with a passion to worship God,
who care for one another
and bring God’s love into a broken world”
Who of you ever had an experience with the holy Spirit? And what happened? I continue with my series on the Power of the holy Spirit. In this series I look on three metaphors for the holy Spirit: ‘Water, wine and fire’. The metaphors in the bible described to the Spirit, say something specific about the holy Spirit. Last week we looked at ‘water’ as metaphor. From several passages we’ve seen that water as metaphor for the Spirit stands for ‘the presence of God, ‘the healing and cleansing power’ of the holy Spirit and ‘the life, blessing and fertility’ that the Spirit brings to your life.
The holy Spirit to many people is the most ‘unknown Person’ within the trinity of God. In church history, the holy Spirit is even called ‘the forgotten God’. And yet, I belief that many of us to whom the holy Spirit is quite unknown, did have and will have an experience with the holy Spirit. But ‘you don’t know that it is the holy Spirit’. The thing is that you need to learn to recognize the presence or power of God’s Spirit. Studying what the bible say about the holy Spirit is fundamental in learning to recognize the Spirit, but also reading and hearing the stories from others.
Therefore I would like to open up for 1 or 2 testimonies about that question: Who of you ever had an experience with the holy Spirit? And can you tell what happened?
It’s my prayer for this series that God is ‘going to do a new thing’ [Is. 43:19] in terms of the Power of God’s Spirit in our personal lives and within our community. Today I continue with ‘Wine’ as a second metaphor for the holy Spirit.
Reading: Eph. 5:18
Wine & the holy Spirit
Verse 18 stands in the context of some practical guidelines about the Christian life given by Paul to the church in Ephesus. Verse 15 begins with ‘Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise…’.
The call of Paul is to live out your Christian life in a way that ‘pleases the Lord’ (5:10, 17). And thus…‘Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.’
‘Be filled’. Last week I touched on the fact that there is a difference between the Person and Power of the holy Spirit. Whereas you receive the holy Spirit as Person once and for all when you give your life to Jesus, it is the Power of the Spirit that constantly needs to be renewed. What happened in your conversion must be renewed [G. Fee, Paul, the Spirit and the people of God, Ch. 15). The Greek words that is translated with ‘be filled’ [plerousthe] stands in a form that means: a constant, on-going filling. Sometimes people ask me why we emphasis the holy Spirit in our church. It’s a good question and part of the answer is that it is the holy Spirit who is key to the Christian life. Paul would agree on that and here he implicates the need for a constant filling of the Spirit’s power [see also Rom. 8:1-17, Gal. 5:16-22]. As we saw last week, you can simply ask God for the filling of God’s Spirit and he will give you the holy Spirit [Luke 11:13].
‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the holy Spirit’. Paul makes an interesting comparison between ‘wine’ and ‘the holy Spirit’. There is a contrast and a parallel between both. The contrast is clear: if wine takes over the control, it leads to debauchery. Drunkenness brings you to bad places because people do stupid things when they’re drunk. Another reason of making this comparison was that people where used to get drunk on wine in order to receive ‘religious ecstasy’ [see also Is. 28:7-8]. Paul says; you’ve done that and have been there, but now something has changed; you now live up to please Jesus Christ and don’t need wine in order to dwell with God.
Instead they should be filled with the Spirit. The parallel is that Paul seems to say that we should be ‘drunk’ in the holy Spirit [Ouweneel. De Geest van God. Pg. 104]! Just like wine can do certain stuff to us or make us do stupid things, so may the holy Spirit ‘do certain stuff to us’ or make us do ‘weird things’ in the eyes of the people, when He takes control over our lives. ‘Being drunk in the holy Spirit’. It kind of sounds ‘shocking’ and yet, if we look at several passages from the bible, it is not that shocking. A few examples that illustrates this:
In other words, people who are near to God’s presence or are being filled with the holy Spirit may give the impression as if they are drunk [see Peter’s comment in Acts 2:15].
Wine as metaphor for the holy Spirit. But what does it say in particular about the holy Spirit? The picture of ‘wine’ says at least three things about the filling of the holy Spirit.
I will say a few things about those three aspects.
I start with the most challenging one; the holy Spirit and ecstatic experiences. This one is challenging because for many people this is seen as ‘weird’. But we already saw that ‘weird’ things can happen when the holy Spirit takes over control!
In the OT we find several remarkable stories what happened with people when the holy Spirit came over them and took control. A remarkable example is king Saul. Twice he had such an ecstatic experience. The first was beautiful whereas the second was humiliating, but one in which God taught him a lesson [1 Sam. 19:19-24]. I will only show you the first example. The prophet Samuel had anointed Saul to be the new and first king of Israel. He then said: ‘…you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps…and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person’ [1 Sam. 10:5-7, see also 1 Sam. 19:19-24, 2 Chron. 25:3].
Imagine the scene. First, there is this dancing group of prophets. It was a community of prophets under the leadership of Samuel. In the eyes of the people they were kind of ‘weird’ [e.g. 1 Sam. 10:11], and ecstatic experiences seems to be quite normal to them and music played an important role in that. Maybe you could best compare them with the hippies in the sixties. And then there is Saul. As he met the procession of prophets, the holy Spirit literally, took control over Saul. He broke into his life, overwhelmed Him and made him prophesy. In this experience, God gave him a new heart and prepared Saul for his calling as king. Quite a remarkable story don’t you think?
Another example is that of the apostle Paul. Paul also used to have those ecstatic experiences. In 2 Cor. 5:13 he says: ‘if we are out of our mind it is for the sake of God; if we are right in our mind, it is for you’. Paul speaks about ‘being outside oneself’. And that’s what an ecstatic experience is: ‘the state of being out of oneself’. If someone is outside of himself under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that person is taken wherever the drugs or alcohol ‘would want him to be’. Usually bad places. But not so with the holy Spirit. Being outside oneself under the control of the holy Spirit takes you to where God wants you to be. ‘It is for the sake of God’; between you and God. Like Saul was prepared for his calling. Paul gives an example of such an experience in chapter 12: ‘I know a man in Christ [Paul] who…was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows…this man…was caught up in paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell’ [2 Cor. 12:1-4]. See for a similar experience Peter in Acts 10:10.
Again, quite a remarkable experience. But a beautiful one, even though Paul does not exactly know what and how it did happen. But it did happen – and God showed him very specific things. For Paul, ecstatic experiences, is a usual consequence of the filling of God’s Spirit. Maybe you have had those ecstatic experiences as well. I’ve had several of these ecstatic experiences in my life. In most of them God did a work of healing and deliverance, but I am not quite sure what God did in other moments. But whatever it was; it was a case between ‘me’ and ‘God’. Being filled with God’s Spirit leads to supernatural experiences – we should be surprised by it. It is the other way around: we should be surprised by the absence of ecstatic experiences. Why do we hear so less about them? Are we afraid of it? Not familiar with it? What went wrong and how can we restore the work of God’s Spirit in terms of the ecstatic?
And this leads me to the second aspect about what ‘wine’ tell us about the holy Spirit: the release of supernatural gifts. There seems to be a connection between those ecstatic experiences and supernatural gifts, and in particular the gifts of ‘prophecy’ and ‘tongues’. In most of the OT examples the ecstatic experiences relates to prophesy and in the NT to ‘prophecy and tongues’.
Eph. 5:19-20 continues with what the filling of the holy Spirit leads to in terms of corporate worship: ‘Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart, always giving thanks to God the Father…’. In other words, being filled with the holy Spirit leads to spontaneous and Spirit-lead worship. That’s another part of the answer why we welcome the holy Spirit – we want Him to take control! Our challenge is not the planning of the worship service, but the recognition of what the Spirit is doing and to follow Him in what He is doing. Even if that kind of feels uncomfortable and ‘weird’.
Paul e.g. pastored the church in Corinth how to ‘go with to the free flow of God’s Spirit’, but without making the worship service into a cacophony. The problem was that this church loved the anointing of the holy Spirit so much that they forgot what this anointing really is about: the edification of the body [2 Cor. 14:26]. Paul then, instructs the church to bring order in exercising the gifts without losing the spontaneity and free flow of the holy Spirit [1 Cor. 14:39-40]. Instead of forbidding any gifts, he instructs the church how to exercise them. This is important because usually people use the argument to not give space to the manifestations or gifts of the holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, because of ‘orderly worship’. But that’s not Paul’s point when he speaks about ‘orderly worship’.
Paul says ‘For anyone who speaks in a tongue…utters mysteries with his spirit’ and for an outsider it may look like as if that person who speaks in tongues is ‘out of your mind’ [1 Cor. 14:2, 23]. Indeed, speaking in tongues is kind of weird! And thus it needs some instruction; if someone has a prophetic word in a tongue, someone must interpret [1 Cor. 14:27]. Otherwise it makes no sense to speak as no one would understand. But interpretation isn’t needed when you pray or worship in tongues [1 Cor. 14:4, 14], because then you speak to God. Therefore you’re free to express your love or pray to Jesus in tongues as we worship. And if you do have a message for the church in tongues you’re free to share it – and will we pray for interpretation!
The fact is that the holy Spirit releases his supernatural gifts as He takes control, and some of them may look like as if ‘we are drunk’. Especially the more ecstatic ones like ‘prophecy and tongues’. And yet we should ‘eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy’ as Paul says and he would ‘…like every one of you to speak in tongues’ [1 Cor. 14:1, 4-5].
Too bad that there is so much controversy on those two gifts among Christians. And yes, things have gone wrong in exercising those gifts in church history. But the question is: how can we restore those gifts in our personal lives as well as in our corporate worship? It’s my deep desire and prayer that God is going to do a new thing in terms of freedom to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. I would love to see us to become better in ‘going with the free flow of the holy Spirit’ as we worship. Even if that kind of feels uncomfortable and ‘weird’.
Last but not least, the bible makes clear that there is a strong connection between the holy Spirit and the release of extraordinary joy. Just like ‘wine’ can make you a bit ‘woozy’ or ‘tipsy’, makes you laugh and gives you a ‘joyful’ feeling, so does the filling of the holy Spirit leads you into those kind of feelings, but of a different sort. The joy of the holy Spirit is ‘spiritual’ and has the quality of ‘eternity’.
Acts 13:52 ‘…the disciples were filled with joy and with the holy Spirit’
Rom. 15:13: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy…by the power of the holy Spirit’
1 Peter 1:8 ‘you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…’
Revival leaders like John Wesley, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney describe many of the manifestations in their ministry that I emphasized today. Charles Finney e.g. reported that as the holy Spirit moved ‘it was impossible to keep people from laughing’. I’ve had a similar experience a couple of years ago on a Vineyard conference on ‘healing’ – the holy Spirit touched me so powerfully and released a joy within me; I couldn’t stop laughing – it went on for a couple of hours!
But it doesn’t have to be that extreme; the filling of the holy Spirit can release a much quieter sense of inner joy; a sense of happiness. And thus, don’t be surprised when it happens, as you pray in your private life or in corporate worship. Welcome it – it’s the holy Spirit working within you!
Closing – Holy Spirit, take control
I will close off. Paul said to the Corinthians: ‘The spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of prophets’ [1 Cor. 14:32]. In other words; you don’t have to be afraid that the holy Spirit all of a sudden do things to you that you don’t want to do. In the end, you’re in control. The holy Spirit is like a Gentleman or like a Guest.
And yet, the more space you give to the Gentlemen; the more you welcome the Guest; the more He is able to do. We cannot force the holy Spirit; neither can we force his gifts. We can only welcome Him, open up and give Him time and space. We’re not looking after the manifestations or the ecstatic gifts. But we’re looking after the glory of God – and within that give Him all the freedom to do whatever He wants to do in our lives and within our church.
And therefore, be constantly filled with the holy Spirit – reach out for that on-going renewal of His presence and power in your life. Give up that self-control and allow the holy Spirit to take full control! And I strongly believe that this is the call of God for today and for the remainder of your life! There is so much more to discover, so much more to receive, so much more power, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is so much more freedom [2 Cor. 3:17]. But in order to inherit all those blessings you need to give up your self-control. Do it! Give up that self-control and be filled with the holy Spirit!
What is your first thought when I say: ‘holy Spirit!’? Is it like; ‘awesome’? Or; ‘whooopsss…scary!’. Or is it more like: ‘holy…what?’. Today I start with a new series on the holy Spirit. And for most people, the holy Spirit is often the most unknown Person within the trinity of God. In church history the holy Spirit has been called: ‘the God about whom now one writes’ [Gregory of Nazianus, 4th Century] or he is compared with ‘Cinderally, being left alone at home while her two sisters go to the ball’ [VeliMatti Kärkkäinen]. Other theologians called the holy Spirit ‘the forgotten God’.
As for myself; long the holy Spirit remained a vague existence to me. But the more I experienced from the holy Spirit in my journey of faith, and the more I learned about the holy Spirit, the more I realize that I need the holy Spirit and likewise; that we, the church, can’t function at all without the holy Spirit!
In this series I primarily focus on the Power of the holy Spirit. The holy Spirit comes to us in the Bible as a Person and as Power. As Person you may think about passages like John 14:16 where Jesus calls him the ‘Counsellor’. The holy Spirit has a will [John 3:8, 1 Col. 12:11], emotions [Eph. 4:30], leads [Luke 4:1, 14:7], and lives in us [John 14:17]. It’s important to realize that holy Spirit is a Person, for it means that you can get to know Him personally, you can develop a relationship with the Spirit.
But in this series I focus primarily on His Power and do that by emphasizing three metaphors from the Bible that speaks about the Power of the holy Spirit. They are ‘Water, Wine and Fire’. There are more metaphors, like ‘Wind’ and ‘Oil’ and each metaphor says something particular about the holy Spirit.
The simple reason I choose to preach on ‘Water, Wine and Fire’, is that God had laid it on my heart. I belief that God wants to do ‘a new thing’ [Is. 43:19] in terms of these three aspects of the Spirit’s power. I have no idea of how that ‘new thing’ that God will be doing looks like, but I am very open to allow God to do whatever He has in mind.
And encourage you to do the same. Probably you have your own thoughts and theology about the holy Spirit. Maybe you have some fears for the holy Spirit. You’re afraid to lose control. Or you’ve heard or seen weird manifestations described to the Spirit, or ‘charismatic insanity’ and you don’t want to have anything to do with that. Whatever it is, I encourage you to lay it down at the feet of Jesus and be open to receive from God that ‘new thing’ He wants to do among us.
The theme for today is ‘Streams of living Water’ and I will look at the element ‘Water’ as metaphor for the holy Spirit.
Reading: John 7:37-39
Streams of living water
‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink…[and]…streams of living water will flow from within him’. This is the invitation of Jesus. To come and drink. And the promise is that Jesus will satisfy your thirsty soul. The timing of His invitation is significant. It was the ‘last and greatest day’ of one of the Jewish national festivals. Thousands of people had come to Jerusalem to celebrate ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’. To really grasp the depth of Jesus invitation, we need to know a little bit about the background of this feast.
‘The Feast of Tabernacles’ was the greatest feast on the Jewish calendar and the most joyful time of the year. It took place in the fall [September-October] and followed on the most sober day of the year; the day of Atonement.
The background of this feast goes back to time of Moses. In Deut. 16:13-15 God instructed Moses: ‘Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress…the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
On the one hand ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’ was a ‘harvest feast’ and therefore a joyful feast. It involved a lot of dancing and music, people were really excited, loud and rejoicing [Lev. 23:40]. To the other hand, ‘The Feast of Tabernacles’ celebrated God’s provision and care during the time God had led the Israelites through the desert to the Promised land [Lev. 23:43].
Part of the festivity was for the people to live for seven days in self-made booths, just like their ancestors lived in booths as God brought them out of Egypt. It’s to these booths that the ‘Tabernacles’ refers to.
But what makes Jesus invitation really significant is one of the ceremonies in the temple of Jerusalem during the Feast. It was the ‘ceremony of water drawing’. For seven mornings, a priest would go to the spring of Siloam. There he would draw water in a golden bowl and brought it in procession to the temple. In the temple the water was being poured out on the altar. There was music, other priests would blow the Shofar, and in the procession people would quote Is. 12:3: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’!
This whole ceremony symbolized several things. Agriculturally it symbolized thanksgiving for the rain poured out over the last season and a prayer for the autumn and winter rains for the new season. Spiritually, it symbolized the provision of the Lord God in water being poured out from the rock during Israel’s journey through the desert [e.g. Ex. 17:6, Numb. 20:8-11]. And then there was the prophetic meaning: it symbolized the coming of God’s kingdom! Zechariah prophesied ‘…the Lord my God will come…On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem…The Lord will be king over the whole earth.’ [Zech. 14:8].
7 days a priest had poured out water on the altar, but now, on this last day, when no water was being poured out, Jesus announces; now the day has come - living water will flow out from Jerusalem! In fact, Jesus himself is the fulfilment of the prophecy; living water will flow from the one who stands in Jerusalem: Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God! Come and drink and the water I give brings life to the soul! And by this Jesus meant the holy Spirit.
Water as metaphor of the holy Spirit. And what does ‘water’ say about the holy Spirit?
I will show you a number of passages that each describes ‘water’ as metaphor for the holy Spirit. I will not be able to go deeply into these passages but you can study them at home if you want to.
In the OT there is a great number of these passages. Is 44:3 e.g. ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.’ Here we see a clear connection between water, in the form of rain, and the holy Spirit. Just like water is poured out and falls on the land, so is the holy Spirit poured out and falls on God’s children. The effect will be the same; what water does to the thirsty land is what the Spirit does to people: fruit and growth [Is. 44:4]!
And what does the metaphor of ‘water’ say in particular about the holy Spirit? 3 examples.
Each of these passages refer to the Spirit of God, the holy Spirit. The holy Spirit is the blessing in itself [Gal. 3:14] and brings blessing wherever he is being poured out; ‘showers of blessing’!! Again we see the connection with the ceremony of water drawing during the Feast of Tabernacles. The autumn, winter and spring rains where crucial for a fruitful harvest. The people really needed these rains and thus this prayer and the symbolism behind the ceremony was really important. And just like the earth needs the autumn rain, so does your life needs the rain of the holy Spirit! It is crucial for a fruitful and blessed life!
The meaning of the words of Jesus appears to be that when anyone comes to believe in Jesus, these passages referring to the holy Spirit are fulfilled! When the Rain of heaven is poured out, dry and weary souls are made fertile!! Wherever the River of life streams, blessing flows; yes, the streams of living water is the flow of eternal life running through your soul [e.g. John 4:10, 13]!
This is the invitation, this is the promise and this is the power of the holy Spirit! An abundance of spiritual blessing. Pretty amazing isn’t it – and nothing to be afraid of! The only thing that you need to realize is that this is ‘not a one-time invitation’. A life overflowing is the fruit of an intimate and personal relationship with God the Father, the Son and the holy Spirit. In other words; you need to keep drinking from that fountain of life [Ps. 36:9].
And that’s the point about ‘The power of the holy Spirit’. You need to be powered up, time and again, every day. As Person, the holy Spirit will always be within you – he is given ‘once and for all’.
But just like a battery needs to be recharged, so do you need to be recharged with the Spirit’s power and presence or anointing. The way to ‘plug in’ and be ‘recharged’ is ‘prayer’; to ask God for a recharge.
Trickling water or river deep?
Jesus makes that clear in Luke 11:13, and I will close off with it. ‘If you then..., know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask Him?’ [Luke 11:13].
That Jesus not [only] speaks about the Spirit as Person, but [also] as Power is clear from the context. Jesus gives an example of a son who asks his father for daily food. Just as the son needs daily food and the father will give him daily food, so will the Father in heaven give you the holy Spirit daily when you ask him.
The God whom we worship is a generous God. He desires to ‘give’ and to always give more; showers of blessing. But you need to ask for it; for the God whom we worship seeks relationship with you. In terms of the holy Spirit: you can and should always ask God for more of his holy Spirit, simply because you need Him just as you need your daily food.
Jesus talked about ‘streams of living water that will flow from within you’. The question is: is that really true in your life? And is that stream ‘river deep’ [Ez. 47]? You’re full of the Spirit, the Lord comes to you with those showers of blessing and you have that inner peace and joy that satisfies your soul? Is that stream ‘river deep’?
Or is it lacking. And the presence of God’s Spirit is far from a stream and is He more like trickling water? You’re empty and dried up. You’ve lost that inner peace and joy. Or maybe you’re a Christian, but the holy Spirit is like ‘the forgotten God’ to you. You’ve never realized that you can be filled and filled and filled and filled again with His power. ‘Come and drink’, says Jesus!
Or maybe the holy Spirit is totally absent in your life – you’ve never received the holy Spirit! Maybe your life is like a wilderness and your heart a wasteland, or – as the popular song says: your ‘heart is a ghost town’ [A. Lambert]! You’ve been looking on so many places for ‘that one thing’ that can satisfy your life. But you haven’t found it.
Here is the good news: Jesus wants to make your heart a ‘holy Ghost town’! The holy Spirit is waiting to make your heart his home and live in it, to turn wilderness into beauty and wasteland into paradise. ‘Come and drink!’ Give your heart to Jesus – don’t look any further, for he’s that place of trust [see lyrics ‘ghost town’]. Put your faith in Jesus and streams of living water that truly satisfies your soul will flow from within you!
Whether the ‘streams of living water’ in your life is river deep, or like trickling water or totally absent; God invites you today to drink from the well of salvation and do it again tomorrow and the day after! Ask God - to swim river deep, in that stream of life, of blessing and of renewal. The river of God’s Spirit.
From the story in which Peter encountered the risen story I will look at ‘power to forgive’. Forgiveness as culture in God’s kingdom, as a necessity and release, restoration and reconciliation as result of forgiveness. The teaching of Jesus on forgiveness is radical and it’s certainly not easy to put into practice. It takes courage and humility. And yet it’s one of the most powerful steps we can take!
I am moving in my third message on ‘God at War’. In 4 messages I look at ‘the reality of evil’ from a biblical and kingdom perspective. And by doing so, I hope and pray that it will equip and empower us to take our position as Christians, in a world that is filled with evil.
Today I continue with our series ‘God at War’. From a biblical and Kingdom perspective I would like to look at ‘the reality of evil’. As someone said: ‘There seems to be more pain and misery, injustice and violence in this world than love, prosperity, justice and joy’ (Boyd G. God at War. Pg. 36). The earth is a battlefield, full of suffering and satanic evil. And how are we, as Christians, to respond to all that evil? That’s the fundamental question behind this series.