In my “inner-being” (as the Apostle Paul so liked to speak of the depths of his heart’s longings) I regularly long for greater and greater intimacy with God through the power of the Holy Spirit. When I read the Scriptures and consider the work and joy and power of the early New Testament Church, I am forced to wonder what we are missing. Make no mistake I recognize and agree with Paul that the ordinary work of the Church: teaching, exhorting, admonishing, equipping, defending, and sending are all only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones considered all of that work the “regular work” of the Holy Spirit. And that brings me great joy to see this kind of fruit develop steadily within our Church body. But Lloyd Jones always clarified that while “regular work” is good, there is also “exceptional work” of the Holy Spirit which ought to be present in our lives.
It is this exceptional work of the Holy Spirit which is so apparent throughout the Bible. Men & women seemed to burst forth in praise and worship regularly. There was a power in evangelism which resulted in conversion and baptism often, not always, but certainly more often than I see in my own evangelism. I recall Peter’s words in Acts 2 when immediately upon receiving the Holy Spirit in full said:
But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below… And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’Acts 2:16–21 (ESV)
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of teaching at a retreat for an incredible organization in Chicago committed to serving at risk youth. I had prepared a message from Psalm 130 on the importance of allowing our souls to wait on the Lord. As I was reviewing my notes and preparing, the team hosting the retreat offered to pray over me. Of course – I said, “yes.” While I have had many people pray for my ministry over the years, very few times have I been prayed over as I was on that evening. There was a power and presence of the Holy Spirit that resonated deep inside of my soul. It seemed that the prayers went on much longer than I anticipated, but I didn’t want them to end. It was as if power was being fueled up inside of me. Something in me was being reminded that I am the Lord’s, fully! It was a precious moment. When finally the prayer was over, I frankly did not want to teach at all, I simply wanted to go find a quiet place and be alone with God. Yes – this is the experience of the Holy Spirit that my soul longs for regularly.
Somehow we (myself included) have become afraid to speak of the Holy Spirit and hope for the Holy Spirit to move in and among us in ways like He did in the NT Church. Perhaps it is a lack of faith… Perhaps it is a lack of genuinely reading the Bible… Perhaps it is fear of man… Perhaps it is fear of being out of control. Whatever it is, I see it in the Church and I see it in myself often. I am not even here thinking about the healings and the exorcisms and the miracles (though – we need a whole more of that too!). I am simply considering the power of the Holy Spirit welling up inside a person to such a degree that their longings are moved indescribably in alignment with God and the convictions of the presence of God in their midst shakes them to their core and stirs their souls to worship and mission. I want that for me. I want that for my family. I want that for the Church that I pastor. I want that for you.
“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me They glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”The Pursuit of God. AW Tozer. Chapter 1