Monday, 29 June 2020

Receiving the Holy Spirit

 This is a three-part series on the Gift of the Holy Spirit taken from my Book “Painting the Picture”. I believe that we need to move in the power of the Holy Spirit more than at any other time in history as we await the return of Jesus. Remember, the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’, but He is the third person of the Triune God.

Leonardo da Vinci had started work on a large canvas in his studio. For a while he worked at it, choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying his own natural genius. Then suddenly he ceased, the painting still unfinished, and summoning one of his students he invited him to complete the work. The student protested that he was unworthy and unable to complete the great painting the master had begun. But Da Vinci silenced him with these words: "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?" 

That which God has started, may we be inspired to complete with excellence and reverence, using the gifts given to us by our Divine Teacher to His honour and glory. Just as the early disciples were to continue the work of Christ throughout events described in the book of Acts, so we are to continue His work as His body, the Church, here on earth. We do this, as they did in Acts, through the enabling and empowering of Christ's gift, the Holy Spirit:
Jesus said in Luke 24:49, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
And in Acts 1:8 He said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

But We must firstly realize what Christ’s gift is.
In John 14:16-17 Jesus says,  “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
When I first became a born again Christian if you had asked me what Christ’s gift is, I would have answered “Salvation”. Now I know that salvation is the Father’s Gift (Salvation through His Son, Jesus). Jesus’ gift to His Church is the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Bible passage I have quoted (John 14:16-17) says the Father is the one who “gives us another helper”, the Holy Spirit, but it is at the request of Jesus, so is ultimately His gift to us.
At first this gift was forbidden to me by the teaching I had in my first Church, which taught that speaking in Tongues was of the devil and Spirit Baptism happens at New Birth. It was not until I left my home and went to university in London that I would realize what Christ’s gift really is and, indeed, how important it is.

We must freely receive this gift.
In Acts 2:38-39 we read, Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was virtually unknown when he painted his famous portrait of American writer Gertrude Stein in 1906.  Picasso gave the portrait to Miss Stein since, as the artist himself recalled with a smile, at that time in his career "the difference between a gift and a sale was negligible."  Some years later, the portrait attracted the interest of millionaire art collector Dr. Albert Barnes, who asked Miss Stein how much she had paid Picasso for it. "Nothing," she replied.  "Naturally, he gave it to me." Dr. Barnes was incredulous that such a priceless work of art could have been a gift.

If you have ever thought about the gospel for very long, you can probably appreciate Dr. Barnes's incredulity. Think of what we have been given in Christ: forgiveness, eternal life, and all the riches of heaven, all at a cost we could have never paid!  But that is not all; we have the privilege of sharing this treasure with others. But the greatest gift of grace is the Holy Spirit Himself. In Him are all the gifts. The Holy Spirit is the seal bearing the image of Christ (Ephesians 1:13), enabling us to paint the image of Christ, the Master Artist, in our lives and in His creation. The Holy Spirit endows and empowers us with His gifts of grace.

After backsliding in my Christian life for about four years I finally came back to the Lord in 1985 when I was in Imperial College, London. Simon, my next door neighbour in Tizard halls of residence, was a born again, spirit-filled Christian and I saw something in him I did not have in my Christian life. One night I was really depressed and felt compelled to go and speak to Simon. As I was about to knock on his door it opened, and I almost knocked him on the head! He was going for the Christian Union meeting and asked me to go with him. That night the speaker was talking about what Jesus has done for us in His death, resurrection and the sending of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. I felt like the speaker was speaking just to me the whole time and at the end I recommitted my life to Jesus and decided to find out more about the Holy Spirit.

Soon after my recommitment I started going to Holy Trinity Brompton Church, right behind my halls of residence. It was there that I enrolled in an Alpha Course (an informal course for pre and new believers). At the end of the Alpha Course we had a Holy Spirit Weekend where we went to a big mansion in the countryside to have teaching on the Holy Spirit, ending with a time of praying for the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit over our lives to equip us with the power gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and empower us for witnessing for Him (Acts 1:8). 

All the way through the book of Acts you see this two-step experience (conversion then a later baptism with the spirit) – Acts 19:1-6 gives us just one example:
“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

This promise was not just for the early Christians but for every subsequent generation (Acts 2:38-39).
It was during this time that I realized I needed to be baptized with the Spirit as John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (see also Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

Water Baptism is full immersion in water, but Spirit Baptism is to be fully immersed in the Spirit. Yes, when we are Born Again the Spirit of God lives in us and we are baptized into the body of Christ, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13), but there is a “second blessing” after salvation where not only does the Spirit live in us but we live and move in the Spirit. This is called Spirit Baptism or Baptism in or with the Holy Spirit.

On the last day of the Holy Spirit weekend we all gathered in the main meeting room in a large circle to be prayed for to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. I was ready to receive and knew that if I asked in faith for the Holy Spirit, I would indeed receive Him:
Just as Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” 

Nicky Gumbel, who was teaching us during this weekend, just came through the door to the room and stood at the opening. He simply said, “Come Holy Spirit!” In an instant I saw a white light bathe all of us and I saw a vision of a huge dove coming to rest in the centre of the circle. I felt waves of joy and power come over me and a sensation like harmless but powerful electricity pulsating through my body. What I can remember of that time is that I just could not stand still for the joy that I was feeling, and I started running around the room. Then the room seemed too small, so I went outside and started running around the circular gravel driveway. There was a bubbling up within my spirit and I opened my mouth to find a new language starting to burst forth.
It was at this point I stopped dead in my tracks.

Was this the dreaded “Speaking in Tongues” that I was starting to utter and had been taught was from the Devil? At that moment I quenched the Spirit and although I continued to experience breakthroughs in understanding the Bible, deeper times of prayer and fellowship with the Lord and witnessing my faith to others with boldness, I was not fully opening up this new gift.

Next week I will continue to share how I broke through to keep on using this wonderful gift but now I would like to lead you in a prayer to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
  • Even if you have received it before, you can pray for a fresh infilling.
  • Lay your hand on your heart or your forehead.
  • Ask the Father for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
  • Expect to be filled with His power.
  • You receive by faith, but just like anything else, you need to put your faith into action. After praying for the baptism do not resist any unction of the Spirit to speak in Tongues or jump or run or dance.
Dear Heavenly Father, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, and I ask you in His name for the baptism of the Holy Spirit with power. I believe and receive from You.  In Jesus' name, amen.
Now open your heart and respond in faith to the Spirit’s outpouring.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Testing What You Hear

As I continue to teach on hearing God’s voice, which I believe we need to do more than ever in this time of trouble and uncertainty in the world, I want to share a  condensed version of Chapter 7 from my first book, Picture Perfect, which talks about testing what we have heard to see if it is really from God or not.

In 1212 a French shepherd boy by the name of Stephen of Cloyes claimed that Jesus had appeared to him disguised as a pilgrim. Supposedly, Jesus instructed him to take a letter to the king of France.

This poor, misguided boy told everyone he saw about what he thought he had encountered. Before long he had gathered a large following of more than thirty thousand children who accompanied him on his pilgrimage.

As Philip Schaff records it, when asked where they were going, they replied, "We go to God, and seek for the holy cross beyond the sea." They reached Marseilles, but the waves did not part and let them go through dry-shod as they expected.

It was at Marseilles that tragedy occurred. The children met two men, Hugo Ferreus and William Porcus. The men claimed to be so impressed with the calling of the children that they offered to transport them across the Mediterranean in seven ships without charge. What the children did not know was that the two men were slave traders.

The children boarded the ships and the journey began, but instead of setting sail for the Holy Land they set course for North Africa, where they were sold as slaves in the Muslim markets that did a large business in the buying and selling of human being.

   Few if any returned. None ever reached the Holy Land. Two cunning men enjoyed enormous financial profits simply because they were willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of children.  

This sad story was taken from, ‘Family Survival in the American Jungle’ by Steve Farrar (1991, Multnomah Press, Page 60-61), dramatically reveals to us the importance of correctly discerning if any apparent guidance, whether audible or visual, is from the Lord or from other, more dubious, sources.

In this case, the angel that appeared to Stephen was of demonic origin. I can categorically state this because this guidance led Steven and thousands more children into a web of deception and eventually into a lifetime of bondage. Also, the goal of seeking a holy cross is not within the arrow of God’s eagle-like vision!

As we shall see, God’s will never call us into such situations and He enables us to practically distinguish between His godly guidance and other, destructive, forms of guidance.

Understanding what God does call us to will help us avoid what He does not call us to.  All the voices we hear and think maybe God must be tested. Are they from God or our emotions or from the enemy?

I did an extensive search through Scripture to see what we have been called to as God’s children. Knowing this will help us avoid forms of guidance that we can forecast will lead us into anything else but God’s way.
The following seven areas show us what we are called to according to Scripture, and how knowing each area will give us practical tests in discerning if any guidance is from God or not.

1. The Fellowship Test.
"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:9

God's calling will always lead us into greater fellowship with Him and His people. The Greek word used here for ‘fellowship’ is ‘koinonia’, which means ‘participation, social intercourse or communication’. If we think we’ve heard God call us into a situation where it will be detrimental to our participation, social intercourse or communication with Him and His people, then we’ve not heard properly and this is not His calling.

I have watched on in agony as many people I know convince themselves that God is calling them out away from the ministry and into secular work due to rough circumstances. Now, I’m not saying that God will never do such a thing, but in the cases that I have witnessed it was eventually clear that this was not God’s call, as they later fell away in their relationship with the Lord and His people.

God’s true calling will lead people into a more passionate relationship with Him and His body, the Church.

2. The Liberty Test.
"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."   Galatians 5:13

His calling always leads us into true liberty. There will never be a negative sense of internal bondage in going according to God's call, unless we are walking in the right direction with a wrong attitude.
What I mean by this is that it is possible to hear God’s call and respond to it but allow our flesh life to control us so that we get frustrated or stressed out in doing His will.
Some people feel that taking on too many responsibilities will bring them into greater bondage, but the reality Is that the responsibilities God calls us to will bring us great inner freedom, and lead others to true freedom too.

3. The Peace Test
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."  Colossians 3:15
His calling is always one that brings shalom peace. This peace is the peace of God and not our own. It is a supernatural peace that surpasses all our human understanding.
Unfortunately the phrase, “I have great peace about this” has been misused by many Christians who are trying to convince themselves and others that a course of action, that they really want to follow in their own flesh, is from the Lord. 
The word for ‘rule’ in the above verse can also be interpreted as ‘referee’. It comes from the Greek word ‘brabeus’ which means ‘an umpire, one who judges in public games’. The peace of God in us is like a football referee. When a referee blows his whistle in a certain way, we know that there has been a foul and play should stop. Again, if he blows the whistle in another way, we know play can resume.

4. The Life Test
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:12
God calls us to have a quality of life called ‘eternal life’ and indeed to lay hold on this. His calling will cause us to come alive with this supernatural life. It will cause us to feel more alive and clearer in ourselves as to His life in us (‘it’s no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me’ – Galatians 2:20).
‘Eternal life’ is not the same as ‘temporal life’ (our own human soulish life). We need to mature such that we recognize what His ‘eternal’ life is and what our own ‘temporal’ life is.
Remember, Jesus said He came to bring abundant life to us. This is His very own quality of life. In every decision that we make there is His ‘pathway of life’ available to us:
“You will show me the pathway of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forever more”.  Psalm 16:11

5. The Holiness Test
"For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in (unto) holiness." 1 Thessalonians 4:7
God always calls us to greater purity. His calling should lead to a greater level of holiness, of separation unto Him. If the so-called 'call' does not lead into greater holiness, then it is not from God.
If you feel God is calling you into a particular course of action ask yourself, “Does it cause me to live a purer life? Does it challenge me to be more like Christ and separate myself more to Him?” If the answer is ‘Yes’ then this could well be the direction God is leading you in.
6. The Blessing Test
“..not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."   1 Peter 3:8-9
As the call to Abraham was to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3), so is our call. We must ask whether the direction we feel God is leading us in leads to blessing for others or not. He always draws us out beyond ourselves to be a channel of blessing. In whatever we do we must ask ourselves, ‘Does this course of action bring blessing to others?’
Every day the Lord loads us with blessings that are to be used for His kingdom purposes – to bless those around us we are called to. We need to see ourselves as Postmen and Post women.
God loads us with His ‘holy mail’, some has our own name and address on them, but most will have the name and address of others on them. His ‘holy mail’ will contain no bills, trash, or hate mail, only words, deeds and resources that will bless, encourage, and motivate others into His purposes for their lives.

7. The Suffering Test
"For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:"1 Peter 2:20-21
This test must not be misunderstood. The word 'suffering' comes from the Greek word 'pascho' where we get the term ‘passion’. It means going through certain hardships or allowing certain things that go against the flesh to happen for the sake of Jesus. In old English if one said 'suffer it to be so' it meant to allow something to happen, as it was the best course. Just as Jesus’ calling led Him down the pathway of suffering, so will our calling. After all, we are called to partake in the suffering of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5-7) and if we want to be joint heirs with Him then we must suffer with Him (Romans 8:17).
Please note that this is not suffering for any wrong we do, which could be termed ‘corrective suffering’, but it is suffering precisely because we do what is right – it is ‘Christ like suffering’. It is suffering His will to be done in our lives. I am not saying that unless we are always suffering then we’re not in the Will of God. What I am saying is that if our ‘call’ is very comfortable without any hardship and suffering at all then it cannot be a true call from God!
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul says,    “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
All Scripture instructs us as to the right way we should go in our life and equips us to do those good works that we have been prepared beforehand to do. Does the course of action you are considering agree with the overall counsel of God's word - the Bible? In all the above tests the underlying test must always be that it agrees with the Word of God.  Even if it passes all seven tests above but it is not a Scriptural course of action then it must be rejected. This obviously means that we must ‘let the Word of God dwell’ in us ‘richly’. The more we really know of the whole counsel of God’s Word, the wiser and more accurate will be our life decisions.

Implementing all these seven tests with the underlying test of God’s Word will help us keep on track with the Lord. He constantly desires to show us His way forward and invite us on in tangible ways, but we need to distinguish His high, holy and heavenly calling from worldly, fleshy or demonic callings that will lead us far from outworking His purposes in our lives.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Hearing God

Hearing God’s Voice

The greatest need for the Church is to hear the voice of the Spirit of God. The seven-fold refrain ending every message of Jesus to the seven Churches of Revelation is ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches’. We all have an ear, or even two, but are we hearing what God is saying? In this time, like in the time of Eli, hearing the voice of God is not common. Like Samuel we must cry ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening’ 1 Samuel 3:10

In Isaiah 55:3 God says, “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear and your soul shall live.” But how can we incline our ears to properly hear Him?
The prophet Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 7:24, But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” Not hearing God’s voice leads to backsliding, therefore it is essential we learn to hear and obey His voice. 

In this sharing I will reveal from Scripture seven blockages to hearing God’s voice and then look at the seven things that remove those blockages.

1.   Distractions.
Like Martha (Luke 10:41) we can be distracted with much activity and busyness that we do not hear the voice of the Lord. Martha was serving the Lord but not hearing Him. Mary, on the other hand, rested at the feet of Jesus, listening attentively to His every word (Luke 10:39,42). This resting at the feet of the Lord I call “nestling”.

The word nestle means “to lie close and snug, like a bird in a nest”.  To hear His voice, we need times of nestling in His presence, meditating on His Word, His attributes, His works and His creation as I shared in my last two messages. This we do by setting aside a set time and place to focus on Him and block out all distractions.

2.   Error.
In Proverbs 28:9 Solomon writes, “Those who turn a deaf ear to His Word, even their prayers are an abomination!” God’s Word is truth, so turning a deaf ear to His truth leads us into error so even our prayers become an abomination to the Lord. Error comes by listening to false teaching.

In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Paul wrote to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

We get itching ears if we have an ear infection. False doctrine leads us to get a spiritual ear infection and we often run to more false teachers to scratch that itch, making the infection worse. This turns our ears away from the truth of His Word. We should run to the truth of His Word in the Scriptures and this is the main way we hear His voice.

Soaking in God’s Word every day by reading large chunks (I read 10 chapters a day) keeps us from error and helps us be attuned to God’s voice. It is through soaking in His Word that we learn to discern what His voice is like and how He speaks to His people throughout history. In this way we will more easily detect if the voice we have heard is from evil spirits, our spirit or God’s Spirit!

3.   Apathy.
We read in Hebrews 5:11-14 that not exercising our spiritual senses leads us to become dull of hearing. Our spiritual senses that are mentioned here are referring particularly to our spiritual hearing and seeing.

We exercise these senses through the spiritual disciplines that are all brought together at the Prayer Altar. That is, daily reading His Word, thanking, praising and worshipping Him, cleansing ourselves through daily repentance, being daily filled with the Spirit and fasting, praying, interceding and living in the Spirit. These are all spiritual disciplines that exercise our spiritual senses.

Apathy leads us to neglect these important daily spiritual exercises so we become dull of hearing and cannot clearly hear His voice even if He were to shout at us! We need to stir ourselves up to engage in daily spiritual exercise.

4.   Fear & Doubt.
James 1:5-6 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

God promises to speak words of wisdom to us if we ask Him, but we often have doubts about this that are rooted in fear. We fear that if we ask, we will hear the wrong voice and be misled. We fear that that we will hear what we do not want to hear. We fear failure.

The remedy to this is to live in His agape love. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” He is our loving Good Shepherd and as we rest more and more in His agape love we come into the reality of John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

5.   Ego.
Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
An egotistical heart full of pride blocks us from hearing His voice, causing our hearts to be hardened. In Micah 7:16 we read, “The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; They shall put their hand over their mouth; Their ears shall be deaf.” If we trust in our own might (which is pride) then our ears will be deaf to the voice of God.

The remedy to this is humility. In Psalm 25:9 King David sings “The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.” It is the humble in heart that hear His voice to be guided and taught in His ways.

6.   Not in the right place,
Listening to the wrong voices by being in the wrong places causes us to miss the voice of God. This thought is brought forth in Psalm 1:1-2 where the Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

As Paul says in Romans 10:14, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Associating with the right people is vitally important in hearing the voice and counsel of God from His Word. We are to be in the right place and walk in the counsel of the godly and hear the voices of anointed preachers of His Word and of course be in the place of daily reading, meditating on and studying His Word for ourselves.

7.   Sin.  
Sin blocks the voice of God. In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” Regarding Sin in our hearts blocks our prayers and blocks us from Hearing His voice. Feelings of shame and guilt in our hearts distance us from God so His voice seems far away.

The solution to this is to come daily to Him in repentance and cleansing. As we read in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Taken together these blockages spell “deafens” as they deafen our spiritual ears from hearing God’s voice. So, summarizing the solutions to the blockages….

Distractions - solution is Nestling.
Error – solution is God’s Word.
Apathy – solution is Exercising our spiritual senses (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Fear & Doubt – solution is the Agape love of God (1 John 4:18).
Ego – Solution is Humility (Psalm 25:9)
Not in the right place – Solution is being In the right place (Psalm 1:1)
Sin – Solution is Repentance and cleansing (1 John 1:9)

Exercising senses
In the right place
God’s Word 

Together these spell “Hearing”. If we want to be daily hearing the voice of God we must come daily in humility to exercise our spiritual senses at the Prayer Altar, going deeper into His agape love through times of repentance and cleansing so we can remain in the right place with the right people to Hear His right Words as we nestle in His presence to live in His Word.

Rightly Using the Gifts

  Now that we have looked at all nine manifestation gifts I would like to talk about the correct use of these gifts, especially the spoken g...