Holy Spirit – Power to Change the World
Holy Spirit – Power to Change the World
a new purpose, a new passion, a new power
Imagine a world without conflict, without borders, without sorrow and without poverty or disease. Imagine every man and woman being able to envision their future and having the confidence to fulfill their dreams. Imagine people of different nationalities and cultures living in harmony, and prospering in the fruits of their labor. This is the Kingdom of God where no plagues, or diseases can fester (Figure 1.0). This is what God has envisioned for this world and He will bring it to pass. God sent the Holy Spirit into the world with the purpose of destroying the works of darkness and creating a new world order – the Kingdom of God. Many great men and women have tried changing the world using physical might and economic power, but their efforts are short-lived. Conflicts in the Middle East and Africa continue to cost much suffering. The law of Moses did not bring lasting peace to Israel or the surrounding nations. But in the New Covenant, however God changes the world by first putting His Spirit inside man and transforming his heart through love and reverence for God.
Ever since the fall of Adam, God has purposed to restore humanity to His righteous image by giving every man and woman new hearts to love God and others. The primary reason for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is to fulfill that purpose. Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, every believer is now given divine enablement to live according to God’s laws – the law of love. Jesus said,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
In the process of loving God and man, believers begin to enjoy divine favor and abundant life. The indwelling Spirit causes believers to dwell in God’s perfect love. Their businesses will prosper, and their families, communities and nations will live in harmony. In an environment governed by the law of love, humanity can thrive without the fear of failure, loneliness or death. 1 John 4:18 tells us that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” In the presence of God’s love, there is no fear, for He protects us from temptations that we cannot bear.
The coming of the Holy Spirit has since brought unprecedented changes to world evangelism and progress of civilisation. Through the Holy Spirit, these changes continue to transform humanity towards the new world order. How does the Holy Spirit do that? By enabling every person to see the vision of righteousness, prosperity and blessings in their own career, family and nation. Each person can be empowered by the Spirit to conceive God’s vision and to fulfill it. The Holy Spirit will be their resource and power; they will also live with perpetual joy and hope of the Spirit unaffected by their circumstances. The Holy Spirit brings three gifts to humanity. These gifts are all undergirded by the presence of the Holy Spirit (figure 1.1).
a. Purpose and wisdom
b. Passion and faith
c. Power and confidence
A New Purpose
The day of Pentecost marked the beginning of a new era of visions and empowerment. With the baptism of the Spirit, every believer is given the ability to conceive visions and dreams. These visions pertain to the building of God’s Kingdom; a kingdom of political peace, joy, prosperity, health and longevity. Believers could envisage the expansion of their businesses, careers, and the unity of their communities. In Acts 2:17, Apostle Peter quoted the prophecy of Prophet Joel:
“And it shall be in the last days,” God said, “That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)
In modern history, God has given vision to political leaders to govern their nations in righteousness, resulting in peace and prosperity. The vision of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, was for a civilization that is free and that all should fight for their freedom with unyielding tenacity in the face of evil. His vision led the whole of Europe towards victory against the plague of Nazism.
The vision of Aung San Suu Kyi was for the need for change in those mental attitudes and values that shaped the course of her nation’s development. She envisaged a new and industrialized Myanmar, beyond the superficial change of official policies and institutions. However, her vision led her through 17 years of house arrest away from her dying husband and her two sons. Her husband eventually died of prostate cancer, having been refused even the last dying wish to see his wife once more. Her children grew up without their mother’s presence. Her vision gave her the determination and tenacity to sacrifice all she cherished for the sake of her country and people.
Through the Spirit, God has put prophetic visions into every man and woman. These visions concern the coming of God’s Kingdom – the same vision that moved the prophets.
The Prophet Isaiah in his vision described a new world order in Isaiah 65:17-25: There will be joy and gladness (v.18-19), health and longevity (v.20), prosperity (21-23), favor with God (v.24) and political stability (v.25). This new world order will be realized as the influence of the Holy Spirit spreads throughout the nations.
Through these visions, believers can visualize their holy ambitions and their roles in building God’s Kingdom. These Spirit-inspired visions and dreams captivate and move believers to overcome their own natural limitations. Many are lost in their daily pursuits of power, material wealth and fleshly desires. The Spirit now gives them the vision of the Kingdom and their specific roles within God’s grand vision. Nevertheless, the empowerment of believers to see the visions of God effectively expands the influence of Christ and His kingdom on a global scale. The presence of Christ and the blessings of His kingdom are now extended to wherever the church is found. Before Christ was resurrected, His influence was limited to the 12 disciples and occasionally the crowds that came to Him. After His resurrection, and on the Day of Pentecost, His Spirit was sent into every believer. Now the influence of Christ expands to the ends of earth through Spirit-filled believers.
God gave me a vision that Asia would experience unprecedented growth and prosperity in the forthcoming decades. People will be healthier and they will live longer. Singapore will be a major influence and catalyst for growth in the region. However, the people living in Singapore must renew their hearts and values, to be kind to one another and to the foreigners in Singapore. They must learn to walk justly, to desire mercy and be an example to the nations. Through these values, they could build strong institutions based on Kingdom values. They could continue to maintain a friendly and open environment for business dealings with other nations. The government will continue to act in a transparent way so that trust and justice could be established continually.
Singapore is considered a developed nation, and together with other nations of this category has reached a point of plateaued growth. The nations in the US and Europe as well as Japan, all experienced sluggish growth for the last decade. The models of industrialization and the knowledge economy have reached their limit.
The model of industrialization hinges on automation and efficiency; this relied heavily on the development of the human IQ (Intelligence Quotient). As nations progress from the industrial model to the knowledge economy, the focus shifts towards synergy involving the collective leveraging of resources. The focus of the knowledge economy is on synergy and effectiveness, which in turn relies on the development of the human EQ (Emotional Quotient). Now the knowledge-based economies have plateaued because of the limitations of human ability.
However, God has given us the Spirit, which is the SQ (Spiritual Quotient). The next era will involve the change of the human heart to make sacrifices for the benefit of the whole so that all may prosper together; it requires parties to build trust with one another. In order for developed nations to continue growing, they must play the role of being channels of blessing to others – especially to the developing nations. SQ is the measure of oneness with the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of righteousness, divine wisdom, vision and innovation. Future models of growth and prosperity require the values of the Spirit to be in operation. Only through the wisdom, love and power of the Spirit, can individuals, communities and nations continue to experience continual growth and prosperity.
A New Passion
As the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, his identity changes from that of a slave to a son of God. This new awareness of being a son of God produces peace, joy and a new passion for life and for the work of God’s Kingdom. We can be released from the negative mentality of orphanhood, condemnation, abandonment, emptiness, and hopelessness.
Many graduates have unrealistic expectations concerning their work life; they expect their work to bring immediate fulfillment and financial success. Hence, they spend time scouring job advertisements looking for something to suit their passion and interest. Passion to many is like a red herring – illusive and unattainable. In fact, passion is a by-product of something much more substantial, it is spiritual, and can only be gotten when one puts aside his personal interest in preference for the whole. Passion results when one sacrifices the self for the greater good of all. The secret to passion is when one diverts his focus from himself while making effort to fulfill the needs of others. When the Holy Spirit empowers with supernatural grace and ability, life is suddenly set ablaze with God’s passion and glory. A right purpose and motivation will bring passion and creativity to our work and career.
Having said that, passion also arises according to one’s capacity to receive and enjoy the gifts of God, the fruit of our labour. In the heart of my city, there are many restaurants, but there is one that stands out from the rest. It is usually packed with people at all hours of the day and is rated as one of the top Italian restaurants in Singapore. The restaurant’s popularity fueled the owner’s passion for Italian cuisine and for the love of people. He said in an interview that people and food are the two loves of his life and this perfect combination gives him an inextinguishable passion to share the joys of Italian cuisine. He is friendly and makes special effort to remember the names of the guests that came to his restaurant.
As Pastor of a church, my passion is to present God’s principles as clear as crystal so that people may live in the truth and prosper. My passion is to help build a culture for our society that is based on God’s justice, mercy and humility. What continually fuels my passion for pastoral work are the changed lives that I witness.
Humanity has been robbed of the freedom of joy and passion for life because of fear and bondage to sin. Lives have become self-centered and trapped in the bondage of anxiety and lust. Yet through the Spirit, the fear of condemnation and sin are forever broken. Believers are given new hearts, a new joys, and new passion. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God said,
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
By the Spirit, the bondage to sin and pleasures of darkness have been broken forever and the seeds of despair, envy, hatred and fears are lifted. Now, the perfect life according to the heavenly nature through the Spirit is made available to all. In the presence of the Spirit, it is now possible to experience righteousness, peace and joy whatever the circumstances! (Romans 14:17).
A New Power
Christ’s attributes extend beyond His love and righteousness. He possesses absolute authority and power over all creation. The Holy Spirit resurrected Christ from the power of death and destroyed the bondage of darkness over humanity. The Spirit of God came upon Gideon and anointed him with power and authority to defeat enemies (Judges 6:34-35). Similarly, believers filled with the Spirit will have victory over their personal weaknesses, enabling them to fulfill their dreams through perseverance. Through the Spirit, believers are empowered to be all that they can be.
The poverty and sickness that enslave humanity, that come from the curses of the devil are juridically destroyed by the power of Christ. Through the Spirit, believers are given the power to break those curses and to receive the blessings of the Kingdom. The presence of God’s Kingdom brings total healing as well as prosperity to those who live in it. In the age of the Spirit, the power of God is no longer restricted to a prominent few. Every believer who is yielded to the Spirit has the potential to exercise the power of Christ. Jesus says to His disciples in John 14:12-14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do”.
During healing crusades, I try not to lay hands on those who are sick. Instead, I often call out members of the community to lay their hands on them. Most of the time, the sick are healed, except on a few occasions where God in His wisdom delay healing for a purpose. Nevertheless, all believers are endowed with the potential to exercise the gifts of the Spirit at various levels.
A New Intimacy
When the Spirit is sent to indwell the believer, he will experience the tangible presence of Christ in a myriad of ways. The tangible intimacy of the Spirit is God’s expression of love and desire for fellowship. Through the indwelling Spirit, God is no longer physically aloof; He becomes close and personal, an ever-present companion. God says in Jeremiah 31:34,
“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.” And again in John 14:23, Jesus said, “My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
God will indwell believers and commune with them, face-to-face and heart-to-heart. The indwelling Spirit imparts God’s vision of the kingdom to the believer. He releases the believer from the negative emotions of anxiety, insecurity, and bitterness. Instead, freedom, peace and joy flows unceasingly from the Spirit while empowering the believer to persevere and to realise God’s vision for him.
The individual believer and the church
The work of the Spirit empowers the believer with purpose, passion and power to build God’s kingdom and experience prosperity, health and joy for himself. However, individual believers must be joined together through the Spirit as a church. A local church is the greenhouse where believers grow, and where their synergy develops into a mature body of God. The church is the seed of God’s salvation plan on earth. Hence, all believers have to be connected into the church in order to experience the full blessings of the Kingdom.
In the following sections, we will look at the works of the Spirit in the believer and in the church.
How does the Spirit build up the individual?
1. The Spirit works to transform the believer towards Christ-likeness through discipleship.
The Spirit’s work begins with the renewal of the believer’s mind through the church’s discipleship programme. The aim of discipleship is to transform the believer to become like Christ in every way. Jesus said,
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40).
In this process, believers are placed under the chaperone of teachers to instruct and to guide them towards Christ. With the help of the teacher, the disciple comes to understand the current phase of his growth and learns to direct his energy purposefully. Without a teacher, the believer may not recognise the ways of the Spirit. In discipleship, the believer gains wisdom as his teacher guides him in understanding the truths of God. He begins to live life with passion as the wounds of his heart are healed. Under the guidance of his mentor, he learns to recognise the ways of the Spirit and shed off the ways of darkness. He will also identify his primary gifts harnessing them to edify the church community. Now a gift mix is a set of gifts that usually work together. For example, the gift of discerning of spirits usually works with the gift of healing. The Spirit apportions the believer with spiritual gifts according to God’s purpose and role.
Through discipleship, believers will learn to work with other believers towards a common goal of serving the community and building the Church. Figure 1.2 illustrates the role of the church in relation to the individual in order to disciple him and strengthens his gifts.
At the same time, believers will also learn to derive vision, and acquire power and wisdom to serve the church with his gifts and to reach out to the community. Now as believers come from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds and talents, conflict within the body is expected. Hence, in Ephesians 4:2-7, Apostle Paul persuaded believers to do all to maintain the unity of the Spirit through love, humility and patience.
2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:2-7)
As believers form the basic building blocks of the church, discipleship nurtures and causes them to be built up. However, it is through evangelism that a church grows in size. Hence, discipleship must result in evangelism and maturing of the church. Healthy church growth requires members to be Christ-centered in vision and Christ-like in characteristic. Therefore, through the process of discipleship, the church is strengthened to reach out to the world.
2. The Spirit works in empowering the believer to serve the community and cause the church to grow.
The Spirit empowers the believer for the purpose of serving the community and to edify the church. Hence, believers are expected to reach out to the community with the power of the Spirit to heal and to make known the salvation of Christ. The believer must also faithfully use his gifts to serve the church in the area of work entrusted to him. The Bible teaches two areas of service for the believer: to serve the church by giving time and finances, and to reach out and serve the community. The apostle Paul in Romans 12:5-8 instructs believers to serve the church according to their spiritual gifts.
5 So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:5-8)
The above passage begins with “So we, though many, are one body in Christ,” signifying a common purpose, direction and destiny. If believers love the church, their acts of service will result in the benefit of the whole body, of which they are an integral part of. Their unique gifts and capabilities will determine the roles in which they serve. In figure 1.2, each believer is called to serve the church according to their gifts and actively reach out to the people around them. The greater the gifts of the members, the stronger the church and its capacity to grow. As the believer serves with his existing capacity, he should also seek to expand his gift mix. This is done by understanding how Christ functioned as an individual to build the Kingdom of God. Some churches unintentionally limit the growth of their members by teaching that God has “fixed” the abilities and gift mix of each believer and it is irrelevant to desire more of the Spirit’s gifts. They see the character and the gifts of Christ as non-unified parts of His nature. This is not biblical! In fact, Romans 8:29 teaches that God has determined that all believers are to become like Christ who is the firstborn or standard for all believers. Every believer must continually seek to become like Christ in His character (fruit of the Spirit) and power (gifts of the Spirit). Also Paul encourages believers to pursue love and to earnestly desire spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying the church, the body of Christ in love (1 Corinthians 14:1).
In the course of the believer’s service in a particular ministry, the church must expose him to other ministries so as to enlarge his gift capacity and gift mix. Believers should also submit to the leadership of the church, for the attitude of the believer towards the church’s leadership is a direct expression of submission to God.
Put in a nutshell, the believer is to make a difference in the community and to edify the collective body of the church. The believer should not function alone; the more mature he is, the more effective he is in empowering the church to expand God’s Kingdom. The Spirit uses the resources of the local church to build up the believer. He in turn edifies the church with his gifts and reaches out to the world.
How does the Spirit work in the Church?
1. The Spirit works to empower the five offices of the church to disciple its members towards maturity.
The responsibility of the church is to disciple every believer using her resources, which includes the five offices, in order to enable him to reach out to the community (figure 1.2). In a healthy church, disciples must grow both in quality and in quantity. However, a growing church needs to be equipped with a mix of the five offices: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and the teachers who are called to equip the church to do its work. Apostle Paul wrote,
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Apostles are given the mission to plant new churches. The prophets speak a timely message of repentance and establish God’s Kingdom. The prophets’ messages usually relate to specific sins needing repentance, and consequences of disobedience. Evangelists are called to preach the gospel with signs and wonders and souls are added to the church. The pastors and the teachers are those tasked to nurture the church through the Word towards maturity. These five offices equip believers through discipleship leading to church growth. However, not every believer is called to these five offices, but every believer will be given a basket of spiritual gifts to edify the church.
The apostle Paul teaches that these offices function differently with the ultimate goal to mature its members towards the likeness of Christ. Through the offices, the church is continually being equipped and sanctified towards Christ-likeness. This, in turn produces a growth cycle where the church continues to expand, resulting in the globalization of God’s Kingdom.
2. The Spirit coordinates the distribution of Spiritual gifts and the inter-working of local churches in a united direction within His master plan.
The work of the Spirit is first to create unity among its members in the local church, then among local churches in one unified direction. Within the local church, the Spirit organizes and administers the distribution of various gifts for His work. The local church at a certain level of maturity has to be self-sufficient with all the major gifts and the offices so that she can grow on her own. Hence, for a young church, the Spirit’s priority is to equip with a comprehensive gift mix and the function of the five offices. It is on the foundations of these gifts and offices that a church continues to grow and mature. However, believers have differing personal convictions and backgrounds that can potentially produce strife and threaten unity. Having each believer recognize each other’s gifts and affirm them in mutual respect is a powerful culture that strengthens the church body.
The Spirit coordinates the work of local churches giving them regional and global perspectives. The universal Church effectively is the globalized body of Christ. The Spirit coordinates evangelism at a global level according to God’s master plan. The Western countries in past decades sent a great number of missionaries to the East resulting in the Christianizing and the prospering of many Asian nations. Now, God is using Asian nations to bring a fresh move of the Spirit back to the West and even into Jerusalem. The rise of China especially, fueled many missionary movements back to Jerusalem building churches along the way.
At a glance…
The primary reason for the coming of the Holy Spirit is to fulfill God’s vision for a new world order. He does this by transforming hearts enabling people to live according to God’s law – to love God and to love others. In the process of loving God and man, believers enjoy divine favor and abundant life. The Day of Pentecost was the beginning of a new era – the Holy Spirit effectively expanded the influence of Christ on a global scale. The work of the Spirit is first to create unity among members in the local church, then among the local churches toward one unified direction.
The seed of influence, which is the Holy Spirit, is planted inside believers regenerating their hearts and enabling them to bring the presence of Christ to the world. Believers are given a new vision of the Kingdom and the roles they play according to the Spirit’s will. Believers filled with the Spirit are empowered to succeed in all their endeavors and to break the curses of poverty and sicknesses. After the Spirit is sent, believers will experience the tangible intimacy and the faithful presence of Christ. Through the Spirit, God is no longer physically aloof, but He becomes an ever-present companion, close and personal.
The work of the Spirit begins with the renewal of the believer’s mind through the church’s discipleship programme. The aim of discipleship is to transform a believer to become like Christ in every way. The Spirit empowers the believer to reach out to the community and to build the church. Hence, the believer is to serve faithfully in the area of work entrusted by the church. He will use his current gift mix and capacity to edify the other members of the church and to reach out to the community.
The responsibility of the church is to disciple every believer through her resources and the five offices. In a healthy church, disciples grow both in quantity and in quality. The greater the gifts of the disciples, the stronger the church will be.
A glance at the next chapter…
In the next chapter, we will explore the progressive nature of God’s revelation. We will look at why it is so important for God to reveal Himself progressively. Many believers today stagnate in their growth towards Christ-likeness; their experiences in the Spirit have plateaued. Many appear exuberant when worship with other church members, but become helpless when left alone. Some pray in tongues and experience many miracles in their lives, but they cannot gain a measure of respect from family and colleagues. Why is this so? The reason is due to their elementary understanding of God and the foundations necessary for growth. It is just like a couple rushing into marriage without taking the time to know each other and to build the foundations towards a strong marriage. We will also look at the three stages of God’s revelations, the foundations that are laid within these revelations and how God communes with us by engaging our mind, heart and spirit.
Issues to ponder…
1. What impact does your Church have on you and your family?
2. What is your vision concerning family and area of work?
3. Do you think your church is ready to reach out to the world? What should you do as an individual to help the church become more effective?
4. In what ways are you influencing and edifying your family, work and church?
5. (For ministers) What place do the supernatural works of the Spirit have in your church today?