THE FINAL WORD
A MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH
Just as the paintings and writings on the walls of the catacombs testified to future generations of the faith and endurance of the early believers, so the entire Bible testifies of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Every page is incandescent with the presence of God's Spirit. Our faith and understanding is illuminated as we read these truths. The Bible opens with the story of the Holy Spirit's presence in creation. It continues to speak of the Holy Spirit empowering men to do God's work through to the very end of time.
When the disciples asked Jesus about the end of time, he told them of certain signs that would precede his coming. Christ concluded his discourse with a story about a wedding feast, saying,
At midnight the cry rang out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" (Matthew 25:6)
In this parable Jesus described ten bridesmaids waiting for the announcement of the wedding party's arrival, each with a lamp meant to light the way to the feast. Foolishly, only five had prepared their lamps with oil. When the wedding procession suddenly approached, the bridesmaids who were not prepared found no place to buy or borrow oil for their lamps. These without oil were turned away from the wedding feast.
This is another example of Jesus teaching by illustration. In this parable he used the lamp and oil, as images of the Holy Spirit.
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning. (Luke 12:35)
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matthew 24:42)
Be always on the watch, and pray that you be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)
Keeping our lives illuminated by the light of the Spirit, keeping our hearts filled with the oil of his blessing and presence, we remain in a constant state of readiness: ready to do God's bidding; ready to receive him into our presence. We are also kept in a state of preparedness to sit down at the wedding feast in the company of our Lord.
THE COMPLETE PICTURE
John received a complete picture of world events, from the beginning to the end of time, in his vision on the island of Patmos. The scenes that unfolded in his vision consummated with God's final triumph in this world. John saw the believers and the redeemed, and to his ear their combined voices of praise,
...sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and Glory and Power belong to our God . . . Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and the bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:1, 7)
Throughout the entire book of Revelation, John admonishes future generations to "hear what the Spirit" is saying to our hearts. He writes,
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 2:7)
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 2:11)
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 2:29)
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 3:6)
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 3:13)
Whoever has an ear, hear what the Spirit says. (Revelation 3:22)
Like a bell tolling, John's exhortation reaches to us across time. "Hear what the Spirit is saying," his words resound. Open, deaf ears! Open, dull hearts! Stop your constant speaking, and listen! The Spirit is announcing something wonderful and new.
W.H. Auden, the great American poet, once wrote, "The greatest prayer is the prayer of listening."
He also wrote, "One will always know when the Holy Spirit speaks (to the heart). For you will hear something new that does not originate within the realm of your usual thinking."
Today the Spirit is speaking. Can you hear the sound of his voice?
FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Hearing the voice of the Spirit, we must then act upon what is spoken. James, the brother of Jesus, warned against the danger of hearing the word of God, and not doing what God's word commanded. He writes:
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James 1:22)
When Peter and John went to Samaria, it was with more than a message. They went in the active power of the Holy Spirit.
They laid their hands on them, and they (who heard) were filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:17)
Many today can preach a sermon or make a speech. But the early believers backed up their words with actions. When Paul learned the believers at Ephesus had not received the Holy Spirit, he, too,
...laid hands on them and they received. (Acts 19:6)
There was an immediacy to the ministry of the first Christians. Confess your faith, and believe in your heart! Belief originates in the heart, and confession begins with the first spoken prayer. The apostles announced this message without hesitation or doubting. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans,
If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9, 10)
When the jailer at Philippi asked Paul how he could be "saved," Paul replied,
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. (Acts 16:31)
Philip preached Christ to the Ethiopian Eunuch. He undoubtedly repeated the words of Jesus,
He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. (Mark 16:16)
Philip and the Ethiopian journeyed on side by side until they came to a pool of water. The Eunuch pointed out the body of water and asked if he too could be baptized into the faith. To this Philip replied,
If you believe with all your heart you may. (Acts 8:36, 37)
Afterwards the Eunuch declared,
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God... (Acts 8:37)
Together they went down into the water where Philip baptized the Ethiopian man. When they were come up out of the water, the new convert went on his way rejoicing.
Following the experience of Pentecost, Peter says,
I remembered the words of our Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 11:16)
When Paul the apostle reached Rome, he realized that he was lilving the final hours of his earthly ministry. He wrote to his beloved Timothy,
I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
To the elders in Ephesus, in those final months of his earthly journey, he wrote, I have not held back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God...I kept nothing that was profitable unto you. (Acts 20:27,20)
So dear to his heart did the apostle hold his calling, he was given to exclamations such as this to the Corinthian church,
Woe is me if I preach not the gospel. How terrible it would be for me if I did not preach the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:16)
The apostle used very strong language in his letter to the believer in Galatia, when he declared that,
...though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed. Do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I please men, I should not be the servant of Christ. I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me was not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:8-12)
Paul had only one message. Throughout his ministration he fought to keep his own ideas and perspective untangled from the simple and pure message of Jesus. To the converts in Corinth he wrote,
We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
Paul preached Christ, the Savior of man. He carried with him the message of Jesus who promised,
You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you. (Acts 1:8) This promise was for all who would receive it. (Acts 2:38)
Like salvation, the gift of God, the Holy Spirit is also sent to us, a gift. We are not left alone in our search for the true path of God. It is understandable why Paul would cry,
Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable GIFT , too wonderful for words! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
KEEPING YOURSELVES IN THE LOVE OF GOD
Men ought always to pray... (Luke 18:1)
He himself had already set this example. The disciples with Jesus could not help but be impressed at the importance their Master placed on prayer. In Mark we read,
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
Luke tells us,
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed...he went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Luke 5:16; 6:12)
Christ commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come. There, the disciples sought God in a combined union of corporate prayer.
They returned to Jerusalem and all joined together constantly in prayer. (Acts 1:12, 14)
The importance of prayer cannot be overemphasized. In this act of devotion we communicate our heart's cry to God. Through the words of the Spirit we speak from our inner being, and are carried into heavenly places. Most importantly, such communication keeps and preserves us in our spiritual walk. One of the most important admonitions found in the New Testament is:
Keep yourselves in God's love. (Jude 21)
In the verse preceding, we might read,
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20)
One cannot uncover any happening in the book of Acts where prayer does not accompany it. Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, but not until, ...they had fasted and prayed. (Acts 13:3)
Paul and Silas are in Philippi. They leave the crowded city in order that they might,
...find a place of prayer. (Acts 16:13)
Even surrounded by prison walls, their ankles and wrists bound perhaps, with chains: Paul and Silas,
...were praying and singing hymns to God. (Acts 16:25)
And that prayer ended in quite a sudden manner!
Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's chains were broken. (Acts 16:25, 26)
Don't expect nothing to happen when you begin to live your life as the Holy Spirit directs! The results will surprise you. Walls will be torn down and chains will be broken apart. Prisoners will be set free. So great is the power of God's gift to you: the gift of the Holy Spirit.
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