UNVEILED SPLENDOR

Jn7:38,39 – Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!”

Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive. But the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out upon them, because Jesus had not yet been unveiled in his full splendor.

This is a classic passage of scripture that took on a whole new life to all of us effected by the River Outpouring in the 1990’s. This verses came alive to us as we found ourselves overwhelmed by the River that flows from the throne of God. Today’s verses are quoted from the Passion Translation. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes.

“This splendor included the splendor of the cross, the splendor of his resurrection, and the glory of his ascension into heaven. Just as water poured out of the rock that was struck by Moses, so from the wounded side of Jesus living water poured out to heal, save, and bring life to everyone who believes. The Holy Spirit poured out of Christ and into the church at Pentecost.”

The unveiling of Christ began in His work from the cross to the throne. The Glory of God was poured out on whosoever will as a result of His death, resurrection, and glorification in heaven. This passage calls it God’s splendor. Splendor means magnificent and splendid appearance, grandeur. The magnificence of God was released through the humiliating death Jesus experienced on the cross. His humility released the glory of God. The creator was cloaked in the form of a man and was executed by the Roman soldiers to fulfill the redemptive plan of God. Christ died to save sinners, even those who nailed Him to the cross. This was the beginning of the release of God’s splendor. After three days in a tomb Jesus was raised from the dead. Man’s greatest enemy, death, was conquered. The glory of God was displayed in God’s resurrection power. Then there is the glorification of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. From the humility of His arrest, trial, and death on a cross to the astounding splendor of Christ being glorified on the throne. This humble carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee is now ruling all things by His word. One glimpse of His splendor and we find ourselves in His glorious river.

THE BEAUTIFUL COMMUNITY GATHERING

1 Cor.14:39,40 – So, beloved friends, with all this in mind, be passionate to prophesy and don’t forbid anyone from speaking in tongues, doing all things in a beautiful and orderly way.

I love church gatherings. I love the large corporate meetings with amazing worship, the Lord’s incredible presence, and the powerful preaching of the Word of God; I especially love the altar calls. I also love the small gatherings where we see the community of Jesus in action. Paul said that we can have the moving of the Spirit in these meeting in what he called an orderly way. Here are some notes from the Passion Bible that describe these beautiful gatherings.

“This is the Greek word taxis (ORDERLY WAY), which can also mean “in battle array.” Here are some summary observations concerning believers’ gatherings: (1) When the believers gathered, they ate together and frequently observed the Lord’s Table. (2) Men and women participated together and used their spiritual gifts. (3) The main purpose of gathering together was the mutual building up and encouragement of one another. (4) Several people would speak in the meetings, and the leaders would discern and direct. (5) Expressing love was more important than gifts, teachings, or prophecies. (6) Everything was to be done in a beautiful way and in order.”

I can remember the first time the Lord used me with a word of prophesy in a small church gathering. I was only a few months old in the Lord but I felt His anointing come upon me in a special and unusual way. I instantly recognized what it was and waited for the appropriate time in the meeting to share the word from the Lord. What an amazing blessing the gift of prophesy is. I was blessed by His special presence on me and especially blessed to be used by the Lord.

I think today there has been a major restriction put on the gifts of the Spirit in many churches. I have found that the small group gatherings are the perfect place for these gifts to operate. As Paul said, 1 Cor.14:26 – “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification”. This, to me, describes the beautiful order of the Spirit. He conducts the meeting and everyone present is majorly blessed.

JESUS LOVES ME

Jn13:1 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

I love the last part of this verse, “(Jesus) loved His own until the end”. In this passage Jesus displayed His love for His disciples by taking on the role of a servant and washing the disciples’ feet. He was washing the feet of fishermen, tax collectors, political activists, and even the one who would betray Him. Not only was Jesus displaying love to His followers, He was mirroring the coming work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. That’s what this whole night was about; foot washing, instituting the Lord’s Supper that would prepare the world for the Holy Spirit, and finally an extensive teaching on the One He called Another Helper.

In this teaching on the Holy Spirit that is really over our heads and past comprehension, Jesus began to describe the love the Father has for Jesus. He was now saying that that infinite love enjoyed by the trinity is now becoming available to us. Jesus said it like this, Jn.15:9 – “I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts”. This is unending love, eternal love, the love that is enjoyed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus proclaimed the unthinkable, this love is now available to us. Here is a description of this love from the Passion Notes.

“Unconditional love flies in the face of the most basic drives of human nature. We tend to love conditionally; we love only those we consider worthy. God’s love is nothing like that. Christians see the unconditional quality of God’s love displayed on the Cross. It is love for the utterly unworthy, a love that proceeds from a God who loves simply because He is love. Such a love could never be conceived by men. Only God would dare to love in such a way.”

So when we meet Christ we are confronted with a totally different kind of love than we have ever known before. He loves us despite us being us. He loves us because that is Who He is. God is love and the Holy Spirit is the outpouring of God’s love on whosoever will.

BEGGING TO GIVE

2 Cor.8:1,4 – Beloved ones, we must tell you about the grace God poured out upon the churches of Macedonia. They actually begged us for the privilege of sharing in this ministry of giving….

“From the depths of their extreme poverty, super-abundant joy overflowed into an act of extravagant generosity.” This is how Paul described the effect of grace on the churches of Macedonia. This kind of joyful generosity is un-explainable unless….. unless you add God’s amazing grace to the equation. Humans do things because of the reward involved. You put in a hard day’s work and there is a rewarding paycheck on the other side, a farmer works his field expecting a harvest. Giving finances to the ministry doesn’t compute to the natural man. The effect of God’s grace radically changes our perception of giving to God’s kingdom. The generosity Paul describes in this passage makes sense to those effected by God’s grace. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“Under persecution and desperately poor, the churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) gave more than just an extravagant offering. They fully surrendered themselves to the Lord and gave out of a longing to fulfill God’s pleasure. This is the key to generous giving. First we dedicate our hearts to God, which includes our finances, then we give to God’s work as he directs us. Throughout 2 Corinthians, giving is described as a “grace” that God places on our lives, which empowers our generosity.”

What exactly is the reward that we see as a result of God’s grace that changes us. First, we see the value of God’s kingdom and the joy of redemption. When we see the lives changed by the grace of God it makes our giving worth everything. Seeing the fruit of God’s ministries alone causes us to want to give our finances to His work. Grace also opens our eyes to seedtime and harvest which is how the Lord operates His entire creation. Our tithes and offerings are literally seeds that contain God’s abundant supply for our personal lives. No wonder the Macedonians were excited about giving. Finally, our giving also comes back to us in heaven. Jesus taught about generosity with our finances as well. He said that when we give to God’s work on earth we are “storing up treasures in heaven”. Seeing the Lord’s blessing in His ministries on earth, on our personal finances in the here and now, and the blessing that will come back to us for eternity is the work of grace on us. When we see it for ourselves, we too will beg to be able to participate in the privilege of giving to the work of God.

UNRESTRAINED BOLDNESS

Acts 4:31 – At that moment the earth shook beneath them, causing the building they were in to tremble. Each one of them was filled with the Holy Spirit, and they proclaimed the word of God with unrestrained boldness.

You ever wonder about what happened after the death of Christ that caused the disciples to become so bold that they would defy death? Actually you could say there were two things that changed everything. First, apparently five hundred people were eyewitnesses of the resurrection. These followers saw Jesus for themselves after He had been publicly crucified. There lives could never be the same after that. But that wasn’t everything, what explained their bold speech even when facing death? This passage today gives us insight into what was going on. It says that these followers were filled with the Holy Spirit. They were supernaturally empowered to bare witness to the testimony of Jesus. There would be no turning back from these events; Christ was alive and they were commissioned to tell everyone the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are some thoughts from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“The Greek word is parresia. This involves more than confidence; it was a free-flowing, unrestrained boldness. It can also mean “freedom of speech.” Parresia carries nuances that are not easily brought over into English. The person who speaks with parresia will say everything that is on his mind with no restraint, flowing out of his heart with confidence. It involves being frank and honest, hiding nothing and speaking directly to the heart. Most often it is a word used for public speaking. It refers to speech that is not tailored to make everyone happy but to speak the truth, in spite of what that may cost. It is the courage to speak truth into the ears of others…. parresia refers to an unrestrained boldness.”

That’s it; outspoken boldness. This explained the obvious change in Peter and the rest of the apostles. There was no turning back. They had the message and now the power to change their world. How does this relate to us today? We too face opposition when we begin to share the claims of Christ. The only way we can hold up against the opposition of the world is to be filled with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us words to speak when we open our mouths and share the beauty of the gospel. We too can be filled with unrestrained boldness.

PRAYERS OF LOVE

Rom.8:34,35 – Who then is left to condemn us? Certainly not Jesus, the Anointed One! For he gave his life for us, and even more than that, he has conquered death and is now risen, exalted, and enthroned by God at his right hand. So how could he possibly condemn us since he is continually praying for our triumph?

One of the most encouraging and shocking revelations in the Bible for me is seen in this passage. Jesus Himself is praying for me. Recently I was at an outreach in the French Quarter with our worship team. One of the songs they began to sing was ‘JESUS LOVES ME’. It seems that the simplicity and the power of this song connected with people more than anything else we did. As I watched a mom with her children on the outskirts listening to the music she began to wipe tears from her eyes. Obviously the words of the song penetrated her heart and began to minister personally to her. When we see that Jesus loves us personally suddenly everything changes. Here is how the Passion Notes describe this verse.

“Not only does the Holy Spirit pray for us, so does Jesus Christ. Two divine intercessors are praying for you each day. Two-thirds of the Trinity are actively engaged in intercession for us. This is typified by the incident of Moses interceding on the mountain for Israel’s victory with one hand held high by Aaron (the high priest, a type of Jesus, our High Priest) and Hur (or “light,” a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, who prays with divine illumination for our good).”

What are the implications of Jesus love for us? Ultimately it brings us to the revelation that nothing can defeat or overcome us. God’s love keeps us and leads us in triumph in every arena of our lives. Here is another statement from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“Clearly implied in the text with the Greek word hupernikao. The love of God gives us “a glorious hyper-victory,” more than can be described or contained in one word. God’s love and grace has made us hyper-conquerors, empowered to be unrivaled, more than a match for any foe!”

So no matter what you are facing God’s love is more than you need. If He is for you and is praying for you everything is going to turn out okay.

JESUS PRAYED

Lk.5:16,17 – But Jesus often slipped away from them and went into the wilderness to pray….And the power of the Lord God surged through him to instantly heal.

The humility of Christ is seen again and again in His humanity. In today’s verse we see the Son of God in prayer. Think about the implications of this. Jesus is the Creator. He is the sovereign ruler ruling the universe with His word. He is all knowing as well as all powerful. In His humanity He apparently gave up these attributes and found Himself as a man totally dependent on His Father. He would pray for guidance, strength to overcome temptation, power to perform miracles, for guidance, and even for His daily provision. We see in Christ the necessity of prayer as well as the power of prayer. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“We read about Jesus praying eight times in Luke’s Gospel. (1) At his baptism Jesus prayed and the heavens were opened, revealing his sonship. Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen him for his wilderness temptations (3:21-23). (2) Jesus prayed in solitude, and miracles broke loose in his ministry (5:16-17). (3) Jesus prayed all night before he chose his twelve companions (6:12-16). (4) Jesus prayed for his apostles to receive the full revelation of who he is (9:18-22). (5) When Jesus was about to be glorified in splendor on the mountain, he prayed, and his face glowed with a flashing light (9:28-29). (6) Jesus prayed that he would be an example to every one of his disciples (11:1). (7) Jesus prayed for Peter’s restoration and future ministry (22:31-32). (8) Jesus prayed in Gethsemane for strength and glory as the terrors of Calvary lay before him (22:41-46).”

The prayer ministry of Jesus of Nazareth did not end at the end of His life. Today, Jesus of Nazareth continues in prayer. He is now the Heavenly Intercessor praying on my behalf before His Father. He serves as my Advocate before the Father representing me as my sacrifice for sins. I often think about the prayers of Jesus in heaven and how they relate to the prayers of the Holy Spirit on earth. When we pray in the Spirit the Holy Spirit literally prays through us and for us. Knowing the unity of the trinity, I have a feeling these are echoing the prayers of Jesus in heaven.

FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE

1 Cor.13:8-11 – Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.

This is one of those misunderstood passages that has effected much of the church for many, many years. Paul is describing the motivation of the gifts of the Spirit as being the love of God. He says that one day all of the imperfections of this life will be swallowed up by the perfection of heaven. Love will continue because God is love and is eternal. The gifts will be no longer necessary because all of our imperfections will be put off in heaven. The gifts of the Spirit will continue as long as suffering is present on the earth. God’s love pours into us as we drink of His Spirit and flows out of us in ministry. Here are some thoughts on God’s love from the Passion Notes.

“Faith and hope both spring from love, which makes love the greatest virtue of all. Faith and hope are temporary, but love is eternal. Paul gives us ten characteristics of divine love in this chapter. Love (1) is patient under stress, (2) is kind at all times, (3) is generous, not envious, (4) is humble, not self-promoting, (5) is never rude, (6) does not manipulate by using shame, (7) is not irritable or easily offended, (8) celebrates honesty, (9) does not focus on what is flawed, and (10) is loyal to the end.”

Faith and hope both spring from God’s love. Tasting God’s love gives us an assurance (faith) that the Lord will meet us. This assurance is the hope that keeps us pressing forward in difficult times. Faith, hope, and the gifts of the Spirit will no longer be necessary when we are in God’s kingdom for eternity. These things are necessary in an imperfect world. When perfection comes we will no longer need to speak in tongues, prophesy, or pray for the sick. There will be no more tears or sickness when Jesus comes for His bride.

EXTRAORDINARY MIRACLES

Acts 19:11,12 – God kept releasing a flow of extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul. Because of this, people took Paul’s handkerchiefs and articles of clothing, even pieces of cloth that had touched his skin, laying them on the bodies of the sick, and diseases and demons left them and they were healed.

“Miracles of no ordinary kind, i. e. extraordinary miracles.” This is what Adam Clarke said about the astounding outpouring in Ephesus. Luke had seen all sorts of miracles in his travels with the Apostle Paul but what they were seeing in Ephesus was unprecedented. Nothing like this had ever been seen by Luke before. Obviously the Lord had big plans for the church in Ephesus. I find it quite interesting the way these miracles were described. Luke said that pieces of cloth that had been part of clothing worn by Paul were sent out to the sick and the afflicted. Apparently the anointing that was flowing from Paul was collecting in his clothes. How else could you explain what was happening here? This is reminiscent of the garment that Jesus wore. Often times people would touch the fringe of the Lord’s clothing and healing would flow into their bodies.

Next, Luke describes the effect these clothes had on demons. Apparently, these clothes would be attached to individuals being tormented by evil spirits. The result would be that the spirits would leave and the people would be made whole.

What Luke was describing was a regional outpouring of the Holy Spirit characterized by signs, wonders, and miracles. It started with twelve men in a Bible study and progressed to daily meetings in a rented facility. After two years of these daily meetings there appears to have been an explosion of miracles that effected all of Turkey.

Is it possible for these types of things to happen in our modern world? Maybe we need more of a focus on saturation in the Holy Spirit if we are to see outbreaks of the power of God. Think about what happened here; daily meetings with Paul for two years. Maybe that is why unprecedented things began to happen. In our modern world of social media and smartphones it wouldn’t take much for our world to be turned upside down. Unprecedented miracles would surely get the attention of the world. Maybe its time for another outbreak of signs, wonders, and miracles.

TONGUES AND PROPHESY

Acts 19:5-7 – When they understood this, they were baptized into the authority of Jesus, the Anointed One. And when Paul laid his hands on each of the twelve, the Holy Spirit manifested and they immediately spoke in tongues and prophesied.

This passage gives us great insight to the secret power of the early church. Rather than a formal creed, Paul introduced this group of young Christians to the power of the gospel. Paul taught that our faith couldn’t rest on words only, it must be initiated and sustained by the power of God. 1 Cor.2:4,5 – “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” The Passion Notes described what happened when Paul laid his hands on these young believers.

“The Aramaic is “They spoke tongue by tongue and gushed out prophecies.” The impartation of the Holy Spirit and his gifts are here being transferred from Paul to these believers.”

So from Paul’s perspective it was essential for Christians to be filled with power. Because of this Paul emphasized the Baptism in the Holy Spirit characterized by speaking in tongues and prophesying. Here is a description from the Expositor’s Commentary.

“Despite their being known as disciples, Paul preached Jesus to the men as he would to any Jew. “John’s baptism,” he said, “was a baptism of repentance” that pointed beyond itself and the Baptist to “the one coming after him”–that is, to Jesus. So on their acceptance of Jesus as the focus of Christian faith, they were baptized “into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then Paul laid his hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit and evidenced the same signs of the Spirit’s presence as the first believers did at Pentecost–namely, tongues and prophecy. Doubtless in Paul’s mind they were not rebaptized but baptized into Christ once and for all.”

Water baptism is really a picture or glimpse into a powerful spiritual reality. Water used in baptism pictures the Holy Spirit and immersion describes total immersion into God Himself. The world today is in great need of the power of God. Great programs and ministries or great singing and preaching can never change the nature of a fallen being. Only an encounter with the power of God can do that.