A Stranger in Our Midst

A Stranger in Our Midst

As we learned before, when Jesus returned to His Father, He left the apostles with the task of spreading the Gospel and making disciples. However, they were not do this on their own. Instead, they were told to wait in Jerusalem until God filled them with the power of Holy Spirit. When the Spirit showed up on the day of Pentecost and empowered the disciples to proclaim the Gospel in a host of different languages, He demonstrated that genuine works of the Spirit leave no doubt about who should get the glory—Jesus Christ.

Our focus in all this study about the Holy Spirit needs to be on Jesus—not on ourselves, not even on the things we can accomplish with His power. Instead of deciding in advance what sort of supernatural gift God should give us, we should simply ask God to fill us with His Spirit, grace, and power, and then allow the Holy Spirit to work in any way He wants, because we want to be servants of Jesus Christ and glorify Him.

A trap we easily fall into is trying to lead the Spirit rather than being led by Him. When we go down this path, we start with our own dreams and desires, and we ask for the Spirit to work so that we can accomplish our plans. Instead, we should prayerfully seek where the Holy Spirit is leading. Many times we don’t hear the Holy Spirit because we’re not listening. Sometimes we hear, but we ignore Him, because we don’t agree with where He’s leading.

The Holy Spirit is always leading us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit’s goal is to transform us to be true followers Jesus. Any belief that exalts the Holy Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit above Jesus will end in heresy. Whatever causes us to exalt and love Jesus is of the Spirit and the Truth. The Holy Spirit is God with us, but He is always exalting Jesus Christ. We must not put power, gifts, the Holy Spirit, or anything ahead of Jesus.

The work of Calvary, the atonement, must be the center of our consideration. That is why we take Communion every week. The Holy Spirit will never draw our attention from Christ to Himself, but rather He will reveal Christ in a fuller way. We must seek the Holy Spirit and be filled with Him, but we must never slight Jesus by exalting the Holy Spirit and of the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus must be the center of everything, and He must be the One we exalt.

Matt. 18:20 "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

However, Jesus can be in our midst and still be a stranger—ignored, unrecognized, even by those who gather in His name!

The Jews met every Sabbath in the synagogue to speak of His name, and to prophesy of His coming. They praised the name of the Father who promised to send Him. They spoke the Messiah's name with awe and reverence. Then, when He came and walked among them, He was not recognized! He was a stranger to them!

Can Christ be a stranger in the midst of a Christian congregation? Yes! It is not only possible, it is happening in churches today! There are at least three ways in which Christians are making Christ a stranger in their midst! May the Holy Spirit take away our spiritual blindness so we can once again see Jesus as He really is - LORD OF ALL!

1. Christians make Christ a stranger by either ignoring the Holy Spirit or by giving the Holy Spirit supremacy over Christ. In other words, they are out of balance about the Holy Spirit and Jesus. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit and walk by the Spirit, but Christ, and Christ alone, must be the center of our life and worship!

Col. 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 

"That in everything he might have the supremacy..." That is, Jesus is above all others; having first place in all things. We dare not think of Christ as simply the One who sent the Holy Spirit. In other words, "Thank You, Jesus, for sending someone better." Christ sent the Holy Spirit to manifest His own fullness within us.

Colossians 1:27-28 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 

When the Holy Spirit becomes the center of our attention or when we ignore the Holy Spirit, we are making Christ a stranger! The Holy Spirit descended upon Christ as He came out of baptismal waters, and the Father said of Him: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased..." The Spirit descended bodily like a dove, but the focus was on the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Not the dove, but the Lamb!

Jesus told His disciples to wait for the promise from the Father—the Holy Spirit—who would be given for a single purpose: It was the power to lift up the name of Jesus Christ!

Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Jesus made it clear that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will not draw attention to Himself, but will remind us of Christ's words. He will glorify Jesus.

John 16:13-15 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. 

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is not ecstasy. It is not to teach us an unlearned language. The Spirit has come to exalt Christ!—to guide all mankind to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord! Without the Holy Spirit, we don’t know Christ—He is a stranger—we only know about Him. The Holy Spirit has come to bring us closer to Christ and to lead us in His Word!

The fullness of the Spirit is the fullness of Christ. If we do not have a consuming love for Jesus Christ, we do not have a Holy Spirit baptism! Jesus, the One who baptizes with the Spirit and with fire, sent the Holy Spirit to fire our souls over lost humanity, to empower us to reach the unsaved; to shake up our lazy lifestyles, and get us to doing His work. Christ will not be present where the Holy Spirit is a stranger and His fruit is not produced.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit will be grieved, and finally withdraw, the moment we try to exalt Him above the Son of God! He will not permit His power to be abused by those who want only the gift and not Christ, the Giver! He will not be present where Christ is a stranger!

2. Christ is made a stranger in the Church when people praise Him, but will not pray to Him! The attitude of many Christians today is, "Why ask God for what He has already promised? Just claim the promises and command deliverances!" In other words, “Name it and claim it.”

We no longer want Christ as much as we want what He can do for us. We want an escape from pain and suffering. We want our troubles to vanish. We refuse crosses and losses - no Gethsemane for us! The Church once confessed its sins - now it confesses its rights.

We don't even know this suffering, bleeding, resurrected Christ! He is a stranger in our midst! We want His healing power. We want His promises of prosperity. We want His protection. We want more of this earth's goods. We want His happiness. But we really don't want Him alone!
How many of us would serve Him if He offered nothing but Himself? No healing. No success. No prosperity. No worldly blessings. No miracles, signs, or wonders. What if once again, we had to joyfully accept the seizure of our property? (It is coming.) What if instead of painless living, we suffered cruel mocking, stoning, bloodshed, or being sawn asunder? (It is happening again in the Middle East.) What if instead of our beautiful homes and cars, we had to wander about in deserts wearing sheepskins, hiding in dens and caves? What if instead of prosperity, we were destitute, afflicted, and tormented—and the only better thing provided for us was Jesus?

I'm 100% for getting prayer back in our public schools! But that's not God's real problem! His problem is getting prayer back in our homes! His problem is getting His own people to pray! We are hypocrites if we fight for school prayer and neglect praying ourselves!

Our lack of prayer comes not from a lack of time; it comes from a lack of desire. Prayer is not something we have to make time for. Prayer is a life style—communication with our Father in Heaven. It should be natural, persistent, and continuous.

Our Savior, who has the care and concern for multiplied universes, takes the time to intercede for us before the throne of God. How dare us say we do not have time to pray to Him, to talk to Him, to listen to Him! That is an insult!

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

We work feverishly for a Christ we ignore. We will go anywhere and do anything in His name. But we will not pray. We will sing in a choir. We will visit the sick and the prisoners. But we will not pray. We will counsel the hurt and needy; we will stay up all night to comfort a friend, but we will not pray. We will fight corruption! We will crusade against homosexuality and abortion! But we will not pray! Jesus is a stranger in our midst because we won’t talk to Him.

3. Christ is made a stranger in our midst when we want His power more than His purity!

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 

Unfortunately, much of the Church is not ready for the coming of Christ! Jesus is coming back for holy and pure Bride! A Church without stain or wrinkle, a people whose affections are on things above, a people with clean hands and pure hearts, a people who are looking forward to His coming!!

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

God is going to purify the Bride with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He uses persecution, tribulation, hardships, ridicule, gossip, and financial problems to purge us of all self-reliance and sin that arises during trials. The Bride will not have a half-hearted love for Christ—she will be full devoted to Him. God is going to shake everything that can be shaken! Are you not shaken by the Christian genocide in the Middle East and Africa? How many are denying Christ to save their lives? Some aren’t. Will we? God is going to shake, purge, and purify His Church!

John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

No Christian will escape the baptism with fire! Because God loves us, He is determined to get all the sin out of us. The purification will spread from the pulpit to the pew! Get ready, saints! The Holy Spirit is getting us ready for the Bridegroom. It will be hard, but the consequences will be glorious! Let us love and encourage one another so we are all ready for that day.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:9-13 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Will you be able to endure to the end or will your love grow cold? It is time to quit playing church and start being the Church. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to endure and be witnesses of Jesus Christ. We need the Holy Spirit so we can pray. We need the Holy Spirit to purify us. Most of all, we need the Holy Spirit to keep us focused and in love with Jesus and one another.

 Do you know what a Spirit-filled Church looks like? This is the Bride Jesus is coming after:

  • A people that God is calling back to repentance and holiness.
  • A people washed, cleansed, worshiping in Spirit and Truth.
  • A people of prayer and intercession for the unsaved!
  • A people who live according to the Word!
  • A people who are tested, tried, and devoted to the Person of Jesus Christ!
  • A people who use gifts of the Holy Spirit to lift up Jesus and draw all men to Him!
  • A people who love God and one another.
  • A people producing all the fruit of the Holy Spirit!
  • A people where Christ is no longer a stranger, but CROWNED and SUPREME!

Would you like to be in a church like that? A church consists of individuals, and it will become like that as each individual becomes Spirit filled. Therefore, reread the list and substitute the words “a people” with your name. Does that list describe you? That is what the Holy Spirit is after in your life. Don’t make Him a stranger any longer. Repent and ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit so you have power to be a witness of Jesus Christ. Yield to the Holy Spirit and He will conform you to the image of Christ. Jesus will no longer be a stranger to you—someone you heard about—but a Person you know intimately. Then you will have power and grace to exalt Jesus in everything you do and say.

However, God cannot fill you with the Holy Spirit if Jesus is not your Lord—if you have not been born again of the Spirit. Jesus atoned for your sin on the Cross, paving the way for you to have an intimate relationship with the Father. We come to the Father, through the Son, by faith in the works of Jesus—not our own righteousness. You don’t have to try and clean up yourself—the Blood of Jesus will cleanse you. Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, repent of your sin, and give your life to Jesus by dying to yourself in baptism so Jesus can raise you up unto a new life, born of the Holy Spirit. Then an intimate relationship will begin. You will know Christ and He will know you. He will no longer be a stranger to you.