PART 5 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
PART 5 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
WHAT MAJOR DECISION WOULD HELP A BELIEVER EXPERIENCE GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE?
The answer is by attending a Spirit-filled church assembly. This begs the question.
How would a believer recognize a Spirit-filled church assembly?
It might sound like it’s a church environment where everyone knows each other, likes each other and enjoys volunteering for church functions. And might I say, I would hope these interactions would be such. But at the heart of it all, there should be something or someone that binds everyone and everything together.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s define what should characterize a Spirit-filled assembly. A Spirit-filled assembly is an assembly where the believers are being influenced and prompted by the Holy Spirit not only when they attend the worship services but every day of their life.
How do I know whether the church I’m attending or the one that I might attend is Spirit-filled?
This is the million-dollar question. I believe there are certain characteristics that will be evidenced when a believer attends a Spirit-filled church. Some of these you might recognize, and some of these you might not. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at them.
- The Gospel of Christ Should Be Clearly Presented.
Romans 1:16 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.
I can’t stress how important this is. There should be a time during the assembly gathering when the gospel of Christ is presented to unbelievers.
The presenting of the gospel in a church service would most likely be done by leadership who would declare to anyone that was an unbeliever their need to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. While we’ve already talked about this earlier in this study, it’s crucial to point out that at this moment, the new believer would receive the indwelling Spirit into their life along with eternal, abundant life and a number of other spiritual benefits.
The gospel message and the unbeliever’s response to it allow each new member to be able to experience God’s presence, be convicted of sin, have access to God the Father in prayer, receive at least one spiritual gift which signifies his/her place in the body of Christ, be provided with the proper motivation to serve God, and be enabled to grow spiritually.
And just to mention what the gospel is not. You cannot receive the indwelling Spirit by being baptized in water. Furthermore, belief in Christ solely as a teacher or prophet and not God incarnate, being one of the members of the Trinity, being deity will also negate salvation from taking place.
What else should we look for when we gather together with the saints for worship and praise?
2. Grace Teachings.
These are teachings that are given to us without human effort or ritual. They are contained in God’s Word, the Bible. I’ve given different names to the varied classifications of these doctrines.
Foundational Doctrines: These are doctrines upon which our faith stands. The names of some of these are the doctrine of the Trinity; the deity of Christ; the deity of God the Father; the deity of the Holy Spirit; the gospel of Christ; salvation; atonement; redemption; the blood of Christ; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of Christ; Christ is the only way to get to heaven; and eternal security.
Intellectual Doctrines: These give us further information about our faith. The names of some of them are the doctrine of Spiritual Blessings, of Baptisms, of the Seven Crowns, of a godly Mouth, of Divine Guidance, of Defense Mechanisms, of Complaining, of Spiritual Growth, of the Virgin Birth, of the Lord’s Supper, etc.
Remember that we can’t lose or undo any of the foundational doctrines. I know that this sounds like a strange statement. What I mean is that we can’t undo Christ’s atonement, His payment for our sins, the providing of forgiveness, His resurrection, salvation, or the indwelling Spirit by our behavior or lack of performing good works. Our standing with Christ is different from our walk with Him. One is permanent, while the other is conditional.
One of the intellectual doctrines that I consider paramount is what we’ll take a look at next.
3. Church Teachings That Include the Doctrine of Personal Sanctification.
You might be thinking, I know what you mean by this. You mean, find a church where the teachings are all about not committing certain sins. Most churches will have a preset doctrinal platform whose teachings present the foundational and intellectual doctrines along with what I would call Spiritual Growth doctrines.
What do I mean when I talk about spiritual growth? And how do we grow spiritually?
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
We grow not only by learning about the truths of our faith but also by the renewing of your mind. The Apostle Paul was instructing the Christians at Rome to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word transformed in Greek means inward transformation; to appear as new people with new habits; of a person changing his outward expression from that which he has to a different one, an expression which comes from and is representative of his inner being.36 So, what causes inward transformation in the believer?
It’s having our minds renewed that brings about inward transformation. The words renewing of your mind means the variation of new views and feelings; a complete change for the better of the believers’ mental processes; as the mind keeps on being made new by the spiritual input of God's Word, … his lifestyle keeps on being transformed37; as you spend time meditating on God's Word, memorizing it, and making it a part of your inner man, God will gradually make your mind more spiritual.38 Wow! Wow! And Wow!
After salvation, we still have a sin nature whose preoccupation is with thoughts that are contrary to all that has occurred in our lives before our conversion. These thoughts, words, and actions that have had a lifetime to develop need an intervention. They need to be replaced with a new perception, i.e., divine viewpoint.
Thinking anew. Responding different. If someone says bad things about us, we bless them by saying good things about them. If someone has done something against us, we pray that they would acknowledge their sinful ways and an opportunity would open up for the gospel to be shared with them. Thoughts of lust can be replaced with thoughts of not loving others for our own advantage.
As we begin to apply the Word of God, what we’re actually doing is developing the fruit of the Spirit. Before we know it, the Holy Spirit’s influences and promptings become more apparent to us. And the next thing you know, we’re engaged in prayer, giving financially, and volunteering to participate in this or that with the right motives.
So, be careful when the emphasis of the church is on doing, doing, and doing with little or no teaching on this doctrine. Be aware when messages are brought forth that says you will lose the Spirit, or you’re standing with God because of whatever it is they say will cause these things to be removed (e.g., sinful behavior, not attending church, not exhibiting good works, not being obedient to leadership commands). Be on guard for teachings that emphasize following the tenets of the Mosaic Law, the institution that was given to the Jews by Moses from God (observing the Sabbath; tithing; earning and maintaining salvation by obeying its many commands).
4. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Every time I mention this topic, I would get a response from a fellow believer that I must be involved in a Pentecostal church. In my youth, I would attend a mainstream church with my parents, and I can honestly say that I never heard of the gifts of the Spirit. After my spiritual conversion, which took place in my mid-twenties, I attended a Spirit-filled non-denominational church that evidenced these gifts even though I wouldn’t describe it as being Pentecostal with the impression of there being an overemphasis placed on them. I would describe this church as being God-centered in the sense of teaching on the fulness of the doctrines of the Word, of emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit, of experiencing God’s presence, and of evidencing godliness in everything we say and do.
1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
What are the gifts of the Spirit? What is their purpose? How many are there, and what are their names and functions?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divine empowerments, extraordinary powers, and a favor that one receives without any merit of their own. Are the gifts of the Spirit natural talents? No. Talents are received at birth. They are natural endowments.
As for their purpose, I love this explanation. 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 mind, which gives each person some proof of the Spirit’s presence in order to promote harmony in the church.39
Some believe there are fifteen gifts. Their names can be found in the book of Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28. I’ll mention a few of them now just so we can have an awareness of what they’re all about.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
The word of wisdom can be described as insight into doctrinal truth. It could also refer to supernatural wisdom about how to solve a practical or spiritual problem.40
The word of knowledge is the revealing of a fact in existence (of the present or past) that can only be supernaturally revealed. In other words, this is not something that could be known naturally, but something one’s eyes have not [seen] and ears have not heard.41
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
Faith is 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.42 Another way of describing this gift is to say that God brings about a supernatural change with no human effort involved. God does something on our behalf but independent of us. This gift can also operate in areas of divine protection and divine provision.43
Healing is the power to heal various kinds of illnesses or diseases. Healing can come through a prayer of faith and the laying on of hands by the elders (James 5:14-15) or by speaking a word from the Lord for specific healing (Acts 3:6). We can pray and lay hands on the sick as we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:8).
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
The working of miracles has to do with God entrusting a believer with strength or energy that we don’t normally have. Another way of saying this is a believer does a supernatural act by the divine energy of the Holy Spirit.44
Discerning of spirits is the divine ability to the presence and activity of a spirit that motivates a human being, whether good or bad.45 Their doctrine is subject to examination, and what they’re saying is considered as to whether it proceeded from the Spirit of God.
Prophecy is 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.46 Its exercise is not solely intellectually based. [It’s] calling forth words from the Spirit of God.47 [It’s also] designed to warn men and [women] of sin or shortcomings.48 Someone who has this gift might also predict future events if they were called to the leadership gift of prophet.
Divers kinds of tongues mean speaking in a foreign language that one has not learned, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. If it’s not interpreted, then it speaks mysteries to God, and the speaking is unable to understand what is being said. While the believer conveying it might be edified, those in the periphery will be unaware of what God would like to proclaim.
Interpretation of tongues is used to explain the meaning of the words that were spoken in a foreign tongue into the known language of the hearers.
There you have it, the characteristics of a Spirit-filled church. The true gospel is proclaimed, the foundational and intellectual doctrines of the faith are being taught, learning how to grow spiritually is brought forth by leadership in their teachings and examples, and the operation of the gifts of the Spirit is promoted to be exercised decently and in order. In this church, God’s abundant life is ever flowing. Lives are being changed from glory to glory. Church is fun because God shows up. Hallelujah! Praise God! Thank you, Lord!
Just meditating on what was just said is exhilarating.
What I’d like us to discuss next is the kind of decisions we could make that might help us experience God’s abundant life on a daily basis. While I might have already given you some advice in this area, there’s more to discover.
But before you turn there, please read the following article that conveys the additional characteristics of a Spirit-filled church.
10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A SPIRIT-LED CHURCH
[It’s] impossible to read the book of Acts without seeing the evident power of the Holy Spirit working through the first-century churches—not just in the miraculous sign gifts, but in the daily witness of the churches.
I’m convinced that the reason we [don’t] always see this power in our churches today is [that] we tend to focus more on programs and action items than we do on seeking God’s power. It has been said, “If you can fully explain the ministry of a church, something is wrong.”
What evidences do we see in the early church of the work of the Holy Spirit? The same [evidence] set forth in a Spirit-led church today:
- Fear of the Lord
Worship has never been about bringing God down to our level but about worshiping God for who He is. When we have a sense of awe and godly fear in the presence of God, we carry an awareness of His presence through the week and live in obedience to Him.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul…—Acts 2:42–43
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.—Proverbs 14:26
- Desire for the Holy Spirit’s Fullness
Although I regularly preach on the holy lifestyle God calls His children to live, in the past twenty-eight years of pastoral ministry, I’ve preached more on the Spirit-filled life than any other topic. Without a yieldedness to the Holy Spirit and a hunger for His power, no matter how free from worldliness our lives may be, they will be empty and shallow. Having a desire for the power of the Holy Spirit means we move from self-reliance to God-reliance in every facet of our lives.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;—Ephesians 5:18
- Fervent preaching
Biblical preaching that lifts up Christ and boldly declares the truths of His Word is the great need of the hour. As E.M. Bounds rightly said, “The power of Christ’s dispensation is a fiery pulpit. Not a learned pulpit, not a popular pulpit, not an eloquent pulpit, but a pulpit on fire with the Holy Ghost.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.—Acts 4:13
- Doctrinal teaching
Nothing is as important as the doctrines of the Word of God. The early Christians saved at Pentecost continued first in the [apostles’] doctrine. With the emphasis on doctrine—the clear teaching of God’s Word—they continued in fellowship and prayer. The doctrine of the [apostles] was the natural backdrop for teaching young Christians the lifestyle set forth by those doctrines. To reverse the pattern—teaching what we do before teaching what we believe—is to give people the fruit without helping them develop the root.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.—Acts 2:42
- Fervent prayer
One of the overriding characteristics in the early church was prayer. Prayer was their source of power, comfort, courage, and hope, and it was the underlying force for their witness, faithfulness, and growth. A church without frequent times of fervent prayer is a church without power.
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…—Acts 1:14
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.—Acts 6:4
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.—Acts 12:5
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;—Romans 12:12
- Loving fellowship
We easily connect the two words fervent prayer in our minds. But what about fervent love? Indeed, the early church was a loving church—a church with an intense spirit of love for one another to bear burdens, sacrificially give, and gladly fellowship.
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.—1 Peter 4:8
- Sacrificial spirit
The natural outflow of love is sacrifice. As Amy Carmichael once said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.—Acts 2:44–45
- Obedient witness
The early church not only witnessed in the power of the Holy Spirit, but they did so in spite of intense persecution. A Spirit-led church is a church that witnesses for Christ regularly, passionately, and faithfully—regardless of the obstacles.
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.—Acts 8:1–4
- Gracious spirit
A Spirit-led church overflows with the grace of God. And that grace will never be more evident than it is in the relationships within the church. Whether it be the member to member, member to [pastor,] or pastor to member relationship, every relationship in the church should set forth the graciousness of Spirit-filled people. A bickering, quarreling church is not likely to see the supernatural power of God.
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.—Acts 4:33
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.—James 4:1–2
- Dedicated ministry
While the first characteristic we saw—the fear of the Lord—is an attitude of the heart, this characteristic—dedicated ministry—is the corresponding outward action. To serve the Lord is to obey His will by obeying His commands. And a Spirit-led church will be focused on obeying Christ’s command to preach the gospel in its community and around the world.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.—Acts 1:8
Do these characteristics describe the church you pastor or attend? More importantly—because, after all, a church is comprised of people—do they describe your life?
I’m all for [carefully planned] programs to further a biblical vision of fulfilling the Great Commission. But programs without the power of God are empty and fruitless. As it has been wisely said, “Anything done in our own strength will fail [miserably] or succeed even more miserably.”
To see the power of God in our churches and spiritual fruit for our efforts, we need to return to a dependence on and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit of God.49
37 Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 09 February 2020 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
38 The Bible Exposition.
40Jewish New Testament Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 1992. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 26 October 2021 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
41Lester Sumrall. “The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit,” Lester Sumrall Evangelical Association, 1982. <https://bit.ly/3nB84c6>.
46“Motivational Gifts – What are Spiritual Motivational Gifts?” 24 March 2012 ˂http://christianity.about.com/od/holyspirittopicalstudy/a/spiritualgifts_2.htm>.