When something goes wrong, the response from most people is pretty predictable, isn’t it? Some try to ignore the problem, some complain about it, many get quite angry, and most people try to find someone or something to blame.
These responses don’t sound very Christian-like, do they? What many people think the Christian response should be is something closer to the opening words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem—“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….”
And yet, though this sounds Christian-like, it still misses the mark for Spirit-baptized Christians. Remember that a couple of weeks ago I described the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “distinctive doctrine.” There is nothing distinct about a Christian responding predictably like everyone else does.
A Spirit-baptized Christian is distinguished by the miraculous ways God confirms His presence in that person’s life. What really honors God is not a predictable response or even a learned response, but an unpredictable, miraculous response: A Spirit-baptized Christian’s response to bad news should be peace and joy.
I believe the Holy Spirit can so transform our hearts that our response becomes an unmistakable testimony of the power of God. We may experience the initial pang of regret and pain but our next response turns all the focus off of us and on to God.
Our Heavenly Father’s desire is for everyone to come into a close, personal relationship with Him. Before Jesus came this was first pictured for us in the operations of the temple and its sacrifices. Yet man’s attempts to control this hijacked what God intended. This is why we see Jesus acting in righteous anger to clear out the temple of merchants and money-changers (John 2:12-17; Luke 19:45-48).
Oswald Chambers noted the similarities between what Jesus did in the physical temple and what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts:
“Immediately the Spirit of God comes in we begin to realize what it means—everything that is not of God has to be cleaned out. People are surprised and say, ‘I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since.’ That is the sign He has come, He is turning out the ‘money-changers,’ that is, the things that make the temple into a trafficking place for self-realization.”
The Holy Spirit has to disturb our man-made peace so that His peace can take its place. Or as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Jesus told us that the indwelling Holy Spirit would bring about this heart and mind transformation in His followers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us how to respond in a learned, predictable way, but He transforms us to respond in an unmistakably unpredictable way (John 16:12-15, 20-22; 14:26-27).
The transformed response of the Spirit-baptized Christian is joy in place of anger, and peace in place of frustration (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I like how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed” in the Beatitudes Jesus lists in Matthew 5: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of [the] outward conditions.”
This transformation brings God glory and is exactly what Jesus prays for us (John 17:13-18), which is why I keep on saying: Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit!
If you’ve missed any of the posts in our series on the empowerment that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can find the full list by clicking here.
I am blessed to be the son of Pentecostal parents; and both of my parents come from Pentecostal parents too, as well as two Pentecostal great-grandmothers. That makes me a fourth-generation “holy roller”! But my Pentecostal heritage actually goes back farther than that, which made reading Tongues Of Fire such an enjoyable read.
This book is billed as a 50-day devotional, with excerpts from sermons and writings of some of the best-known Pentecostals of the last 150 years. Yes, there are some “newcomers” that have some essays in this book as well, but I found the real substantive, enlivening writings to be from those old-timers.
One of those old-timers said, “The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand” (Oswald Chambers). How sadly true that so many Christians dig no deeper after their moment of conversion!
It took me much longer than 50 days to read through these devotionals because I spent time pondering the messages and introspecting on their application to my life.
Whether you are a seasoned Pentecostal, a newcomer, or someone simply hungry for more of God’s Spirit to be manifested in your life, you will enjoy diving into Tongues Of Fire.
In Workmen Of God, we have a collection of lectures Oswald Chambers delivered to those “reliable men” and women (see 2 Timothy 2:2) who were either already working in pastoral ministry or preparing to do so. Chambers talks to pastors about their work among those entrenched in their unbelief, those who are skeptical, those who are backslidden, those who are hypocrites, and those who have sick souls. He especially challenges pastors on how to minister to themselves so that they are prepared to minister to any soul in which God brings them in contact.
It’s in that light that I think this passage is so vital for anyone involved in Christian ministry—
“So remember, it is absolutely necessary to be like the cedars of Lebanon. Do you know the characteristic of a Lebanon tree? The cedars of Lebanon have such extraordinary power of life that instead of nourishing the parasites it kills them, the life within is so strong and so robust that instead of feeding the parasites it chokes them off. God grant that we may be so filled with His life, may flourish as the cedars of Lebanon, so that He can trust us down in all the dark, difficult places amongst the souls of our brother men and be able to pour His tremendous health and power through us. …
“Do you remember, then, that it is necessary for the worker to be healthy, and beware of this mistake, that by working for God amongst men, you develop your own Christian life; you do not unless your Christian life is there first. It is so obvious that it needs to be said over again—you cannot develop your own Christian life unless it is there. The advice given that if you work for God you develop your own life often means that if you work for God you get right yourself; you do not, you have to be right with God first.”
Pastors and other Christian workers, remember that you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself. You MUST make regular time to abide with Jesus, not for sermon preparation, but for your own robust spiritual health.
Although written over 100 years ago, this book is still a treasure-trove for anyone in church ministry today!
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.
Stick To The Revealed Word Of God
Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (Hebrews 13:7-9)
From the connection it is evident that our text refers to the teaching of Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ This is not according to the so-called development folly. Theology, like every other science, is to grow, watered by the splendid wisdom of this enlightened age, fostered by the superlative ability of the gentlemen of light and leading of the present time, so much superior to all who came before them!
We think not so, brothers and sisters, for the Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect revelation of God. … In previous ages, God has spoken to us by His prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son [Hebrews 1:1-2]. Now as to that which was a complete revelation, it is blasphemous to suppose that there can be any more revealed than has been made known in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! … And as He shuts up the book that contains the written revelation, He bids you never dare to take from it, lest He should take your name out of the Book of Life! And never dare to add to it, lest He should add to you the plagues that are written in this book [Revelation 22:18-19]!
From The Unchangeable Christ
BEWARE when someone tells you they have discovered some new revelation from God that they—and they alone—have uncovered. God’s Word doesn’t need anyone’s “help.”
But DO pray before you read the Bible to ask the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God to now illuminate it to your mind as you read and study.
(P.S. Oswald Chambers had some sobering words about false prophets.)
“The Lord uses critics to show us our own hearts, even if what they say is not fully true, informed, or even fair. There is almost always a germ of truth in what our critics (in their own pain and disappointment) shout at us. The wise leader will humble himself and look for the truth embedded in every oppositional interaction.” —Dick Brogden [see 2 Samuel 16:5-12]
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” —Ken Blanchard
“Criticism can be received as a gift from God. It is an opportunity to pray, search Scripture, evaluate your own heart, and offer grace to others. The right response to criticism should not be retaliation or pride (which just perpetuates hurt), but rather humility.” —Jeremy Carr
“There is a growing trend to attack, criticize, and resent anyone who has talent or achievements that sets them apart from others. This tendency extends to those who resent the efforts of leaders who challenge the status quo. Opponents of change initiatives often attempt to marginalize leaders by attacking their character and questioning their motives. If the messenger is flawed, then the message and vision they offer cannot be trusted. As disappointing as it is, these challenges come with the territory of leadership.” —Dr. J. Lee Whittington
“If I were to attempt to answer all the criticisms and complaints I receive, I would have no time for any other business. From day to day I do the best I can and will continue to do so till the end. If in the end I come out all right, then the complaints and criticisms and what is said against me will make no difference. But, if the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels coming down from heaven to swear I was right would still make no difference.” —Abraham Lincoln
“If a ministry is God-anointed, it doesn’t matter who criticizes it. If it’s not anointed, it doesn’t matter who praises it.” —Rick Warren
“Your critics have information that your friends are withholding.” —John Maxwell
“God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.” —Oswald Chambers
“No leader is exempt from criticism and his humility will nowhere be seen more clearly than in the manner in which he accepts and reacts to it.” —J. Oswald Sanders
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body: It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” —Winston Churchill
“Every man needs a blind eye and a deaf ear, so when people applaud, you’ll only hear half of it, and when people salute, you’ll only see part of it. Believe only half the praise and half the criticism.” —C.H. Spurgeon
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” —Dale Carnegie
“A mark of a godly leader is one so focused on God’s plan that he pays no attention to his critics or enemies.” —Craig T. Owens
“Never be afraid of honest criticism. If the critic is wrong, you can help him; and if you’re wrong, he can help you. Either way, somebody’s helped.” —A.W. Tozer
“It’s so much easier to teach correct principles than it is to know and love a person. It’s so much easier to give brilliant advice than to empathize and be open. It’s so much easier to live independently than to live interdependently. It’s so much easier to be a judge than to be a light. It’s so much easier to be a critic than to be a model.” —Stephen Covey
“When is it inappropriate to praise a critical person? One: When you are being criticized for outright sin, and the criticism is accurate. If what is said is true, the tension you feel will be relieved only one way: confession. Two: when you are falsely accused of sin. Sin is a serious charge, obviously more serious than those ‘against you’ realize or they would have done their homework.” —Blaine Allen
“Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.” —Mark Batterson
“There is no better antidote for unjust criticism than a clear conscience before God.” —James Hernando
“It is not the critic who counts; nor the many who point out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.” —Teddy Roosevelt
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:16)
“It is bad enough to be blind ourselves. It is a thousand times worse to be a blind guide.” —J.C. Ryle
“Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” —1 Peter 2:12 MSG
“Sermons must be practiced as well as preached…. If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.” —John Owen
“Be a walking, talking, living example of what you preach, in every silent moment of your life, known and unknown; bear the scrutiny of God, until you can prove that you are indeed an example of what He can do.” —Oswald Chambers
“Behave yourselves wisely—living prudently and with discretion—in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians)…” —Colossians 4:5 AMP
“We hear that some people in your group refuse to work [or are behaving irresponsibly; are living/walking in idleness/disorder]. They do nothing but busy themselves [meddle; interfere] in other people’s lives. We command those [such] people and beg [urge; encourage; exhort] them in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly [or settle down] and earn [ eat] their own food.” —2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 EXB)
“We should make less excuses for the weaknesses of a Christian than for any other man. A Christian has God’s honor at stake. When a man is regenerated and bears the Name of Christ the Spirit of God will see to it that he is scrutinized by the world, and the more we are able to meet that scrutiny the healthier will we be as Christians.” —Oswald Chambers
This is part 37 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
Hear And Do
The emphasis in these verses [Matthew 7:24-29] is laid by our Lord on hearing and doing. … We hear only what we listen for. Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil; but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention. We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched, we never do them. …
Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it. Try five minutes a day with your Bible. The thing that influences us most is not the thing that we give most time to, but the thing that springs from our own personal relationship, that is the prime motive that dominates us. …
“Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. … If a man has built himself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not his strength of will that keeps him, but the tremendous power of God. … All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is. …
There is a tendency in all of us to appreciate the sayings of Jesus Christ with our intellects while we refuse to do them. …
The Holy Spirit’s voice is as gentle as a zephyr, the merest check; when you hear it do you say, “But that is only a tiny detail, the Holy Spirit cannot mean that, it is much too trivial a thing”? The Holy Spirit does mean that, and at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey. … What does it matter what anyone thinks of us as long as Jesus Christ thinks we are doing the right thing, as long as we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?”
From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount
Hear/read God’s Word → Listen to how the Holy Spirit tells me to apply it to my life → Then apply it to my life → Repeat this process again tomorrow…
Oswald Chambers has unlocked the Sermon on the Mount for me like no other Bible commentator has before—deeply and practically. Check out my full book review by clicking here. I have already shared numerous passages from this book in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” series, but here are some other quotes that caught my eye as well.
“Beware of placing our Lord as a Teacher first instead of Savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. … If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He could do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.”
“The disadvantage of a saint in the present order of things is that his confession of Jesus Christ is not to be in secret, but glaringly public. It would doubtless be to our advantage from the standpoint of self-realization to keep quiet, and nowadays the tendency to say—‘Be a Christian, live a holy life, but don’t talk about it’—is growing stronger. Our Lord uses in illustration the most conspicuous things known to men—salt, light, and a city set on a hill—and He says, ‘Be like that in your home, in your business, in your church; be conspicuously a Christian for ridicule or respect according to the mood of the people you are with.’”
“Our Lord goes to the root of the matter every time with no apology. Sordid? Frantically sordid, but sin is frantically sordid, and there is no excuse in false modesty, or in refusing to face the music of the devil’s work in this life. Jesus Christ faced it and He makes us face it too. Our natural idea of purity is that it means according to obedience to certain laws and regulations, but that is apt to be prudery. There is nothing prudish in the Bible. The Bible insists on purity, not prudery.”
“All our righteousness is ‘as filthy rags’ unless it is the blazing holiness of Jesus in uniting us with Him until we see nothing but Jesus first, Jesus second, and Jesus third. Then when men take knowledge of us, they will not say that we are good men, that we have a wonderful whiteness, but that Jesus Christ has done something wonderful in us.”
“The Spirit of God comes through the different writers with the one steady insistence to stir up our minds (Philippians 2:5; 2 Peter 1:12-13). … Unless we learn to think in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, we will drift in our spiritual experience without thinking at all. The confusion arises when we try to think and to reason things out without the Spirit of God.”
“Jesus does not use the illustration of the birds and the flowers by accident, He uses it purposely in order to show the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious about the means of living. Imagine the sparrows and blackbirds and thrushes worrying about their feathers! Jesus says they do not trouble about themselves at all, the thing that makes them what they are is not their thought for themselves, but the thought of the Father in heaven. A bird is a hard-working little creature, but it does not work for its feathers, it obeys the law of its life and becomes what it is. Jesus Christ’s argument is that if we concentrate on the life He gives us, we will be perfectly free for all other things because our Father is watching the inner life. We have to maintain obedience to the Holy Spirit, Who is the real principle of our life, and God will supply the ‘feathers,’ for are we not ‘much better than they’?”
“We enthrone common sense as Almighty God and treat Jesus Christ as a spiritual appendage to it.”
“At the bar of common sense Jesus Christ’s statements are those of a fool; but bring them to the bar of faith and the Word of God, and you begin to find with awestruck spirit that they are the words of God.”
“No man is born with character; we make our own character. When the man is born from above a new disposition is given to him, but not a new character; neither naturally nor supernaturally are we born with character. Character is what a man makes out of his disposition as it comes in contact with external things. A man’s character cannot be summed up by what he does in spots, but only by what he is in the main trend of his existence.”
“The Holy Spirit does reveal what is wrong in others, but His discernment is never for purposes of criticism, but for purposes of intercession.”
“Prayer is not only asking, it is an attitude of heart that produces an atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural, and Jesus says, ‘everyone who asks receives.’”
“Fasting is much more than doing without food, that is the least part, it is fasting from everything that manifests itself-indulgence.”
“When we are saved by God’s grace, God puts into us the possibility of not sinning, and our character from that moment is of value to God. Before we were saved we had not the power to obey, but now He has planted in us on the ground of Redemption the heredity of the Son of God, we have the power to obey, and consequently the power to disobey. The walk of a disciple is gloriously difficult, but gloriously certain. On the ground of the perfect Redemption of Jesus Christ, we find that we can begin now to walk worthily.”
“Never trust the best man or woman you ever met; trust the Lord Jesus only. … We are never told to follow in all the footsteps of the saints, but only in so far as they have obeyed God.”