The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What’s Missing in the Church Today?

Why isn’t the church making sufficient impact in the world today? There are churches with large numbers of people, but these large numbers of people frequently do not equate with a proportionally changed world. There are studies that show little difference between those in and outside the church. Studies don’t always reflect reality. But still, we look at our own nation and see it trending toward an acceptance and toleration of what scripture would define as gross sin. Where is our holy effect? Much of “the church” is changing to fit the mold of society instead of changing society. The early church turned the world upside down. Today the church is being turned upside down by the world. Why is this? What’s missing in the church today?

At the end of the gospels Jesus gave the Great Commission. He then instructed the disciples to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). To “tarry” means literally to sit down and wait. In the Book of Acts we begin with Jesus also instructing His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them to give them power (Acts 1:4-5). The disciples needed power to fulfill the Great Commission and that power would come at Pentecost (Luke 24:48-49; Acts 1:8; 2:1ff.). There is something very important for us to recognize here.

What can be said about the disciples prior to Pentecost? In the Gospels we see Jesus with the power to forgive sins. He pronounced the sins of the paralytic “forgiven,” (Mat. 9:2, 6; Mark 2:5-12), He forgave the sins of the woman who anointed His feet with oil (Luke 7:47-50).  He said salvation had come to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). If Jesus forgave the sins of these, why not His own disciples?  

The names of the disciples were “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20; compare with Rev. 20:15; 21:27). They were apparently drawn by the Father to Jesus (John 6:44). They had forsaken all to follow Him (Mark 10:28-30). Jesus sent them out with power to heal, cast out demons, and do mighty signs (Mat. 10:5-8; Mark 6:8-13; Luke 9:2-6; 12:2-10). They were pronounced “clean” by Jesus (Jn. 13:10; 15:3; compare with James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23). They were the branches of Jesus the Vine (John 15:5). They were “given” to Jesus by the Father “out of the world” (Jn. 17:6). They kept Jesus’ word (Jn. 17:6). Jesus said “they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You” (Jn. 17:7). They had experienced change and come close to Jesus.

 The disciples received heaven sent illumination. Peter received Divine revelation (Mat. 16:16-18). Jesus said, “they have received” His words (Jn. 17:8). They believed Jesus had the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Jesus said, “they have known surely that I came forth from You” (Jn. 17:8). Earlier Jesus said He is “known by My own” (John 10:14). Jesus said, “they have believed” (Jn. 17:8). Jesus said “these have known that You sent Me” i.e. known the Father (Jn. 17:25). Jesus said those who believe in Him have everlasting life (John 6:47).

 The disciples believed Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). Jesus said, “they are Yours” i.e. the Father’s and “Mine” i.e. Jesus’ (Jn. 17:9-10). They were given by the Father to Jesus (Jn. 17:11).  Jesus “kept them” and “none of them is lost” (except Judas) (Jn. 17:12). Jesus said, “they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17:14, and 16). Jesus called, they followed (Mat. 4:19-20). They were commissioned by Jesus to fulfill His Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20).

 These disciples had come under the influence of Jesus and opened to the Spirit. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). They had “great joy” and praised the Lord in the Temple before Pentecost (Luke 24:51-53). They prayed with one accord together while waiting for the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:14).  

 In light of all of this, there can be little doubt that these disciples were saved, born again, and regenerated by the Spirit of God before Pentecost. Why is it important that we see that the disciples were born again and saved prior to Pentecost? These disciples, (some of whom became Jesus’ apostles) received the best possible seminary education. They spent three years with the greatest Teacher of all time and eternity. They witnessed Jesus teaching, His miracles of healing (the blind made to see; the lame made to walk; lepers healed); they saw Jesus walk on water and still the storm; they participated in Jesus feeding 4,000 and 5,000 with a few morsels of food. They saw Jesus give His life in the atoning death on the cross. They saw Him rise from the dead, just as He said He would. Then finally they saw Him ascend into heaven. They heard and saw all of this and still they were not prepared or suited to go out into the mission field to fulfill the Great Commission. They retreated to an upper room.

 Jesus said they needed something more before they went out on His Great Commission. Who of us or anyone since these pre-Day-of-Pentecost times could claim a better preparation for ministry and life than the disciples of Jesus? What did they need? They needed the baptism with the Holy Spirit. How much more do we need this empowerment? 

 The Book of Acts is all about what happens when Jesus sends the Spirit upon His people. The birth of the church and the acts of the apostles are all incidental to the coming of the Spirit. Education and even experience alone are not enough to prepare one for ministry and service to the Lord. According to Jesus His apostles and disciples needed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. The testimony of the Book of Acts confirms this. The means of empowerment referred to by Jesus is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is definite and knowable experience. Jesus told the apostles and disciples to “tarry” or wait in Jerusalem until they received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). This command would have been nonsensical unless it was possible for those waiting to know when they had received what Jesus told them to wait for. If the apostles and disciples could be baptized with the Holy Spirit and not know it, then they wouldn’t know how long to wait.
Later in Acts Paul asks the Ephesian disciples, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”(Acts 19:2, 6; cf. also Acts 8:14-17). Paul is speaking of something after their initial conversion. Paul’s inquiry shows us receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a necessary, important and a recognizable subsequent experience. The Baptism is subsequent to regeneration and being born of the Spirit. A person cannot receive this Promise of the Father unless they have first been born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

In R.A. Torrey’s book, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit[1]  he emphatically states that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is always connected with service (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:4; 4:31, 33). The power of the Holy Spirit manifests  itself through His spiritual gifting determined by His sovereign will for the benefit of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-11).

In Acts 15:8-9 Peter describes the baptism with the Holy Spirit saying, “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Peter associated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with empowering heart purification received by faith.

The baptism with the Holy Spirit is received by faith. Therefore, like in Acts, humbly pray and repent of sin. Then ask the Lord for it. God wants to bless us with the Spirit (Luke 11:13). This promise is for us just as much as it was for the early disciples (Acts 2:39). If we know it is God’s will, then ask and receive by faith (1 John 5:14-15). Just believe and receive (Mark 11:24).  

 What keeps the church from turning the world upside down? What are we missing? We are missing the power and purity of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Like the early church we need to get serious in prayer. We need to sit down and wait for the baptism with the Holy Spirit. We have impulsively gone out ahead of the Spirit. We have chased worldly tactics. We have been distracted from what is most important and necessary to represent God effectively. Like a soldier running to battle naked instead of arrayed in their full battle dress, we are trying to fight metal with flesh. We need the full armor, the full provision of God. Search the scriptures. We need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. God revive us. Baptize us with Your Holy Spirit and fire. Glorify Yourself in and through us.

[1] R.A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Pub. 1972).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Pastor "C" excellent......without this I would have been toast trying to live and serve Jesus today......Thanks for service and your heart for Him.