CHAPTER 4 What Will Help the Believer Experience God’s Abundant Life? Attending a Spirit-Filled Church Assembly What is a Spirit-filled church assembly? It’s an assembly where the believers are being influenced and prompted by the Holy Spirit not only when they attend the worship services, but on every day of their life. How do I know whether the church I am attending or the one that I might attend is Spirit-filled? I believe there are certain characteristics that will be evidenced by a Spirit-filled church. What are these you might ask? The Gospel of Christ Should Be Clearly Presented For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16) There should be a time during the assembly gathering when the gospel of Christ is presented to unbelievers. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:30) This involves the leadership declaring to unbelievers their need to repent (to have a change of mind; to acknowledge oneself as a sinner) to God the Father. They will be asked to repeat a group of words something like the ones that follow to themselves privately: I acknowledge that I have sinned in many areas such as slandering others; having sexual relations outside of marriage; being jealous; having participated in alcohol or drug abuse; having sex with others of the same gender; having committed adultery; having taken money from others in a deceitful manner; having committed rape; having engaged in pedophilia; etc. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) Following repentance. there should be a declaration (private or public) by them in professing belief in Christ. This profession might consist of the following words: I believe in you Jesus Christ as one of the members of the trinity, who as God pre-existed time; came to the earth being born of a virgin and took on the form of a man; lived a sinless life; listened to and obeyed the directives of God the Father; went to the cross and died having paid for the penalty of sin along with forgiving (wipe away the record of the debt) them; rose from the dead after three days, never to die again; walked the earth in his resurrection body for 40 days witnessing to over 500 people; and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. If someone in leadership declares that Jesus is not one of the members of the trinity, thus denying his deity, then the gospel will be considered counterfeit. What else should you look for? Church Teachings That Include Personal Sanctification Most churches will have a preset doctrinal platform including such topics as redemption, eternal security, justification, divine discipline, prayer, the gifts of the Spirit, water baptism, atonement, etc. However, there is one topic that is either not taught on or is taught in a way in which the believer relies on their own carnal thoughts and power in order to please God. This topic is called personal sanctification. In this environment, certain sins are condoned because society has declared them to be acceptable forms of behavior or because the end justifies the means. Teaching that adultery, fornication, polygamy, same sex marriage, etc. is acceptable because society has determined these behaviors to be so is an indication that the leadership promotes in their teachings a reliance on the passions of the flesh. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) For the Spirit-filled church the definition of this doctrine will be looked at entirely in a different manner. They will teach that personal sanctification involves learning about the new person who we have become at salvation. It involves learning about sin (mental, verbal, and overt). It informs us as to how to recognize the weaknesses or strengths of the flesh (sin nature). It teaches us to confess sin and put on (think with) God’s perspective in these areas. What else should we look for? The Mosaic Law Should Be Appreciated as to Its Rightful Place in the Teachings of the Church What is the Mosaic Law? For whom was it given? What is its’ meaning and purpose? It was an intermediate institution that was designed to: ~ Tell the Jews that they were really doing wrong by doing certain things. ~ Disclose the true nature of sin. ~ Deter them from committing sin by declaring its consequences. ~ Reveal to them that it could not make them righteous before God. ~ Reveal that a barrier of sin still remained between them and God. ~ Reveal that there was a need for a savior, who would take care of this barrier of sin between God and man without whom heaven would remain closed to mankind. ~ Clearly delineate to them the spiritual code (7th day Sabbath, the tabernacle, the four yearly feasts, etc.), moral code (commandments), the laws belonging to civil government, and the laws commemorating the commemoration of certain events. And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: (Acts 15:1, 5, 11, 22-24) Unfortunately, many churches today still advocate keeping some aspects (e.g. tithing, keeping the Sabbath; bringing forth firstfruits (the best (first) of one’s earnings); observing the four yearly feasts; etc.) of the Mosaic Law in order for the believer to accept the admonition that in doing so God will be pleased with them. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24) In his writing to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul made it clear that the Gentiles were under no obligation to keep any aspect of the Mosaic Law. As far as the Jewish Christians were concerned, they were told that circumcision had no place in respect to salvation. While they weren’t forbidden to follow the tenets of the Mosaic Law, it was made pretty clear to them that the one who they believed in, Jesus Christ, was their Messiah/savior and as such the Mosaic Law couldn’t provide salvation and neither could the keeping of any of it cause the believer to grow spiritually. What you will find is that most churches which evidence most of the characteristics of a Spirit-filled church will still advocate to the believers that they should keep or obey certain aspects of the Mosaic Law. There is nothing wrong with continuing to appreciate the spiritual code, the moral code, the laws belonging to civil government, and the laws commemorating the commemoration of certain events of the Mosaic Law in respect to their anticipation of the coming Messiah. However, there is a new way for the believer to live, and that is by operating in the fruit, graces, influences, and promptings of the Holy Spirit. Is there another characteristic of a Spirit-filled church that we should look for? The Offices of the Leadership Should Be Clearly Delineated Some might be easily offended by this characteristic. Remember what was said earlier. There is only one name under heaven by which an unbeliever can be saved. Likewise, I believe that there are certain offices that God gives to certain members of the church, and these offices have certain names and functions. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11) The names of the offices of the leadership are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. Some churches believe that the offices of apostle and prophet are no more. In these churches, there is usually one pastor who is considered as the head one. On another note, there are a number of churches that believe in a plurality of elders. This means that there is no distinct head pastor. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:6) Furthermore, there are some churches that call their leader a priest. While it is true that this word is mentioned in the scriptures it is however not used in this sense. Jesus Christ has made those, who believe in him kings (a kingdom - the body of the redeemed collectively) and priests (those who have direct and constant access to God). The designation of someone in leadership being called a priest was taken from the name given to the sons of the high priest from the Old Testament, who assisted him in the work of the tabernacle when the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and eventually entered into the promised land of Canaan. Some of their duties were in offering animal sacrifices, burning incense, and lighting the lamps. Leviticus 1:5 There was another office called that of the high priest. The high priest office was initially given to Aaron, Moses brother, by instructions from the Lord. If Aaron had sons, then at some point one of them would become the next high priest, and so on. Hebrews 9:6-7 There was a third group of people, who attended to the work of the tabernacle, named Levites some of whose duties were that they set up and tore down the tabernacle (the tent-like structure) and made the shewbread on the Sabbath. Numbers 1:51; 1 Chronicles 9:32 With this in mind, there is no leadership title called priest that is to be used when addressing someone in the leadership positions of the New Testament church. Neither is someone to be called the great one, the Messiah, the supreme leader, etc. These designations usually will be indicative of a religious connotation where the members must adhere to following certain directives in order to please God. In most cases, the receiving of the Spirit will be presented as being dependent upon being engaged in some outward activity, which in actuality, does not cause Him to come and indwell the participant. Likewise, sanctification or growing spiritually will be based on engaging in some overt action. Believe it or not there is another characteristic of a Spirit-filled church. Inspired Traditions Are to Be Firmly Held Onto This is another characteristic that has been misunderstood. Over hundreds of years certain practices have crept into the church and have become as accepted as the scriptures themselves. These are called traditions. What is the difference between a tradition and an inspired tradition? What are some of the inspired traditions called and what are some of the uninspired traditions called? Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15) A tradition is defined as being the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition. Inspired traditions are divine instructions delivered orally or in writing that are contained in the written word. Some of these are: the agape feast (a weekly gathering of the saints when a common meal was partaken of, to be followed by the observance of the Lord’s Supper); the anointing with oil (the anointing with virgin oil on the forehead of a believer in the sign of the cross, who was physically sick, by the elders (pastors) of the church while having their hands extended over them being accompanied with prayer for restoration to bodily health); the laying on of hands (on the head of a believer signifying commissioning and granting of authority); the faith that once for all was delivered to the saints, teachings delivered by inspired men, and teachings that come from God to guide our lives. There are many more traditions that are inspired, however, some observance was added to them making that aspect of it uninspired, the practice of which could have been decided upon by a Church Council or by a book called the Apocrypha, such as Palm Sunday (Palm leaves-relics), Lent (giving up food or habit), Easter Sunday (the search for chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs, candy), Confession of sins (to a priest), and Good Friday (not consuming meat). By the way this book, the Apocrypha, refers to 11 or 12 books that are not included in the Hebrew bible. There are also some inspired traditions whereby the interpretation of related scriptures as contained in the completion canon of scripture composed of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament, either by Church Councils or by some of the Church Fathers have introduced the doing of something or the partaking of something that would bring about a spiritual reality in the life of the believer. Some of these uninspired traditions are called Salvation (water baptism regeneration), and Communion (transubstantiation – the bread and wine turning into the literal body and blood of Christ). Likewise, there are uninspired traditions which have no scriptural basis at all. The names of some of these are Ash Wednesday (ashes of palm leaves rubbed on the forehead), the Holy Days of Obligation (developed by various church leaders over many centuries), Purgatory (temporary place of punishment for venial sins that were not confessed), Prayers for the dead (so that they would be able to leave Purgatory sooner), and Celibacy (priests are not allowed to marry). There is one character left which evidences that the church or assembly of believers is Spirit-filled. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:7) What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divine empowerments, extraordinary powers, and a favor which one receives without any merit of their own. Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit the same as natural talents? No, talents are received at birth. They are natural endowments. Gifts are not talents. These gifts are given for the edification of the church. Some churches believe that the gifts of the Spirit ceased, when the canon of scripture was completed. Although, they might suggest that God will allow a gift to be expressed according to his sovereign will. There are other churches that believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit are still operative being used to edify the church and to bring attention to the unbeliever of that which could only occur in a supernatural way with the hope of there being an opportunity to present the gospel to them. The mentioning of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit is found in the book of Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28. Sometimes, a gift is mentioned in both sections of scripture under a different name. The following are the gifts of the Spirit, all of which have been separated into four different groupings according to their functions. What’s interesting about the initial nine gifts is that they are not man-centered. Another word, the Holy Spirit is a unique participant in the exercise of each of these gifts. He provides: a supernatural utterance; a peculiar impulse that provides assurance that his power will assist in the performing of some matter; divine energy; the unveiling of truth for the past, present, or future. By the way every, believer is given at least one of these gifts. There are other gifts called office (leadership) gifts, which are also given, but not to every believer. The Inspiration Gifts - These gifts say something. ● Prophecy: The anointed speaking forth of words of edification (to build up), exhortation (a call to encouragement), and comfort (consolation - includes the healing of distress, of sorrow, of persecution, and of suffering) for the church;a supernatural utterance that comes from a person who is anointed to speak the treasures of God to the body of Christ;designed to warn men and woman of sin or shortcomings. ● Divers kinds of tongues: Speaking in a foreign language that one has not learned, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. ● Interpretation of tongues: Used to explain the meaning of the words that were spoken in a foreign tongue into the known language of the hearers. The Power Gifts - These gifts involve supernatural ability and energy. ● Faith: A peculiar impulse, … that came upon the apostles when any difficult matter was to be performed, which inwardly assured them that God's power would assist them in the performance of it;God brings about a supernatural change with no human effort involved; God does something on our behalf, but independent of us; can operate in areas of divine protection and divine provision. ● Healing: The power to heal various kinds of illnesses or diseases; can come through: a prayer of faith and the laying on of hands of the elders James 5:14-15; by speaking a word from the Lord for a specific healing Acts 3:6; by praying with the laying of hands on the sick by means of the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Acts 28:8. ● The working of miracles: God entrusts a believer with strength or an energy, that we don’t normally have; a believer does a supernatural act by the divine energy of the Holy Spirit. Revelation Gifts - These gifts reveal God’s truth to mankind. ● The word of knowledge: The revealing of a fact in existence (of the present or past) that can only be supernaturally revealed; not something that could be known naturally-something one’s eyes have not seen and ears have not heard; Holy Spirit transmits his specific knowledge to you on something that you would have no ability or means to be able to know about with your own limited intelligence and knowledge levels; can come in the form of: a thought or an impression on your mind; a vision or a picture in your mind’s eye; a scripture either for your-self or when you get a direct word from the Lord to give to someone else - 2 Kings 20:1; this specific knowledge can also be referred to as a divinely given power to appropriate spiritual intuition in problem solving. ● The word of wisdom: Reveals the prophetic future; God reveals something that has not come to pass. ● Discerning of spirits: The divine ability to the presence and activity of a spirit that motivates a human being, whether good or bad; enables a person to appraise motives; can know whether a person is telling the truth; their doctrine is subject to examination; and what they are saying is considered as to whether it proceeded from the Spirit of God. Motivational Gifts - These gifts are practical. ● Teaches: This gift emphasizes accuracy of words and loves to study; delights in research to validate truth. ● Exhorts: This giftencourages other believers and is motivated by a desire to see people grow and mature in the Lord. ● Gives with simplicity: This gift involves: the impartation of one’s earthly possessions without seeking any personal or selfish ends; being excited to bless others; a desire to give in secret. ● He that rules with diligence/governments: This gift bestows not only organizational ability but efficient ways of getting work done. ● Shows mercy with cheerfulness: The person with this gift is moved by the Spirit to: devote oneself to works of mercy (e.g. caring for the widows, sick, and the poor) with a happy temper; senses the joy or distress in other people and are sensitive to feelings and needs; desires to see people healed of hurts. ● Helps/ministry: Those with this gift are like the apostles' helpers, who: accompanied them, baptizing those who were converted by them; were sent by them to such places as they could not attend to; aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20) Isn’t this exciting? God gives to each member of the body of Christ at least one gift as shall manifest the work and nature of the Spirit’s operation on the mindwhich gives each person some proof of the Spirit’s presence in order to promote harmony in the church. Because these gifts are received and not earned, a believer can’t take credit for them. So, there you have it, the characteristics of a Spirit-filled church. If you attend such a church the likelihood that God’s abundant life will be that which you will experience on a day to day basis will be a possibility. You might ask what do you mean by the word possibility? Attending a Spirit-filled church is not the end all. Don’t get me wrong, without attending a Spirit-filled church you might as well forget about experiencing God’s abundant life on a daily basis. However, there are some responsibilities that we must undertake in order for God’s abundant life to be operative in our life from Sunday to Sunday. Would you like to know what these responsibilities are? Read on. Weekly Messages: Website: Twitter: Facebook Author Page: Facebook: Facebook Fan Page:

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What will help the believer to experience God's abundant life?