Acts 1:8 - But you shall receive power after the Holy Ghost is come upon you…
I fully realize that the day of Pentecost as experienced by the group of followers in the book of Acts was a fulfillment of the prophecies of God and that it was unique in its experience and substance. So it would be doctrinally unbalanced to pray for a recreation or even something like a mirrored outpouring of God’s Spirit because in a tangible sense that day was the beginning of the Spirit sealed body of Christ and we as believers were grafted in collectively on that day and personally the moment we believed. There was one and only one day that fulfilled the “promise of the Spirit” and that day happened almost two thousand years ago.
But the accompanying power that fell upon and filled the first born again believers is something that is available for each believing generation, the “generation that seeks His face”. And even more importantly it is available for each individual believer who sets his heart to wholly seek God’s face and the Spirit’s power. Now if a person is going to seek God’s power and anointing for his own importance or his own enjoyment then he might as well never begin for the Lord God of the Harvest guards His power like a jealous husband and only an empty and broken vessel will He fill.
I realize some will doctrinally recoil at the terminology and if so you are welcome to call it whatever suits your doctrinal persuasion but we are openly disingenuous to deny that the body of Christ is in desperate need of a mighty rushing wind of the Spirit of God. And which camp of the current Christian genre do you think God is interested in using as a vessel of His glory? The Purpose Driven camp? The seeker sensitive camp? The emergent camp? The prosperity camp? You see my point?
Picture a walled castle with lookouts stationed high atop its huge walls and one day these lookouts see an enemy approaching in the distance. At first they are skeptical but as time goes by the enemy comes closer and closer with ominous weapons that will obviously endanger the castle and its people. So the lookouts call down to the inhabitants of the castle to prepare for battle immediately. Well the people of the castle reject the reports that any enemy is approaching and they go about their business as usual which frustrates the lookouts and they continue to detail the movements of the coming enemy while increasing the volume of their rebukes and warnings to the careless castle dwellers. With this scenario in place who is most responsible to prepare for battle, the unsuspecting people or the lookouts who have seen the enemy and are well aware of his eminent coming? And is rebuking the general population the extent of the responsibility of the lookouts to prepare for battle or are they responsible to take up the castle arms regardless whether the common people help or not?
And here lies the predicament that the body of Christ largely finds itself in today. The vast proportion of the body of Christ goes about their business uncaring and willingly ignorant of the enemy that has not only approached but now runs openly throughout the church and its preachers. And by God’s grace and the illumination of the Spirit some have warned about the insidious attack without much success among the evangelical world. But our calling is not just limited to “inform” but we are to “take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them”. Where does the power come from to spoil the enemy and set the captives free? Well many of us claim to be doctrinally conservative and Biblically sound but the wave of apostasy continues to build battled with mostly words both spoken and written. And if just spreading the written Word would defeat the modern deceptions then like the Gideons we could just throw a New Testament on everyone’s front lawn and “poof”, victory. And if just speaking the Word would engender the same victory then we could just stand on every street corner with a megaphone and preach the Word and “poof”, victory.
But throughout the New Testament and the church age God has empowered broken vessels with an anointing that produces unusual power in His Word spoken and lived out through totally surrendered followers who have “loved not their own lives unto death”. And on the Day of Pentecost, after the first believers were born again, Peter stood and preached the foolishness of the cross to thousands who had gathered at Jerusalem for an Old Testament feast not to hear the gospel. Why would these Jews actually listen to hear about a dead criminal named Joshua and that He was the Messiah and the only way of forgiveness of sins both now and forever? That doesn’t make sense to most people who have heard it today and it surely didn’t make sense to the gathering at Jerusalem more than two thousand years ago, so what was the reason they listened and responded on such short notice and limited information?
The answer is of course the power of the Holy Spirit. Now what preceded this great outpouring of God’s Spirit? Jesus had instructed His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they were filled with the promise of the Spirit and the Scriptures tells us that these baby followers were praying together. No TV, no restaurants, no radio, no trips, no sports, they were given wholly to prayer. Now granted the Day of Pentecost and the birth of the church was already etched into pre-history by God Himself so it was not predicated upon the acts of man, but the example is evident and telling for the modern church. Why is there little genuine power of the Holy Spirit in the church today and why does the sales strategies of man pass as the “power of the Spirit”?
The word for “pray” in the New Testament is easily translated to ask or desire so the essence of prayer is to petition God with our requests in brokenness and faith. Now there are many accounts in the Scriptures and in church history where God’s people gathered for prayer to seek God for an outpouring of His Spirit and were rewarded with a move of God’s power in their midst. In Luke 11 the Lord Jesus gives an enlightening teaching that centers on prayer. He begins with the form we have labeled the Lord’s Prayer but in verses 5 through 13 Jesus tells a story of a person who is so desperate for provision he knocks upon his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for some bread. Now the owner of the house is awakened and gets up and gives his friend the bread he desires. Jesus tells us that the man gave his friend the bread not because he was his friend but because he realized that his friend was desperate because he was willing to ask him in the middle of the night.
What is Jesus saying to us and why has he included this parable in the context of prayer? It is obvious that our Lord is teaching the church about desperate prayer that is not only elongated and intense, but it takes place in the nightime hours that reveal the urgency of the requests and boldness of a desperate heart. And continuing in this same teaching Jesus wants us to know that God is ready to grant us our petitions more than our earthly fathers are willing to help us. And in the 13th verse Jesus makes a remarkable statement that has been misused by one segment of the church and ignored by the other.
Lk.11:13 - If you then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?
We know that every person who by faith repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ receives the gift of the Holy Spirit the moment he is converted. So what is Jesus saying here about believers asking the Lord for the Holy Spirit? Just like the Old Testament the Lord by His grace sometimes endues a person or persons with a special visitation of His Holy Spirit. I would call that a revival. These events sometimes are without explanation and come unexpectedly by the sovereign hand of God, but there are times where God moves at the earnest beseeching of His children. Jesus openly revealed that the Father would give a greater anointing of the Holy Spirit in direct relation to desperate prayer that even takes place in abnormal hours when most people sleep. And in accordance with the parable Jesus shows that God is moved by a desperate heart that reflects that we are absolutely dependant upon His Spirit exclusively for our provision no matter what it is.
Be careful though, the man who asked for bread at midnight was asking for his friend not himself, so the false teaching that through certain incantations we can motivate God to give us material things is fleshly and misrepresents the nature of God. But I believe God is always looking for a person or people who so diligently seek Him in prayer and fasting that He can entrust them with His power for they will be conduits of His glory not their own. That is why it is evident that the church of Jesus Christ stands in desperate need of a strong visitation of God’s Spirit that as on Pentecost filled the followers and reached the whole world with God’s glory. We have no power of our own and much of what we do sometimes resembles debating the truth rather than the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. We should be convicted that the relevant crowd prints books, makes tapes, holds conferences, has television programs, and teaches on every subject under the sun - just like we do. So like sitting on a see saw it goes back and forth, up and down, but where is the substantiating power of the Holy Spirit that should abide upon those who are preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word?
Should we not get off the information train for a minute and look in the mirror and let the Holy Spirit speak to us in conviction and clarity so that we may awaken to the fact that God is not pleased with our devotional and prayer lives that are so compromised by our cluttered Martha experience. When we drive by the church building during the week and see it uninhabited and prayerless you would think there was no crisis and that we didn’t need God except on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays. And yet we can see exercise gatherings, committee meetings, music practice, children’s activities, teen enjoyments, cleaning crews, etc., etc., but where are the crowds on their face between the altar and the porch imploring God to bring His power to answer the crisis that permeates our very lives and the lives of those around us?
In November we watch as the body joins with the heathen and like lemmings walk to the voting booths in a human effort to affect change in the outward behavior of men but why don’t we see that same long and determined stream of believers marching like ants to the church building to fall on their faces to humbly repent before the Heavenly Father and beg Him to move in glorifying power and remove the disgusting and sinful attachment we have for our own lives and this fallen world? Many churches hand out “voting guides” with how the individual candidates say they stand, but where are the prayer guides that are handed out to document where God stands about our present condition? Why don’t the restaurants ever wonder on Sunday afternoon, “Where are the church goers today, the place seems empty?” only to later discover that the Holy Spirit so moved in the gathering that the believers were constrained to “wait upon the Lord without distraction”. Not only would that type of unexplained alteration in our Spiritual behavior get the world’s attention, but it would send Spirit filled believers out into the darkness with more than just a different doctrine but the power of God Himself.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe we don’t need any more power from on high. Maybe this is all there is and the book of Acts is ancient history having no example for today. Maybe the accounts of revivals are no more than literary embellishments that are nothing more than fiction. Maybe edifying each other is the extent of God’s power and God doesn’t desire to bare His sleeve and show forth His glory through His church. Many of us have gathered this week in a church setting and have returned home. Were we changed? With the judgment of God continuing to approach this world like a runaway locomotive, did it affect the Spiritual ambience of your service? Were there any tears of either repentance or compassion? Has everything remained the same since the fathers slept? And on Sunday are we all preparing our hearts for a prayer gathering tonight? And if the extent of prayerful acknowledgment of God's presence in the "service" was for the President, the troops, and God's nebulous blessing then save your breath because most people spent more time greeting one another than greeting the Holy Spirit. God will not be used, ignored, or conveniently placed among the time constraints of this present earthly life whether in church or out. He is Lord, and we have somehow learned to live and be content without the exhibition of His life changing glory being more than a doctrinal truth but overflowing with rivers of power that capture us in the eternal and dramatically affect the darkness of this present world.
The heart of God.
Pray for another Pentecost.