1

I WAS EXHAUSTED.

                 Like many pastors and laymen, I was weary from doing well.
                                   Overload had tripped my spiritual circuit-breaker.

I had a shelf full of "success" books. Had read them all. Had put most of the principles into practice. By resorting to a lot of what I would later call "might and power" stuff I had, at a still young age, done rather well for myself.

                                   But I was empty.
                                        Running on fumes.
                                   On the outside glib and self-assured.
                                        Maybe even arrogant.
                                   On the inside desperate and lonely.

I felt disconnected. How could it have come to this? I had asked God to give me a pastor's heart. And he did. What had gone wrong? How could a lifeway which held so much promise produce so much pain?

With all the enthusiasm of an iron stag I pushed myself up several flights of stairs. There were rows of empty seats in the upper balcony. Picking one at the top, I settled down.

Not much going on up here, I told myself. Might even get a nap. This was one of those annual must attend meetings. At least, when I got back home, I could say I was there.

The speaker was pretty good. But my distress was sufficiently deep that I found it hard to concentrate until he began a story about Sir Joshua Reynolds, the famous sculptor. It seems Sir Reynolds had been asked to critique a recently completed piece of sculpture and undertook the task with characteristic care.

He circled the piece several times making comments like:
                   "Your composition is good," and "the theme is important."
Later he added,
                   "Your craftsmanship is outstanding."
Then he paused, as though puzzled, and finally with a snap of his fingers said:
                   "But it needs THAT!"

When the preacher spoke those words, accompanied by THAT finger snapping gesture, God got my attention. Bells went off in my spirit. Light flashed in my soul. In that way I know to be his speaking to me, God said:

                       "John, THAT is missing in your life.
                        An absence of THAT is what's holding my people back!"

And what was THAT? I knew immediately. A spiritual disconnect had occurred. I was missing THAT spiritual power for which no amount of flesh activity can compensate. Earlier in my life I had connected with God as Father. Later in my spiritual journey, I had connected with God as Son. Now I needed to connect with God as Holy Spirit.

I decided I'd better do something about THAT.

2


DID IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

                   Not at first.
                          I continued
                                my downward
                                      spiral for
                                              two more weeks.

Then I crashed. Despite my public "might and power" prowess, I was forced to face my personal fragility. It was a stark moment. Bleak and biting. As I was to learn, it was also seminal.

For months I had been going through a painful kaleidoscope of negative experiences. I hate to admit it, but, if I'm going to be helpful to you, I must be honest.
         Somewhere along the line I allowed a seed of bitterness to take root.
Hebrews 12:15 warns that when we do that, we open ourselves to all kinds of trouble: emotional, relational, professional and spiritual. That's what happened to me.

                   My attitude was terrible.
                          My demeanor, at times, left a lot to be desired.
                   Important relationships were frayed.
                          My marriage was strained to the breaking point.

                   To quote my untutored but street-wise father,
                         "The devil had me in his sifter,
                          but God had me by the coattails."
                   God was good, but I was a mess.

To make a long story short, God used a soft-spoken prayer warrior with the gift of discernment to deliver me from satanic oppression. My healing was so complete, I can't tell you today what it feels like to be bitter!

Some serious confession, repentance, forgiveness and fence-mending were required on my part.

But, thank God, before the evening was over
the Holy Spirit came in fullness.
I have never felt so clean!
Best of all, both the Father and the Son had never been so dear.

As a born again evangelical I had no theology for what had happened. Most folks like me were wary of things "Pentecostal." Maybe you still are. Was there a Biblical basis for what God was doing in my life? There had to be or it was a sham.

Quietly, consciously and deliberately I asked the Counselor,
         "the Holy Spirit," whom Jesus said, "will teach you all things" (Jn.14:26)
to enlighten me about himself and the role he was meant to play in my life.

What I learned was that I had to become truly trinitarian.
              I had to give the third person of the trinity the prerogatives of Deity.

 

3

THE TRIUNITY OF GOD IS A MYSTERY.

While the essence of mystery is that it cannot be told, God's triunity is disclosed in a triad of God's self-revelations.

           The creation is God's revelation in space.
               The bible is God's revelation in language.
                    The incarnation is God's revelation in person.

These three speak in unison to the fact of God's triunity.

The mystery of God being three in one, or one in three, is a puzzlement but it is not past believing. A simple graphic may be helpful.

Starting at the hub and moving outward, notice how, in nature or being, God is one in three. God is Father. God is Son. God is Holy Spirit.

Shifting to the rim you see how, in function or operation, God is three in one. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. Yet all three are God. There is distinction, but not separation.*

My predicament lay in the fact that I was unfamiliar with one third of this triunity. The Holy Spirit was, so to speak, out of focus for me.


The word of God through the prophet Zechariah is as accurate today as it was over 2000 years ago:

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6b).

Sadly, there are many born again believers for whom, THAT--the Holy Spirit--is missing.

They are "might and power" people, just as I was.

In my case, thank God, there was also a void which ached for Something More.



*For a fuller study of God's triunity and his immeasurable meaning to you secure a copy of J. Sidlow Baxter's scholarly work The God You Should Know published by Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids, Mi 49501.




4



A GENTLE MENTAL EXERCISE.

The events recorded in the first two chapters of Acts may be well known to you but, just to be safe, let's review them quickly.

Dr. Luke connects this book,
                                       which he is just beginning,
with "the former treatise"--the gospel of Luke--he had previously finished (Acts 1:1-4).

He quotes Jesus as telling his disciples:
                 "…before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5),
and that--first half of verse 8--they will
                 "…receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

This is followed by a reiteration of the great commission (Acts 1:8b),
                after which Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).

The disciples return to the upper room where earlier they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit
and were born again (Jn. 20:22; Acts 1:12-23).

They spend ten days releasing more and more of themselves to the indwelling Spirit's
                control (Acts 1:14-26).
As a result, when the day of Pentecost arrives, they are ready to play a part in the Great Events
                which occur that day (Acts 2: 1-41).

In Acts 3:1-10 there is recorded the wonderful healing of "a man lame from birth"
as Peter and John beginministering in the power of the Spirit.

The narrative continues in verse 11 and we learn the people were "astounded." They are deeply moved when, in verse 14, Peter admonishes them for having been part of the group which
               "denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to
                be granted to you, and killed the Author of Life…" (Acts 3:14-16).

Then, in verse 17, Peter speaks a wonderful word of Grace to this troubled people:
            
"...I know you acted in ignorance (italics mine), as did also your rulers.
               But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets,
               that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled."

And then this powerful word in Acts 3:19:
           
"Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
             that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."


5

REPENTANCE: A TURNING FROM AND A TURNING TO.

It's an old word: "Repent." So old, perhaps, you may not be acquainted with it. Put simply:
                                            
It means a turning.
                                            
First of all, a turning from.

I won't try to define what that means for you.
               
What you need to turn from is between you and God.

You know what you need to turn from.
                                             
You know the priorities,
                                                                    
goals,
                                                                    
attitudes,
                                                                    
and actions
                                              
which are badly out of focus.
                                     
What you need to turn from is between you and God.

But repentance is not only a turning from, it is also a turning to.
                         
And there's no question about that aspect of your repentance.

There may be some question about what you need to turn from,
        
but whom you must turn to is clear. There's no doubt about that.
                                            You turn to Jesus!

A friend shared a deep concern for her spouse. He had a drinking problem. After a lengthy period of sobriety, he started drinking again. She said,
                          
"The problem is, he never replaced alcohol with anything."

The mystery of Godliness,
                                   
the mystery of power,
                                         
the mystery of victory
over whatever it is you need to turn from is no mystery at all. The solution is simple. It lies in Whom you turn to.

And, wonder of wonders, the closer you get to Jesus the weaker will be
                                                                 
the backward,
                                                                 
downward tug
                                            
of whatever you choose to turn from!

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