“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem . . . and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“Be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18
As we strive to bring the gospel to Chinese, we must not forget the narrative of the Book of Acts or the clear command of Paul. In each case, and in many other passages of the New Testament, we read of the necessity of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for effective Christian living and witness.
No matter what methods we use to share God’s truth, unless our lives bear the marks of the transforming work of the Spirit, we will lack credibility and winsomeness.
And regardless of what we say or write, or how much we pray, our efforts will be fruitless unless they are motivated, directed, and empowered by the Spirit of God within us.
The Fullness of the Spirit
A careful study of Luke and of Acts, along with Ephesians 5:18, shows that the Spirit-filled life takes two forms, as expressed by two different Greek words.
First, some believers were suddenly filled with the Spirit to proclaim the gospel, usually in times of special opportunity or need (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 4:31; 9:17; 13:9).
Second, some believers were marked by a lifestyle of constant moral transformation and increasing Christ-likeness, and Paul teaches that we should all be thus controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Luke 4:1; Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24).
Without denying the need for a special endowment of the Spirit to give a bold testimony for Christ in the face of opposition, Scripture is clear that we must have the ongoing sanctifying work of the Spirit in order to reflect Christ.
We need the Spirit to “put to death the [evil] deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and to exhibit the moral qualities of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Only if we “walk in the Spirit” and not “in the flesh” will we commend the truth of what we say.
Recently, I have studied and written about John Sung, China’s greatest evangelist, and J. Hudson Taylor, one of history’s greatest missionaries. Both of these men insisted that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is essential for effective Christian living and witness. (For their stories go to the Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity.)
Praying in the Spirit
Just as we rely on the Holy Spirit to empower our words and change our lives, the Apostle Paul tells us that we should pray “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
You may remember that I suffered a physical breakdown in May of 2018. Since all medical tests showed that my body chemistry is good, the doctors concluded that I was exhausted by stress and worry.
That surprised me, because, though the previous months had been extremely difficult for our family and me, I had been taking all my concerns to God in prayer. Or so I thought.
Upon reflection, however, I saw that my prayers issued from the flesh, not the Holy Spirit. I was simply worrying in the presence of God! I was agonizing in prayer, but not relying on the Spirit to guide and uplift my supplications. Thus, even my petitions to God wore me out!
Since then, I have slowly been trying to learn how to ask for the Spirit’s leading in prayer, his strength to persevere, and his peace in the assurance that God has heard me.
Let Us Ask for the Holy Spirit! (Luke 11:13)
Dear friends, are we calling on God the Father to conform us to the moral likeness of Jesus his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we partaking daily, even hourly, of the refreshing, energizing, and satisfying springs of living water promised by Jesus to all who continually come to him in faith (John 4:14; 7:37-39)?
Let us all use the sublime words of Paul in Ephesians 1:15-22 and 3:14-21 in praying for ourselves and for those whom we love.
And let us ask God to give the fullness of the Spirit to Christians in China who are suffering for their testimony to Christ.