This was an address I gave at a regional retreat of our association of churches a few years back.
– Born and raised in a So. Bapt Church – no significant mention of H.S. that I can remember for 19 + yrs
– Navs – 3 yrs.; Bible church in San Jose for 4 yrs. – – minimal emphasis
– Dallas Seminary – there for 6 yrs; Attended a Chinese non/anti charismatic church for 1st 2 yrs; Then an Evangelical Non charism. Church for the last 4 years. Minimal emphasis on positives; warning of negatives re: Holy Spirit
– Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand 3 week vacation in missionary place
Some Lessons I have learned along the way:
The Holy Spirit is Holy:
By that the Bible doesn’t mean He is stiff and legalistic or prudish or always frowning and ultra serious. It doesn’t mean that He doesn’t care or is above helping us with practical things like overcoming constipation or helping our sex lives.
It does mean He is focused and absolutely given to the fulfillment of His role in the Godhead and the fulfillment of His unique responsibilities. In Him is no mixture. He never has an unguarded or fleshly moment. He cannot and will not ever entertain anything other than fulfilling His role and responsibilities. And one of His primary roles is pointing people to Jesus and revealing Jesus in all His glory to the world in general and to Jesus’s disciples in particular. Jesus said of Him, in Jn. 16:14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” The Holy Spirit is all about revealing Jesus and forming Jesus in His disciples.
If the Holy Spirit had a smart phone, He would never take a selfie. Rather He would take untold pictures of Jesus.
Just as Jesus declared that He did nothing on His own initiative, so the Holy Spirit operates the same. There just isn’t an ounce of self initiative or self reliance in Him. Jesus put it this way in Jn. 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, he will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
If the Father doesn’t speak about something; neither will the Holy Spirit.
So what does this have to do with us? Well if we truly want to know Him and experience Him and be rightly related to Him, we have to become like Him. We have to feel like He feels, and focus as He focuses.
I felt a lot of emotions and entertained a lot of attitudes and said a lot of things over the years that I didn’t hear – that is – hear from God. And yet I claimed to walk with and represent Him.
I suppose this was understandable in my first 31 yrs.
But then my wife and I spent almost 4 yrs serving as missionaries in Hong Kong and God had had enough of our lack of walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, so literally every where we went, Singapore for our first 2 ½ mos; Thailand for a 3 week vacation after our first two years; and all over Hong Kong we ran in to missionaries or visiting American ministers like John Wimber and Jack Deere who began to take us aside and help us know and walk with and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I had the privilege of being in a bible study small group with some other missionaries led by Jackie Pullinger for a number of weeks….and I will be forever indebted to what she and her co-worker (Mike Polk) imparted to me in that high rise apartment every Wednesday morning.
So when I came back to America I thought I pretty much had the H.S. dialed in. Had seen miracles, participated in some, practiced all the charismatic gifts, etc.
Then a Vineyard pastor flew me up to spend a weekend with him to try to explore joining his ministry, and he at one point was watching Benny Hinn on T.V. I literally turned my chair in the other direction so I didn’t have to watch him. Then I had to fly back up there to find a home to rent, and I stayed with the Smiths. “Good Morning Holy Spirit” by Benny Hinn was by my bedside. I read the whole book and repented for my unrighteous judgment.
The Holy Spirit speaks to billions of people constantly, but He never makes a jaded, cynical, critical, knee jerk comment or reaction to something He sees or hears.
I just poured a lot of time and energy and some money into a homeless couple that our church was working with for a period of months or perhaps a year. I believe the Holy Spirit eventually showed the handful of us working with them that it was time to let them go, especially after the latest visit back to jail of this guy. My temptation was to at least surmise or conclude the homeless are all this way – hard harded, rebellious, entitled. But the Holy Spirit never said that and never would. He doesn’t react to difficult experiences in a self preserving, self justifying way.
I have discovered that part of being holy is hating some things and loving other things. The Bible in a number of places tells us what God and therefore the Holy Spirit hates and what He loves.
For instance in Prov. 6: we are told God – the Holy Spirit hates: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, etc.
Well what does He love? Well we know He loves righteousness and justice from a number of passages. And I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to say this morning he loves Israel. When I was jotting down some thoughts the other day re: what God loves and hates, the fact that He loves Israel came to my mind, but because we have an unwritten and a wise agreement within KMI that we will not force our people to agree on the details of eschatology that the church historically has disagreed on, I decided I would not mention Israel as something that God the Holy Spirit loves. But then a strange thing happened to me. Wednesday morning I woke up and looked at my cell phone clock and it was 4:14. Didn’t think much of that until Thursday morning I woke up and looked at my cell phone clock and it was 4:14. I had never before woken up two days in a row before my alarm went off at the exact same moment. So I looked to the Holy Spirit for what this might mean. I turned to Isaiah, but discovered there were not 14 verses in Isa. Ch. 4. I then turned to Jeremiah 4:14, and it reads: “ Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, That you may be saved; How long will your wicked thoughts Lodge with you?” That didn’t immediately register so I turned to Psalm 4 only to find it didn’t have 14 verses. So then I turned back to Jeremiah 4::14. My initial response was to pray for Israel because I know they are a very rebellious and wicked people in general. But then I sensed the Holy Spirit say – I want you to say out loud in your address that one of the things God loves is Israel even in their present state of rebellion and hardness of heart. Hosea puts it this way in Hos. 3:1, “Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”
You know I’ve never not been a part of a local church for my 59 + years, and none of them ever made a big deal about Israel. God placed the Chinese on my heart when I was in my early 20’s; I majored in missions at Dallas Seminary and helped bring an awareness of the unreached peoples of the world while there. I’ve never had jewish friends to speak of. Nothing about Israel in general draws me to it. But the more I read the scriptures, the more I believe Israel is exhibit A of God’s covenant, faithful, unswerving, unconditional love. That’s why they get so much coverage in the Bible; and one of the evidences of that besides the scriptures is the way the world is increasingly turning against it.
Well you can discern whether I heard the Holy Spirit or have a misguided agenda or what.
The Holy Spirit is holy. The Holy Spirit is Spirit.
This means among other things that He is not confined or restricted by any physical limitations. If we truly believed this, we would rely on Him more and our own resources less.
Because of my long concern for the Chinese I have read much of the life and writings and ministry of J. Hudson Taylor – the founder of the China Inland Mission. He was responsible for hundreds of young missionaries in a massive land with no cell phones or internet. He learned to change the hearts of men and even their circumstances through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In over 21 years we have had our share of enemies and detractors. Time after time, God has eventually dealt with them decisively through persistent dependent prayer – – looking to the Holy Spirit to change hearts as only He can do.
Finally God is love, therefore the H.S. is love. One of the ways the Holy Spirit has sought to help Anne and I love people more like He does is by teaching us that “People are more important than Projects.”
I was warned by a godly missionary in our days at our OMF int’l headquarters in Singapore about the dangerous “passion to finish” things or projects or assignments that can cause us to walk over or neglect or be insensitive to people and relationships. The Holy Spirit’s love balances out His holiness. Holiness without love is abusive and hurtful. Holiness with love sets people free.