The Lord’s anointed ones are full of active faith! They won’t back down to the voice of fear or the appearance of impending destruction.
We read in 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. David saw Goliath and heard the blasphemies that came out of his mouth. Eliab listened with a sinking heart. Something different happened to David, though. The anointing of the Lord began to heat up within him. At that same moment, the hearts of Israel’s unanointed professionals became ice-cold with fear. Do you see the contrast? This has always been a notable distinction between the two, and it still is today… The anointing gives great boldness, making people immune to fear! The anointing makes the difference between an academic faith and a burning faith. Let me warn you—the one faith will always irritate the other.
Eliab undoubtedly had reason on his side, which left him weighing up the balance of Israelite and Philistine forces. He saw no other resources. Eliab was able to make professional assessments of battle situations, and he saw that Israel had no chance of winning. This professional officer mentally put himself next to Goliath for comparison and saw him as an awesome giant. David, in contrast, was a man of active faith and mentally put Goliath next to the God of Israel and saw the Philistine as a midget. It is amazing what transpires when faith and fear are contrasted.
David knew that he had the Lord on his side, and he felt a holy stirring and indignation within his soul. That was because of the anointing, which gave him resources unknown to others. His inner eyes of faith were upon the Lord. He did more than just hope and pray. God’s anointing made him hungry for victory, and he was excited with eager anticipation. The anointing was the “guarantee” of things to come.
Oftentimes, people act in response to a voice of fear that comes disguised as a voice of reason. However, for the anointed believer, it is only reasonable to view every unholy circumstance of opposition as insignificant, compared to our great and mighty God! Rather than allowing the challenging circumstances in your life and in the world around you to paralyze and intimidate you, allow them to stoke the fire in your heart. Allow them to embolden you and stir the anointing on your life. Perhaps in this season, as never before, you will discover the great resources God has invested into your life and the anointing He has given you. We will talk more about that tomorrow…
Source: (adapted from Evangelism by Fire pg. 163-164)
Pick Up Your Weapons!
By Reinhard Bonnke
Where are our weapons? Paul wrote, “Stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). He instructed, “Stir up.” This word has to do with fire—the stirring up of a campfire to get the embers blazing. It means, “to kindle,” “to bring up to full flame.” Do not cool off! Stir up that fire! Use the fan on the dying embers. The word of God and the gifts of the Spirit are our weapons against the attack of the enemy.
These gifts are described in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”
These gifts of the Spirit are our weapons, and the devil has done his best to stop Christians from using them. As valuable as natural gifts are, they can never take the place of Holy Spirit endued gifts, and more importantly, they must never be confused with them. For example, many churchmen and medical doctors have opposed divine healing. They have magnified the stories of those who are “disappointed” and who are not immediately healed. They have conveniently forgotten that doctors disappoint millions every day. Nearly everyone in the graveyard had been to a doctor first, yet nobody would be so foolish as to demand the closing of all hospitals! Others object to divine healing simply because some are not healed, and so they do not minister to the sick at all. This leaves everybody unhealed! Where is compassion, or obedience to the Scriptures? Some Christians have let their bow and arrows (their gifts, their spiritual weapons) gather dust in a corner because of critics. They lower their God-given weapons and accept defeat because of the fear of man. Others have been hurt, perhaps by remarks from fellow believers, and thus have dropped their gifts. They have “lost” them, though God never reclaims them, for “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).
The Lord has never sent a saint into battle without a weapon. That is precisely why, before His ascension to heaven, Jesus told the apostles to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit. He knew that they would need to be endued with the power of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. The power of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts must be recovered to each and every believer. Hear the word of the Lord: Go back to the day and to the place where you left those spiritual gifts, and ask the Lord to forgive you. Do not be afraid! Do not despair; the gifts are still there, albeit dormant. Dry your tears of despair and sorrow, and take up your weapons again!
Source: (Evangelism by Fire. pg. 179-181)
“Tell Us What You Think!”
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This Bible Study has been taken from Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke’s book, “Evangelism by Fire”. In this book he lays out the principles necessary for effective evangelism, showing how God operates through anyone who is willing to follow His plan.
Tertullian (160‑220) lived during severe persecution of Christians, noting that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. He was a brilliant Christian scholar and lawyer theologian from North Africa. In commenting on baptism and the Spirit, he says:
“Not that in the waters [of baptism] we receive the Holy Spirit, but cleansed in water, and under the angel we are prepared for the Holy Spirit.”
Tertullian joined the Montanist movement early in the third century and challenged the worldliness of the church of his day. The Montanists flourished in Asia Minor from the second century into the fifth century. Montanus spoke in tongues at his baptism and began prophesying. His movement called people to holy living and they expected the Lord to return soon. They valued the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy, although the movement became excessive and was rejected by the established church.
Augustine of Hippo (354‑430) wrote:
“When you were exorcised [that is to have evil cast out] you were so to speak, ground. When you were baptised you were, so to speak, watered. When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit you were, so to speak, baked.”
Augustine refers to making bread and uses this to describe the work of God in our lives:
ground ‑‑ to grind the wheat; watered ‑‑ to mix the dough; baked ‑‑ to bake the bread in an oven.
Augustine of Hippo was a great thinker, leader, and writer in the early church who embraced the Christian faith after a varied career through the first half of his life.
He witnessed, was often instrumental in, and recorded many miracles. He said, “For when I saw in our own time frequent signs of old, I desired that narratives might be written, judging that the people should not be ignorant of such things.”
Often healing miracles accompanied the celebration of the sacraments and were supported by a dedicated life of prayer within the Christian community. He wrote, “Today miracles still go on happening in our Lord’s name, through the sacraments he instituted and through the prayers and memorials of his saints.”
Augustine believed that miracles build up faith: “The world believes, not because it is convinced by human argument, but because it has been faced with the power of divine signs.”
The Spirit’s gifts and power given to the apostles were part of the experience of the church in Augustine’s day.
Cyril of Jerusalem lived about 315‑386. He was Bishop of Jerusalem from about 349.
He likened Christian initiation [baptism in water] to the experience of Christ in the river Jordan. “As the Holy Spirit in substance lighted on him, like resting upon like, so after you had come up from the pool of sacred waters, there was given to you an unction [anointing], the antitype [a pattern of the way things happen in the future] of that wherewith he was anointed and this is the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, Cyril of Jerusalem held that Jesus’ experience of water baptism followed by anointing by the Spirit was a Pattern that Christians were meant to follow. That is to say, people would become Christians, enter the water of baptism and then receive empowerment for service by the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Gregory the Great (540‑604) became Pope in 590. The times were wracked by war, famine and devastation. Nevertheless, it was a time of intense missionary activity accompanied by the overt manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit. Gregory was a prolific writer, and in his Dialogues and sermons we read of many accounts of prophecies, healings, and visions that people were currently experiencing.
In commenting on Augustine the missionary to Britain (died 604), he said, “By the shining miracles of his preachers, God has brought faith even to the extremities of the earth… The tongue of Britain, which before could only utter barbarous sounds, has lately learned to make the alleluia resound in praise of God”, and Augustine and his fellow missionaries “seemed to be imitating the powers of the apostles in the signs which they displayed.”
He believed that such phenomena should be integrated into the life of the church, and in the Dialogues he says, “Every act of our Redeemer, performed through his human nature, was meant to be a pattern for our actions.” After describing a healing, he said, “If anyone would ask you how this happened, tell him simply that the Lord Jesus Christ was here doing his work.”
Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born in that typical Italian town of the thirteenth century. It had a hierarchy, at the bottom of which were peasants, believing in the power of miracles, relics and pilgrimages, but knowing little of the power of Christ in their lives, or even of the facts of the gospel story. Then came prosperous citizens, the higher clergy and the land‑owning gentry. Assisi had its wars, such as that which made such a deep impression on Francis, the war with the neighbouring city of Perugia .
Into this world came Francis, renouncing his family’s prosperity and proclaiming the excellence of a life of poverty, peace, love, and labour. He has been called the Mirror of Christ, God’s Jester, and the Little Poor Man of Assisi. He took Christ seriously, reminding his world that love is more than an abstract virtue about which to preach sermons and write poems; it is something that has to be hammered out in the painful realities of daily living.
He told how the power of Jesus’ Spirit changed him: “I remember the first victory of my new heart. All my life I’d panicked when I met lepers. Then one day on the road below Assisi, I did one of those surprising things that only the power of Jesus’ Spirit could explain. I reached out and touched a leper, a man the very sight of whom nauseated me. I felt my knees playing tricks on me, and I was afraid I would not make it to the leper. The smell of rotting flesh attacked all my senses – as if I were smelling with eyes and ears as well. Tears began to slide down my cheeks because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. Then, as I began to lose my composure, I grabbed the man’s hand and kissed it. In doing so, I received more than I gave. In finding that leper, I found Christ.”
Walter Hilton (1340-1396) was an English mystic whose spiritual writings were widely read in the fifteenth century in England. The most famous of them The Scale of Perfection describes the spiritual journey of the soul. The section on prayer advises the reader to be detached from all earthly things and use every effort to withdraw one’s mind from them so that the mind may be stripped free of them and rise continually to Jesus Christ. While Christ will remain a mystery in his divinity, his humility and humanity are ways of experiencing his goodness.
To pray well is to allow one’s heart to be freed from the burden of all worldly thoughts and, by the power of the Spirit, rise to a spiritual delight in the presence of Christ. “For prayer is nothing other than the ascent of the heart to God.”
In the section on loving others but hating their sin, he quotes Paul from Romans 5:5, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given us.” It is only by this givenness, this grace, that we can love others and hate sin, and without this “… all other actions do not make a man good or worthy of heaven.”
All Hilton’s writing depends on the basic thesis of the initiative for salvation and spiritual growth lying with God.
Thomas á Kempis (1381‑1471) lived and wrote against a background of education and experience in the schools of the Brethren of the Common Life, an association founded in the Netherlands in the fourteenth century to foster a higher level of Christian life and devotion. Thomas á Kempis, while widely sought after as a spiritual adviser, is probably best known for a book which tradition strongly suggests he wrote The Imitation of Christ. It is a series of meditations and prayers designed to draw the individual Christian into a deep love for Christ.
In one meditation, he exhorts the reader to give up or forsake oneself in order to find God. “Stand without choice, without following your own will, and without all possessions, and you will advance much in grace.” If you resign yourself wholly into God’s hands, and take nothing for yourself, you will gain great inward peace.
That is something which should happen all the time, every hour, in great things and in small. God urges: “In all things I would find you naked and poor, and bereft of your own will. … Stand purely and firmly in me, and you will be so pure in heart and in soul that darkness of conscience or slavery to sin will never have power over you.”
St Teresa of Avila (1515‑1582), The Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic, is remembered by the church for two major reasons. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and thus a woman of strong character, shrewdness and practical ability. She was also an influential writer on prayer and the first to point out the existence of states of prayer between meditation and ecstasy; she gave a description of the entire life of prayer.
Her combination of mystic experience with ceaseless activity as a reformer and organiser make her life the classical instance for those who contend that the highest contemplation is not incompatible with great practical achievements.
In her book of prayer Interior Castle, she describes a kind of prayer which she desires for all Christians, but which the Lord gives: a strange kind of prayer, the nature of which one cannot ascertain. What happens, she says, is that one’s faculties are in close union with God, but our Lord leaves both faculties and sense free to enjoy the happiness, without understanding what it is that they are enjoying and how they are enjoying it.
St Teresa describes the joy of the soul being so great that instead of rejoicing in God alone she would rather share that joy so that others may rejoice in praising God “to which end it directs its whole activity.”
“How can your tongues be better employed, when you are together, than in the praises of God, which we have so many reasons for rendering him?”
Martin Luther (1483‑1546), a Reformation pioneer, distinguished between the Spirit and the letter in Scripture, “for nobody understands these precepts unless it is given to him from above. … Therefore, they most sadly err who presume to interpret the Holy Scriptures and the law of God by taking hold of them by their own understanding and study.”
Luther argued that the Holy Spirit is hidden in the letter of Scripture, since the letter itself may proclaim only the Law, or the wrath of God. The Holy Spirit conveys the word of grace, the gospel. So the true reading of Scripture involves a continual process of bringing faith to birth, or constant renewal and re‑creation of spiritual awareness.
John Calvin (1509-1564) of Geneva was a prolific writer. Among his writings we find commentaries on most of the Bible. In commenting on Ephesians 3:14ff., he disagrees with those “who argue, that, if the grace of the Holy Spirit alone enlightens our minds, and forms our hearts of obedience, all teaching will be superfluous.”
“For we are enlightened and renewed by the Holy Spirit so that the teaching may be strong and effective, so that light may not be set before the blind, nor the truth sung to the deaf. Therefore the Lord alone acts upon us in such a way that he acts by his own instruments. It is therefore the duty of pastors diligently to teach, of the people earnestly to attend to teaching, and of both to flee to the Lord lest they weary themselves in unprofitable exertions.”
Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), the seventeenth century Puritan leader, in a lecture on the letter to the Ephesians, explains how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of all men and women. He explains that the Holy Spirit works in three ways:
First of all, the Holy Spirit makes it possible for a person to turn to God. The Holy Spirit touches a person’s mind so that he or she is able to believe. This is called regeneration.
The second thing the Holy Spirit does is in water baptism when we are cleansed from our sin.
The third thing the Holy Spirit does is to fill us so that we are able to carry out the task of evangelism. This he calls being sealed in the Spirit.
Richard Baxter (1615‑1691) was an English clergyman of Reformed persuasion who made a deep impression on English Christendom. He left nearly two hundred writings, breathing a spirit of unaffected piety and love of moderation. Near the end of his life, writing his autobiography, he says:
“I am now, therefore, much more apprehensive [have more perception] than heretofore of the necessity of well grounding men in their religion, and especially of the witness of the indwelling Spirit; for I more sensibly perceive that the Spirit is the great witness of Christ and Christianity to the world. And though the folly of fanatics tempted me long to overlook the strength of this testimony of the Spirit, while they placed in it a certain internal assertion or enthusiastic inspiration, yet now I see that the Holy Ghost in another manner is the witness of Christ and his agent in the world. The Spirit in the prophets was his first witness; the Spirit by miracles was the second; and the Spirit by renovation, sanctification, illumination, and consolation, assimilating the soul of Christ and heaven is the continued witness to all true believers. And if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, the same is none of his (Romans 8:9).”
John Wesley (1703‑1791) found strong motivation for evangelism at a conversion experience at the age of 35 while hearing Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans read at a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London. “About a quarter before nine while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” From then on he resolved “to Promote as far as I am able vital Practical religion and by the grace of God to beget, preserve, and increase the life of God in the souls of men.”
He told how he and others including his brother Charles and George Whitefield with about 60 people were touched by God at a love feast in Fetter Lane, London: “About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord’”
In a Letter to a Roman Catholic, he wrote (among other faith statements), “I believe the infinite and eternal Spirit of God, equal to the Father and the Son, to be not only perfectly holy in himself, but the immediate cause of all holiness in us: enlightening our understandings, rectifying our wills and affections, renewing our natures, uniting our persons to Christ, assuring us in our actions, purifying and sanctifying our souls and bodies to a full and eternal enjoyment of God.”
Wesley understood the value of small groups designed to promote Christian growth through prayer, Bible study, and the sharing of lives, and he established these groups all over Britain.
David du Plessis (1905‑1987), acclaimed by Time magazine as one of the nine best known religious leaders in North America, was a humble man who dared to love others. A group of Catholic and Protestant editors included his name in a list of eleven religious giants who have challenged the assumptions and changed the thinking of the Christian community.
This gracious Pentecostal pioneer lectured at Princeton, Yale, Union, and leading Catholic seminaries in America and Europe as well as at the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches. He was an official observer at the Vatican Council and involved in the Catholic Pentecostal dialogue in Rome where Pope Paul VI greeted him with, ‘So you are Mr Pentecost?’
He earned that nickname through his untiring efforts to bring the Pentecostal message to the whole church. Known as the boy preacher at fifteen where he was involved in the despised Pentecostal movement in South Africa, David du Plessis lived to see that movement grow over 100 million Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians worldwide by 1980, to over 400 million by 2000, and over 600 million by 2008.
The forthright English Pentecostal evangelist, Smith Wigglesworth, gave a remarkable and heretical (for a Pentecostal) prophecy to young David in 1936. The Lord would pour the Spirit upon the established church, he said, and the ensuing revival would eclipse anything the Pentecostals had experienced. David would be mightily used by God to bring acceptance of the Pentecostal message to the established churches. “This same blessing will become acceptable to the churches and they will go on with this message and this experience beyond what the Pentecostals have achieved. You will live to see this work grow to such dimensions that the Pentecostal movement itself will be a light thing in comparison with what God will do through the old churches. There will be tremendous gatherings of people, unlike anything we’ve seen, and great leaders will change their attitude and accept not only the message but also the blessing.”
David du Plessis declared, “God has no grandsons”, emphasising that all God’s children needed a personal spiritual birth for life in the Spirit. He stressed that Jesus is both the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and the baptiser in the Holy Spirit (John 1:29‑34).
At an ecumenical leaders’ conference, he was asked, “What is the difference between you and us? We quote the same Scriptures you do, and yet when you say those words they sound so different. We say the same things that you do, but there seems to be a deeper implication in what you say.”
Referring to 2 Corinthians 3:5‑6 (the letter kills but the Spirit gives life), he replied: “Comparisons are odious, and I do not wish to injure anyone’s feelings or hurt your pride. But the truth as I see it is this: You have the truth on ice, and I have it on fire. … My friends, if you will take the great truths of the gospel out of your theological freezers and get them on the fire of the Holy Spirit, your churches will yet turn the world upside down.”
Word and Spirit was born of personal concern about misunderstanding and disunity in the Body of Christ with regard to charismatic beliefs. The booklet encourages Christians to be both faithful to the Word and open to the Spirit.
Word and Spirit has the potential to bring healing to Christian disunity concerning the role of the Holy Spirit. . . . She shows that the truth of God is clear.
James Brecknell (Journey)
Her biblical treatment is . . . balanced, and avoids . . . legalism.
Robert J. Wiebusch (The Lutheran)
Alison Sherrington has written a book on charismatic renewal which is eminently sensible and intelligently presents a discussion of issues raised by non-charismatics. An excellent book.
Geoff Strelan (New Day)
Alison Sherrington’s Word and Spirit: Coming to Terms with the Charismatic Movement “is intended as an encouragement to be both faithful to the Word and open to the Spirit.”
Her book provides an excellent introduction to contemporary concerns raised by charismatic renewal. It rejects a false dichotomy between Word and Spirit, places experience under the scrutiny of revealed theology, acknowledges a dynamic exegesis which refuses to be contained within our Western conceptual framework (for the wind blows where it will), and explores spiritual gifts in terms of God’s sovereign presence in all of life – not merely as theories confined to our paltry categories.
As a comment on faith and obedience, the book calls for courageous openness to God’s work in his world in the power of his Spirit. This involves change for us all no matter what our pet categories may be. God’s ways cannot be confined to ours. We are encouraged to seek the Giver even more than his gifts. He is Lord. He gives charis (grace) and chaismata (gifts of grace) more liberally and more comprehensively than any evangelical or Pentecostal theology can categorize.
Alison Sherrington affirms the importance of both Word and Spirit and challenges any dividing or emasculating of both. She does not attempt an exhaustive exegesis, but calls for faith in God founded on obedience to the Word of God empowered by obedience to the Spirit of God.
This book is useful as a guide for those confused by the legalism of much current debate (on all sides) because it affirms the primacy of God’s Word revealed and interpreted by his Spirit.
Geoff Waugh (Renewal Journal)
Foreword by Rev Dr Geoff Waugh
Experiences of theHoly Spirit
The charismatic claims
Does experience matter?
The stumbling-block of terminology
Are there Scriptural parallels?
Is there Biblical support for experiences today?
Are modern experiences of the Spirit genuine?
What are the results of such an experience?
What descriptive terms should be used?
Baptized with (or in) the Spirit
Giving and receiving the Spirit
Filled with the Spirit
Have I been baptized (filled) with the Spirit?
Do you want a baptism (filling) with the Spirit?
Being baptized (filled) with the Holy Spirit
The Gifts of the Spirit
What are spiritual gifts?
The relationship of Spirit-baptism and gifts
When are the supernatural gifts to cease?
Why do some believe certain gifts have ceased?
The proper use of spiritual gifts
Which Way Ahead?
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Our congregation in West Auckland was formed in 1965 as an offshoot of a Brethren church in Auckland. In its early days it was very much a youth outreach. In the 1970’s we were impacted by the Charismatic Renewal that was going on in New Zealand. People in our congregation attended services and conferences, read books, listened to tapes and of course came back and discussed this in the church and home groups. Not surprisingly, this created a degree of conflict and tension in the congregation.
However, previous to these events God had brought us to an understanding of the importance of relationships in the church: the need to be honest, open and transparent with each other so that we could handle tensions. I’m grateful to God that he brought that to our attention first. It enabled us to handle more easily the pressures that the renewal brought to us.
I need to say that at no time in our history did we ever sit down and devise some sort of master plan for what has happened in our congregation. All we sought to do as an eldership was take the steps that God led us into. In Mark 4:24 Jesus says, ‘Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.’ It is crucial to understand that we must use what God gives us.
If God teaches us something, use it. Apply it. The measure we use whatever you apply, whatever you use, whatever you appropriate that will be measured back to you again and even more. This principle is fundamental in leadership. It’s about going forward individually and corporately; growing together personally and as a group; listening to God privately and collectively. We are on a pilgrimage. And that’s a community activity, as the New Testament sees it. A ‘walking with Jesus, and in the company of others’ (Fung). Our history has been an expression of a desire to follow God through a series of doors he’s opened to us.
With Charismatic Renewal occurring in many churches around our country, and people in the congregation becoming interested and involved, we clearly had to address the issue. In l978 the elders decided to spend the year talking about Charismatic Renewal together. What was it? Could we embrace it? Were there things we could learn from it? We spent one night a month talking, praying, reading papers, looking into the Scriptures discussing the matter and by October we had come to the unanimous conclusion that we could embrace two main features of the movement.
1. We concluded that each Christian needed an empowering work of the Holy Spirit. We did not want to argue over what to call this or whether it came at or after conversion. What we were concerned about was that people knew the Holy Spirit experientially not just in their head, or as theology.
2. We decided that we would be open to all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and seek to operate these gifts along Biblical guidelines. To us it did not seem consistent to believe that certain gifts ceased at the end of the first century.
Thus at the end of l978 there was a change in the elders’ attitude towards the work of the Spirit. A paper was presented to the Church outlining our conclusions, and then discussed thoroughly. The whole process evoked a very positive response from the congregation. People said that at last the elders knew where they were going. We didn’t really! We had started on a pilgrimage and we are still on a pilgrimage, taking steps of faith. I hope we will always do this. Not to do so is to wither and die.
In a nutshell I guess what we said was, ‘Lord, do anything you want to. With your help, from our Brethren foundation, we will seek to discover in practice what it means to follow your Spirit. We don’t want to be a Pentecostal church; neither do we want to copy Charismatic churches. We may go to them to receive insight, but we want this to be unique for us.’ Can’t the God who makes unique snowflakes also make unique congregations?
At the beginning of l979 the congregation started to grow very rapidly. Nothing had changed but our attitude towards the Holy Spirit. People became Christians in January. Unusual for New Zealand! God’s in the Northern Hemisphere over January; New Zealanders are at the beach! To see six adults converted in January was staggering; and it continued month after month.
Over the next ten years, as best as we can estimate, we saw about 1,000 people come to faith in Christ. As we look back on this, all we can say is that God saw our unity and change of attitude towards his Spirit and began to work in a new way among us.
Within a year, God led us into penetrating the community. Normally when a church starts to grow, the first thing you think about is getting a fulltime pastor. God seemed to be saying to us, though, that we should think about our wider community first. So we approached a couple about this, and for eighteen months financially supported by the congregation they worked within the local community. Via newspapers, local groups and Government departments, they signalled availability to senior citizens, single parents and those who were sick. They cut hedges, mowed lawns, cleaned windows, provided transport.
Often after doing a job they would be invited in to have a cup of tea. The person helped would want to know how much they owed for the service provided. Hearing it was nothing would inevitably open up further discussion as to how and why this was possible. This would lead quite naturally to sharing about Christ. In eighteen months this couple led about 8 people into a totally new relationship with the Lord. We now realise that we had linked together social concern and evangelism.
From there a cluster of community ministries developed to begin to meet peoples’ needs within the community. We were also involved in overseas mission and most recently we have been engaged in church planting. Currently we have three congregations that are seeking to work together. Our premise here is that it is a little short sighted to form a new congregation and lock up all the resources of that congregation within itself. Our aim is to have congregations with their own responsible elderships inter relating, with a free flow of resources, people and training across congregations.
A co-ordinating group facilitates combined arrangements and there is recognition of visionary people who can maintain the bigger view. You will probably realise that this is not a Brethren pattern. Nor has it been easy to implement. In the past, new Brethren congregations fairly quickly isolated themselves from others or the birthing body to go their own, totally autonomous, way. We do not feel that this is a Biblical model. There seems to be a degree of liaison between the churches of the New Testament.
Thus our aim is to get the best of both worlds local elders committed to the establishment of work in the local area, while at the same time maintaining relationships between elders in each congregation to enable a free flow of resources.
For us, combined areas involve overseas missions, youth, equipping, about six combined celebrations a year, and elders retreats. Currently we are responsible for somewhere over 1000 adults and children across the three congregations.
As we look back on the steps that we have taken, we recognise that we have been seeking to integrate three major emphases. Onto our heritage of a conservative evangelical church we have sought to build the strengths of the Pentecostal/Charismatic streams of the Church and then the strengths of the social justice stream of the Church.
In endeavouring to interweave the strengths of these three movements we have also come to recognise their weaknesses. Let me sketch these quickly for you. I am indebted to Roger Forster from the Ichthus Fellowship, London, for some of these insights.
The Conservative/Evangelical Position
The first weakness we see in this position is the rather emasculated gospel of ‘souls’. Two things that were impressed on me in my younger days were the necessity of living a holy life and the need to save souls. I have discovered that these goals are not wrong but they are insufficient.
Another weakness of this position has been the tendency towards a bigoted, self righteous exclusiveness. I can remember in my Bible class days analysing the cults. We would discuss why the main world religions were wrong, why the Jehovah’s Witnesses were wrong, the Methodists, the Presbyterians…..! Let me, to be fair, say that I am talking about a conservative country assembly of 35 years ago. I also want to make it quite clear that I am very grateful for my Brethren heritage. I am not putting that down. I wouldn’t dare to. Its innate strengths, prayerful parents and many Brethren friends make any rejection of my origins impossible. And it is part of God’s good grace to me, anyway! I am just pointing out some of the weaknesses.
A further weakness for many conservative evangelicals has been the emphasis on personal piety at the expense of social concern or social issues. This has probably stemmed from, and been reinforced by, the idea of ‘coming out from among them and being separate’. This was a strong element of teaching in my youth. In practice it often meant no dances; and no cinemas. When my Dad played cricket for a local Club he was criticised not for playing on Sunday but for playing on Saturday. ‘You don’t do that. You might get caught up in their sinful habits!’ In Exclusive Brethren Assemblies such an attitude is taken to the extreme of not eating with people, not listening to radios, and blocking windows of churches so people cannot see into the buildings.
I do not want to criticise rather I would analyse. This is a far healthier approach as it invites us to work together on areas that create division and destabilise relationships.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic Position
A major weakness of this stream has been the lack of objectivity in assessing ‘results’ and an accompanying tendency towards extravagant claims. Objective assessment of healings may be seen as lack of faith and sometimes extravagant claims are made prematurely.
Another weakness here is what many would see as manipulation and guiltproducing techniques. Before an offering is taken up I have heard some preachers say, ‘If you give $10 to God he will multiply it tenfold.’ I have been in many Pentecostal services and I sometimes sense that the worship leader is trying to manipulate the congregation. Such activities are not what God requires. They worry me.
A further weakness is the personal indulgence, the selfinterest, the ‘Ime’ Christianity. This is not limited to Pentecostals and Charismatics, but is quite strongly reinforced in these groups, especially in Western nations. We see its extremes in Prosperity Teaching. ‘What’s in this for me?’ is often the motivation. Such an attitude is fed by our selfcentred society and our highly individualistic culture. Very often we Christians do not realise that this is happening to us.
The Liberal/Social Justice Position
The first weakness here is the failure to recognise the spiritual base of evil. Jesus clearly identified two kingdoms in conflict and he came to destroy the works of darkness. We’ll not overcome the kingdom of Satan or social injustice simply by using human force, ingenuity, education or organisation. I am not saying that such human activities are unnecessary or futile, but in themselves they are insufficient. Sin is at the root of social injustice and you can’t overcome sin in human systems solely by human endeavour. This tendency leads to an involvement in social justice dealing with fruits rather than roots.
The result of this is often tired, wornout people, overwhelmed by the needs of society. We have to ask questions about that. I do not question such peoples’ motivation. They are well meaning and very committed to relieving a hurting society. I am not saying that serving God is easy or that you won’t get tired. Of course not. None of us would. However I do sense a stress level in some of my Liberal Church friends who are very passionate about social needs in the community. I also see them often having great difficulty peopling their ministries.
If I were to juxtapose the liberal position with the classical evangelical position I’d say that Liberals go for improvement of life but ignore sin, whereas Evangelicals go for forgiving of sin but ignore life. E. Stanley Jones, speaking of this tension, says ‘the one preaches the Gospel of bodies without souls, while the other preaches the Gospel of souls without bodies. The first is a corpse and the second a ghost.’
Now let me now draw your attention to the great strengths in these three streams of the Church. It’s here that we can really learn from each other.
Words: living by the truth of God
The major strength of the Evangelical position is clearly its strong biblical base and emphasis on the need for a personal encounter with God through Jesus Christ. The commitment to Scripture as the basis for our Christian faith and the commitment to faith in God through Christ for salvation. I am glad for the heritage of my Biblical base. I’d not trade it for anything. I’m glad my children have it. In such an uncertain world it is a great foundation on which to build.
Signs: living in the power of God
The major strength of the Pentecostal/Charismatic position seems to be the emphasis on the practical experience of the empowering, gifting and leading of the Holy Spirit. I choose the words `practical experience’ carefully. In most of my Brethren upbringing we never got practical in this area. If we talked about the leading of the Spirit we never learned how actually to experience it. I remember one of our early New Zealand evangelists telling about being led by God in the 1930’s to visit a town not on his itinerary, to discover many people waiting to hear the Gospel. This same man later came out very strongly against Pentecostal and the charismatic movement in our country. Our denomination has closed off from this whole dimension for about 30 years.
The Holy Spirit to the average Pentecostal/Charismatic is more than a theology or set of ideas or verses. He is the dynamic source of their spiritual life and Christian activity. Most Pentecostals and Charismatics are so because of an identifiable encounter with the Holy Spirit often subsequent to their salvation experience/event. Many such encounters that I have observed are life changing and deeply motivating. Intoxication was the description used in Acts 2. For them, Christian faith moves away from a solely intellectual and rational appeal and touches the deepest regions of a person’s being. Often expressed in vibrant life, it can be very attractive to the nonChristian.
Much of our Brethren expression of our Christian faith (in New Zealand anyway) has been legal, rational and intellectual in its approach. Scripture assures us that ‘the letter kills; the Spirit gives life.’ To put the two dimensions of mind and spirit together is one of the greatest challenges facing Christians worldwide. I am very glad that our four children have been brought up in a church which understands this. They have seen people healed, they have experienced miraculous things, they have sensed the vibrancy and the expectancy of faith. They have all had a deep experience of God. We are glad about that. It has brought great strength to them.
I acknowledge that in this area there is also a danger of ‘froth and bubble’. Lack of depth or maturity which may lead to postpentecostals and postcharismatics (See Barratt, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 12, No.3, July 1988).
Let me add that the Maori people have taught me a lot about sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. They are often very sensitive spiritually; sensitive to God and sensitive to the presence of demonic forces. It is those of us from a Western world view and I identify myself here in particular, coming as I do from a rational scientific background and a conservative Brethren heritage who have had particular struggles with aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit. This has been a great part of our pilgrimage over the past decade, seeking to discover this dimension and outwork it within the framework and guidelines of Scripture.
Within this major strength in the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream of the Church I have observed three further highlights. Each seems to have inherent strengths and weaknesses.
i. The evidence of spiritual gifts
Strength: The expectancy (faith) that the God of heaven is not dead, but loves to manifest his grace gifts among his people, is a characteristic feature of this `stream’ of the Christian church. I well remember a Saturday morning just over two years ago, when a group of about 40 young people from our congregation were waiting expectantly for a session to begin. We had invited a person with a prophetic gift to our congregations and I knew that he had never met any of these young people before. One by one he stood them before him and spoke what he sensed God was saying to him. The group laughed as he touched on personal character traits that they recognised. Some cried as he mentioned their deepest longings and encouraged them to follow closely as God led them on.
Time after time we were awed as he spoke of things that he could have had no previous knowledge of. To the young man in the process of closing a business and with very little else offering ‘You are having financial struggles but God is going to open up something new to you.’ And it happened within a few weeks. To a young woman who had just returned from working with drug addicts and prostitutes in New York ‘You have the underprivileged on your heart.’ To another whose family was going through deep waters ‘You have been grieving for your family and God has seen your great concern.’ To one of the ‘characters’ of the group ‘Come here stirrer!’ And so it went on. Clear insights that could only come from the Spirit of God. Those young people left the room that morning walking on air God had spoken to them directly.
That type of prophetic gifting operating in a church is very powerful. Over recent years we have sought to encourage people who have sensed God leading them in this way to use this gifting.
Weakness: People can get ‘hooked’ on the supernatural and may be unable to handle periods of struggle or suffering. Then there is also the problem of hyper-faith and presumption. When you get involved in praying for healing, make sure that you have a theology of nonhealing as well, because pastorally you will need it. I have no problem if people get healed; the problem is when they don’t.
ii. A heightened awareness of spiritual warfare and the need for prayer
Strength: The awareness of the spiritual dimension of life and the nature of the spiritual battle that is occurring on this planet are taken very seriously by most Pentecostals and Charismatics. Intercession is a word more commonly used by people of this stream of the Christian Church than by most of those in our Brethren assemblies.
Weakness: The danger of attributing everything to the devil and not recognising that much evil still lurks within the human soul.
iii. Dynamic music, worship and praise
Strength: There is little doubt that much of the best Christian music has come out of this stream of the Church over the past 30 years, inspired, they would claim, by the Holy Spirit. It’s very attractive especially to young people. Many of the melodies and words seem to touch people deeply, often producing an outpouring of genuine love and adoration to the Lord.
Weakness: Worship may degenerate into a form of mushy sentimentality which caters for the prevalent existential ethos of much of our current society. While I am discussing the Pentecostal, Charismatic and Third Wave (those who embrace the gifts and miraculous dimensions of the ministry of the Holy Spirit without wanting to be identified as Pentecostals or Charismatics) stream of the Church, let me remind you of its incredible growth over this century. From about 1% of the Christian Church at the commencement of 20th century to an estimated 30% by the end of the century. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 600 million people. An incredibly significant increase by anybody’s reckoning! It has been noted that both the first century and the 20th century have been centuries of the Holy Spirit. Recent research reveals a correlation between the evidence of the supernatural power of God and Church growth, particularly in the two-thirds world countries.
Deeds: living out the love of God
Finally let me outline what I see as the great strength of the Liberal stream of the Church their passionate concern for social justice. Frequently their perspective on Scripture has ‘brought me up with a jolt’, as I have seen something of the passion of God’s own heart for justice and his desires for his people.
Put another way, its strength lies in the understanding that the gospel has implications beyond personal salvation. I have come to understand that God is committed to the salvation, the reconciliation and the redemption of the whole universe. The cross does not only address personal sin. Its implications are much bigger. Ultimately everything that sin has touched and spoiled, God wants back under his rule and authority. He has commissioned us to go down that track as far as we can.
One of the problems we human beings have is ignoring strengths when we find weaknesses in a position contrary to our beliefs. If I can find weaknesses, I will focus on them and use them to dismiss and undermine strengths in an alternative position that I should be examining. This happens in all areas of life. As a leadership we have tried to listen to and learn from the insights of other perspective of the Church . We have sought to integrate the strengths of our evangelical heritage with those of the Pentecostal/Charismatic stream and the Liberal stream of the Church. We still have a long way to go, with much to learn and embrace; but then I guess that’s what it means to be on a pilgrimage.
For the Evangelical the Gospel is most powerfully proclaimed by words; for the Pentecostal/Charismatic the declaration is most clearly emphasised in signs; for the Liberal the good news is most meaningfully expressed in deeds.
Words announce the truth of God. Signs demonstrate the power of God. Deeds express the love of God.
If we only have words, we compete with all the philosophies and the theories that are circulating in society and we compete poorly because often churches are poor at communication. If we only have deeds, we find we are competing with philanthropic agencies in our society and what difference do people in the community see between these and the Church? If we only have signs we end up competing with the demonic.
I believe that the key for the Church today is to integrate make one these three dimensions. Not to lose evangelism, for example, but to link it to the power of the Spirit flowing through social concern and bringing them together in a biblically holistic Gospel.
This is what it means to follow Jesus. He is both the Head and Source of our faith. He is also our example. In Luke 4:18 he could say ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (pentecosta1/charismatic emphasis). He has anointed me (again the pentecostal/charismatic emphasis) to preach good news (evangelical focus) to the poor (Liberal emphasis), he has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners (double emphasis announce; justice), recovery of sight to the blind (double emphasis announce; miraculous sign), to release the oppressed (triple emphasis announce; deed; identify with), and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (again surely the triple emphasis).
In his second book, Luke reports Peter as saying to Cornelius: ‘You know the message that God sent the people of Israel telling the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. How he went around doing good deeds, healing all that were under the power of the devil, because God was with him’ (Acts 10:37-38).
Thus in the life of Christ we see the integration of these three dimensions. A commitment to words and truth; a commitment to signs and power, a commitment to deeds and love.
I believe it is God’s intention to raise up congregations all over Australia that embrace these three strands. Leaders are needed that seek to integrate them, struggle to maintain a healthy balance between them, and equip and release their people for them.
(c) Grid Autumn 1993, published by World Vision Australia, GPO Box 399C, Melbourne, Vic. 3001. Brian Hathaway has traced more fully the pilgrimage of the Te Atatu Bible Chapel in his book Beyond Renewal: The Kingdom of God (Word Publishing, 1990). Used with permission.
Introduction Scripture speaks of the Church as a body, a living organism that is to manifest the life of Christ from within. To accomplish that God has so designed the body with many individual members who are equipped with unique gifts which have specific functions. A proper understanding and use of spiritual gifts by each member of the body is essential if the body (the church) is to grow to maturity. ‘There is one body and one Spirit … But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gifts. And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.’ (Paul)
Body ministry grows as we use our spiritual gifts. So it is important to know how our spiritual gifts apply to our lives and ministry. This book can help you learn how to discover and to exercise your spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts can be studied in many different ways. This study is a brief summary of the various gifts of the Spirit, not as boxes or categories, but as currents in the wind of the Spirit and currents in the river of God.
The studies cover: The manifold grace of God – speaking and serving gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). Motivational gifts from God our Father (Romans 12:4-8). Ministry gifts from Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:11). Manifestations of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Body Ministry – in One Body Each passage on the gifts of the Spirit stresses that we are one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12‑13; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:4). The whole context of Paul’s teaching on the gifts of the Spirit is one of unity with diversity; unity in community; one body with many parts functioning in harmony. Paul repeats many themes in the three key passages in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4:
One body: The church is the one body of Christ on earth (1 Corinthians 12:12‑27; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:4‑6).
Gracious gifts: They are given, not earned and not achieved (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4, 6, 8‑11; Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7‑8, 11).
All Christians have gifts: There are no exceptions; and each gift is important (l Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7).
Gifts differ: Value our differences; we need each other (1 Corinthians 12:4‑7; Romans 12:4‑6; Ephesians 4:7 8).
Unity: They function in unity and promote unity (1 Corinthians 12:12‑13, 25; Romans 12:4‑5; Ephesians 4:3, 13, 16).
Maturity: Spiritual gifts build up the body in maturity (1 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:9‑21; Ephesians 4:12‑15).
Love: Love is the top priority; gifts must be used in love (1 Corinthians 13; Romans 12:9‑10; Ephesians 4:4, 15‑16).
The book Body Ministry explores this in detail with many current examples. * Jesus’ Example and Command The cover photo and design portray Jesus’ example and command: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. …So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:3-5, 12-17)
* A valuable book for personal study and for use in small groups.
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A study and workbook to explore significant Bible passages on the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each topic can be a relational sharing study of that topic or a personal study for reflection and application to life.