In Man of the House: The Life and Political Memoirs of Speaker Tip O’Neill, Mr. O’Neill tells an old Irish story with a humorous outcome. It is a story about Uncle Denny who met his priest as he was walking down the street. The priest took one look at Uncle Denny and said, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Three weeks ago, you came in and took the pledge and vowed that you’d never take another drink as long as you live. And now look at you — you’re drunk.” Uncle Denny replied, “I’m not drunk, Father. What makes you say a thing like that? I’m not drunk at all!” The priest responded, “Well, if you’re not drunk, then why were you walking along with one foot on the curbstone and one foot in the gutter?” Uncle Denny said, “I was?” The priest confirmed, “Indeed you were.” And Uncle Denny replied, “Well, thanks be to the good Lord, I thought I was lame.”
At a time when the world is aggressively advancing its agenda, the church looks like a punch-drunk boxer who has become uncertain and uncomfortable in the ring. Every blow seems to cause the church to reel on its heels desperately seeking an effective method of response. As emotions run high, we see more of fiery debates, arguments, and protests. There was a time when such responses may have carried the power of influence, but perhaps we are overlooking the secret to navigating our way through this minefield.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul said, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”
He is drawing a contrast of the noticeable difference you find with a man under the control of a substance and a man under the control of the Spirit. When a man is drunk with wine, everything about him changes. He will walk, talk, and think differently. By comparison, when a child of God is full of the Spirit, there is a distinguishing difference about his life. However, the observing world is often amazed and amused at the difference. When God fills a bush with His glory, it burns, but strangely, it is not consumed. When God moves upon a donkey, strangely, it then speaks. So, imagine how much more strangely the world finds a man when God’s Spirit fills that man. I like what Charles Finney said, “I have never met a person filled with the Holy Spirit that the world did not consider eccentric.” That is why the world never has, and it never will, know what to do with a person who is filled with the Spirit. Why is being Spirit-filled such a necessity to combat the issues we face?
The Spirit gives assistance in our praying. In 1 Samuel 1:13, Hannah was in such deep sorrow as she prayed that “...she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.” Overwhelmed with a desperate sense of need, her lips were unable to articulate her desire to God and she was perceived to be inebriated. There are times when the burden is so heavy or the longing is so beyond our reach that our sighs become too deep for words. In such times, “...the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Paul and Jude both called this “praying in the Spirit.” Rare are those who know how to plumb the depths of prayer and go well beyond the form and force of words to encounter the flow of the Spirit. Such praying has no other focus or goal but meeting God fresh and anew. A.W. Tozer wrote, “If there is anything in your life more demanding than your longing after God, then you will never be a Spirit-filled Christian.” No wonder we have seen so few men like Jacob that will dare to wrestle in prayer until they have “power with God and with men?” No wonder the world is void on an Elijah that will dare to pray for the heavens to be opened again until “there is a sound of abundance of rain?” Not until a man can influence heaven above will he alter the course of history below.
The Spirit gives authority to our preaching. In Acts 2, the fire and wind of the Spirit fell upon the first century church on the day of Pentecost, and they were given the supernatural ability to speak the Gospel in languages they had never learned. A mocking crowd said in verse 13, “...These men are full of new wine.” Peter then boldly declared they were not drunk, but were filled with the Spirit of God. The message was given miraculous credibility and thousands were saved. The church in America has more brilliance, education, and gifted orators to captivate an audience than ever before. However, with all the skill and professionalism, there is a strange absence of unction. That is the intangible asset in both preaching and witnessing. The healthiness of any church is dependent upon genuine conviction, godly fear, and power to change lives. No matter how fascinating or entertaining, there is no substitute for the unction of the Spirit. Leonard Ravenhill said, “We are tired of men in soft raiment and softer speech who use rivers of words with but a spoonful of unction.” Where is the Moses with the courage to say to Pharoah, “Let my people go?” Where is the John the Baptist with the boldness to say to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife?” There must be a clear summons from God in our message for men to ever be brought to a positive verdict.
The Spirit gives awareness in our perception. In Jeremiah 23, the prophet foresaw the sin and coming judgment for the false prophets, but he also anticipated the glorious coming of the Lord. Verse 9 records his reaction, “...all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man who wine hath overcome, because of the Lord...” He was overwhelmed because the Spirit of God had identified the needs, and had created a heightened sensitivity to those things that broke God’s heart. In times of national distress, many will attribute responsibility to crooked politicians, the judicial system, and even public sinfulness. However, God always says, “If my people...” While it is easy to point out the evil and wickedness in our world, have we lost the sensitivity that our impotence breaks the heart of God even more? Recently, the frequent prayer of my heart has been, “I’m not the man I want to be, but I’m all the man I’m going to be, unless God does something supernatural inside of me.” My flesh is not enough to war with itself, the world, and the devil. I like what Jerry Vines said, “The filling of the Spirit does not have to do with you getting the Spirit, but rather it has to do with the Spirit getting you.” We have nothing to offer a hurting nation until we have been made aware of and healed of our own dilemma.
I came across this quote that was found in the editorial section of Fortune magazine, “In days like these, what we of the world need is to hear a word from the Lord. We look to the church for that word, and all we hear is the echo of our own voice.” What an accusation! What an indictment! As the world watches and a generation is at stake, there are two choices we can make. We can claim the promise, “...not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit...”, or we can just keep limping along thinking we’re something that we’re really not!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2015 Alan Stewart