Jim Cymbala

B. Childress
May 27 2013

The world is full of books about God the Father who created the universe, and more books are written about Jesus the
Son of God than anyone who ever walked on this planet.  But isn’t it interesting that far fewer books have been written
about God the Holy Spirit?

When teaching on prayer, Jesus declared; “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  (Luke 11:13, emphasis added).  
You would think that promise would create a huge desire to know more about this promised Helper – who he is and what
he does.  And it would be even better if we were to experience him as a living reality the way the early believers did.

We know that Jesus the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father (Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).  So
that means the Holy Spirit is God’s only agent on earth.  He is the only experience we can have of God Almighty, the only
way we can have the work of Jesus Christ applied to our lives, and the only way we can understand God’s Word.  
Without the Holy Spirit, we are like the disciples before Pentecost – sincere but struggling with confusion and defeat.

More than a hundred years ago, Samuel Chadwick, a great Methodist preacher and leader in England, summed it up
concisely: “The Christian religion is hopeless without the Holy Ghost.”

The early church provides the perfect illustration of that hopelessness.  It was made up of simple men and women.  The
leaders were former fishermen and tax collectors who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested and needed them most.  
They weren’t courageous and faithful.  In fact, they
lacked faith and courage.  They were the least likely to be put in
charge of any Christian enterprise.

Yet after the events in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit is poured out, those same nobodies were suddenly transformed.  
With courage and faith, they turned their community, and eventually the world, upside down.  That wasn’t due to their
seminary training; they didn’t have any training.  They couldn’t hand out copies of the New Testament, because it hadn’t
been written yet.  It wasn’t because they were wealthy and had the greatest sound system and light show at their
church.  They were poor people without a church building.  In fact, the Christian church didn’t get its first public building
for about three hundred years.  To the existing Jewish religious establishment, those early Christians were mocked as
unlearned and ignorant people with few resources.  To the Roman Empire they seemed fanatical and strange.  

But one thing they did possess was the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told them to rely on the Spirit for everything,
including impromptu speech.  To paraphrase, he said, “Don’t even prepare what you’ll say when you’re in high-pressure
situations, because when you open your mouth, it will be given to you.  The Father will give it to you through the Holy
Spirit.  You’ll just know what to say” (Mark 13:11).  The early believers knew all too well that Christianity was hopeless
without the Holy Spirit.

Giving the Holy Spirit His Due

The Holy Spirit is underappreciated and underpreached by the twenty-first-century church.  There is a prejudice of sorts
against the Holy Spirit that impedes many from learning more about him.  The body of Christ is often divided into two
sides.  One side stresses the Word of God, separating itself from what it views as the emotional fanaticism often linked to
those emphasizing the work of the Holy Spirit.  The other side is sometimes known for drifting into unbiblical
manifestations and unorthodox teaching while attributing it all to the Spirit of God.

Seeing the abuse and bad teaching, many on the first side will say, “I’m not interested in experiences and manifestations
of the Holy Spirit, I just want to study the Word.”  But it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible, and there are lots of
promises concerning his person and work.  How can anyone treasure God’s Word without giving the Holy Spirit his
rightful place?

To those who move in circles strongly emphasizing the Holy Spirit, they must be reminded that
everything must be tested
by Scripture.  The Spirit never contradicts the Word he gave us.  He also never puts the focus on the preacher, because
the Holy Spirit was sent to glorify Christ alone (John 16:14).

Somewhere in the middle is the kind of Christianity we see in Scripture where the Word of God is honored along with a
childlike dependence and openness to the Holy Spirit.

Only the Holy Spirit can make the things of Christ real and alive to people.  Christianity does not stop at the cross where
Jesus died and paid the price for our sins.  After Good Friday was Resurrection Sunday when the Spirit raised Christ.  
Yet so many of us live with faint trickles and shallow pools of the Spirit, rather than the promised rivers of living water.  
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me
and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said,
rivers of living water will flow from within them.’  By this he
meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given,
since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:37-39, emphasis added).

Everything about the Spirit speaks of powerful currents of life that refresh us and flow out to bless others.  But there is
an even more extraordinary teaching about the Spirit.  Paul wrote, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is
living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in
you” (Romans 8:11).  Imagine, the measuring stick of the power promised to us is the same strength that raised the
corpse of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Only the Holy Spirit

Let’s remember how any person becomes a Christian.  Before a person can feel the need for Jesus Christ as a savior,
that person must first be convicted of sin.  “When [the Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin
and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).  The Holy Spirit shows us our sin and our need for a savior.  That is what
every believer experiences in conversion to Christ.

Jesus also taught that entrance into the kingdom of God (being “born again”) can only happen by the Holy Spirit’s work:
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the
Spirit” (John 3:5).

Consider the insightful words of R.A. Torrey, evangelist and Bible teacher:

    The Holy Spirit does regenerate men.  He has power to raise the dead.  He has power to impart life to those who
    are morally dead or decaying.  He has power to impart an entirely new nature to those whose nature now is so
    corrupt that to men they appear to be beyond hope.  How often I have seen it proven.  How often I have seen men
    and women utterly lost and ruined and vile come into a meeting scarcely knowing why they came.  As they have
    sat there, the Word was spoken, the Spirit of God has quickened the Word thus sown in their heart, and in a
    moment, that man or woman, by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, has become a new creation.

It is the Holy Spirit working inside of us that causes us to turn from our sin and fix our eyes on Jesus.  While we may be
tempted to think that we can create emotional environments for this to happen, the truth is that this kind of rebirth or
transformation can happen only through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul taught that believers are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6:19), and because the Spirit lives
inside of us, that makes us different from the rest of the world.  If the Holy Spirit doesn’t live inside a person, no church
membership or even a sincere effort to live a good life can make that person a Christian.  Only true faith in Jesus Christ
as Savior, confirmed by the Holy Spirit living inside of us, makes us a new creation.  The Spirit inhabiting every believer
is just another way of saying “Christ in us,” for the Holy Spirit’s presence represents Jesus.

When God looks down on the earth, he doesn’t focus on ethnicity, and he never acknowledges religious denominations.  
He just sees two kinds of people; his children who have the Spirit living inside of them and unbelievers who don’t have
the Spirit living inside of them.  It’s as simple as that.  Today we split hairs about doctrinal positions to validate our faith,
but to the early church the definition was simpler.  Either we are temples or we are not temples.  “If anyone does not
have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).  It would have been impossible for the apostles to
consider someone a true believer in Jesus without the accompanying witness and work of the Spirit.  The Spirit of God
was the bottom line.

Gojra Continued

Remember the story of the Pakistani believers whose homes had been looted and burned, and how the wife of the
minister helping them showed up in our prayer service?  Well, the story doesn’t end there.  The Spirit wasn’t done with
what he wanted to accomplish.

Months later on a Saturday night, I got a call from our CFO.

“The minister from Pakistan just called.  There’s a problem now in his city.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“At the five o’clock Muslim call to prayer, something set them off.  Now they’re shouting, ‘Death to the Christians!  Burn
their houses down.  Death to the Christians!’  He’s really concerned.”

“Okay, I am going to pray tonight.  You pray too, Steve.  What else can we do?  Let’s just pray.”

So I prayed that night.

Before each of our three services, I always meet with the Prayer Band.  They are a group of committed believers who
pray with me and then gather together in a room to intercede for the attendees in each service.  Our first Sunday service
started at nine o’clock, and by the time I finished praying with the Prayer Band, the meeting had already started.  I
pushed the button for the elevator to go down to the sanctuary, and when it opened, Steve was in the elevator.  He held
his cell phone, and I could tell by the look on his face that something was wrong.

“He just called again.  The situation’s worse.  He’s up on the rooftop with his wife and children and some of the local
Christians.  There are thousands of people in the square chanting, ‘Death to the Christians!’  I can hear the fear in his
voice and the chanting mob in the background, so I know what he’s saying is true.”

I felt as if I’d taken a punch and the air had been knocked out of me.  I didn’t know what to do.  I got into the elevator,
and we headed down.  As we walked into the sanctuary, the congregation was singing and praising God.  When the
song ended, I interrupted and told the congregation, “We’re going to get back to worshiping God in a moment, but right
now there is an emergency situation we have to pray about.”

I told the church what I knew.  As I relayed the critical situation, my heart burst as I thought about parents and children
hiding out on the roof from the crowd below.  Then I broke down as I thought of what it would be like to be up there with
my children and grandchildren.  Overcome by emotion, I asked our worship leader Onaje to lead the church in prayer.  
Suddenly a chorus of cries went up to God on behalf of the Pakistani believers.  It was just like what occurred in the book
of Acts: “They raised their voices together in prayer to God” (4:24).

Later, at the end of a long day, I spoke to Steve and asked what happened.

“You won’t believe this,” he said.  “The pastor called me back.”

“He’s okay?”  I was thrilled.  The situation had been so dire.

“As they were on the rooftop, some clouds came out of nowhere.  It got dark and started to rain, but not just rain, a
torrential downpour.  It rained so hard it dispersed the crowd!  Everyone was safe, and they were able to get off the roof
and return to their homes.”

“Oh, thank you, Jesus!  Praise God!”  I couldn’t wait to tell the church.  God rescued the man, his family, and the other
local Christians through the prayers of his people half a world away.  Didn’t God promise that praying to him in faith
would bring answers from heaven?

The Holy Spirit was working in Pakistan, protecting those believers from the mob.  But at the same time, the Holy Spirit
was also moving among the people of our church, helping them to pray fervently and with a bold faith that only God
could give.

Genuine Holy Spirit Manifestations

To many people this story about Pakistan might seem “out there.”  But maybe that’s because without the Spirit of God
moving strongly among us, many of us have become faithless and cynical.  We have seen so much ministerial self-
aggrandizement and so many dubious financial appeals linked to a supposed “Holy Spirit anointing,” that we have turned
away in disgust because so little reminds us of Jesus.

But don’t the false appeals prove that something true really does exist?  William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army,
said, “We are not such fools as to refuse good bank notes because there are false ones in circulation; and although we
see here and there manifestations of what appears to us to be nothing more than mere earthly fire, we none the less
prize and value, and seek for the genuine fire which comes from the altar of the Lord.”  The counterfeit proves there
must be a true genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit!  There is a counterfeit gospel, but there is also a true message
of salvation.  There are false portrayals of Jesus, but there is also the true Son of God, Savior of the world.  And so it is
with the Holy Spirit.  We must not be scared away by the abuses.

To the Corinthians, Paul said: “Now to each
one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (I
Corinthians 12:7, emphasis added).  There it is staring at us.  Now what are we going to do with this verse?  The
infallible word of God says
the manifestation of the Holy Spirit was given to each one for the common good.  To each
one, not just to the apostles.  Think of the impact of that verse.  Is that something we preach?  Do we believe it?  Do we
pray about it?  God has promised every one of us a manifestation – supernatural by definition – of the Holy Spirit.  It is
part of being a Christian.  To water that down to mean human talent is unbelief in God the Holy Spirit.

One of the ways the Spirit glorifies Christ is to build up his body, which is for the common good.  That is how God
strengthens his church.  Since the church is a spiritual organism, it needs spiritual ministry to build it up.  Spiritual
ministry can only come by the Holy Spirit showing himself through human beings.  His power flows through human

Don’t you agree that those who engage in false displays and teachings of the Spirit have scared away many sincere
people who love their Bibles?  Someone who truly loves the Word of God sees those displays and says, “No, thank you.  
Let’s just have some safe praise singing and a good Bible study, and then we’ll go home.”  But our Lord Jesus Christ
never intended that
his church operate without visitations and blessings from the living Spirit of God.  Why would he
send another Helper if not to help us?  Just look around at our world.  Don’t we see the obvious need of something fresh
from God to overcome the powerful influences of evil?

The early church was alive and active because of the Holy Spirit.  There is no verse –
not even one – that relegates the
importance and vitality of the Spirit only to the New Testament church.  That’s the key – we have to believe the Holy
Spirit is present for us today.  We can only receive according to our faith.  If we don’t believe, we won’t pray, and when
we don’t ask, we won’t receive the blessings God has for us.

If we want to see God work in extraordinary ways, we have to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit – just as I did in that
café when I wept over people I didn’t know, and just as the church did the night the wife of the Pakistani minister came

Torrential rain came and helped those believers on the roof.  We too need rain, but of another kind.  Oh how easy for us
to become parched and dry.  What we need are fresh showers of blessing to soften our hearts and to bring fruitfulness
to our lives.  That’s why the Old Testament prophet cried to God, “Rend the heavens and come down” (see Isaiah 64:1,

Come down on us, Holy Spirit, for we are truly helpless without you.


SPIRIT RISING, by Jim Cymbala with Jennifer Schuchmann, Copyright 2012, Zondervan.