An article from SVM Winter 2010
An Article from SVM Winter 2010
Are you filled with the Spirit? Does the Spirit of God work in you in such a way that it is obvious to others? Have you personally witnessed a manifestation of God’s Spirit in someone?
Acts 7:55-56 tells us,
But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
Throughout this chapter of Acts, Stephen recounts the history of the Israelites. Stephen was chastising his audience over the laxity of their actions and their forgetfulness of the past. In verse 51, Stephen lashes out in consternation, “…You always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you.” Notice the similarity of what Jesus told the Pharisees Matt. 23: 31, “…You are the children of them which killed the prophets.”
Unfortunately Stephen’s audience was so incensed by his sharp remarks that they stoned him to death. God, however, had provided Stephen with the opportunity to see the Father and Jesus Christ as the heavens opened up to him before he died. What a grand spiritual manifestation!
This example may be too extreme for most of us to relate to personally. No one wants to be stoned to death due to demonstrating a spiritual manifestation. Stephen was filled with the Spirit as he gave his testimony to his audience. The goal is being filled with God’s Spirit in our actions.
Does anyone ever feel he or she has been guided by God’s Spirit? It is not likely we will see heaven open for us, but can we in lesser degree have a manifestation? Can we know for a certainty that God is honoring our service to him?
A clue may be found in Matt. 26: 41: “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus told this to his disciples while he was praying in Gethsemane. He wanted them to watch and pray with Him, but they fell asleep. Is the weight of our worldly duties causing us to sleep and not have the will to be filled with the Spirit? Are we too worldly to be filled with the Spirit?
Another clue that may relate is found in Rev. 3: 17, “…I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” We in North America are blessed in wealth compared to other nations. Is that a factor? Are we satisfied to the extent we cannot find the energy to be filled with God’s Spirit? Why the lack of healings today? Is this an indicator of spiritual deficiency? Why are we not filled with spiritual zeal like Stephen? Let’s search in greater detail to examine this phenomenon of being filled with God’s Spirit.
Perhaps the greater question to ask is, “Why not be filled with the Spirit”? God freely gives us His Spirit upon repentance and baptism. We are to grow in grace and knowledge. We are to overcome our shortcomings. We are also to be Christ-like in our behavior. There is no doubt about Stephen’s spiritual maturity as witnessed in Acts 7. His audience, however, was dull of hearing regarding spiritual matters. Stephen accused them of always resisting the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean? How do we resist God’s Spirit? When God reveals His plans and purpose for us, we have to respond. Staying in the same mode or attitude we are in is resisting the Spirit.
The attitude of Stephen’s audience was one of extreme anger. Why the anger? Because Stephen was very direct in his vitriolic invective toward the people. Stephen, at that moment, had the very attitude of God. But people want to hear smooth things. This is why televangelists are so popular and prosperous. They appease their audiences. Appeasement is pleasing to the ear. It does not, however, lead to change in the heart of humankind. Change or repentance is what God demands of us.
A manifestation is a display, an example, an illustration, an epiphany. Stephen gave an illustration to his audience, and they did not like it. The zeal that Stephan displayed was like God’s zeal in accomplishing what He wants for all eternity.
In Isaiah 9:7 we read, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end …The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” The zeal is God’s unswerving determination to make it happen. God is accomplishing His will because of His enthusiastic, powerful desire.
God in us creates the same zealous desires. When we are baptized and hands are laid on us, we inherit the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8: 9 tells us “…Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” There is no reason not to be filled with zeal and desire just as God has in carrying out His plans.
Have you ever heard the term, “tired old Christians”? Are you tired? Has the zeal you had when you were first introduced to the truth of God’s plan diminished over time? Many look for the return of Christ only to be disappointed. Still others have left the church due to faulty administrations. Work demands, school, and extra-curricular activities are exhausting and zap our time and energy. Many choose to stay away from church rather than cutting down on activities or rescheduling work duties.
God expects us to put Him first in our lives. Are you blessed? Have you forgotten your blessings and left God out of your life? Where is your zeal? Deut. 28: 1-2 tells us, “And it shall come to pass, if you hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, and observe and do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come upon thee, and overtake thee, if thou shall hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.”
We also find in Deuteronomy 28 fourteen verses of promises for obedience to God and fifty-three verses of curses for disobedience to Him. The Israelites were instructed to obey His laws and not allow worldly activities before God. Does this apply to us as well in the 21st century? Yes, it most certainly does! Our disappointments in life should not dampen our zeal. Our work problems should not interfere with our Sabbath worship. Our financial burdens should not prevent us from tithing.
The zeal of God will take us into eternity. Our faithful zeal will be received by God the Father who gives us so much in return for obedience to Him. Tired old Christians do not live forever! Those without zeal or the incentive to gain more talents may end up like the unprofitable servant. God wants those He calls to be excited about His plan. To be zealous of good works all our lives. To have the insight, bravado, and enthusiasm of our brother, Stephen! The Pharisees Stephen chastised would not take correction. Hebrews 12:6-7 tells us that God corrects us because of His love for us. We should learn to take His chastening willingly because it shows how much God loves us. It is especially poignant in verse 8 of Hebrews, “But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then you are illegitimate, and not sons.”
This is rejection from God’s family. God wants us to live. God in His zealous desire to save us from ourselves causes a correction or chastening to take place. When we get too far away from God a correction may seem unfair. We become familiar with our habits and attitudes, and that is satisfying due to our propensity to get comfortable. Chastening is uncomfortable! God gets us out of our comfort zone. He wants us to partake of His holiness. The zeal returns in God’s correction plan. Rev. 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent.” This is an appropriate response to address our laxity and forgetfulness. God has done this from the very beginning of man’s creation. No one is immune to correction. The zeal of God works wonders! It is also heart-warming to know how much God loves us.
There is an admonition for us in Luke 12:43-44: “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he comes shall so find doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he has.” This is said in the context of watching for the bridegroom to return. For example, all hourly workers know the rule is to keep working until the whistle blows for quitting time. All salaried workers know to keep working until the job is done. They may even work longer than the normal quitting time. This is the sense that Jesus is trying to get his hearers to comprehend. What happens when the boss or overseer is absent? There is a laxity in production. The office workers may talk more since there is no one to see them. This is a common scenario among workers. Jesus is saying we have to keep going until the trumpet sounds.
Our Christian walk is in a similar situation. Jesus is not present. He too is absent. Is there a tendency to wonder when Jesus will return? In Matthew 24:48, “The evil servant will say in his heart, My Lord delays his coming.” Many today honestly believe Jesus should be returning. Weariness, distractions, and loss of faith cause many to give up. Jesus did not live up to their expectations. The Father alone will decide when Christ is returning. Our job is to keep working until the trumpet sounds just like our work place sounds when to quit.
Many do not realize that it takes faith to keep going until the trumpet sounds or our hearts stop beating. We may seem tired, but it is a lack of faith. Faith is what Stephen had and it gave him the zeal to speak out against his hearers. Believers act on their beliefs and their zeal propels them to victory. They do it until there is no more life in them. They are motivated by an inward powerful desire to succeed. How can we possibly overcome when we faint at the slightest obstacle?
John was inspired to write in Rev. 3:10, “Be thou faithful until death and I will give you a crown of life.” Our Sabbath time is for rest and rejuvenation. Are we using what God has given us to keep our strength, our zeal, our dedication, and our unyielding desire to finish the race that has been put before us? If God be for us who can be against us? We are a people who have Christ’s Spirit and His mind. If we do not grow weary and maintain our zeal, we will reign with Jesus Christ for all eternity as His chosen Kings and Priests. We have seen that zeal, correction, faith, and work are essential components to enter the Kingdom of God. What we know and experience should cause all of us to exhibit some jaw-dropping spiritual manifestations!