Tag Archives: The Holy Spirit

Review: Missionary Tongues Revisited

Rating: ★★★★★

Who: Denzil (Denny) R. Miller, missionary to Malawi and director of the Acts in Africa Initiative. Miller saw that evangelism was alive and well in Africa, but very few African pastors were being discipled about the filling and gifts Holy Spirit, so this has been his primary ministry focus for some years. He has many books on the Holy Spirit and on Luke-Acts.

Overview: This brief book begins with Miller’s take on early Pentecostal missionaries, who thought that the gift of tongues was for the “regions beyond,” and that when they got to China, they could evangelize using the gift of tongues. Needless to say, they were mistaken; but, Miller says, the thrust of the idea was correct, and we need to return to a missional understanding of the Holy Spirit in general and of the gift of tongues in particular. He writes:

“While the early Pentecostals’ bold experiment with missionary tongues was a failure, they were, I believe, right to place speaking in tongues into missiological categories.” (Loc. 1129)

Meat: I thought that this book would deal primarily with “missionary tongues,” but, after Chapter 1, the rest of the book (six chapters) is about shifting our understanding of tongues and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For many Pentecostals, tongues are the “initial physical evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.” Miller agrees with this, but he adds the following:

  1. Tongues are confirmatory evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Tongues are a missional sign that the believer is a Spirit-empowered witness.
  3. Tongues are a prophetic release for Christians desiring boldness to preach to the unreached.
  4. Tongues are an empowering element for Christians living in mission.

If we think of tongues only as a confirmatory evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, we have missed the place of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in God’s global mission. “For Luke tongues were part and parcel of the empowering experience.” (Loc. 971)

Bones: Honestly I could not think of any criticisms. Miller is concise and biblical.

Quotes: “The Classical Pentecostal doctrine of ‘initial physical evidence,’ while true in itself, is an incomplete understanding of Luke’s missional presentation of tongues.” (Loc. 136)

“In Acts Luke presents Spirit baptism as a powerful missions oriented experience accompanied by Spirit-inspired prophetic speech in both unlearned and learned languages.” (Loc. 942)

This missional empowering takes place, not only when one is first baptized in the Holy Spirit signified by speaking in tongues, it occurs again and again each time the Spirit-filled believer prays in the Spirit.” (Loc. 1001)

Related: The 1:8 Promise of Jesus.

You can buy this book on Amazon for just $5.95 for a digital copy, or $10.95 for the paperback.


The Power of the Spirit (#30)

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.” (Luke 4:14, ESV)

Jesus entered the desert full of the Spirit; he left the desert in the power of the Spirit. He surmounted his temptations, and readied himself to go and serve his people.

Power is not something to be sought in and of itself; spiritual power is nothing without holiness. True power, the kind of power that God wants to give us, comes only from victory over trials and temptations.

Watchman Nee heard a friend gush about a charismatic preacher. “He is so full of power!” “Yes, but what power?” asked Nee.

I remember a very good friend asked me to pray for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I prayed for him for a few minutes, but for some reason, I felt that the prayer was not what he needed—that we were just praying for the filling of the Holy Spirit because everyone else there was. I told him, “maybe there is some sin you need to deal with before we should pray for more of the Spirit in your life.” I wasn’t very confident in sharing this, but he later told me that it was true; he dealt with his sin and later on was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we ask God for power, but we have neglected holiness. We are losing our spiritual battles, and we ask God to empower us for bigger battles. But he doesn’t work that way. Often we have to win in the desert first. We conquer in the solitude of the prayer closet before we conquer in public ministry. We must follow the divine order.

Jesus also received the special power of the Spirit when he needed it for ministry. As dignified as his carpentry was, he did not wield a hammer and nail “in the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is clear from Scripture that the “filling of the Holy Spirit” is for all believers, but there is an enduing of the Spirit that prepares us especially for tasks of ministry. (Filled means “in”; endued means “on.”)

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:17-19, ESV)

There are two takeaways: If we walk in holiness and in the filling of the Spirit, we will be ready for a season or seasons when God clothes us with the power of the Holy Spirit for special tasks of ministry. And if God is sending us for new ministry or mission, we should pray that he would fill us with power from on high.

Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit on your disciples so that we can know you and make you known. Don’t send me into the tasks ahead of me until you have empowered me for them and endued me by your Spirit.


Full of the Holy Spirit (#9)

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4, ESV)

In the Old Testament, most instances of being filled with the Spirit involve outward ministry and potent action. But Jesus is full of the Spirit, and goes to the desert to be tested and tempted.

The filling of the Holy Spirit does not just prepare us to preach and do miracles. In his Passion week, Jesus told his disciples many roles that the Holy Spirit would fulfill: “He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.” “”He shall glorify me.” “He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.”

The Holy Spirit also helps us to minister to the Father. He is “the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15) Any believer that is full of the Holy Spirit has a full-time ministry, because the Holy Spirit is in them to help them minister to the Father.

There are two Greek words translated ‘worship’ in the New Testament. One means to bow, to personally prostrate yourself in homage. The other means to serve, in a liturgical sense, fulfilling a role in a temple or church worship ceremony. Revelation 22:3 uses this word when it says “his servants shall serve him, and they shall see his face.”

John was exiled to Patmos, a Greek island measuring only a few miles from end to end. The island is volcanic and mostly lifeless. But John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” (Rev. 1:10, ESV) Whether or not anyone else was with him, John could walk in the Holy Spirit and worship the Father. Even in exile, he had a full-time ministry as far as God was concerned.

Jesus went to the desert, full of the Holy Spirit. That means that the Holy Spirit is with me and in me even when I am ministering to no one except the Father. Exile and desertion can never take that away.

Fasting is a ministry to the Lord—not just a spiritual warfare tactic. Our fasting is misguided if we only think about what we are going to get out of it, and not about ministering to the Father.

Now we know that when we walk alone, he is not merely preparing us for something more important that we will do. If we are ministering to the Father, we are already fulfilling our most important calling. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is not preparation for greater work. Prayer is the greater work.”

This desert, this place of solitude, is our greatest work. Our greatest calling is simply to know him in prayer and praise.

Father, thank you that I can know you and walk in your Holy Spirit, even in solitude, even in conflict. Teach me that my first and greatest ministry is simply to know you.