When I (Jai) was at University, I was part of the rowing team. To be honest, it took a long time and lots of training to get the hang of it. If you were out of time with your team mates, it was a horrible experience. There was a thing called catching a ‘crab’ where on the recovery part of your oar-stroke, someone would accidentally clip their oar in the water. They would just about be thrown out of the boat and the whole boat would slow down instantly. Not very fun.
But you know, once we got our technique dialled in and got used to rowing together - wow, powerful. 8 young strong guys, all pulling in unison in the same direction, going as hard as they could for 2km. It was a powerful experience.
Without being ‘power hungry’ I think we all can appreciate and to a fair extent desire to be powerful. It feels nice. It feels in some ways right, when we experience competence, command and flow in a certain situation. How do we walk through life with a sense of power?
Empowered For The Kingdom
As we’ve worked through Mark’s gospel this term, we’ve been introduced to the Kingdom of God. The last part of the Kingdom coming, is that now Jesus has sent out his followers to ‘go and tell’ about the Kingdom. To let people know that Jesus has died for their sins and that he has risen and is now King of Kings. But how do we get the power to fulfil that task? It often times doesn’t feel very simple, or straightforward. How do we get the power?
Thinking About the Holy Spirit
Of course, if you know anything about the Bible, you might know that the answer is the Holy Spirit. But how do you know you have the Holy Spirit? What about the different terms that people throw around with regards to the Holy Spirit? ‘Spirit-filled’, ‘Holy Spirit Baptised’, ‘anointed by the Holy Spirit’ or ‘entering the glory realm’. What do we need to know about the Holy Spirit to be empowered for the Kingdom?
The Holy Spirit Gives Power For Witness
Now to unpack everything that there is to say about the Holy Spirit is well beyond one post. There is also a complexity of understanding the different terms that people use. But as we look at the Bible, what clear answers does it give?
One thing that is very clear, is that Jesus will be the one to pour out the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist said,
‘I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mark 1:8)
It’s interesting, because just before the risen Jesus fulfils these words, he reminds his disciples of them in Acts 1:4-5,
‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
This is a promise still ringing in the disciples ears, even as they see Jesus baptising Gentiles (non-Jews) with the Holy Spirit for the first time. Peter recounts when he shared the gospel with a Gentile Centurion and his household:
‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”’ (Acts 11:15-17)
The question then becomes, what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit coming. What is the core function of the Spirit in the life of the believer? As you read through Mark’s gospel, the building picture is that the Spirit will empower witness to Jesus as the gospel is spoken. The Spirit empowers words as the presence of Jesus goes with His followers. In Mark 13, Jesus tells his disciples that despite hardship and opposition, they will be given words by the Holy Spirit to speak (13:11). After Jesus has come in glory on the clouds to the Father, the whole weight of God’s heavenly host will be behind the gathering of God’s elect for the ends of the earth (13:26-27). Jesus gives clear indication that his gospel will be carried throughout the world (14:9). Wherever the gospel is preached, people will be drawn into the Kingdom. As the gospel ends with the women who have heard that ‘He is risen’ being too afraid to speak, we are left eagerly anticipating the Holy Spirit baptism, that will empower God’s people to speak and see God’s Kingdom spread.
The Holy Spirit Is Poured Out By The Risen and Exalted Jesus
When the Holy Spirit finally falls as Jesus said in Acts 2, it is quite surprising. People are given the ability to speak words as predicted, but even in ‘tongues’/ languages that they don’t understand. Peter explains that the Old Testament had always explained that the prophetic gift would be given with the coming of the Spirit. It’s hard to box the expression that this baptism of the Spirit brings. There is wind, there is fire, there is the drawing in of people far from Jesus. As you read through the book of Acts, there is a whole range of different speech and direction that the Holy Spirit gives to God’s people as they live out the mission of Jesus on the earth.
But one thing the Apostles are clear about is that the Spirit comes from Him. It comes from Jesus.
‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.’ (Acts 2:32-33)
As we desire for Jesus to continue to move in this world to see the gospel go forward, as we desire empowerment, we do well to look to Him.
Wait For the Holy Spirit
Certainly there are things we can do to create the right landing place for the Holy Spirit. In that first sermon after Jesus started baptising people with the Holy Spirit, Peter says:
‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:38-39)
As we hear the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again as King of God’s Kingdom, we do well to first repent. To acknowledge the ways we have not lived for Jesus, the ways we have sinned. Then we believe. We trust that Jesus died for us, and Peter says the first way we can express our trust is to go down into the baptismal waters and die with Christ Jesus to that old way of life, and to come out by faith trusting in the risen Jesus, committed to live obediently before him.
But then Peter really puts to us that we wait for the Holy Spirit. It is a gift that is received. It will come to all who call on the name of Jesus, because it is a necessary part of the life of following Him. And we see this disposition of ‘waiting’ as a continuing posture even with those who have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 3:23-31, as the believers face stiff opposition they ask God for boldness and signs, God shakes the house and fills them up with more of the Holy Spirit. The other thing we see is that the more one speaks the words the Spirit gives, the more the Holy Spirit fills in (see Stephen who is filled with the Spirit after preaching an amazing message to an angry crowd in Acts 7:55). This fits with what Paul says, as he exhorts us to the be filled with the Spirit by singing and speaking the realities of the Kingdom (Ephesians 5:18ff).
I want to encourage you today, to come to God, waiting and asking for this wonderful gift of the Spirit to be poured out in you and on you. Then, once it comes, I want to urge you to speak out all that the Spirit puts in you, that you might be filled with more and more and more. Praise God that we can walk with the creator of the universe, with His very Spirit within us! Wow!
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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