Explosions of Divine Love - Nathan Shaw
I have just been listening to a song called, Where do you find love?, by New Zealand's Got Talent winner, Clara Van Wel. Here are the lyrics to her song.
I s'pose what I'm really asking is, where do you find love?
I've heard that it's quite a task, now where do you find love?
Some say that it's a mission, where do you find love?
Do we leave it to ambition, where do you find love?
And I wonder, in a world so mundane, can you find love?
And I wonder, in a world just the same, can you find love?
And I s'pose what I'm really hoping
Is that he's gonna sweep me off my feet
But where do you find love?
Where do you find love?
(© 2013 Sony Music Entertainment New Zealand Limited).
Clara wrote this song and won the second series of New Zealand's Got Talent at the tender age of only 15.
So where do you find love? It is the question poets, song writers and philosophers have wrestled with for as long as poets, song writers and philosophers have existed. While multitudes the world over cry out for love, many Christians cry out for another Pentecost. Although these two cries may seem quite different, essentially they are the same. Pentecost was an outpouring of supernatural love. The recipients of the original outpouring never really recovered. Few would deny that the ten day prayer gathering that preceded the day of Pentecost must have been radical. It was sandwiched between two dramatic events – Jesus being taken up into heaven and the Holy Spirit descending with wind, fire and an intoxicating presence. But what made this prayer gathering so unique?
Here's how I used to teach about these ten days of prayer:
Jesus had just left and the Holy Spirit hadn't yet arrived.
For ten days there was no Jesus and no Holy Spirit.
They were crying out in desperation because of their complete and utter helplessness (I based this on the NKJV translation of Acts 1:14 which says they continued in prayer and supplication. The Greek for and supplication is an addition only found in later Greek manuscripts).
They knew they had nothing and were nothing without God.
It is true we are spiritually bankrupt without God. John 15:5 states it plainly: Without Him we can do nothing. However, my teaching was wrong on several points. More recently God has revolutionized my understanding of these ten days. Originally I believed the hundred and twenty had nothing. Now I know they had something very profound. The hundred and twenty had been radically impacted by a love revolution.
John the Baptist – The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness
It all began with the ministry of John the Baptist. John appeared on the scene from no where. He proclaimed a radical message of repentance. Multitudes went out to the barren wilderness to hear him preach. What did they encounter? If your picture of John is simply someone railing at sin you have the wrong picture. Generally speaking people don't travel to inconvenient places just to hear someone rail at their sins. No, they heard much more. They heard a voice that resonated with eternity. And more than just a voice, it was a voice crying in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3). The passion and intensity of this heart cry captured a nation.
John's message can be summarised by three prophetic cries:
1. Behold the King! (Matthew 3:2).
2. Behold the Lamb! (John 1:29, 36).
3. Behold the Bridegroom! (John 3:29-30)
John's message stopped people in their tracks. It declared a glorious kingdom – a kingdom discovered in the rule of Jesus. "Repent for the kingdom of God is here!" meant "Turn around because you are missing something glorious!" Jesus is a glorious king with a glorious kingdom. There is a reason why His kingship and His kingdom stand out from all others. He is not only King, He is also the Lamb of God and the heavenly Bridegroom. Although Jesus is a king with the highest level of authority, He has the nature of a lamb and the heart of a bridegroom. The lamb is a picture of humility. When Jesus came to earth and willingly laid down His life on the cross, He displayed the most beautiful humility imaginable. But Jesus didn't die just to get us out of a mess. He desires our closest companionship as His eternal bride. He is a bridegroom with passionate love and tender care.
John knew who Jesus was. John's message had a penetrating depth because he was a seer. He was so impacted by what he saw that he became a voice crying in the wilderness. His cry stopped people in their tracks, woke them from spiritual slumber, captured their hearts and riveted their eyes on Jesus. If you were privileged to make the journey into the hot Judean wilderness to hear John preach your heart would have been profoundly stirred. If you were able to look on at the multitudes listening to John and were gifted with heightened spiritual perception you would see explosions of divine love capturing and gripping people's hearts. It was the start of a revolution.
Jesus – The Revelation of the Father
The revolution continued with the ministry of Jesus. The world had never seen anything like it. If John's ministry moved the nation so profoundly how much more the ministry of Jesus? Jesus simply did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). God is love and every miracle demonstrated that love. The care of the Father for broken, hurting humanity had never been displayed so powerfully. Those who witnessed miracle after miracle of healing, deliverance and heart transformation, were having the love of God written and fire branded on their own hearts. How could you not be profoundly moved as destitute lives were radically turned around and restored?
John was a voice crying out, "Behold the Bridegroom!" Now the Bridegroom Himself was awakening hearts to divine romance. As Jesus moved from village to village large crowds followed Him. It seems certain that the hundred and twenty who prayed in the upper room were some of Jesus' most devoted followers. Many of them would have been caught up in the excitement and movement of Jesus ministry over its three year duration. Every miracle witnessed, every message preached, every encounter they had was another explosion of divine love resonating in their hearts.
Ten Days of Increasing Love
The impact of the ministries of John and Jesus was radical. In the lead up to the day of Pentecost the hundred and twenty were not destitute. They had something profound. The impact from many explosions of divine love was still resonating in their hearts. Did this affect the way they prayed? Absolutely. But they also had more than this. Their hearts were filled not only with love but also with the indwelling Spirit, with great expectation and with God's living word.
Contrary to common belief they already had the Holy Spirit. After Jesus was resurrected He breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). The Holy Spirit was already resident in their hearts. The outpouring on the day of Pentecost went to a whole new level. It was a deluge, a baptism of fire, a river of supernatural love.
They also had a promise from Jesus: "John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5). This promise filled them with great expectation.
A close examination of the book of Acts reveals that they were praying the word of God during the ten days. This means they were also immersed in God's living word.
Put yourself in their shoes. What would it be like to have experienced the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus? John the Baptist was dead and Jesus had ascended into heaven. But God's overflowing love through these two ministries had already made a rich deposit in the hearts of the hundred and twenty. This love was further increased by Jesus death and resurrection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the expectation of an imminent Holy Spirit deluge and their continually praying and proclaiming God's living word. It's no wonder Luke says they had great joy and were continually praising and blessing God (Luke 24:52-53).
For ten days the love in their hearts grew and increased. When Holy Spirit came on Pentecost there was an explosion. The increasing love resonating within the hearts of the hundred and twenty encountered the deluge of love from above.
Positioned for the Deluge
One of the striking features of the day of Pentecost is that every single one of them experienced not only the infilling but also the overflow of the Holy Spirit. They all spoke in tongues, they were all intoxicated with His presence and they all began to witness. Love opens the heart to experience the fullness of God. Their hearts were positioned to receive the deluge. If their hearts had not already been softened and conditioned by love the deluge would have flooded right over them and had very little impact at all.
I have been in many meetings in which Holy Spirit moved powerfully. Even if only a small percentage of the people were overflowing with His presence it would seem like the whole place was fully alive. One hundred and twenty fully intoxicated people is radical beyond most people's imagination. Just in case you are picturing something too tame let me explain what the day of Pentecost was not.
It was not one hundred and twenty people getting slain in the Spirit – although they did get glorious intoxicated in the Spirit. It may be glorious to be slain in the Spirit but consider this. When the Romans soldiers arrested Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane they all fell back when Jesus simply said, "I Am" (John 18:6).
It was not one hundred and twenty people speaking in tongues – although they did all speak in tongues. Many people speak in tongues today but God does not have control of their tongues! They still gossip, backbite and criticise.
It was not one hundred and twenty people getting intoxicated with God's presence – although they did get intoxicated with His presence.
It was not a concerted evangelism effort – although they did all witness to the multitudes that had gathered from all over the world for the feast of Pentecost.
Pentecost was a love revolution. They weren't slain in the Spirit, they were drenched, intoxicated and overflowing with His Spirit. They didn't just speak in tongues, God had control of their tongues. They didn't do evangelism, they became witnesses. They weren't just intoxicated. They had yielded control to God – spirit, soul and body, mind, will and emotion. A person can appear outwardly intoxicated but inwardly there isn't a deep heart surrender. To be fully intoxicated requires us to be fully surrendered. Let me say it again: One hundred and twenty fully intoxicated people is radical beyond most people's imagination. It started a revolution that went to the ends of the earth.
Where Is It All Going?
The outpouring of the Spirit never stopped. It continues to this day. However the promise spoken to Joel and declared by Peter on the day of Pentecost has not been fully fulfilled.
These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:15-21 NIV).
We are on the brink of the greatest outpouring of the Spirit the nations have ever seen. This outpouring will far outstrip the Reformation of the sixteenth century. It will go beyond the First and Second Great Awakenings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It will surpass the Pentecostal Revival of the twentieth century. How can we prepare?
Most importantly we must understand that this is a love revolution. Our hearts are prepared by experiencing and knowing the explosions of divine love all around us. Love positions us to receive the fullness of God. This is stated beautifully in Paul's prayer for the Ephesians.
I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).
As a teenager my heart was awakened through the ministries of Roberts Liardon and Jill Austin. When Roberts was 11 years old Jesus visited him and said, "Roberts, I want you to study the lives of My generals in My great army throughout time." Roberts was diligent to obey this instruction. After listening to his message series called God's Generals I was gripped. In these messages he talks about the ministries of some of the great Pentecostal Revivalists of the 20th Century. I wanted to walk in the same dimensions of the supernatural that they walked in. Then I heard a recording of prophetic stories by Jill Austin. The prophetic stories captured my heart. Jill was a prophet with a radical heart cry for more of God. She would often ask, "How hungry are you?" and "Do you want a visitation?" She had experienced a 21 day visitation from God which had radically transformed her life and ministry.
The impact of these two ministries awakened a desperate hunger in my heart for God. I was hungry for the reality of God. I didn't want to merely know about Him. I wanted to experience Him and encounter Him. I didn't care what people thought. I just wanted God. Interestingly, during this season of my life there were two prayers I would pray over and over again. The first one was "God I want to know You!" The second one was "Tell me how much You love me!"
Also during this time there was a powerful outpouring of the Spirit in my nation. God encountered me over and over again. Those looking on would have seen a person who was crazy drunk on God's presence. But I was impacted so deeply at a heart level. It always amazed me that many who were part of this outpouring were not impacted in the profound way that I was. Because God had awakened a hunger in my heart to know Him and to know His love the ground had been prepared for Holy Spirit to revolutionize my life.
Where do you find love? Every human heart cries out for the answer to this question. No matter what your situation one thing is absolutely certain – You are loved! We must encounter God's love and proclaim it. The world is looking for the answer. The hundred and twenty became walking witnesses. Jill Austin would often preach about being walking flames of fire. Before the outpouring at Pentecost the love revolution was already burning in the hearts of the hundred and twenty. Pentecost added a radical new dimension. They became love on fire.
Before the day of Pentecost the hundred and twenty were not destitute. Neither are we. We have experienced explosions of divine love through His indwelling presence, through encounters with the Spirit, through the living word, through miracles we have either seen, heard of, read about or experienced. When we meditate on His love it grows and increases in our hearts. As we fully embrace this love and let it embrace us we are prepared for the greater things God is doing. We are already the recipients of so much. The heavens are already opened but there is so much more. One of the enemies favourite strategies is to blind us to that which we already have. The hundred and twenty became the channels through which God's river of fiery love flooded the world of their day. We are being enlisted for the same in our generation.
© 2014 Nathan Shaw.
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