Outpouring -- Are We Ready?
To my Newday Family:
Today, I was listening to one of my favorite groups, MercyMe. Here are some lines from one of the songs I love, “The First Time”:
Day after day
I try to explain You
Like I can contain You
In so many words
But You are the ocean
And I’m on the shoreline
Thinking I know You
Like You could be learned
One of the three things we are spending focused time asking for from God is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our church.
As I have thought about this, it occurred to me: Are we ready for the Spirit to be poured out?
Am I ready?
Take a minute and imagine yourself on the shoreline of the ocean, with the waves coming in relentlessly, only the edge of the vastness beyond. And then think of the line from the song above, “You are the ocean / And I’m on the shoreline.”
I imagine the outpouring the Holy Spirit something like being swept over by the ocean and we lose control – in a good way.
Then more questions emerge to go deeper into the implications:
What does it mean for the Spirit to be present more fully?
How do I know when I am “full” of the Holy Spirit?
When Jesus said, “the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak,” how is that related to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
What is keeping the Holy Spirit from fully manifesting himself among us? Within me?
Should we expect the same thing that happened when the church first received an outpouring in Jerusalem, or is an outpouring more contextual?
And, I come back to the original question: Am I ready? Are we ready?
I know one thing – I cannot answer that question for you. But I do have a sense the Holy Spirit is poured out on a body of believers, not just one person. I see this for sure in the account of our spiritual mothers and fathers of the first church:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Notice the italicized parts and all the places where it’s about the group, the community. Virtually everything was done together, from giving away money so none were in need (by definition this cannot happen with only one person!), to eating in each other’s homes, to worshipping in the temple to finding more and more favor with the larger community.
Something else I am aware of looking at this moment of our church-parents: those first Christ followers were Jewish, from a Jewish culture, the audience was Jewish and the events in the verses above took place in a Jewish city. I would say it was unique, but God was in it. He created that special moment for the right people at the right time for the best results (and his glory).
Here’s what I believe: those special moments don’t have to be unique. In fact, we get to read about only one recorded event. I think those moments have taken place over and over again while only heaven recorded everything, besides the eye witnesses.
Which leads me to some more questions:
What do we have in common with those we read about?
Accounting for cultural and geographical differences, how do we bring about a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit among us now?
What is holding back a manifestation of the Spirit’s power?
What does “power” mean when it comes to the work of the Spirit?
And finally, I have a conclusion (notice I am not going to try and answer questions I wrote above). I begin where only I have control – my own soul and heart. And there is my conclusion. The only limit the Holy Spirit has is what we put on him. Be assured if there is any reason why the Spirit isn’t working fully around me, it’s first because he isn’t allowed to fully work within me.
And here’s the less comfortable part: I think the best evidence for the Spirit’s work is in direct proportion to how much control we have (or think we have). Yes, the fruit of the Spirit should be evident. And most definitely, unity would follow humble submission.
What if every single one of us said, more of Jesus and less of me? Period. More love and less pride. More love and less control. By its very nature, love shuns control. And while we receive the love we are also giving love no matter where we are and to anyone who is within our sphere of influence.
Here’s a great prayer to begin this process of submission:
Our Father: Control. I confess I love it and want it. But I do pray you may forgive me of this need to try and have it. And, so please work to control me with your love. Help me to submit to whatever you have planned and what will come to me. Take away my fear of giving to you what I cannot fully control. In reality, God, I control so very little anyway. Replace my fear with a love response to however you want to move in my life, I seek all the good you have for me, which is in turn is good for my community. Amen.
Let’s let the waves of God’s Spirit overcome us and move us to shine ever brighter.