calls them His dearest friends. The reason would be that they did the things that pleased Him. What things though?

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The Word of His Grace

Grace is often thought of as a dispensation in which God has decided to look the other way and ignore our sin. If this were true, God would have to apologize to Ananias and Sapphira. There is a “gospel of grace” being proclaimed by some which is really an aberration of the true and more powerful gospel of grace. The closest synonym to grace is favor and it is sufficient for our discussion. We’ll begin in Romans:

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Rom 5:19 NKJV

This passage is very profound but it’s easy to miss the implications. Yes there’s a free gift of righteousness, but this free gift is not in name alone. Why? Well, we weren’t made sinners in name only. Through the disobedience of Adam, we were also made sinners by nature (i.e slaves of sin). Therefore, through the obedience of Christ, it is only fair that we are made righteous by nature as well (i.e. slaves of righteousness).

Grace is the fulfillment of that promise in Ezekiel 36 in which He would put His Spirit in us and cause us to walk in His statutes. This is the true and full gift of righteousness from God that Paul talked about. In the church today, there’s more and more emphasis being put on Jesus as Lord and this is great. However, the church needs to return to the revelation of Jesus as Savior. He saves to the uttermost! He was called Jesus because He was to save the people from their sin and whom the Son sets free is free indeed! He that sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). So if we’re saved from sin, it only makes sense that we shouldn’t sin anymore.

God is not righteous because He does righteous works; rather, He does righteous works because He is righteous. It’s a nature thing. God is love and therefore, loves; and love fulfills all righteousness. So, when we’re seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, this is the kind of righteousness we are to seek. Also, when we are born of the Spirit, we receive the nature of our Father. We are made partakers of His divine nature. Remember that what is born of the spirit is spirit, so it’s our spirit that are made partakers of His divine nature. The angels don’t have God’s nature as we do, so God allowing us to be partakers of His nature is a huge favor He has shown to man. This is the essence of grace, and the foundation of all we need for life and godliness is supplied by this one favor He has shown us.

Most Christians would probably agree up until this point. The problem is that there’s also the problem of the flesh which has a sin nature (i.e. many were made sinners) and because of the experience of many, it is believed that we’ll always be subject to sin as long as we’re in the flesh. What they’re essentially saying is that, yes there’s the divine nature in our spirits but it is insufficient to completely and consistently overcome our sin nature in the flesh. This is a lie from the pit of hell. Did Jesus come to save us from our sins or not? If the Son sets us free, are we truly free indeed or not? Has the law of the Spirit of life in Christ made us free from the law of sin and death or not?

I’m not saying we cannot sin while in the flesh. I’m saying it’s possible that we won’t sin. This is why John says “If we sin, (not “when we sin”) we have an advocate with the Father.” The problem is not one of insufficiency of the power of God to overcome sin in the flesh, it is one of insufficiency of something else which we would see next.

“through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom 5:2 NKJV

“…who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet 1:5 NKJV

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Rom 1:16 NKJV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” Eph 2:18 NKJV

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”” John 6:29 NKJV

We have the promise of God in Ezekiel 36 where He does everything, the end result being we walk in His statutes. However, there is an unwritten rule resident in every promise- a requirement of faith. The book of Hebrews speak of emulating those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Abraham believed God and stepped out in faith and it was accounted to him for righteousness- mostly in name though as this was merely a shadow of things to come. In this dispensation, God requires that we believe in His son and receive the true righteousness that was prophesied by Ezekiel. As everything in the New Covenant, this is not simply a shadow, but the real thing.

It is through faith that we have access into this grace and into the power of God that keeps us. If we have faith in the finished work of Christ, then we have access to grace. If we have access to grace and the gift of His righteousness, then there should be fruit/ works. So we see that if faith has no works it is dead. This is also why Paul talks about faith working through love (Gal 5:6). Believers living in sin is a faith issue. The problem is not the size but the persistence of our faith.

Let me give an example to further illustrate this point. First, we must understand that spiritual laws supersede physical laws. We have the promise of God that we were healed by His stripes, yet many believers are unnecessarily sick. However, testimonies abound of people who received the promise of healing, stood on it in faith and obtained results. They believed that word of healing that came into their spirits, activating a spiritual law that superseded the physical law of sickness and resulted in healing. Now, this is where it gets practical. There are some people that experienced the symptoms of their illness for days while they were standing in faith. They eventually received the promise because of their persistent faith. This, my friends, is the fight of faith.

In the same way, if we believe the word of His grace, we activate an exceedingly great power in us that can put to death the deeds of the body, resulting in life. Sometimes, the devil may come and try to put some symptoms of sin (i.e. temptations) on you and suggest all kinds of things to you just as he does with sick people that were actually healed but lose their healing because they didn’t stand their ground in faith. We must stand our ground in faith. This is why Paul says, “Above all, take up the shield of faith…” It is that important! This is why we must cast down every imaginations and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This is the fight of faith.

We must become absolutely convinced of our identity in Christ (i.e. we are the righteousness of God). This is not something we do once in a while, but a constant state of being and mindset. This is one of two things we must take into further consideration in this discussion of grace- renewing the mind. Paul says we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewing is the process by which we transition from finding our identity in the old man to finding our identity in the new man; from setting our minds on the things of the flesh to setting our minds on the things of the Spirit; from looking to the things that are seen to looking to the things that are not seen; from setting our minds on things on the earth to setting our minds on things above; from doing works to being love.

The second of the two things I mentioned in the last paragraph is the need for deliverance. By deliverance, I mean that not all issues are a direct result of the sin nature. Sometimes, Jesus laid hands on the sick through faith; and sometimes, He cast out demons through faith for the same healing. In the same way, sometimes demons have to be put in their place. The word of grace is sure, but if you don’t deal with certain spirits, you’ll just get unnecessarily harassed.

There are other facets of grace such as the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, strength in weaknesses, the mind of Christ, the wisdom of God, regular gifts (e.g giving, administration) etc. All these are rooted in the fact that we have become partakers of His divine nature. They are already resident in our spirit and they are drawn out by faith; some are guaranteed for every believer, others (e.g. spiritual gifts) according to the discretion of the Spirit at any particular moment in time. This is why Peter calls it the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). Indeed, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ and they are all accessible by faith and faith alone.

There are other considerations such as the Spirit of grace, the old man crucified, freedom from the law and our two sources of life which as God wills, we will examine at some point in the future. In summary however, we have been shown great favor by God; not because we deserved it, but because of His mercy. He’ll do all the work, He just expects us to believe in Him and on what He has already done. Faith is the bridge between the spiritual and the physical and it sees those things that are not as though they were. Let’s resolve to see ourselves the way God sees us.

“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32 NKJV

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His Righteousness

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Mat 13:44-46 NKJV

The bible says, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” It’s important to understand what this means. When a man is justified, he is shown to be innocent of accusations against him. When we confess our sins and repent, He is not only faithful to forgive, but also to justify. This is God’s declaration that we didn’t commit the sin at all because the culprit has already been found and punished – Jesus.

Yes, He became sin for us who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He took all our sins and bore the weight of the guilt of the world. Oh how crushing must that weight have been for one man to bear. Many people already struggle under the weight of their own guilt, yet one man bore the weight of the whole world both past, present and future. He was fully human and of like passion as the rest of us, yet He never complained but gladly poured out Himself for us. He said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

We will never truly understand the magnitude of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He wasn’t scared of nails and stripes. He gladly gave up His body to be broken that we might have life. When He asked us to do the communion in remembrance of Him, He wasn’t just asking us to remember Him. Rather, He wanted it to be a reminder of what He did for us that we might also lay down our lives for the brethren. We love because He first loved us.

Yes, we are that pearl of great price. Yes, we are that treasure found hidden in a field. You, my brother, are God’s treasure. You, my sister, are God’s choice pearl. For God so loved the world… This is how much you mean to God – He gave up everything to purchase you. He gave up His divinity. What is a lump of metal (cars) or a tonne of bricks (houses) compared with His divinity? He gave it up! He made Himself of no reputation. He took our sins and guilt upon Himself and gave up His righteousness and peace for our sake. Eventually, He even gave up the lowly life that He had. At the point of death, Christ truly had nothing left to give. Think about that! He truly had nothing. He sold all His possessions that He might purchase us. That’s how much you mean to Him. He could have just gotten Himself another choice pearl, but it’s you He wants. Yes, you.

He most certainly offered up His life through faith as there was no way to be assured that He will rise again other than through faith. And when we received His life in exchange for ours, we became the ones in whom the Father was well pleased with while He became the one forsaken of the Father. We have been bought with a price, a very expensive one. We are not our own.

It’s a travesty and atrocity to subject ourselves to our former slave-masters after we were purchased at such great price. We now belong to Him and our lives are hid with Christ in God. God in His foreknowledge knew every sin that will ever be committed and He laid it all on Christ. This means that each time we sin, we inflict wounds on Christ who gave His life for our sake, for He was wounded for our transgression and bruised for our iniquities. Yet, He embraced it all in joy and hope because He loved and wanted you. How can we remain nonchalant about sin?

What manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God. Indeed, He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him like the joy of finding the hidden treasure in the field. He is a God that rejoices over us with gladness and singing and quiets us with His love. He is a good God! His mercies endures forever. So what is our next move going to be? Wound the Son of God some more or…? As for me, my response is beautifully expressed in the words of the song below:

You laid aside Your majesty, gave up everything for me.

Suffered at the hands of those You had created.

You took all my guilt and shame, When You died and rose again.

Now today You reign, And heaven and earth exalt You.

I really want to worship You my Lord,

You have won my heart and I am Yours.

Forever and ever, I will love You.

You are the only one who died for me,

Gave Your life to set me free.

So I lift my voice to You in adoration.

Click here to listen to this worship song. Blessings

 

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Abiding in Christ (Part 2) – Freedom from Sin

John makes a very interesting statement in 1 John:

“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” 1 John 3:6 NKJV

In other words, whoever abides in Him will see Him and know Him. What does this mean? Jesus said,

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 NKJV

After Jesus made this statement, the jews protested claiming not to be in any form of bondage. Jesus’ reply was,

Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:34-36 NKJV

From “the truth will make you free,” Jesus switches to “the Son will make you free.” In other words, He’s saying that He is the truth and if we abide in His word we would know Him and He would make us free indeed. Abiding in His word is to abide in His commandments which is to abide in Him. When we abide in Him, we will know Him and He would make us free!

Through abiding, we get a revelation of the Godhead. Jesus said,

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21 NKJV

When we keep His commandments, we abide in Him and when we abide in Him, He comes and manifests Himself to us- we see Him!

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” John 14:23 NKJV

Here again, we see that when we abide in Him, the Father and the Son come and make their home with us- we know Him. When we live in the same home as another person, we get to know them.

Peter once said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” That knowledge comes through abiding. Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit was also based on if we loved Him and kept His commandments- abiding. Peter did say that the Holy Spirit was given to those who obeyed God. So you see, when we abide in Him, we receive the fullness of God- the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

It begins with us intentionally setting our affections on Him, seeking His face in the place of worship (aka. prayer) and ravaging the word to hear His words. As we keep His commandments, He will come to us and manifest Himself and dwell with us. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. We must take those first steps and He’ll meet us and carry us the rest of the way. We will know the truth and the truth (aka. the Son) will make us free indeed!

 

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Abiding in Christ (Part 1) – First love

We all know that under the New Covenant, we are not “lawless.” We have been given a commandment.

“Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.” 1 John 2:7 NKJV

“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” 1 John 3:23 NKJV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34 NKJV

We have a commandment to love one another! This is different from the “law of Moses.” That’s why Jesus called it a “new commandment.” The commandment is that we should love one another as Christ loved us. This commandment is the secret of abiding in Him.

“He who keeps His commandments abides in Him…” 1 John 3:24

“…he that abides in love abides in God…” 1 John 4:16

And we know that abiding in Him is the secret of bearing fruit (John 15:5) as well as having whatsoever we (our inner man) desire of God (John 15:7). However, we miss something very crucial in the words of Jesus. He gave the commandment then said, “keep it IF you love me.” Jesus wants our obedience to the commandment to flow out of our love for Him. He also said, “He that keeps my commandments, he it is that loves me.”

“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 1 John 4:21 NKJV

John, in his letters, very often clarified the words of Jesus recorded in his gospel account. The new commandment is not just about loving one another but about loving God and loving others as an outflow.

Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him and each time after Peter affirmed, He gave him a commandment. Jesus was still enforcing this principle- if you love Me… if you love Me… if you love Me.

The first commandment is loving God with all our hearts and all our souls… Do we want to abide in Christ? It is not enough to love our neighbor, there must be a yearning in our souls for Him. We have to intentionally set our affections on Him. When Jesus was talking about first love in Revelations, He was referring to this first commandment i.e. our love for God. This is the one thing we must never lose no matter what circumstance we may find ourselves in.

Brethren, intimacy with the Holy Spirit is not an option for the super-spiritual. They that love God would, of course, love the Spirit of God; and they that love the Spirit, love the One who sent Him. Many believers get to the point where they’re just going through the motions and their love for God has dwindled though they still retain many of the activities they used to do. They’ve lost their first love.

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The Word and the Breath (Part 3) – The Fullness of the Spirit

THE FULLNESS IS NOT JUST ABOUT TONGUES

“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” Acts 6:3

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…” Eph 5:18

The first point is that the fullness of the Spirit is not about speaking in tongues. Regardless of your theology about tongues, everyone must agree that the fullness of the Spirit is not about tongues based on the above passages. How come? Many assert that the evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues and once you receive your “prayer language,” you can start using it at will. Now, everyone in the early church definitely received that experience and everyone probably had their “prayer language.” However, the apostles were looking for people full of the Holy Spirit. That means there were people speaking in tongues who were not full of the Holy Spirit. Also, Paul later admonishes the Ephesian believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If they were already speaking in tongues (which I believe they were), then what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Just what kind of experience is this fullness of the Spirit? Whatever it is, it is something more than just tongues.

In the Ephesian passage, the word “be filled” is the word ‘pleroo‘ which is from ‘pleres.Pleres means “replete” while pleroo means “to make replete.” Pleres is always translated as “full” rather than “filled,” so I believe a clearer translation of pleroo here is “be full” (without going into Greek verb tenses). Barnabas was described as a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith (Acts 11:24), Stephen was described a few times as being full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5, Acts 7:55), and the disciples searched for men that were full of the Holy Spirit to appoint over the food distribution issue. What Paul was saying in this passage is that we should be like these men. We should be full of the Holy Spirit! This is not simply an experience, it is a state we can walk in and one that can be lost, even though some of the gifts might still be functional.

In the church today especially among charismatics and pentecostals, the buzz-word is spirit-filled. If you once had an experience where you spoke in tongues and/ or prophesied, you are said to be spirit-filled. This is a gross trivialization of the term. You may have been spirit-filled, but you’re not necessarily spirit-filled right now even though you may still be talking in tongues. Now someone may say, “but the Holy Spirit is a person and we received all of Him when we received Him so how can we receive more of Him?” This question arises when we place God in our human boxes.

The Holy Spirit is not flesh and blood that comes in discrete quantities like human beings. Also, He is not being cloned into each of us, He is the living breath of God and everyone can receive a measure. The bible says that Jesus received the Spirit without measure. There is a measure of the Spirit which we receive. This is not a wrong concept, it is scriptural. Why can’t we just take the Word for what it says instead of trying to put our own human spin on it? We can be full of the Holy Spirit and we can be half-full of Him. That is His unique feature. He is not a human being so some of the restrictions we place on Him based on our shallow human understanding do not apply at all.

So, what is the fullness of the Spirit? The first time you’re filled with the Spirit is supposed to be the born again experience (i.e. the moment the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer), or at least that was God’s intention in the beginning. It is receiving the fullness of life that God has for you. We will now examine some scriptures.

THE INDWELLING WAS NOT A NEW THING

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17

This is where we first see the promise that the Holy Spirit will be in us. However, let me first point out that the “infilling of the Holy Spirit” did not start at Pentecost. The bible says that Mary and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit at one point (Luke 1:35, 41). John the baptist was even filled with the Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15). Zechariah was filled with the Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:67). Remember Paul laid hands on some Ephesians and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19) – same experience. If a cup is filled with water, there’s water in the cup. He was in them. The apostle even noted that the Spirit of Christ was in the prophets of old (1 Pet 1:11). The Greek word used here (en) is the same word Jesus used when He told the disciples that the Holy Spirit will later be in them as seen in the passage above.

DIFFERENT TERMINOLOGIES, ONE EXPERIENCE

“…If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified…” John 7:37-39

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27

“Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Acts 2:33

And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:32

In John 7, we see the Holy Spirit being given as a result of Jesus being glorified and in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is poured out as a result of Jesus being exalted. In John 15, we see Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to the disciples from the Father and we see the same in Acts 2. John 15 also talks about how the disciples were to be witness (cf. Acts 1:8). Finally, in Acts 5:32, Peter strings together John 7:37-39 (Spirit being given), John 14:15-16 (keep my commandments to receive the Spirit), John 15:26-27 (witnesses) and Acts 1:8 (witnesses). So, the Spirit being given, the Spirit being received, the Spirit being sent is all talking about one event- Pentecost.

Now, in the Acts passage (Acts 19), it says the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. The Holy Spirit came upon the prophets of old and they prophesied. This suggests that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is the same experience as the Spirit coming upon. At baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus (Luke 3:22) and when He left the waters, He was full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1). Later, He reads the Isaiah passage and says the Spirit is upon me.

Jesus told His disciples in John 14 that the Holy Spirit will be in them. Later, in Acts 1:4, He tells them to wait for the promise of the Father which He had told them before (i.e. in John 14). Then He says they’ll be baptized with the Holy Spirit and that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. On the day of Pentecost, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, but Peter describes the experience as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy which talks about the Holy Spirit being poured out upon all flesh.

So, we see one experience being called different things – baptism of the Spirit, infilling of the Spirit (i.e. the Spirit in), the Spirit upon, promise of the Father, receiving the Spirit, the Spirit being given/ sent etc. It’s tempting to think that all these things are different, but happened at the same time because Pentecost was the first time the Holy Spirit was given, but a quick word search would sufficiently demonstrate that even when the different terms were used later on, they still referred to one event- Pentecost.

THE SPIRIT GIVEN

We saw earlier that the Spirit is given to them that obey God (Acts 5:32). Now, using the same phraseology, the bible says that Simon the sorcerer saw that the Spirit was given (Acts 8:18) by the laying on of hands. In this case the phrase was definitely used to represent the Pentecostal experience therefore confirming our interpretation of the Acts passage as well as the John 7 passage (i.e. the Spirit was not yet given cause Jesus was not yet glorified). Also, remember that He will give us another advocate (John 14:16)  and He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Moreover, in Acts 15:8, Peter recounts how God had given the Holy Spirit to the gentiles the same way He gave Him to them (i.e. they spoke in tongues in both case). So the use of that phrase in the scriptures is pretty clear. In light of this, the interpretation of the following scriptures should be clear.

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Rom 5:5

“…who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Cor 1:22

“Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Cor 5:5

“…in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Eph 1:13-14

“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” 1 John 3:24

“By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” 1 John 4:13

It’s important to note that the Holy Spirit is given as a guarantee. God does not give lousy collateral. The word used here is from a Hebrew word which is only used in one place in the bible…

And he said, “I will send a young goat from the flock.” So she said, “Will you give me a pledge till you send it? Then he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” So she said, “Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.” Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Gen 38:17-18

Here we see that a pledge is something tangible to hold onto until the promise is fulfilled. If not for the Pentecost experience, what else possibly qualifies as a pledge? If we have to trust (have faith in absence of evidence) that God has given us a pledge, then there’s no need for a pledge at all. We should just trust God directly for our inheritance. There’s no need for Paul to be making a statement about this pledge business. Think about that!!! But God has given us a pledge, a sure pledge you can see and hear and taste and touch and know. By this we know that we abide in Him…! In other words, the Holy Spirit given to us is the evidence that we abide in Him. It is sad that what was meant as a wonderful pledge has been downgraded to an event called the “indwelling of the Spirit” where there’s really nothing tangible except that you just “believe” it happens.

Don’t get me wrong, if we are commanded to be full of the Spirit, that means we can have the Holy Spirit without being full of Him so we can be assured of our salvation and the indwelling of the Spirit if we believe in Christ and have repented from our sins. Unfortunately though, this is where many Christians are at and it is the reason we live such different lives from the believers of the early church. This is not the pattern set by the apostles and it is certainly not the will of God for us. Don’t settle for less brothers and sisters, contend for the fullness of the Spirit!

RECEIVING THE SPIRIT

In the book of Acts, we see the term used in,

“Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

“As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:15

“Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:17

“Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”” Acts 8:19

“Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” Acts 10:47

“He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, we have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”” Acts 19:2

and without exception, all those verses were referring to the same experience as in Pentecost. Acts was written between 63 and 70 AD which is later than most of the epistles so we can assume that the terminology Dr. Luke uses to tell the story are the ones that were commonly known and well established. If we see the same term in other places, there’s very little reason for us to interpret it as something else.

HOW TO RECEIVE

The easiest and, I believe, God’s preferred way to receive is through the laying on of hands by someone who is full of the Holy Spirit. We see it throughout scripture. Nobody else tarried after the apostles because there was always someone to lay hands on the new believers to receive. God even sent Ananias to lay hands on Paul.

There’s a practice where people are told to start speaking even when there’s no utterance. I have very serious concerns about this because while some people eventually receive the real thing, some just make stuff up. The practice was popularized by Smith Wigglesworth who would encourage people to start speaking tongues in the flesh by faith. He was well aware that this was not “it,” and he would “tarry” with these believers until they received the real deal. It’s just like asking someone to walk out of the wheelchair by faith and while they are walking, the power of God overtakes them and they receive their actual healing.

Unfortunately, we live in a microwave generation and nobody even waits to receive the real deal anymore. We are told to say, “ba ka ka” and when we say, “ba ka ka” we are told we have received. This is insanity! Don’t let anyone short-change the gift of God for you. We forget that those that received in the bible not only spoke in tongues, but also prophesied. Since when did the minister take over the Holy Spirit’s job of giving utterance?

Some say that the Holy Spirit is already given and we don’t need to tarry. Well, if you have a minister who is full of the Holy Spirit “prophesy to the breath” on your behalf (i.e. lay hands on you) then we don’t have to wait, we can receive immediately. Also, they won’t have to give you your cue on when to start speaking, you would go off on your own. If there’s no such person close to you, the only way is to tarry. Tarry can mean 1 min, 2 hrs, 3 days or 4 weeks or more, however much time is needed. The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. If you’re praying directly for the Spirit, you must be ready to make changes in your life as the Spirit prompts you. If you ignore the Spirit’s promptings and convictions, you will pray for years and never get filled. Basically, the faster you die to your self AND to the world, the faster you will be filled. If there are any areas you need to make restitution, make them.

It is sad that in our day, we no longer know how to leave our gifts at the altar and be reconciled to those who have something against us, and we wonder why we don’t feel the presence of God in our private prayers. Once you have done all that the Spirit has convicted you of, get ready! Cry out to Him day and night, and He will come to you speedily! The key is persevering prayer, constant faith and expectation, and purity of heart. Blessed are they that are pure in heart for they shall see God! The great thing about tarrying is that whatever it took you to get the infilling is what is going to keep you full of the Spirit. In other words, you already know how to stay full of the Spirit. If hands were laid on you, you will also receive the same fullness, but if you ignore the promptings/ conviction of the Holy Spirit or you go back to your normal life, you will leak really fast. Your old way of life didn’t get you filled, and it won’t keep you full. We stay full by abiding in Christ. There’s a constant supply of the Spirit that comes through abiding. That’s how we stay full and bear fruit.

In summary, the initial evidence of being full of the Holy Spirit can be tongues, prophecy, a baptism of divine love etc. Staying full is partly about how much of the Word is in us. In one place (Eph 5:18), it says, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” and in another place (Col 3:16-17) it says, “…let the Word of Christ richly dwell in you, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…” Jesus said “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…” This is why the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey the Father. John also later says that, “He that abides in love abides in God,” because Jesus commandments was for us to love. As we abide in love, we receive that constant supply of the Spirit and be. Blessings.

 

 

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