THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL

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Gal. 3:13,14- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

One of the strangest things about the Lord is found in this statement, “Christ died to save sinners”. Another similar quote from Paul, “who justifies the ungodly”. Let’s face it Christ died to save sinners. The only thing more shocking is the results of what He did, this act of grace purchases for us the blessing of Abraham, the promise of the Holy Spirit. The most unfathomable of all gospel reality, the worst of sinners can receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit simply by believing in the sacrificial death of Christ. That is what the gospel is all about, that is why Jesus came. He wanted us to experience the love of God personified in the person of the Holy Spirit. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this shocking truth.

“A strange method it was which Christ took to redeem us from the curse of the law; it was by his being himself made a curse for us. Being made sin for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for the present under that infamous token of the divine displeasure upon which the law of Moses had put a particular brand. The design of this was that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ—that all who believed on Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, might become heirs of Abraham’s blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Spirit, which was peculiarly reserved for the times of the gospel. Hence it appeared that it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, that they become the people of God and heirs of the promise.”
So now all mankind has access to the fullness of the Spirit displayed on earth by what Jesus called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is the very essence of our Christian life. This gift is for all people; former hustlers, drug users, alcoholics, sex addicts, liars, and thieves. No one is excluded, all that believe on the Lord can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

TONGUES OF FIRE

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Acts 2:3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
I am persuaded that the greatest sign of the last days is totally overlooked and even shunned by the Christian Church. You speak of the end times and thoughts of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and signs in the heavens immediately come to mind. No one even mentions the sign that was the subject of Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecostal Sunday. The very focus of the great ‘this is that’ sermon was the gift of the heavenly language. It was the speaking in tongues that drew the crowd, it was those unusual languages that brought the sense of the supernatural on the scene. This was the fulfillment of the outpouring on all flesh that Joel spoke of as well as Isaiah’s stammering lips. Is. 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” What would prove to be our greatest weapon to win the most has been put aside as something unimportant or even irrelevant to this world’s culture. Here are some words from the 1800’s by Maclaren on the fire of God.

“I believe, dear brethren, and I am bound to express the belief, that one of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation, the Christian Church of this city, the Christian Church of this chapel, is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Let each of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace in his Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is our religion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazing with enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words sound like mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemn old warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to lose its appropriateness: ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.’ We ought to be like the burning beings before God’s throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. We ought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seek penitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.”
Lord, I don’t want to be an iceberg, make me one of your burning ones. I think the world is longing for passion. It wants to feel strongly about something. Why not let our passion be an unbridled fire for the Lord.

PETER’S REFLECTIONS

Acts 10:37,38 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

What a strange turn of events; Peter was resting on the rooftop, listening to the ocean waves when everything changed. He found himself in a trance looking at a bunch of unclean creatures coming from heaven in a sheet. Next, there were Gentiles knocking on the door asking for him. They were babbling on about an angelic visitation and a house full of Italians expecting God to show up. All that happened just a couple of days ago and now Peter was preaching to a house full of Gentiles at a Roman legionnaire’s house. Could things get even weirder? As Peter continued to preach suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed. It was strangely familiar to Peter. This was that same thick presence he felt at the beginning, the rushing mighty wind and the glory of God. Before he even finished his preaching those same familiar sounds filled the air. There were shouts of joy and cries of repentance. There were those unmistakeable, un-fake-able belly laughs and all sorts of languages and singing all mixing together. The preaching was no longer necessary, the glory had come.

Now what? What would James and the others say? The cat was way out of the bag. The Gentiles were baptized in the Holy Spirit. How was Peter so sure? They were all speaking in other tongues. This was unmistakeable, the same things the disciples had experienced that first day was now beginning to make its way to the nations. The world could never be the same.

As Peter made his way back to Joppa he reflected on what had happened. This was what Jesus had meant when he said go into all the world and preach the gospel to all people. This was just the beginning.

Today, Pentecost is still alive and well. While some try to deny it, quench it, or relegate it to the back room, the power of His presence is still falling on whosoever will. Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? How will you know? You will know all right! You too will be singing, laughing, and worshipping in those mystery tongues of the Angels.

RECEIVING POWER

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

This is one of the greatest of all Bible promises. It seems all most unthinkable, Jesus is promising His followers the same power for ministry that was on Him. He had told them that they would do greater things than He had done in His lifetime, they had no idea how anything like that would be remotely possible. This was the game changer. The disciples were being suddenly launched into a ministry that seemed impossible. It would have been impossible if they did not receive the promised power of the Holy Spirit. The thing that is even more amazing is this, that promise is still in effect. It wasn’t just for the early church and the apostles. This promise is for us. It was given to men, women, the young and the old, it was even given to all of the ethnic groups of the world. This power is available for you. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes on this promise.
“But ye shall receive power, etc. Literally, as it is translated in the margin, “ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you.” This was said to them to console them. Though they could not know the times which God reserved in his own appointment, yet they should receive the promised Guide and Comforter. The word power here refers to all the help or aid which the Holy Spirit would grant; the power of speaking with new tongues; of preaching the gospel with great effect; of enduring great trials, etc. See Mark 16:17, 18. The apostles had impatiently asked him if he was then about to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus by this answer rebuked their impatience; taught them to repress their ill-timed ardor; and assured them again of the coming of the Holy Ghost.”
The church today needs this power. Somehow we often settle for far less than New Testament Christianity. This generation needs to see the power of God for itself. Its time for all of us to shake off our preconceived ideas about what church should look like. It’s time to wait again for power to fall upon us from on high. This will take us out of the realm of human effort and orchestration to the arena of the power of the Holy Spirit.

TONGUES OF FIRE

Acts 2:3,4  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues las the Spirit gave them utterance.

I am persuaded that the greatest sign of the last days is totally overlooked and even shunned by the Christian Church. You speak of the end times and thoughts of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and signs in the heavens immediately come to mind. No one even mentions the sign that was the subject of Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecostal Sunday. The very focus of the great ‘this is that’ sermon was the gift of the heavenly language. It was the speaking in tongues that drew the crowd, it was those unusual languages that brought the sense of the supernatural on the scene. This was the fulfillment of the outpouring on all flesh that Joel spoke of as well as Isaiah’s stammering lips. Is. 28:11 “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” What would prove to be our greatest weapon to win the most souls has been put aside as something unimportant or even irrelevant to this world’s culture. Here are some words from the 1800’s by Maclaren on the fire of God.

“I believe that one of the chief wants of the Christian Church of this generation is more of the fire of God! We are all icebergs compared with what we ought to be. Look at yourselves; never mind about your brethren. Let each of us look at his own heart, and say whether there is any trace in his Christianity of the power of that Spirit who is fire. Is our religion flame or ice? Where among us are to be found lives blazing with enthusiastic devotion and earnest love? Do not such words sound like mockery when applied to us? Have we not to listen to that solemn old warning that never loses its power, and, alas! seems never to lose its appropriateness: ‘Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.’ We ought to be like the burning beings before God’s throne, the seraphim, the spirits that blaze and serve. We ought to be like God Himself, all aflame with love. Let us seek penitently for that Spirit of fire who will dwell in us all if we will.”

Lord, I don’t want to be an iceberg, make me one of your burning ones. I think the world is longing for passion. It wants to feel strongly about something. Why not let our passion be an unbridled fire for the Lord.

DEEPER AND DEEPER

The anointing which ye have received—1 John 2:27

Have you ever connected the love of God to the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Jonathan Edwards taught that the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God’s love displayed in a person. Just as Jesus is the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is the love of God. If that is true, being filled continuously with the Holy Spirit will take us into this deeper life, the life of God’s love. First, He draws us in by the love of God. We are struck by the love of the Savior, we accept Him and yield to Him. Next, we find ourselves drinking in His great love, the continuous fillings of the Holy Spirit. This love begins to effect every part of our lives. Being loved by God changes us, we begin to take on more and more of His nature. Then, we see this amazing transformation. We love people!!! We actually love to share God’s love with others. We can’t wait to share this goodness that has changed everything for us. Praying and ministering to others not only effects their lives, it actually deepens His effect on us. Here is how A. B. Simpson describes it.

“Divine anointing is the secret of the deeper life, but that ye [may be] rooted and grounded in love is the substance and sweetness of it. The fullness of the divine love in the heart will make everything easy. It is very easy to trust those whom we love, and the more we realize their love the more we will trust them for it. This love is the source of healing. The tide of love flowing through our bodies will strangely strengthen our very frame and the spring of youth and freshness in our physical being. The secret of love is very simple. It is to take the heart of Jesus for our love and claim His love for every need of life, whether it be toward God or toward others. It is very satisfying to think of other persons in this way. “I will take the heart of Jesus toward them, to let me love them as He loves them.” Then we can love even the unworthy in some measure, if we see them in the light of His love-as they shall be and not as they now are, unworthy of our love.”

What a great life we have been given!!!  Launching out into this deeper life not only satisfies us, it touches and heals our broken world.

PICKLED

PICKLED

Acts 19:9,10  (Paul)  took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

There are some things in this chapter of the book of Acts that are quite shocking. It says that all of Asia (modern day Turkey) heard the gospel during those two years. Think about it, no television, newspapers, radio, or social media and all of Asia hears the word of God in two years. Obviously news of the meetings in Ephesus spread throughout that region, many came and were touched and brought the message back to their community. It also speaks of unusual miracles. Clothes were taken from Paul’s body; whoever they touched were healed or even delivered from demon activity. It even goes on to say that there was mass repentance in Ephesus; in Ephesus?!  Ephesus was known for its immorality and pagan religious practices. What could have precipitated mass repentance?
The answer can be quite revolutionary. It was those daily meetings. They were meeting from 10-4, according to historians, for two years. The anointing began to increase. The anointing is also transferable or you might say, contagious. Everyone in those meetings were not only mightily affected, they became carriers of the anointing. The city and region were being transformed by the power of spiritual saturation.

If you look at the first few verses of Acts 19, you will see the powerful secret to the power of these meetings. These twelve disciples that met with Paul were all baptized with the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not really emphasized in many churches today, this lack of emphasis is what produces powerless churches. A key to the importance of the Spirit baptism is seen in the word baptism itself. You see the word baptism means to be immersed into a substance. It was the word used for dying fabric, turning a white cloth into a purple cloth. It is also the word used when referring to making a pickle out of a cucumber. The key in fabric and cucumbers is staying immersed into the substance long enough to take on the characteristics of that substance. Once a cucumber stays immersed into vinegar for a set amount of time there is no turning back, that pickle will never be a cucumber again.

As for us, we need to take on the nature of Christ to change us and to effect our world. How do we take on His nature? We have to be immersed into Him. Just once or once in a while is not enough. We have to be immersed (baptized) into His Spirit long enough to experience permanent  transformation. Let the pickling begin!!!

I DIDN’T KNOW

Acts 19:2 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.”

One of the great stories in the New Testament is the founding of the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was well known throughout the Roman Empire for it’s sensuality as well as being the center of their pagan worship. The temple for their goddess Diana was located there. This makes the impact that Paul’s ministry had on this region even more impressive. Actually, Ephesus became a hub of the Christian faith led by two of the greatest pastors of the first century; Paul’s disciple Timothy and none other than the Apostle John. It probably became the largest church of that time period.

It all started with Paul’s question to a bible study attended by twelve me, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”, Paul asked. “We haven’t heard that there is a Holy Spirit”, was their clueless reply. Now these men were already called disciples, they had believed in the Lord and been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of course they knew in theory about the Holy Spirit, they just hadn’t known that you could actually be influenced the way Paul was describing by the Spirit. That’s when it happened, Paul laid his hands upon them and the atmosphere in the room changed. They were filled with the Holy Spirit just like the believers on the day of Pentecost. They also began to speak in tongues just like the believers in Jerusalem had experienced. They also began to prophesy. Paul was not shocked by this, this is exactly what he was looking for. He knew for the church to effect the pagan society of Ephesus there needed to be more than just a Christian creed, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it feels like we live in Ephesus. Society is immoral and at the same time full of religious beliefs and practices. It also seems as if many Christians have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

How can we see our ‘Ephesus’ changed? It is really quite simple; we have to receive another season of immersion into the person of the Holy Spirit. You can build large organizations with structure and eloquent preaching; you just can’t change Ephesus.

THEY SPOKE IN OTHER TONGUES #4

Romans 8:26-28  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

Another reason every Christian should pray regular with their Spirit language is that God will help you through any weakness you may be fighting. He will help you overcome any weakness through the power of His Spirit. Those verses are talking about praying in tongues. The first part of verse 26 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses” (NKJV). In the Greek there are a number of words joined together to make one word, sunantilambanomai, which is translated in English as “helps”. Simply translated, sunantilanbanomai means “helps us.” However, the more complete definition in Strong’s Greek Dictionary is “to take hold of opposite together; to cooperate, operate, assist, help.” The Holy Spirit grabs hold with you, pulling against something that’s pulling against you. God grabs hold of you through the person of the Holy Spirit and pulls with you against a weakness that you have. If you are having a trial, or are tempted to fall into sin in some area of your life, simply seek help from the Holy Spirit. You recognize the sin or the temptation and say, “Lord, I have a problem with this area in my life and I need Your help. Holy Spirit, You are the Helper. Please begin to help me right now to overcome this temptation.” Then the Holy Spirit will help you overcome the problem. Pray in the Spirit and He will help you. You can quit any habit with the help of the Holy Spirit. Your willpower might be weak, but the Holy Spirit is strong and He will join together with you against any habit or weakness that you have. Cigarette smoking is reportedly as addictive and hard to kick as using heroin or cocaine. I know it is an area in which many say they simply can’t quit. But the facts are, the Holy Spirit is stronger than nicotine. He is also stronger than alcohol. These bondages are psychological, physical, and spiritual and they can bind you and make you a slave if you don’t draw from the strength of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit is greater than any of those chains of bondage! Spend time daily speaking in tongues and in centering your understanding on Him. God will come on the scene and begin to help you against any weakness. His power is more than enough to overcome whatever you may face.

PUT ON YOUR COAT #2

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I love the imagery of the Bible. In this verse Jesus speaks of a coat of power that the disciples would put on. We call this the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Lord said this would be like putting on new clothes, it would cling closely to us and empower us to do things beyond our normal abilities.

This picture of a supernatural garment weaves throughout the scripture. In Matthew, Jesus told a parable about a great wedding feast. In the story we see another version of God’s powerful garment. Here it pictures the white garment for a wedding, it speaks to us of the righteousness of God we receive as a gift by faith in Christ. This garment is the prerequisite to spending an eternity in God’s heavenly marriage celebration. Whose wedding is it? Well of course, it is the marriage celebration of Jesus and His precious bride.

Jesus also drew on this imagery in his famous story of the prodigal son. The son had wasted his inheritance and returned home in shame only to be surprised by His Father’s love. Rather than scorn, he received a kiss, rather than a lecture he was given a ring, rather than being treated as a servant, he was given the coat of inheritance. This is the Father’s gift to all His returning prodigals. We are declared to be His sons, the beautiful coat of His presence is the sign of our sonship.

In the book of Revelation, we see Jesus Himself take up a coat. Let’s read about it from the words of the Apostle John.

Rev. 19:11-13¶ Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

This has to be the most shocking of all the supernatural garments. Just think about it, Christ the victorious King of kings could wear anything He wanted. What coat did He choose to wear? The one dipped in His own precious blood.This pictures the greatest of all miracles, it portrays how we were freed from our sins by the shedding of His blood.