On Eagles Wings Ministries
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Let us consider two further ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer: daily guidance in the path of God’s will, and the impartation of life and health to the believer’s physical body.
The first of these ministries, daily guidance, is described by Paul.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Rom. 8:14).
It is important to see that Paul here uses a continuing present tense: “as many as are [being regularly] led by the Spirit of God.” He is not talking about a few isolated experiences but about an ongoing way of life.
Many professing professing Christians, even among those who have been truly born again, do not attach sufficient importance to these words of Paul. They tend to place their whole emphasis on certain one-time experiences, such as the new birth or the baptism in the Holy Spirit, on which they base their claim to be considered professing Christians. It is certainly important to emphasise these decisive experiences, but not to the point where no mention is made of the need to walk daily in the grace of God.
In order to become a true Christians, a person must be born again of the Spirit of God. In order to become an effective witness for Jesus, a person must be baptised in the Holy Spirit. But the work of the Holy Spirit should never end there. In order to live daily as a Christians, a person must be led by the Spirit.
The new birth transforms sinners into children of God. But it requires the continual leading of the Holy Spirit to make children into mature sons.
In Romans 8:14 Paul takes for granted the two preliminary experiences of being born of the Holy Spirit and baptised in the Holy Spirit. He points out, however, that the only way to achieve spiritual maturity and success in daily Christians living is to depend upon the Spirit for moment-by-moment direction in every aspect of life. Only this will make it possible for the Holy Spirit to accomplish all the purposes for which He actually came to indwell the believer. This is in harmony with Paul’s comments.
For we are His workmanship, created in Jesus Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).
As believers, Paul teaches, we are created anew by God through our faith in Jesus. Thereafter, to continue in the Christians life, we do not have to plan our own ways and activities. On the contrary, the same God who first foreknew us and then created us anew in Jesus also prepared from before the foundation of the world the good works which it was His will for each one of us to accomplish as professing Christians.
Therefore, we do not plan our own good works, but we seek to discover and then enter into the good works God has already planned for us. Here the guidance of the Holy Spirit becomes essential for each Christians. For it is the Holy Spirit who first reveals and then leads us into God’s plan for our lives.
Unfortunately, many professing Christians today have reversed this process. They first plan their own ways and their own activities, and then they say some kind of perfunctory prayer asking God to bless those activities. In reality, almighty God will never allow His approval or blessing to become a mere rubber stamp superimposed upon plans and activities concerning which His counsel has never been sincerely sought.
This error is common not only in the lives of individual professing Christians, but also in the activities of churches and other Christians organisations. Countless hours of labour and vast sums of money are squandered and lost, without any enduring fruit, simply because the counsel of God was never sincerely sought before these various activities were initiated.
In fact, in many Christians circles today, the greatest enemy of true spirituality and fruitfulness is time-consuming, sweat-producing activity labelled “Christians” in name but lacking the divine inbreathing and directing of the Holy Spirit.
The end products of all such activity are “wood, hay, straw” – all of which will be consumed, without residue or remainder, in the fire of God’s final judgement upon His people’s works (see 1 Cor. 3:12).
In contrast, one of the distinguishing marks of the New Testament church is the direct, continued, supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit in all its activities. Out of many possible examples of this in the book of Acts, let us consider one very characteristic incident from Paul’s second missionary journey, on which he was accompanied by Silas.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10).
In considering this passage, we must bear in mind that Paul and Silas in their missionary undertaking were fulfilling the direct commission of Jesus to His disciples.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:19).
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
Notice how all-inclusive this commission is: “all the nations . . . every creature.”
In fulfilment of this commission, Paul and Silas had been preaching in Phrygia and Galatia – in the central part of what we today call Asia Minor. Their next obvious move would have been into the province of Asia, on the western edge of Asia Minor. However, the record of Acts says, “They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” As a result, they moved to the north of Asia, into Mysia.
From here, their next obvious move would have been northeast into Bithynia. However, at this point Acts records: “They tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:7).
Both of the obvious doors of evangelisation – into Asia on the one side and into Bithynia on the other side – were closed to them by the direct, explicit decree of the Holy Spirit.
Doubtless, Paul and Silas began to wonder what God’s plan for them could be or what course they should follow next. But at this point Paul had a vision in the night of a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v. 9). Without further question, they immediately realised that God was directing them to Macedonia – in the northern part of Greece and the southeastern corner of Europe. In this way the gospel was first brought out of Asia into Europe.
As we now look back over nineteen subsequent centuries of church history, we realise the decisive part played by the church in Europe, first in preserving the truth of the gospel and then in actively disseminating that truth throughout the rest of the world. We can understand, therefore, why, in the wisdom and foreknowledge of God, it was of the utmost urgency and importance that the gospel should, thus early, be planted in Europe by Paul himself, the chief apostle to the Gentiles.
However, Paul and Silas knew nothing of the course that history would take in the next nineteen centuries. Therefore, their taking of this epoch-making step into Europe was made possible solely through the supernatural revelation and direction of the Holy Spirit. If they had not been open to the Spirit’s guidance, they would have missed God’s plan, both for their own lives and also for the whole work of the gospel.
God’s supernatural direction of Paul through the Holy Spirit at this point is made all the more remarkable when we consider certain subsequent phases of Paul’s missionary activity.
Here in Acts 16 we read that Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in the province of Asia, and therefore he journeyed past Asia and on into Europe. Yet in Acts 19 we read how Paul returned some time later to Ephesus, which was the main city of the province of Asia, and how there developed out of his preaching one of the greatest and most extensive revivals ever recorded in his whole ministry.
And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10).
Surely this is worthy of our careful consideration. Earlier Paul had not been allowed by the Holy Spirit even to enter Asia or to speak to a single soul there. Now, returning there at God’s appointed time and under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Paul witnessed such an impact through the preaching of the gospel that every single human dwelling in the entire province came to hear the testimony of Jesus.
On the basis of these facts, we may form two conclusions: 1) If Paul had entered Asia on his first visit, contrary to the Spirit’s direction, he would have encountered nothing but frustration and failure. 2) By visiting Asia prematurely, before the Spirit led him there, Paul could easily have hindered, or even totally prevented, the subsequent mighty move of God’s Spirit which he was privileged to witness on his later visit.
What a lesson there is here for all who seek to preach the gospel or to witness for Jesus in any way! In every course of proposed activity, there are two factors of related importance which we must take into account: 1) the place, 2) the time.
In this, the revelation of Scripture anticipates the basic inclusion of the modern scientific theory of relativity: that we can never accurately specify place unless we also specify time. These two are interrelated and can never be separated.
This same truth was stated many centuries ago by Solomon.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1).
It is not enough merely to do the right thing or to have the right purpose. In order to enjoy success and the blessing of God, we must do the right thing at the right time, and we must carry out the right purpose at the right season. When God says, “Now,” it is vain for man to say, “Later.” And when God says, “Later,” it is vain for man to say, “Now.”
It is the God-appointed ministry of the Holy Spirit to reveal to the church not merely the right thing or the right purpose, but also the right time and the right season. Many sincere and well-meaning professing Christians who have not learned to make room for the guidance of the Holy Spirit encounter continual frustration in their lives simply through seeking to do the right thing at the wrong time and to carry out the right purpose at the wrong season. In this connection, the prophet Isaiah poses a very searching question.
Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counsellor has taught Him? (Is. 40:13).
Yet this is just what many professing Christians are doing today: They are seeking to direct the Spirit of the Lord and to act as counsellor to the Holy Spirit. They plan their own activities, conduct their own services and then tell the Holy Spirit just what, when and how they expect Him to bless. In how many congregations today is there any real room left for the Holy Spirit either to direct or to intervene?
The result of this wrong attitude toward the Holy Spirit can be summed up in one word: frustration.
Such believers may have a genuine experience of the new birth and even of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They may be perfectly sincere in their profession of faith in Jesus. Nevertheless, in their daily lives they lack either victory or fruitfulness because they have overlooked this one cardinal rule of Christians living: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
Life for the Whole Person
The continual guidance of God in the life of the believer opens the way for yet another provision of His Spirit: overflowing life for his whole personality. The relationship between God’s guidance and this all-sufficient life is described beautifully in Isaiah.
The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail (Is. 58:11).
Isaiah depicts a person so continually guided by God that he has within him a spring of life which overflows throughout his whole personality, refreshing and renewing both his soul and his body.
In the New Testament Paul traces this overflowing life to its source: the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer.
[Jesus Jesus was] declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).
It was the “Spirit of holiness” – a Hebraic expression for “the Holy Spirit” – who raised up the dead body of Jesus from the grave, thus vindicating His claim to be the Son of God. The Holy Spirit will perform the same ministry for every believer whom He indwells.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom. 8:11).
This ministry of the Holy Spirit will receive its full and final outworking at the first resurrection, when He will raise up the righteous dead with the same kind of immortal body that Jesus already has.
He [God] who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you (2 Cor. 4:14).
However, this ministry of the Holy Spirit to the believer’s body also has an intermediate application in the present age. Even now the Spirit of God, indwelling the believer, imparts to his physical body a measure of divine life and health sufficient to arrest and exclude the satanic inroads of disease and infirmity. This is the supreme purpose for which Jesus came.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).
It has been said that the first portion of divine life comes through the new birth, but the overflowing of life more abundant comes through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. It is God’s purpose, even in the present age, that this divine, overflowing, abundant life shall suffice not merely for the spiritual needs of the inward man – man’s spiritual nature – but also for the physical needs of the outer man – man’s physical body.
In this present age the believer has not yet received his resurrection body, but he already enjoys resurrection life in a mortal body.
Paul depicts this miracle of resurrection life in a mortal body against a background of tremendous pressures, both physical and spiritual.
We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor. 4:8-11).
What wonderful words! The very life of Jesus is to be manifested – its presence is to be demonstrated by the visible effects which it produces “in our body.” For the sake of emphasis Paul says this twice, but the second time he speaks of “our mortal flesh.” By this phrase he eliminates any interpretation which might seek to apply his words to a future state of the body after resurrection. He is talking about our present physical body. In the midst of all the pressures that come against it – both natural and satanic – it is sustained by an inner life which cannot be defeated.
This manifestation of the mighty, victorious, supernatural life of the risen Jesus in the believer’s body is not reserved merely for the resurrection, but it is to be effective even now while we still continue “in our mortal flesh.” The open manifestation of Jesus’s life in our body here and now is the basic, scriptural principle of divine healing and divine health.
Central to this ongoing miracle is a paradox that runs through the whole Bible: Death is the gateway to life. In each place where Paul testifies to the manifestation of Jesus’s life, he first speaks of identification with His death: “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.”
Jesus did not die a natural death; He died by crucifixion. To be identified with Him is to be crucified with Him. But out of crucifixion comes resurrection to an inner life that owes no further debt to sin or to Satan, to the flesh or to the world.
Paul presents both the negative and the positive side of this exchange.
I have been crucified with Jesus; it is no longer I who live, but Jesus lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
The same process of crucifixion that ends our frail, transient life in this world opens the way for a new life that is the life of God Himself, taking up residence in a vessel of clay. The vessel is still as frail as ever, but the new life in it is undefeatable and inexhaustible.
As long as this present world order continues, however, there will always be an ongoing tension between the frailty of the flesh and the new life in the Spirit.
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
The physical body is still subject to sickness and decay from without, but the resurrection life from within has power to hold them at bay until the believer’s life task is complete. After that, as Paul says, “to depart and be with Jesus . . . is far better” (Phil. 1:23).