Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Do I Know I Am Connected With the Holy Spirit?

In the third part of his series "Spirit", Erwin McManus begins by reviewing the concept of the "Holy Spirit" and by reminding us of the many layers in which we weave in and out of between the material world and the spiritual world.  The Spirit can be an incredibly elusive understanding for many of us but scriptures help us understand His role in our lives;

In Acts 2:1, we read;  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?   Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine."
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.  These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:“‘In the last days, God says,   I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy,  your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women,   I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.  I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This is an incredible moment that gives us a chance to understand our relationship with God.  Often we think that if we could only see God or Jesus, we could be truly be obedient followers.  But God gives us that which we can't see; His Spirit. God also points out the glaring evidence of creation which reflects His Glory.  We also know that He sent His son, Jesus, for us who was crucified for us.  Jesus was resurrected and there were hundreds of witnesses who saw Him.

God is this being who surrounds us, in everything.  He is omniscient and omnipresent.  We see an ever expanding universe which is another a reminder that God is incomprehensible.  Eternity would not be enough time to understand the grandeur of God.  Here you have this amazing God trying to have a conversation with you!  The problem is that we hear everything He has to say from our tiny little perspective on this tiny little earth.  "Have a moment of empathy for God for a minute."  God surely thinks to Himself, "It seems to me that putting but one of my thoughts into your tiny little brain is going to be tough!   Have you ever tried to talk reason into a three year old?   It's impossible to get some of them to stop eating crayons!  Pooping on the floor is far less meaningful that going to the bathroom, but they don't care...  Try explaining to a 14 year old why a decision today could ruin their life.  That's why every single dad on television teen shows these days is made out to be an idiot.  "This incredibly old, limited creature known as my father feels it's his right to give me counsel".  It's just plain hard to talk to them!

If you are married or dating, have you ever try to explain to a husband why being late is irritating?  Every now and then, we all get a chance to talk to a "lower species".  God is not just trying to communicate with us.  Hes' also trying to commune  with us.  But if He can't commune with us, it is even harder for Him to communicate with us.  God demonstrated this by "showing up" all throughout the Bible.  He was in a burning bush when He chose to encounter Moses.  Erwin jokes, "God said, 'I am that I am' and lost Moses right away!"  God also expressed himself as a pillar of smoke, as a cloud and as a column of fire.  He has been trying to connect with us throughout history!  But then He came up with an amazing concept.  He would come down here and be with us through Jesus so that we could relate to Him and truly experience Him face to face.  But the process was still incomplete.  Jesus said that if we saw Him, we also saw the Father.  It was an amazing thing.  And then God decided to bring Himself to us through His Spirit.  If the Son of God is God in man, then the Spirit of God is God in mankind.

Now let's go back to the Pentecost and explore our dilemma.  We say, "Okay, I've surrendered my life and I now have God. I am a new believer and now I want to "glow".  Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a way that God could give us clear confirmation of our relationship to Him by making us glow (maybe a bright yellow) when we got it right??  Then we could "task" our spirituality and be done!  If we stopped glowing or started to lose our glow, we would know that it was time pay attention to some more spiritual stuff.  Obviously, that doesn't happen.

The Holy Spirit often comes in the form of emotion.  Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit in a song?  Sometimes it couldn't be more clear, especially with a song like "Holy Spirit Fill This Place".  We have degrees of not being sure what we feel but we feel something.  All too often we leave church after a wonderful, Spirit-filled worship, but then "lose" the feeling of the Spirit on the way home.  But that's how it is, and so many people base their relationship with God on how they feel.  The problem is that, because of this, our relationship to the Spirit is affected by so many things including circumstances, bad food, success, failure, health, etc. If something goes right, we feel like God is working in our lives and "favors" us,  But then we feel rejected when something goes wrong.    

This is like what we see in Acts when the heavy wind of the Spirit came upon them  These handful of Galileans began to speak.  People gathered when they heard all the commotion and then realized that they could understand all the different people speaking all the different languages.  This was a moment when God released His Spirit and moved through the people to reveal His heavenly voice directly to each individual in the crowd.  That must have been an incredible moment!

When Erwin became a follower in college, he explored several different churches and tried to experience all different types of worship as well.  Some were more spectacular than others.  Some were boring.  Erwin was a performer, so he appreciated the church productions.  Just after he was a believer, he was at a downtown celebration and he met this amazingly beautiful girl who loved God.  She and Erwin teamed up and began hanging out together doing all kinds of activity that served people.  It wasn't really a "date" doing all this stuff, but he had a great time with her.  One evening, she turned to Erwin and asked, "Have you received the Holy Spirit and have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?" Erwin replied, "yes", but then she asked him if he spoke in tongues. Erwin was confused and unsure of what she meant, but it made her angry and she then told him he'd been deceived.  "You're a baptist!" "I didn't understand." She grabbed Erwin and, as her "project", took him to her place of worship and tried to get them to help Erwin realize what he needed to do.  Her church pastor was gracious and nice and begin asking the same questions.  Erwin said he was buying into everything.  They prayed over him and spoke in tongues over him, but he just couldn't "feel" what they were trying to get him to feel.  They meant the best, but it wasn't something they could place on him.  This was between him and the Holy Spirit.

As a new follower of Christ, Erwin was at a Christian event and talking to people while standing in the rain, when he stopped and prayed with a group asking God to make it stop raining, it then seemed as if it was raining everywhere but where they were standing.  On another occasion, Erwin asked a girl on a college campus if there was any way God could prove his love for her.  The girl told Erwin that God could prove this if He would make it snow.  Erwin prayed for snow and within a few days it was snowing!!  On another occasion, Erwin prayed over someone who needed to be healed, and he was.  Erwin's point to all this is; is it possible that God has given us all different talents to manifest ourselves in God's grandeur plan?  It this possible even when it seems the world wants us to be all the same even in the church?!?  Often, what ends up happening because of this mindset is that we end up baptizing our bad habits into our new selves...

There is this new technology called UP by Jawbone. Erwin got it in the mail.  He studied it a little bit and figured out how to us it. The technology told him things like how much he slept and how many steps he walked.  It doesn't do anything in the way of what he has done in the past, just the present.  Sometimes this gadget even makes suggestions like "Don't take the escalator; take the stairs".  It also does something that has to do with sleep patterns.  It told him it took 54 minutes for him to fall asleep   He knew, through this gadget, how long he was actually laying in bed and how long he was actually in a deep sleep.  It even gave him a "sleep goal".  After setting this goal for himself, the next night, he captured 5 hours 59 minutes of sleep.  The second night he fell asleep in 11 minutes.  He was only awake throughout the entire night for 12 minutes.  His new toy could tell the difference in "light sleep" from deep sleep time.  It even told him that his deep sleep capacity was at 37%!!  Pretty neat stuff.  Even though we are not aware of how we live, our behavior affects our bodies directly!   Did you know that if you do not sleep, your body craves more carbs and fats?
Similarly, wouldn't it be nice if we could see how we could directly have a relationship with the Holy Spirit and it would gauge how we live?  Well, in a way, it does.  Scripture actually does tell us how we know if the Spirit is active in our lives; we begin to bear fruit!

Galatians 5:22-25 -- 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

With these fruits, we can absolutely pursue them with a Heavenly greed.  We can hoard joy and dominate kindness. So, again, we know we are in step with the Holy Spirit when we are bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  We will continuously be transformed into the image of God and the image of Christ as we pursue Him.  It's a wonderful thing!  In a year from now, if we remain filled with the Spirit, we will be more loving next year, more joyful, more peaceful and kinder.  We can then know that God is working in us because we are becoming a new creature.  We are being changed from the inside out.  God is trying to release this "new you" in you. Why not do it sooner than later?  

God has a huge idea for us and our future.  He is talking about sharing these things with us through the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that delves in the deep things of God.  Haven't we shaken our fists at God asking and begging Him for His wisdom and for His answers?  We know God has the answers, but we sometimes think He is just withholding them from us!  But God tells us in 2 Corinthians 2;

However, as it is written; "What no eye has see, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" - the things of God has prepared for those who love Him - these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

When we seek to follow Christ, to listen to His Word and to invite the Holy Spirit, we get to experience a small peek into the mind of God.  All that we think and create pales in comparison to what He thinks and creates.  But God uses our character and builds into it His knowledge and wisdom.  

Paul points out to us that the Holy Spirit always backs Jesus.  He is our way to God.  There are different
kinds of gifts, but the same God is at work "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." 

All that God gives us is a gift we are to, in turn, give to the world.  Because He so generous, He not only releases in us our new selves and gives us wisdom, but He also gives us His gifts to give to the world!  We can become instruments of the beauty and wonder and glory of God!

Years ago, Erwin had taken his daughter, Mariah, around the world and she had seen him do many things.  One night during dinner, Mariah asked her father if he could read peoples minds.  He responded by saying, "No, sweety, I can't read minds; I read hearts".  Then, for the first time, he and his daughter talked to each other about spiritual gifts.  Sometimes, while he was in the ministry, Erwin would just know things.  He could see people's souls like some people look at furniture.  He could discern.  There are some things Erwin, doesn't want to see in a fallen world, but God gives His gifts and we must press on.  Whenever we receive these gifts, we "become a weird and bizarre person".  When Erwin first saw God healing through him, it scared him because he didn't want to be a white robed televangelist!  Erwin has seen others who had a gift and still others who have desperately wanted a gift.  But we have to be patient.  God will come and He will give to us.
Erwin still can't believe people want to come and actually hear him talk!  There was no obvious ability or talent.  His uncle, one time, said, " so now you speak?"  He didn't mean to audiences, he meant Erwin was finally talking at all!  Erwin was an extreme recluse.  God came to him and told him what he was to do just because God has a sense of humor!  "I stayed quiet until I had something to say!" 

Acts 1, Jesus basically says do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for My Father's gift.  You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.  
When you receive My Spirit, you will know My power because you will have My presence.  When you decide to take on my mantel and not to be ashamed of my scars, then you will know the fullness of Me.  The Holy Spirit manifests Himself when we choose to be a people of action.  

Sometimes people see the Spirit of God as a Jacuzzi!  "Yeah get me a little right here... Yeah, that's right, get  right there".  There are times when we can bask in Him.  In fact, God wants us to rest in Him,  but we will never know the power of God until we begin to move in line with God.  Where God moves the Spirit moves. 

When we move, His Spirit moves in us.

Spiritual maturity is the "gap time" between when God speaks and when we obey.  It is not about God coming to us and moving us. God won't tell us when we didn't walk with him or when we didn't obey Him or when we didn't seek Him.  He will wait for us to get up.  Live your life for Him without shame . Be willing to be a light.  This is the moment when we won't need the subjective or the spectacular.  It will be undeniable.  Live and move by the Spirit!

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