Six Ways the Holy Spirit Pours Out On Us “Extensions of the Ascension” Today
HE WENT UP ON HIGH!
Part Four of a Seven-Part Series on the Ascension of Christ
[Editor’s Note: On June 4 the worldwide Christian community will observe Pentecost Sunday, recalling how ten days after ascending to the throne of the universe the Lord Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower his followers in all kinds of wonderful, new ways. In his continuing series on deeper, often overlooked ramifications of the coronation of God’s Son, David Bryant shows us the dynamic cord that ties Christ going up with the Spirit coming down—surveying the electrifying difference this should make for every one of us in our daily walk with Christ.]
This Very Week “Extensions” Are Spreading Across an Entire City
Here in New York City, we’re in the midst of an unprecedented “prelude” to the global observance of this year’s Pentecost Sunday by marking the day Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his Church with what I call “extensions of the Ascension.”
In keeping with the celebration of Pentecost, a movement is unfolding in NYC called Jesus Week 2017 (May 27-June 3). It comprises an amazing, collaborative outreach by a multitude of churches and ministries into every realm of urban life. It incorporates too many activities to report in this one short blog post. You can check out their website for the full story here. To stir up your curiosity, however, here are some sample projects:
- Over three million dollars worth of gospel resources will be distributed, including 120,000 Christian children’s books (40,000 in Spanish) and 100,000 Jesus Film DVDs—each embedded with 24 languages to reach the growing immigrant population.
- Churches in all five boroughs are mobilizing to “prayer walk” every street in their zip codes, just as they’ve done for the past ten years.
- Tens of thousands of Christians plan to rally on Saturday night, June 3, in Times Square to lift up the name of Jesus in praise and preaching.
What a perfect roll out for Pentecost, June 4! The Spirit is extending Christ’s reign all across the Big Apple through these creative approaches.
“Extensions” Have Been Going on From the Beginning
Throughout Church history, bold initiatives like the one in New York have reaffirmed the great truth of Acts 2. There we read about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter called it an outpouring of the Spirit when he explained to the Jerusalem crowd what was happening. On the day of Pentecost our victorious, anointed, and crowned Redeemer unleashed his universal reign by his Spirit to impact events on earth through his followers.
In fact, Peter wrapped up his message that day by claiming that in this present age the major role of the Holy Spirit, as the third person of the Godhead, serves to extend from the Father the reign (the Ascension) of the Son into the life of the Church. Notice the words I’ve emphasized from his speech:
Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear . . . Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2, NIV, emphasis added).
For two millennia, like a steady summer downpour, the Spirit has continued to saturate the Church with “extensions of the Ascension”—bringing the supremacy of Christ to bear on congregations as well as individual believers around the world.
That’s why ambitious outreaches like Jesus Week 2017 rise up. Christians have total confidence their labors will not be in vain—that through their efforts the Kingdom will advance, as by the Spirit Jesus stretches his scepter over sinners and cities with saving effects.
So as we look ahead to Pentecost Sunday 2017, let’s explore six fascinating facets of this fresh perspective on the Spirit’s ministry to all disciples of King Jesus.
1. The Spirit Extends to Us the Awesome Presence of Our King
From Pentecost forward, the Holy Spirit has provided God’s people with the key to, the reality of, and the experience of “Christ within you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1).
This is true to such a degree that one could say the Spirit dwelling in us is equivalent to Christ himself living among us. Therefore, at all times Christians should “act as if” Christ is literally present among us—because by his Spirit he literally is!
To be sure, “physically” speaking, Jesus is exalted and enthroned, occupying heaven. Nevertheless, by the Spirit he inhabits his people no less tangibly. He’s right here with us. To say that Christ lives and works within his people testifies to how effectively, and vividly, the Spirit serves the Church on Jesus’ behalf and as his personal advocate.
The Spirit represents to us—he re-presents to us—the very same Jesus who ascended on high (Acts 1), the very same Jesus we read about in the Gospels. No one else and no one less.
Even though Christ is sitting at the Father’s right hand, by the Spirit he manifests himself within every gathering of his people, in every part of the earth, in equal measure, everywhere at the same time. The Spirit keeps the Son “within reach” of the whole Body of Christ at every moment. By the Spirit, Christ infuses every single congregation with more of himself in ways precisely fitted to each group’s situation.
Without question, where the Spirit abides all of Jesus abides, in all of his fullness. Thus we can say that because of the Spirit, within every congregation on planet earth the Lord Jesus is fully there—not just part of him, but ALL of him. And wherever Jesus dwells, the triune God is fully involved.
2. The Spirit Extends to Us Foretastes of Jesus’ Reign to Come
At Pentecost, when the Spirit was poured out on the Church, Christians experienced firsthand a preliminary phase of Christ and his kingdom “coming with power,” foretastes of Jesus’ final revelation at the Consummation of all things.
Remember this promise from Jesus:
But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own. He will speak only what he hears. And he will tell you what is still going to happen. He will bring me glory (John 16, NIRV, emphasis added).
As the Spirit activates the reign of Christ in the midst of the Church he gives us interim experiences of what the lordship of Christ will feel like throughout all ages to come. This global invasion of Jesus through the Spirit provides believers a preview of the community life that awaits us when the triune God dwells among us forever in the New Jerusalem “that comes down out of heaven” (Revelation 21).
The Spirit has come to us with an overriding assignment: to make much of the King among his followers; to incite our love for him; to intensify our pursuit of him; to escalate our worship of him; to enlarge our hope in him; and to empower our service for him—to a degree that vividly foreshadows similar but grander joys of the life eternal.
The Bible also teaches that the Spirit serves as the Father’s down payment (2 Corinthians 1), guaranteeing that we will inherit all he has promised us through the supremacy of his Son.
We might say the Spirit offers communities of God’s people appetizers of our anticipated banquet with Christ (Revelation 19). We experience within our congregations samplings of the quality of life in Christ awaiting us at the climax of all things, when we will fully taste not only the quality but also the quantity of eternity with Christ.
3. The Spirit Extends to Us the Power of the Ascended Life of Jesus
Jesus’ abiding presence with his people by his Spirit puts within us the gift of Jesus’ life—not only life from the dead but also life “overhead”!
We might call the Holy Spirit the invasion of, habitation of, activation of, manifestation of, and application of the life that flows from the Lamb on the throne (Revelation 5). In fact, Scripture defines our life in Jesus today primarily as “life in the Spirit” (Romans 8; Galatians 5).
In John 7, Jesus pictured the Spirit’s ministry on his behalf by using the image of Messianic streams flowing to thirsty disciples from which they might freely drink.
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart” (NLT, emphasis added).
But notice: According to John 7 the Spirit’s life-giving activity among God’s people comes to us in direct relationship to Christ’s ascension and inauguration on high. The apostle adds this interpretation for his readers:
When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory (NLT, emphasis added).
The Spirit’s mandate to share with us the ascended life of Jesus includes the clear biblical teachings about the power of the Spirit (Acts 1), the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12, 14; Romans 12), and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). How so?
By the power of the Spirit, the Church is enabled to spread among nations far and wide the reign and name and fame and claim of Jesus. By the gifts of the Spirit, the Church is equipped to join with the current, active ministry of Christ operating in the Body of Christ. By the fruit of the Spirit, the Church engages with the qualities of the character of Christ—“the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15)—lived out among us and through us.
Power, gifts, fruit. All three are evidence of Jesus’ interpersonal involvement with his people—manifesting his reigning presence and filling us with himself—in the same ways he is filling the entire universe right now (recounted in Ephesians 1 and 4).
4. The Spirit Extends to Us Intimacy With Christ in His Supremacy
Reconciled to God, we are brought by the Spirit into uninterrupted intimacy with Christ in his supremacy, becoming more and more consumed with love for our Master Savior.
Whenever we are “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5), individually or corporately, we find ourselves more fully occupied with Christ alone. Without exception, whenever a person or a congregation surrenders to the Spirit’s activity, we are inviting him to draw our focus on Christ more keenly, which is what Jesus promised the Spirit would do in John 16:
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you (NIV, emphasis added).
We might say it this way: The Spirit fills us by how he leads us into a fuller share of the fullness of Jesus.
The Spirit does this in two ways: by giving us “accessibility”—that is, by allowing us to freely come to Christ face-to-face (2 Corinthians 4); and by giving us “capability”—that is, by enabling us to freely respond to Christ as we come to him (2 Corinthians 3).
In other words, he makes Christ accessible to us—as if literally we were standing before him at his throne. At the same time, he makes us capable of sensing and receiving more of Christ—as if physically he was standing before us in our home.
As Paul writes in Ephesians 2: “For through Christ we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” And again in Ephesians 3: “I kneel before the Father . . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (emphases added).
5. As the “Extension of the Ascension” the Spirit Makes Holiness More Exciting!
Have you ever wondered why in Scripture the Spirit of God is frequently called “HOLY”?
As we know, to make something “holy” means “to set it apart” or “to consecrate it for sacred purposes.” Accordingly, there are at least three ways the word “holy” accurately pinpoints who the Spirit is and what he does:
(a) The Spirit is God; he is the third person of the Trinity. Therefore, inherently as the Spirit of God, he himself is set apart as totally unique in terms of his nature, his person, and his mission. Not only is he unlike every other spirit in the universe, but also he is the only being whose sole assignment is to exalt Christ among God’s people.
(b) The Spirit’s mission in God’s redemptive plan is, first of all, “to consecrate” Christ—to set apart God’s Son before our eyes. He has come to reveal God’s Son more fully to God’s people; to help us see Jesus as incomparable, preeminent, and supreme; to honor him as the head of the Church; to help us continue worshipping his majesty and serving him as Lord of all; to faithfully give him his rightful place in our midst. He wants to do the same for unbelievers as well (John 16; 1 Corinthians 12).
(c) Of corresponding importance, the Spirit’s mission involves “consecrating” (to make holy) God’s people—to set us apart for Christ. He does this as he draws us more and more into the sufficiency of Christ’s supremacy, separating us thoroughly unto Christ so that we live consistently at the center of all he is, where he is headed, what he is doing, and how he gets blessed. The Holy Spirit refines us, purges us, reforms us, revives us, and impassions us every time he reveals to us fresh dimensions of the glory of the Christ who lives for us.
6. Through “Extensions of the Ascension” the Spirit Makes Repentance More Radical
When the Church is filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit, the evidence of this is how God’s people walk in daily repentance—but by a most radical approach.
New Testament repentance is unique. It involves renouncing immediately anything that competes with the glory of our majestic King. As the Spirit sets our affections on the reign of Christ, believers want to live in continual readiness for more of Christ, to eagerly follow him wherever he wants to take us, and to do so at any cost.
In response, we turn away (repent) from all that might move us onto a different path, diverting our affections and focus away from Jesus as Lord. Every time the Spirit draws us into deeper intimacy with Jesus, it isn’t long before we must confront the contrast of our own “fallen-ness” with his “exalted-ness.” But it also is there, broken as we bow before his throne, that we find liberating cleansing and forgiveness (Hebrews 4).
Scripture tells us that anything in our lives, individually or corporately, found to be incompatible with the person and supremacy of Christ, if not renounced and put away, “resists” the Spirit (Acts 7), “grieves” the Spirit (Ephesians 4), and “quenches” the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5). Why is this?
The reason is that any disloyalty or disobedience toward God’s Son runs counter to the Spirit’s passion for giving Jesus his rightful place among God’s people.
On the other hand, once we realize what our Christ-denying desires, choices, and actions have done to hurt his heart and hamper his kingdom purposes, repentance reaffirms and re-embraces the preeminence of Jesus, so we can start all over.
We’ve Only Just Begun!
Now then, I’ve given you an initial tabulation of ways the Spirit wants to transform our lives and our churches (as well as our cities and nations) with expanded, multiplied manifestations of the “extension of Jesus’ ascension.” From your knowledge of the Scriptures, I wonder what more you might want to add to these six!
Bottom line: Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ engagement with us “down here” remains directly related to who he is and what he’s doing “up there.”
The Christ who took on flesh and dwells above, at the same time continues to dwell within our flesh and among all flesh below—specifically by pouring out his Spirit upon us, with full authority, with no holding back.
For the one whom God sent speaks the authentic words of God—and there can be no measuring of the Spirit given to him! The Father loves the Son and has put everything into his hand (John 3, PHILLIPS, emphasis added).
God’s Spirit is the extension of Jesus’ ascension!
Awake to the full reality of what’s happening! Expect much more from Jesus as a result. Press forward into much more of Jesus poured upon you by the Spirit from the throne.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ-proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI) and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely-read book at www.ChristIsAllBook.com.