Jonathan Edwards, the great reformer, theologian and evangelist said that, “the task of every generation is to discover the direction in which the Sovereign Redeemer is moving, and then to move in that direction”.
Edwards was no stranger to the public manifestation and encounters of the Holy Spirit. However, in this profound declaration it may well be that he is not so much suggesting that we become ‘God chasers’, but instead discover and be involved with what God is doing in the local Church where we ‘know, grow & belong’.
In embracing this and pointing towards an understanding of the level of the Holy Spirit in our midst I have three convictions, each of them held in tension with the others.
The key to understanding them is helpfully presented in Jonathan Edwards’ statement, and clearly, signs and wonders, miracles, dreams and visions, are not the focus of our attention. We want them and we benefit from them, but these convictions are beneficial to us, and worth consideration;
Conviction #1 – The level of the Spirit at work in our midst is high. Such an assertion is better articulated by the fact that the work, influence and activity of the Holy Spirit has never waned or diminished since the day that Jesus poured out His Spirit in the early Church. God’s Spirit has not increased since those days of Pentecost but neither has it diminished.
Our perception of His nearness is the issue, God hides Himself in thick darkness and reveals Himself always and only at His own discretion. But the glorious, omnipotent, majestic Spirit of God who reveals the treasures of Christ’s magnificent plans, purposes and manifest glory, is always with His people – you just don’t always sense Him. As you learn to walk by faith, you see Him more and more.
Conviction #2 God has a plan – It’s the Church! If you are trying to discern the level or the measure of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst, then you cannot do any better than to look at the church. Where you see the Church in action, growing, giving, serving, loving, and even laughing, there you see empirical evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in action. Especially where the Church is learning what it means to live a life that excels in enjoying God’s rich and lavish grace.
Such a church is one where people feel free to worship God and make contributions publicly with joy, without the fear of failure, disapproval or distrust. The nation’s only hope is the Church! The focus of attention as people look to the Church is always Christ.
God is evidently at work by His Spirit in the Church today. There are many theological differences and doctrinal stances amongst us, but the middle ground is a substantial one; Jesus Christ is Lord – and He is building His Church that He loves and gave Himself for.
Conviction #3 – God is whispering the ‘R’ word! One such word that you might consider is the word ‘repentance’. If there are things in our churches that grieve or quench His Spirit and lower the level of His activity amongst us, then there is cause for concern. God is not giving us a new radical call to walk in righteousness before Him, far from it – it is an old call that has often gone unheeded! Our ongoing challenge as we read the Bible and learn to be doers and not hearers only, is to be sensitive to His leading and direction.
Sat alongside the word repentance are ‘renewal’ and ‘restoration’, and to be sure, they are much needed characteristics, and even evidences, of an outpouring of God’s Spirit in our midst.
There is however, one ‘R’ word that comes to mind and it is the word ‘Revival’. Who possibly could deny that that single word is one of the most emotive words in the Christian vocabulary? There is a deep seated hunger in the hearts of nearly every Church, to see a staggering and profound move of God in the nations of our dark, fearful and fallen world. God wants more than revival though, and has in mind something far deeper. His intention is for something that impacts us in such a way that it transforms Church and our culture.
Revival is not be merely about the lost being saved, but also added to the Church and growing in wisdom and maturity in the knowledge of God. And such a Church, living in grace and truth, sharing the good news and being accountable to one another in the fear of the Lord, will positively infuse our culture with the truth of the gospel.
But the ‘R’ word that I believe God is whispering loudly is a Jewish word, “Ruach” which means ‘Spirit’. Joel 2 places us in our setting as a people of the Spirit. The prophetic community more than any should be reflecting this but familiarity can often bring its own contempt. Gifting may open many doors, but bad character will slam those doors shut in a heartbeat.
God wants to pour out His Spirit in the Church. May the Church be ablaze with an experiential encounter with the Spirit that demonstrates that His glorious work is redemptive, purifying, restorative, and lead us into truth that empowers us to live godly, righteous and holy lives.
If “the task of every generation is to discover the direction in which the Sovereign Redeemer is moving, and then to move in that direction”, then it certainly has to be that we zealously follow what the Spirit is doing in the Church in our day.
Go after Christ with all of your heart, without reserve or hesitation – and you will find to your great delight, the Spirit of God will take you out into the hidden depths of the stupendous promises of His never failing Word. The level of the Spirit is undoubtedly, and truly, awesome. Keep in step with the Spirit!
[This is an article published in Plexus magazine entitled ‘Understanding the Spirit Level’ used by permission]