By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
When my father-in-law passed away this year I had the privilege of sorting through all the ‘stuff’. At 91 years old, there was a bit of stuff. Many tears were shed and a few giggles along the way as I went through the things that represented the life of Everette G. Parker.
In the midst of a stack of papers I found a sermon written by my first pastor, Russell Clearman. Here are a few of the words he shared with Olivet Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 25, 1974 on a sensitive subject, the Holy Spirit. His words still inspire.
“The Bible contains many commands for the Christian. We are told to love God. ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart…’
We are told to love one another ‘Beloved, let us love one another…for God is love.’
We are told to love our enemies. ‘But I say unto you, love your enemies…’
We are told to give our bodies to God. ‘… present your bodies a living sacrifice…’
We are told to make the cross an experience in our lives. ‘…let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me…’
We are told to girdle the globe with the glorious gospel of God. ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…’
We are told to be filled with the Holy Spirit. ‘… but be filled with the Spirit.’
The Holy Spirit is every Christian’s need. The Holy Spirit is every Christian’s birthright. The Holy Spirit is every Christian’s responsibility. Let us never forget that all Christians have the Holy Spirit; but not all Christians are controlled by the Holy Spirit. The difference between weakness and power, defeat and victory, carnality and spirituality is determined by the place the Holy Spirit occupies in our lives.
There is no Christian doctrine more misunderstood and misrepresented than the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
One of the first truths we need to learn about the Holy Spirit is that He is a person. Therefore, personal, intimate, heavenly fellowship is possible between you and the Holy Spirit. As a person He knows you and wants you to know Him. As a person He wants to love and He wants to be loved. As a person He has a will and He wants His will to be faithfully followed.
The coming of the Spirit inaugurated a new era, a new economy, a new dispensation in the purpose of God. As the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai marked a new age, so the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marked a new age. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit of God came in His fullness to indwell every regenerated child of God.
It was no longer ‘God above us’ or ‘God with us’–it was now ‘God in us!’ The apostle Paul tell us, ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple for the Holy Spirit?’ Just as the Great God Almighty filled the tabernacle and Solomonic temple with the Shekinah glory of His presence, so the Holy Spirit of God comes to possess the body of every born again believer as His edifice and to dwell there.
What does this mean to us? It means that the Holy Spirit is here…all of Him. It also means that the gift of the Spirit is permanent, He will not fail us nor forsake us. Oh, the joy, the comfort, the unspeakable glory of His prevailing presence. We may grieve Him, we may quench Him, we may resist Him, but the blessed Holy Spirit of Jesus will never be withdrawn for us.
We may be a poor child of God, we may be a disobedient child of God, we may be a fruitless child of God…but we are never a disowned child of God. We are a child of God forever.
The challenge today is for a living Church. We need a living pulpit, a living pew, and a living altar. The dead artificial pretense that has taken the place of genuine…militant…victorious Christianity is the supreme tragedy of these terrible times. The ‘form of godliness’ is not godliness.
What is it that we need most? We do not need more pleasing platitudes…glittering generalities… O my soul, what we as preachers need most…and what our churches need most…and what our institutions need most is a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit. We need the unusual. We need a visitation from God. We need power from above…the inexhaustible and irresistible power of the Holy Spirit. ‘But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.’”
His message is still relevant today.
(Sermon and scriptures edited for space purposes. If you would like a copy of the entire message e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)