Reformed/Charismatic/Missional Conference - Session 4 - Terry Virgo

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Session 3
"You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Comes Upon You"
Terry Virgo


Terry Virgo leads the Newfrontiers team, which is currently serving over 700 churches in over 60 nations. He travels widely and has written several books, including No Well Worn Paths. he and his wife, Wendy, are based at Church of Christ the King, Brighton, UK.

Acts 1:4 ff.

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me;
5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"
7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Many have said that verse 8 is the key to understanding the book of Acts. And in fact, in light of the history we see, it is the key. How else can a set of people who just days before were huddling in fear in an upper room go from that mindset to a people totally unafraid and filled with boldness?

When Jesus said, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you," it was not a totally foreign thing to Jews. They would have recalled a story like that of Gideon who was called out of fear and into a warrior mindset, after having experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Him, clothing him as it were with power. So he is transformed from being a frightened, hiding man into a bold warrior leading a people into triumph.

The story of Samuel would have also come to mind, when he anointed David as king. The David was filled with power, and we have subsequent stories like David and Goliath. There is power there when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person. This is what happened when God took a portion of the Spirit in Moses and gave it to the 70 elders. It happened also to Joshua who received the same power in order to lead the same people Moses did, into the promised land. The bottom line is that an actual change occurs when the Spirit's power comes upon us.

As a young man Terry asked, "Is that something I should covet? I feel very ineffectual." So he began to read. Later his sister led him to attend John Stott's church where he was eventually converted. However, Stott's answer to Terry's question was that he had already received it all at salvation...the Spirit, His power, conversion. This was contrasted later with the ministry of Dr. Lloyd Jones who asked Terry the question, "If you've got it, then where is it?" Thus the question, "If Stott and Lloyd Jones disagreed, where does that leave me?"

Terry's lifestyle continued on and ended up in backsliding, living the same sort of bad life he had already been living before conversion. Later however, Terry felt God asking him, "Are you with Me, or not?" This led Terry to throw himself into church life. But as he tried to live the Christian life, he felt more and more his own inability to do what God wanted. This was brought home particularly one day when he had led a Bible study that morning, and in preparation for a meeting that night, his walk along the beach one day led him down a different path. He saw a crowd, shouting, throwing things, and investigated the scene. He saw old ladies singing gospel songs, holding banners, and receiving persecution. Terry felt, "That's terrible." God seemed reply, "Why is that terrible? I've led young men to do that!"

Terry was the young man of moment who also needed to join in and participate with the ladies. However, despite the pressure of the Spirit, he felt he simply could not. There was just no power to do it. And Jesus said we would be His witnesses after receiving power. It's hard to bear witness boldly with Jesus without Spirit power. This led Terry constantly to miss opportunities to minister because of the lack of power.

He contacted someone the next day for help in answering this plaguing question. The answer his friend gave him was found in Acts 1:4 and following. The first thing Jesus told them to do was to wait in prayer to receive it. This however is the only place where Jesus commanded disciples to do this. And this was, of course because it preceded the most significant moment in history next to the cross, which was Pentecost.

Should we build doctrine from narrative then? If Jesus said wait only once, in a story about church history, should we look to that part of the story to build a pattern? Not necessarily. The story simply gives us a beginning point. The giving and receiving of the Spirit was repeated throughout the book of Acts. Waiting in an upper room for Him was not. Therefore, while this narrative does not teach us normative practice, the pattern that emerges in other narratives does in fact do this for us. So let's look at Acts 1 and see how this unfolds.

When Do We Get the Spirit's Power?

Some say we get it all at conversion. Others say everyone gets it after conversion. But a look at the Scriptures reveals it can sometimes be both.

First, look at Acts 8 in the narrative about Philip.

Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John,
15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

If you were to ask a Samaritan's testimony, he would simply respond that hands were laid on him/her and they the Spirit fell upon them. It's that simple.

Second, look at Acts 9, in Paul's conversion experience on the Damascus Road.

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
19 and taking food, he was strengthened. Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

A regular, ordinary one particularly remarkable...was led by God to call Saul brother, meaning he was already converted, and then led by God to pray for the receiving of the Spirit.

Third, look at Acts 10, in the case of Peter and Cornelius.

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.
45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.
46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared,
47 "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

We see a sudden coming upon with the Holy Spirit for these people. On that one day, they are converted and then receive the power of the Spirit all at one time.

Finally, in Acts 19 we have the situation of the Ephesians.

1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.
2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism."
4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."
5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
7 There were about twelve men in all.

These twelve had only been baptized into the message John the Baptist preached, which was simply a message that prepared them to follow Jesus. Yet they had never been baptized into Jesus Christ, and therefore had not received the Holy Spirit yet. That's why they had never even heard of the Spirit. Yet when Paul laid his hands on them, perhaps dripping with baptismal water, the Spirit fell upon them. So here, as in Acts 10, there is this simultaneous activity of conversion and Spirit-empowering occuring.

The problem is that some of these people don't fit into the equation. It may with some, but not with others. So a teaching of the Holy Spirit and His filling and empowering must take into account ALL of the occurrences and narratives, instead of just the ones we prefer over the others.

What also is evident in EVERY case is that when ALL of the people in these narratives did receive the Spirit, it was evident and noticeable, both to them and to others around them. The evidences are manifold: miracles, tongues speaking, signs and wonders, etc. All of these things came by the hearing of faith, as Paul taught in Galatians 3, and not by doing works of the law.

So what about the doctrine that teaches that when we've been saved, we must move into making Jesus Lord of our lives later on in life...rededicating our lives to Him...emptying ourselves to be filled with fresh commitment, etc.? But as with the other view, this happening doesn't fit the narratives we read in Acts. There is no later crisis every Christian must experience in life in order to be freshly renewed and redidicated. That is much akin to getting a soldier excited about going into battle, and later on when they have come to the end of themselves, telling them that now they will get a gun!

What about the doctrine that teaches tarrying, or waiting and waiting to receive the Spirit? Well, we see that once on the days before Pentecost. But afterwards, no one is ever told to wait again. How does that fit? The key lies for us in John 7.

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"
39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Notice the text doesn't say that the Spirit wasn't given yet because they had not come to the end of themselves, or because they weren't mature yet. Rather, it was clearly because Jesus had not yet been glorified, meaning He had not yet ascended to heaven. But when that would and did occur, the prophecy of Joel would be fulfilled. The fulness of the Spirit would be poured out on all those who were thirsty for Him. It was also the prophecy of John the Baptist who promised that Jesus would come Who would baptize us with water and fire, referring to regeneration by and empowering through the Holy Spirit.

Today, if there were someone who desired to push through the crowds and take Jesus up on His offer for something to drink, He would not turn around and say, "Not're just not ready." No! He would say, "Not yet...because I'm not glorified yet...I haven't ascended to heaven yet." But after He DID, the first group waited, received the drink He promised, and no one else was ever told to wait again. Now that the drink had been offered, no one needs wait anymore, because Jesus has been glorified.

Terry's Recollection of Thirsting for the Spirit of Jesus

Terry recalls his frequent cries of, "I just can't do it!" referring to the change he knew he needed. He was very thirsty and he wanted something to drink. He recalled being around a friend who with unfettered freedom handed out tracts and witnessed...while Terry sat aside asking himself, "Why can't I do that?" He went to that guy's church the following Sunday and saw the laying on of hands to receive the Spirit. They laid hands on Terry to receive the Spirit, his heart growing greater in thirst for this power. He stood in line asking, "Can I receive this?" As he waited in line, he got his eyes off Jesus and said, "This guy's gonna do it for me." However, all the guy did was lay his hands on Terry and went to the next person.

This discouraged Terry. He went away feeling that nothing had happened, after having travelled all that way to get what he wanted. However, he realized that Jesus had said, "Come to ME..." and Terry had gone to the man laying hands on people. That is hugely important because we are to come to JESUS to receive, and not other people. Other people simply become a mode through which Jesus gives what He promised.

Terry found himself waiting for a funny feeling of some sort. This led him to back away for a while out of discouragement. But he came back to the promise of Jesus again, realizing he had to believe in Jesus, and not in anything great preacher or prayer one else and nothing else. It is believing in Jesus, and believing in the promise of His Spirit.

What About Speaking on Tongues?

The promise in John 7 also speaks of an abundant lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is vastly and evidently different from whatever it was before. One of the greatest evidences of this lifestyle is reflected in the book of Acts as speaking in tongues. This is not to say that if you don't speak in tongues you haven't been filled with the Spirit. But it is to say very simply that speaking in tongues is something that happens to those who are filled with the Spirit. You don't get filled BY speaking in tongues. You come a take the drink Jesus offers, and THEN then the abundant lifestyle begins flowing, usually with the gift of tongues.

So how does this thing work? The Bible says that we speak in tongues, not God. God doesn't speak through us. WE speak by God's power. In short, if YOU don't speak in tongues, you WON'T speak in tongues. This excludes passivity. It is not about tarrying until God somehow divinely lifts our heads up and opens our mouths and putting words in them.

What we find often in the Bible is that God's people do something out of faith and belief and what they had faith in actually happened to them. When Joshua put his foot in the river, it parted. When Peter stepped out of the boat, he walked on water just like Jesus. When the leper Jesus pronounced healed presented himelf to the priest, he was healed.

This is not an attitude of, "it'll happen to me any minute now." No! It is stepping out by faith and doing what is normal, but in another dimension. Peter used his own legs, but in a different dimension. When we speak in tongues we use our own voices and tongues, but in a different dimension. There is a spiritual dimension to this which opens up by our active faith.

Opening our mouth begins with praising God. But arguments will seem to prevail in our minds that we are making this up. However, as all the tension disappears in praising God, the words begin to flow. Terry recalled that one woman said, "If you're making this up, you're doing a great job of it!" The sense of closeness with God and a feeling of His great love for us is overwhelming. His presence produces and promotes power in this way.

When Terry returned to his Baptist church, they had noticed by his countenance that something had happened to him. He told them he had been to a Pentecostal church, hands were laid on him, and he was filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. The pastor and brothers were listening. When he was done sharing the pastor said, "Terry, you must lay hands on all of us, and I will be the last in line to receive it." From that day forward he had the privilege of laying hands on many more to receive the Holy Spirit.

Location:N Starr St,Tacoma,United States

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