Monday, 29 April 2013

Waiting for the Spirit

In Acts 1:4-9 Jesus - echoing or repeating his instructions in Luke 24:43ff  - tells the disciples not to leave Jerusalem but "wait for the gift my Father promised" which he describes as the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In the subsequent events of Pentecost we see the outcome of their obedience to that command in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But is it meant to be a one-off event?

First,' yes' because Jesus' commands are place and time specific. The place is Jerusalem and they were to wait until the Spirit came, which He did ten days later on the feast of Pentecost.

Second, 'no' because the rest of Acts then tells of a repetition of little Pentecosts as one or more people are baptised by the Spirit after or as they believe in the message of the Gospel. This argues, for me, that the larger Day of Pentecost is meant to be a precursor of many other smaller Pentecosts as the Spirit is given - as promised and prophesied - to everyone irrespective of class, colour, ethnicity etc..

Third, reading later in Paul about the possibility of grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit there must consequently therefore be the need to be filled or baptised again with the same Spirit after due confession and repentance. Also as Paul commands in Ephesians 5:18 we need to go on being filled - today and subsequently - with the Holy Spirit. And we need to stop what we are doing in order to do so. We are to 'wait' or 'stay' where we are until we are sure that the Spirit has come and clothed us with power before tackling the 'impossible' task of making disciples of those who are spiritually blind and deaf to God.

Even Jesus needed the Holy Spirit to carry out his mission and 'waited' nearly 30 years until the right time when John would baptise him in the Jordan. Was Jesus subsequently filled with the Spirit? There is no evidence of it. Why? He never sinned and so never quenched or grieved the Spirit, but we do, daily and constantly. That is why we need many fillings and he only needed one.

D L Moody was once asked why he urged Christians to be filled constantly with the Holy Spirit. "Well," he said, "I need a continual infilling because I leak!" He pointed to a water tank which had sprung a leak. "I’m like that!" he said.

One writer commentating on the above said: "It’s a fact that living in this sinful world we do need to be replenished by the Spirit. A friend of mine, an evangelist, was asked if he believed in the "second blessing". "Of course I do," he replied, "and in the 3rd, 4th , 5th blessing, and so on."

We must not of course forget the other side of the coin which is not so much about having more of the Spirit but the Spirit having more of us! D. L. Moody was being considered for an evangelistic campaign in England, and one of the organisers asked somewhat sarcastically: 'Does D. L. Moody have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit that we're just thinking about him and nobody else?'. The answer came back very quickly: 'No, D. L. Moody does not have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly of D. L. Moody'.

Dr J. Wilber Chapman asked William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, 'Tell me the secret of your great life for God and man', and Booth humbly replied: 'Since the first day God put the poor of London on my heart, He has had all there was of William Booth'.

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