Some time ago we were visited by good friends Graeme and Toni whom we’d not seen for a year or two. Looking back over the years, Graeme commented that there were two men with anointed ministries who had made a significant impact on their lives. But for those two, he felt they well may have accepted as normal the sub-standard level that is commonplace all around, to the detriment of their spiritual well-being.
An old retired pastor told me not long ago that he had only had two friends in his lifetime with whom he could ‘bare his soul,’ speaking about every aspect of life with them. The second of these friends had now passed on. The pastor also commented that not many folk have more than that number of ‘bosom pals’ in their lifetime, and anybody having even one or two should consider themselves really fortunate. Perhaps, though I mention it sadly, that may also apply to the kind of people Graeme had mentioned.
That simple comment has caused Mary and me to ponder the concept of anointed ministry, and to scan our memories of a lifetime, searching for anyone we would put in that category. What could we learn from this?
We knew a man . . .
In our younger days we knew one of the men Graeme mentioned, whom we mostly referred to as Doc Greenway. It was always a privilege to sit at his feet and drink deeply from the water of life that flowed forth. The occasional personal conversation with Doc seemed to warm the inner heart, and encouraged a young person like me to know and follow the Lord Jesus more eagerly, and more steadfastly as well.
Knowing Doc Greenway clarifies for me that anointed ministry does not refer to a dynamic, charismatic personality. Nor does it refer to a wholehearted, zealous believer, nor even a very gifted and able follower of Christ. For that matter, we knew Graeme and Toni when they were involved in a Baptist Church in one city, and later, in an Apostolic Church in another. The pastors of both those churches in those days were all the above.
Looking at the pathetically short list of names we have thought of takes us way beyond the idea of this term being solely used for preachers, though it does include another two or three of those. We recall several folk whose prophetic expressions were certainly anointed – and notice that they wisely seldom spoke a prophetic word. We were able to add one or two missionaries to our list, and a singer or two as well.
A glimpse of Jesus . . .
When in memory I look back into the faces of such people, even in moments when they were not involved in any particular activity or ministry, words and terms like wholesomeness, the gentleness of Jesus, pure, natural humility and loving acceptance come to mind. We’re ever so grateful to God for the impartation of His life we and many others have received from such extraordinarily ordinary believers. To catch a glimpse of the Lord Jesus in the life, demeanour and expressions of another of His followers is always up-lifting, encouraging and inspiring.
WHO AND HOW?
Even though it may be difficult to define and explain anointed life and ministry, I do hope you are catching something of what I am trying to express. What marks out such a person, and what steps can one take to know this kind of on-going anointing by the Lord?
1. Only a truly Christ filled life can bring about the vibrant, fully alive humility of the crucified self that Paul spoke of: ‘I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me . . .’ This is very basic and yet vitally important. We need to come to a settled place where we have no reliance on our learning, abilities or achievements. To be fully alive in God one must be totally dead to self, allowing the Holy Spirit to direct us into – and in – this kind of living. To acknowledge in our inner being that we are nothing, can achieve nothing, merit nothing and, in fact, are unprofitable servants, is to recognize that only God deserves any credit for whatever He may graciously accomplish through us.
2. What is the heart of the matter? It is the heart! Do you recall the words of the song I received from God? Let me refresh your memory: There is a path, there is a way,
An upward path, a narrow way
to walk with Me.
It’s simply named humility.
A humble heart . . . an open heart
A trusting heart . . . a yielding heart
A loving heart . . . an eager heart
A sweet and pure and gentle heart.
A heart like that, here’s what I do,
I settle down, at home in you.
A God of grace, and glory too,
I take My place, and reign in you.
I take my place, and reign in You.
In our day it has become the sub-standard norm to judge or assess Christians by: [a] Where they worship, [b] what they believe, and [c] what they do, and especially, what position they hold.
Anointed life and ministry is based on what we are in our inmost being, where Christ reigns supreme. The kind of heart described in the above song, is this kind of heart.
3. A limited ministry: There has been the odd occasion over the years when I have commented to someone or other that, I have a limited ministry. Only in recent years have I started to see the importance of this. You see, an anointed life and ministry can only be fulfilled when every aspect of our lives is gladly limited to what we have specific directions from God about.
There may be many other things that we could accomplish to the satisfaction of other believers – and of anyone we may consider a leader in the church. To undertake even good and right things without clear leading from God will achieve very little in the realm of the Spirit, and well may bring shallowness to our own spirits. It is incomparably better to have a limited ministry that comes fresh from God’s heart, is vibrant with the life-flow of His love, and saves us from the activity based ‘eager beaver-ism’ that heretically implies that the more we do, the more God accomplishes. This is the life that comes from humble, trusting, loving hearts. In this God is glorified!
OTHER CHRISTIAN GODS!
Wayne Jacobsen, who was involved in editing the magnificent book, ‘The Shack’ mentioned in an email to us that he loves the way it captures the joy and glory of the Trinity.
We all agree that the Trinity is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I have some times commented in the past that a major heresy of our day has been in dividing up the Trinity. God is one God! It is utmost folly to feel that Jesus totally fits into our church life, as does the Father, but the Holy Spirit is only welcome if He behaves with dignity and decorum.
In practical terms, I grew up in a church fellowship where the Trinity was Father, Son and Holy Scriptures! That is shocking – but not rare! The teaching [even if in some circles, only by implication] is that The Holy Spirit completed His major work when the canon of Scripture was finalised. Now we should just obey The Book. Consider this and tremble!!
We do profoundly thank God for the Scriptures which reveal God and His provision and purpose for mankind, but . . . One time in England a church leader told me heatedly that he and they were going to follow the Scriptures, and not get caught up with this ‘following the Spirit’ teaching.
I told him I was glad about that because it meant he would never come to New Zealand! ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Because New Zealand isn’t mentioned in the Bible,’ I replied. People who say they honour the Scriptures, but who do not expect the Holy Spirit to be involved in their daily walk, actually misuse the Book and dishonour its Author! Some are more concerned about Biblical orthodoxy than about keeping in step with the Master day by day. Too often Christians argue with other Christians over divergent views of Bible doctrine. Many will only meet with others they consider to be as correct and biblical, as they are. And alas, too many find excuses for less than an ideal standard of Christian living.
In another church setting that we were involved with for a season, a church leader told me in all seriousness that God guides their church by the majority vote of its people. Talk about Father, Son and Church committees – isn’t that an unholy trinity?
We’ve heard church teaching that said the safe way to Christian living is to obey the elders/pastors/leaders/rules/so-called doctrines, even when they are wrong! What kind of trinity is that?
Let me emphasise again, that God can’t be divided up. Unless we learn to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit we are rejecting God’s reign in our lives. We may be living a different kind of life than we did before coming to Christ, and be doing much that is honourable and good, but in actuality, unless we are truly living a Spirit controlled life, we are not enjoying the joy-fullness of life in Christ, blessed with every spiritual blessing in Him.
‘Those who belong to Christ have nailed their natural evil desires to His cross and crucified them there. If we are now living by the Holy Spirit’s power, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.’ – Galatians 5:24-25, Living Bible.
HOLY SPIRIT ANOINTING
In the Old Testament there are plenty of references to anointing. Probably most quoted these days refer to anointing oil flowing down Aaron’s beard, and Samuel anointing David. In the New Testament there are quite a few references too, both of oil [e.g. for healing] and most preciously, of and by the Holy Spirit. Jesus testified of such anointing in Luke 4:18.
Surely the events of Acts chapter 2 speak of an out-pouring and anointing by the Holy Spirit. This present writing is about Spirit anointed living and Spirit anointed ministry. Today there may be emphasis on being filled or baptized in the Holy Spirit but surely there is far too little stress placed on living a Spirit filled life, hearing His voice, responding to His every desire and being controlled by the Holy Spirit who is God in very truth. In 2 Corinthians 3 we read that the Lord is the Spirit.
CONSTANTLY CONTROLLED BY THE SPIRIT
I have long appreciated Wuest’s expanded translation where, in his letter to all the believers at Ephesus, Paul writes: ‘And stop being intoxicated with wine, in which state of intoxication there is profligacy. But be constantly controlled by the Holy Spirit . . .’
I do treasure the word ‘all’ in Acts chapter 2 as well as elsewhere in the Scriptures. Many years ago my eyes were opened to see the truth of the promise, ‘I will pour out My Spirit on all people.’ I saw that all included even the likes of me, and I gladly received what God had promised.
In the words of Galatians 5:25 [Wuest], ‘In view of the fact that we are being sustained in spiritual life by the Spirit, by means of the Spirit let us go on ordering our conduct.’
‘Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God’ NIV Romans 8:14. In Wuest this reads, ‘For as many as are being constantly led by God’s Spirit, these are sons of God.’ Surely this verse at least means that it is the privilege and responsibility of every one of us to make sure that we are truly living Holy Spirit led lives.
John Langford has just reminded me that I once said that reversing Roman 8:14 can be very thought provoking: ‘Those who are sons of God are led by the Holy Spirit.’ Now that is very challenging! Think about it!
A daughter of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once declared that we are obligated to God to live under the utmost anointing of the Spirit possible. My heart’s for that – for Jesus’ sake!
We all, surely, have a heart for God’s glory, a longing to see unbelievers bow their knees to the Lord Jesus, and a deep inner cry for Him to perfect His bride. So let us set our hearts afresh to living a Christ centered, Spirit filled life, becoming ever more sensitive to every prompting and desire of the Holy Spirit. Let us gladly live self-crucified lives that resurrection power will express itself through us, even and especially in the norm of daily living.