Don’t Be Afraid


Culture is increasingly secular and pluralistic. The moral and ethical values of the culture are not anchored in the truths of God’s Word, and the very idea of truth is questioned. The church has little respect in the culture, and the government does not always make decisions that are consistent with Christian beliefs.

The previous paragraph is an apt description of the cultural conditions in which both the Early Church and the present-day American church carry out their ministries. Gary Friesen, our Alliance legal counsel, says, “The church in America no longer has home-field advantage.” We tend to fret over that reality and wonder if we can make a spiritual difference in this cultural context.

Yet in a similar environment, the Early Church had a powerful ministry and saw Christ’s Church advance. How did this happen, and what can we learn from the Early Church? Everything we see accomplished in and through the Church in the Book of Acts flows from the outpouring and infilling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost—every evangelistic harvest, every miracle, every victory over opposing forces, every church planted, every successful missionary endeavor.

We are part of a deeper life movement that believes the Holy Spirit is active today, that He inhabits and longs to fill every believer, and that all His gifts and manifestations are just as available in today’s Church as they were in the Early Church.

But I’m less than certain that we are living out what we say we believe. We need fresh openness to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit—a fresh experience of Pentecost. While we’ve always needed the power of the Holy Spirit at work through us, we need it even more today if we are to achieve Christ’s mission in this current cultural environment.

Fear of the Mystery

I’m concerned that we have kept the Holy Spirit at arm’s length. Rather than welcoming His presence and authority, we seem fearful of what might happen if we fully surrender to the Holy Spirit and He shows up in the fullness of His power.

Some of our fear is born out of the mystery that surrounds Him. Jesus took on a human body, so we can picture Him in a tangible, recognizable way. That is not the case with the Holy Spirit. Jesus compares Him to the wind in John 3:8: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Like the wind, there is mystery that surrounds the Spirit.

Add to it that He has been referred to as the Holy Ghost. There’s an obvious mystery to a ghost that can’t be seen and comes and goes without notice. Perhaps this has kept some believers from experiencing all He wants to do in and through them.

Notice what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit in John 14:16–17a: “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” When Jesus speaks of “another advocate,” He is speaking of the Spirit who was to come when Jesus departed.

In the original language of the New Testament, there are two words for “another.” One means “another of a different kind”; the other means “another of the same kind,” which is the word used here. Jesus is saying of the Spirit, “He is like Me.” Perhaps it would help us to picture our relationship with the Spirit being like the relationship Jesus had with His disciples.

One great way to grasp this mystery is to learn everything the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit. In one of my Bibles, I have everything Jesus said about the Spirit in John 14–16 highlighted. Grab a concordance and begin to look at all the verses about the Holy Spirit. Discover who He is and what He desires to do in your life. As the third Person of the Triune Godhead, the Holy Spirit is too important not to learn about and experience.

Abuses of the Spirit

We may also shy away from the Holy Spirit because of abuses we’ve observed or experienced. Seeing self-glorifying uses of the works of the Spirit in the Church can cause us to put up our defenses and miss—or even resist—some of His genuine manifestations.

I came into The Alliance in 1973, right in the middle of the charismatic movement. Many people and churches of various denominations experienced spiritual renewal during that time. But like every such move, there were some errors and abuses that may have caused many of us to put our guard up.

We may have avoided making those errors, but we also may have missed the good things the Spirit of God wanted to do. In fact, I’m not sure The Alliance has yet fully recovered from our sometimes defensive posture to that movement of the Spirit. Could we possibly have become “charis-phobic” in an effort not to be charismatic—did we stiff-arm the Spirit to avoid making a mistake?

As a denomination, we believe in the deeper work of the Spirit. We believe that all His gifts and manifestations are still active in the Church today. I’m not asking us to fully embrace charismatic or Pentecostal doctrine, but I am asking us to fully embrace Alliance doctrine. It’s the experience of what we say we believe about the deeper life that brings power to our lives and ministries.

Why aren’t we seeing Acts-type events in many of our churches, including life-transforming conversions and baptisms? Part of the explanation must certainly be our failure to experience the Holy Spirit as He longs to be experienced. Frankly, I’m much less concerned about Pentecostal wildfire than I am about churches with little or no fire. Let’s not allow the abuses to keep us from an authentic, Christ-honoring experience with the Holy Spirit.

Losing Control

Finally, we may keep our distance from the Person and work of the Spirit because we are afraid of losing control. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul writes, “Don’t get drunk with wine. . . . Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” While there is a clear contrast between these two things, there is also a comparison. To be drunk is to be under the control of alcohol. In the same vein, to be filled with the Spirit is to surrender our personal control to Him.

Loss of personal control has the potential to cause fear. What if I experience some manifestation of the Spirit and embarrass myself in front of people? It might help to remember that Jesus says of the Spirit in John 16:14: “He will glorify me.” Any authentic manifestation of the Spirit will actually take the spotlight off us and place it on Jesus.

However, I believe our fear goes deeper than that of embarrassment. If we fully surrender to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to control us, what will He call us to give up? What will He call us to do? Where will He call us to go? Hanging onto control is more comfortable. But by doing so, we forfeit the opportunity to see the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s power make a difference in the lives of people in our neighborhoods and to see the Church move ahead exponentially in our day and context.

The only kind of believer and church that will make a powerful, disciplemaking, gospel impact in a nation like ours is a Spirit-filled believer and a Spirit-filled church. Void of the fullness of the Spirit’s power, the church in America will lose ground. I don’t believe that is the heart of Jesus. His heart is for a Spirit-filled and empowered Church that will be a life-transforming agent.

In the words of John Peterson, “Come, Holy Spirit. Dark is the hour. We need Your filling, Your love, and Your mighty power. Move now among us, stir us we pray. Come, Holy Spirit, revive the church today.”

3 responses to Don't Be Afraid

  1. Well said Terry! May we return to being True Christ Followers who are filled with and led by The Holy Spirit.
    We have left the last sentence of Acts 2:38 out of the Gospel message for decades.
    Thanks for your leadership.

  2. “When He is come”by AW Tozer, is currently under my pillow. He led me to Tozer’s series when I was under going a personal spiritual revolution in 1994 that has rendered me a stranger to my folks in Cameroon.
    Delighted to belong here. The Holy Spirit or no Christian Life.

  3. If we would not fail to recognize that we born-again Christians would not even be Christians without the work of the Holy Spirit then we should go from there to promises and gifts of the Spirit that will make us what God wants us to be. We will be miserable misfits when we fail to give the Holy Spirit His due and allow His holy being to fill us and use us.

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