A Journey Thru Acts 31: The Holy Spirit 3 (8:9-25)
Two posts ago we began digging into Acts 8:9-25—early Christians understood clearly their daily need & dependence on the Holy Spirit. We looked at one current extreme of many Christians’ view of theHolySpirit—under-emphasizing Him, treating Him like a hood ornament on a car (nice but not necessary to drive), treating the Christian life as if we’re rowboats—more effort alone, we only go as far as we can row (instead of being sailboats where we work hard but to open the sails so the Holy Spirit powers us).
Last post we began looking at the other extreme of many Christians’ view of the Holy Spirit—over-emphasizing Him & giving Him attributes we don’t see in the Bible, thinking that once you have the Holy Spirit you “graduate” from needing God’s Word. We looked at the Bible’s teaching on false prophets/teachers & the fact that some of them can actually do some miracles, but they aren’t filled with the Holy Spirit & we are to not listen to them if their teaching isnt in-line with God’s Word.
So this post we’ll continue to look at this extreme of over-emphasizing the Holy Spirit, thinking that He is all about giving us physical feelings & experiences that appeal to our eyes.
2nd Main Point: Don’t Look To The Holy Spirit
To Keep You On A Constant “God-High”
Our sinfulness is an idol-factory: we turn good/beautiful gifts from God & make them god in our lives. We are naturally as skilled at worshiping idols—“turning even good things into ultimate things” (Tim Keller)—as the best athletes are naturally good at a sport: we idolize effortlessly, we don’t even realize we are doing it, we make it look easy.
And so it is with feelings/emotions: the Holy Spirit DOES provide heightened feelings of the presence of God, there are times when the Holy Spirit does “shed abroad the love of God in our hearts,” (Romans 5:5) & if you’ve ever felt close to the LORD when considering the manger, the Cross & the empty tomb, if you’ve ever experienced the Presence of the Holy Spirit when He convicts you of your sin & shows you the wretchedness of your heart without surrender to Christ Jesus, and when He then shows you the necessity & beauty of the suffering of the Son of God in your place, you know how this can feel!
But we are not to seek/crave these feelings;
we are to seek the LORD.
So much today is about feelings: how do you feel, what are your felt needs, we often don’t say, “what do you think about that?”; we say, “how do you feel about that?”
With more information than at any other time in human history, we aren’t a thinking society but a culture of passions/feelings—that is why we are so quick to get in a rage on social media over a sentence that someone says without usually investigating & understanding the entire situation in context. We simply react on our feelings, and we don’t allow anyone to critique how we feel: we can criticize facts, but feelings are a holy grail that no one is allowed to ever question/critique.
Feelings often equal & alter facts instead of vice-versa.
Many celebrities have “hangers-on”, sycophants, an entourage, some who hang out with the celebrity NOT necessarily because they love the celebrity but because they love “celebrity,” they love the trappings that come w/being around someone popular/ powerful/famous/influential. There is a feeling to this, and it is often a pleasant even intoxicating feeling, like people fainting in the presence of Elvis or the Beatles.
- Like going over to a friend’s house simply because they have a sweet t.v. or swimming pool…we can use God & idolize the gifts that He gives us & the feelings He sometimes gives us while paying no attention to the LORD Himself; this is shown when a person stops following Christ in hard times. This is just as bowing down to a gold statue of a Hindu god.
Like 2,500 years ago we often follow/believe/worship whatever we feel will give us the results we want–instead we are to seek the Cause not the effect…
Jeremiah 44:16-18:16“We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! 17We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven&will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food&were well off and suffered no harm. 18But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.”
[“While we worshipped idols life was easy, we got the results we were looking for, and when we started to repent of our sinfulness & turn back to the LORD, our lives got more difficult, our pleasant feelings/desirable results went away! So we’re done with the LORD, we’re going back to what makes us feel good today…”
Wow. We probably aren’t as bold/honest to say this to the LORD’s face, but that is how we act in our beliefs & weekly/yearly schedules, especially when we begin to suffer for following the Lord Jesus…
We’re the “pragmatic generation”—if it works/gets results we want, we‘ll live by it (& slap Bible verses on to calm our guilt/convince us God is cool with it). The Lord Jesus warns that some who hear the Gospel initially receive it with joy & are excitedly involved but when suffering comes they fall away to other gods & never return (Luke 8:13-14)]
Here’s another example of this from Genesis 15:1-3:
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
[Not, “I will give you a shield & a great reward…I AM your shield & great reward.”]
2But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
[Immediately after this promise, Abram wants something else, something more.
He wants God to give him a WHAT, when the LORD has given him a Who—Himself.]
Luke 23:6-11: On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.
Herod wanted to see the Lord Jesus, not to exalt Him, but to be entertained by Him. Not to be humbled, but to be amused, not to worship Him, but just to watch. And when Christ Jesus didn’t give Herod what he wanted, Herod mocked & ridiculed Him and sent Him away.
We must be careful that we don’t treat the Lord Jesus the same way (& repent to Him when we do), as a genie in a bottle to fulfill our dreams, to give us what we think we deserve/need/want. God the Father has given us His Son; nothing better, no salt or sugar is needed to or can improve the flavor of the Bread of Life.
“The person who has God & everything else
has no more than the person who only has God” (C.S. Lewis).
Matthew 12:38-41: 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him,
“Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
“Give us miracles, stimulate our lustful physical senses (instead of resurrecting our dead faith), make us feel, amaze our eyes, give us goose bumps, prove Yourself to us according to what WE say is proof, play by our rules, let us control You, come down from the Cross & THEN we’ll believe!”
This is what the man in hell said to Abraham in Luke 16:27-31:
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
[They have God’s Word; if they reject Scripture their hearts will not truly be changed by a miracle…they need a new heart not more proof for their eyes]
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them,
they will repent.’
[If the miracle is amazing enough, that will change them!]
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses & the Prophets,
they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
[No, an amazing miracle for their physical eyes will not be enough to bring their dead hearts to repentance & surrender…they cannot “good feeling” their way to heaven…]
Oh loved ones, please be patient with my following comments (but we must hear this/address the issue): there are local churches that are good at creating a mood/atmosphere in worship: very dark, fog machines, loud music, singing certain phrases over&over again for long periods of time.
- This can create a feeling, like going to a non-Christian concert for a famous band & feeling “electricity” in the air. There can be amazing feelings/emotions there, people walk out feeling energized and “alive”, but of course it’s not the Holy Spirit.
So we need to be careful of trying to create a mood in a church service & attributing it to God, or attributing to the Holy Spirit any pleasant feeling we have. There is an impressive feeling that comes from a local church with a well-rehearsed worship service:
- great transition cues from one segment to the next,
- a skillfully-filmed video,
- warm/funny jokes/banter from a speaker who gives an engaging TED-talk with a few Bible verses,
- professional sounding worship team,
- crisp/edgy visuals on screens,
- sitting in a modern auditorium with 1,000 or 5,000 other people, tons of voices singing, etc.—
it definitely feels impressive, it’s easy to leave such a setting & feel great, feel like you want to come back, feel like “now THIS is a church” & attribute the feeling to the Holy Spirit, “THIS impressed feeling I have means God is here! This is so well-run/organized” Maybe…maybe not.
(I am not saying the LORD is not at work in local churches as described above…I am simply saying that our impressed feeling is not necessarily from the Holy Spirit–the main question is, what does the local church teach, what is their theology/doctrine, what are their core beliefs? Does it line up with a correct understanding of God’s Word? That is the determining factor of whether we should attend or not/whether the Holy SPirit is at work there, not how we feel at they end of the service or how much professionalism/activity there is)
If we only get that heightened feeling in such a setting & not in a small church without all those elements, if you only feel like that when certain new popular songs are played at certain local churches with really cool-looking worship musicians for 40 minutes, & if you rarely if ever get that feeling
- during the service when (IF!) Scripture is read for a longer period of time,
- during the service & a 40 minute sermon that digs deeply into the Bible,
- when we are alone in our rooms with an open Bible
- when we are praying to God 4more than 1minute by ourselvesonThursday
- singing an old hymn (or a song we “don’t like”) that isn’t set to a super-modern melody or covered by a popular worship band,
if we only get a high feeling under certain specific external conditions (that can be easily replicated at a non-Christian gathering), we’re likely just manufacturing an earthly feeling & not having an encounter with the living God.
The Holy Spirit isn’t waiting for us to dim the lights & set the mood so He can move powerfully. The Holy Spirit hasn’t been biding His time & wringing His hands from the 1st century AD until the late 1970s when the first modern local churches arrived—“NOW I can finally start to move powerfully & be active in some local churches!” He doesn’t need us or anything external. But inside our hearts & minds must be humbled, brought low, not ready to watch a rehearsed show but repenting to & worshiping the Risen Savior, whether we feel like it or not.
Christian maturity isn’t about staying “up” but steadily looking up; not keeping a spiritual “high” but fixing our mind on Jesus Who reigns on high. Hebrews 12:1-3 (esp. verse 2)
- Runners can get a “runners high,” but it doesn’t last the entire marathon! Often they feel tired/exhausted/tempted to stop…but they keep going regardless of how low they FEEL or how long the runners high lasts (or if they get it at all!).
May the LORD help us not to make an idol out of feelings or goosebump experiences.
Even the Lord Jesus led the three disciples DOWN from the mount of transfiguration-Luke 9:28-37
- Please also notice that He only invited three of the disciples, not all twelve! How foolish (& discouraging!) would it have been for them to lust after more & more experiences like that, how depressed would they have gotten if they expected that mountaintop experience to happen daily or all the time!
- They were on a literal mountaintop, but that wasn’t the highest they could go with Christ—the highest they could go depended on how LOW they went in repenting of sin & focusing on growing in holiness & not staying broken, how LOW they would go in washing each others’ feet & laying down their lives for other Christians (“greater love has no one than this…”). “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted…”
The Holy Spirit gives Living Waters, not “the Red-Bull Gospel”
As God led His people from Egypt He brought them to a beautiful oasis—
but He didnt let them stay!
Numbers 3:8-10: They left Pi Hahiroth & passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah. 9They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs & seventy palm trees, and they camped there. 10They left Elim & camped by the Red Sea.
Same with our earthly mountaintop experiences:
they aren’t meant to be an every day/every moment occurrence
(that’s what heaven is for!)
Heat & light: fire provides both, not just one or the other.
Some want the fire of the Holy Spirit just for warmth, for feelings, for HEAT.
But sometimes they’re not as concerned with light, that the Holy Spirit leads us into the Truth & reminds us what the Lord Jesus SAID (God’s Word!), where they’re supposed to go. They just want to feel warmed, cozy, only experience God, but knowing & submitting to doctrine—agreeing w/specific, unpopular Bible verses&rejecting other specific, sometimes popular teaching—feels legalistic/restricting/burdensome
Others want the fire of the Holy Spirit just for light, for direction, for Truth only.
But sometimes they’re not as concerned with knowing God, they just want to know about Him. They don’t have fellowship w/the Trinity personally, but only know facts about Him intellectually. They can be cold, knowing much but doing little. Experiencing God is too risky, too crazy, too unpredictable.
We often divide ourselves into these two groups—
wanting heat or light & looking down on the other.
May the Holy Spirit humble & transform us to desire BOTH heat & light, the Holy Spirit’s true fire. May we introduce non-Christians to the One True God & His glorious Gospel, inviting them not into a warm but pitch-black room & not inviting them into a brightly lit but frigid room; may we invite them to be reborn & forgiven & adopted & reconciled to the Father by repentance & faith in the blood of the Son & through the power of the Holy Spirit, grace AND Truth, light & heat…