Clothed with Power from on High: Not Just a Thing of the Past
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon (clothed) 120 men, women and children in the Upper Room. Suddenly, and without warning, a noise came like a violent rushing wind that filled the whole house. Right after this manifestation of the Spirit, the book of Acts tell us that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire” which rested on each of them. Before the sun set on that day 3000 baptized believers were added to the church.
Jesus was introducing His Spirit to the church and it rocked the world as mankind knew it! Thus was the first church in earth born!
“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:33
People could “see and hear” the outpouring: wind, fire, tongues, worship and fruit!
Many watching that day thought that the 120 were simply “drunk on cheap wine”, even though it was only 9 a.m. They did not see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Others were “amazed and astonished” and pierced to the heart. They knew that behind the obvious physical manifestations that the invisible hand of God was at work. ”Brothers, what must we do to be saved,” they cried out!
No one can really argue that God is NOT a wonderful, powerful, supernatural God! Really, there is pretty much universal acceptance that God can be “Other-Worldly” and move in mysterious ways. The problem occurs when He so chooses to pour out His Holy Spirit in these days… amongst our friends, co-workers and children. Fire, shaking, laughing, electricity, rocking, etc. It is so much easier to believe in a Jesus who does such wonderful, mysterious things in the past and we can keep them at arm’s length today.
Why Would God Do That?!?!
I remember the first time I ever saw someone “manifesting” a spiritual manifestation.
Maria and I and our new born daughter, Patricia, were living in Budapest, Hungary in 1990. We were set to host a YWAM conference in Budapest with about 1000 attendees from different east European countries. We had invited a group of Vineyard pastors from the USA to lead the meetings. One day, as we gathered for prayer before the conference, one of the Vineyard pastors said his thumb was “twitching” and that he felt it meant that God wanted to do “so and so”. My immediate reaction was “WHAT the … ?!?” but I respected these men’s integrity and passion for Jesus so I “went along” with it.
A few years later I found myself at the first Catch the Fire Conference in Toronto, Canada in 1994. We were living in Boston at that time and I went with a two pastors and a friend. I experienced there much of what the 120 experienced that day in Jerusalem so long ago… wind, fire, shaking, laughter and drunkenness.
Fast Forward to 2009
This November (11.11.09) in Kansas City, the IHOP-U (International House of Prayer University) campus experienced a powerful awakening sparked by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with many of the same unusual manifestation. My (now twenty year old) daughter found herself right in the midst of a Student Awakening at the IHOP-U. Like father, like daughter… I guess!!
Now, just last week (12.31.09) a group of about 20 young people from our local area, including my two oldest sons, came back fired up from experiencing this awakening themselves at IHOP. Many were touched by the Spirit as Jesus poured out that which was both “seen and heard” by men. Laughter, shaking, fire, crying, shouting… Like father, like sons!
Jesus once again introducing the Holy Spirit to the world!
History Repeats Itself
Although much of the early church and church history bears witness to multiple outpourings down through the centuries, it is often the first choice of many of us to be skeptical, if not cynical. But manifestations of the Holy Spirit have been experienced by countless thousands throughout the ages.
”Time will fail me if I tell of” the powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit as experienced by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield in the Great Awakening in USA or the holy laughter that fell on John and Charles Wesley in Great Britain. On one day in Germany in 1727 a revival broke out so strong among Count Zinzendorf and the Moravian refugees living with him that they ever after called it “The Golden Summer.” Many Moravian missionaries were sent overseas as a result of that outpouring.
Later in the early 1800’s, Peter Cartwright and the Cane Ridge revival broke out in Kentucky. They experienced a visitation from God that caused wide spread revival in the region. During those camp meetings people would fall out in the Spirit and find themselves covered with dirt and mud, “swooning” as they called it then.
The ministry of Charles Finney in the mid-1800’s is yet another example. Finney wrote that after he testified about his experience of being baptized in the Spirit, a normally serious elder of his church “fell into a most spasmodic laughter. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart.” (Finney, The Autobiography of Charles Finney)
All of these movements were full of manifestations of the power of God. Most of them were similar to today’s holy laughter, shaking, heat, falling, and the like. At Azusa Street in California in 1906 people would have to “step over” people laid out by the Spirit to even get in the front door. Jonathan Edwards’ wife, Susan, would be overcome by the Spirit and be out cold for 12 hours at a time.
You can be sure that each of these movements had their detractors – a.k.a. as the “cold water brigade”! Even your own most favorite movement/revival has had messy areas of controversy and conflict. These awakenings are not nearly so “neat and tidy” as we like to imagine. Remember, Jesus physically blew on His disciples so that they could receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
If you are in the “midst of a storm” right now, be excited, because you are in good company!
Why We Struggle with Manifestations?
God is very comfortable using the visible world – that which we can see, hear and feel – to express and even illustrate His spiritual Kingdom. He anoints our flesh and we then express His Spirit. Herein lies the risk of faith!
#1. A Spirit-filled life leads to being “beside ourselves” at times and that is often misunderstood by others just watching.
Paul had to convince the Corinthian church that when he was “beside himself” – as they probably derisively told him – it was nothing more than the Holy Spirit moving strongly on him. He calmly told that that it was “before the Lord” that he let himself drink in what God was pouring out. He was not putting himself on “show”. When he acted sanely, properly and in control it, then that was for the people.
Here is that verse in its context:
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us… Therefore, from now on, we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. (2 Cor. 5:13-16)
We must also walk in this truth, that we are not to know each other any longer according to the flesh but only according to the spirit. This is hardest to walk out with those we know that best and we can easily fall into faulty and flawed judgment. WHY?? Because it takes faith to see the spirit.
It is so easy to do and just about guaranteed to happen because even Jesus offended people in His hometown and amongst his own household.
2. Overt manifestations can expose the spirit of religion.
There is no greater scene of this in the Bible than David and Michal (2 Sam 6). This is the famous scene were David is dancing “before the Lord with all his might” bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, wearing nothing but a linen ephod. His wife (watching from a distance behind the widow curtain) judges him and scorns his “passion for the Lord”. Even while David is returning to his own home to bless his household in the excitement and power of that moment, Michal despises him in her heart and accuses and questions David’s motives. Her heart was bitter and cutting.
Instead of receiving David’s blessing she receives God’s judgment: Michal’s womb was from that moment barren.
God will at times send us the “wind of the Spirit” to blow on us and, by that, separate those whose hearts are not right. It is a well-repeated saying but I use it again here for those for whom it might be new: “God will offend your mind to reveal what is in your heart.”
The Holy Spirit comes down to us like the wind. Wind can be a powerful force. There is also great variety in the wind. It may be a soft whisper gently rustling the leaves on the trees, or it may be a hurricane uprooting trees. I am adamant that we need wisdom and not just “heat without light” (to reuse a phrase from the outpouring in Edwards’ day) but I believe that we also need to be not SO cautious as to offend and quench the Holy Spirit as He “clothes us with power from on high” and makes visible the invisible heart of God!
One parting thought:
When we say that Jehovah God is the God of Abraham and Isaac remember that Isaac means “laughter”. Sarah laughed, after all, for she was 90 years old and Abraham nearly 100! Sometimes what is burning on God’s heart is simply uncontrollable laughter.
Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” Gen 21:6
Yours in His Mighty Name,
For further reading on the experiences of A.W. Tozer, E.M. Bounds, A.B. Simpson, Praying John Hyde, Oswald Chambers, the Welsh revival of 1904 and Evan Roberts go to: http://www.allianceacademicreview.com/1998/AAR1998-6King.php