Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Wonderful Works Of God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Wonderful Works Of God

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. … Utterly amazed, they asked “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans…declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:5-11) 

     The Holy Spirit being thus at work, what was the most prominent subject that these full men begin to preach about with words of fire? Suppose that the Holy Spirit should work mightily in the church. What would our ministers preach about? We should have a revival, should we not, of the old discussions about predestination and free agency? I do not think so! These are happily ended, for they tend toward bitterness, and, for the most part, the disputants are not equal to the task. We should hear a great deal about the premillennial and the postmillennial advent, should we not? I do not think so! I never saw much of the Spirit of God in discussions or dreams upon times and seasons that are not clearly revealed. Should we not hear learned essays about advanced theology? No, sir. When the devil inspires the church, we have modern theology—but when the Spirit of God is among us, that rubbish is shot out with loathing! 

     What did these men preach about? Their hearers said, ‘We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God’ (Acts 2:11). The subject was the wonderful works of God! Oh, that this might be, to my dying day, my sole and only topic: ‘the wonderful works of God.’

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

Whether we are pastors or parishioners, may our heart cry echo that of Charles Spurgeon: May all that comes from my lips be words that tell of the wonderful works of God! 

After the Church was born on that Pentecost Sunday, their message wasn’t one of doctrinal differences or the ills of society. No! These Spirit-baptized Christians went everywhere proclaiming how wonderful it was to be in a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through the way opened to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

May we emulate their example today: Empowered by the Holy Spirit to go everywhere and tell everyone how wonderful our God is!

 

 

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Church On Fire

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Church On Fire

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3) 

     We are poor, empty things by nature, and useless while we remain so. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people seem to believe in the Spirit of God giving utterance only, and they look upon instruction in divine things as of secondary importance. Dear, dear me! What trouble comes when we act upon that theory! How the empty vessels clatter, rattle, and sound! … Where the Spirit of God is truly at work, He first fills and then gives utterance—that is His way. …  

     Full! Then they were not cold, dead, and empty of life as we sometimes are. Full. Then there was no room for anything else in any one of them! They were too completely occupied by the heavenly power to have room for the desires of the flesh! Fear was banished; every minor motive was expelled! The Spirit of God, as it flooded their very beings, drove out of them everything that was extraneous. They had many faults and many infirmities before, but that day, when they were filled with the Spirit of God, faults and infirmities were no more perceptible! They became different men from what they had ever been before. Men full of God are the reverse of men full of self! …  

     The next Pentecostal symbol was utterance. … When the Spirit of God really comes upon a man, he does not wait till he has gathered an audience of the size that he desires, but he seizes the next opportunity! He speaks to one person. He speaks to two. He speaks to three—to anybody. …  

     When the Spirit of God fills a man, he speaks so as to be understood. … The crowd not only understood, they felt. There were lancets in this Pentecostal preaching, and the hearers ‘were pricked in their heart’ (Acts 2:37). … Those are the two effects of the Holy Spirit—a fullness of the Spirit in the ministry and the church, and next, a fire ministry and a church on fire, speaking so as to be felt and understood by those around!

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

Oh, how I want this today! 

Let’s seek the fullness and the utterance that can only come through the baptism in the Holy Spirit! Let’s be set on fire so that we can impact the world around us! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Purpose Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Purpose Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3) 

     Ordinary winds blow from this or that quarter of the skies, but this descended from heaven itself. It was distinctly like a downdraft from above. This sets forth the fact that the true Spirit, the Spirit of God, comes from neither this place nor that, neither can His power be controlled or directed by human authority. His working is always from above, from God Himself! The work of the Holy Spirit is, so to speak, the breath of God, and His power is always, in a special sense, the immediate power of God. …  

     Tongues of flame sitting on each man’s head symbolized a personal visitation to the mind and heart of each one of the chosen company. The fires came not to consume them, for the flaming tongue injured no one. To men whom the Lord has prepared for His approach, there is no danger in His visitations. They see God and their lives are preserved. They feel His fires and are not consumed. This is the privilege of only those who have been prepared and purified for such fellowship with God. The intention of the symbol was to show them that the Holy Spirit would illuminate them as fire gives light. ‘He will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13). … 

     But the fire does more than give light; it inflames, and the flames that sat upon each show them that they were to be ablaze with love, intense with zeal, burning with self-sacrifice, and that they were to go forth among men to speak not with the chill tone of deliberate logic, but with burning tongues of passionate pleading, persuading, and entreating men to come to Christ that they might live! The fire signified inspiration. God was about to make them speak under a divine influence, to speak as the Spirit of God should give them utterance. …  

     O You who are our God, answer us by fire, we pray! Answer us both by wind and fire and then we will see You to be God indeed. The kingdom comes not and the work is flagging. Oh, that You would send the wind and fire! You will do this when we are all of one accord: all believing, are expecting, and all prepared by prayer. Lord, bring us to this waiting state!

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

As I said earlier, Pentecost is not the culmination of God’s power, it is the initiation of His power that is necessary to empower us to be witnesses for Jesus. 

If Jesus said that we needed this power to live and testify for Him, why would we ever want anything but the full outpouring of this Holy Spirit power?! Jesus Himself relied on the power of the Holy Spirit during His earthly ministry, so how much more so do we need this baptism into the fire and wind of the Spirit!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Initiation Of Power

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Initiation Of Power 

     Whatever the Holy Spirit was at the first, He is that now, for as God, He remains forever the same. … We would greatly grieve the Holy Spirit if we supposed that His might was less today than in the beginning. …  

     If at the commencement of the gospel we behold the Holy Spirit working great signs and wonders, may we not expect a continuance of and, if anything, increased displays of His power as the ages roll on? … 

     It ought not to be forgotten that Pentecost was the feast of firstfruits. It was the time when the first ears of ripe corn were offered to God. If, then, at the commencement of the gospel harvest we see so plainly the power of the Holy Spirit, may we not most properly expect infinitely more as the harvest advances and, most of all, when the most numerous sheaves will be gathered? May we not conclude that if the Pentecost was thus marvelous, the actual harvest will be still more wonderful?

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

When Jesus was approaching the Cross, He gathered His disciples together to tell them what was coming. One of the assurances He gave His followers was this: “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). 

The empowering force for these “greater things” would be the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8, 2:1-4). 

Pentecost wasn’t the culmination, it was the initiation. 

Pentecost was the launching point for followers of Jesus to be filled with dunamis power that would enable them to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and to have signs and wonders follow to confirm the preaching of the Word. 

As Spurgeon said, we greatly grieve the Holy Spirit when we attempt to put Him in a box as to what He can or can’t do today, or if we try to limit Him to one era of long-past history. The Holy Spirit is as vital for a Christian today as He was on that Pentecost Sunday described in Acts 2! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Prayer Helper

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Our Prayer Helper 

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) 

     God helps our infirmity, and with a Helper so divinely strong, we need not fear the result! … We take our burden to our heavenly Father and tell Him in the accents of childlike confidence, and we come away quite content to better whatever His holy will may lay upon us. … 

     We bathe our wounds in the lotion of prayer and the pain is lulled; the fever is removed. But the worst of it is that in certain conditions of heart we cannot pray. We may be brought into such perturbation of mind and perplexity of heart that we do not know how to pray. … We fall into such heaviness of spirit and entanglement of thought that the one remedy of prayer, which we have always found to be unfailing, appears to be taken from us. Here, then, in the nick of time, as a very present help in time of trouble, comes in the Holy Spirit! He draws near to teach us how to pray, and in this way He helps our infirmity, relieves our suffering, and enables us to bear the heavy burden without fainting under the load. … 

     He will guide you both negatively and positively. Negatively, He will forbid you to pray for such and such a thing, even as Paul essayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow him. And, on the other hand, He will cause you to hear a cry within your soul that will guide your petitions, even as He made Paul hear the cry from Macedonia, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’ (Acts 16:6-10). …  

     If I am a true believer, there dwells the Holy Spirit, and when I desire to pray, I may ask Him what I should pray for as I ought and He will help me! He will write the prayers that I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I will see them there and so I will be taught how to plead! It will be the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!

From The Holy Spirit’s Intercession

Oh, how many times I’ve been in desperate need but cannot find the right words to pray. The Holy Spirit understands even groans that come from my anguished heart and can help me turn those groans into perfect prayers. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind us of His words and would guide us into truth. I’ve experienced this for myself: I’m at an utter loss of what or how to pray, and then a passage of Scripture comes to my mind. I start there with that phrase. Often I will begin to read the surrounding passage from the Bible out loud and feel the gentle affirmation from the Holy Spirit as I begin to personalize that portion of Scripture into my own prayer. As Spurgeon put it, this is “the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!” 

What a Helper we have in the Holy Spirit!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Part, Our Part

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Part, Our Part

     The lesson is clear to all: The wind turns mills that men make. It fills sails that human hands have spread. And the Spirit blesses human effort, crowns with success our labors, establishes the work of our hands upon us, and teaches us all through that ‘the hand of the diligent makes rich’ (Proverbs 10:4). And ‘if anybody will not work, neither shall he eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). … 

     Let us do our part faithfully, spread every sail, make all as perfect as human skill and wisdom can direct, and then in patient continuance in well-doing await the Spirit’s propitious gales, neither murmuring because He tarries nor being taken unawares when He comes upon us in His sovereign pleasure to do that which seems good in His sight.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We cannot do what only God can do, and God will not do what we are supposed to do. It is the Holy Spirit who can help us keep those two thoughts clear. 

It’s wrong to say, “God only helps those who help themselves.” But it’s equally as wrong to say, “I don’t need to do anything except wait for God.” In example after example in the Bible we see people doing their part while at the same time believing for God to do something miraculous:

We don’t take matters into our own hands, but neither do we sit idle waiting for something miraculous to happen. We plant, and water, and tend, and then God brings the harvest.

Spirit-Empowered To Do Good Works

Micah the prophet’s name means who is like God, or more literally: “who but God?” The implied answer, of course, is no one! 

Micah opens his letter by telling us his name, and then he closes his prophetic words with a play on his name when he says, “Who is a God like You?” (7:18-20). Who else but God could…

  • …pardon sin?
  • …forgive transgressions? 
  • …not stay angry at sinners? 
  • …delight to show mercy? 
  • …have such boundless compassion? 
  • …tread our sins under His foot?
  • …hurl our iniquities into the sea?  

NO ONE! 

In light of this, how should we respond to this amazing God? Micah asks a series of rhetorical questions about what sort of religious practices would somehow “balance the scales” for God’s amazing gifts to us. But here’s the deal: there is no way for us to balance the scales! Instead, Micah tells us this, “God has showed you what is good. What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

In other words, our response to God’s invaluable gifts must transition from a have to lifestyle to a get to lifestyle! Micah makes it clear that God’s Spirit empowers us to live this way (Micah 3:8). 

It is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christians to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. 

The apostle Paul agrees with Micah, even echoing some of Micah’s own phrases—God’s great love, His rich mercy, His unearned grace, His forgiveness of sin, His kindness, and His salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10). Why did God do all of this? So that we could “do good works”—like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly—“which God prepared in advance for us to do”!

I am saved by grace SO THAT I am free to do grace-filled, Spirit-empowered, good things. 

All of this prompts me to ask myself three introspective questions:

  1. Do I continually remind myself that I was saved by grace and not by works? I need to check my have to vs. get to attitude. 
  2. Am I aware that people are watching me? What are they seeing? Do they see godly justice, loving mercy, and humility? 
  3. Am I living like Jesus? Peter explained that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Can that be said of me too? 

Who but God could call us, forgive us, and forget our sins? NO ONE! 

Who but God could empower us to live in such a way that others see His greatness too? NO ONE! 

Let’s never, ever become self-reliant or works-dependent (that’s have to living), but let’s stay so Spirit-reliant that we cannot help be get to people! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series about major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind 

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) 

     Sometimes the wind comes with a sweep as though it were going on forever. It comes past and dashes through the trees, sweeping away the rotten branches. Then away it goes across the Alps, dashing down an avalanche in its course, still onward. And as it flies, it blows away everything that is frail and weak. And on, on, on it speeds its way to some unknown goal. And thus it is sometimes the Spirit of God will come right through us, as if He were bearing us away to that spiritual heritage that is our sure future destiny, bearing away coldness, barrenness, everything before it. We do not lament then that we do not pray. We do not believe that we cannot pray. ‘I can do everything’ is our joyful shout as we are carried on the wings of the wind. …  

     The lower branches of the trees are scarcely moved, but the top branches are rocked to and fro by it. [The wind] is a great leveler! So is the Holy Spirit. He never sees a man high but He brings him down. He makes every high thought bow before the majesty of His might. … Now do not let this make you fear the Holy Spirit. It is a blessed thing to be rocked so as to have our hopes tested, and it is a precious thing to have our carnal confidences shaken. And how blessedly the wind purifies the atmosphere! …  

     So the Spirit of God comes and cleanses out our evil thoughts and vain imaginations, and though we do not like the hurricane, yet it brings spiritual health to our souls. …  

     The Holy Spirit is the great testing power, and the result of His operations will be to show men what they are. … Thus also we try the doctrines of men; we bring the breath of inspiration to bear upon them. … True Christians and sound doctrines have ballast and weight in them; they are not moved nor driven away. But empty professors and hollow dogmas are scattered like chaff before the wind when the Lord will blow up on them with the breath of His Spirit. Therefore examine yourselves; try the doctrines and see if they are of God.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We are wise to fear the Wind of God. 

By fear I mean a holy reverencing, an appreciation of the awful weightiness of God’s presence, an ever-growing awareness of the awesomeness of the thought of standing before The Judge of the Universe—the All-holy and All-righteous King of kings. I don’t mean cowering in the corner, afraid to approach God, nor afraid of Him approaching us. 

In the first Church in the book of Acts, we see a married couple trying to lie to the Holy Spirit, a sorcerer thinking he could learn “the tricks” of the Holy Spirit, and King Herod trying to claim the majesty of God’s presence for himself (Acts 5:1-11, 8:18-24, 12:21-23). The Holy Spirit dealt powerfully and decisively with all of these pretenders. The result: the power of the Holy Spirit was unmistakably and unquestionably acknowledged! So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. 

True Christians welcome the wind of the Spirit. He cleanses, purifies, prunes, fills, and empowers. He blows away what is impure so that He can impart more of Himself to us. 

Let us never, ever treat the Holy Spirit lightly. Let us never, ever try to put the Holy Spirit in our own little boxes. But let us be open to whenever and however He wants to blow His wind through our hearts. 

 

Knowing God’s Will

My dear friends Josh and Judy are moving. They feel like God has been calling them to Nebraska, and I affirm that God is directing them into this new chapter for their lives. I will miss them dearly, but I know God has indeed called them. 

During times like this many people will often ask, “How do I know that God is directing me?” 

In the Bible we see God speaking to people in several ways: 

  • An audible voice 
  • Through His prophets 
  • Sending an angel 
  • In a dream or vision 
  • One time God’s finger wrote a message on a wall
  • One time God spoke through a donkey 

But most often God speaks through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is described as having a mind, a will, and emotions. Although He doesn’t have a physical body, He is still a Person. Just like any person you could get to know, you can get to know the Holy Spirit more and more personally, becoming increasingly more acquainted with His voice. 

All of us are unique individuals. God has never, ever duplicated a person. Your combination of genes, talents, personality, and personal experiences make you a one-of-a-kind in all of human history. That means that God speaks uniquely to each of us. 

Even though the exact manner God will speak to us will be unique, there are some clear principles that we can know from the Bible. 

1. Humbly listen for God’s voice.

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let me unpack three key phrases:

  • lean not on your own understanding really means humbly exchanging an “I know best” posture for a “God, You know best” posture. 
  • acknowledge Him is the Hebrew word yada. This word means knowledge that comes from personal experience. This is where you act on something you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you and then evaluate it. It’s how you get to know the Person of the Holy Spirit better and better. 
  • He will make straight your paths might be better stated, “He will make your paths agreeable to His will.” In other words, you begin to feel in-sync with the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this would be grieving the Holy Spirit, where you feel out-of-step with God. 

2. Consult with godly friends. 

In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his companions are attempting to go into new territories to share the good news about Jesus but Luke records twice that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them. Perhaps they felt out-of-sync with the Spirit when they attempted to make their plans. Ultimately, God did open a door for them to move forward and Luke writes, “Concluding that God had called us.” Notice that word “us.” Paul shared his heart with his godly friends and they affirmed God’s voice, much as I affirmed the call on Josh and Judy’s lives in their move. 

3. Don’t be overly concerned about making a mistake. 

In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that God is working all things together for your good and for His glory. “All things” means even your mistakes—like not noticing that the Spirit was prompting you to move, or perhaps temporarily heading down a wrong path. The Holy Spirit can help you look back and see how these experiences have prepared you for your present moment. Even those missteps can be used for God’s glory. But most importantly, those missteps have never diminished God’s love for you! 

Your journey will be unique from everyone else’s journey, but these three principles are applicable to everyone who wants to walk in the paths God has set for them. 

The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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