The Holy Spirit is underappreciated and underpreached by the twenty-first century church. A sort of prejudice against the Holy Spirit impedes many from learning more about him. In fact, the body of Christ is often divided into two sides. One side stresses the Word of God, separating itself from what it views as the emotional fanaticism often linked to those emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit. The other side is sometimes known for drifting into unbiblical manifestations and unorthodox teaching while attributing it all to the Spirit of God.
Seeing the abuse and bad teaching, many on the first side will say, “I’m not interested in experiences and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. I just want to study the Word.” But it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible, and there are lots of promises concerning his person and work. How can anyone treasure God’s Word without giving the Holy Spirit his rightful place?
Those who move in circles strongly emphasizing the Holy Spirit must be reminded that everything must be tested by scripture. The Spirit never contradicts the Word he gave us. He also never puts the focus on the preacher because the Holy Spirit was sent to glorify Christ alone (John 16:14).
Somewhere in the middle is the kind of Christianity we see in scripture where the Word of God is honored along with a childlike dependence and openness to the Holy Spirit.
Only the Holy Spirit can make the things of Christ real and alive to people. Christianity does not stop at the cross where Jesus died and paid the price for our sins. After Good Friday was Resurrection Sunday when the Spirit raised Christ.
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39).
Everything about the Spirit speaks to powerful currents of life that refresh and flow out to bless others. May the Holy Spirit come down on us, for we are truly helpless without him.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
Satan will do everything in his power to tempt you and turn you aside from God’s destiny for you. He’ll try to undermine your calling, rob you of your anointing, and convince you that God’s approval on your life is a lie.
When Jesus went into the wilderness, after forty days of fasting he grew hungry. At this moment when Jesus was physically vulnerable, the devil brought his first temptation. Scripture says: “When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:2-3).
Satan was challenging Jesus: “If you’re fully God, then you have God’s power in you. Just speak the word and command yourself out of this.” This is one of the most insidious temptations facing truly godly people. You have a passion for God and when you are led into a wilderness experience, after a long period of testing, questions arise. And that is when Satan’s temptations become fiercer than ever.
The enemy wants you to act independently of the Father. When you’re in the midst of your trial, the devil says, “Your suffering isn’t of God. You don’t have to go through this. You have God’s power in you, through the Holy Spirit, so you don’t have to put up with this another day. Speak the word and free yourself.”
Jesus answered the devil’s temptation: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Even at the height of his suffering, Jesus didn’t lose sight of his eternal purpose. If our Lord learned dependence and compassion through a wilderness experience, so will you!
God loves you in your testing times. His own Spirit has led you into the wilderness where his own Son has already been. Let him complete his work of building into you utter dependence and trust in him.
The testimony that God wants to bring forth in his children is joy — genuine, lasting joy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy, which results from biblical preaching and true repentance, brings true strength to God’s people and draws sinners into his house.
Most Christians never associate joy with repentance, but repentance is actually the mother of all joy in Jesus. Without it, there can be no joy. When David disobeyed, he lost the joy of the Lord and it could only be restored by true repentance. So he prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:2-3). David also prayed to regain what he had lost: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (51:12).
It is impossible to maintain the joy of the Lord if sin is present in one’s life. We must increasingly separate ourselves from the world around us. How can the Holy Spirit pour out joy on a people who continue to indulge in adultery, addictions and materialism, living like those who do not follow Christ?
Only the joy of the Lord supplies us with true strength. We can talk all we want about our long walk with Christ, but if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to maintain the joy of the Lord in our hearts — if we aren’t continually hungering for his Word — then we are losing our fire and we won’t be ready for what comes upon the world in these last days.
How do we maintain the joy of the Lord? We do it the same way we obtained his joy in the beginning.
This is how a Holy Spirit person or church maintains “Jesus joy” — rejoicing always, full of gladness!
Growing in grace means to increase in Christlikeness through the unmerited power of God’s Spirit. Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus — in your home, your relationships, your job?
This question applies especially to mature Christians, those who have built a spiritual foundation over the years through regular Bible study, a consistent prayer life, and godly instruction. After all your studying, praying and learning, are you becoming more like Jesus? Are you more compassionate, meek, merciful and forgiving than you were at this time last year? Or has your growth been stunted and settled on a plateau of zero growth?
The apostle Peter describes an awesome day coming when the heavens will pass away, the earth’s elements will melt, and everything in creation will dissolve. Therefore, he says, we should continually be prepared and longing for our Lord’s return: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17, KJV).
Peter’s warning in verse 17, “lest ye also,” presents a strong challenge to believers. He is confronting us, saying, “You’re a lover of Jesus. You claim to be ready and yearning for the Lord’s return; in fact, you’re always warning others to do the same. But are you an example to the rest of Christ’s church in your walk? Or do you live as if Jesus isn’t ever coming back? Be careful, because you can also be led away by the error of the wicked.”
This “error of the wicked” is the mistaken idea that Jesus isn’t really at the door. This results in a lack of concern, a tragic complacency, a carelessness demonstrated in conversation and lifestyle at this late hour.
You may testify that you’re saved, justified, sanctified; you’ve escaped the lusts of this wicked age; you’re blessed with intimate knowledge of Jesus. But Peter warns, “There is a danger of being led astray from growth, back into the bondage of bitterness and revenge. You can become unkind, unmerciful, unforgiving.”
Be sure that you are growing in grace! God has been merciful to you, so be merciful to others.
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22, KJV). The Greek word for habitation as used here means “a permanent residence.”
Every Christian knows that God doesn’t dwell in manmade temples or buildings. God has no physical residence — no nation, no capital, no mountaintop. He doesn’t reside in the clouds or sky, the darkness or daylight, the sun, moon or stars. Of course, the Lord is everywhere, his presence filling all things. But according to his Word, God makes his home in the hearts and bodies of his people. Every believer can boast with confidence, “God lives in me.”
God began to abide in us when we first gave our heart to Jesus. He testifies, “I am in My Father … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:20, 23).
Long before the world was created, the heavenly Father and his Son were together in the glory of heaven, living in great bliss. Jesus had not yet walked in the flesh, with all its burdens and trials, and knew nothing of human sadness. Then came the plan of the New Covenant, which Proverbs 8 reveals. The Father asked Jesus, “Will you take on human flesh and become the sacrifice that redeems fallen humankind?” God chose to dwell on this tiny sphere called Earth and he chose man as the place he would inhabit here. “Rejoicing in His inhabited world … my delight was with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:31).
Jesus knew he would no longer enjoy the blissful, face-to-face communion he had with his Father, yet he took delight at the thought of sweet communion with us! He fully understood the awful prospects — the crown of thorns, the hatred and rejection, the cross — yet he counted the cost and said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8).
Jesus anticipated spending a lifetime with you and having sweet fellowship with you daily. Proverbs 8:34: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” You are the delight of Jesus’s heart! He eagerly awaits your presence and longs to bless you, as one of his beloved children.