Monday, November 23, 2009

Empowerment from on High!!

Reading "Joy Unspeakable" (Dr Lloyd-Jones's sermons on John 1:26, 33) is making me think much about the baptism of the Holy Spirit along with a consideration of the past and my childhood growing up in the charismatic movement. David Rolles - a fellow ex-New Covenant Church member - made mention of a small booklet that was circulated widely at that time. We never realised it but it was quite famous among charismatic churches. Terry Virgo told a group of us at Stoneleigh that many churches used the booklet to great effect. It was called; "The Baptism in the Holy Spirit". I still have a treasured copy and quote it here - it defines the baptism of the Spirit as:

"The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is enduement with power from on high (Luke 24:49), it is the fulfillment of the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4, 5) and the Son (Acts 1:8). It is the provision of power for service, for we cannot serve in our own strength (Zech 4:6). It is a definite experience so that we should know whether we have had it or not (Acts 19:2). However it is not a once-for-all experience, in that we need to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31; 13:9, Eph 5:18).

One of the loveliest results of this experience is a deeper love for the Lord and for one another, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon believers results in greater unity among believers".

As believers have fought, argued and lost the element to this empowerment from on high - so the life of the charismatic movement has ebbed and dwindled. One of the most exciting books Terry Virgo has ever brought out was called; "The Tide is Turning". Mark Heath reviewed this book a while back and summarised it excellent;

"Essentially the title can be thought of as a prophecy that the decline of the church is slowing and a new wave of vibrant biblical Christianity is coming".

Do we need a new approach or a new tactic to achieve this turning of the tide? Of course there is nothing wrong with being culturally relevant. God surely gets no glory by the church stubbornly remaining out of date. But I fail to see that the Bible gives any other option for the turning of the tide other than empowerment from on high. And of course the folly of the church is that it is HERE, it is AVAILABLE, and it is FREE BY GRACE!!

As the early booklet on the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" noted - one of the most precious effects of this empowerment from on high is a greater and deeper love for the Lord Jesus. It is here that I bring together two insights - one from Dr Ern Baxter and one from Dr Martyn Ll0yd-Jones who both have the same insight. Dr Ll0yd-Jones wrote in "Joy Unspeakable";

"We have seen that it was only after the apostles had been baptized with the Holy Spirit that they really came to understand the meaning of what had happened to their Lord and Master".

In his monumental sermon on the "Robe of the Ephod" - Dr Ern Baxter drew attention to the golden bells that surrounded the high priest's robe. He said;

"As the high priest moved around in the Holy of Holies offering his sacrifice, the people could hear the golden bells on the hem of his robe and they knew that their sacrifice had been accepted. They knew the high priest was alive ... When the disciples gathered together in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost, they heard a sound from heaven.

What happened? They heard the bells of the High Priest in heaven offering His acceptable sacrifice in the Presence of God ... I believe that the reason why the baptism of the Holy Spirit and indeed the whole matter of the Holy Spirit has been so fiercely contested is because the Holy Spirit is the communication of God to men concerning the work of Jesus Christ in God's Presence.

Every child of God has the right to the evidence of the golden bells of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in his life to give him experiential knowledge in his own experience that Jesus Christ is alive and well in the Presence of God and He accomplished the work He was sent to do".

What is that work? One of the most glorious verses in the whole Bible (if that's possible) - 2 Corinthians 5:19:

"That God was in Christ reconciling the world (not just the church!) to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them".

We gain nothing by exalting one part of Christ's redemptive work above another. It is all gloriously intertwined like a golden thread running through a robe. The work that Christ did on the Cross has been accomplished once and for all - our sins are gone - never to return! But God did not expect us to take this on face value alone. He has sent empowerment from on high - He has poured out His Holy Spirit to baptise believers with experiential knowledge that we can hear the bells of heaven ringing in our hearts. See a down-trodden, depressed, faithless, negative, legalistic church? Rest assured that it's one and only need is a baptism of power from on high.

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