deception, discerning the spirits, exhortation, false spirits, Fellowship of His Sufferings, God's love, resisting temptation, spiritual power, spiritual transformation, suffering, T.A. Sparks, testing, the cross, the devil, trials, wilderness
Today I want to make clear that being filled with the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with what we find as a common belief in some religious circles (Pentecostal and Charismatic in particular). When we receive the Holy Spirit through spiritual baptism, it is not primarily about getting power to preach the gospel, it is not about having some great spiritual gifts with which we could impress others, either, nor is it about beginning to shine like a radiant light bulb nobody could resist to look at. 😉 Just think about Jesus’ example we find described in the Bible. What happened after our Lord had been baptized with the Holy Spirit?
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:16-17 ESV)
This appears to be a pattern to me. When the Holy Spirit enters our being, we might also see the light coming into us from above. It is an overwhelming experience as we get to know our Heavenly Father who loves us like He loves Jesus as His Spirit instantaneously assures our own spirit (Rom 8:15, Gal 4:6). But then the story goes on. As we read the very next verses following that Scripture above, we see that immediate testing had to be endured by Jesus.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Mt 4:5-11 ESV)
This period of temptations and testing amounted to only 40 days for our Lord who was without sin. However, the Hebrew people spent 40 years in the wilderness. Back then they were tempted, too, but they could not resist the devil during all these trials they had to go through. Finally, merely two men, Caleb and Joshua, and little children could enter the promised land while all other people were denied having any access (cf. Dt 1:34-39). As for our Lord Jesus Christ, we might realize that His powerful ministry began AFTER His baptism AND His both trying and tormenting wilderness experiences. Not before! Brothers and sisters, there are many believers who think because they have received a spirit (they deem to be the Holy Spirit) that made them feel better, more ’holy’, or even more ‘powerful’, they should begin to run around and save the world or, at least, ‘enlighten’ misled Christianity by carrying out a ministry of sorts. Let us perish this thought to start any kind of ministry only because we want to do it, we feel like doing it, or because we lived too many years without God and now we would have balanced this loss. God’s ways are not ours. If we are not willing to take up our crosses to die daily in numerous trials over many years, yet keep working for God, God’s Spirit is surely not with us. And if it is not Him… whose spirit leads us then? I believe the following excerpt of an article by T. Austin Sparks of which he called the subheading “Transfiguration Through Trials” offers a revealing glimpse into the nature and importance of our trials and testing.
Now what is said here is these two things: First of all, there is the Pattern, perfect, complete – Christ glorified. The Holy Spirit comes to work that pattern out progressively in the children of God. He has come for that purpose, to take it over, and to do it. We are not allowed to say how He shall do it; He chooses His own way. That will lead to this next thing. The apostle goes on: ‘We have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves’ (2 Cor. 4:7). Now, how is it going to be done? how are these vessels of fragile clay going to contain, and increasingly contain, and manifest, this glory of the character of Christ? Not in the way that we would think, perhaps, or choose: ‘We are pressed on every side… we are perplexed… we are pursued… we are smitten down… we are always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus… we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake… death worketh in us…’ (verses 8-12).
That is rather a disconcerting, discouraging view of things, but that is how the Spirit does it. The fact remains, whether we like it or not just this: being pressed on every side means that we are pressed into something more of the Lord Jesus, and that something more of the Lord Jesus is pressed into us. It means that you and I would never come to this transfiguration, only through these trials and these adversities. These are the Holy Spirit’s means of our perfecting, of our growth in Christ.
It is a pity that it has to be like that; a great pity that we cannot be Christ-like, without being put into difficulty and trouble and suffering, but that is how it is! Give people absolute exemption from all kinds of difficulties and troubles, and see what kind of people they are – self-centred; self-sufficient; self-assertive. People who are never ill have very great difficulty in being sympathetic and understanding with the sick. They have, at least, to make a great effort to be patient with them – that is why I like doctors to be ill sometimes! But sympathy, understanding, patience, come to us along this line of painful experience; it is a matter of character, is it not?
And so the apostle puts alongside of our transfiguration, all these difficulties and adversities, and in effect he says, This is the Holy Spirit’s material; these are the Holy Spirit’s instruments for working Christ into us. If we are not rebellious, if we do not allow bitterness to creep into our spirit, it works out that way. Under the government of the Holy Spirit, suffering and trial, difficulty and adversity, will effect this.