Posted by: Veroni Kruger | September 21, 2011

Wellness

Pain, unsuccessful medication, diagnosis, surgery – these have brought me face to face again with the whole issue of health and sickness, healing and suffering.

I grew up in the era of Pentecostalism when seeking help from medical professionals was considered to be “leaning on the arm of flesh.” That implied being unfaithful to the Lord. My father, like many of his contemporaries, was known for his stance on divine healing. More, also known for many healings that took place after he prayed for sick people.

He was also responsible for one of the greatest lessons I ever learned about healing and God. When he was already over seventy years of age, he had his prostrate removed. As he was waking up after the operation, I was sitting beside his bed. One of the elders of the church walked into the room, and immediately my father said sleepily: “The fact that I am lying here makes no difference to the fact that God is the Healer!”

Dr F.P. Möller (Sr.), who was for many years the leader of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, remarked that the matter of sickness and health, suffering and healing, is a mystery. Anyone who has given serious thought to these matters at all, will agree.

God is the Creator of everything that is good. He wants people to be healthy. He answers prayer. As the Creator of all that is good, He is also the motivation and inspiration behind honest scientific endeavour. He created people to have brains, with the desire to know more and understand better. He is the one who inspires people to want to help others.

I see no conflict between so-called “divine” healing and the work of the medical profession. The believer who vehemently denies the validity of the medical profession is probably acting out of conviction that the fact that God heals needs to be defended. God does not need to be defended by us! On the other hand, the medical professional who denies the existence of God is missing the fulfillment of realizing the partnership between him/herself and the Creator of the universe.

Between these two, and assailed on the other hand by the enemy, Satan, is the person who is either a patient or a healthy individual. Unfortunately we have to admit that much of the sickness we suffer is our own fault: unhealthy lifestyle, eating too much or eating harmful foods, lack of exercise, exhaustion – all of these and similar vices often lead to sickness. Added to these, the “vices” of our emotions, like unwillingness to forgive, harbouring grievances, clinging to hurts we have suffered, sometimes because we feel there is security in them … all these increase our vulnerability.

There is another truth that we need to face, and that is that God’s perspective is holistic, that is, aimed at the holistic health of people. God wants us to healthy in body and spirit. But because He has eternity in mind, spiritual health is more important to him than physical health. It is also true that we are never as teachable as when we are suffering.

A positive mind-set, healthy lifestyle, ridding ourselves of negative emotions – these are elements of health. Above all, committing our lives to God, and serving Him joyfully and each other gratefully – these, I think, make for a healthy life.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | August 17, 2011

Fifty-Seven Years of Grace and Love

Fifty-seven years ago, to the day, I knelt by my bedside at my mother’s knee, and gave my heart to Jesus. There is no other way than this personal, subjective expression, to describe what I felt at that time.

It was already bedtime. My brother had started talking to me about heaven, and when he saw I was deeply moved, he called our mother to our room. She explained to me how one could become a child of God. When I committed myself to doing that, she prayed with me. John 1.12 was the verse of Scripture she referred to. It was also the verse she wrote out in full on the title page of my Bible. It was a great comfort to me on days when I doubted the validity of what happened that night.

What have I learned in these 57 years? Too much to write down briefly, but here are some things that are most prominent in my mind as I think back over the years.

I learned about the theological foundation for regeneration much later. One thing is for sure, though, that the experience of 57 years has confirmed to me that one can be born again at a very young age – I was six at the time. There is no doubt in my mind that my life as a child of God began that night in Kimberley, South Africa, with a simple confession of my sins, and a prayer of commitment to the Lord.

I learned that God is faithful, even when He does not seem to be. Once again, I know it is a theological fact, but I am grateful to say that I have learned it in a very personal, subjective manner. Through everything that life has brought me, both good and bad, I can state with confidence; God has never let me down.

I have come to know that the Lord shares every experience of our lives with us, from extremely good to extremely difficult; when we are at our best, and when we are at our worst; when others disappoint us, and when they prove to be faithful – He is always there!

I have learned that He is truly all-sufficient. He is like the warming sun on a cold day, like a shading cloud on a hot day; He is the fountain of inspiration, but also the still waters of rest. He is the constant companion under all circumstances.

I have learned that the Word of God, as it come to us through the Bible and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is what strengthens us in our walk with God. A healthy diet of Bible reading, trusting the Holy Spirit to help me see the relevance to my life of what I read, has been the mainstay of my life. Sensitivity to the leading of the holy Spirit has made the difference between those times when I have floundered along, and when I have lived effectively. Of course, even then I often blundered. but I always felt I was “blundering on to victory,” as someone said.

This has been the only way I could be practical about the facts of life and yet live out the mystical elements of our faith.

Today I celebrate 57 years of life under the grace and love of the One who is our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I praise God for this privilege, and I pray that many will find Him who alone is able to fill the vacuum in their lives, and bring the fulfillment we all seek.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | August 13, 2011

Unspeakably Gentle, Incredibly Powerful

The voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr (a soft gentle breeze), so gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it. The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for his Highest, August 13).

One of my most prominent memories of growing up in the Pentecostal movement is their emphasis on sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. We really believed that the ministry of the Holy Spirit was as much a part of our lives as of the early church. He was involved in every aspect of our lives, spiritually as well as in a very practical sense, as our guide and advisor.

Concomitant with the appreciation of and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, was the very real expectation that He would intervene in our daily lives in a powerful manner. This expectation was fulfilled in the many miracles we saw occurring before our eyes. Of these, the change that came over people’s lives at being born again was undoubtedly the greatest. Other signs of the power of God were miracles of healing, and deliverance from all sorts of demonic oppression. Countless examples of answers to prayer would also be counted among the instances of the evidence of the power of God. Meetings were often characterized by the very real awareness of the powerful presence of God. This often had to be acknowledged by opponents of the Pentecostal Movement. The following incident illustrates this point.

The Pentecostals had started to work in a town in what was then the Eastern Transvaal, part of the province of the Transvaal, South Africa, now known as the province of Mpumalanga. The local Dutch Reformed Church was eager to get to know as much as possible about the new religious phenomenon, and commissioned one of their elders to investigate. The objective was not to learn from the new religious movement, it was rather to find out how to combat the movement. The brother did the best he could, visiting the meetings of the “sect”, as it was then called. His report to the church board was not satisfactory to the majority. “I am not sure yet what spirit it is, but I want to tell you that there is a powerful spirit present among them.”

One afternoon he attended an outdoor baptismal service, still fulfilling his commission to “spy” on the Pentecostals. Because they had no facilities of their own yet, they held the baptismal service on the banks of the river that flowed past the town, and baptized believers in the muddy waters of the river. The elder watched as one candidate after the other entered the water to be baptized by immersion, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. As was often the case, there were hecklers present who mocked the believers. Some even threw dogs into the water among the people who were participating in holy baptism, crying out in jest: “Receive the Holy Spirit!”

As the elder watched, his uncertainty about what spirit was present was replaced by a firm conviction. To the amazement of all the bystanders, he took off his jacket and with enthusiasm walked into the river with an exclamation “I want to be baptized!”

Another, more humorous story illustrates how the community, though often refusing to identify themselves with the Pentecostal Movement, respected the Pentecostals for what they knew of the power of God present among them.

There were many colorful personalities among the early Pentecostal preachers. One of them, a brother Van Eyk, who was also well-known for the miracles of healing that took place under his ministry was conducting a series of services in Pretoria, South Africa. The room was filled to capacity, and people were standing at the windows. As usual there were some hecklers present, particularly among the crowd outside. One of them threw a brick through one of the widows, which landed in the centre of the area in front of the platform on which the preacher stood. Without any announcement, the preacher prayed:

“Lord, you know who threw this brick through the window. We pray now that that person will either come in immediately to remove the brick, or that he will be struck dead!”

The next moment the back door flew open, and a young man rushed forward desperately, picked up the brick and ran out again.

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 26, 2011

Gifts are God’s Idea

The operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is definitely evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. The gifts began to operate immediately after Pentecost amongst the believers in Acts. The gifts of faith and healing are active in Acts 3; Acts 5 records an occurrence of the gift of knowledge; the gift of discerning the spirits appears in Acts 16…. In fact, all the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 (the two contexts of Scripture that are most comprehensive in their treatment of the gifts) can be identified in the Book of Acts, except the gift of interpretation of tongues.

One cannot consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit without also proceeding to the fruit of the Spirit. As evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is as important as the gifts of the Spirit. The fruit may be even more important, since according to Paul the occurrence of the gifts is validated by the presence of the fruit. This is the significance of the first two verses of 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

The challenge to the church in this regard is simple, yet urgent: God has not changed. Where are the gifts? Why are they often completely absent from the church, or otherwise meager in comparison with the wealth that Scripture describes?

A rather comical version of this challenge is told by John Wimber, founder and for many years the leader of the Vineyard movement.

Having come to faith in Christ in the Quaker movement, he was happy to attend church regularly. Soon, however, something started bothering him, and he asked of his friend who had first invited him to church: “When are we going to start doing the stuff?” When his friend asked “What stuff?” John continued: “The stuff that Jesus did.”

As he listened to the teaching of the church on Jesus, he was waiting with the beautiful fresh and naïve faith of the new convert, for the signs and wonders that Jesus did. His reasoning was that if the church were the gathering place of followers of Jesus, the logical conclusion was that the church would be doing the same “stuff” that Jesus did.

In the same way, we should ask “Where are the gifts of the Spirit in the church today?”

The theology that there was a time when these things ceased to occur, so-called cessationism, is built on an erroneous and false interpretation of the one Scripture that lends itself to that interpretation. And then it is only possible to interpret that Scripture as such when one imposes one’s own cessationist presuppositions upon it. This Scripture I am referring to is, of course, 1 Corinthians 13.8-12.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The central thought in Paul’s writing is that when perfection comes, that which is imperfect will no longer exist. The contrast is between time and eternity. The dawn of eternity will herald the cessation of everything that belongs to the temporal world. At that time, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will no longer have any function. The gifts are given to the church for the time of the ministry of the church in this world. When this world ceases to exist, that time will be at an end, and so the gifts will cease to exist.
On the other hand, love will endure forever. God is love, so that love is already in this world a token of eternity.

The greatest weakness of a cessationist interpretation of this Scripture is the false premise that perfection has already come. One has only to look around you without the confusing bias of theological presuppositions to realize that we are very far from perfection by any stretch of imagination!

We can evaluate quite easily whether we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to go into complicated theologizing – we often do that when we know that we do not have grounds for our statements. We also do not have to become mystical about it. The Scriptural data on the evidence for the filling with God’s Spirit is sufficiently clear that we can simply look into the mirror of God’s Word, and see how our lives compare with biblical evidence.

When we do this, some of us will find that we are sadly lacking as far as evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is concerned. Others may find that the power of the Holy Spirit is evident in many ways in their lives, without their realizing or appreciating it.

Many have been intimidated by what is presented in certain groups, as being the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues and extreme emotional response to the point of hysterics have been identified in some groups as being the evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There have even been further extremes, such as considering being “slain in the Spirit” as the evidence of a powerful presence of the Spirit of God. Others have thought you have to jump around, roll, crow like a cock, roar like a lion – the inventiveness of human beings is unlimited!

Referring simply to Scripture renders all of this unnecessary, but does not diminish the challenge: Where is the power of the Holy Spirit in the church? More importantly: Am I open to having the fullness of God’s power working in and through me?

What, then, is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

According to the words of Jesus in Acts 1.8, the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, is the presence of the power of God in the life of the believer. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” is a promise, not a command, as some would interpret it. This is clear primarily from the language used. The grammatical form is a simple future, such as is normally used in talking about the future, in predictions or promises. The nature of the power also makes it impossible to see this as a command. If it were a command, the supposition would be that we could somehow become powerful of our own accord. No, we can only wait to receive the power of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The power that Jesus speaks of, is the power of God, given through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This immediately distinguishes this experience from that of John 20.

How is this manifested?

The manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Spirit-filled believers encompassed witnessing, boldness, the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The first of these was the empowerment of the disciples to become witnesses. This was in accordance with the promise Jesus gave them in Acts 1.8.

Every one of the disciples was immediately used by God as a powerful witness of the great deeds of God. In a very dramatic way, this witnessing took place in the languages of all the bystanders! In this one event, there was the embryonic fulfillment of the promise of Jesus, that they will be witnesses to a much wider group of people than just those who live in Jerusalem. Rome, Asia, Egypt, Libya – to the disciples these regions were the “ends of the earth.”

The power to witness, together with the desire to do it to as many people as possible, endures to this day as an indication of the presence of the power of God. For the church to attempt to curtail any one of these two or both, amounts to “quenching the Spirit.” Rather than being signs of spiritual immaturity, the desire to witness is a direct outcome of the baptism with the Spirit.

The events at Pentecost also indicate the Holy Spirit’s eagerness to reach all people and all peoples with the message. The phenomenon of the disciples speaking the languages of all those present was the reverse of the events at Babel. At Babel God used language to confound the plans of the people who were intent on proving their own prowess. At Pentecost God used language once again to show clearly that He is the God of the whole world, who desires that “all should be saved.”

This missionary motivation is one of the most powerful signs of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. John Stott has been described by some as the theological leader of world evangelicalism, and Billy Graham called him “the most respected clergyman in the world today”. Stott referred to vision as “holy discontent with the status quo.” The Holy Spirit works a holy dissatisfaction with the fact of unreached people groups and other aspects of the unfinished work of world evangelization in the heart of everyone who is baptized with Him.

Where God’s Spirit is at work, witnessing is done with boldness. Peter, who not so long before had squirmed when a servant girl wondered aloud if he might belong to the group who followed Jesus, now speaks with great boldness. And as he speaks, his boldness increases: “Fellow Jews and all you who live in Jerusalem” is how he begins (Acts 2.14). With “Men of Israel” (verse 22) he focuses more on the particular group that he addresses with a climactic statement in verse 36: “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

This statement is dramatic, in rhetoric as well as content. Rhetorically, it represents the seal on the entire argument Peter has presented. In its content, it is an accusation that the leaders of Israel are accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus, and that He is, indeed the Messiah.

Peter’s boldness on the Day of Pentecost continues (and continues to grow). It rings forth in his address to the “rulers and elders of the people” in Acts 4.8; in his and John’s reply to the prohibition to speak imposed on them by the group of leaders; and in the reply of the apostles to the accusation by the high priest before the Sanhedrin (the full assembly of the elders of Israel): “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” (Acts 5.28). To this Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29). Peter must have realized what the reaction of the Sanhedrin would be – “they were furious and wanted to put them to death” (Acts 5.33).

The fisherman from Galilee with no formal training in theology, and who had proved his own weaknesses repeatedly, had been transformed into a mighty orator and one who was able, moreover, to put the events surrounding Jesus into theological and historical perspective! No wonder the leaders were astonished “when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4.13). They “took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4.13). The three years they had spent with Jesus had been, of course, the core of their preparation. However, it was only after they were baptized in the Holy Spirit that they were able to act as they were now doing.

In the colorful history of Pentecostalism, there are many accounts of the same kind of instantaneous transformation of people that enabled them to become ministers of the Gospel. It has often been expressed as: “Saved tonight, preaching tomorrow!” Conservative Christians have often wondered about this. Friends and family have sometimes reacted negatively (“Who are you to preach to me?”). Less wise church leaders have often ridiculed the Pentecostal Movement for this. People who have experienced it first hand will acquiesce that it was the direct result of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

God has respect for human beings. Moreover, He has created each one with his/her own personality. Boldness in witnessing will therefore manifest itself in varying degrees and forms that will be consistent with each person’s particular personality traits.

The account in Acts 4 relating the events following the release of Peter and John, once again includes the two elements of witnessing and boldness. The prayer of the people was to be enabled “to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4.29). Their prayers were answered: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4.31).

A link you might check out (Afrikaans):
http://www.ngwitrivier.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=188:pinkster-2010-ds-gerrie-doyer-woensdagaand-19-mei-&catid=41:preke&Itemid=188

What, then, is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

According to the words of Jesus in Acts 1.8, the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, is the presence of the power of God in the life of the believer. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” is a promise, not a command, as some would interpret it. This is clear primarily from the language used. The grammatical form is a simple future, such as is normally used in talking about the future, in predictions or promises. The nature of the power also makes it impossible to see this as a command. If it were a command, the supposition would be that we could somehow become powerful of our own accord. No, we can only wait to receive the power of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The power that Jesus speaks of, is the power of God, given through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This immediately distinguishes this experience from that of John 20.

How is this manifested?

The manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Spirit-filled believers encompassed witnessing, boldness, the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The first of these was the empowerment of the disciples to become witnesses. This was in accordance with the promise Jesus gave them in Acts 1.8.

Every one of the disciples was immediately used by God as a powerful witness of the great deeds of God. In a very dramatic way, this witnessing took place in the languages of all the bystanders! In this one event, there was the embryonic fulfillment of the promise of Jesus, that they will be witnesses to a much wider group of people than just those who live in Jerusalem. Rome, Asia, Egypt, Libya – to the disciples these regions were the “ends of the earth.”

The power to witness, together with the desire to do it to as many people as possible, endures to this day as an indication of the presence of the power of God. For the church to attempt to curtail any one of these two or both, amounts to “quenching the Spirit.” Rather than being signs of spiritual immaturity, the desire to witness is a direct outcome of the baptism with the Spirit.

The events at Pentecost also indicate the Holy Spirit’s eagerness to reach all people and all peoples with the message. The phenomenon of the disciples speaking the languages of all those present was the reverse of the events at Babel. At Babel God used language to confound the plans of the people who were intent on proving their own prowess. At Pentecost God used language once again to show clearly that He is the God of the whole world, who desires that “all should be saved.”

This missionary motivation is one of the most powerful signs of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. John Stott has been described by some as the theological leader of world evangelicalism, and Billy Graham called him “the most respected clergyman in the world today”. Stott referred to vision as “holy discontent with the status quo.” The Holy Spirit works a holy dissatisfaction with the fact of unreached people groups and other aspects of the unfinished work of world evangelization in the heart of everyone who is baptized with Him.

Where God’s Spirit is at work, witnessing is done with boldness. Peter, who not so long before had squirmed when a servant girl wondered aloud if he might belong to the group who followed Jesus, now speaks with great boldness. And as he speaks, his boldness increases: “Fellow Jews and all you who live in Jerusalem” is how he begins (Acts 2.14). With “Men of Israel” (verse 22) he focuses more on the particular group that he addresses with a climactic statement in verse 36: “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

This statement is dramatic, in rhetoric as well as content. Rhetorically, it represents the seal on the entire argument Peter has presented. In its content, it is an accusation that the leaders of Israel are accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus, and that He is, indeed the Messiah.

Peter’s boldness on the Day of Pentecost continues (and continues to grow). It rings forth in his address to the “rulers and elders of the people” in Acts 4.8; in his and John’s reply to the prohibition to speak imposed on them by the group of leaders; and in the reply of the apostles to the accusation by the high priest before the Sanhedrin (the full assembly of the elders of Israel): “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood” (Acts 5.28). To this Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29). Peter must have realized what the reaction of the Sanhedrin would be – “they were furious and wanted to put them to death” (Acts 5.33).

The fisherman from Galilee with no formal training in theology, and who had proved his own weaknesses repeatedly, had been transformed into a mighty orator and one who was able, moreover, to put the events surrounding Jesus into theological and historical perspective! No wonder the leaders were astonished “when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4.13). They “took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4.13). The three years they had spent with Jesus had been, of course, the core of their preparation. However, it was only after they were baptized in the Holy Spirit that they were able to act as they were now doing.

In the colorful history of Pentecostalism, there are many accounts of the same kind of instantaneous transformation of people that enabled them to become ministers of the Gospel. It has often been expressed as: “Saved tonight, preaching tomorrow!” Conservative Christians have often wondered about this. Friends and family have sometimes reacted negatively (“Who are you to preach to me?”). Less wise church leaders have often ridiculed the Pentecostal Movement for this. People who have experienced it first hand will acquiesce that it was the direct result of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

God has respect for human beings. Moreover, He has created each one with his/her own personality. Boldness in witnessing will therefore manifest itself in varying degrees and forms that will be consistent with each person’s particular personality traits.

The account in Acts 4 relating the events following the release of Peter and John, once again includes the two elements of witnessing and boldness. The prayer of the people was to be enabled “to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4.29). Their prayers were answered: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4.31).

A link you might check out (Afrikaans):
http://www.ngwitrivier.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=188:pinkster-2010-ds-gerrie-doyer-woensdagaand-19-mei-&catid=41:preke&Itemid=188

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 1, 2011

Glossophobia – Fear or Resistance?

“Glossophobia” was the term that came to mind as I listened to the traditional explanation why speaking in tongues was not something to be pursued any more. (I am aware of the other uses of the term.) It actually seems as if some people have fear of speaking in tongues, or even of hearing others speak in tongues! This fear is expressed in varying degrees of aggression, to the point where some are positively against any manifestations that are not strictly in line with conservative liturgical practices.

Most, if not all, evangelical Christians (maybe even most Christians, without the qualification “evangelical”) agree on the basic doctrines concerning the Holy Spirit. Our differences arise when we start thinking about the praxis, that is, the manner in which we recognizing Him operating in our daily and liturgical lives.

There is fear on all sides. A leader in a Pentecostal denomination agreed with me that we receive the Holy Spirit at the moment we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, but refused to endorse such a view in public. “I am afraid” he said, that “people would use that to refute the necessity of the baptism in the Holy Spirit!”

On the other hand, many people’s judgment of these matters is clouded by the excesses they observed in others. Recently, Bible translators wanted to avoid at all cost any reference to Pentecost in their translation of Acts. “Pentecostals have gone to so many excesses” they said, “that we cannot even use the term.”

I cringe at both these expressions of apprehension.

But why does it bother me that people are averse to the speaking in tongues?

I do not believe it to be any kind of evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God. It is also, in my opinion, not a badge of spiritual superiority. I would merely go as far as saying that it is a privilege that God wants to give all his children, to be able to communicate with Him in a language that He enables them to speak.

I think I came to realize in the most recent time of commemorating Pentecost why I feel so strongly about it.

Do people really fear the speaking in tongues, or is it submission to the Holy Spirit that they are afraid of? You see, Paul says that when we speak in tongues our minds are not in control. And to us, in the supposedly rational age we are so proud to belong to, there is hardly anything more terrifying than to have to submit our precious mental faculties to someone else.

But is it really fear of the Holy Spirit, or is it nothing other than pure resistance to Him? If it is fear, I find it sad that anyone should be afraid of that Person in the Trinity whose name is aptly translated as “Helper.” If it is pure resistance, I shudder when I think of the grave warnings in Scripture against resisting the Spirit of God, and the danger that He can become like an enemy. But even if that were never to happen, it is a great pity that we should miss much of the unspeakable riches of God by resisting the work of God in our lives.

Do I speak in tongues? Yes, and I find myself in good company, since the apostle Paul also did. Do I wish everyone should enjoy this privilege? Most definitely, and, again, Paul openly spoke of the same wish.

Can we get beyond our fears, and simply seek the Lord with whatever He wants to bring into our lives?

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | June 10, 2011

Pentecost – Even More Cause to Celebrate

THE HOLY SPIRIT – GOD WORKING IN US AND THROUGH US (2)
“Externalization” of the work of the Holy Spirit (See last week’s blog for the “Internal” aspect.)

Sunday, June 12, the church will be celebrating Pentecost, that is, the day the Holy Spirit was “poured out” in the church. That means He came to be present in the church in all his fullness.

The manner in which Jesus talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in John 16.14 encompasses both internal and eternal aspects. “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” This refers to the Holy Spirit persuading us that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. It also suggests something of the external work, since what belongs to Jesus is certainly more than just internal things in the life of the believer.

In the baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit, God gives us as much of Himself as is humanly possible to contain. This is what “the promise of the Father” is (Luke 24.49). This is the gift promised by the Father and that Jesus said He would give to his church. This is what He imparted to the church in Acts 2.

This is the fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by Joel. The general context is abundance.

Joel 2.19:
I am sending you grain, new wine and oil,
enough to satisfy you fully;
never again will I make you
an object of scorn to the nations.

This theme of abundance continues in Joel 2.21-24:

Be not afraid, O land;
be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things.

Be not afraid, O wild animals,
for the open pastures are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and vine yield their riches.

Be glad, O people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord, your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains as before.

The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

God promises that He will pour out on his people such blessings that even the land will be rejoicing. There will be grain during autumn; there will be rain during springtime. The threshing floors will overflow. “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full” (Joel 2.26).

And it is in this context that the promise of the Holy Spirit is given: “I will pour out my spirit on all people” (Joel 2.28).

This is the gift Jesus says his Father has promised.

And out of this comes the possibility of the externalization of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What, then, is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

According to the words of Jesus in Acts 1.8, the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, is the presence of the power of God in the life of the believer. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” is a promise, not a command, as some would interpret it. This is clear primarily from the language used. The grammatical form is a simple future, such as is normally used in talking about the future, in predictions or promises. The nature of the power also makes it impossible to see this as a command. If it were a command, the supposition would be that we could somehow become powerful of our own accord. No, we can only wait to receive the power of God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The power that Jesus speaks of, is the power of God, given through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This distinguishes this experience from that of John 20. There they received the Holy Spirit as God dwelling in them. In Acts 2 they received the fullness of the power of God.

In spite of their having received the Holy Spirit from the Lord, the disciples were nevertheless enjoined to be on the lookout for “what my Father has promised” (Luke 24.49). This is further described as being “clothed with power from on high”. In Acts 1.4 this experience is referred to as “the gift my Father promised.” It is further qualified as being the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.5), and holds the promise of receiving power (Acts 1.8).

In John 20 the Holy Spirit came to live in the disciples as He still comes to live in every person who is born again. In Acts 2 He brought the promise of receiving as much of the power of God as is humanly possible to contain. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The power of the Holy Spirit was immediately manifested in the disciples. The manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Spirit-filled believers encompassed witnessing, boldness, the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit.

This experience is for us as much as the early believers, if we only open our hearts and minds to it!

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | June 5, 2011

Pentecost – Cause for Celebration

THE HOLY SPIRIT – GOD WORKING IN US AND THROUGH US

The Internal Work Of The Holy Spirit

Sunday, June 12, the church will be celebrating Pentecost, that is, the day the Holy Spirit was “poured out” in the church. That means He came to be present in the church in all his fullness.

By far the largest part of the church in the world agrees on basic Pneumatology (the teaching about the Holy Spirit). It is when we talk about the practical manifestations of the Holy Spirit that we differ. I believe that distinguishing between what the Holy Spirit does internally in believers and the externalization of that internal work, is helpful in clarifying many of the issues.

Jesus Himself talks about the Holy Spirit in two distinct ways. In John 20, He “breathed” on them, and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Although we do not read of any outward manifestations, we have to believe that that was exactly what happened. They received the Holy Spirit. This was the internal work of the Holy Spirit.

After the event described in John 20, Jesus promised more! He spoke of “the gift my Father promised” (Acts 1.4). He used a similar expression in Luke 24.49: “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” This refers to the dramatic events that occurred on the day of Pentecost.

This heralds the beginning of what I call the externalization of the work of the Holy Spirit.

While the internal work of the Holy Spirit is going on, our role is merely that of submitting to Him. We open our hearts and say, ‘Lord, I want to receive it!’ and that is what happens. In the second, our role is much more active, because God wants to empower us to be participants in what God wants to do through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What does the internal work of the Holy Spirit encompass?

Jesus says in John 16.8 that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment. This is manifested in an inner conviction of what is wrong and what is right. It also manifests in the conviction of how we can receive forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ, and the certainty that there is going to be a day of judgment. All of this comes by the Spirit of God working in us.

There is still more to the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Paul says one cannot call Jesus the Lord except through the Holy Spirit. “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12.3). It is the Spirit of God that convinces us that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit works the miracle of being born again in us. Titus 3.5 speaks of “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”. This is the greatest miracle possible. It is a psychological impossibility to effect radical change in the inner person; yet that is what the Holy Spirit does.

The Holy Spirit makes the word of God to be alive and real. Before one comes to know the Lord, the Bible is a dusty old book full of stories and traditions and laws and legalisms. When one comes to know the Lord, suddenly Scripture seems to have been written yesterday to be read today. That is because the Holy Spirit has come to live in us. It is the Holy Spirit that quickens the word of God. Paul says, “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” That’s the internal work in us that the Holy Spirit does.

The Holy Spirit is God dwelling in us. That is, after all, the big difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament when He came upon people from time to time anointing them for a specific task. Now, in the New Testament, Jesus, talking about the Holy Spirit, says to his disciples: “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14.17).

This indwelling of the Holy Spirit became part of the experience of the first disciples in the events described in John 20. Just after they recognized Christ for who He was and they accepted Him after He had been raised from the dead, Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to them. I firmly believe it happens to all of us: when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit as the indwelling person of God Himself.

In this internal work of the Holy Spirit, God comes to live in the believer through the Holy Spirit.

NEXT WEEK: THE EXTERNALIZATION OF THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Posted by: Veroni Kruger | February 20, 2011

GOD IS NO SLOT MACHINE, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT CANDY

Continuing the conversation I wrote about last week, the pastor asked me “But what should I do to have more of the power of God in my services?” (At this point I smiled, albeit ruefully, thinking back to another pastor, who said “If I can just a get a band going in my church, I’m sure the Holy Spirit will come!”)

There is no pattern, no magic method, no easy way. Yes, no easy way, because God is not a slot machine, and the Holy Spirit is not like candy.

Here are a few thoughts, as much for churches as for individuals.

The place to begin, is daily submission to the will of God. Only when, and to the extent that we submit to Him, will He reveal Himself as He really wants to do. Submission is best practiced through the classical discipline of daily Scripture reading and prayer, provided your attitude is right, so that it does not simply become another “good thing to do.” If you don’t talk to Him regularly (talk as if He is really listening!), and allow Him to talk to you (and you listening as if you really expect Him to communicate with you), what makes you think He will suddenly appear on a Sunday morning to bless “your” service? Or report for duty as your personal attendant when you decide “This is the day God needs to bless me with his presence” in your personal prayer time?

Humility is a great opener. C S Lewis says pride is the one vice we all struggle with, and in my experience as a pastor, I have found ministers (including me) to be especially prone to this vice. There is a fine line between gratitude for the blessings of God, and pride. And Satan knows where that fine line in each one of us is, better than we ourselves!

Religiosity, whether of the personal type of exaggerated piety, or of the denominational type (“We have always done it this way, and so shall it always be, world without end!”) is a severe stumbling block to opening the door for the Holy Spirit to work among us. (A word in the ear of the Pentecostals, I have found them to be as prone to getting stuck in religious forms as any other group of believers – I grew up, and am thankful for that, among Pentecostals.)

Of course there are specific things we can do to make it easier for ourselves to experience the power of God. I will get to some of them in due course. We can start working on making sure that we are taking care of the few I have mentioned here – they need to be attended to constantly. Then our personal devotional times as well as our times of corporate worship are sure to become more like what the Psalmist was talking about:

“You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Ps 16.11, NIV)

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