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Friday, September 30, 2011

You Can't Buy a Work of the Holy Spirit

Acts 8:18-24 (ESV)
18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

I have gone to many conferences led by church leaders who speak of the successes in their own churches. I  love to hear these testimonies of new churches who have miraculously grown and old churches whose ministry has been revived. There are, however, a couple of things that bother me.

Sometimes the credit isn't given to the Holy Spirit. The leaders of some churches tell what happened and never mention prayer, getting a word from God or being empowered to preach God's Word. They, instead, speak of marketing, new methods and surveys.

If this is a work of men and women, why am I coming to hear what "God has done?" If this is a work of the Spirit, I can't simply buy the work, nor should I expect that doing the same thing in my own church without the Spirit will work. The Holy Spirit is like the wind which comes and goes at will. He does not give in to formulas, repeated methods or even the charisma of the leaders.

Simon the sorcerer didn't understand this either. He saw the Holy Spirit come upon those who had hands laid upon them. He wanted this power for himself. He sought to buy it so that he could repeat it and be seen as great. Doesn't this sound like a bunch of preachers meeting to buy the books and training manuals of those who had grown huge churches? These preachers are looking to repeat these great works.

I know of a preacher who is desperately wanting to be considered among those who have grown their churches to national prominence. He says things that come from the books of those who have huge churches. He speaks of "his vision" as if he is Moses. He preaches the same sermons as the pastors of these huge churches. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he is writing an autobiography so that others will recognize his greatness.

Don't get me wrong. I think we should go to conferences for inspiration and conviction. I am often convicted as one of the conference leaders tells of his own personal conviction which led to church growth. I realize I have the same problem and ask God to remove it. I, also, am inspired that God uses people who are no more called than I am to do such mighty works.

But I also can't expect to copy what these conference leaders have done and get the same results. I am not like any of the conference leaders, I am not ministering to the same people as they and I am not located in the same place with the same set of circumstances. Why should I expect that a different person (me) with a different people (my congregation as opposed to the conference leaders' ) who are in a different place (a different set of circumstances )will have the same results when doing the same things? I might as well be trying to buy the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His followers to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. He told them that they would receive the power to be His witnesses when that happened. They waited for the Holy Spirit and turned the world upside down. We, on the other hand, seem to hurry to get things done. We don't wait for the Holy Spirit but look at what is happening in another place and seek to repeat it.

I have read that 85% of churches are dying. I believe that many dying churches have pastors who desperately want to see their churches grow.  Many of them will rush to new conferences hoping to find a new method which will revive their churches. I can say this confidently because I was one of these pastors and spoke to many of them at these conferences.

The humbling fact is that we all need the Spirit to work within our churches but cannot make Him do so. We can wait and pray and believe that He will come but we can't buy His work. He doesn't respond well to that proposal. He comes to those who diligently seek Him.

Whatever He does won't be repeatable by man.


Anonymous said...

Faith is good my friend. You keep it up.

Anthony Chia said...

I want to learn.

How I go about it, is perhaps most critical.

It is perhaps, rare to find short-cuts in learning the ways of God. We all need to "do some time with the Lord", in reading His Word, in waiting upon the Lord, in praying/interceding, in meditation, and then in doing.

To use money to short-cut "all the leg work" is a pattern of the world, NOT applicable to receiving the ways of God. Yes, it is true, we can pay money to attend classes, to have teachers teach us the ways of God; but it is NOT similar to using money to get us a ready-made house. In using money to buy a ready-made house, we do away with "all the leg work" in building the house ourselves, but it NOT possible for the same, with regard to acquiring the ways of God, for spiritual matter is spiritually discerned, and it needs to be discerned by the person, with the Holy Spirit aiding the person in understanding. Money does NOT work with the Holy Spirit. What is money to the Holy Spirit? Nothing, and if you love it, money that is, the Holy Spirit is NOT going to be pleased with you.

In fact, NOT only money, many matters do NOT matter with the Holy Spirit. He is a respecter of no one; He does NOT favor you based on your external appearance; He does NOT grant you His gift or power based on what you can do for Him; he does NOT grant you favor based on how smart you are. Bible said that no one, absolutely no one can ever counsel God, talking about our smartness! (Isaiah 40:13) God is NOT impressed at all with how rich we are; Scripture said God is the owner of the cattle of a thousand hills, and every animal in the forest are His (Ps 50:10); in fact, God owns everything. God is NOT looking at what you are capable of doing for Him, per se. Scripture said God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27). Also, vitally important for us to bear in mind is that God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9); and so, we have to trust Him that He knew best, and we are willing to accept that. Also, God is sovereign, and He NEVER give up His right to be true to Himself, and so, we read from Scripture of such saying that Sovereignty is God's (Ps 115:3,Proverbs 16:4), and that God shall have mercy or compassion on whomever He shall have mercy or compassion on (Rom 9;15-16).

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Anthony Chia said...

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Then how? How can we get that which we want from the Holy Spirit? Actually it should NOT be what we want; rather it should be what we need. Will God ever indulge one of His children? Yes, why NOT, but if it is about indulgence, then it is entirely up to Him. Rather than relying on the Father’s indulgence, a more preferable working model would be the “attracting the grace” model. Having said all of those in the preceding paragraph, and we should always keep in finger on those, so to speak, I believe we can still attract the grace of God. As is clear from all of the above discussion, we are getting what we are getting, out of grace. If you are getting a gift of healing or gift of working of miracle (activated), you are getting it by grace. If you are getting a big flock to shepherd, you are getting it out of grace. The favor of God is grace. How then can we attract the grace of God or the favor of God. Jesus, as a man, was said to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and with men. How can we also grow in favor or grace with God?

I do NOT have all the answers, but here is a couple of handles:

1. Be holy because He is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). Cleanse yourself from ignoble, to be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Tim 2:21).
2. Be aligned to the will of God. Seek to do His will.
3. Faith attracts grace. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
4. Move in love and compassion.
5. Pure heart. Not only clean hand, our heart need to be pure. God is the knower of heart. Ask ourselves, why do we ask what we ask?
6. Are you moving in righteousness, and in the peace and joy IN the Holy Spirit? Because those who serve Christ in this way is pleasing to God, and approved by men (Rom 14:17-18)
7. Trust God on these: Ps 89:14 – Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne; love and faithfulness go before Him.
8. Are you proud or haughty? God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Cultivate a posture of humility instead.
9. Be obedient. To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).
10. Whose glory are you seeking? Yours or God’s, solely. God does NOT share His glory with another (search the Bible, it is written so!).
11. Remember, God is God, first of all, and that means that He is sovereign; He is Wisdom (He knows best), and He is holy and righteous. These are fundamental attributes of God, which we must respect.
12. Do NOT be fixated on methods. Do NOT leave your common sense (“common sand”!) at home! Methods are purview of the Holy Spirit, and His is creative, but do the bizarre only if you clearly hear from the Holy Spirit.