These two sessions are based upon the sessions I was privileged to teach at Fast Forward, down at BCW earlier this year. [Plug Fast Forward]. The actual notes I used for Fast Forward (as I have adapted them a bit for these two sessions, based on what God has continued to show me) are available either in print or electronic format – just ask me! The day on which I shared was spent looking at releasing the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and a workshop in which we ministered to each other for the practical outworking.
This follows on well from what Tim shared last week. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem triggered a fresh phase of the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. The power for us to become “more than conquerors” as God intends, is the Holy Spirit at work within us. I believe if each one of us has a vision related to the release of God’s power, and we join together as a fellowship with a shared vision; then we will see God’s purpose fulfilled, and we will practically share in the victory that Jesus has already won over the kingdom of darkness.
I have split what I want to say into two parts – today I want to focus on the context for the development of an empowering vision, why I believe an empowering vision is important, and what I mean by the term “An Empowering Vision”. Next week I want to explore how to receive an empowering vision, and some of the kinds of impact to expect as a result.
Heartbeat: each of us has a heart with two sides, and heartbeats that goes “flub-dub” – I guess quite a few of us have heard heartbeats when an ultrasound scan is done during pregnancy. It is important that we understand that God too has a heartbeat – and it also has two sides … God has twin passions:
And we can some up the Kingdom of God in these two simple words. But I must not get into this or my time will be gone before I actually get into my message for today!
- Each one to know a fresh empowering from the Holy Spirit
- Each one more able to tap into God’s resources to achieve what God has planned both in day-to-day life and in terms of ministry towards others
- Each one to begin to receive a fresh/increased empowering vision which will carry them through the circumstances of life in the role of conqueror
Session 1: Introduction and the example of Paul
Some initial questions:
1. Are we living in the “Day of God’s power” that we desire to see?
1.1. Do the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk?
1.2. Are the sick healed and the dead raised?
1.3. Does the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the sea?
2. Do we question ourselves and the Lord regarding why this is the case? [I would take up the book of Habakkuk to show how one prophet responded to a scene I believe is similar to what we face today, especially Hab: 3: 1 & 2]
3. Do we have a clear vision, individually and then corporately which has root and branch changed our lives; and is it that vision which empowers us to live our lives according to God’s plan for us?
At the outset I want to make it clear that I am sharing this to encourage my own heart as well as to share the truth with you. I too desire to be much more empowered by the Holy Spirit and with greater assurance that I am fulfilling His plan for my life.
These sessions are designed to show the critical link between vision and power. We will be focusing on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals and in the corporate life of the local church. We will be making extensive use of the life of the Apostle Paul and scenes from the book of Acts. Before we dive into the detail, let’s set some context for this.
Joel 2: 28 & 29 – remember these are the verses that Peter took up to explain what was happening on the day of Pentecost. Whilst there are many things which the power of the Spirit these verses focus on four things:
1. The outpouring is for all people, across generations, professions, wealth – breaking down the barriers between people in a common outpouring.
2. The ability to prophesy – both to declare what God is saying for the immediate context and to show forth God’s plan for the future.
3. Dreaming dreams – perhaps a bit like the song from the musical South Pacific – “If you don’t have a dream, then how you goin’ to have a dream come true”?
4. Seeing visions – we will explore in greater detail why this is so important, but here it is clearly an important part of the revival outpouring of the Spirit being prophesied by Joel. This outpouring was for the renewing and restoration of a whole nation. In our case we can take this as an outpouring given for the birth of the church at Pentecost; but one that is vital to our day too.
Proverbs 29:18 without a vision the people … “perish” [KJV] … “cast off restraint” [NIV].
PERISH = die; rot away (like rubber); CAST OFF RESTRAINT = wander around, become unproductive. LITERALLY “BECOME NAKED” = exposed.
Compare this with 1 Sam 3: 1 [aside: Samuel was often known as the seer e.g. 1 Sam 9:9f] and Amos 8: 11 & 12. When Israel had a vision around which to rally, and the people were united in pursuing the vision they were victorious, when they did not have this they always tended to be defeated.
Psalm 133 – I believe one critical element of what will keep people united and therefore powerfully blessed is a clear vision, a dynamic vision. This vision will be one which is lived out in daily reality, not just a hypothetical vision of a far future; though the vision will have an important future dimension. Interestingly, this could also be true for man without God, as the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis tells us [Gen 11: 1-9] – if God had not confused their language then their unity behind building the tower could have been irresistible.
The link between Vision and Power
We will look at the origin of Paul’s driving vision later, but I want to begin near the end and work backwards!
Acts 26: 19 – Paul’s life and ministry can be said to have been driven from and sourced in the “heavenly vision” he received. The vision proved to be a driving, motivating force in Paul’s life. Paul is here defending what he has done when under arrest for proclaiming a King apart from Caesar. His defence is before King Agrippa who knew the law and the prophets. Paul focuses his defence on receiving an empowering vision from heaven as the core rationale for what he has done.
For Jesus too, vision was a critical part of His ministry. His testimony to the disciples is that: “I do what I see my Father doing; I say what I hear my Father saying” [John5:19]. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and His Power, but he needed to see what God was doing in order to direct the power. We are just the same, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, but we need to be able to see through God’s eyes in order to be able to flow with Him and pour out what He has given us, to achieve what He wants to happen. This is nothing to do with some pie-in-the-sky future but is a vision that galvanises men and women to do exploits and achieve what God has planned in their lives and in the communities they represent!
To move in the power of the Holy Spirit as the new testament describes is composed of at least two parts, both of which link back to the vision – seeing things as God sees them. This can be best described by giving the definitions of two Greek words used in the NT associated with the power of the Holy Spirit:
Dunamis: this can be defined as ability; this is the word from which we get our dynamite! As with dynamite the power of the Holy Spirit released to enable us could be destructive as well as constructive.
Exousia: this is the word used for authority; this is used in the NT many times and it is particularly authority which directs the ability or power to achieve God’s purpose.
John 5:19 – Jesus directed the power within Him to achieve God’s purpose by only doing what He saw His Father doing and only saying what He heard His Father saying. We need the same combination in order to move in the way that will bring about the Kingdom of God drawing near to those around us. We need both ability and direction – we need to know that we have received power, that the Holy Spirit is in us and desires to move through us; but also to see the situation from God’s perspective, so that we direct the power to achieve God’s plan and purpose.
It is amazing, but true – when we receive a vision from God it already contains all the necessary power for the vision to be fulfilled and every part of it to be achieved.
The origin of Paul’s Vision and Ministry
Acts 9: 1-29 In this passage we do not only read of what happened on the Damascus Road, but also how the whole initiation of Paul’s conversion and ministry come through a series of visions. Remember we looked earlier at Acts 26; when before Agrippa Paul states clearly the he was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. He indicates that all he had achieved to date in his life, travels and ministry was because of the vision he received.
Challenge: Do we have the same driving vision that shapes our priorities and empowers our lives so that we become the kind of people that God wants us to be?
It is possible to say that our birthright as we take it on board through the whole of both the OT and NT is to have exactly such a vision!
However, it is critical to point out that for Saul (Paul) all of his study of the scriptures did not bring forth the vision and drive that God wanted! In fact we must be clear that the reason Saul was on the Damascus Road was that he was out to destroy the nascent church and to kill as many Christians as he could!
So we come to the critical point: it is the dynamic combination of Word and Spirit which we call revelation that will help us to receive this driving vision empowering us to achieve God’s purposes in and through our lives. Revelation – the enlightening of our hearts, minds and wills by the Holy Spirit working within us – this will give birth to the vision of what God truly wants to achieve in and through us.
The scriptures Paul knew so well did not change on the Damascus Road – but Paul’s understanding of them certainly did!