February 17, 2002, re-worked December 9, 2005
Today in college career Sunday School class we happened to cover the same topic that the morning sermon was all about: UNITY in the Body of Christ.
Do you have enough patience to read a long epistle??? I hope so, because this topic is a MOST important subject to believers. For those that are not yet born into the family of God, getting saved is the most important subject. But, for those who are already believers THIS ESSAY is a life and death issue!
This week an engineer/scientist from NASA's Goddard facility, working on the Hubble Telescope, emailed me. He is a believer. I thought that he and I would be coming into agreement. But he informed me that the way the Holy Spirit filled believers in the Book of Acts was not for today. He indicated that all those Bible stories in the book of Acts, about the Holy Spirit, are not the way we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives today. He explained that after the New Testament was written and the age of the apostles ended we now get the Baptism in the Holy Ghost at the moment we become converted, when we pray that first sinner's prayer and ask Jesus to forgive our sins and to come into our lives. It all happens at that moment.
When I heard what he believed about the Holy Spirit I realized that I could not come into full agreement with this brother in Christ. I realized that he and I, though both probably in the family of the Lord Jesus Christ, were 80 or 90 percent out of agreement with each other. That's how important the truths about the Holy Spirit are in the Body of Christ!
I had another experience this week as I was getting a Christian web page listed on a Christian Internet directory.
That Christian directory that lists links to Christian sites had to set a guideline as to what is "Christian" and what is not Christian. That is a difficult job when you are dealing with the dividing lines between the secular and the spiritual.
The gentleman in charge of the directory, after much thought and prayer, decided that the Nicene Creed was as good a guideline as could be found, as a test of what is or is not Christian. If you can't agree with the Nicene Creed then you probably are not a Christian, the web master decided. I think he came up with the best "man-made" method of separating Christian from non-Christian. By the way...that is why God wants to give us the gift of discernment. Statements of Faith and Creeds are pretty untrustworthy mechanisms for determining what is or is not truly of God.
Those two incidents got me to thinking that in this modern day, twenty centuries after Jesus walked the dusty roads of the Holy Land, the whole Church of Jesus Christ can only agree on the following few words of data, concerning the Holy Spirit, which are penned in the Nicene Creed:
We believe "...in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, who proceeds from the Father. Together with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets..."
That same Creed says much, much more about what we all agree on concerning Jesus Christ, God's Son. Isn't it strange that we agree on so little concerning the Third Person of the Trinity who is the only ONE within the Holy Trinity who is present on Planet Earth today??
When we put the first men on the Moon over four hundred thousand workers came together in agreement, with weekly wages as their main reward. Symphony orchestras all over the world come together in near perfect agreement to make beautiful music. But the whole, visible, organized church of Jesus Christ can barely agree on about thirty words concerning the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost!!
And yet, the Holy Spirit is the only ONE who can bring unity to the Body of Christ. That is one of HIS works!! And that is why the Church today is often a joke to secularists. When believers cannot accept the total control and leadership of the Holy Spirit in their fellowships, and they disagree among themselves about what the Holy Spirit's job really is, disunity in the Body of Christ increases. In fact, the visible churches have swung to an opposite extreme from Holy Spirit control and leadership. Instead of looking for and seeking the total leadership of the Holy Spirit churches have come to believe that God desires THEIR committees and programs to foster unity. I have heard so many pagans say something to the effect of, "If all that dis-unity and disagreement is Christianity, then I'm definitely not interested! It's just another superstition!"
Why does the World laugh at Christians??? Because Christians have many disagreements. We are not in perfect unity because we cannot fully receive the Unifier...the Holy Ghost!
The closest thing we can all agree on is that the Holy Ghost spoke through the prophets of old. We cannot agree that the Holy Ghost speaks in the same way today as HE spoke in the Old Testament...through prophetic lips of clay...by ecstatic utterances. Most of the Church today says that when a Christian is moved upon by the Spirit of God to speak prophetically, or ecstatically that such actions are a hoax, a fake, even a heresy!! And I'm not surprised, because there are so many false prophets who are not sent from God, nor taken over by the Holy Spirit who turn out false prophecies!
Dear Christian friend, have you received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost since you believed, with the overflow of a Heavenly prayer language???? And if you have received that, does that mighty language of prayer pour out of you on a regular basis in your private devotions? If not...then you are falling deeper into man-made religion and away from the voice of the Holy Ghost who can direct you, and bring you into unity with God HIMSELF.
You need to get weaned off the baby bottle to the meat of God. Without the full implementation of the Holy Spirit in your life, you can never deeply understand the Bible, let alone anything else God does. If you refuse the fullness of the Holy Ghost you will curse yourself into always being directed by tradition, logic and reason, and you will miss God's perfect will. You will never be in proper unity until the UNIFIER floods your being, your bosom with the overflow of Heaven!
The Greatest Need of the Church is: To Agree with the Holy Ghost
14 "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." [Romans 8:14] 17 "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." [John 17:17] 21 "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." [John 17:21] 10 "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." [1st Corinthians 1:10] 13 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." [John 16:13]
Remember that Paul received a second experience, following his Damascus Road ordeal. Some three days later he received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost when Ananias visited him.
Remember, too, that no one converted in the city of Samaria was filled with the Holy Ghost under Philip the evangelist's ministry...even though Philip was powerfully filled with the Spirit himself. They were not ready. When Peter and John came to Samaria and when they prayed for those believers many were filled with the Holy Ghost.
Remember when Paul visited those converts in Ephesus, he asked them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost SINCE ye believed?" [Acts 19:2] That question is worded in such a way as to insist that the Baptism is a later, definite work of grace. It does not come at the moment of conversion.
Here, then is The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God, The Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, light from light, true God from True God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father. By Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation He came down from heaven, was made flesh from the Holy Spirit and Mary the virgin and became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. He rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven. He sits on the right hand of the Father and will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His Kingdom will never end;
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, who proceeds from the Father. Together with the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets;
And in one holy *catholic and apostolic church. We confess one baptism for the remission of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. AMEN
(* NOTE: use of the word `catholic' here does not refer to a particular denomination. It simply means `universal'. In this creed it refers to the fact that in God's eyes all who affirm what is stated in this creed belong to one Christian church, regardless of race, denomination or sect.)
[The above parenthesis was written by someone managing a web site where I found the Nicene Creed re-printed.]