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The Power of a Disciplined Spirit

by John W. Follette

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  II Timothy 1:7

In the early Church, there was a manifestation of the life of Christ that was powerful enough to move an entire nation.  Rome was greatly affected by it, and nations ever since have been affected by it.  Although the members of this early Church had received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and were used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there were “spiritual qualities” that permeated these gifts, which caused this powerful impact upon nations.

Jesus said that He would give us the power to become “His witnesses.”  This includes the ability to do the works that He did, but there is to be more than this.  He was referring to a quality of life, an element of the Spirit which would become the “agape” of the Son of God resting within us.  The early Church moved under the influence and power of this agape (sacrificial love) until all this became a dynamic in the hands of God by which He was able to affect and move a nation.

The first factor that is common to building a Christian life is also common in the building of the Church.  Thus, the tutoring that is directed toward the individual is also given for the whole body.

“But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses….  Acts 1:8

This is not speaking of a “power” to go out and witness, for each individual should do this as soon as he is saved.  This baptism is to be the dynamic (Greek – “dunamis”) by which the Church will be built.

Although Jesus teaches us the necessity of receiving this power, it is dangerous to allow its impact to overrule us.  The same power that we feel when we are filled with the Spirit is the very power that can make us almost irrational with its moving.  In response to a manifestation of this power, we feel that we must do something, but we are not quite sure what it is.  Then we become agitated and confused because the result was not what we expected.  We must come to understand that there is another element that is being added.

He has given us not only the power to become witnesses, but also the power of love.  This word “love” is not an emotional love.  It is “Agape,” a love that can only be measured by sacrifice.  It is not “Phileo,” or brotherly love.  The Lord wants us to know the difference between these words.  “Agape” implies sacrifice; He tells us that He has loved us with this kind of love.

In the building of our spiritual life, the field of motivation must be carefully thought about.  There must be a right motivation behind each manifestation, as we respond to the power of the Holy Spirit moving within us.  The word used for “love” in this verse speaks of a love that motivates us to action.  That which is motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, sacrificial “agape” love, will pass the test of time.

I Corinthians 13 is a beautiful chapter, but many never see the truth that is hidden within.  They extract it from its setting, and put it somewhere else.  To understand the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters must be read together as one.  The gifts that are mentioned in chapter 12 are to be correctly motivated by the love that is within chapter 13.

The law that governs in this arrangement is not a “more excellent gift.”  For love is not a gift, rather it is a fruit.  “Love” is the law by which the gifts are to operate.  Why does the Lord say, “Yet show I to you a more excellent way?”  Because the way they had been using the gifts had brought confusion into the church.  They had all of the gifts, but the motivating power behind them resulted in pride, disturbances, and many other problems.  Therefore He says, “I will show you the motive that should govern the use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Paul said that in the sight of God, their words sounded like a sounding of brass or a tinkling cymbal.  This was not what they were hearing, but what God was hearing.  God was hearing confusion and noise.  Why?  “Though I have all the gifts and the power to do all these things, if I do not have agape, that broken bleeding heart of Jesus, as the motive for the working of these gifts in my life, they will sound like a racket.”

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (agape), I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”  I Corinthians 13:1-2

Notice that “I am nothing.”  It is not that the gift is nothing, rather “I” am nothing.  “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3).  It may profit the people, but it will not profit me unless agape, the love of God, is the motivating force.

What else does he say?  “I have not only given you this gift of power along with love as the motive by which the gift will be manifest; I have also given you a sound mind.”  This word means a “disciplined spirit.”  We may have all of the gifts, properly motivated by the love of God, but if there is not a disciplined spirit to go along with them, they will not be able to accomplish their purposes.

What is a disciplined spirit?  This is a military term.  Paul uses many military terms.  The word here is used in connection with a General who has been disciplined in order to give discipline.  He himself is under discipline so that the authority he now exercises will have a backing.  One may have both power and love, but unless there is a “disciplined spirit” behind them, they will accomplish little.

When Jesus called James and John, He saw coming toward Him two young men whom He called “Sons of Thunder.”  God’s hand was upon them, but they were not yet acquainted with the meaning of this hand that had been laid upon them.  They were not fully able to interpret it at this time.

When Jesus gave them power to go out and minister, John came back disturbed because the people in the city where he preached would not receive the Lord.  He asked Jesus, “Do you want me to call down fire from out of heaven to consume them?” (Luke 9:54).  John had the power to do this, because Jesus had given it to him.  John loved the Lord and wanted Him to be appreciated.  These people had rejected his ministry, therefore he wanted them to be punished.

Then the Lord turned to John and said, “You know not what spirit you are of.”  The difficulty was not in power, nor was it with love.  This reaction was due to a problem in John’s spirit.  We must be motivated before we can accomplish anything for the Lord, but this is not enough.  John had both power and love, but his motivation was flawed.

The difficulty was in the undiscovered, inner resources of John.  The territory within my heart that has yet to be discovered sometimes amazes me.  There is territory within each one of us that must yet be taken.  There are vast areas within our lives that are not yet conquered, and the Lord needs to triumph in them.  The Lord needs to enter these territories within our lives and make a conquest.

Power, love; each of these has their part.  Now, a disciplined spirit is to be added.  The Lord had seen John as a “Son of Thunder,” but He did not intend to let him remain as one.  He used John in places where he would be able to “thunder” for awhile.  But the time came when God wanted to talk with him, so He took him to Patmos, a barren isolated island.  Here, there was no one to “thunder” at.  This was to be a time of quiet, a time to think, there was nothing else to do.

The Lord was after John; He is after us, even more than He is interested in anything we will ever be able to do for Him.  When “you” have been set on an isle like this by the Lord, be careful not to accept the suggestions of all those who are willing to row you back to where you were, because “you are so needed” in God’s work.  The Lord put you there; let Him keep you there!

People may attempt to hinder you, but be determined to make time and room for the Lord to make the necessary conquest within you.

When the thunder had become silent within this man, and the Lord had accomplished what He was after, He came to him and gently said: “John.”  John knew that he had heard this voice before.  “Can it be my Lord?”  Then the Lord said to John, “I have a message for you.  It is not only for you but for the Church as well.  It will be projected down through thousands of years.  Let me bring this forth through you.”

John’s heart was already broken, so just the call of his name was like a balm and he understood.

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.”  Revelation 1:9-10

Have you ever been “in the Spirit?”  We know that we are to walk in the Spirit.  But how many of us have experienced what it is to be caught up in the intimate movings of God?  How marvelous it is when we find that “I have come back to my real place of habitation.”  This “being in the Spirit” is the place that we were created for.

God gave John a vision, and in it He covered every element of the earthly realm: the world, all creation, the skies, moon, stars, animals, trees, people, cities, nations, floods, winds, thunder, lightening.  God took every tangible thing that John had ever known and used it all to make a most complicated, yet marvelous display.  God has thundered in Revelation.  But, did you hear John thunder in Revelation?  No, all that was gone.

What is the difference now?  God is thundering through John.  God did not call John because he could thunder.  He did not want John’s thunder.  He wanted Johns “capacity” for thunder, so that He could thunder through him.  A marvelous change has taken place within his spirit.  When John came back from the Isle of Patmos, we read, “Little children, let us love one another.”  There is a tenderness, a brokenness, and a graciousness that was not evident when John thundered.

So it is with our development.  We have this capacity for thunder within us, but He will let us move along, for awhile, in our own thunder.  But someday God will come after us and say, “I am going to dry up your thunder.”  He will put us on an “Isle of Patmos” and everyone will wonder what in the world is wrong with us.  Do not bring that soul to shore!  He is bringing forth a disciplined spirit within this one.

When God begins to deal with us to accomplish within us His purposes, let us not be fearful, He has not given us a spirit of fear.  He has a purpose in view for us, both in time and in the ages to come.  We are safe and secure in the hands of the living God.

He who has begun a good work in you will also finish it.