Sunday, May 24, 2015


“If a cat sits on a hot stove, he will never sit on a hot stove again. But by the same token, he will never sit on a cold one either.” –Mark Twain
We fail to see the beauty and good purpose of a thing when blinded by prejudice, bias, and misinformation. Bad experiences often cause us to avoid even the good ones. Therefore, I am reaching out to those who have never done a biblical study of the Holy Spirit’s work and to those who have been “turned-off” by bad examples. I would encourage the reader to take another look at the subject from a biblical perspective rather than taking cues from negative experiences that often hinder our ability to see the pattern and examples given us by the first Christians in the book of Acts.
To remove common misconceptions we should look at the many clear and obvious Biblical examples of the Holy Spirit at work. When we stand before God, we will not be able to use other people’s actions as excuse for our inaction. The Lord will say, “You had My word, an historical example, describing how I moved and worked in and through My Church . Where was your hunger to experience My Presence?” –

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.
I could write a book listing the miracles I have witnessed and the ones I have been a part of. Reading it you would be pressed to believe in God and His desire to work intimately in the lives of people. But then I could also write another book about the times I was in “the deep” about to be swallowed up and close to losing everything. Reading this list of my failures and struggles, you might then say, “Where is your God?” We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always do everything right. We make mistakes, we stumble, but because of our hunger to know God and His intimate presence, we step out in faith, trust Him to teach us, and press on to grow in the things of the Spirit.
I could tell you of friends being healed through prayer and also of others dying in spite of it. I have friends who have experienced miraculous healings and friends who have been raised from the dead. Some have received immediate response to prayer, and others have suffered what seems an interminable wait as they call on the Lord daily for healing, help, or an “open door.” My experiences, however, do not change the truth. My success or failure does not change the reality of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is arrogant to think that something is not real if I have not done it or seen it. One man boasted that miracles were not real today because not one miracle had ever occurred in any church in his denomination. That statement is no basis for a theology denying miracles. It is, however, an indictment against his denomination.
The New Testament church knew both the reality of a Sovereign God and the reality of human weakness. They were not afraid of God’s presence, and they were not daunted by human weakness and propensity toward mistakes. The first apostles did not prohibit the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit when they saw abuses and misuses, but rather they provided instruction and wisdom. They did not quench or despise the working of the Holy Spirit, but rather proved all things and held fast the good.”

We should not use “bad apples” as an excuse to avoid all “apples.” Grocery stores and trees are full of good apples, and it is extremely rare to find a bad one. When I was a kid I found a worm in a peach taken from a tree in our yard, but it did not stop me from eating peaches. I found a rotten egg once when I was a child. It stank worse than anything I had ever smelled before or since. But I knew that it was an exception to the norm. Eggs are good, and so I continue to enjoy them as a part of my usual breakfast menu. I did not let one bad egg cause me to henceforth approach all eggs cautiously as if they might be rotten.
If you were to visit a church where people were swinging from the chandeliers or behaving strangely, would you then reject emotions and joy in your spiritual walk? Would you say, “These people are crazy,” and use this as an excuse to avoid any search for God? Or would you search for the reasonable Biblical pattern for worship and the healthy expression of joy and emotions? Would you read the Bible to find out what it really says or just assume that the “apple” or “egg” you found represented the norm for all “apples” and “eggs?”
The things that people usually fear in spiritual experience are not the true Biblical patterns, but rather the unreal “phantoms” they have created in their own minds as a result of prejudiced propaganda or experiences with bad examples which most likely were exaggerations or soulish aberrations of the true biblical model. For example, I have seen and heard some preachers that caused me to flinch, but the greatest portion of my experience is with the many stable, sincere, and gifted men of God who serve the Lord faithfully and wisely. The preachers we see portrayed on the typical TV show and in the movies are usually parodies or burlesque exaggerations of the real thing. Anyone investigating a spiritual truth or experience should go to the Bible first and see what is actually described there, rather than skipping the Biblical model and arguing against the distorted, the false, or the counterfeit they may have encountered. Our hunger to know God should cause us to wade past the stumbling blocks, go to His word, call out to Him, and search for the real thing.

This principal is especially true in the matter of the supernatural manifestation of God’s presence among His people. The problem is that people tend to approach the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit from an initial negative perspective. Rather than welcoming the potential of God’s wonderful presence supernaturally at work among us, they begin with a negative disposition seeing the working of the Holy Spirit as a necessary evil, as something from which to protect themselves. Their first response is not to hunger for the amazing, positive possibilities, but rather to assume a defensive posture with their primary focus on avoiding the abuses. They are so worried about the “bathwater” they don’t see the baby. The result is avoidance, severe regulation, or prohibition. We should not fear the presence of God. Jesus, in referring to the Holy Spirit, said, "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Lu 11: 11-13). To always expect the "scorpion" rather than the "egg" is an expression of unbelief and is a lack of confidence in God's goodness and in His ability to manage His church.

This tendency to approach God's presence negatively with fear causes churches and Christians to remain in “safe” waters where the boat will not be rocked and where there is no need for discernment and risk taking. We don’t have to worry about the “bathwater” problem if we don’t have the “baby” among us. We don’t have to worry about “cleaning the stall” if we don’t have an “ox” in the barn. We don’t have to worry about a “rotten egg” if we just avoid all eggs. This fear causes us to miss out on the adventures of life. It keeps us from launching out into the deep and witnessing the supernatural presence of God at work.
The point here is that the church should not be ruled by the fear of misuse and abuse of spiritual things. The church should be secure and discerning enough to move out courageously and in faith into the wonderful area of God’s presence at work among us, not fearing the awkwardness and stumbles that are often necessary in the growth and learning process. We see this principal in the example of how Jesus trained the twelve disciples. He knew the mistakes they would make, but He did not “roll His eyes” and withdraw, but instead, He “rolled up his sleeves” and moved on with the full training program.
We should follow His example.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.


Helen Williamson said...

This is a very good word. I know many that refuse anything about the Holy Spirit's work because they were told by their church that the workings of the HS were for Bible days and only for the purpose of getting the church started. They state that miracles are not relevant for today having passed away. I was in one of these denominations but had a hunger to know the presence of God that pressed me past these lies to pursue more of Him. This lead me directly into Jesus who just as John the Baptist said he would, baptized me in the Holy Spirit and my life has forever been changed. Every new level of the Christian walk has brought me into confrontation with tradition which is a robber spiritual growth. Almost always the desire to move onward and upward has been preceded by those who are steeped in dead tradition attempting to impede any progress into new territories of the Spirit. Thank God for his precious gift of the Holy Spirit.

Billy Long said...

Thanks for your comment, Helen. You describe what many people face. Jesus told the Pharisees, "You reject the commandment of God that you might keep your tradition." (Mark 7).