All is Vain without the Spirit

The church of Moses had been loved, chosen, graced, saved, protected, organized, and instructed. Their priests had been ordained and their building erected. Then it happened; heaven came down and glory filled their sanctuary:

“… So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”     (Exodus 40:33-38)

Without the fresh falling and filling of the Holy Spirit, the tabernacle would have merely been a really expensive mobile home.

However, God loved and graced his people with his immediate presence. The Holy Spirit descended upon, filled, guided, and encouraged the children of Israel. How happy they must have been each night as they turned down the lamps of their individual tents only to see the tabernacle of God shining with holy wonder throughout the night.

Last night, at Horizon Church, several church leaders met for hours to further discuss and outline the passion placed within us by the Lord. We left red-eyed and worn-out. However, we also left pretty excited about what we hoped the Lord might do in our midst. Oh, that God would help us be a Gospel-addicted family passionately worshiping, intimately fellowshipping, perpetually maturing, relentlessly serving, and ever-expanding. How much fun it will be to see more visitors, more converts, more disciples, more families, more children, more leaders, more staff, more church planters, more zeal, more churches, and more cultural impact. Oh, that God would use us to bring more glory to his name. Therefore, with this in mind, we prioritized, planned, and strategized, and still we are not done. Consideration of priorities, preferred strategies, staff-alignment, budget allocations, and facility needs still to be addressed. We will obey. We will follow God’s plan. We will dream. We will plan. We will work. However, this we know – all is vain without the Spirit.

Friends, the same is true for you and your family church. It matters not whether you unschool, home school, Christian school, private school, or public school. It matters not whether you lead your family in personal devotions or family devotions. It matters not whether you go to church 4 times a month or 4 times a week. Look around you; can you not see that reading the Bible, engaging in Christian education, utilizing youth ministry, and sending your children on mission trips is not necessarily fruitful and effective? How numerous are the families who have done all the above and still they are blown away by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Oh friends, all is vain without the Spirit.

The same is true for you and your para-church ministry. Go ahead and think seriously about your boards, bi-laws, values, vision, mission, strategies, measurable objectives, staff, target-market, and fundraising. Sure, take your ministry seriously, but remember this, all is vain without the Spirit.

Such is the case for your personal vocation and ministry. The Lord makes rich, and the Lord makes poor. The horse is to be made ready for battle, but victory comes from the Lord. Without God, nothing is possible. There is no profit or success for which man can say, “I am the one ultimately responsible for this.” So swing for the fences. Be aggressive. Be entrepreneurial. Be bold and seek to accomplish great things. However, always keep this in mind, all is vain without the Spirit.

photo-1498184103684-bc1a70b0c068Therefore, let us show our humility, dependence, and wisdom by engaging in more fervent prayer. Prayer is powerful. It is effective. It is the means of grace that turbo-charges the other means of grace. So, I suggest we put aside our mobile device, laptop, planner, and perhaps even our Bible and highlighter. Perhaps we need to find a breakroom, boardroom, or even a men’s room to converse with our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Therefore, to spur us on, here is a famous older prayer which has been set to music. Go ahead; let’s have a singfest with Divine Lover:

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; wean it from earth; through all its pulses move; stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art, and make me love thee as I ought to love.

Has thou not bid me love thee, God and King? All, all thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind. I see thy cross; there teach my heart to cling. O let me seek thee, and O let me find.

Here is another hymn to guide us in your time of prayer:

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me. Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me. Spirit of the living God, Fall fresh on me.

Here is one more:

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God. Will you pray with all your power while we try to preach the Word. All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down. Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Oh friends, God would have all his ministers and their ministries prayer-powered and Spirit-saturated. Therefore, whether we be priests at home, in the office, driving the soccer-mom-van, serving in a para-church ministry, or laboring in the church, God calls us now to spend a bit more time with him.

How fantastic it was when the Spirit of God moved in to the Tabernacle!

How fantastic it was when the Spirit of God moved in to the Temple! How tragic it was when he left!

How fantastic it was when the Spirit of God moved in upon Christ’s disciples in the Upper Room!

I don’t know about you, but I could use a fresh pentecostal moment of my own life right now. I know God loves me. I know he dwells within me. I know he will never leave me. I know he is my Shepherd, and I should not want. And that being said, I want a sweeter experience with him. I want Christ’s Spirit to fall freshly on me and mine. I long for a greater experience of Gospel mercy, Gospel-grace, Gospel-satisfaction, and Gospel-motivation. And I would also love to see a greater measure of Gospel-success in my individual walk, my personal family, my chosen vocation, and my beloved church. For this I have been made aware of, all is vain without the Spirit, and I do not want to experience a vain day today.



“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”    

Acts 1:8



2 thoughts on “All is Vain without the Spirit

  1. Joe, I hope you are doing well. I profit from your writings and teachings, and continue to pray for you as shepherd at Horizon Church.

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