There are four things that I would like to mention concerning Spirit-filled service, from the words of the Apostle Paul.
A love-slave: First of all, Spirit-filled service is the service of a love-slave. In Acts 27:23, Paul says, “…the God whose I am and whom I serve”. He was a love-slave of his God. He retained no right to his own life. He had given everything to his Master. And so, when a person gives his entire life to God, he is not doing God a great favour. No! He is only returning to God what he had stolen from Him. If I were to steal a man’s money and later, convicted of my sin, were to return it to him, I would certainly not be doing that man a favour. I would go to him as a repentant thief. And that is the only proper attitude in which we can approach God when we come to give our lives to Him. God has purchased us. When we recognize that, we arrive at the only proper basis for consecration. Paul was a love-slave of the Lord. Like the Hebrew slave, who could go free in the seventh year of his service, but chose to continue in that service because he loved his master (Exod. 21:1-6), Paul served his Lord. He was not a hired servant who worked for wages, but one who served without any rights of his own. God is looking for those who are so yielded to Him, that they will look to Him always to see what He wants them to do – and not busy doing what they feel they should do for God. A slave does not go around doing whatever he feels like. No. The slave asks his master, “Master, what do you want me to do?” And he does what he is told. The Bible says, “The most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to” (1 Cor. 4:2-LB).
The First Test : When Abraham was 75 years old, God had called him to leave his hometown and his relatives in Ur of the Chaldeans and to step out in faith in God, into the unknown. That was the first test that he passed. It is not easy to make a break with father, mother, brothers and sisters etc., but until that umbilical cord that ties us to them is broken we can never be disciples of Jesus! Jesus said, ” If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. ” (Luke14:26). Abraham obeyed God at once. I have wondered what would have happened if Abraham had turned down God’s call. God would certainly not have forced him. God would have found someone else; and we would never have heard of Abraham again. That someone else who responded to God would have become the father of faith and the ancestor of the Messiah! How much Abraham would have missed if he had failed in that first test! Little did he realise when he stepped out of Ur, turning his back on the pleadings of his relatives, what a glorious future God had planned for him. God still calls people, as He called Abraham. Little do those who are being called realise what great issues hang in the balance when they have heard the call of God. Church history, throughout these 20 centuries, is filled with the amazing stories of men and women who responded to God’s call immediately, joyfully and wholeheartedly like Abraham and who fulfilled God’s purposes.
In Exodus 25:8, we see for the first time, God revealing His will that He wants to dwell with man. God says there “Let them construct a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” That was referring to the tabernacle upon which the fire of God rested – the glory of God that marked those Israelites out as different from all the other people in the world. The most important thing about that sanctuary was the glory of God that rested upon it – and this indicated His presence among His people. The most important thing we must do is to make our home a sanctuary for God – not a place where we seek to please each other, although we should seek to please each other; not even a place to bless the other people, although our home should bless other people; but primarily a place where God can manifest His presence and where Jesus feels at home. God says “Let them make a place for Me to live”. A Christian home must be a place where Jesus feels completely at home. That means that He is happy about everything He sees there. He is happy about the books we read, the magazines we get, the conversations between husband and wife, the things we talk about, the programs we watch on TV and everything else. The most wonderful life we can ever live is one where Jesus is the centre of our life, and where everything in our home is determined by whether it makes Jesus happy or not – the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, and the way we do everything else. If we live like that, then when we come to the end of our life, or if Christ returns before that, and we stand before Him, He will say, “Well done”. Whether our home is a palace or a hut – the outward appearance is secondary. It’s our heart that God sees. So make sure that our heart is a sanctuary – a holy place – for God to dwell in.
“I searched for ONE MAN among them who should build up the wall and stand before Me….. but I did not find even one man” (Ezek. 22:30). In the history of the world, of Israel and of the church, we see a number of examples of how God has very often been dependent on just ONE man in a particular situation to accomplish His purposes. But one man with God is always a majority.
Noah: When the whole world was filled with wickedness and rebellion against God, in Noah’s time, although there were eight God-fearing people on the earth, yet the fulfillment of God’s purposes depended entirely on the faithfulness of just one man, Noah. Noah was the only man who found favour in God’s eyes at that time (Gen.6:8). If that one man had been unfaithful to God, the entire human race would have been wiped out, and none of us would have been alive today!! We can certainly thank God that Noah remained faithful. Jesus said that the last days would be like the days of Noah. The sexual perversion and violence of the days of Noah would characterise the last days too. This is the time that we are living in today. And so, uncompromising men like Noah are what God needs even today.
The word of God speaks of “salvation” in three tenses – past (Eph. 2:8), present (Phil. 2:12) and future (Rom. 13:11) – or in other words, of justification, sanctification and glorification. Salvation has a foundation and a superstructure. The foundation is forgiveness of sins and justification.
Justification is more than the forgiveness of our sins. It also means that we have been declared righteous in God’s eyes, on the basis of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. This is not on the basis of our works (Eph. 2:8,9), for even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:27). Repentance and faith are the conditions for being forgiven and justified (Acts 20:21).
1. Seek to be on Fire for God:
Paul wrote to Timothy: “I want to remind you of the spiritual gifts you received when I laid hands on you. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of timidity” (2 Tim 1:6). Paul urged him to stir up that gift and to kindle it afresh, to keep the fire burning. From this we learn that even though Jesus baptizes us in the Holy Spirit and fire (Mathew 3:11), we still have to do something to keep that fire burning at all times. God lights the fire. We have to keep supplying the fuel – a life totally surrendered at all times to God’s will. Don’t imagine that because God anointed you once that you can relax and say, “Once anointed, always anointed”. That is as great a fallacy as saying, “once saved, always saved”. I have seen people who were genuinely anointed by God who are spiritually dead one year later. The fire is gone. Worldly interests and pride have come in and taken the fire away. They are now running after money and a comfortable life and have lost the fire of God. That is sad and a great loss for the kingdom of God. So Paul told Timothy, “That fire that came upon you, keep it afresh, keep it burning. It is up to you now. If you don’t keep it burning it will die out. Keep it burning by keeping a good conscience, by studying the word of God, by humbling yourself, by seeking God wholeheartedly, by staying away from the love of money and from arguments with others and from anything that will quench this fire”.
The burden of all the prophets was Holiness: Give up your idols and put God first in your life. True holiness is to have no idols at all in our life. Holiness is to have God filling our whole heart. Our calling is to proclaim that today so that the church can be a place where God dwells with delight.
True holiness comes only to the man who seeks after it with all his heart, and not to the one who has merely the correct teaching in his head. The secret of holiness is discovered not through a study of Greek words and tenses in the New Testament but through a wholehearted and sincere desire to please God. God looks at our hearts, not at our brains!
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus spoke of ten virgins. Notice that none of them were harlots (See James. 4:4 for a definition of spiritual harlotry). They were all virgins. In other words, they had a good testimony before men. Their lights were all burning (Matt. 5:16). Their good works were seen by others. Yet among all these virgins, only five were wise. But this was not obvious to everyone at the beginning. Only five had taken oil with them in their flasks (Matt. 25:4).
That oil in the flask was not visible in the night, like the light was, and speaks of our hidden life before God that men cannot see in the darkness of this world. All of us have a flask. The question is whether we have any oil in it or not.
It is written in Genesis 28:11, “the sun had set.” Though that is referring only to a geographical fact, yet the sun had indeed set on Jacob’s life, spiritually speaking too. He had been living for the world, and had grabbed and cheated. And yet God met with Jacob in mercy and told him that He had a great purpose for his life. “I am the God of your father Abraham,” God told him, “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you lie. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you?” (Gen 28: 13, 14). This is called “the blessing of Abraham” (Galatians 3:14). When God called Abraham, He had told him, “I will bless you, and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2, 3). God repeated it here to Jacob. In Galatians 3:14, we are told that this blessing becomes ours, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
In Genesis 14, we find that Abraham, on his way back from the battle, was exhausted, and possibly proud as well of the fact that with just 318 servants he went and destroyed the many armies of so many kings. He was also in danger of collecting all that wealth that he had accumulated through winning this battle. In those days if you won a battle all the gold and silver of the enemy’s was yours. At that time God sent a servant of His to Abraham. Isn’t it wonderful to see that? An unknown man named Melchizedek, who was living out there in the desert, was in touch with God. (Gen. 14:18) The reason why Melchizedek is important is because in Psalm 110:4, Jesus is called a Priest after the order of Melchizedek. And in Hebrews 7 that is confirmed. The only place in Scripture where Melchizedek comes is in Gen. 14:18–20 – three verses, that’s all. Melchizedek appears, fulfils his ministry and disappears. And God said to his Son, “You are a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Not a priest after the order of Levi – the old covenant priesthood. How did this man Melchizedek, who appears in only three verses in the Bible become so important? It is good for us to know the reason.