About the author :
Dr. Isaac Keïta was AWF Regional Coordinator for Africa and director of FATEAC theological Seminary in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Isaac Keita held a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Illinois, USA). Dr. Keïta died in January 2012.
Why is this such an important subject for the church of the third millennium? It is important because of the reality of suffering due to the spiritual poverty of the church of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in general, and of our local churches in particular. We are quite conscious of the fact that in one way or another we are deprived of the possibilities and privileges which the Lord has prepared for our pilgrimage on this earth. This pushes us to ardently desire and long for a more authentic, victorious, and fruitful Christian life, to the glory of the Lord.
Then, there are also many Christians who, realizing the poverty of their own spiritual life, give themselves to prayer for what is commonly called “revival.” What are they actually looking for? Some of our Christian brothers are asking for “miraculous signs“, developing a special vocabulary, for example the “baptism” of, or in the Holy Spirit, the condition of “speaking” in tongues, or the “unction” of the Spirit. Are they right? Does the Word of God in its teaching about the Holy Spirit really put its emphasis on these elements?
Finally, I see the basic problem lying in the fact that our churches are listening less and less to our Lord Jesus Christ. They readily listen to their own emotions, to the “noises” all around them, and to the spiritual happenings in other communities. Our churches are drowning in the tidal wave of “imitating others” instead of giving themselves to imitating the Lord and listening to His truth.
I. The Person of the Holy Spirit
The coming of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Christ based on the words of the prophet Joel, “And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28, NIV).
Jesus had said to his disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16, 17, NIV).
Luke recalls the promise of God through Joel (Acts 2:17), in order to show that the work of Jesus did not stop with his ascension. The book of Acts was written in confirmation of the fact that the promised Holy Spirit had actually come so that the work would continue.
I.Now, who is this Holy Spirit?
Many people see the Holy Spirit as a hidden power, which can be released in favour of the one who uses the right “magic formula.” The Holy Spirit is sometimes perceived as a force or an incomparably superior influence which causes the “densest forest” to tremble. It would be sensible for the church of Christ in general, and for the true believer in particular, to remember that:
A. The Holy Spirit is God
1. He is the Third Person of the Trinity
We find the Holy Spirit associated with God the Father and God the Son in:
a. The baptismal formula.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19, NIV). This means that nobody can get so far as to publicly express his engagement with God in passing through the waters of baptism, without the combined work of the Trinity, i.e. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
b. The baptismal benediction.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Co. 13:13, NIV).
c. The Trinitarian hymn (Eph 1:3-14, NIV).
Considering salvation in all its aspects, Paul is celebrating the glory of the Father who has predestined us in his love, and who has freely given us his grace in the One he loves (v. 6); of the Son by whose blood we are redeemed, and who is our hope (v. 12), and of the Holy Spirit who has brought us to faith, and who is the guarantee of our inheritance until our redemption (v. 14).
For those who judge and condemn the Christians for having three gods, it is necessary to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is not a third god of the Christian faith. The theological language of the people of the Bible suggesting the concept of “Trinity” does not at all mean that there be three gods, each independent of the others, and each with his own existence. On the contrary, the three cooperate in one and the same spirit, and for the same purpose, so that they are ONE in the true sense of the term. We can also say that the unity of the three persons of the Trinity does not prevent any of them to play their own particular role.
In support of this affirmation, Pearlman Myer would say, “The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies; and yet, all three are present in each work.” Pearlman Meyer continues to say that “the Father is primarily Creator, while the Son and the Holy Spirit are described as cooperating in this work. The Son is primarily Redeemer, and yet God the Father and the Holy Spirit are described as sending the Son to redeem humanity. The Holy Spirit is primarily Sanctifier, and yet the Father and the Son are cooperating with Him in this work.” (Myer, Pearlman. Aux Sources de la Vérité Biblique. La Voix Chrétienne, 1937, p. 75).
2. The Holy Spirit is God because He is Omnipotent
One of the elements which characterise the divinity of the Holy Spirit is His attribute of omnipotence. Many times we observe in the Bible that the Spirit is the source of power. It is He who executes God’s will in the world in general, and in the Christian’s life in particular. Already in Old Testament times, and particularly in Zechariah 4:6, victory for the Jews did not come “by (human) might nor by (human) power, but by my (Jehovah’s) Sprit.” In other words, the Spirit of God is, or owns a power which is superior to any other power on earth, under the earth, or above the earth.
In the New Testament, the miracles and signs of the apostles are clearly attributed to the Spirit. Let us look at what Paul is saying:
“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” (Ro. 15:18, 19 a, NIV).
“Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1 Thes. 1:5, NIV).
A good exegesis will help us to conclude from both texts that the power of miracles and signs, just like the power of the convicting word are attributed to the Spirit of God.
The well known text found in Acts 1:8 assures the disciples concerning the power which they must wait for in Jerusalem. The Lord Himself tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.” The power of Christian witnessing comes from the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit of God.
3. The Holy Spirit is God because He is Omniscient
The Holy Spirit is God because He knows everything. Omniscience is one of the attributes of God. This knowledge (or science) is perfect. He does not need to reason or discover things, nor to gradually learn, like we humans. His knowledge of the past, of the present, and of the future is instantaneous.
This is why the apostle Paul, praising the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, speaks in these terms, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.—[Concerning the mystery, look at what Paul says about the Spirit of God]—God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Co. 2:9, 10, NIV). Because the Spirit is the One who searches all things, even the deep things of God, Jesus said to his disciples, “When the Counsellor will come, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:7, 13, NIV).
4. The Holy Spirit is God because He is Omnipresent
Omnipresence also is an attribute of God, and of Him alone. Reading Psalm 139, we quickly notice that this attribute is used for God as well as the Spirit of God. The psalmist alternately uses “Lord” and “Spirit.” Both have the capacity to search everything, even the most secret intentions of man, and to be omnipresent, so that it is impossible for man to hide from God or from the Spirit. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (v. 7). The heavens are his dwelling place; the depths are constantly before his face; the oceans can’t hide from his presence; darkness becomes light because of his presence; even the night will shine like the day because of the presence of God’s Spirit.
This means that the Spirit of God is everywhere. Nothing and nobody can hide from his knowledge and his presence. All our actions, even the most secret ones, are always done before the “witnessing” look of the Spirit of God.
5. The Holy Spirit is God because He is Eternal
The Spirit is already mentioned at the creation of the universe, and of everything it contains. In Hebrews 9:14, he is called “the eternal Spirit” in association with the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This leads us to the conclusion that the work which Christ the Saviour accomplished on the cross of Golgotha for our salvation, his burial, his resurrection, and his ascension, all these have an eternal dimension, because the associated Spirit is an Eternal Spirit. If today we are saved by the grace of God, by the means of faith, then we are eternal indeed. We are born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. We are born of God Himself, through the work of the Eternal Spirit. Because of this character of the Spirit of God and of his work, all those who believe in God through Jesus Christ have their name written for ever in the book of life, of the Lamb of God. And nobody, nor on the earth, nor in heaven, will ever be able to erase it, because it is written by the eternal blood of the Lamb of God, and sealed by the Eternal Spirit of the Eternal God.
B. The Holy Spirit is a Person
Beside the fact that the Holy Spirit is God, he also is a person. How can we know? Well, are we not treating him like a person? Let us look at the biblical evidence.
1. The Holy Spirit can be Lied to (as a Person can).
Luke, telling us the story of Ananias and Saphira, reports what the apostle Peter said to Ananias, “How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit.?” (Acts 5:3, NIV). Lying to the Holy Spirit is not something which happened only during the first century of the history of the church. Today, men and women who call themselves Christians, continue to lie to the Holy Spirit.
There are many who confess to be God’s children, and to be living for God’s glory. However, the opposite is true. How many have not, through their own doing and through very human means, granted themselves some high office in the church, and who afterwards call it an act of the Spirit of God! What shall we say about those who today are in the ministry, affirming to be called of God, and yet their conscience is telling them that they are in the ministry by their own will, in order to satisfy their selfish desires, or maybe simply propelled by the “politics of their own stomach,” because in our modern society the possibilities of finding a job are becoming increasingly meagre. Yes, we are still able to lie to the Holy Spirit!
2. The Holy Spirit can be grieved.
The Spirit can feel like a person. The apostle Paul writing to the Ephesians, and contrasting the Christian life with the corrupt habits of the pagans, is telling them, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30, NIV). In the following verses, Paul mentions what was still left of the old nature in the new believers. There was bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and every form of malice (v. 31). The collective name of these sins is “hatred.” The Spirit is grieved when we manifest hatred [or rebellion] against God and against our neighbour.
3. The Holy Spirit is Acting like a Person.
He reveals (2 Pe.1:21). He witnesses (Gal. 4:6; Jn. 15:26). He intercedes (Rom. 8:26). He teaches (Jn. 14:26). Unfortunately, the time is too short to develop all these aspects of the person of The Holy Spirit.
II. The Work of the Holy Spirit
After having briefly spoken of the person of the Spirit, let us take some minutes to consider his work.
I am afraid you will not be able to forgive me if I don’t mention “all” the works of the Holy Spirit like, for example, the work of creation (in the O.T.), the selection and call of God’s servants, the work of convicting, of witnessing to us, the work of adoption and of salvation, of consolation, and of defending the saints.etc.
Because of the shortness of our time, I would like to propose to you a different approach to the work of the Holy Spirit. It will concentrate on one specific declaration of the Lord Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit. His declaration is the following:
The Spirit…will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you (Jn. 16:14, NIV).
I consider this declaration as the summary of all the work of the Holy Spirit, as well in the O.T. as in the N.T. It is essential in the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the world, with the Holy Scriptures, with the believer, and also with the church. So, for this meeting this morning, and for the rest of the conference, please accept that I limit myself to this one declaration which however is full of significance, in regard to the Holy Spirit:
A. The Work of the Holy Spirit is to Glorify Jesus Christ
To better understand the theological and spiritual value of this important declaration of Christ, let us turn to John 14:16, 17, which contains the words which Jesus spoke just before his declaration. He said to his disciples,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you (French, Segond: in the midst of you) for ever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (NIV).
Jesus told his disciples that his leaving them would actually be to their advantage, and that the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. What was the advantage? The answer to this question lies partly in the three prepositions found in the verses 16 and 17 of John 14.
1. In the midst of you (meth’humon).
This expression was to remind them of Jahveh’s relationship with the people of Israel. He dwelled in their midst to reveal himself to them, enlighten them, direct, and also to protect the people of Israel against their enemies. He desired to live in communion with Israel. He wanted to be loved, worshipped, and served by the people to whom he had shown his great faithfulness, his grace, patience and power. The expression “in the midst of you” carries the meaning of “communion.”
The advantage of Jesus leaving his disciples, and the Holy Spirit coming to them, was that he would serve as a link, creating and realizing their communion with God the Father and the Son, and also with each other. We shall come back to this later.
2. With you (par’humin).
Here we find the idea of a personal presence, which meant a new step in their relationship with God. The church believes in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. By this, the Son of God came to be with, or near his people, so that he could say to them, “All this I have spoken while still with you” (Jn. 14:15, NIV). The apostle John being aware of this divine and personal presence of Christ with his people, said to his readers, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father.(Jn.1:14).
From 1 John 1:1-3 we may deduct that the personal presence of Christ with those who love him makes it possible to contemplate him. It gives them knowledge and produces personal conviction, courage, and consolation. Would Christ’s departure mean the end of these blessings?—Would he plunge his disciples in such unequalled loneliness?—The answer certainly is NO! Because the Spirit will come, the Holy Spirit of God will stay with them to assure them of the same divine and personal presence . This presence, spiritual and invisible to the physical eyes, is however not less real, beneficial, and delightful.
3. Within you (KJV) (en humin).
Here we see a completely new dimension in the relationship between God and the believers. From then on, God would not only be “in their midst,” nor only “with them,” but actually “within them.” Since Pentecost, God by his Spirit is dwelling or living in the believer. Yes, a Christian is someone in whom lives the Holy Spirit, and consequently, at the same time, he has become the habitation of God the Father and God the Son.
These very blessings were the reason why the Saviour’s leaving his disciples was to their advantage. As Frank Horton remarks, “his physical presence would be replaced by his spiritual presence; his exterior presence would be replaced by his inner presence; his local presence which was limited by his body, would be replaced by his omnipresence which would be a presence within the community, in the midst of the believers, and at the same time, a personal presence with and within each individual believer.”
Our next question would be:
B. How does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus Christ?
1. By Exalting Him as Saviour
When Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would glorify him, it is evident that he meant the exaltation of the work of salvation which Jesus accomplished for all of humanity and for the kingdom of God the Father.
The Bible declares, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16, NIV). In his great love for us, God has prepared a plan of salvation which is realized through the suffering and the atoning death of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul could say, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast (Eph. 2:8, 9, NIV).
What is the role of the Spirit in this process? How does he exalt the Son in this work of salvation?
a. The Spirit Convicts the Sinner of his Sins (Lk. 15:11-24).
This parable is called “The Parable of the Lost Son.” It is not necessary to repeat the story, we know it since we first came into contact with the gospel. I would however emphasize one aspect, which is the episode showing the son in his poverty, suffering, without work, unhappy and miserable. He has no hope to find help from his fellowmen. He approaches a farmer who owns a herd of pigs in need of someone to feed them and to clean out their “bedroom” and their “living quarters.” The suffering of the young man is such that he longs to eat the pods which the pigs are eating. Living in such conditions, so the text tells us in verse 17, “he came to his senses.” Salvation always starts with this turning point when we come to our senses, when we discover what we really are. At that moment we realize that we are lost, far away from the Father’s house. This is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit bringing conviction to our hearts, and illuminating the truth that we are spiritually lost, far from God, and far from the kingdom. It is only after this salutary experience that the return homeward can begin. Without this conviction of our lost state, we shall not understand our need of Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross as a ransom, so we could be redeemed and free. Only at the cross our soul will find back the once interrupted communion with a holy God.
b. The Spirit Regenerates us.
Writing to Titus, Paul said, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Tit. 3:5, 6, NIV). The regeneration reminds us of the new birth of a child of God. When we receive Christ as our Saviour and Master, it is the Holy Spirit who changes our state of spiritual death into life. We begin to live a new life in Jesus Christ, in the position of a child of God. This is why the Lord said with so much emphasis to Nicodemus, “No-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3, NIV).
c. The Spirit Lives Within us.
In the Old Testament we read that the Spirit of God came upon certain persons (men and women of God), for a particular ministry and time which God had chosen (Judges 14:19). During Christ’s ministry on the earth, the Spirit was with the disciples through the person of Christ himself (John 14:16). Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is living in every person who put his or her faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Now we understand why Paul was crying out, as he wrote to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. (1 Cor. 6:19, NIV). For life and death we belong to the Lord.because the cross of Christ has given us peace with God and fulfillment” (S.A.F. # 300).
d. The Holy Spirit Seals us.
At the moment we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, he actually seals us with the seal of Christ. This seal indicates that from then on we who believe in Christ are “the children of God.” We belong to him. This is not fiction, but an authentic and eternal reality, of which the seal of the Holy Spirit on our lives is an irrefutable evidence. Because of this seal, we are kept by God from day to day. The Spirit who sealed us in this way is the guarantee of our eternal inheritance. Paul said in Ephesians, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Eph. 1:13, 14, NIV). (15)
How else does the Holy Spirit glorify Christ?
2. By Exalting Him as our Sanctifier
The Lord Jesus is our Sanctifier. The term sanctification calls to mind too ideas: First, the idea of separation: The child of God is called to be separated from the world, to get out from among the people of the world, as Paul says in Corinthians exhorting them, “Come out from among them and be separate, touch not the unclean thing.”(2 Cor. 6:17, NIV).
Secondly, there is the idea of union, or communion of the Christian with God. We must understand that real communion with God is impossible without first experiencing real separation from the things of this world. It is true that through regeneration, the Holy Spirit produces a radical change in our soul, by bringing into it a new principle of life. But this does not mean that the child of God has automatically become “perfect.” Pearlman Meyer says, “there is a rest of inherited and acquired weakness, the [influence of the] world, the old carnal nature, the devil, which we must overcome.”
The Holy Spirit is applying this sanctifying and overcoming grace to us. He does it through the word of God which he illuminates, allowing us to take possession of it for ourselves. Having himself inspired the sacred authors, he is able to magnify the word of God in our hearts and cause our hearts to attach themselves to the word of God, and to love and obey it. For the Spirit produces in us faith in this divine revelation, which is eternal, and will never pass away, even if all other things will disappear. The Lord Jesus said in his sacerdotal prayer, “sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
The sanctification, of which we are speaking here, is not sectoral, touching one part of our being but not another. It is all inclusive. This means that when the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart for the glory of God, he is dealing with all of our being. Our body, heart, and soul are all sanctified and set apart for God. Consequently, we do not belong to ourselves any more, we belong to him who loved us and saved us, and sanctified us.
This intimate communion between Christ (his Spirit) and the believer allows us to bear the fruit which is worthy of him who lives in us. It is this sanctifying grace which causes the child of God, not to love sin, but on the contrary, to despise it. He is no more a slave of the works of the flesh, which are manipulating and dominating our societies today in such a way that people have become “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:1-4, NIV).
The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ in us, by causing us to turn away from such people and their practices, and to manifest another kind of fruit, the fruit of life and justice, which the Spirit produces in us, and which Paul identifies as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Only those can manifest these fruits who are able to say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20, NIV).
Let us look at still another way by which the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus:
3. By Exalting Him as the One who Heals
We just said that that sanctification touches the whole person. This means that Christ, by His Spirit, sanctifies our spirits, our souls, and also our bodies.
Christ has the power to give health and life to our sick or even dead bodies, just as He has given health and life to our souls which were suffering, sick and dead because of our separation from our Creator. This is why the Spirit declares through the sacred authors, “There is healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2, NIV), and, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him” (Is. 53:5, NIV). Colossians 1:19, 20 declares, “For God was pleased.through him to reconcile to himself all things.by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (NIV). This indicates that the healing which is most important is the healing of our souls and our spirits, as they are reconciled with a Holy God.
As to the healing of our physical body, which the Lord in his grace has given us, we hold the same opinion as the founder of the C&MA, dr. A. B. Simpson, in his book “Wholly Sanctified,” “A sanctified body is a separated, consecrated, and Spirit-filled body.” Because of the Holy Spirit living in our body, the apostle Paul teaches us through the Spirit that, “our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 6:19). And being the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies become “the members of Christ” (1 Co. 6:15).
God does not want us to dishonour our bodies, nor to give them over to sinful desires and sexual impurity (Ro. 1:24; 1 Co. 6:13), because they really belong to the Lord, and therefore must serve His glory.
The Spirit of God reassures us, by means of A. B. Simpson, that God is able “to fill with Himself a simple vase made of clay,” because Christ has become the head of the human body, and even in this life “the Lord is for the body, and the body is for the Lord” (1 Co. 6:13). The Spirit teaches us that, since our bodies belong to Christ, their purpose will change also. Their “weakness” will be changed into strength and divine holiness, by the presence of the Spirit of God in us. Paul declares in his letter to the Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body (2 Co. 4:8-10).
Therefore, Christ the Sovereign owner of our whole being, has full right and the power to act with our bodies as seems good to him. He will do what is to the glory of God.
Christ declared to Herod who wanted to kill Him, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal” (Lk. 13:32). I think that Jesus expressed a similar thought about the blind man, he intended to heal, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no-one can work” (Jn. 13:4, NIV). This is to say that physical healing is part of the “works of God“, of his programme for us humans. It happens by grace, and the Holy Spirit is the divine agent. The apostle Paul said, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Ro. 8:11). The Spirit goes even further by giving to certain people [in the church], the gift of healing (1 Co. 12:9).
Healed or not, living or dead, our bodies belong to the Lord, and the Lord is for our bodies, which are sanctified to give Him glory and honour through the Spirit who lives in us.
Finally, the Holy Spirit glorifies Christ by:
4. Exalting Him as the coming King
Not long before Pentecost, at the moment of Christ’s ascension, the disciples being frightened and full of questions, continued to look up at the clouds where their Master had disappeared from their eyes. Just then they received the visit of two men who reassured them by saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the shy? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11, NIV).
On the isle of Patmos, the apostle John wrote, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen” (Rev. 1:7, 8).
It is interesting to note in the first text the expression “this same Jesus,” meaning not another one, not a substitute will come back from heaven, but He Himself, the true Jesus, the real Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the branch of David, the Lamb that was killed, the One who has triumphed, and who has been found worthy to open the scroll and to break its seven seals (Rev. 5:5). It is of him that the Holy Spirit is speaking when he exalts his imminent return.
Jesus Christ, our King, is indeed coming back soon. He will come to take his church with him. Then, during a period of one thousand years, he will establish his kingdom of peace and justice on this earth (Is. 2:4; 11:6-8; Ro. 8:20-22) in a way which no man has ever experienced before (Rev. 20:1-6).
III. What is Our Part in This?
After having said all this about the Holy Spirit, we must ask the question, what is our part in this, or what should be our reaction to the person and the work of the Holy Spirit?
A. Walking According to the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)
Most people understand very little of this walk in the Spirit. It means walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, allowing him to have full control of our lives. It means recognizing and experiencing him as the only Master of our lives. It is saying with Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20, NIV). Trying to live the Christian life in our own strength and capacities means that we shall experience sure and absolute defeat. But our victory in this walk will become evident, once we have invited Jesus Christ to direct our lives through his Spirit, and by faith have grasped the reality of being “crucified with Christ” and “resurrected with Christ.”
Such knowledge will push us to live in the light as he is living in the light, when the Lord, by his Spirit, and by the power of his resurrection, will begin to live his abundant life in us.
This does not mean that we shall not meet any more problems. But the difference will be that from that moment on, Christ by His Spirit will be responsible for our problems, and we shall continue to place our confidence in him, whatever circumstances may arise.
B. Being Filled with the Word of God (Jam. 1:22)
The word of God is our guide, our compass, the source of our wisdom, our defensive and offensive weapon. How well we put the word into practice, depends on the measure of our love for God and His anointed One. Once the Spirit of God lives in us, our love will burn all the more, and we shall not be able to live without listening and obeying him. If we attach ourselves to the Word, our success will become evident and we shall succeed in all our enterprises.
What actually is the place of the word of God in our lives and in that of our families?
C. Prayer as a Way of Life (Ro. 8:26)
No Christian is right to say, “I cannot pray,” because,
The Spirit himself helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Prayer brings us closer to God, and cultivates our intimacy with God. It is the source of all the graces which God has in store for us. He himself tells us, “Ask, and you shall receive, seek and you shall find; knock at the door and it shall be opened unto you.”
Today, our churches do they really know how to pray? Are we allowing the Spirit to teach us how to pray, or are we imitating those who think that they are praying, but in reality are just making noise?
D. Be Aware of Obstacles to the Christian Life
1. Un-confessed Sin.
In our Christian walk, one of the biggest obstacles is un-confessed sin. We are grieving the Spirit, when He reveals sin in our lives and we refuse to confess it. Un-confessed sin robs us of the joy of experiencing victory and spiritual growth. Consistently refusing to recognize and confess one’s sin is a sign of rebellion against the Spirit of God, and this may well lead to what the Bible calls “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 12:31, 32). If our prayers are not answered, very often the cause is hidden sin in our lives. It is blocking the flow of God’s grace in us, and sometimes even in the whole church. The Bible tells us that it is our sins which raise up a wall between God and us.
When was the last time we confessed our sins? A true return to the cross of Christ is always the solution which opens a way for God’s grace in our favour. Are we willing to use this moment to become silent before God, and to ask him to forgive us?
Sometimes, God may ask us to restore what we owe. It may mean material or financial restoration, or even the giving up of a position in the church which does not belong to us. It may also mean the restoration of a ruined reputation. It certainly means returning to God all the glory, which we may have usurped.
2. Unbelief, Lack of Faith.
Another obstacle could be lack of faith, or unbelief. The Bible tells us that “without fait it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6, NIV). Can you imagine a child saying to his father, “I hate you, I don’t trust you any more“ ? Yet, sometimes we are saying exactly that to God, by our attitudes and acts of disobedience towards His will.
3. Love for the Things of this World.
James writes in his epistle, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the Spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” (NIV) God hates spiritual adultery, this chocking mixture of trusting God and lusting after the things of this world.
Today, there are some leaders of churches or Christian ministries who have no other vision than to look for “partners,” people who are willing to “invest.” All their activities are directed towards this one goal. It seems that there is a tendency to transform our churches into business enterprises with a calling for economic and material development, while we have abandoned the essential. The truth is that in looking mainly for the things of the world, we are also tempted to use worldly methods (corruption, fraud, power, the occult.) in order to succeed.
The Holy Spirit is warning us, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:1, 2).
IV. Conclusion and Final Challenge
Our conclusion will be organized around several questions.
A. Have I really been Regenerated by the Holy Spirit?
If the theologian Nicodemus, with all his knowledge of the Law and the religious system of the Pharisees, did not know that for being able to see and enter the kingdom of God, he had to be born again, by water and by the Spirit, then we must make sure that don’t get trapped by the same ignorance. Today, if our faith in Christ is only a rational one, then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we need to seek a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Master.
B. Am I Grieving the Holy Spirit by my Conduct?
The battle, which we are called to fight, is a real and a hard one. The Bible tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12, NIV).
For us Christians, it is so easy to do things which are not glorifying God. This can happen in our relationship with God, with our families, or at work.The Spirit of God is faithful, and if we listen, we shall hear him telling us exactly what is wrong in our relationships. If we really want to know, we can sense that he is touching that part of our lives which is not glorifying God.
C. Does the Alliance Family Glorify Christ in the Same Way as the Holy Spirit?
We would like to use this occasion to express our gratitude to God for our salvation by letting us hear the liberating gospel, through whatever means it was brought to us. For us, who are coming from the “black” continent, the mission has played an predominant role, for which we will always be grateful.
However, must we stand still at what has been accomplished and take a self-satisfied rest? Our answer is NO!! Our post-modern society is so complex, the challenges of the third millennium are so great that we cannot say, “Our mission is accomplished,” “We have finished evangelising such and such a region!”
Let us open our eyes and look at the world, a world without shepherds, languishing, and wounded.
Is it not the European countries, with their important and powerful Christian heritage, who are legalizing the most horrifying and scandalizing acts which are prostitution and homosexuality?
Is it not in the midst of the world’s greatest military power, holding the greatest missionary sending record, that we must discover that thousands of priests had to plead guilty for paedophilia and homosexuality?
Today, in certain rich countries, pastors dare not speak of the cross of Christ, and even less of sin. This would make people feel guilty, they are told.
Everywhere in the world, especially in Africa, a continent which is still very much dominated by colonial powers, the HIV and AIDS plague, crime, violence, and incest are at its highest level ever, ethnic conflicts, religious hatred, rebellion, children carrying murderous weapons, wars and killings, have they not become daily experiences? All those who were born after 1990, have never known what peace or love are like.
Alliance family, [in the face of such need], what is our next strategy?
Let us engage in helping the national churches even more, giving proper training to our people, and to our students preparing for pastoral ministries. Today, in a world full of challenges, it is in and through our institutions that we are able to teach and train our best and most aggressive soldiers (pastors, evangelists, national missionaries), in order to face the needs of our societies.
There are two things which make me cry and grind my teeth:
1. When I hear that missionaries start evangelising un-reached people groups, but without the assistance of the church, I groan inside and cry, because this is a terrible failure!
2. Biblical and theological institutions by withdrawing their personnel, then I grind my teeth and cry bitterly, because this too is a terrible mistake.
To all who love and expect the return of our Saviour and King, the Holy Spirit is giving this exhortation through the pen of John, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears, we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28, NIV). That the vision of future things may help us to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ who said, “Yes, I am coming soon” (Heb. 12:1; Rev. 22:20, NIV).