The preachers of Pentecost told of the Spirit’s work by the Spirit’s power: conversion, repentance, renewal, faith, holiness, and such things were freely spoken of and ascribed to their real author, the divine Spirit. If the Spirit of God shall give us once again a full and fiery ministry we shall hear it clearly proclaimed, “Ye must be born again,” and we shall see a people forthcoming which are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of the will of God, and by the energy which cometh from heaven. A Holy Ghost ministry cannot be silent about the Holy Ghost and his sacred operations upon the heart.Charles H. Spurgeon, The Pentecostal Wind and Fire, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit vol. 27
A word of warning up front: sadly, this episode has some audio issues, ones I wasn’t aware of while recording/streaming. I’ve figured out how to correct them for the future, but with our baby on the way and everything else in life, sadly I don’t have time to re-record the entire thing the way I like. I hope the lesser quality does not detract too badly from the actual content of the sermon.
Today we start a series out of a book I found wonderfully free thanks to my Kindle Unlimited subscription. Granted, the book simply consists of ten Charles Spurgeon sermons, but as they are better-edited than many of the other free collections out there it makes my job of reading it somewhat easier. We will be exploring exactly what the title of the book proclaims: Knowing the Holy Spirit. This is a subject that for many, causes immediate controversy and even defensiveness.
Sadly the work of the Spirit is one that has been abused in multiple ways, both in misunderstanding and denying His role and work, to claiming as work of the Spirit actions that make Him not God, not the promised Comforter, not the one who convicts the world of their need for Christ, but one who stirs crowd up into madness and serves our visceral pleasures.
But today I want to couch this sermon in another context. Over this weekend news came out about the truth behind the apologist Ravi Zacharias, about the sexual immorality and sexual violence he had carried out against so many while he was alive, and about the way that his own ministry turned a blind eye to what He was doing and enabled him. Christianity Today had a long and sad article, and conservative writer David French had an even longer, more personal and more infuriating, which exposed not only the depths to which Zacharias sunk in his sin, but the ways in which victims of his behavior were silenced, treated as liars and frauds.
The lie of power
There is a personal reason for reflecting, one that all Christians ought to consider strongly: I know my own sin. I know the lure of sexual sin in my own life, the scars I’ve cut into my own heart as a result of wicked desires, and the ways I’ve hurt others. I know that putting this to death has involved a work of the Holy Spirit in pouring out merciful conviction on me repeatedly, having to drag things into the light before those closest to me and finding, always waiting, the grace of God and His healing. Because of that I have to be all the more aware of the things that lead me to start desiring these things more than the good things of God, and drag them out quickly. I have to be aware not because I’m going to lose my salvation but because I hate what this sin does in me, does to others, does to my intimacy with God I despise it, and I want to see it dead.
What is clear, is that for Ravi Zacharias this wasn’t happening. He didn’t have people who could hold him accountable – it was clear that his own ministry was enabling him to persist in his behavior, financially and otherwise. And when the first signs of problems appeared, they dealt with it not as a time to confess sin and seek the Lord’s face, but to run a PR play and cover things up. So many Christians were take the statements put out by RZIM on their face because we considered him this stately man who was necessary to fighting the good fight for the faith in our civilization.
I think if there’s one thing I want to get across in talking about the work of the Holy Spirit in this world, it’s that while humans are called to take part in God’s work, we do not make ourselves indispensable. There is no one that can say, “I’m so important to God’s work that He can’t do without me, no matter what I’ve done.” And in the West we have especially bought into the lie that seeking after popularity and power is more important that seeking after holiness, more important than loving well, more important than humility.
I don’t want to ramble here too badly, but I hope that you will join me in praying for our leaders, whether religious, political, or otherwise. Please pray for the idols of your own heart, that they would be brought into the light and destroyed before they can do the kind of damage Ravi’s did. And please pray that humble service, love for God, and love for one another would become the markers of the American church, more than political activism, more than brilliant oration.