home > Pastor’s Desk > 2023 > February 24th > THE HALLMARKS OF A SPIRIT-FILLED ON-FIRE CHURCH

¶ When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
Acts 2:1-3

It is too easy to think of a Spirit-filled, on-fire church as large a congregation with great music, great facilities, great programs, and great preaching. And, to be fair, it could be. But those things would be incidental not causal or resultant. Conversely, it would too easy to think of a small church in a small town with no worship band, no building of their own, no paid pastor, and no programs as “dead”. And, to be fair, it could be. But those indicators may just be incidental to its death, not the cause of it. A Spirit-filled, on-fire church can be either large or small, found in a large city or a small country town. It could have great music or no music at all. It could have a gifted dynamic preacher as its pastor, or it may have no pastor at all. But without exception, all Spirit-filled and on-fire for God church have three essential qualities.

It has not gone unnoticed that nearly on the same day that the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev. Justin Welby, announced the decision to approve the blessing of same-sex unions by Anglican priests (something that many other Archbishops in the Anglican Communion around the world have condemned as unbiblical and ungodly), that in Wilmore Kentucky, at Asbury University, an extraordinary move of God began where hundreds of people have experienced a deep conviction of sin resulting in confession, tears, and repentance. The “Asbury Revival” has now had thousands visit and experience similar. On one side of the Atlantic an Archbishop has blessed sin, while on the other side of the Atlantic God was convicting of sin!

Asbury (Christian) University Hughs Hall, where Chapel services are held normally three times a week.

There have been people praying for revival in Wilmore for months, maybe years. Groups of students and seminarians gathering to pray. Historically, when you look at revivals, prayer precedes revival. It was a normal Wednesday chapel service, in Hughes Auditorium. But a dozen students stayed afterword for prayer, and students kept coming back to the chapel. Then the group of students grew, and never left, staying for prayer, repentance, worship, reading of scripture, and exhortation. I was told that a revival had started. I came into the chapel, and had a sense of God’s presence in the place. It felt like God was pouring himself out upon his people and the place. It was like heaven come to earth. Like God tabernacling with his people.

Perhaps what has happened out of Canterbury England compared with what is happening at Asbury Chapel serves as a metaphor for the difference between what most might regard as impressive religion and what is actually genuine spiritual life. This contrast being a church that looked alive but was actually dead was made by Christ to the church at Sardis – 

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write:
‘The words of Him who has the Seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
¶ “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
Revelation 3:1

The church at Sardis looked like it was alive—it even had a reputation for being alive. But, according to Jesus, it was dead. But why did everyone else think that it was alive? Perhaps it attracted a lot of people? Living, Spirit-filled, on-fire-for-God, churches usually do attract people. Perhaps everyone thought the Sardis church was a Spirit-filled, on-fire, church because they exhibited the gifts of the Spirit and saw miracles of healing? Perhaps they looked alive because they had passionate worship or preaching? Whatever it was that earned them the reputation for being alive, it was still actually dead. Eventually, true Spirit-filled, on-fire, believers no longer want to be a part of a church that is dead. Sadly, this is what has happened to several denominations around the world (including Australia) that have abandoned God and His Word and bowed to cultural pressure to compromise on what the Word of God calls sin and the Father commands repentance for. But Christ offered the church at Sardis the hope of finding life, spiritual renewal, and to get on-fire for God again –

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.
If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief,
and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Revelation 3:2-3

I hope the pastor and elders of the church at Sardis did heed Christ’s invitation and warning. I hope they repented. I hope that they recommenced and completed the works that God had called them to do. I hope that the congregation returned to a profound respect for the preaching of God’s Word and received it when it was preached so that they didn’t just hear it, they kept it. This was the pathway out of the clutches of church-death that could reinstitute their passion for God, His Word, His Spirit, and for His mission, and become a Spirit-filled, on-fire church.

Two weeks ago I completed my final subject for a degree I had been undertaking. Having finished physics, chemistry, mathematics, and a range of other necessary subjects, my final subject was biology. (Curiously, my final project was a paper on Intercranial Haemorrhages With Particular Attention Given To Subpial Superficial Siderosis). Throughout the course, my Professor, Dr. Daniel Grazier, would periodically make a spiritual parallel from our study of each of the ten-and-a-half systems comprising the human body. In our study of the pulmonary-respiratory system, he drew a profound analogy to what makes a healthy church body by citing the author, Thom Rainer-

In his remarkable book Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom Rainer notes that in the early days of the church, the disciples devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship and the breaking of bread, and to prayer (Acts 2:42). While they broke bread together, prayer was not an add-on to give them permission to start eating. Prayer was serious business for the early church members. Based on his research and study, Rainer concludes that a church begins to die when it ceases to pray (2014, 67). (Studies in Human Biology 2020, 265)

We want to be a Spirit-filled, on-fire-for-God church. Today there are many pastors and churches trying to look alive rather than truly coming alive. Many have blamed the recent COVID pandemic for their woes. Shane Morris, from Colson Centre and the host the Upstream Podcast, last week (Feb 17 2023) wrote – 

Apparently, large numbers of people who once identified as Christians have decided they no longer need to attend church. While COVID may have been the impetus behind this exodus, the root causes are preexisting and go much deeper. Too many Christians think of church as they would an event, concert, or TED Talk, optional experiences that can just as easily be consumed remotely. When combined with pastors and leaders who view the core purpose of church as evangelism rather than discipleship or worship and are therefore willing to do whatever seems to “work,” success is just as easily measured by logins and views after the pandemic as it was by attendance numbers and growth size before the pandemic. Much is behind these shifting numbers. First and foremost, God continues to prune and winnow His Church, seeking the health of His Beloved. The broader cultural shift away from truth claims and anything that smacks of traditional morality has only intensified in recent years. And, we should at least consider the possibility that the decline in both numbers and influence is, at least in part, a self-inflicted wound.

Like C.S. Lewis’ famous image of making mudpies in the slum when offered a trip to the seashore, we’ve baptized (and watered down) the habits of the world in place of the riches provided in the testimony of Scripture and the God-ordained practices of the Church. Why would our neighbors be drawn to warmed-over versions of the world’s leftovers? To use a pair of homespun metaphors, the kind of bait used determines the kind of fish caught. Or, more prosaically, what you win people with is what you win them to. After decades of appealing first and foremost to whatever people want and editing to whatever they think, we’ve essentially discipled a generation that will only follow a Church that leads where they want to go. In every age, a true and real Christianity finds much to critique as well as to affirm. If we aren’t willing to challenge the sacred cows of our day, if we aren’t up to preaching what Tom Holland called the “weird stuff” of our faith, we will find (and perhaps even now we are finding) that no one is interested in what we have to say because we aren’t saying much worth hearing.

 

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A SPIRIT-FILLED, ON-FIRE CHURCH

It takes being God-seeking, God-hearted, and God-pleasing together.

This involves being informed by the Word of God so that they way we pray together, and the ‘what’ we pray together, is directed toward seeking greater intimacy with God together. There can be no greater example of this than how Christ prayed to His Father. At the time of His greatest anguish as prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples and He made the will of God His chief prayer (Matt. 26:39). Some believer spend time in what they call “praying” without ever actually talking to God or seeking His will. Perhaps this is how the congregation of the church at Sardis were praying? The kind of praying that is Spirit-filled and full of the fire of God’s zeal is the kind of prayer longs to know God, be shaped by God, have His will done in the pray-er’s life. These prayers are not  always eloquent – in fact, they are rarely if ever eloquent. Paul describes them in Romans 8 as resembling groans and the sounds of longings. This is the kind of praying that transforms the praying believer’s heart to be even more sensitive what pleases God’s heart. It results in the believers within a Spirit-filled, on-fire-for-God, church seeking to earnestly please God — even if it costs them dearly. But this is joy of holiness that is the delight of every true believer and every church that is truly alive.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:31 

It takes being God-seeking, God-hearted, and God-pleasing together.

God’s heart is for all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:4). A Spirit-filled, on-fire for God church beats with the heartbeat of God for the lost. But it is not the lost who are our focus when our seeking the heart of God. It is God. A Spirit-filled church, on-fire-for-God church has a passion for God’s and His presence. Thus, there is a passion, a zeal, an enthusiasm, and a willing commitment to gather with the church family. At the moment due to my present illness I am unable. But I am more than watching live when I am joining in on our church’s Livestream. I commented with encouragement for those sharing in our service on our YouTube live-feed. When we are being led in prayer. I am closing my eyes, bowing my aching head and praying too. When the Word is being preached, I praying for the preacher and for those listening to have ears to hear and a heart to receive. When the appeal and invitation is given at the end of the service, I am pleading with God to be merciful to sinners and to bring them repentance and to give them the gift of salvation. This Sunday, please pray and invite people to both of our special services as Kate shares in the morning, and Dan Warlow shares in the afternoon (if you could just come along and pray pray pray for Kate and Dan and for all those God might touch through their ministries).

¶ And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
Acts 2:42-43

It takes being God-seeking, God-hearted, and God-pleasing together.

We are that kind of church and may it ever be so! Amen!

Your convalescing Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

8 Comments

  1. Wendy Williams

    What a blessed and pleasant surprise to have your words this week Andrew. Thank you and praise Jesus for this blessing.

    The Anglican church didn’t wait long for Queen Elizabeth’s death to make the populist decision to bless same sex unions. The world clearly lost a Godly woman who seems to have protected God’s word here on earth far more than most of us probably realised.

    Prayers for Anglican’s all over the world will be important now, more so than ever, to encourage them to find Spirit-filled, on-fire for God, churches which follow His truth. For many, especially the more senior Anglicans, this will be difficult as they have been attending church with their church families for years. How sad many of them must be to be facing the raw truth of their churches’ denial of God’s word, especially those in their twilight years.

    Praise to the Triune for the Asbury Revival. The Spirit is here!

    Reply
    • Dr. Andrew Corbett

      Thank you Wendy. We can be very grateful that here in Tasmania we have a Bishop who is a godly man of God who is Spirit-filled and loves Jesus. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of every Bishop or Archbishop.

      Reply
  2. LYDIA

    Hi Andrew, there is a lot I want to say and I don’t know where to start. Thank you firstly for this week’s e-News! Rather providential to be studying Biology at this very moment in time. God being in control of all things and knowing all things seeks to continually teach us, and to be teachable is a blessed thing. You taught me that. One must be teachable as God being our God continues to do that till we are called home. No one knows everything about everything but He does.

    So yes, a tragic outcome for those who cannot see their left hand from their right believing what they think the Bible says are blinded to the Truth of it.
    One thing I forgot though and it really must be the most important part of apathy we can see around us, that Quote: “First and foremost, God continues to prune and winnow His Church, seeking the health of His Beloved”. Thank you for alerting me to that. I should have known, should have remembered, yet it is easy to get distracted when the real purpose is the electing love of our God calling His children to come Home.

    And thank you for your Pastor’s heart. Quote: “When the appeal and invitation is given at the end of the service, I am pleading with God to be merciful to sinners and to bring them repentance and to give them the gift of salvation.” Amen, let the Spirit work mightily in hearts to praise Him and leave the past behind.

    So if Asbury can have a revival, praise God! then it can happen anywhere, anytime, any place on this earth which is the Lord’s.

    The heartache of those who have been faithful and then find themselves in a church that has compromised the Truth for a lie, is huge, difficult shoes to walk in. Yet I pray as I am writing that they will look up and also get reminded one way or the other, that our God is calling His children from the four ends of the earth, while it is still Today.

    PS Looking forward Andrew to your continual improvement as you rest.

    Reply
  3. Mike Sladden

    Thanks Pastor Andrew, that’s great

    Lovely to read your scribings again

    What a curious paper to study for your biology project.

    As usual I love everything of God, pretty much everything CS Lewis , but apparently not much about the broken Archbishop of Canterbury, Reverend Justin Welby.

    You remain in our thoughts and prayers.

    Many blessings

    Brother Mike

    Reply
    • Dr. Andrew Corbett

      Thank you Mike. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. After studying the neurological system (as well as the other nine-and-a-half systems), and just before I undertook two exams, I wrote that paper on Intercranial Subpial Haemorrhages as my final project. It was something I felt particularly qualified to complete.
      -AC.

      Reply
  4. Gladys Parry

    Thank you Andrew for your message. Gladys

    Reply

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Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.