FILLED WITH HIS SPIRIT
As the disciples ate their last Passover meal with Jesus, they heard sobering words from the Master. He spoke of betrayal, death, courage and the future. They knew something was about to happen and that their lives were about to change. Like the opening night of a great drama, there was activity behind the curtain that would change everything, and His followers were uneasy. In fact, John 14:1 says that the disciples were “troubled” (stirred and unsettled; disturbed).
As they walked toward the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus encouraged His disciples by giving them a peek behind the curtain, a glimpse of things to come. He spoke to them about His future—going to the Father, preparing an eternal dwelling for them and a path to eternal fellowship with Him (John 14:1–6).
Jesus told His followers about the intimate relationship they would be able to share with their Heavenly Father (vv. 7–15). And He talked about the Holy Spirit, who would provide unity, spiritual energy, guidance and direction for life and ministry (vv. 16–31). He provided their first peek at the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that would enable ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things in His power and for His glory.
For more than 2,000 years the Spirit of God has indwelt and empowered His Body, the Church. In the Book of Acts we read about the Early Church at Pentecost and marvel at the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as the Kingdom grows under persecution from the world. Throughout history the Spirit has sustained God’s people, and multitudes have experienced intimacy with Jesus through the Spirit’s indwelling.
Several people have expressed concern that emphasis on the filling of the Holy Spirit has waned in today’s Alliance. Although the comments and observations have a sting, I find validity in them.
For 125 years, the Alliance has rested on two pillars: sanctification through the filling of the Holy Spirit and completing the Great Commission to bring back the King. God has used our Alliance people in extraordinary ways to accomplish His purposes. Millions have come to a personal relationship with Jesus and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but comparatively few experience the fullness of the Spirit in their lives.
The apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church is relevant today: “. . . that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). He made another admonition later in the letter, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:17–18).
Two years after becoming Christ followers, Betty and I hit the “wall.” We were committed and active in disciplemaking ministry, but we were worn out. The joy of our salvation had faded. We reached out to our Alliance pastor, who had experienced many challenges in ministry—yet had the joy of God! Late one evening, we called to ask if he would share his secret. Thankfully, he explained that ministry done in human strength would fail. He graciously shared the Scriptures on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We were tired of our “doing” ministry and realized we needed the filling (control) of the Spirit. That evening was life changing as we experienced release from our human striving and the fullness of the Spirit in our lives. The initial infilling and then the continued yielding to the Spirit has been a pattern for us over the decades.
Seven years ago I came into my role as the C&MA’s president emphasizing three things: healthy workers, healthy churches and Kingdom harvest. The challenges of ministry are complex and beyond the scope of human solutions. I am more convinced than ever that these three aims require the filling of the Holy Spirit and His control of all that we are and do. Instead of us working for Jesus, our desire is for Jesus to work through us.
I hope that we will get beyond the reasons that minimize the person and work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life such as fear, ignorance, apathy, confusion. Since it is God’s will for His people to be filled with His Spirit, by faith ask for His filling and experience His control.