home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > January > THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

Time once was when Pentecostals were known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They also claimed that they had experienced a subsequent to salvation experience with the Spirit that opened the door to the gifts of the Spirit described in First Corinthians 12 and 14. In the early days of modern Pentecostalism, it was common for there to be a time in the church service where the worshipers would wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to use an audible gift of the Spirit – such as a message in tongues. Pentecostals understood the apostle Paul’s reference to singing in the Spirit (1Cor. 14:15) as creating space during the singing of the praise songs to have ‘free worship’. For the first five decades of the twentieth century Pentecostal churches spread at a moderate rate. But as traditional churches began to abandon God’s Word, Christians from mainline churches began to drift into Pentecostal churches and also experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit. But many ‘mainline’ churches during the 1960s and 70s also embraced the Holy Spirit and the ‘charismatic’ gifts described in First Corinthians. This became known as ‘the Charismatic renewal’. Through the 1980s the number of Spirit-filled believers and churches grew exponentially around the world, including Australia. But both Pentecostals and Charismatics were subject to some excesses through the 90s and naughties – but they also increasingly experienced ‘mission-drift’. A part of that mission-drift was an unfortunate reluctance to expound what the Scriptures taught about the Holy Spirit and the believer’s fellowship with Him.  

The Old Covenant prophets foretold of the coming New Covenant and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, Peter declared, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16-17). But it was the prophet Ezekiel who received the most dramatic vision of the coming outpouring the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

The Bible seems to use the directions east and west very intentionally. Whenever people rebelled against God, they headed east. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they were driven east out of the Garden of Eden.

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Genesis 3:24

The Old Testament prophets described the eastern cities of Nineveh and Babylon as centres of evil and wickedness. But when people responded to God, they journeyed west. Think of Abram being called to leave Haran and travel west to Canaan. Think of the Jews in exile who repented and were permitted to leave Babylon and return west to the land of Israel. Then consider that when God gave Moses the plans for the tabernacle, entrance was only possible by travelling west, and the Holy of Holies was located in the western most precinct of the tabernacle perimeter. 

When the Magi came from the east (Matt. 2:1) to find Him who was born King of the Jews (unlike Herod who was appointed King by the Romans) the headed west to find Christ. And when the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas on their first missions trip, the apostles first headed west (Acts 13:4). The vision of the New Covenant that Ezekiel was shown by the Holy Spirit was a magnificently much larger temple than the one that had recently been destroyed by the Babylonians. The prophet Haggai also had a vision of the New Covenant in which he too described it as a temple (or least referred to Christ as the new Temple) and said-

The latter glory of this house [to come] shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.
Haggai 2:9

LCC Livestream being watched in Islamic Pakistan and translated into Urdu

LCC Livestream being watched in Islamic Pakistan and translated into Urdu

What Ezekiel foresaw was the water of the Holy Spirit flowing out from this new and glorious temple eastward (Ezekiel 47:1). In fact, the further east that the water of the Holy Spirit was to flow, the deeper the water of the Spirit got for Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:5). While several of the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics included the notion that the deeper life of being filled and baptised with the Holy Spirit was merely for what happened within the four walls of a church service, Ezekiel vision of the New Covenant outpouring of the Holy Spirit was eastward – toward those who were away from God. In fact, the further these people were from the temple, the deeper the water of the Holy Spirit was, in Ezekiel’s vision. We should understand this as Ezekiel seeing that those whom God was to call into the New Covenant, would be sent by the Holy Spirit with His anointing to go to the lost — the very lost — and this is why the Spirit’s anointing on them would increase the further ‘east’ they were to go. This is why, even today, when Christians take the gospel to the people of the hardest, darkest, most resistant places on earth, the signs and wonders that accompany the preaching of the gospel are often the greatest. 

¶ And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Acts 15:12

Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
First Thessalonians 1:5

This is why the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within the community of believers, the local church, is given to edify, console, and mature, guide, and empower believers to serve. This Sunday I will be delivering the third instalment of the five-part The SPIRIT Series. It is my hope that we can be a church that truly experiences the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and all the more so for those of us whom the Lord will call to take the gospel ‘eastward’.

Your pastor,

Andrew

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

EVEN THOUGH IT’S UNFATHOMABLE, UNSEARCHABLE, AND UNCOMPREHENSIBLE, YOU STILL NEED IT!

Jesus Christ Himself was the ultimate personification of wisdom (1Cor. 1:24, 30), yet He Himself, when He became incarnate, had to ‘increase’ in wisdom. And chances are that if Jesus had to ‘increase in wisdom’ then so do we! In God’s unfathomable wisdom He permits us to learn how to increase in wisdom by learning from our mistake and failures. Yet, there are times when, as James the brother of Jesus wrote, that God gifts wisdom to His children. This may not be a ‘Matrix type’ of human-software update, but it could come to you in way you did not expect in response to your prayer for God’s wisdom where you have a “light-bulb moment”. And when you experience one of those rarer moments of ‘received’ wisdom (where God gives us wisdom), it might be time to implement some wisdom from the life of Daniel, who, when it happened to him, he gave God the glory for it.

SCARED, SCARRED, SACRED

The gospel offers hope and healing for those who have been violated — those who were once scared (for good reason), and who have been scarred by the hurt they have endured — have found redemption and a sanctuary in the sacred community of God’s redeemed.

ORDINARY AND NOBLE

Ambition can be good. Striving for continual improvement can be good. Wanting to be the best can also be good. But these all come at a cost—and often a too high cost. We can, however, strive to be the best that God has potentialled us to be. And if, along that journey we are kind to others, humble, caring, dependable and reliable, we may run the risk of having others think of us as ‘ordinary’ — a high compliment indeed — but in reality we will not just be ordinary, we will have attained the elusive honour of being ordinary and noble.

NO BONZAI CHRISTIANITY

Bonzai trees are amazing. The Japanese discovered that they could trick a big tree into thinking it was always meant to be a very, very, small tree. They would take a cutting of a maple or oak tree and coax it to form its own roots and then plant it into a very shallow glazed earthenware pot. Each time it developed a shoot they would prune it back appropriately. Once the root system was developed, they would upheave it out of the pot and trim its roots back before repotting it back into its shallow pot. They would then repeat this process over and over and over until the miniature tree resembled its fully mature huge relative — except in miniature form. At some point the bonzai tree becomes convinced that it was always meant to be a miniature tree. Again, I think there is a spiritual parallel to draw from this process of bonzai tree making…

BODY BUILDING

It’s only in the last few years that we have felt the Lord lead us to adopt a theme for the year. Last year, before many of us went into lockdown in our homes, we had felt the Lord put on our hearts the theme, Welcome home. This year, we have felt the Lord lead us to focus on the theme, grow. The word grow conjures up different emotions in me. There was a time, quite early in my pastoral ministry, when it was recommended to me that I engage a ministry coach. It was my desire to do all I could to see our little church at Legana grow. The ministry coach agreed that this should be my focus. It just so happened that at this time I was in the throes of my doctoral studies. 

DECONVERTING FUTILITY

Over the past couple of years there has been several celebrity Christian leaders, including pastors and performing artists, who have walked away from Christ in what they call deconverting. They have offered various reasons for their deconversions, including – How could a good God allow evil and suffering in the world? The Bible cannot be inspired since science has disproven it. Why would God create people just to damn most of them to hell? Christianity is arrogant in claiming it is the only true religion! Sometimes these deconversions take years to come to the surface as these various doubts simmer and brew. Sometimes these deconversions are prompted by a tragedy. My guess is that being a ‘Christian celebrity’ also complicates things because the nature of celebrityness is often marked by social disconnection and loneliness where the opportunity to unburden a soul of its doubts isn’t freely available or welcome. This is why the stories of three Christian celebrities in particular is all the more remarkable.

But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
John 20:31

DO NOT DESPISE PROPHECY DESPITE 2020

I believe in prophecy and I believe in prophets. But based on what I know from Scripture both are rarer than many would have us believe. I suspect though that there a lot of Christians who used to share my acceptance of the validity of prophecy and prophets — who no longer do due to the events of 2020. One of the many reasons I believe in prophecy and prophets is the teaching of Scripture. I will use one particular two-verse passage to bookend this week’s pastor’s desk to make my case.

Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
First Thessalonians 5:20-21

THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

THE EASTWARD SPIRIT

THE TRUTH AND LIES ABOUT YOU

Three events have provoked me to consider one of the greatest privileges that God has given each of us. The first was the movie, Wonder Woman 1984, the second The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute’s ‘Conversion Therapy Discussion Paper’, and the third, the rescue of Nigel Fox. 

THE SURPRISING CHARACTERISTICS OF SINLESSNESS

As we consider the marvel of the first Christmas, we consider that Jesus the Christ was born and lived as a sinless man. What we learn reveals to us that ‘normal’ human behaviour may not be sinful.