Are you afraid of the Holy Spirit?

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Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (Acts 19:2)

What a wild question. These were the apostle Paul’s opening words upon being introduced to a new group of  Jesus followers. It’s a different kind of question.

Think about the questions most 21st century Christians ask when they meet a “disciple” for the first time. What church do you go to? What authors do you read? Are you reformed? Pre-trib? Complementarian? What’s your position on eternal security?

And then we have Paul: Did you receive the Spirit?

Why don’t we talk like that?

I bet he knew something we don’t know. Or forgot. Or ignore.

Might I suggest that the reason he is talking like this in Acts 19 is because of the life-altering experience of Acts 1-18. This was not a theory for Paul. This was not an abstract theology. This was his experience. And right at the center of this soul-morphing Gospel experience was a very intimate relationship with God the Holy Spirit.

I continue to hear various Bible teachers go out of their way to dissuade people from using the book of Acts as any kind of an example for us to follow. There is only one true example, the reasoning goes, and that would be Jesus. There will never be a golden age for the people of God until Jesus returns and makes all things new, so don’t get your hopes up. The argument has a ring of wisdom to it, but it simply does not stand up to the test of Scripture. I cannot believe that the book of Acts is to be read as just another example of the actions of  another group of fallen, wretched sinners. To the contrary, it is a case study, perhaps an invitation, to experience what they experienced.

And they experienced the Holy Spirit.

It seems that even mere mortals can live beyond themselves when they are in relationship with God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Does this frighten you?

When you read through Acts there are no guarantees or formulas, because things change from chapter to chapter. But this book is absolutely a snapshot of people becoming “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world.” (2 Peter 1:4) These early disciples were not perfect, but they were fruitful, effective, and different.

I want more different.

And even though most people I talk to would agree, when the rubber meets the road of their faith, they tend to opt out of the Spirit and settle for the natural. Predictable.

I get it. I really do. But I dare you to get hungry enough to go all the way with God.

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Are you afraid of the Holy Spirit? Cautious? Hungry? Open? Closed? Confused?

This week we will search the Scriptures, make much of Jesus, and hopefully take a step forward in experiencing the Promise of our Father. Post your questions below, and I will be doing a live Q&A (in person and online) this Wednesday night at 7PM to address all questions related to the doctrine and experience of the Spirit.

Start with why

Why?I’m thinking about the Why? question this morning.

Everywhere I turn I hear another mission statement for some group.  “This is what we are about.”  Even when you meet new people, the first thing you hear about is what they do for a living. It’s not that what is not important; it’s just that what never clicks until you hit the why.

Why is like fuel.

One of the most famous stories in Hebrew Scripture is about a little guy named David that takes down a big giant named Goliath. That’s the what. Everybody knows the story. But the question is why?

Great stories always start with why.

What we find behind-the-scenes is an errand boy bringing some food to his older brothers serving in the army of the king. When he arrives the whole camp is shaking in their boots. Goliath is taunting and the people of God are afraid.  So David shows up wide-eyed and fired up, fully assuming that someone is going to step up to the plate and take out the pagan bully. To his surprise, there are no volunteers, only excuses.  When he calls his brothers on the carpet, they try to shut him up and send him away, but they only stir his passion further. Finally, he utters the kind of words that have the chemistry to change history:

Is there not a cause?

And the rest is history. Give me a man with a cause over a man with a skill any day of the week, because a man with a why will always find a way. Give me a woman with a cause over a woman with a mission statement. Give me a student with a cause over a student with “potential”.

Your cause answers your why question. Your cause addresses the holy sense of discontent that God uses like a clue for your call.

What drives you crazy? What is it that you simply cannot overlook? What injustice is too much to bear? What potential, if left unrealized, won’t let you sleep? It’s a clue. Are you searching for your purpose? Chances are, it is wrapped around the why question. And the answer to that why is loaded with some of your deepest frustration.

But it’s also confirmed with some of your deepest joy.

So go for it. Do the hard work of the soul and get down to the why?

Are you tired of growing weary? Start with why? Are you sick of going in circles?  Figure out the why? Are you fed up with fruitless meetings? Begin with why? Is your business stagnating? Get back to the why? Are your employees underperforming? Communicate the why? Are your students bored with your lesson? Serve up some why? Is your marriage in a rut? Rediscover the why? Are you considering marriage? Identify the why? (And please don’t tell me your why is “it’s better to marry than to burn.”)

Why?

Write it down. Talk to God. Journal about it. Dialogue with your team about it.

And THEN you’ll be ready to answer the what question. But a what without a why will eventually suck the life right out of you.

Look at Jesus. Why would he live the kind of life we should have lived and die the kind of death we should have died? “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) We were his why.

Go get your why.