Wake up and smell the Holy Spirit

My last 23 essays have been about the Holy Ghost for a reason. Since He lives in me it was high time I learned all I could about Him and share my findings with anyone who cared to traipse along with me. It’s been more than worthwhile. The Bible has showed me who He is. It teaches He sealed my salvation by baptizing me in the Spirit. When He did that I became God’s adopted son and daily letting Him fill me with living water became my mission. When I surrendered my life to Christ He not only set up residence in my heart but He also gave me certain spiritual gifts. I discovered if I embrace those gifts and use them as God intends I’ll bear spiritual fruit that’ll nourish those around me starving for truth, peace and healing. What bugs me, though, is how unaware I am the majority of the time that God, the loving Creator of the universe and everything in it, dwells inside me! My Savior Jesus Christ who suffered a criminal’s death in order to save my eternal soul sent the Holy Ghost to accompany me through this mortal phase of my existence. Knowing that, I should be confident, bold and courageous. But I’m not. Far from it. And I suspect I’m not alone in that assessment. I need to wake up from my lazy slumber and take advantage of what God’s Word has taught me about the Holy Spirit. Now.

I’m not the only one in dreamland. All believers need to stop hitting the snooze button and get up. Throughout history the greatest Christian revivals were started by a handful of ordinary folks who did little more than prayerfully coordinate their spiritual gifts, step out in faith and plant seeds. God took care of the rest and the resulting harvest was always remarkable. Nowadays even a blind man can see the world’s in desperate need of an awakening. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can rescue the human race from extinction. Yet we Christians cower as if we’re powerless to do anything about the steady advance of godless secular humanism in our culture. It’s as if, since we’ve got our tickets to heaven punched, it’s okay to let the world go to Hades if it so desires. But that’s not what it means to be a follower of Christ. In His sermon on the mount Jesus told us we’re “the salt of the earth.” Salt’s a preservative that keeps food from going bad so, in essence, the church is the only thing standing between civilization and spiritual famine. We’re also called to be “the light of the world” that leads lost souls out of the dark, depressing prison Satan has erected around them. Philippians 2:15 says Christians are to be “…blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.” So why aren’t we ashamed of not beaming brightly? Why have we become apathetic about spreading the Good News to as many as we can possibly reach? Sadly, we’re letting God down.

I’m not trying to be Dudley Doom here. Christ is alive and transforming lives daily. Advances in communication have made broadcasting the Gospel message across the entire globe a reality. You’d have to go to extremes to find places where the inhabitants have never heard of Jesus. That’s fantastic. Yet despite successfully getting the word out there are millions of Christians who feel they’ve been sentenced to living pointless, unfulfilled lives. Sin has beat them down so badly they’ve lost all inclination to witness to others. They’ve quarantined the indwelling Holy Spirit in a tiny corner of their being and slapped duct tape over His mouth. The cross is nothing more than a cheap trinket they wear out of guilt. This situation must change and it starts with every believer uncaging the Holy Spirit and letting Him fill them with living water. Only by doing that can He electrify and energize Christ’s Church with the same fire and excitement that ignited the disciples, enabling them to permanently alter the course of human history. Will Christians have to swim against a strong tide? You bet. But with God nothing is impossible.

The prophet Ezekiel was born into a world devoid of hope. Israel as a nation was no more. By all appearances the devil had won and all that was left of God’s chosen people were skeletons petrifying in the sun. But in Ezekiel 37:3 we read where God asked the prophet, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel, puzzled by the question, basically answered with “You tell me!” God instructed him to preach to the dry bones. Ezekiel obeyed. Before he could say “wow” the remains stood and became flesh and blood again. But their bodies were inert until the Spirit of God breathed life into them, turning them into a potent army. Like Ezekiel, we Christians can look at the world and say “No way this gets any better.” But our God is all-powerful. With Him there’s no such thing as an impossible situation. The Holy Spirit can bring Christ’s Church back to life. Then we can restore our hope, trust and faith in God’s perfect plan despite Satan’s best efforts to bury the truth.

The right moment for a spiritual awakening is now. Years ago on my commute to work I used to drive by a church in Dallas that has a big clock in its towering steeple. On its face are two words from John 9:4, “Night cometh.” It never failed to remind me my time here’s limited and I should be doing all I can to witness for Christ and glorify Him because I knew I might not pass that clock again. In the same verse Jesus said the time is coming “…when no one can work.” Every second that elapses brings Christ’s return closer. Paul wrote in Romans 13:11-12, “…we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light.” It seems like forever since I’ve heard the old hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” sung but, as inspiring anthems go, there’s none better. We’re all engaged in a fierce spiritual war and we can’t shirk our duty to stand up and fight against evil in our Savior’s precious name. We must study the Scriptures so we can tell others what’s in the book they refuse to read. We must pray for those who don’t believe there’s a merciful God who listens to them. We must inform our neighbors their souls are theirs to lose if they don’t accept what God is serving up to them free of charge on a silver platter. In reference to the second coming 2 Peter 3:11-14 states, “Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God? …According to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides. Therefore, dear friends …strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence.” In other words, we should be about our Father’s business while there’s still time.

Now that I’ve learned more about the working of the Holy Spirit I can’t help but speculate on what would happen if the Christian community were to open the faucets and let the living water of the Spirit drench the planet. (1) I know for sure the true nature of God would finally be crystal clear to everyone. His tenderness, mercy and boundless compassion along with His inerrant fairness and pristine holiness would become common knowledge. He’d cease to be misunderstood. He’d become a source of palpable comfort to billions. The confused masses would realize the destination of their souls are at stake. They’d grasp the gravity of John 3:18; “The one who believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.” At great expense the Heavenly Father has provided every individual with a way to become holy in His sight. Therefore if someone opts to reject His gracious offer there’ll be hell to pay. Not because God doesn’t love them. He does. However, it’s imperative they understand He judges all by the same standard –belief in His Son Jesus. A person must be holy to stand in the presence of God. That state of holiness can only be attained by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. Billy Graham wrote, “The cross is the standing evidence of the fact that holiness is a principle for which God would die.”

(2) The ugliness of sin would disgust everybody. When Isaiah got a glimpse of heaven where God sat on His throne surrounded by angels proclaiming His glory he realized how unworthy he was to have been created in His likeness. In Luke 5:8, when Simon Peter began to comprehend who his new friend really was, “…he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! If the citizens of the world recognized Christ as being exactly who He said He was they’d bow down in humble reverence and say, as Job did, I despise myself(Job 42:6). When a man or woman realizes sin is utterly foul and intolerable, a thing so vile that Christ had to die to atone for the sins we commit, pleading for mercy and forgiveness is the inevitable response.

(3) Folks would savvy the necessity of repentance and of being born again. Jesus preached that unless we are “born from above” we won’t see the kingdom of God. Sinners love darkness because they think they can hide in it. They refuse to step into the light for fear their dirty deeds will be exposed. But when one surrenders their heart to Christ they become a new creation that doesn’t shun the light because the Holy Spirit reveals to them how liberating the love, truth and grace of God is. The person they used to be repulses them. (4) The joy of salvation would be as irrepressible as the chorus of “Let It Be.” In Psalm 85:6 David prayed for God to generate a nationwide wakeup call: “Will you not revive us once more? Then your people will rejoice in you! Jesus’s stated desire for His disciples was that “…my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete(John 15:11). Acts 8:8 says when Philip led a spiritual awakening in Samaria, “…there was great joy in that city.” It’s implied the angels get happy feet whenever one of God’s lost sheep is found. In Luke 15:7 Jesus said, “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.” Thus a rejuvenated church would attract millions to Christ, generating a resounding joy that would echo throughout creation.

(5) Christians would rediscover the urgency contained in the “great commission” Jesus issued before He ascended to the right hand of God: “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Souls hang in the balance! The job can be intimidating but we don’t have to tackle that tough task alone. In Acts 1:8 He promised, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses …to the farthest parts of the earth.” If the followers of Christ were to present a unified front fueled by the inexhaustible power of the Spirit there’s no telling what God could accomplish through each one of us. We’d be unstoppable! (6) Love would overcome all hatred. Jesus said, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). If mankind were to obey just those two commands all hostility would come to a screeching halt. Since that seems unlikely to occur, Christians will have to go the extra mile. We must develop and nurture a deeper social conscience, ministering to those who struggle to survive as we gently urge them to repent and accept the Lord as their Savior. And we mustn’t just talk the talk. We gotta walk the walk. Dr. Graham wrote, “Too many people today want a brotherly world in which they can remain unbrotherly; a decent world in which they can live indecently.” We can’t just stick a Bible in people’s hands and stroll away. We have to show them how the Bible expects us all to behave. We must do our best to model what the Sermon on the Mount espouses.

(7) The gifts and fruit of the Spirit would multiply exponentially. God the Holy Spirit is a miracle worker. If the church were to achieve its potential His power would be impossible to ignore. If believers would use their gifts in conjunction with other believers’ gifts the whole population would stop and take notice. Not only that, they’d want in on the action and isn’t that the ultimate goal? The unadulterated agape love they’d observe being shared among the followers of Christ would be so enticing, so desirable, every church would have to order extra pews. Christianity would no longer be considered insignificant and passé but the only hope the earth has to combat unchecked sin and evil. (8) All Christians would cherish and appreciate the fact that the Holy Spirit isn’t some imaginary myth but God Almighty literally living inside us. That attitude adjustment would force us to depend on Him more. Until we do, things will stay pretty much the same on terra firma because no spiritual revitalization movement will succeed without God leading it. As I’ve learned over the last 6 months, the Holy Spirit is the key to the kingdom. Dr. Graham wrote, “He’s the one who reproves, convicts, strives, instructs, invites, quickens, regenerates, renews, strengthens and uses. He must not be grieved, resisted, tempted, quenched, insulted or blasphemed. He gives liberty to the Christian, direction to the worker, discernment to the teacher, power to the Word, and fruit to faithful service. He reveals the things of Christ. He guides us into all truth. He teaches us how to answer the enemies of our Lord. He gives access to the Father and helps us in our prayer life.” In summation, He does it all!

How long till we conclude money can’t buy happiness? That there’s no music, painting or art form that can soothe every frayed nerve? That there’s no status level attainable that’ll satisfy our inflated, self-centered sense of entitlement? That nothing can fill this gaping hole in our hearts but the great I AM, the Creator who formed us out of the dust beneath our feet? As the Eagles sang a few years ago, “How Long?” We don’t need better evangelists, pastors or priests. We need better Christians. And that’ll only happen when we stop blocking the Holy Spirit and let Him work through us as He was sent here to do. He’s not the problem. We are. An angel once delivered a message from God to a frustrated Zechariah. The missive educated him on how things might improve for His people, “Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). I believe there’s three things we all need to do to unchain the Holy Spirit so He can help this crazy world. (A) We must admit we’re the spiritually poor Jesus was addressing in the Beatitudes. (B) To cure our spiritual “poorness” we must confess and repent of our sins continuously. If we don’t we’ll never heal. (C) We must recommit our lives to Christ with every breath we take so that God’s will, not ours, will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Bible indicates the church debuted at Pentecost when the Holy Ghost made an unforgettable, spectacular entrance. But, like Christ’s resurrection, it won’t happen again because there’s no need. The Holy Spirit ain’t “on the way.” He’s here with us now. So we and the church we represent have no excuse. We need to tell the world what’s looming on the horizon. Time’s running short. “Night cometh…”

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