How the indispensable command to preach the third person of the Trinity empowers and breathes life into our churches
O Spirit of the living God, Thou light and fire divine,
Descend upon Thy church once more, and make it truly Thine.
Fill it with love and joy and power, with righteousness and peace;
Till Christ shall dwell in human hearts, and sin and sorrows cease.
Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear,
The language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear;
Till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one,
And earth shall form one family by whom Thy will is done.
—A traditional Welsh hymn by Henry H. Tweedy
More than 50 years of ministry have produced several personal convictions expressed in this hymn and evidenced in Scripture. I want to be frank with you—especially those called to preach the gospel to the church: It is the Holy Spirit or nothing. No salvation; no holiness; no discernment; no power; no prayer; no miracles; no God.
If we are going to preach the gospel, honoring the third person of the Trinity is both necessary and inevitable. He is not just a phantom or an associate God—He is God here, God now, God where it counts. No one is saved without His work of conviction and conversion. No one develops holiness of heart without the Holy Spirit's continuing work. No one is empowered for witness and service apart from Him.
And while more than 150 specific works of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, let's not forget that without the Spirit there would be no Bible—Old Testament or New Testament. R.T. Kendall declares that the Holy Spirit's greatest work is the Bible itself, having inspired those who wrote it.
Second Peter 1:20-21 reminds us: "Above all you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God the message that came from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (NIV).
I was 10 years old when I was born again. I didn't know much except I was a sinner, Jesus loved me and died for me, and He had been raised from the dead to be my living Savior. Other than that, I knew almost nothing.
God knows I tried to be what I wanted to be and knew what He wanted me to be. I was near what I saw as a total failure in my Christian life when God seemed to add insult to injury by calling me to preach as a teenager. I had never heard of the protocol by which a common, ordinary, garden-variety country boy became a preacher.
The pastor of the church we attended helped me when he asked, "Have you been called to preach?" Surprised that he would ask such a question, I quickly answered, "Yes."
But now what? How would I learn to preach? Where would I preach? What would I preach? What about my bashfulness, my fear of people, and especially my fear of crowds and public speaking?
You see, I didn't have slight fears of speaking in public; I was mortally, perspiring-through-my-shirt, knee-shaking afraid. Why would God do this to a country boy who, to say the least, was seriously socially challenged?
But I had another, more serious problem—and didn't even know it at the time: I was a member of a church affiliated with a conservative denomination that laughed at, spoke against and was essentially afraid of the Pentecostal church on the hill of our little village less than a mile away.
We wouldn't be caught dead inside that church, but we did stand outside the brush arbor and watch the entertainment—the bodies falling, rolling and jumping. We joked about the congregation's antics, always mocking among ourselves, "Do you think they'll go to heaven?" and answering our own question with the punch line: "Yeah, if they don't run past it!"
But underneath the jokes was another issue ingrained in my head and heart: My knowledge of the Holy Spirit was next to nothing. The idea of connecting to the Holy Spirit meant a great deal of extracurricular activity that seemed to me insensible, unnecessary and unwelcome.
Sharp Turns Ahead
Well, the country boy traveled to town, still filled with fear and dumb as a duck.
I went through four years of college afraid of relationships, living off campus like a hermit, yet with a consuming desire to excel in the ministry of preaching of which I knew very little. (Fortunately God never calls us based on our knowledge and abilities, but rather His passion to take nothing and make something of it.)
In the beginning of my first year of seminary, I signed up for an elective class on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. In my naiveté, I imagined a day would come when the professor, a much-respected man of God, would say something like, "Now today, young people, we will discuss the filling of the Holy Spirit and how it can happen to you.W" That day never came.
Instead, during three years of seminary, I experienced three years of hoping, searching, digging and anticipating without finding. I remember repeatedly and frequently thinking, There has to be more, there just has to be. I had begun to suspect that the Holy Spirit just might be that missing link.
Fast forward a decade: I had a "successful" ministry, growing church, and rising reputation as pastor and preacher, but still that gnawing feeling—a dark secret in the midst of an otherwise idyllic life.
Finally, a couple of years later, I was wonderfully filled with the Spirit in 1970 at the age of 37—thanks to the influence of a retired Southern Baptist woman missionary. (The details of that story can be found in my first book, The Key to Triumphant Living, as well as in Word Spirit Power: What Happens When You Seek All God Has to Offer written with R.T. Kendall and Charles Carrin.)
The three of us have teamed together for more than 60 Word, Spirit & Power conferences across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The very name of the conferences gives us much freedom to share the whole story of the Trinity—and the scientific axiom always rings true: "The whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts."
At our gatherings, R.T. preaches on the Word, I speak on the Holy Spirit and Charles shares about the power of God. We see great hunger among those who attend for the Word, Spirit and Power to manifest themselves. And though the preaching skills of both R.T. and Charles are superior to mine, I am surely the most fortunate of us since given my "assignment" of the subject of the Holy Spirit.
Preaching on the Holy Spirit
Time and again, Scripture combined with 50 years of ministry experience reaffirm three necessary preparations we must complete before we attempt to tell others about the Holy Spirit.
First, we must be certain we have been born again by the Spirit. Acquaintance with Him is more than an intellectual step; it's a commitment of the will, a surrender of the life, a terminal resolve to follow Jesus and preach what He preached.
Second, we must follow the example of Jesus, who being "full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert" (Luke 4:1).
Paul wrote, "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine ... Instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:17-18). To preach on the Spirit, we must be filled with Him.
Third, we must be empowered by the Spirit. There is no other way. We may be intellectually clear and convincing, but unless we are empowered by the third person of the Trinity, there is no spiritual result.
The Trinity, known in former days as The Great Society, forms the triumvirate through whom the ultimate hope of the world is preached and realized. Anything less than honoring the Holy Spirit along with God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, the Son, will fail to accomplish the desired end of the church.
Perish the thought.
We will succeed as the Holy Spirit is poured out, and the church stands and goes out to cover the earth with the gospel.
Preaching on the Holy Spirit means more than study and convincing rhetoric; it involves an anointing, a special equipping for a special time. So don't leave home without it, don't assume it, and don't allow your character to sink to a level below your anointing.
To clarify the urgency of introducing the Holy Spirit, we should embrace a fact I love to say with boldness: The Holy Spirit is the only God on the planet. The Father, ruling the universe, is in heaven, though living in His own by the Spirit. Jesus is both here and there, but unseen here in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly a subtle fear and lack of understanding of the Holy Spirit has all but paralyzed the modern church and threatens to sabotage the fullness of God's intentions in believers and in the church.
We deal with God through the Spirit—thus when there's no Holy Spirit, there's no business with God. Therefore, honor the Spirit by asking God to help you fall out of fear and into love with Him, the God who is your comforter, guide and enabler. Honor the Spirit by speaking to Him, speaking of Him and speaking for Him. Ask Him to fill you once again, continually and repeatedly. Boldly declare your unashamed allegiance to represent and reveal the whole truth of His presence and power.
Only by preaching on the Holy Spirit—experiencing His redeeming power, miraculous gifts, fruit, kingdom and discerning guidance—will we move toward a clear understanding of God's plan for this world. And only by preaching on the Holy Spirit—giving Him room to accomplish His assignments among us—will the kingdom be brought into focus, ushering in the greatest revival in history. The glorious, undeniable and obvious activity of the Holy Spirit will certify the place of the kingdom and its agenda until the message of the kingdom is preached to all nations, then the end shall come (see Matt. 24:14).
Yearning After the Spirit
Charles Spurgeon had it right when he bluntly called out pastors and churches functioning without the Holy Spirit:
"Death and condemnation to a church that is not yearning after the Spirit, crying and groaning until the Spirit of God has wrought mightily in her midst. He is here; He has never gone back since ... Pentecost. Brethren, if we do not have the Spirit of God, it were better to shut the churches, nail up the doors, put on a black cross and say, 'God have mercy on us!'
"If you ministers have not the Spirit of God, you better not preach and you people better stay at home. I think I speak not too strongly when I say that the church ... without the Spirit of God is rather a curse than a blessing. This is the solemn word: 'The Holy Spirit or nothing ... and worse than nothing!'"
Spurgeon's words provide solemn caution, calling for a rapid return to the balance of the Holy Trinity. Indispensable? Absolutely and unapologetically. Preachers, we must preach with and on the Holy Spirit.
Jack Taylor has been in ministry for nearly 55 years, witnessing various moves of God in revival. He is a frequent speaker in areas in the world where revival has broken out and has a passion to see the church become kingdom-centered and empowered by the Spirit. Taylor has written several books, including The Key to Triumphant Living (B&H Publishing), and his most recent, Word Spirit Power: What Happens When You Seek All God Has to Offer (Chosen Books), co-written by R.T. Kendall and Charles Carrin. Taylor and his wife, Friede, live near Melbourne, Fla.
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