Sovereign Grace, Spiritual Gifts, and the Pastor: How Should a Reformed Pastor Be Charismatic?

Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors

Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals: Reclaiming the Centrality of the Supernatural in Ministry

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord (Acts 13:1–12).

Sovereign grace, Spiritual Gifts, and the Pastor

Sovereign grace and spiritual gifts are not pitted against one another or opposing one another, but the pastor, the guy in the middle of it, so to speak, has to know how to harness these two things. How should a Reformed pastor be charismatic? Reading that, there’s an assumption underneath that it can be done and that it should be done. In fact, it must be done. If we’re going to talk about the gospel in its full-orbed beauty and power, then these are not optional. These are necessary and vital. How should it happen? How should a Reformed pastor be charismatic?

As I approach the topic this morning, I want to address it really in a very broad way. I almost want to take a step back and walk through, if you like, some familiar verses. I pray to God that they have not become so familiar to you that you have become jaded by them and they no longer touch you. I hope, I pray that you would be touched afresh by the Holy Spirit. Can you say amen to that?

In addressing it, I also want to bring you to a practical outworking of some of these things. I won’t take a lot of time defining every single one of the gifts because I think that there are very good books out there that can help you do that. But perhaps I will walk you through some of my own experiences marinated with Scripture that we may all learn together. And in this talk, I have to say from the outset, I make no claims of originality at all. I really am standing on the shoulders of incredible giants. I’m so thankful to God for the privilege I’ve had to have certain amazing men who have walked with God with integrity over a long time. I’m so thankful that the Lord has brought people like that into my life.

I think of people like Terry Virgo and Jack Hayford. I think of people like John Piper from whom I learned about doctrine and who Jesus is. I knew who Jesus was in the bit I understood, but then listening, reading, and hearing the things he had to say, it turns out I didn’t know, and I learned to live in that place for a long time. I don’t know, therefore I’m hungry to know. I learned about the centrality of the cross, Reformed theology, and all of that from the ministry of Pastor John Piper. So for me to be here, to have the opportunity to serve this conference that I’ve been to a number of times is just humbling to me. I give God all of the glory.

Our Hesitancy with the Spirit’s Gifts

Why would anyone be hesitant or resistant towards the Holy Spirit? Why would anyone who is Bible-believing and Christ-centered and theology-loving be cautious and hesitant about the Holy Spirit? The more I think about that question, really when you drill down, it often comes down to a number of things, but basically it’s fear. Sometimes they’re just irrational fears. Sometimes there are fears that when you hear some of the things that people have gone through and some of the things done to them in the name of charismatics, well, you kind of understand where they’re coming from.

I’m going to walk you through seven points here. They’re not alliterated or anything like that, so you know you would do well to keep up with me. I’ll talk about my own personal experience a little bit. I’ll keep that short. I’ll talk about the biblical mandate. I’ll talk about the consequences if we do not do these things and live in the goodness of these things. I want to talk about the pastor because it starts with you. I want to talk about the people that you pastor and how you ought to do that in light of all of these grand issues. And then I want to talk about the cautions.

A Personal Journey

A long, long time ago, my wife and I were in a small Christian meeting and we had some guy come preach in the church. I wasn’t leading the church, but there must have been about 50 of us. And he was a guy who worked in prophetic gifting, and he came and he preached and he did his thing and it was okay except in the middle of it he went to my wife and he had a word for my wife. And his word went like this, “Your husband is hurting you, isn’t he? Your husband is not treating you right. Your husband is not taking care of you. There are things that your husband is doing and you’re not happy. Your husband is hurting you. And God says you need to talk to your husband about that because God says your husband is hurting you.”

What do you think that kind of thing does to a marriage? I mean, to go to someone’s wife and say, “God told me your husband is hurting you.” My wife and I got back in the car on the way home. I thank God for his grace that kept us, because we looked at each other and said, “What was that about?” I said, “I don’t know. Are we okay here?” And we dismissed it. I am careful not to despise prophecy, but I do recognize nonsense. That’s what that was.

Why would anyone be hesitant about the Holy Spirit? Very often people have had bad experiences. Well, sometimes it’s just personality. They say, “I’m not a tongues-speaking, babbling kind of person. I’m a nice guy.” I grew up in Nigeria. I’m a Nigerian, and having become a Christian in Nigeria, I thank the Lord for just the amazing way that he wrenched me out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. But very soon in the church I began to realize some things done in the name of the Holy Spirit didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know any better and I certainly didn’t say anything. I just left it and let it go.

Over time, I began to realize that’s just not God, because it’s hurtful, it’s abusive, and it’s not right. And it takes different forms. Who hasn’t seen the television Christian evangelist kind of guy and the stuff he does in the name of the Holy Spirit, and how it basically turns God into a magician? The thought is, “What do you want God to do for you? You want God to do that for you? Okay, we have a prophecy for you. If you give 100 dollars we’ll give you a prophecy. It’ll be like a hotshot prophecy, just bang on. If you give 20 dollars, we’ll give you not such a hotshot prophecy, but it’ll do.”

Who hasn’t seen that? Who hasn’t been in a meeting where everything seemed good and calm and Christ has been exalted and we’re singing “In Christ Alone” and everything is going well and someone takes it upon himself, somewhat dubiously, and lifts up his voice and speaks in tongues in such a way that it’s just a staccato kind of machine gun, a blabbering that just pierces the atmosphere? And everyone is just scared. Look, I’m a black Nigerian charismatic guy. People like me don’t scare easily. But whenever that kind of thing happens out of sync and just out there like that, even I am like, “Oh.” Listen, the Holy Spirit wants to free people, not freeze them.

So I too have seen the expressions in the name of the gifts of the Spirit that have been just abusive. And sometimes it’s just a lack of wisdom, just ignorance where people just have not been taught. And then, of course, you have Christian streams and circles where the weirder it is, the more it is applauded because of the tendency to mistake fanaticism for spirituality. Those kinds of experiences are enough to make everyone say, “You know what? I just want to love Jesus. I just want to preach the gospel. I just want to be nice and shepherd the flock. I don’t know what stuff is.” So the tendency is to sidestep, but I want to tell you the Scriptures don’t give us that permission. We do not have that option or that permission to say that it’s just so subjective and we can’t get a grasp of this thing, so we will sidestep it. We can’t do that.

The Biblical Mandate

We’re not allowed to do that, because there’s a biblical mandate. When Jesus Christ was baptized in Mark 1:9–11, he saw the heavens open and the Spirit came upon him. I love the way it’s rendered in the ESV. The heavens were “torn open.” There’s something of an urgency and a deliberate way of speaking. The Spirit came upon him. This is Jesus. The Spirit came upon him and this triggered the beginning of his ministry in that dimension. I want to submit to you if he needed the Holy Spirit, it’s nothing short of arrogance for us to think we’ll just go and we’ll be fine. You won’t be fine. The plan is not just for it you go, the plan for you to go and be fruitful.

This same Jesus, in Matthew 4:23–24, went around teaching and preaching in the synagogues and healing every disease and every oppression of the devil. And they brought to him people who were demon possessed and epileptic, and he healed them. Listen to that. He went around teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering. The church in the West basically wants to do only two things: preach and teach. It doesn’t want to do the healing and the delivering because when you stand and teach, if you are articulate, if you have a suave and savvy way about you, you can pull this thing off. You can pull it off, and people won’t even realize there’s no Holy Spirit in it, because it’s just so smooth.

But when it comes to praying for healing and deliverance, if there’s no power there, people will know. So you kind of pull back. It’s a tendency. But no, it says he was teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering. They are the four complements of Jesus’ ministry. This is the same Jesus, John 14:12 says, “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, because I am going to the Father.” He is saying, “The things that I do, not just the sermons that I preach, you will do because I go to the Father.” What does that remind you of when he says “because I go to the Father”? In John 16:7, he says, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” So he’s saying, “I’m going to the Father that the Helper may come and he may empower you so that you too can do the works that I did in the way that I did.”

A Calling We Can’t Ignore

I think there’s a call upon us that we cannot sidestep. I think about the early church. You know these verses well. Acts 1:4 says, “Do not depart, but wait for the promise.” Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . .” The early church knew nothing of just going out without waiting, without receiving. Acts 2:1–4 says that the Spirit came upon them in the prayer meeting. They saw things, they heard things, and they experienced something. If you say you have received the Spirit, then your experience changes. Something changes. And they were exalting and worshiping, talking about the wonderful works of God.

Then Peter got up and preached, because the people were saying, “What does this mean?” That’s the same question people still ask till today, “What does this mean?” And he began to explain it to them. He says:

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing (Acts 2:33).

And then they asked another question, “What shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent, be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Listen to that. The guy who repents and turns to Christ, that’s great, but he can’t say, “Well, I repented.” Have you been baptized? There’s something else that you do. “Repent and be baptized,” he says, “and you too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit because the promise is for you.” That’s Jesus’s ministry and the life of the early church.

Then you look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 9, he has an incredible encounter with Jesus Christ. You know the story well. Ananias goes to him and Ananias says to him, “Oh, Brother Saul, Jesus has sent me to you for the regaining of your sight” (Acts 9:17). The Bible says he laid his hands on him that he might regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. This guy met Jesus, how much more feeling do you need? Something happened. It’s recorded there for us. He regained his sight and he was filled with the Spirit.

Demonstration of the Spirit and Power

The point I’m trying to make here is that it was for them and it needs to be for us. This same Paul is going to continue his ministry right through 1 Corinthians 2, which was just quoted a few moments to go. He says:

My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:4).

I love the way it’s written there — “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” If it just said “Spirit,” it would be very easy for us to just ignore the other aspect. You don’t want to say you’re a cessationist or something like that, so we learn to say things like, “Yeah, the Spirit said, the Spirit prompted . . .” And we have a vernacular that makes it sound like, “We’re on this side but we never go beyond that.” Here, he said, “My message to you was not in just men’s wisdom, but it was in demonstration of the Spirit and power.” What did that look like? It was a demonstration of the Spirit and a demonstration of power.

This walk we have with Jesus Christ is supernatural. You came into the kingdom supernaturally. You are going to be sustained in the kingdom supernaturally. I love the sermon preached here yesterday about the supernatural and how God supernaturally can carry you and lift you to do and live right for him. This is so important. It’s supernatural.

The Consequences of Neglecting the Gifts of the Spirit

If we don’t pursue the things of the Spirit in the way that they did, there are consequences. We’ll end up preaching an anemic gospel. We’ll end up having a diluted gospel. We’ll end up having a deficient gospel, even a destructive gospel. I say diluted because it’s so easy to take everything of the Spirit and just make it so thinned out. It’s there somewhere in your teaching. It’s there a little bit. But it’s so thinned out that if the apostle Paul was to come to your church and ask your people, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” would they be confused by that question? Because if they are, then maybe this thing is too thinned out that they would have to say, “We don’t know. What do you mean, Spirit?” (Acts 19:1–4). That’s too diluted.

Many, many churches in the West, and I’m sure in other parts of the world, have become so diluted that frankly almost anyone could do that stuff. Anyone could lead the thing because there’s nothing supernatural expected or involved. It’s just pragmatic all the way into the ground. We have become so natural thinking and we have rinsed out everything to do with the supernatural, and then we have theological constructions that make it okay. It’s not okay. We’re called to something deeper, and it takes real integrity and humility to say, “Lord, help me. Help us. Help us.”

I say diluted, and not only diluted but deficient. If you sidestep the supernatural, then you are selling them something much shorter than what Jesus intended. They’re not supposed to become Christians having come by the Spirit and now trying to do everything in the flesh. You know what that leads to? Confusion.

And the reason I say it is also destructive is that if you don’t give them and teach them the full-orbed beauty and power of the gospel, they will come in saying “Okay, this God is good. This God wants me to live this way. There are things in my life that I need to fix.” And if the power of the Spirit is not there and they don’t know how to access this because you don’t teach it, they’re going to end up becoming legalistic, doing disciplines that become legal in their expression because they’re doing their best to try. They think, “I must do better. I must do better. I must do better.” They’re not enjoying being born by the Spirit and how that brings you through. Discipline is still necessary. Absolutely. But there is a help from the Spirit, a grace and enabling that comes. You are not supposed to do this thing just by yourself or in your own strength.

People will either go into legalism, or it will tamper with the underpinnings of their faith. They end up with a lack of assurance of faith because they think, “By now I should have changed. It’s not quite working for me.” And there’s a whole battle that goes on inside where they may never talk about it, but they just learn to pretend to be joyful while the battle is raging. This is important. This is massively important.

The Necessity of Supernatural Ministry

There are serious consequences, Pastor, if you don’t teach the people about the fullness in the Spirit. Are there consequences? If we just take our good pneumology, good pneumatology is not good enough. It has to be expressed and it has to be lived out. If we don’t do that, then we end up leaving it in the hands of unreasonable men who in the name of the charismatics do nonsense and put off another generation from things of the Spirit. There’s a battle here to be fought for.

So I am grateful for this kind of conference and the centrality of the supernatural. I went to Dr. Piper earlier today and I said, “I want to approach this topic this way,” because I just feel I too am a man under authority and I just want to do the right thing. And right there he had the opportunity to say, “Well, I know that’s the title of the book, but can we just reign it in a little bit and keep it safe?” And I wanted to give him an exit clause here. But he said, “Do it. It’s your hour. You go and do it.” That’s a dangerous thing to say to a Nigerian guy.

There are consequences. If we don’t do this right, if we don’t fight for this, if you don’t learn to do ministry by the Spirit, you’ll end up doing ministry by pragmatics. It’s just a natural default. You’ll end up being the pastor who is so happy because the band sounds like Coldplay, because the sermon was excellent in its form. People might say, “Just look at the alliteration, look at the points, look at the illustrations. Everything was clever and smooth.” You’ll be impressed by that. Go and listen to the sermon from yesterday again. That’s a very important insight because it’s coming from someone who’s walked with the Lord for a while.

The Pragmatism of Jeroboam

The danger, listen to me, is the danger of becoming like Jeroboam. God calls him, and God says to him, “You know what? You are going to have 10 of the nations in this kingdom.” You know the story. God is giving it to him. He’s going to rule. And he begins to rule. God is suddenly involved. But after a while he’s realizing, “You know what? Having come by God’s grace, I’m going to have to keep this thing and keep it going.” So he falls into the flesh, to pragmatics.

Then he is going to say to Israel, “Oh, Israel, Israel, why go all the way to the south to worship? We will make it convenient for you. We’ll play to your conveniences and preferences. We’ll have an altar here in the north. We’ll have another multisite here. We’ll make it all so easy for you. And then we’re going to build these two impressive looking gods. And behold, Israel, here are your gods.” I’m not against multisite, by the way. We’re a multi-site church.

But where did Jeroboam learn all that stuff? Go back and read it. When he went to Egypt, he learned their ways. Now he’s back and he’s beginning to do things in the way of the world. He has completely natural thinking. The fact that it’s growing doesn’t mean it’s of God. Stop fooling yourself. The last thing you want is that you look around and think, “This is a good Sunday. Everything is pumping around here. Pastors in the front row are high-fiving themselves. This is going good.” And then God comes to you and says, “This Babylon, which you have built with your own hands.” The last guy who did that went mad.

There are consequences. If we don’t learn to grasp the things of the Spirit, we give it to other people. We end up devolving into mere pragmatics. But the one command finally that the Lord gave to you was to go make disciples. You’re not doing it, because the early church didn’t know of discipleship making that was apart from the filling of the Spirit.

When Paul goes to Ephesus in Acts 19 and he sees these people, whatever the context was — probably some kind of a small prayer meeting — he is among them and he’s going to plant a church. It was very different from the way we do it. We want to do Myers-Briggs and have a whole lot of assessments. Not Paul. I’m not against Myers-Briggs. I love what Jason was saying early on. You have the prophetic (that’s the language I would use), and you have the pragmatics. And the pragmatics are not wrong. But you always have to put the prophetic foot first and let that be the chief determining factor as calibrated and rightly validated by the Scriptures.

In Acts 19, he gets there and he says to them, “Did you receive the Spirit?” They say, “We haven’t heard of it.” And he prays for them. And the Bible says they became filled with the Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophesying. It turns out this guy Paul is not going to go church planting until these people are disciples. He’s not going to go and do it until certain things are in place.

The Role of a Pastor

How does a Reformed pastor work these things through in the life of a congregation? Why should he even bother? For all the reasons I’ve just told you. But beyond that, let me tell you this. I read Acts 13:1–12 to you, and the Bible tells us in the church in Antioch there were prophets there and so on. And it says in Acts 13:2, “And the Spirit said, ‘Separate for me Saul and Barnabas for the work that I have called them.’” The reason I say I’m stepping back and giving the broad scope is that you can’t just start with tongues. Everybody wants to go straight into tongues. They ask, “Tell me about tongues.” Hold your horses. Go back and think this thing through. The Spirit said, “Set them apart for the work I have called them to.” So from the very beginning your calling is supernatural.

Your calling should be supernatural. Paul says, “Paul, an apostle — not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father . . .” (Galatians 1:1). So your calling cannot be because you went to seminary. Your calling cannot be because you’ve been promoted into it. Your calling certainly cannot be because there’s no one else to do it and someone else is transitioning out. That is not a worthy way to go about it. Your calling has to be the Spirit calling you. That’s why I love that story, which describes how the Spirit already had been working and ordination just became a confirmation. And you see the way it neatly comes together.

But when you spend all your time reading all these pragmatic books about management styles, you won’t even bother asking the Spirit. You’ll pretend to be asking the Spirit, “Holy Spirit, God will you help us?” Right, fine, and you move on.

Sent by the Spirit

Acts 13:4 says that they were “sent by the Holy Spirit.” So it’s not only the initiation of your calling, but it’s also the direction of your ministry. The Spirit needs to direct you. The Spirit was directing them. They went to all these places. It says, “And then they proclaimed the gospel” (Acts 13:5). Luke is writing this on purpose so that you may know what the Spirit does and how the Spirit worked — they proclaimed. Their preaching was not just a talk. It’s not a talk. I know we have to speak and I get that language. But with all due respect, it’s more than that. It’s much more than that. I’m out of words.

To me, it’s an amazing thing that God would use someone like me to speak on a Sunday morning the word of God, just the best I know how. He will take those words and do something in the life of a person who just wandered in or was “giving God the last chance,” as they say, and God touches them and changes them and transforms them. That’s preaching. It’s not a suggestion about how you can have a nice life. Nice life? The guy we are following died on a blood-stained cross. That’s a hint. It’s not just about a nice life. And the good news is he rose again. He rose.

Discerning Spirits

But it’s not just that the Spirit sent them and the Spirit was involved in their preaching. Something very interesting happened. They got to an island and they saw a guy who was a prophet. Okay, we’re Christians, so we can understand prophets. He was a Jewish prophet. It says, however, that he’s a false prophet. I’m breaking it down like this so you can see that it can look to you like, “Oh, he’s not a bad guy.” There’s a symmetry here. He’s a false prophet, and he’s a magician.

He has some gifts. You may even say he has spiritual gifts. Really, spiritual gifts? You need, dear pastor, the gift of discerning spirits, because nonsense is going to happen in the house of God and you wouldn’t even know what it is you are dealing with if you don’t have that. That there are times you need to just pull back and say, “Lord, what is going on here?” And let him show you. Otherwise, you don’t know. This thing looked okay. I mean, his name was Bar-jesus. What else do you want? You might as well make him pastor. His name is Bar-jesus.

One day, probably a couple of years ago, I finished preaching at Jubilee. I walked out. There were a few hundred people walking around the place just at the end of the service drinking tea and coffee and so on. I love to just be amongst the people, and the Holy Spirit arrested my attention and showed me a guy and there was something wrong. There was something so wrong that I left the conversation I was having and I walked to that guy. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just by himself. He was pretty well appearing. He was dressed properly and all that. He looked normal. At the natural level, nothing was wrong with this guy, but there was an urgency in my spirit about that guy with people all over this huge milieu of a moment. I walked up to him and I said to him, “Is this your first time?”

He said it was his first time. I asked, “Why have you come?” He said, “I just came to church.” I said to him, “I know you.” I’d never met this guy before. When I said, “I know you,” I was not addressing the guy. There was a spiritual thing that I could see that God was bringing to my attention and all the lights were going off. This guy looked completely normal. I said to him, “I know you.” He said, “Have we met?” I said, “No, I know you.” I was pretty firm. To which he said, “I just have this problem I’m trying to get rid of.” And he confessed what it was, and it was exactly what the Lord had shown me. I didn’t even share this with the church. I don’t want to freak the people out.

But the Lord showed me that because there are women and children that he wants protected. How are you going to do that as a shepherd if you’re not filled with the Spirit? How are you going to do that? You’re just guessing all over the place. I had a chat with that guy. I said, “You get to stay if you repent and you’re going to change, or you don’t get to come back here anymore.” Now you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, you’re not a nice pastor.” Yes, I am. I know that doesn’t sound Reformed. Yes, I am, because there’s nothing that I’ve done. It’s a gift.

More Than Orthodoxy

Paul, the Bible says, looked intently at this guy and said to him, “You son of the devil, you enemy of righteousness” (Acts 13:10). He practically cursed the guy. By the time Paul finished, the guy was blind. What kind of pastor is this? The guy is blind. No church is going to grow when people go blind like this. What would you do? What do you do when there’s a demonic situation in the camp if you don’t know things like? You cannot theologize Satan away. You cannot lecture him away. You cannot hope him away. You need the power of the Holy Spirit to address those situations. This is a supernatural calling. The whole thing is supernatural.

It says at the end that the proconsul gave his life over to Christ (Acts 13:12). It says it was because of what he saw and because of the words that were preached to him. So pastor, you need this. This isn’t an issue for debate. The early church did not spend their time preoccupied with, “When did it happen for you?” They were preoccupied with, “Has it happened for you? The filling of the Spirit, has it happened?” That was the issue for them. The point here is this, you have to be filled daily with the Holy Spirit. So that speaks to everybody. Charismatic, Reformed, or American, you have to be filled.

Practicing the Fullness of the Spirit

To switch a little bit now to some of the practical side, I’m no expert, but I do know that if I wake up and say, “Oh, Lord my God, early will I seek you. My soul thirsts for you. Everything in me longs for you,” then I know something begins to happen where I don’t have to lift my voice in the morning and shout out the house. But with the lifting of my voice, there is a presence of the Spirit that begins to come. And I walk around and I sing to him. I sing songs that I know well. I say, “I exalt you, Lord, I exalt you. You are high above the earth.” I sing songs that I’m making up with just my prayer back to him and honoring him and just walking in those moments by myself. And the more I do that, something begins to be massaged on the inside and the well that is there begins to flow into rivers of water.

For me, sometimes I will just come forth in tongues and I am built up and edified. And I know that I have touched something and something has touched me. Listen pastor, you need moments like that because you need an encounter with God no matter how small. What I just told you is important. No matter how small, you need that encounter to do this work effectively. What does it mean to be Spirit filled? It means to be restored to the creator’s initial intention so that you have once again the relationship and the resources that he wants you to have. I’m quoting Jack Hayford there. It’s to bring you back to that as it was in the beginning. They had dominion over everything. Right now, there is a closeness and an intimacy that you can enjoy, be fruitful and multiply. Right now that can happen because of the fullness of the Spirit.

When Paul spoke to them in Acts 19 and he prayed for them, the Bible says they were filled with the Spirit. You go to Ephesians 5, speaking to the same people, writing them letters, he says, “Be filled with the Spirit.” The word is plēroō, which means “be filled.” There’s something of a tense and a mood and a voice there. Be filled. The tense there is to continue being filled. Now, no one can just say, “I’ve got it. I’ve got it all.” Really? What all? There’s a mood there. It’s imperative. This is not a suggestion. Be filled. There’s a voice there. The idea is that you are open to it and you are involved. You are active. But the activity that you carry out is that you choose to be open. It’s where most people miss it. It’s just too simple. You choose to be open.

The Role of the Congregation

Let me say something about the congregation. How does the pastor bring all of that, the gifts and what we’ve spoken of, into the congregation? Well, the first question I think needs to be, how do you see your services, your meeting time? How do you see it? I mean, who is it for? I hope it’s not for you. I’m sure you know better than that. There’s something these days that says, “Oh, no, we’re just about the lost. We’re about the mission.” Everybody is about the mission these days. All the books are about the mission. Everybody is about the mission, the mission, the mission. I get that. I’m all for that, but not at the expense of being first of all for God. You just jump out on the mission not even inquiring about God. Our meetings are first of all about God. Your meeting needs to be first of all about God.

You love his presence. You want his presence. You cry for his presence. You are praying for his presence. You’re not praying that the sermon goes well, you are praying for his presence. That is the number one prayer point in Jubilee Church. We want his presence there. On vision day, I onced preached on giving to this thing we’re going to do. I said, “I’ll give you a call at the end.” You just think to yourself, “No one who brought a friend today is going to be happy.” I gave a call. People responded to the gospel and one of the chief ways I noticed that was that people were crying. And when we spoke to them and said, “Why are you crying? Are you okay?” They said, “I don’t even know.”

They’re crying. I’ll tell you why; they’re being touched by the Spirit of God. The whole atmosphere is full of his presence. I love the way R.C. Sporul put it. He says the door frame had the good sense to shake in the presence of God from Isaiah 6. That is exactly what I pray for, that the inert stuff in here will know that there are a number of people here who love God, who want the presence of God, who prize the presence of God. That’s what to pray for before talking about tongues. That’s what you want, the presence of God in the meeting.

It’s the presence of God in the meeting because God himself wants to come. The Bible says that God loves the gates of Zion more than the dwelling places of Jacob (Psalm 87:2). So God loves to come himself if you just invite him. I don’t mean you invite him by saying, “Lord, please be with us today. Okay, let’s go.” No, no. You have to labor and want him and prize him and say, “If nobody else is there, Lord, I’ll be there. I just want you to be there.” Because he can see through you the sincerity of your heart. It’s the presence we need.

I love the way Moses says, “If your presence won’t go with us, let us not go” (Exodus 33:15). He says this one and that one were born in Zion. So coming together, the house of the Lord, becomes the place of life where things happen. People get sprung back into life, because the presence of the Spirit is there. It says the Lord records those who came to Zion where they find their identity in God. We say, “How lovely is your dwelling place?”

Each One Appears in Zion

I know you’re thinking, “Would you get to the things of the Holy Spirit, please?” This is it. I’ll move you into that if I have more time, but this is critical to it, because if you don’t get this, you’re going to end up trying to manufacture something. I’m trying to deliver you from that. We say, “How lovely is your dwelling place? My soul thirsts, longs for the courts of God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they’re forever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you. They have in them the highways of Zion.” They so love the presence of God, the coming together of God’s people, that even going up to the place, they walk to the valley Bacca and they leave it a place of springs. The idea is that they are so focused on this one, Jesus, that frankly they give everything away to be there in Zion.

Is that how you teach your people about the corporate gathering? You teach them that and I’m telling you, the pragmatic people will take their place, and the sovereign grace of God will take its place. They go from strength to strength. Each one appears in Zion, says the Lord. All my springs are in you. It’s when that atmosphere is there, when the Lord is invited, when the people are hungry, when the pastor is hungry for God.

Pastor, stop that nonsense you do standing in front, holding a microphone like your job is to be an announcer. You’re more than that. You are the shepherd. Bring them to the presence of God and let them see you in the front row with your hands up in the air, intoxicated and hungry for God. Let them see that. That is more than your jolly sermon you’re going to preach. Let them just see that and let them see you are hungry for God.

But you sit down in the front row, you do your little chat and you look around. Then you suddenly get up and say, “Oh, God is so good.” You know, you train them to be thinking, “This thing is all made up, isn’t it?” I love it. I see people with their hands up. I talk to our people about these things, so should you. And see that I have run out of time. This happens to all Nigerian preachers.

How to Practice the Gifts of the Spirit

I’m going to walk you through the next few things. When you have that atmosphere, when the Lord your God in the midst of you comes, he becomes mighty. Things begin to happen. No good thing does he withhold. He begins to speak to the people. The Holy Spirit begins to give gifts to the people. And then it’s in that atmosphere that the gifts begin to flow and begin to come forth.

It might be a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, gifts of healing, gift of faith, etc. I’m deciding not to spend time defining those things. Do yourself a favor when it comes to the presence of God and buy Terry Virgo’s book, Spirit Filled Church. When it comes to the gifts of the Spirit, buy Sam Storms’s book, The Beginner’s Guide to Gifts of the Spirit. You will get all of this stuff well explained to you and with the tension points dissected out for you.

And the full complement of the gift is what I pray for. How do you get your people walking in these things? I’ll give you some practical points. Number one, first of all, like I said before, you need to be walking in this thing. You cannot be just an actor in front of your people. You have to be real. And then you come out and begin. You start a prayer meeting. That’s the first thing I’ll say to you. You need to start a prayer meeting. It’s so sad when in church life, as soon as time constraints come, the first thing that gets kicked out is the prayer meeting. Foolish idea. You need the prayer meeting. You need to call the church to pray. And if they’re not used to you, the pastor needs to be there. You might think, “No, I’m preparing my sermon.” Come to the prayer meeting and lead the prayer meeting. And then in that context, you can begin to speak to the people and help them.

You can say, “Does anybody have a word here from the Lord?” I’m talking about prophetic words, because sometimes there are impressions that God gives. The way I’ve seen it work is like this. Just begin like a good shepherd to just walk them through gently in that safe context. You need to be ready for a little bit of a mess around the edges. But if you want it all neatly cut up, forget it. I don’t just mean prayer meetings, but regular prayer meetings. You need that. But you also need times in this life of the church where these things can be focused on.

What we do is that we’ll have things we call Holy Spirit mornings, and we let the church know about it. It’ll usually be a Saturday morning, and I will just speak from the Bible about the Holy Spirit. And then we begin to pray. It becomes a prayer meeting. And then it goes beyond that and gifts begin to flow. Things begin to happen.

We pray for the sick. This is how to begin to just walk the congregation through this. And then of course you have to teach them and teach them on a Sunday morning. Teach them well, teach them carefully, teach them winsomely, but teach them the Scriptures.

Cautions for Spiritual Gifts

Finally, here are the cautions. Paul says, “Let everything be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). That is not a suggestion. It’s the way it ought to be. There should be order in the house of God. You cannot just have people getting up shouting and doing whatever they want. When a church is this small and everybody knows each other, it’s one thing. As it begins to grow and people begin to come and they don’t understand this, you need to help the congregation know how it is that we are going to work this thing through decently, tastefully, gracefully, and in order.

That means there has to be leadership that is able to say, “Let two people speak. No, just let this one speak. We’re probably not going to be able to take that word for today to share it with us. We’ll share it in a way that we feel it fits. Or we may not be able to share it today.” But the people have been told, “This is not a rejection of you.” But the leaders must lead decently and in order. And when people come to our membership course, we let them know these things.

First, we tell them that our freedom in worship will never surrender to fanaticism. You have to teach the people that, then they know, and you describe it for them.

Secondly, our freedom in worship will never surrender to fanaticism. You let them know that our openness to the Spirit will never violate the word, but will bow down to the word. The word has the final say. The eternal word trumps any prophetic word any time. Therefore, you need to know the eternal word and let that be calibrated against this.

And thirdly, you let them know that our expression of joy will never degenerate into mere excitability. In pleading the case for acknowledging the need for each believer being baptized in the Holy Spirit as an experience, Martin Lloyd-Jones concludes by saying, “May God give us all grace in this matter.” Can you say amen to that? He continues:

It is not a matter for controversy, nor for proving who is right or who is wrong. The issue before us is the state of the Christian Church — her weakness, her lethargy with a world on fire, a world going to hell. We are the body of Christ, but what do we need? We need the power. We need the Pentecostal power . . .

That is interesting if you know Martin Lloyd-Jones, that a Calvinist and a Reformed pastor would talk this way. He says:

Shall we not with one accord, mind and Spirit during these days, wait upon him and pray that again he may open the windows of heaven and shower down upon us the Holy Spirit in mighty reviving power. The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal. And this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church.

A Reformed pastor can be charismatic, ought to be charismatic, needs to be charismatic, because he’s shepherding the flock of God, which he purchased with his blood.