The Power of God’s Spirit

Jim Cymbala

Jesus left the earth in the first chapter of Acts. He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, and they did. Jesus had discipled them, but after three years of living with them, setting an example for them, they fled on the night that he was betrayed and arrested. One denied him three times; one betrayed him; one doubted to the very end, and they all fled. He warned them, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, ESV).

It wasn't until the Holy Spirit came that things turned around. That's what the Lord gave us. “The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

You can have all the teaching, guidebooks and study guides — they all have their place — but unless God does a work inside of you by his Spirit, you're just going to act more moral. Only the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. Only he makes Christ real. Only he produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In fact, Paul says the Spirit is the spirit of Christ, so he becomes our life. God's not working with the old Jim Cymbala; he wants Christ to live through me and through all believers.

When Peter, the one who denied Jesus, gets up after Pentecost, he preached a sermon so powerful it brought deep conviction of sin. The true gospel which Peter preached is the power of God for salvation, for everyone who believes. Not the sound system, not the building, not what colors you make it, not the signage. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Peter preached it, and thousands came into the church that day.

The only change for anyone in my church or your church or in me or in you is God’s Spirit in us. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.

The Steps of the Humble

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Let me distinguish clearly between pride and humility. A humble person is not one who thinks little of himself, hangs his head and says, “I’m nothing.” Rather, he is one who depends wholly on the Lord for everything in every circumstance. He knows the Lord has to direct him, empower him and quicken him and that he’s dead without that!

A proud person, on the other hand, is one who may love God in a fashion, but he acts and thinks on his own. At its root, pride is simply independence from God, and the proud person makes decisions based on his own reasoning, skill and abilities. He says, “God gave me a good mind, and he expects me to use it. It’s silly to ask him for direction in every detail of life.” This person is unteachable because he already “knows it all.” He might listen to someone who is higher in authority or better known than himself but not to someone he thinks is inferior.

Not one word a proud person receives is of God! It is impossible for him to judge righteous judgment, impossible to speak God’s mind, because the Holy Spirit is not present in him to bear witness to truth. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied from above” (Proverbs 14:12,14, NKJV).

Pride is independence; humility is dependency. The humble Christian is one who makes no move or decision without first seeking counsel from the Lord. Scripture clearly states, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:6-8). The Bible says the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, but he cannot order the steps of an independent spirit. This is all to say God wants full control. Give it to him.

When You Don’t Know What to Do

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Three enemy armies were closing in on Judah, and King Jehoshaphat called the nation together at Jerusalem. Something had to be done immediately. No doubt people expected him to announce plans, a decisive declaration of action, a way to wage war. Instead, Jehoshaphat stood before his people and poured his heart out to God in confession.

Jehoshaphat pointed out that God himself stopped Israel from attacking these nations when they first came into the Promise Land. “Here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of your possession which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:11-12, NKJV).

We are living in a time when everything is getting shaky and insecure, and almost everybody is hurting in one way or another. Hardly anybody knows what to do anymore. Our leaders don’t have the foggiest idea of what is happening to this world or to the economy. The business world is even more confused with economists arguing with each other about what is coming. Psychologists and psychiatrists are baffled by the changing forces affecting people today.

You don’t fold your hands, sitting around at ease and letting God do it all. That is not what it means to keep your eyes “fixed on the Lord.” We look to the Lord, not as people who know what to do but as people who don’t know at all what they must do. All we do know is that he is the King who sits on the flood. He is Lord of all, and we know that even if the world falls apart, he is a rock of certainty. As scripture says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Our eyes are fixed on a risen Lord. If we do not know what to do, our faith assures us that he knows what to do.

Give Thanks and Be Delivered

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Listen to the words of Jonah: “For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all your billows and your waves passed over me. … The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me. … The earth with its bars closed behind me forever” (Jonah 2:3-6, NKJV).

Jonah had hit rock bottom, entombed in the belly of a whale. He was in a battle for his life and filled with despair, shame and guilt. He was heavy of heart, literally as low as a person could get. He thought God had abandoned him.

So, how did Jonah get out of his pit? “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple. …I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving” (Jonah 2:7,9). Simply put, he passed the test! Jonah didn’t receive any word of deliverance. He was in a hopeless situation with everything about him dark and gloomy. He was ready to faint, yet when he came to such a point, he said, “I’m going to thank the Lord!”

In the midst of all his troubles, Jonah entered the Lord’s presence and offered up thanks. God answered, “That’s what I’ve been waiting to hear you say, Jonah. You’ve trusted me in the middle of it all. You just passed the test.”

Scripture says, “So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10). That burdened man must have rolled onto the beach shouting, “I’m free! I’m free!” He probably danced as he pulled the seaweed from his hair because he was already at the altar of thanksgiving.

When you have no place to turn, turn to thanksgiving. Thank the Lord for his forgiveness, for releasing you from all past sins. Thank him for delivering you from the teeth of the lion, for giving you a new home in glory, for all his past blessings, for all his promises, for all that he is going to do. As scriptures says, “Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:14-15). In everything, give thanks!

The Abundance of God’s Glory

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

God always desires to pour out more of his glory on his people. He longs to do for us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV). This is why he wants a people who have a ravenous appetite for more of him. He wants to fill them with his awesome presence, beyond anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime.

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). To obtain this abundant life, though, we must abound more and more in pleasing the Lord. Paul wrote, “We urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1) as well as “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The Greek word for abound means “to exceed, excel, super-abound, to have enough and to spare, over and above, excessive, exceeding abundantly above, beyond measure.” Paul was saying, “God’s glory in your life is going to exceed the little moments you’ve gotten up till now, but your prayers have to be more than just saying a blessing over your meals.”

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). Paul was saying, “To have this abundant life of God’s glory and presence, you must serve him above measure, with a love and commitment exceeding that of lazy, slumbering servants.”

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself” (Ephesians 1:7-9). God wants to mete out to you glory and revelation beyond any previous measure. The Lord is saying, “I’m going to open to you a deeper understanding of my Word. I want to give you revelations of its mysteries.”