The Spirit Mission
by Paul Anderson
What is the purpose of being filled with the Spirit? Why do we need it? What good is it going to do? Does it make me a little happier or more successful or a bit kinder to others?
The Spirit had just come to Jesus. After some days in the desert, He comes to His hometown, and He answers the question of why He was given the Spirit. He picks what might have been His favorite text from Isaiah 61, and He reads, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Isaiah says that the Spirit doesn’t come to make us feel good but to make others feel good. If charismatic renewal is just for us, gather in the corner, pray together, and have a bless-me club. If it is for others, gather together-then go! The gathering is the equipping time. Isaiah uses the word “anointing.” It’s a religious word. We don’t use it often. But the biblical culture knew the word well. Prophets, priests, and kings were set apart for service by anointing. And when people got anointed, they knew it. The oil dripped down from their head to their face, beard, and clothes. “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1 Sam.16:13). The anointing made a difference. It equipped people and set them apart for service, not for self.
Jesus was anointed. He said that He cast out demons because the Spirit was present in His life. And when Peter preached in the home of Cornelius because the Spirit led him there, he explained “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38). Why did Jesus do good? Why did He heal? Not because He was God, but because the Spirit was present in His life. When we are anointed by the Holy Spirit, we are set apart for service. That is the purpose of having the Spirit. It is for “them,” not for “me.”
Jesus did no signs and wonders until He was filled with the Spirit. He lived for thirty years without ever doing a miracle. Some didn’t like that idea, so an apocryphal gospel was written called The Gospel of Thomas, which has the boy Jesus doing miracles. A child pushed him in the mud, so He struck him with leprosy according to Thomas. He made a bird out of clay, gave it life, and it flew away according to this legendary book. The truth, however, is that Jesus relied on the Spirit in the same way we rely on the Spirit. And that means that the same power that was available to Him after the Spirit came upon Him is available to us. Now that is good news.
It is clearly for them, not for me. Spiritual renewal easily gets stuck at the altar rather than in the half-way house. It must have an outward thrust or we will choke on it. We’ll suffocate, we’ll implode, as some renewal movements have been prone to do. The “why” question speaks to strategy. What is on the mind of the Spirit in this stirring? Jesus announces the year of God’s favor. It’s Jubilee time; slaves go free, debts are retired. It’s good news time. People who had heard only bad news for years now don’t only hear good news-they experience it. The release doesn’t just come in their imagination. They are not told to take it by faith and claim it-they walk into it. The poor are out of debt, the captives are free, the brokenhearted are mended, and the depressed have a new set of glory clothes.
I was at a thriving church plant in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. They had been meeting in an office building, but now they were preparing to move into their new sanctuary. After our leadership meeting, Pastor Jon took me out to the site. It was right in the middle of a new development. What a location! I shared my joy-as well as my concern-the next morning as they gathered for worship: “Congratulations on your new church site. It is beautiful. I hope you’re not thinking, ‘Build and they will come. Now that we have a nice home, the neighbors are sure to visit us.’ They won’t. That is your turf, not theirs. You are not a group of comfortable, contended, cloistered saints. Better to say, ‘Build-and we will go. We will meet them on their turf.'”
I crossed the bridge, taking me from San Pedro to Long Beach and the half-way house Mary supervised. She had come off the streets, was a part of our congregation, and invited me to meet “her girls.” They were coming out of addictions and prostitution. After talking with them, I carefully asked them if they would ever consider coming to our church. They laughed at me. They said the walls would fall down. Apparently, they thought they were too dirty. I was the holy one; they were the unclean ones. Kind of like the picture painted by the Pharisees. To them, holiness meant separation from sinners. To Jesus, the holiest of all, holiness meant separation from sin, but contact with sinners. What does it mean to you? The church has given the world the wrong idea of holiness. It means “get cleaned up so you can go to a clean church where you will find clean people.” We missed it. I drove away broken-hearted and cried out to God, “Please help us bring people like this to you.”
What happens on Sunday is preparation for Monday; it is equipping time. If Sunday doesn’t impact what we do on Monday, it isn’t worth it. We don’t gather together to hold out till the return of Christ, hoping the devil doesn’t cream us before we get whisked out of here. We gather to be equipped to invade the community, the culture. We are the salt of the earth, the virus of the system, the yeast of the bread, the aliens on the planet. We are here on assignment. Chalk it up to the wind that blows, the Spirit that drives us out from comfortable homes to places of challenge.
If you want to do this (minister to needy people out there), you need that (the power). This is for that. This is not a tongues movement, it is a Spirit mission. We are advancing the kingdom, not the charismatic renewal. To do this (bring good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, healing to the broken, and release to the depressed), we need that-the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Tongues is not the issue-broken people are. This is why evangelicals are embracing the power of the Spirit in a new way, because they are seeing Spirit-empowered people advancing the kingdom, not only meeting for fellowship or praying for one another. It is a whole new mentality. The focus is on ministry, touching people with the love of a compassionate God.
So don’t leave home without it-that is, without the power of the Spirit. But for their sake, and for God’s sake, leave home!
Now ask yourself these questions:
- What is the main agenda of the Spirit? How did Pentecost demonstrate this?
- How does the Church sometimes short-circuit this agenda?
- How did the anointing of the Spirit make a difference in the life of Jesus? How can the anointing (infilling) of the Spirit make a difference in your life? What might you expect to see?
Dear Father, I am sorry that the Church has too often confined the Spirit to the church site. We have expected that if something important is going to happen, it will happen in there-not out there. Forgive us for wanting the comfort of the Spirit without accepting the challenge of the Spirit. Thank you that the Spirit is concerned for them, not just for us. Fill me with your Spirit-for them! In the name of Jesus. Amen.
(This excerpt is from Paul Anderson’s 2005 book, The Father’s Gift.)