In John 16:7, the apostle said:
"I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."
This must have sounded strange to His disciples when Christ made this statement. They had been at Jesus' side for more than three years. He was everything to them. They moved when He moved. He answered all their questions. When they were sad or apprehensive, he assured them. It was unthinkable that Jesus should ever leave them. How could His leaving them be a good or even a better thing.
But our Lord knew what was best. His statement highlighted the greatness of the Holy Spirits coming ministry in their lives, and the life of the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit would be everything to them, even more than the physical presence of Jesus. That is not blasphemous or degrading to Christ, because it is He who made that statement. Jesus had been with them - but He had been outside of them. And the great work that needed to be done in the disciples was internal.
This is the very heart of the New Covenant that God was making with his people.
He said, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you."? (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
When God moves in a sovereign way, and the Holy Spirit is given freedom to flow, supernatural manifestations may occur. When my brother and I went as guest speakers to a large Pentecostal Baptist church in San Salvador, we didn't go with the idea of orchestrating how the Holy Spirit was going to move. As I told you a couple of weeks ago, what happened that night was not because John and Ken showed up. It was because God showed up.
I told you that more than 200 that night were slain in the Holy Spirit. I only repeat it because I want to discuss the topic. Two things need to be added to that statement.
1. The term, "slain in the Spirit," may be new to some of you.
This occurs when the power of the Holy Spirit comes on a person, and they have difficulty maintaining control of their motor faculties. As a result, they fall to the floor or ground.
This wasn't new to my brother or I. We had been raised in a Pentecostal pastor's home, and had seen the power of God manifested in this manner on a number of occasions. And, most of those who have spent many years in Pentecost have seen this manifestation.
2. The second statement I need to make is this:
We should not orchestrate a service where we force such manifestations. These are signs of the moving of God's Spirit. Manifestations - and there are many of them - are not the substance of God's move, but rather signs that focus our attention on the fact that He is doing something. Our goal should never be outward manifestations, but rather inward transformation which comes from an encounter with God.
Let me give you an example from an event in my life more than 40 years ago. At the very last service in Guatemala, Dr. Dwaine Lee, my bother-in-law, was the speaker. But the pastor asked my brother and me to address the crowd that Sunday morning. My brother-in-law suggested I tell them the story I am about to share with you. Many of you - maybe most - have already heard this story.
*** TELL STORY OF ALMOST BEING SHOT DOWN BY SOVIET FIGHTERS ***
"Permission to arm their weapons."
"Permission to lock on their radar."
"Permission to attack…"
Very few in the world knew where I was at that time - not even my wife. But God knew. And when I prayed, He knew exactly where to send the answer. I prayed and the Holy Spirit was so real - manifested in an overwhelming peace. Some of my comrades could hardly walk when we got back on land. They had faced possible death in the face - and fear had gripped them. Today, I am still maneuvering behind enemy lines, this time within the territory of our enemy, Satan. the devil doesn't like it a bit. And I couldn't accomplish anything without the power of the Holy Spirit. And most of you - hopefully all of you - are part of the army of Christ.
When we open ourselves up to God, the manifestation will be that which He chooses.
The Good Ole Days
I want to make a few comments to those who have been around Pentecost for most of their lives. There will be times when we yearn for the way God moved in the "Good Ole Days." By that, it is usually meant that we want the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit back then to occur again. We want to see the glory of God flowing in our services.
I have a word of caution. When God showed Moses his glory, what did God show him? Moses saw the "hinder" part of God. That tells me Moses did not see where God was coming from, but saw where God was going. I want to see where God is going today.
What happened 30, 40. 50 years ago may be a great memory, and they are indicators of what the Holy Spirit can do in our lives, but what we need today is a fresh move of the Holy Spirit. There were things in the past that were good then, but may not be today. I don't want anything stale. I want something fresh.
When Christ left earth and returned to Heaven, we do not see the disciples weeping. They never showed any nostalgia for "the good old days.' Luke tells us that after Jesus ascended out of sight, they "returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God." (Luke 24:52-53)
Why did they display such a remarkable reaction to the departure of Jesus? The answer is the coming of the Holy Spirit. When Christ was present they were only eyewitnesses of His power. But when the day of Pentecost came, they were more than eyewitnesses. They possessed the power themselves. They experienced the divine presence personally.
Last week, I asked a rhetorical question - "When we come to God, do we seek his face or seek his hands?" When we seek His hands, we are looking to see what He will give us. When we seek His face, we are looking at what we can give Him. Now, it is not wrong to seek His hand, for the Lord has invited us to bring every need we have to him. And we should expected a response from Him by His hands.
Psalm 37:24 tells us that God upholds us "with his hand."
Psalms 104:28 (NKJV) adds:
28 ...You open Your hands, they are filled with good.
To show you how much God want to bless us, lets look at a verse back in the Torah, the Law --- the writings of Moses.
Deuteronomy 1:11 (NIV)
11 May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised!
Many of the Old Testament prophesies had a dual application. They had a specific meaning for the people living then. But they also often spoke to those who came later, like ourselves. This specific verse is a promise to bless the Children of Israel. But what is He saying to us today?
What would we look like if the Lord increased New Life Church a thousand times. Just imagine this principle at work in our midst for a moment.
o If we had a thousand times the people
o Or if we had a thousand times the opportunities.
o Imagine if the Lord gave us a thousand times the influence in our communities.
o What would it be like to have a thousand times the finance, or resources?
Deut 1:11 (NIV)
May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times.
Here's another Scripture with a similar concept.
Psalm 84:10 (NAS)
One day in the house of the Lord is better than a thousand outside in the world.
A single day in the house of the Lord is better than a thousand.
What would that be like? Imagine what right now would take a 1000 days. How would it be if the Lord would do that in one day? think about what could be accomplished in 1000 days in your life --- or in this church. How would it be if that could happen in a single day?
I'll tell you what - that thought certainly excites me. I believe we are here on earth for Kingdom purposes. We are not just marking time for the Rapture to occur. We are not here just to feel better about ourselves, now that we are saved. 2 Tim. 1:9 says we were called and saved according to his good purpose. Yes, we are here for Kingdom purposes. God wants to bless his people. He delights in giving good things to His children.
But if we only seek his hands, we will be stunted in our spiritual growth and intimacy with God. God is not satisfied with people who merely seek His benefits. He also wants each of us to seek His face. Here's why: Intimacy will bring about "blessing," but the pursuit of "blessing' won't always bring about intimacy.
So, how does one find intimacy with God? Let's ask one who did - Moses. I have already briefly mentioned part of the Passage I now want to read.
Exodus 33:17-20 NKJV
17 So the LORD said to Moses, "I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name."
18 And he (Moses) said, "Please, show me Your glory."
20 But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."
When Moses asked God to show him His glory, the Lord warned him that no man can see His face and live. Even in the New Testament, this statement is true. Only dead men and women can see God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul says, "I die daily." But Paul is not talking about physical death, but death to one's own nature and flesh in a spiritual sense. There is a definite connection between His glory and our death.
Romans 8:13 NKJV
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
If you really want to draw near to the Lord, if you want to develop intimacy with Him, you and I will have to die to ourselves, and become alive in Christ. Only then will our seeking after his face reveal to us his glory.
We sometimes fail to grasp something about the glory of God. Paul the apostle said, "That no flesh should glory in His presence." (1 Cor. 1:29) If there is flesh present when the glory of God comes, then it will have to be dead flesh. That's because only dead men and women can see His face. This is why repentance and brokenness before God, the New Testament equivalent of death, brings the manifest presence of God so near.
The last time I read Psalm 103:1, it said: "Bless the Lord, O my soul." It did not say, "O my Lord, Bless my soul." We expect God to reach into His pocket and dispense the blessings of His hands. But He also wants us to enjoy the fellowship of His face, and yet, only dead men and women can get close enough to see Him.
I want you to look closely at the apostle John on the Island of Patmos. Here is a man who had been the closest of all the disciples. He had watched Jesus awaken from a sound sleep to calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He saw Jesus literally stop a funeral procession to touch the body of a boy, raising him from the dead, and restore him to his mother.
And yet, this same apostle turned around on the island and saw Him in His unveiled glory for the first time. And what happened to John? He fell at the feet of Jesus as though he were dead (Revelation 1:17). What happened this time that had not happened in the three ye(ars John was with Jesus? Whatever it was, this time John tasted death because he had seen Life.
It takes death to really see Christ. I want to experience that - how about you? I want to be a walking dead man. the more I die, the closer He gets.
Later in the Book of Revelation is another related verse.
Revelation 12:11 NKJV
11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Am I avoiding death? How about you?
The greatest blessing doesn't come from God's hand. It comes from His face in intimate relationship. and when you finally see Him and know Him, you have come to the source of all power.
But we have a dilemma - our flesh doesn't die easily. The apostle Paul talked about his struggle with the flesh in Romans 7. He said, "the things I want to do, I end of not doing them." "When I want to do what it right, I inevitably do what is wrong." "And the things I don't want to do, I still do them." He says the new life we have in Christ tells us to do what is right, but our flesh - that only nature - is still inside me causing him to do wrong.
And then in Romans 7:24 (NKJV), Paul asks:
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Over the last several week, I have sense, on the part of many, if not all of you, an hunger for "revival." If that is you, I have a word for you: The fire of God doesn't fall on empty altars. There has to be a sacrifice on the altar for the fire to fall.
If God's fire falls on you and me, people will come just to watch us burn. And perhaps we will really see God's face, and those who come will see His reflection in us.
I don't know where you are on your journey with Christ. But I have made a decision. I have made up my mind and have set my heart to declare to you, "I am going to pursue the presence of God in my life."
In the last two months, I have seen part of His glory, and I won't be satisfied until I see much more. I want to get so close to God that when I walk into secular and public places, people will meet Him. they may not know that I am there, but they will definitely know that He is there. I want people that I come near to feel uncomfortable if they are not right with God, even though I haven't said a word. I am not wanting to condemn or to convict them. I just want to carry the fragrance of my Father with me.
How about you? At some point, we need to decide and declare: "Lord, I thank You for what You've done, but I'm desperate for what You can yet do."
I propose that this is the proper posture for the church. We are grateful for what He has done, but we are also desperate for what He can do. The odd mix of joy with sorrow, of deep satisfaction with endless hunger, is common wherever God shows up. And we haven't seen anything yet.
True revival cannot take place in the absence of either component. God is attracted to "holy appetite" for His manifest presence.
I have a tugging in my heart that there may be someone here today that cannot experience any of the things I have discussed - because you don't know Christ yet. If that describes you, I want to give you the opportunity to have this relationship with Jesus. he died for my sins and yours.
The greatest decision I ever made was to accept His offer of salvation. Salvation, and the resultant "eternal life" is found in no other. Jesus is the only way. If you want Christ to forgive you and come to live in you - you can right now.