"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

Faith In And For The Holy Spirit

By Jim Cymbala

    The following is edited from a message given at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2006 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A.

    There is a difference between having faith in and having faith for the Holy Spirit. As I talk with you about this, I want to couch my comments in the terms of the New Testament, which talks about revival being a restoration, a revitalization, a getting back to life the way it was at the beginning, the way God intended the Church to be – a Church permeated, led and governed by the Holy Spirit.

    As people who live in the New Covenant era, we have to be people of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is not here now. He is coming again. When He says that where two or three are gathered together He is in the midst (Matt. 18:20), He is speaking of His presence through the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of Christ. God’s only representative on earth at this time is the Holy Spirit. Any time of "revival" is a time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, where hopefully God is restoring His people back to what was in the beginning for His Church. God gave us the Book of Acts and the epistles so that we wouldn’t have our own blueprint for the Church. It is His Church.

    A lot of people who are serious about God have faith in the Holy Spirit, but what they’re lacking and what we struggle with is faith for the Holy Spirit. Since I was at this conference two years ago and have traveled around the country and around the world, I can’t tell you all I’ve seen and heard of the declension of real Christianity in churches today. It’s astounding! There is little openness to the Holy Spirit and little belief in what He can do. As Samuel Chadwick said, "Christianity is hopeless without the Holy Ghost."

Willing to Learn and to Change

    What I would like to do is to read many verses in the Book of Acts about the Holy Spirit. Could we ask God to clear our minds about biases? Do you know what the first thing God said to Abraham on his walk of faith was? The first thing He said was something like this: "Leave your home…leave what you’re used to, and step out. I have something better for you. You don’t know where you’re going? That’s all right. I know where you are going."

    Spiritually, God has been applying that to my life, and I see this is such a hindrance in people. They want God to do something, but they’re not leaving what they grew up in. "God, do a new thing! But I’m not changing. I’m not changing one of my views. I was born and reared this way. I’m going to die this way." It is hard for us to read the Bible without the lenses of what we are already committed to. God can’t break in and show us anything new because, oh, oh, we don’t believe that. Don’t we want to know God’s truth? Is there something better than we’re experiencing?

    I grew up in a church that preached Jesus, but they wouldn’t want a black person within a hundred yards of the church. What am I supposed to do? Follow the tradition of my elders? Be a bigot and racist the rest of my life? Talk about God and the Holy Ghost, but just don’t like people?

    Friends, you can’t love the Head without loving the Body. This is how you know people who really love God and are close to God. They weep over God’s people. They want to be with God’s people. They weep over the sinners, because they see people the way Jesus sees them.

    By looking at some Scriptures, we will see what we learn about the Holy Spirit, but take off your glasses of what you and I are used to. I don’t want to be controversial. I want to stay on a controversial subject, but I want to talk about things I think we can all affirm and agree on. Let us talk about the beautiful person of the Holy Spirit.

    What would I do without the Holy Spirit? I never went to Bible School or Seminary. But where God put me [at Brooklyn Tabernacle], there are so many problems. Without faith in the power of the Holy Spirit, what would I do? I’m glad I’m where I am, because it is either God or fail. I’m not even where the culture is to go to church. Maybe you live where it is in the culture to go to church. Some of you may live in a place where it is hard to know who is just going to church and who is a born-again Christian. In the inner city it is not so much that way. You can tell the Christians because they go to church. If the people want entertainment, they go to Broadway.

The Holy Spirit Sent from Heaven

    Acts 1:6-9: "So when they met together, they asked Him, ‘Lord [the risen Savior], are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight."

    Acts 2:1-4: "When the day of Pentecost [the feast] came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."

    Acts 2:38-39: "Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’"

    God’s intention for the Christian religion was that the vessel would be clean by the Blood of Jesus so that the vessel would be made ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is not a gas or a vapor or a liquid or a solid, but He is a person, that would seem to mean a totality of control by the Holy Spirit, which in this case sent them into an ecstasy. When the Holy Spirit came, they began to speak in ecstatic tongues of languages they didn’t know, but which the Spirit gave them the ability to speak. Only foreigners who happened to be there for the feast understood when they heard them that they were praising God and speaking of the great things He had done.

    This was the beginning. This was the essential. God had given the apostles a commission. He had given them a mission of going into all the world, but they could not do it without the power of the Holy Spirit. These were the only people with the message that could save people and yet He told them to not go, but to tarry. So how important is the filling of the Holy Spirit? Unsaved people were dying all over Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria and in Galilee. But essentially the Word to them was, "Don’t go! You are the only ones with the message, but don’t go, because you are going to encounter satanic strongholds and great opposition, and you do not have the wisdom and the power and the boldness you will need to meet this. Although you are cleansed and believe in Me and you see Me now, you need something else. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you." Without that power, they couldn’t do the Lord’s work.

We Need the Spirit Today!

    Brothers and sisters, nothing has changed to this day. We cannot do it with computers. We cannot do it with talents. We cannot do it with cleverness and production and relating and all else. We need wisdom in all our communication, but we need whatever this anointing and power of the Holy Spirit is. We need it! We cannot do God’s work on our own, no matter what seminary we go to. None of the original twelve went to any seminary. Isn’t that amazing?

    Of the people who were filled with the Holy Spirit, one of them a few weeks previously had cursed and denied he knew the Lord. Who of us in our churches would have him preach with that record? With our sense of decency and reputation, who would have Peter preach? But God filled him with the Holy Spirit! I’m glad God is not like us! I’m glad God is a God of grace. The group in the upper room were all filled.

    The apostles were a motley crew. What did Jesus produce after three years of living with them with perfect teaching? When He got arrested, they all deserted Him. On the way to Jerusalem they were arguing who was the greatest. He could not get His teachings through to them. Preaching and teaching can never do what God the Holy Spirit can do. The best we can do is to point people to God so they have their own encounter with God. Unless we meet God in some new way through the Holy Spirit, we’re going to be the same in our church. I don’t want to do that. I want to be a better pastor, a better husband, a better grandfather. I want to be a better man of God. How many want to be better by the power of the Holy Spirit?

    The Holy Spirit baptism was not the conclusion; it was the beginning. They were filled with this promise, with this gift, with this overflowing stream, and that was to bless others. In John 4, when Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman, He said to her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water" (4:10) and she would drink it. But in John 7, Jesus talked about a river flowing from within a person. Notice the qualification – "If any man thirst, let him come to Me..." (vv. 37-38). "Any man""thirst" – that is all.

The Need for Spirit-filled Churches

    "And they were all filled" (Acts 2:4). Obviously, without being controversial, not all Christians and not all churches are Spirit-filled churches. I’ll give you three quick proofs from the Bible.

    1. One of the qualifications of the seven men was "Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom" (see Acts 6:1-4). If every Christian was full of the Holy Spirit, how could that be a qualification for leadership? That would be like, "Choose out a Christian among the Christians." No, they were to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Not everyone was.

    2. In Ephesians 5:18: "Do not get drunk on wine…Instead, be filled with the Spirit." The tense is "be being filled with the Spirit." If everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit, why would Paul tell the church of Ephesus: "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled [keep on being filled] with the Spirit." That’s for us. How are we going to help others who are lukewarm and cold if we are not where we need to be? Remember, if you preach from the head, you only reach their heads. If you preach from the heart filled with the Holy Spirit, you can reach their hearts.

    3. To the Church at Laodicea, one of the seven churches Jesus was walking among, a Christian church no doubt, Jesus said, "So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth" (Rev. 3:16). If that church was Spirit-filled and Jesus was going to spit it out of His mouth, then words don’t mean anything.

    I wonder how many churches in this country are Spirit-filled. How many pastors are Spirit-filled – controlled and filled and led and anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit? I am not talking about fanaticism. The work Carol and I have been doing for thirty years is not fanaticism. Let everything be done to edification, in decency and order – but not in the decency and order of a cemetery – rather, in the decency and order of the Holy Spirit, breathing, moving. You pastors who are here can go back and can lead people into being Spirit-filled. What I will be judged by is, did I lead the church in the way the New Testament talks about?

    I want you also to notice that wide-open promise: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Receiving the Holy Spirit is the beginning. It is the start of the Christian life. It is not a sign of maturity. The church at Corinth had received the Holy Spirit. But it wasn’t mature; it was carnal. It had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they were arguing. One said he was of Paul; another said he was of Apollos. Paul asked, "Are ye not carnal?" (1 Cor. 3:3). They were thinking like men. It was not because they did not have a flow of the Holy Spirit. But receiving the Holy Spirit is just the beginning.

    I wonder if Paul and Peter and James and John would come to earth today and walk among our churches in America, what would they say? They might possibly ask, "What are you doing? Where did you get the mandates to do what you’re doing? We’re not supposed to learn from men. We are supposed to learn from God."

Learning from Acts Chapter Four

    In Acts 4 we read that after Peter and John were let loose by the Sanhedrin and threatened not to preach any more in the Name of Jesus, they went back to their own people to a prayer meeting and they all "raised their voices together in prayer to God" (v. 24). We don’t pray that way now, but it seems this is the way the Holy Spirit was helping the people to pray back then.

    Going on to verse 31 we read: "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly." They had a baptism of the Holy Spirit in chapter 2, but they had repeated fillings it seems. The manifestation of the Spirit that came from this new filling was that they spoke the Word of God boldly. I have learned that without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit I am a coward. I will not speak what God wants me to. I will begin to fear the face of man and I’ll give in to certain pressures. I need the power of the Holy Spirit. The lack of the Holy Spirit is one of the factors giving rise to the entire movement of seeker sensitiveness. Instead of declaring the truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit there is effort to find out, "What do you want to hear? I’ll tell you. You don’t want to hear the mention of sin? All right, I won’t mention sin."

    If you don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit you will not have the boldness to proclaim the truth. But notice it is not just power; it is love. When Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost, it wasn’t harsh. It was powerful and authoritative, but tender. The listeners were pricked in their hearts. But if you don’t believe in that power, you would never say as Peter did in his first sermon in Acts 2:23: "…you, with the help of wicked men, put Him [Jesus] to death by nailing Him to the cross." If you were seeker friendly, seeker sensitive, how would you tell an audience, "You killed the Messiah!" That makes no psychological sense, but it makes godly sense, if you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t, you get logical and you get clever. And the church is dying from cleverness.

    I read in a book something that I wrote on the flyleaf of my Bible because it made such an impression on me: "You can’t be clever and have Jesus wonderful at the same time." There are no superstars in Christianity except for Jesus. As James says, "We all stumble in many ways" (3:2).

Lessons from Acts 8, 9 and 10

    In Acts, chapter 8, we learn more about the Holy Spirit. Although they were baptized in Acts 2, the same group of people needed to have a fresh filling. After the Samaritan revival under Philip, one of the original seven chosen as a deacon, we read, "When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!’" (vv. 14-20).

    What was the gift of God that Simon wanted to buy with money? It wasn’t the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was the gift of being able to lay hands on people to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. To summarize, Philip went to preach in Samaria. There was a revival. He did signs and wonders through the power of the Holy Spirit. Multitudes repented including Simon the Sorcerer. They were believers, which meant that the Spirit of Christ dwelt in them – "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, He is none of His" (Rom. 8:9). But having the Spirit of Christ in us and being filled with the Holy Spirit, as we have already established, must be two different things. The Church at Laodicea was a Christian church. That means they had the Spirit of Christ within them, the Holy Spirit. But were they filled? They could not be and be lukewarm (see Rev. 3:14-19).

    In Samaria, these people were Christians; they were baptized. But Philip, for whatever reason, couldn’t lead them to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so Peter and John were sent for and came to Samaria, and through the laying on of hands, the Christians were all filled with the Holy Spirit. "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of hands," he wanted to give them some money so he could have that gift. He wanted to lay hands on people so they would receive the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him because his heart wasn’t right.

    Here we learn that through the laying on of hands and praying for people, the Holy Spirit baptism, the fullness, came upon people in the Bible. There is no verse in the Bible that I know of that tells us we cannot expect to lay hands on people today and see them filled with the Holy Spirit and live in a new dimension of living, in a new overcoming way, with a new anointing of power to do God’s assignment in their life. What happened at Samaria is put in the Bible for our learning and our encouragement and our endurance. These were brand new converts and they got the same exact gift as Peter and James and John who had walked for three years with Jesus.

    In Acts 9 is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was saved on the road to Damascus. He was blind three days. Then the Lord sent Ananias, a disciple, to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay his hands on him. "Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again, and be filled with the Holy Spirit" (v. 17). In other words, "Saul, Jesus has His hand on you. You are called to do a lot of work for Him. And you are going to have to suffer a lot, too. To do all of that, let’s start at the beginning. You believe now. Obviously you’ve seen Him. Now He has sent me here to do two things: one, that you might see so you can go on with your life; and two, that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit." Now, it is not the apostles but a humble disciple who laid hands on the greatest of all the future apostles, and he is filled with the Holy Spirit.

    In Acts 10, the Gospel came to the Gentiles through Peter, who was an apostle to the Jews. "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message" (v. 44). Who is the "all" on whom the Holy Spirit came? Cornelius, and his relatives and friends. When Peter walked in the house, Cornelius was not a Christian. Cornelius had been told by the angel that a man would come to show him the way of salvation (see Acts 11:13-14). Whatever the true Gospel is must be in Peter’s sermon, because while he yet spake, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have’" (vv. 44-47).

    Cornelius’s heart was searching after God. Peter preached the Gospel, and while he was still speaking they received – everyone received – the same gift the apostles received in Acts 2. So how awesomely anxious is God to fill people with His Holy Spirit! Peter said, in response to those who questioned him as to why he was baptizing Gentiles, "If God gave them the same gift as He gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God!" (Acts 11:17).

    God gave the proof that they were in the Body of Christ. Isn’t that sense of expectancy lacking in the Body of Christ today? Don’t we have our preconceived ideas of how revival, that is, the Holy Spirit comes?

    Is there mourning for sin? You have to confess your sins. But I know people who have been confessing and digging twenty years and instead of looking away to Jesus, they’re always looking in. Look in for a while and get the work done. The Bible says, "…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…." (Heb. 12:2). How am I going to look at Jesus if I’m only searching my heart? When you look in, you see your flesh. Apart from God we will always be a good-for-nothing. But, "…I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).

    We have just read what the Word of God says about the fullness of the Holy Spirit. But maybe our traditions are overpowering what the Word of God says. I have to pray every time I read the Bible, "God, please help me because I’m prejudiced. I’ve got leanings in me. A lot of them are wrong. So God, take the gauze off my eyes so I can see."

Sanctification by the Holy Spirit

    How can you have sanctification without the Holy Spirit? Our tradition may be, "Get holy, without the Holy Spirit, so that you can get the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is a gift. God wants to fill us with the Holy Spirit. There is a time for looking in. I’m not talking about being shallow. Do the best you can by God’s grace to repent and say, "God, I don’t want to live in any sin. Convict me of any known sin and things I don’t see. Show it to me. Open my heart." After that, the change comes by a good rainstorm coming inside.

    If you look in where you are not what Jesus wants you to be, you’ll be looking for ever. James who was no slouch in the spiritual walk, said when he wrote the book of James, "We all stumble" (3:2). We do not want to be light about our sins. But do we believe the promise of the Holy Spirit? Or are we just going to operate with self-effort and sincerity? You have to be sincere. God can never use an actor. But sincerity alone is not enough.

    Doesn’t something tell you inside that God wants to move us to a whole different plane? How many want to see prayer meetings like a prayer meeting I left last night? There were two thousand people in an auditorium, calling on God. When people are praying, you sense God’s presence. Why can’t that happen in your church and my church in a greater way? Do you think God doesn’t want it?

    Are we going to have faith in the Holy Spirit and also faith for the Holy Spirit? "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6). This is where sincerity breaks down. The first rule of the spiritual life, Jesus said, is "According to your faith so be it unto you" (Matt. 9:29). Little faith, little God. "But I’m sincere." Fine. You’re sincere but you have little faith. Great faith, great manifestation of God. This rule is so strong that Jesus Himself couldn’t do many miracles in His own home town of Nazareth, because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:58). It wasn’t that the demons were too difficult; the sicknesses weren’t too complex. But because there was unbelief and no expectancy, His hands were tied. And He was the Son of God!

    If you say, "God is going to do it someday," thirty years can go by and that "someday" hasn’t come yet. We have to start believing. I believe that we need to see an opening of the heavens, that God would come down. But too many people are dying for me to wait for that. I’ve got to have revival right now in Brooklyn Tabernacle. You need to have revival right now in your church. If you do not have it, whose fault is it? It is not God’s fault.

    Many people are being accused by the devil. As long as he can keep me looking in, thinking I’m not ready yet, of course he’ll say that to me. Doesn’t he come as an angel of light? God wants to change us. And He wants to change us now. The Blood Jesus shed on Calvary has never lost its power. How many do not want to live in sin? You want to be like Jesus. Does God see that? Let us pray and have faith now for the Holy Spirit!