Time once was when Pentecostals were known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They also claimed that they had experienced a subsequent to salvation experience with the Spirit that opened the door to the gifts of the Spirit described in First Corinthians 12 and 14. In the early days of modern Pentecostalism, it was common for there to be a time in the church service where the worshipers would wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to use an audible gift of the Spirit – such as a message in tongues. Pentecostals understood the apostle Paul’s reference to singing in the Spirit (1Cor. 14:15) as creating space during the singing of the praise songs to have ‘free worship’. For the first five decades of the twentieth century Pentecostal churches spread at a moderate rate. But as traditional churches began to abandon God’s Word, Christians from mainline churches began to drift into Pentecostal churches and also experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit. But many ‘mainline’ churches during the 1960s and 70s also embraced the Holy Spirit and the ‘charismatic’ gifts described in First Corinthians. This became known as ‘the Charismatic renewal’. Through the 1980s the number of Spirit-filled believers and churches grew exponentially around the world, including Australia. But both Pentecostals and Charismatics were subject to some excesses through the 90s and naughties – but they also increasingly experienced ‘mission-drift’. A part of that mission-drift was an unfortunate reluctance to expound what the Scriptures taught about the Holy Spirit and the believer’s fellowship with Him.
The Old Covenant prophets foretold of the coming New Covenant and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, Peter declared, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16-17). But it was the prophet Ezekiel who received the most dramatic vision of the coming outpouring the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
The Bible seems to use the directions east and west very intentionally. Whenever people rebelled against God, they headed east. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they were driven east out of the Garden of Eden.
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24
The Old Testament prophets described the eastern cities of Nineveh and Babylon as centres of evil and wickedness. But when people responded to God, they journeyed west. Think of Abram being called to leave Haran and travel west to Canaan. Think of the Jews in exile who repented and were permitted to leave Babylon and return west to the land of Israel. Then consider that when God gave Moses the plans for the tabernacle, entrance was only possible by travelling west, and the Holy of Holies was located in the western most precinct of the tabernacle perimeter.
When the Magi came from the east (Matt. 2:1) to find Him who was born King of the Jews (unlike Herod who was appointed King by the Romans) the headed west to find Christ. And when the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas on their first missions trip, the apostles first headed west (Acts 13:4). The vision of the New Covenant that Ezekiel was shown by the Holy Spirit was a magnificently much larger temple than the one that had recently been destroyed by the Babylonians. The prophet Haggai also had a vision of the New Covenant in which he too described it as a temple (or least referred to Christ as the new Temple) and said-
The latter glory of this house [to come] shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:9
LCC Livestream being watched in Islamic Pakistan and translated into Urdu
What Ezekiel foresaw was the water of the Holy Spirit flowing out from this new and glorious temple eastward (Ezekiel 47:1). In fact, the further east that the water of the Holy Spirit was to flow, the deeper the water of the Spirit got for Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:5). While several of the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics included the notion that the deeper life of being filled and baptised with the Holy Spirit was merely for what happened within the four walls of a church service, Ezekiel vision of the New Covenant outpouring of the Holy Spirit was eastward – toward those who were away from God. In fact, the further these people were from the temple, the deeper the water of the Holy Spirit was, in Ezekiel’s vision. We should understand this as Ezekiel seeing that those whom God was to call into the New Covenant, would be sent by the Holy Spirit with His anointing to go to the lost — the very lost — and this is why the Spirit’s anointing on them would increase the further ‘east’ they were to go. This is why, even today, when Christians take the gospel to the people of the hardest, darkest, most resistant places on earth, the signs and wonders that accompany the preaching of the gospel are often the greatest.
¶ And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. Acts 15:12
Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. First Thessalonians 1:5
This is why the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within the community of believers, the local church, is given to edify, console, and mature, guide, and empower believers to serve. This Sunday I will be delivering the third instalment of the five-part The SPIRIT Series. It is my hope that we can be a church that truly experiences the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and all the more so for those of us whom the Lord will call to take the gospel ‘eastward’.
So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Genesis 13:11
1. WONDER WOMAN 1984
Each Boxing Day it is a family tradition for us to go to the movies. The choice of movie is by a democratic vote. Our Boxing Day 2020 movie choice (by a very narrow margin) was Wonder Woman1984. As a credit to each of our family members whose choice didn’t win the movie-election they willingly accepted defeat and the will of the people and gladly came along to enjoy this movie anyway. And after watching it, each was pleasantly surprised at just how clear the Christian ethic was declared in this movie. As you might have guessed from the title of the movie, this is a prequel set in 1984 (which I can’t help was symbolically intentional as this was when George Orwell’s futuristic novel was set in which ‘Big Brother’ has taken over the world by convincing mankind that its lies are true). The movie opens with young Diana (Wonder Woman, played by Jewish actress Gal Gadot) in a race that her mother forbids her from completing because “she didn’t run by the truth”. Her mother tells her that truth is most powerful force in the world and when you do not live by truth you lose! “Amen” I said aloud in the cinema.
“That which is born of lies is not the truth. Truth is the most powerful force in the universe! If you do not live by the truth, you can not win Diana.”
In the first Wonder Woman movie, Diana never aged after she left the protectorate of Amazonia in 1917. Thus, by 1984, she is still a thirty-something year-old woman who now works in an antiquities museum. After a bungled robbery, the museum is called upon by Police to evaluate certain stolen items taken from the captured thieves. As it turns out, one of these ancient artefacts, an unusual stone – the dreamstone, has a very powerful mystical force which grants its holder one wish. But there’s a catch. The stone takes something treasured from the wisher. As the movie unfolds the world quickly goes into chaos as millions of people have their selfish, self-centred, wishes granted. All over the world, people are hurt, people die, and bitterness and envy leads to the unthinkable happening where formally civilised people are rioting in the streets and showing no respect for those in authority. The Christian movie goer at this point could not help but see the obvious message of the script-writer that when people do not live by the truth, people get hurt. It reminds us of those times in human history when this is how people actually did live in accordance with their sinful desires, and the result was carnage and bedlam.
¶ In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25
But the allure of the Dreamstone was also too much even for Diana Prince when she realised what it was. It was just a brief, unspoken sigh. Sin’s temptation often starts like that. Sin most frequently comes innocently, innocuously, gently; temptation does its evil work in less than a second, not in a deed, but in a thought that latches to the mind. Ever since the death of closest friend, Steve Trevor (Christopher Pine), she has been desperately lonely. She wishes that she could still be with him. Her wish is granted. She is unbelievable reunited with her beloved Steve who curiously describes dying and going to a waiting place (another Christian echo) and then waking up alive, in another man’s body.
Washington DC in chaos as everyone began to live by what they wished without regard for the truth.
What she didn’t realise in the process though, was that her powers to rescue others and do good (something she treasured) was now diminishing. Ultimately, she comes to accept that what her mother had told her as a little girl was indeed true. If you do not live by the truth, you lose. As the world was collapsing in on itself in its mire of sin, wickedness and evil, she realises the truth: sinful desires based on a lie must be renounced. Even though this means giving up the one thing she desired most, Steve, she must stop living by lies and recommit to living by the truth. Once she, and everyone else renounces that which was “born in lies” the world begins to be put right again. Even though people felt they could not renounce their desires — the very desires that were enslaving them — they could, and they did. This is one of the central claims of the Christian gospel – you have the God-given power to choose.
2. THE TASMANIAN LAW REFORM INSTITUTE’S BREATH-TAKING CLAIMS
It’s not uncommon for the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute to make outrageous claims. In 2004 they asserted that children do not fair best when raised by their biological married parents. They even claimed that there was no research which supported the outdated notion that children fair best when raised by their mother and father. I wrote a small book in response to their claims and demonstrated that there was an enormous amount of research and evidence which did prove that children fair best when raised by their father and mother. This time around, they are targeting Christian groups who believe that people “are broken” and “need healing”. They claim that such ideas are dangerous and lead to trauma for those who are homosexual or transgendered. They also claim that the practice of “conversion” does not work. Essentially what they are promoting is that sexual desire is a person’s core identity and is immutable (can never be changed). Despite their appeal to science to back up their claims, science is not on their side. A person’s biological sex is not ‘assigned’ at birth. And there is a vast amount of social science that has shown that there is indeed frequently a link between childhood trauma and gender dysphoria. The New Testament boldly declares that change is possible for those who are broken sexually.
¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. First Corinthians 6:9-11
2. THE RESCUE OF NIGEL FOX
Yachtsman, Nigel Fox, with his rescuers
Nigel Fox is an experienced yachtsman. He was out off the Northern Territory coastline in the Arafura Sea near Nhulunbuy sailing in his 10 metre yacht with his cat, Stinky, when during some rough seas he was knocked overboard by a freak wave. Over the eight hours he was in the water he drifted 23 kilometres from his yacht. He told one journalist that it is quite common for sailors to experience a despair syndrome in such circumstances in which they believe they are doomed and will die. He went on to tell the journalist that this requires adopting a positive attitude and refusing to let your mind enter into the syndrome of despair. “You have to choose to believe that you are going to survive!” he said. Mr. Fox employed one of the most powerful gifts that God has given every person – the power to choose.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, Deuteronomy 30:19
THE MYTH OF HUMAN IMMUTABILITY
It is a lie of Satan that a person is born immutable (that they cannot change). When William Carey went as a missionary to India he encountered a culture where people had been brought up to believe they were born into a caste that determined their position in life in a way that could never be changed. This caste system confined some people to the belief that they were the lowest of low of people and could only ever be given jobs that restricted them to cleaning toilets and sewers. After seven years of ministry in India, Carey had failed to make even one convert. He was however determined to give the Indian people the message of the gospel in their language. He hired a Hindi translator and set to work translating the New Testament into the Hindi language. As his translator encountered Jesus transforming lives and breaking the bondage of caste and class by treating all people as equals and inviting whosoever to come and follow Him, Carey gained his first convert. As the Indians read in their own language of the power of Christ to transform and redeem broken lives, more and more Indians came to Christ. Today it is estimated that some 300 million Indian Christians owe William Carey a debt of gratitude for bringing Christ to them.
Time prevents me from telling of the tens of thousands of others whose lives have been transformed and redeemed by Christ from lives bondage and brokenness. But a couple of examples include Sam Allberry and Christopher Yuan who lived on opposite sides of the world but share a very similar journey. Both men, for different traumatic reasons, began to be same-sex attracted. Both men came to meet Christ and had their lives transformed. Today, Now, years later, Sam Allberry is an Anglican minister, and Dr. Christopher Yuan is a lecturer in theology at Moody Bible Institute.
Peter Daniels describes himself as a third generation social welfare recipient who was illiterate up until the age of 26. He says, “My forebears were frequent guests of his majesty.” But then, in 1959, he was invited to come and hear Billy Graham. What he heard that day transformed his life forever. The words of Dr. Graham, “Today, you can become a child of the King!” Fancy that! An illiterate bricky’s labourer! A child of the King! He surrendered his life Christ and chose to follow the Saviour! He went to become an extremely successful real estate agent and spent the latter part of his life speaking to business people around the world about ‘true riches’ that can only be found in Christ.
Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017) was a Muslim apologist who went to Old Dominion University in Virginia where he met David Wood. He had made it his habit to meet and convert Christians into Islam up until the time he met David. Every claim that Nabeel made about Islam was met by a question from David Wood. “How do you know that?” Pretty soon, despite having been brought up in a devout Muslim home, Nabeel came to realise that he didn’t have good reasons to believe what he had been taught about Islam. Every question he challenged David with to destroy Christianity was met with an answer grounded in evidence and historical reliability. As Nabeel’s world was being rocked by what David was sharing with him, he began to cry out to God for guidance. He then began to have a series of very clear and direct dreams showing him that the Christianity which David Wood was sharing with him was indeed the truth — which meant that Islam was false. From that moment it took Nabeel about year and a half accept the truth and tell his parents. He went on to become an internationally travelled Christian apologist until his death from stomach cancer in 2017 at the age of 34. Before he died though, he wrote his story in the best-selling book, Seeking Allah Finding Jesus.
THE TRUTH IS ONLY GOD IS IMMUTABLE AND THE LIE IS THAT YOU ARE TOO!
In Genesis 3 where we read of Satan tempting Eve with the alluring lie, “You will become like God!” the irony is that he was claiming that they could become like the immutable God by appealing to their greatest privilege — the power to choose and change! Today, it seems that many people are living by lies believing that they cannot choose or change. But the truth is that one of the greatest privileges that God Your Creator has given you is the power to choose and change! Just like Wonder Woman’s appeal to the people of the world trapped in bondage to the dreamstone of deceit, Christ appeals to us to renounce our self-seeking desires and choose to turn to Him and be healed and reconciled to God. For those of us who have done just that, Christ now appeals through us to choose His gift of new life. Only by doing this we can by truth.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Second Corinthians 5:17-20