Sermons

This is a collection of Michael White’s sermons, from CityLIght Church in New York City.

God Is Pleased With You!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘God Is Pleased With You’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/2/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

God Is Pleased With You

In order to share the Gospel effectively, we must have the proper motivation. Being an effective witness does not make God love you any more; He already loves you more than you could ever imagine, whether you share the Gospel with one person,or with 1,000,001 people! Becoming an evangelism machine doesn’t give you some kind of inside access to God; you already have access to boldly approach God’s throne whenever you want (Heb 4:16)!

So before we dive into evangelism, I want to establish something: God is well pleased with you. Whether you do everything right or everything wrong for the rest of your life; as long as you believe in Jesus, God is well pleased.

I know, I know! That sounds absolutely blasphemous. You’re telling me that even if I mess up, again and again, God will still love me and is pleased with me?

Here’s what you have to understand: if you do all the right things, but don’t understand that God loves you, it will all be for nothing (see 1 Cor 13). If you try to impress God without understanding that He is already pleased, anything you try and do to impress Him is nothing more than a “filth yrag” (Is 64:6).

If, however, you understand that He loves you first, before you go out and do good things, there will be fruit attached to the active expression of your love forGod. You won’t have to try to makeGod love you any more; the Holy Spirit will simply work through you because you already understand He does.

You Are My Beloved Son

God loved Jesus before He did anything deserving of love. How do I know this? In Matthew 3, we read about Jesus’ baptism:

ThenJesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. WhenHe had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This isMy beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matt 3:13-17

Jesus didn’t have to get baptized; but He chose to. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; he was encouraging men and women everywhere to, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2)! Jesus didn’t have any sin to repent of; but out of obedience, He got baptized anyway.

As Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended“like a dove” and alighted upon Him. And then, His Father spoke: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (v 17).

Now, here is my question for you: why was God pleased? Was it because of something Jesus had done? I don’t think so! Up until that point in Jesus’ life, He hadn’t done anything. Zero miracles. No signs!No wonders. He hadn’t preached the Gospel. He hadn’t raised anyone from the dead! Yet here is God, His Father, making a declaration over Jesus for all the world to hear: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What this tells me is that God loves Jesus: not because of what Jesus did, but because of who He was. God loves you, apart from your performance! Up until that point in His life, Jesus had done nothing supernatural. Yet God still wanted the world to know: This is My beloved Son, and I love Him!

In the same way, God loves you. He loves you: not because of what you’ve done (or haven’t done!); but because of who you are. You are a son! You are a daughter! You are a child ofGod, and He made you to love you.

But I’m Not Jesus!

You might be thinking to yourself, Well of course God loved Jesus! He was perfect! But me…not so much. But here is who Scripture says you are:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. – Gal 3:26

You are a son of God. You are a daughter of God! Not because of your works, but because of your faith.

God is pleased with you: no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done. He’s not pleased with you because of the works attached to your life, or because of your spotless testimony! He’s pleased with you because, just like Jesus, you are His.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Gal 3:27-29

You were “baptized into Christ” (v 27) when you gave your life to Jesus. God no longer draws a line in the sand between you and the rest of His children based on your genetic makeup or your life experience. “If you are Christ’s…” (v 29), then you are an heir to the promise of God. You are His child. He loves you infinitely! And you will be with Him – face to face – for the rest of time.

You Are the Righteousness of Christ

When Jesus died on the Cross, a great exchange took place:

ForHe made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. – 2 Cor 5:21

Jesus didn’t just die with your sin, He died as your sin.God made Jesus – who knew no sin – to become sin. He did it for you! Why? That you might become the righteousness ofGod in Christ.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus died as our sin on the Cross.He took on your sin, and gave you His righteousness. When you made a decision to believe in Jesus, you activated that divine exchange in your life. You are no longer sin! You are now righteousness: spotless and blameless before God. Nothing can ever separate you from His love again!

I love that 2 Cor 5:21 says we have “become” the righteousness of God in Christ. Scripture doesn’t just say that we “have” the righteousness of God. If we just had His righteousness, we could lose it. We could leave the house without it and have abad day! If we just had it, someone could take it.

But if we are the righteousness of God in Christ, it’s no longer something we simply have as a personality trait or a possession; it is now an inseparable part of our identity! Do you realize what that means? On your best day – you do everything right, read your Bible, spend time in prayer, pray for your co-workers, and tell people about Jesus –you are the righteousness of Christ. But do you know what else? On your worst day – you wake up too late to pray, skip your Bible reading, cuss at your neighbor, tell off one of your friends,and forget to even think about Jesus– you still are the righteousness ofChrist.

That’s right! On your best day, you are the righteousness of Christ! But even on your worst day, you are still the righteousness of Christ!

Do you know what God sees when He looks at you? Jesus.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears,then you also will appear with Him in glory. – Col 3:1-4

Your life is “hidden with Christ in God” (v 3). When God looks at you, He doesn’t see your sin; He sees His Son! That means you get to “boldly approach” God (Heb 4:16), and never have to fear He will reject you. You always get to know He will love you – without fail, and more than you could ever imagine.  

Working Towards Evangelism

Remember, we are working towards being supernatural evangelists:bold messengers of our faith in everyday life. But before we even talk about sharing the Gospel, you have to know how much God loves you! If you try to show the world His love without first receiving it, you will be justas lost as the people you are trying to reach! But if you simply take time to receive His love – before you do anything else – your entire life and eternal future will change for the better.

What Makes You Righteous?

Your righteousness does not depend on what you do. It depends on who you are.

You were saved, not because of what you did; but because of He in whom you believed:

Forby grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Eph 2:8-9

You might read that and say, Aha! See?! I am saved because I believed! I did something to make it happen! But who do you think changed your heart and made you ready to believe?Whose Holy Spirit gave you the strength to give your life to Jesus? You are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Him!

Yes, God has a job for you. We – the church – have work todo! But a relationship with God has to come first. If you do the works to try and gain God’s favor, they will all be worthless (Isaiah 64:6); but if you do the works from a place of knowing you already have God’s love, there will be eternal significance attached to everything you do.

Some Common Questions in Response to Grace

Does This Mean My Works Don’t Matter?

Does the fact that God is already pleased with me mean I shouldn’t do good things? Absolutely not. Scripture says we will be rewarded for our works:

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.– 2 Cor 5:9-11

“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. – Rev 22:12

We will be rewarded for our works. God already loves us infinitely; but what you will step into inHeaven, depends on what you allow God to do through you here on earth.

Isn’t This An Excuse to Sin?

Does the fact that God is already pleased with me mean I can do whatever I want, since I already know God will forgive me? After all, what incentive do I have to do the “right thing,” if I know God will forgive me,even if I do the “wrong thing?”  Paul addresses this issue explicitly in Romans 6:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? – Rom 6:1-2

You are dead to sin. Jesus died as your sin on the Cross; and you died in Him! That means you no longer have to struggle with the same lust and desire with which you struggled before you gave your life to Him. Grace – knowing God already loves you – is not an excuse to sin; it is an empowerment against sin.

How Do I Do the Right Thing?

If you’re in a place where you’re struggling to do what God asks you to do, here is what you need to know: God already loves you. He forgives you. And you need to remind yourself that God forgives you until you start to see the fruit of His forgiveness in your life.  

Here is how the Apostle Peter explains it:

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. – 2 Pet 1:5-9

We should all see spiritual fruit in our lives (vv 5-7). If, however, we’re missing the fruit,the answer is not to try harder; it is to remind ourselves that we are forgiven: that God loves us already, even before we get our stuff together.Scripture says that anyone whose life doesn’t bear fruit is not wicked, but rather “shortsighted” (v 9).You don’t have a character deficiency; you just need to be reminded of your identity! When our life doesn’t bear fruit, it simply means we have forgotten that we have already been cleansed from our old sins. And what is the solution, other than reminding ourselves that we have already been forgiven!

So, when you mess up: don’t beat yourself up! Don’t resolve to try harder. Simply remind yourself that you have been forgiven, and let the Holy Spirit do His work through you, like never before.

©Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spiritual Gifts

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Spiritual Gifts’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 11/25/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

      Spiritual-Gifts-11-25-18

Spiritual Gifts

I believe in miracles. I have seen lives transformed – my own included – by the power of the Cross. I have seen broken bodies healed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Miracles are not an ancient relic: something that happened in the past, but that God no longer does. God is still moving! He is willing to heal you today. He is willing to transform your life when you ask Him!

As believers, it is our responsibility to show the world what God is capable of by exercising what Scripture calls “spiritual gifts:”

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. – 1 Cor 12:4-11

You see, it’s one thing to know that miracles are possible; but it’s something else to see them as part of your daily life. The Apostle Paul lists nine spiritual gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of faith, gifts of healings, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. I believe that all of these categories of miracles are for today: that we should purposefully pursue them as the church!

Earnest Desire

I believe we – as the church – have a responsibility to earnestly desire spiritual gifts:

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. – 1 Cor14:1

God makes these “gifts” available so we can receive them and exercise them and demonstrate His love to people who don’t know Him. Simply knowing these gifts exist is not enough! We have to pursue them so the people around us will know the power and the love of God!

What areas are there in your life where you want to seek God more? What areas are there in your life where you need to seek God more?

Scripture calls us not just to know about spiritual gifts, but to “desire” them. In the original Greek language, to “desire” means to “burn with zeal:” to be heated or to boil with passion for the pursuit of something.[1] We often read about spiritual gifts in church. But do we really desire them?

What would the church look like if we burned with passion to see God put His glory on display? What would our lives look like if we burned with passion for the people around us to experience a miracle so they would know God is real?

Spiritual gifts are available; but we have to desire them! God has already given them to us; but we have to reach out and take what He has already promised is ours!

Asking for More

I am in a restless state. I am so grateful for what God has already done in my life, in my family, and in our church. But I am desiring more. I want to see Him move like never before; and that means I have to desire God like never before! I have to ask; and I know He will answer!

Here are some areas where I am contending for more:

1) Healing

I want to see more creative miracles. Have you ever seen one? I have. Nothing refreshes your faith more than seeing God heal someone from a life-altering condition or disease. Last weekend, we prayed for a woman in our Brooklyn service. Due to a struggle with multiple sclerosis, she couldn’t see out of her left eye. But we stretched out our hands and started to pray for her as a church; and as we did, God began to move. Before long, she could see shapes and colors. She could start to make out images, when she could see nothing before! She didn’t go home with 20/20 vision, but I believe God started something in her that He is going to finish, and she will see perfectly out of that left eye!

God is willing to heal to prove He is real. Jesus is willing to heal through us (the church) to prove He is real to others:

Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when [John the Baptist] had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” – Matt 11:1-3

John’s prayer was, Jesus, if it’s really You, tell me! Look at Jesus’ response. He didn’t have to tell John anything; He was willing to show Him who He was by the power of God:

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” – Matt 11:1-3

We spend so much time in church trying to tell people Jesus is real, and so little time showing them. Yet God’s reminder to us today is, if we simply ask for Him to show up, He will! He will demonstrate He is real to the people around us in ways that cannot be denied.

When was the last time you experienced a miracle in your life? When was the last time you saw a miracle in your church? When we start to walk as Jesus calls us to walk, the whole city will notice:

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. – Mk 1:32-34

When people so much as heard what Jesus was doing, “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Isn’t it time for the church to stop talking, and start doing?

2) Salvation

I want to see more saved souls. Now more than ever, I want to win the lost at any cost. We will be starting 2019 with a series on evangelism: equipping the body of Christ to go out and share the Gospel with people in our everyday lives.

I love healing. I love spiritual gifts! At the same time, there is nothing more miraculous than a soul saved. Did you know that spiritual gifts are resources God has given you to reach people who don’t know Him? The Apostle Paul taught the early church about spiritual gifts; and then he reminded the church why those gifts were so important:

Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. – 1 Cor 14:12

Seeing a miracle refreshes your faith and reminds you God is real! But spiritual gifts really are not about you. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to demonstrate the power of God to people who don’t know Him: to prove He is real by what He is willing to do! Now more than ever, my prayer is less God, show me…; and more, God, show others through me….!

3) The Presence of God

I want to experience the life-altering presence of God like never before. I pray people would encounter God’s presence in our church services. More than that, I pray each and every single believer would encounter God in his or her daily life!

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel encountered God’s presence constantly. Every time he did, the presence of God was so powerful that Ezekiel responded the same way: he fell on his face!

So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. Then the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and spoke with me… – Ezek 3:23-24

Ezekiel’s encounter with the glory of God was so powerful that he literally could not stand. Were it not for the Holy Spirit picking him up and setting him on his feet, he would have stayed on the ground!

When was the last time you fell on your face during worship? How long has it been since you were unable to stand because of the weight of the glory of the Lord?

I believe this is something all of God’s people are meant to experience. Look at how God showed up when His people first constructed the temple at Jerusalem:

And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. – 1 Kings 8:10-11

God’s promise for every worship gathering is, I will show up!! We should never show up, and ask Him to show up, and then act like nothing will happen. We should expect Him to show up in such a way that lives are forever transformed by the power and presence of God! The presence of God should move you! His presence should make you so weak in the knees that you stumble and fall. If you’re not there every time you worship, ask God for more!

It’s Time

We have work ahead of us as a church. If people are going to be healed, saved, and transformed by the presence of God everywhere we go, it all starts with cultivating a desire to see God do more in and through us.

Let’s get out of our comfort zone. Let’s refuse to settle for business as usual. Let’s contend to seek God for more, like never before!

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Greek zeloo (Strong’s G2206): To burn with zeal. To be heated or to boil with passion for the pursuit of either bad or good. To STRIVE after. To exert one’s self for another.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 10/28/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

The Holy Spirit in You

When you gave your life to Jesus, God gave you His Holy Spirit as a guarantee:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. – 2 Cor 1:20-21

His Holy Spirit is a guarantee that when you die, you are going to Heaven to be with Jesus (see John 14:1-5). His Holy Spirit is also a guarantee that while you are still alive, you will live a supernatural life.

You are filled with the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead!

The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead gives life to your mortal body – Romans 8:11

That means you get to pray the same prayers Jesus prayed – heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons (Matt 10:8) – and expect exactly the same results!

If you believe in Jesus, you already have His Holy Spirit in you. But did you know there is more?

There Is More

There is an experience that is separate and distinct from salvation called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Here is the best way I know how to explain it.

Imagine I have two sponges. They are both the same brand, and brand new: completely identical right out of the packaging. Now imagine I take one of those sponges and leave it out on the counter for several days. It will still be a sponge! But it will be bone dry. Imagine, on the other hand, I take another one of those sponges and submerge it in a giant bucket of water. Picture the sponge coming up out of the water, absolutely dripping. It is now soaking wet. Wherever that sponge goes, it leaves a trail of moisture. I can’t use the first (dry) sponge to clean anything; but I can use the second (wet) sponge to take care of business!

This is the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit in him/her; but not every believer chooses (or even knows to choose!) to be baptized in His presence. Some of us are walking around – bone dry – wondering why we don’t feel the presence of God, and why our prayers aren’t effective. Others are so saturated with His presence that we leave a trail of His glory everywhere we go!

Here is what Scripture says about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We are going to work through the Book of Acts, and the examples will get more concrete as we go. The first several Scriptures will illustrate our invitation to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The remaining Scriptures will show us how to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 6, as the church was multiplying, the early church leaders needed help:

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” – Acts 6:1-4

The church leaders needed people who would be powerful and effective. So here are the qualifications they asked for in potential employees: “Seek out…seven men…full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v 3). Full of the Holy Spirit.

If there was no such thing as the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the early church leaders would have simply said, “Any Christian will do!” But they didn’t; they specified they needed men who were full of the Holy Spirit. If we all had as much of the Holy Spirit as we would ever receive at the moment we got saved, their search would have been over. But it wasn’t; they needed men who were full of the Holy Spirit.

And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. – Acts 6:5-7

Don’t you want to be used by God like that? Don’t you want to be a believer who not only has the Holy Spirit in you, but also has the Holy Spirit working through you?

The Apostle Paul, writer of 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament, knew the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” – Acts 19:1-2

This – by the way – is where a lot of the church is today! We believe in Jesus, but we’re not so sure about the Holy Spirit. We get nervous whenever anybody talks about Him. We’re worried the Holy Spirit will make us fall on the floor, laugh a little too hard, or do something weird! So we stay in our dry Christian lifestyle, instead of pursuing the greater things God has for us!

And [Paul] said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about twelve in all. – Acts 19:3-7

Look at this progression. These were already believers. They had already been baptized “into John’s baptism” (v 3). They knew they were sinners in need of a Savior, but they didn’t know where to go from there. So, Paul baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus.

But he didn’t stop there! There was still more God wanted them to have! So Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied!

Wow! Have you ever spoken in tongues? Have you ever prophesied? If the answer is no, there is more God wants you to have! He wants you to be baptized in His Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues, and prophesying!

The word “upon[1]” (v 6, above) is the same preposition used at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:16. Jesus was already fully God! He didn’t need to repent of any sin. Yet something powerful still happened at His baptism.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. – Matt 3:16

God wants you to be saturated in His presence in exactly the same way! So why would you stop short of everything He wants you to have?

The Day of Pentecost

The early church was filled with the Holy Spirit as they sat in the upper room:

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. – Acts 2:1-4

They already believed in Jesus! They had already repented of their sins! But before they went out and did what God called them to do (Luke 24:49), they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came, and they spoke in tongues!

Do you know what I find most encouraging about all this? Scripture says the Holy Spirit came. He descended like a dove (Matt 3:16) upon Jesus. Then He rushed in from Heaven on the early church (Acts 2, above). And after He came, He never left! Scripture never speaks of the Holy Spirit withdrawing His presence from the church: the body of Jesus Christ! He’s still here! And He wants you to let Him in to your life!

As the Gospel spread, so did the baptism in the Holy Spirit:

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8:14-19

Again, here was a group of disciples who had received the word of God. They believed in Jesus! Yet the Holy Spirit “had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v 16)! They were already saved! But there was more God wanted them to have. So God used Peter and John to get them baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Note that Simon saw something (v 18)! That means that when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, something happened. There was a dead giveaway that these people were no longer the same.

Final example:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” – Acts 10:44-47

When Peter preached, the Holy Spirit fell! Nobody had to lay hands on anyone at all! They spoke in tongues, and then they were baptized in water.

Here’s what we have seen in all these examples:

1) The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct experience from salvation. These were believers: people who already believed in Jesus. Yet God wanted them to have more!

2) There was evidence. As people received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. Simon (Acts 10:18) was not even a believer; yet he saw something that was evidence of the power of God being poured out on the people present.

Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in tongues is the Scriptural evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. That statement brings about a very logical question: Can I be baptized in the Holy Spirit if I don’t speak in tongues?

I was baptized in the Holy Spirit over a decade ago. I came up for prayer after a Friday night service. Someone prayed over me, and nothing happened. But I didn’t give up. I didn’t lose hope! The following Sunday, I was sitting in my seat at church during worship, and the pastor said, “Start speaking in your heavenly language.” I opened my mouth, and tongues came out!

I remember praying for a young woman in our church to be baptized in the Holy Spirit several years ago. She came up for prayer after service and asked for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I laid my hands on her and started to pray. But half-way through the prayer, I heard the Holy Spirit say, Stop. So I stopped. I said “Amen,” and asked her to return to her seat. She was puzzled. Heck, I was puzzled! Why wouldn’t God want us to contend for the baptism in the Holy Spirit then and there, in that moment? Minutes later, I looked over at her: she was laughing and speaking in tongues! How good is God?!

How many of us get discouraged because we pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, but we’re afraid nothing is going to happen! Don’t let fear of what is (or isn’t) going to take place keep you from having everything God wants you to have! Sometimes healing happens in an instant; other times healing takes time to unfold. We should always pray for the instant miracle, yet leave room for God to do a gradual work if that is the path He chooses! Why should praying in tongues be any different?

Also, remember that speaking in tongues is evidence; it’s not the main event! Tongues is like the receipt you get at a store. You don’t go to buy a receipt; you go to buy something else! Yet your receipt is evidence, in the event that anyone ever calls your former purchase into question.

There will be moments when Satan tries to lie to you, and tell you that you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit. And that is when you open your mouth, and start speaking in tongues.

If you don’t speak in tongues right away, don’t get discouraged. Keep pressing in. Keep asking. Don’t give up! It might happen right away. We’ll pray for it to happen right away! But it might also take some time. And we have to be okay with that.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for [e]bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” – Lk 11:9-13

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Greek epi, Strong’s G1909

God Knows Everything

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘God Knows Everything’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 9/23/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

God Knows Everything

God knows everything. Long before you were born, He set the universe in motion. He “…measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span, and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure. [He] weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance” (Isaiah 40:12). If God created the universe, and everything in it, can’t you trust Him to know the intricate details of your life?

He knows what you need. He knows how to provide for you! He knows what you need to hear. He knows what to say to you! He knows your every thought. He has the hairs on your head numbered (Lk 12:7)! He knew you – even when you were dead in sin – and made you alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5). He knows everything you’ve ever done wrong; and He loves you just the same!

God knows everything.

I recently attended a lunch for New York City pastors. A group of us get together once per month to reflect on ministry in New York City, and to encourage each other. This week, one of our crew was particularly stressed. He mentioned how unreasonable the demands placed on a pastor are. “I’m supposed to be a preacher, a counselor, a financial manager…and so much more. How am I supposed to do all that?”

My heart immediately went out to him. The demands of a pastor certainly are unique: we’re expected to be a Bible scholar, a community leader, an organizational leader, and many times an author too! But his question stuck with me. “How am I supposed to do all that?”

Here is the answer I came up with: You are not supposed to do all that. You are simply supposed to know that God can do all that.

God knows everything. If He really knows everything, that means there is no challenge for which He is not prepared; and if His Holy Spirit really lives in you (Rom 8:11), that means there is no challenge for which you are not prepared!

Some of the greatest victories I’ve ever experienced in life came from moments in which I felt completely unqualified to do what God asked me to do. Here is what the Apostle Paul learned as he trusted and relied on God:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Phil 4:13

The same promise stands for you! When you lean on God like never before, He will move through you like never before.

So, what challenges are you facing? What potential victories lie ahead of you? Are you ready to trust God like never before?

Joseph and Pharaoh

On paper, Joseph was unqualified for his destiny. He was a dreamer: an ex-con who had been accused of rape. Yet God promoted him to be second-in-command over all Egypt. Do you know why?

When Pharaoh had a dream, he needed someone to tell him what it meant. Pharaoh dreamt about “seven cows” (Gen 41:2), and “seven heads of grain” (Gen 41:5). The dream was bad, and “his spirit was troubled” (Gen 41:7). So “he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men…but there was no one who could interpret…for Pharaoh” (Gen 41:8).

But then Pharaoh called Joseph:

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.” So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” – Gen 41:14-16

Look at Joseph’s attitude: “It is not in me; [but] God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” What a response! I don’t know how to do it, but God does! I can’t do it, but God can!

This was a huge break for Joseph! God was giving him an opportunity he might never see again! But Joseph didn’t fall for the trap that he had to know how to handle it himself. He knew that if He simply leaned on God like never before, God would work through Him like never before!

God knows everything. Joseph leaned on God for understanding, and God told him exactly what he needed to know. He gave Pharaoh an interpretation of his dream (see vv 25-32). Then, he told Pharaoh exactly how he should respond:

“Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.” – Gen 41:33-36

God wanted to bless Joseph. In fact, He wanted to bless all of Egypt for Joseph’s sake. But first Pharaoh needed a lesson in financial planning. God would bless him with seven years of increase to prepare him for seven years of famine.

Without God, Pharaoh would have blown all the increase. He would have spent all the money as it came in! But God knew exactly what he needed. God showed him what was coming, so he could properly save.

It all started because of Joseph’s humble posture to rely on God. You see, Joseph understood something you and I should understand: even though he didn’t have all the answers, he knew that God does. And what was the fruit of his relying on God, instead of trying to figure it out himself? Promotion.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” – Gen 41:39-41

The more you rely on God, the more He will promote you! If you feel completely unqualified to do what He’s asked you to do: that’s ok! In fact, that’s encouraged. Take a step out in faith: lean on God, and not your own understanding (see Prov 3:5); and He will promote you to places you never dreamed!

You don’t have to know everything. You just have to know the God who does.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

God Is Moving!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘God Is Moving!’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 9/9/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the arrow above.

God Is Moving

God is moving, whether you can see it or not! We all have things we’ve been praying about for years. After contending in prayer for some time, it can be tempting to give up. If we don’t see God moving in response to our prayer requests, we can get discouraged and even walk away! But I’m here this morning to tell you to hang on, because God is moving!

Our church’s Manhattan location meets in a rented space: we’ve rented the basement of a Russian Orthodox Church since 2002. Years ago, the Lord started speaking to us about owning that building. We’ve been through several rounds of the church’s Board inviting us to submit a purchase proposal, only to be told that the Board can’t come to a consensus to sell. It’s been a frustrating process to say the least. Until recently, I had all but forgotten about God’s promise to give us that building; but this week, I had a dream that reminded me: God is moving.

In my dream, the head priest at the church upstairs called me out of the blue. I had taken all plans to buy the building off the table; but he contacted me, completely unsolicited, to ask me if we were still interested in buying the building. We had a long, drawn out conversation for what seemed like hours about how to get his Board on the same page, with everyone willing to sell. Keep in mind that, throughout this whole process, this man has been our biggest opponent; yet in one moment, he had become our biggest advocate.

This was a big reminder from God to never give up on the things He has told me to hope for; to never stop praying for the things He has told me to believe for.

Even If You Don’t See it

God is moving, even if you can’t see it. He is moving, even if it doesn’t seem like it. God is moving, even if you can’t feel it!

There are two types of “words” you can receive from God:

1) The logos is God’s written word. He is speaking to you through His word. As you read through God’s word and see a promise that applies to you, your job is to receive it and appropriate it (i.e. take possession of it).

2) The rhema is God’s spoken word. He will speak to you in prayer. He will speak to you through other people. God’s Holy Spirit is moving; and when He has a message for you, He will find a way to get it to you!

Every word God gives you – whether logos or rhema – is a seed you get to plant into the ground through prayer. It may take time; but eventually that seed will sprout and start to grow. It may take time, but sooner or later the branches will begin to bud and you will start to see fruit!

Here’s where we often get confused with the words God has given us: making the seed grow fast is not your responsibility. Jesus reminded His disciples that there is an element of mystery and unpredictability to the way God’s promises unfold:

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” – Mk 4:26-29

Positioning yourself to receive God’s promise is important; but making the promise come to pass is not your responsibility!

Look at the language Jesus uses: the seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer “does not know how.” The farmer certainly has responsibilities. First, he has to leave the seed in the ground. If he digs up the seed just to make sure it’s there, he’s not going to get any fruit! If he takes the seed and continually plants it in new ground (i.e. hopping from church to church), he’s not going to get a final product. But if he leaves it in the ground, the earth – the fertile, faith-filled environment into which he has planted – will yield crops “by itself.”

The farmer also has to protect the seed. It is the farmer’s job to make sure pests don’t damage his harvest. When an animal comes in to dig up the seed, his responsibility is to take that animal out. When an animal comes to dig up what’s been planted, his responsibility is to make sure nothing happens!

In your life, the “pest” is most often Satan whispering lies into your ear. You might even have well-meaning friends and family members telling you to move on and forget about the promise! Maybe you heard wrong, they might say. Maybe that’s not for you, they might believe! But your job in those moments is to protect the seed. Keep it in the ground – in an environment of faith – so it can take root and grow!

The Wind of God

Are there areas in your life where it seems like God has stopped moving? Are there seeds God has given you to plant that seem dead in the ground?

Do you remember God’s promise to Moses?

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’ ” – Exodus 6:6-8

He gave the promise to Moses as seed; but Moses had to protect it. When Pharaoh told Moses no, Moses had to protect it. When the people whined and complained that things were getting worse and not better, Moses had to protect it. Watch what happened when Moses brought God’s people to the edge of the Sea:

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?”

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” – Exodus 14:10-11, 13-14

Moses knew they didn’t have to fight the Egyptians. God had already promised He – not they – would defeat them! But Moses did have to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.

And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night. – Ex 14:19-20

Here is what God does as you’re waiting for His promise to unfold: He shields your vision. The Angel of God, who had been in front of God’s people, moved and went behind them. God knew His people were anxious. They were looking backward as their enemy chased them, instead of forward as God led them! So he blocked their view. He would not allow them to see the false future the enemy wanted them to believe.

I know this feeling. This past week, our 4-year-old son woke up in the middle of the night, barely breathing. My wife heard him first, and ran to help. I heard him trying to cough and catch his breath, and I was right behind her. We knew something was very wrong: he had had bronchitis before, but nothing like this. I threw on clothes, grabbed our boy, ran to the car and headed for the emergency room.

Two blocks into the drive, I pulled over and dialed 9-1-1. Our son had coughed, and couldn’t catch his breath. Cops pulled up within 60 seconds. The EMS was there one minute later. They immediately hooked him up to a nebulizer and gave him a steroid to open up his airways. The ambulance sped off, and I followed in the car.

When I was in that car, following my barely-breathing son in an ambulance, my mind tried to go to a dark place. You know exactly what I mean: in one moment, you start imagining everything that could go wrong. You start planning out the angry conversations you’re going to have with God if things don’t go your way! I had to make a decision in that moment to take my eyes off of what the enemy was doing, and put them back on what God was doing. God shielded my vision! I had to turn off the doubt and the fear, and put my eyes back on Jesus. I had to protect the seed!

When the enemy is right on your heels, don’t let your mind go into those dark places. God is going to do what He has promised to do! He will keep the promise alive.

One hour later, our son was stable and breathing well. We stayed in the emergency room overnight for observation, and headed home the following morning. God is faithful. He did everything He had promised to do. Our boy – the promise – is happy, healthy, and at home.

You see, even when God’s people didn’t see it, God was moving:

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. – Ex 14:21

Before the waters move, the wind blows. Sometimes we get so focused on the water – what has to move – that we miss the wind – what God is doing here and now. If the wind hadn’t blown, the waters wouldn’t have been divided! Are you hearing me?

God is moving. Take a moment to stop and ask Him, “Lord, what are You doing, here and now, in this moment?” Take your eyes off the waves, and open up your heart to the wind. He is moving; but if you keep focusing on what He isn’t doing, you will miss what He is doing! Don’t be so focused on seeing the water move that you can’t feel the wind blow!

So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. – Ex 14:22

God turned the problem into protection. He used the Red Sea – the very thing that seemed like it was blocking God’s people from their destiny – to protect them as they passed through on dry land. He used those same waters to annihilate the enemy.

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. – Ex 14:27

God Is Moving

Through that dream, I knew God was inviting me to believe in His promise like never before. We will get that building. He will do everything He promised to do. He always has, and He always will.

I woke up from that dream and took out my prayer journal. I started writing down every area in my life where God had given me a promise. I focused on the places where it didn’t feel like He was moving. I repented for my lack of faith. I asked Him to shield my vision: to take my eyes off what the enemy was doing, and put them back on the Cross. Then I prayed, “God, help me to feel the wind.”

God is moving. Can you feel it?

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Trust God Like Never Before

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Trust God Like Never Before’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 8/26/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Trust God Like Never Before

Do you trust God? Do you know He always has your best interest in mind?

For some of us, it’s easy to trust God. We have a history with Him in which He has demonstrated His faithfulness, so relying on Him for tomorrow’s breakthrough is as easy as reviewing our history with Him.

For others, trusting God is a little more difficult. Perhaps we’re brand new to faith, and feel like we haven’t seen God come through time and time again. We know we’re supposed to trust God; but when we enter into moments where trust is required, for whatever reason it doesn’t happen as naturally as we’d like it to.

When we trust God, we will be blessed:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. – Jer 17:7-8

Sometimes we wait to trust God until He blesses us. We think to ourselves, I will trust God as soon as He answers my prayer! But Scripture says trusting God is a prerequisite to seeing His continued faithfulness. Do you want to be blessed? Trust God! Hope in Him!

I love the imagery God uses as He speaks through Jeremiah. When we trust God, we will be, “…like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river.” Trusting God makes you firmly planted. Even when life is rushing by at full-speed, those who trust in God will be stable and secure. No matter how fast the river of life flows, trees with good roots don’t get carried away! No matter how crazy life gets, when we trust in God, we will not be moved!

Trusting God causes you to flourish! When you trust God, you have no need to fear. Whoever trusts Him, “…will not fear when heat comes; but [his] leaf will be green.” When heat comes – when you’re afflicted by the trials of life – you will be protected and continue to prosper. When drought comes – feeling like you’re far from God – you will be grounded and continue to flourish! No matter what happens in your life, you will continue to bear fruit!

Here is what will happen when we make a decision to trust God with our whole heart:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. – Prov 3:5-6

Do you trust God with “all your heart?” If not, don’t panic! It’s ok! We’re going to talk about how to get there. Scripture invites us to trust God more than we trust ourselves. When we trust Him – and when we demonstrate that trust with our actions – God will direct our paths. To “direct” is the Hebrew yashar,[1] which means “to make straight.” When we trust God, we won’t waste time moving in the wrong direction. He will shorten and streamline the process from promise to fulfillment when He has our trust!

It’s Hard to Trust God

We know why Scripture says we should trust God. But sometimes trusting God can be difficult. When a new crisis rears its head in our life, trust isn’t always our first response.

Many of us have trust issues. We’ve had people – men and women, young and old – in our lives who have violated (i.e. “breached”) our trust. Once our trust has been violated a handful of times, it gets even harder to develop trust.

When was the last time somebody made a promise to you and couldn’t keep it? In 2014, I wrote a book called Intelligent Charismatic.[2] I finished the book at the beginning of the year, and then started exploring publishing options. In the summer of 2015, I signed a publishing contract with a small Christian publisher. The way God set things up was nothing short of astounding. I was beyond excited, and convinced that contract was exactly what my book needed to be successful.

Yet by early 2016, the book still wasn’t published. What’s more, plans to publish were stalled. The publisher was merging with two other small Christian publishers, and all projects were paused. I started to realize the publisher simply wasn’t going to deliver on the promises and deadlines we had discussed. By the end of 2016, I accepted the reality that I would have to walk away from the deal and pursue other options. My trust had been breached! Someone had made promises to me they could not keep!

I had a choice in that moment: would I recoil from God’s call to publish a book simply because my trust had been broken? Or would I continue to press in and fulfill the mandate He had on my life?

In early 2017, I got the breakthrough I had been praying for. Thomas Nelson – one of the world’s biggest publishers – called me. They wanted to publish my book. The executive who would bring my book to market was wildly successful in the Christian world: he had brought both The Prayer of Jabez and Heaven Is for Real to market. He called me – unsolicited – on a Monday afternoon, and told me to expect another call from him tomorrow. All he had to do was “get some approvals from his team,” and then he would call me back.

When he called me on Tuesday, I was excited to pick up the phone. My life was about to change! But his tone didn’t match my expectations. “Mike, I have some bad news,” he started. “My team doesn’t think it’s time.” It was happening again! My trust had been breached, yet again. Another publisher had made promises to me they could not keep.

I had a choice in that moment: would I recoil from God’s call to publish a book simply because my trust had been broken? Would I convince myself that if God really wanted me to publish a book, He would have made it easy? Or would I continue to press in and fulfill the mandate He had on my life?

The next day, I called that publishing executive back. I asked him what he would do in my shoes. “Mike,” he said, “I would publish the book myself.” He then proceeded to teach me about the in’s and out’s of the publishing process for almost an hour. What had started as a let-down had turned into a crash-course in self-publishing. What had started out looking like a curse had turned into a blessing!

In the summer of 2017, I launched my own publishing company, and published the book myself. I don’t know why those setbacks had to happen, but I do know God made me a writer for a reason. I believe my book has a powerful message that is going to change a generation. I don’t know why everything turned out the way it did; but I knew I had to make a decision: God, I trust You. God, and I know You will perform every promise You have spoken over my life!

The Common Denominator

Who was the last person who made larger-than-life promises to you? We all have something in common: every single one of us has put our trust in someone who has let us down. When our trust is breached, we get hurt.

Here is what typically happens over the course of our lives: we learn through experience that people cannot always be trusted, and our ability to trust people going forward diminishes. Studies have shown that children whose parents are divorced will have a harder time trusting people as adults.[3] When we see that people can’t keep promises as children, we assume the trend will continue when we become adults. Then, once we grow up, constant breaches of trust ingrain the notion that people are untrustworthy. As another example: going through a divorce as an adult reduces the trust you place in other people, as well as the trust you place in institutions.[4]

Here’s the rub: from childhood into adulthood, we have repeated experiences that ingrain the notion that people cannot be trusted. Instead of entering into trusting relationships, we avoid them because we assume we’re going to get hurt! We all crave trust; but instead of learning to trust again, we recoil! Tragically, we get so used to having our trust breached by other people, that by the time we come to God, our heart has been broken so many times, we just assume an inevitable moment is coming when God will let us down.

But God is not a man:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” – Num 23:19

Other people will fall, fail, and come up short; but God will never let you down!

God Has Done It

Throughout history, God shows us that He has done everything He promised to do. He promised to make Abraham a “great nation” (Gen 12:2), and then He did it. He promised to lead His people out of captivity (Ex 14), and then He did it. He promised to “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, [and] cast out demons” (Matt 10:8), and then He did it!

Think about this: since the beginning of human existence, God had promised His people a Messiah. He told them a Man was coming, who would erase their pain, and take away the sin of the world! In Old Testament Scripture, there are 127 Messianic predictions involving more than 3,000 Bible verses, with 574 verses referring directly to a personal Messiah![5]

Everyone was waiting for God to do what He had promised to do! People didn’t know exactly what the Promise was going to look like; but they knew He was coming! And 2,000 years ago, do you know what God did?

He did exactly what He said He was going to do, from the very beginning:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. – Lk 2:1-7

In 33 years of life and only 3 years of earthly ministry, Jesus fulfilled every single promise God had ever made. God’s people had to wait a little longer than they expected for Jesus to arrive. Jesus didn’t have the “royal” pedigree that many priests and scribes expected Him to have! But God did it.

So what are you trusting God for? What are you believing God for? Do you believe He will do everything He promised to do? It might take a little longer than you expect. The answer to your prayers might look a little different than you planned! But “God is not a man, that He should lie!” He’s going to do it, in Jesus’ name!

Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:1-5

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Strong’s H3474

[2] https://amzn.to/2wfYot0

[3] King, V. “Parental Divorce and Interpersonal Trust in Adult Offspring.” Journal of Marriage and Family. 19 Feb 2004. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00642.x

[4] https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/surviving_betrayal

[5] Payne, J.B. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy.

Praying in Faith

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Praying in Faith’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/22/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

This is seventh installment of a series on prayer preached at CityLight Manhattan. For previous installments, please visit intelligentcharismatic.com.

The Role of Faith in Prayer

We’ve taken the last six weeks to establish that prayer is important. We’ve talked about personal prayer and corporate prayer; praying what God shows you, and the power in the laying on of hands. We’ve spoken about fervent prayer, and even praying in tongues!

Prayer is powerful! But the power of prayer is lost if we don’ pray in faith. Here is my question as you read through (and/or listen to) this message: When you pray, do you believe it will happen?

If you want to see your prayers answered, you have to learn what it means to pray in faith. Are you ready?

My favorite Scripture passage on faith is Hebrews 11. This is the Great Hall of Faith. This chapter tells the story of men and women who have grabbed hold of what it means to pray in faith, and seen their lives absolutely transformed as a result. But before the testimonies even begin, Scripture defines faith:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Heb 11:1

Faith is the substance of your prayers. It is the active ingredient that truly matters. Faith is the evidence that what you are praying for will come to pass! When someone asks you, “How do you know God will do it?” Your reply can simply be: “My faith is the evidence, and I know the promise of God is coming!” If you don’t have faith, you have nothing; but if you have faith, you have everything you could ever need.

For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. – Heb 11:2

Anybody who ever got anything from God, got it by faith. We’re going to look at some specific examples. For now, it’s important to know that faith works; and if it worked for the “elders” (i.e. people who didn’t have a written record of God’s faithfulness), it will work for you (someone who does)!

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. – Heb 11:3

The creative process that jump-started our universe happened by faith. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). Then God spoke. He said, “Let there be light” (v 3) and there was light. God spoke over something that wasn’t shaping up to be what He desired it to be; and everything changed! The same pattern will happen in your own life when you speak (i.e. pray!) in faith. Things that seem shapeless and void will suddenly take shape according to God’s word; but you have to speak by faith!

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. – Heb 11:4-6

Let that last statement sink in. Let it ring out over your prayer life. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” If you go to God, you have to first believe that He is; and as you make the conscious decision to trust a God you cannot see, He will reward you with a tangible manifestation that He is there.

Look at what faith did in the lives of other heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. – Heb 11:8

When God called Abraham to leave his home (Gen 12), Abraham didn’t have any proof that his destination would be better than his current location! But he had his faith. God often calls us out of our comfort zone, but gives us limited (i.e. partial) information as to where exactly He is calling us. We know what we are leaving behind; but we don’t always know what we are getting in return! That is faith: making the decision to trust that God knows best.

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. – Heb 11:11

Sarah didn’t have a Bible to rely on! She didn’t have memory verses about men and women in Scripture who had been healed. All she had was her faith. God spoke; and she listened. She made a decision to trust God; and as soon as she had faith, she received “strength to conceive seed.”

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. – Heb 11:17-19

Do you remember what God called Abraham to do after he and Sarah had their baby? He told Abraham, “Take now your son…, whom you love…, and offer him…as a burnt offering” (Gen 22:2). Imagine what Sarah must have thought about God’s command! But Abraham obeyed by faith. He trusted that God knew what was best. Faith helps us to respond with obedience whenever we are tested; because it reminds us that everything we have to give comes from God anyway!

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. – Heb 11:24-26

Faith empowers us to refuse to live in comfort, and instead step out on the word of God! Faith reminds us that the fruit of obedience is more desirable than any treasure we can gain on earth!

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. – Heb 11:29

It was faith that enabled Moses to lift up his hand (Ex 14:21) so the people of Israel could pass through the Red Sea. It was faith that sent the waters crashing back down on their enemies.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. – Heb 11:30

It was faith that caused the walls of Jericho to come crashing down. What obstacles stand in the way of God’s promises over your life? What impediment is He willing to move when you make the decision to simply believe?

The Importance of Faith

There has been a common theme in my meetings with our church members lately. Our people are going through some stuff. We have men and women who are facing immigration trials in real threat of being forcibly removed from the United States. We have people contending for financial increase who need the money to survive!

Whenever you face an impossible situation, here is what you need to remember: nothing is impossible with God (Lk 1:37)! You have to keep your eyes on Jesus. You cannot afford to think about all the what-ifs: What if God doesn’t come through? What if my miracle doesn’t happen? What if God isn’t real? Get all of that out of your head! You have to have such tunnel vision that you refuse to even so much as think about anything other than the fullness of God’s promises coming to pass over your life.

If you want to have results, you have to have faith!

When Faith Fails

Do you know what happens when we focus on the what-if’s, instead of the promises of God? Doubt creeps in. And doubt is the most damaging, destructive force that can ever impact your prayer life. Look at the contaminative effect doubt has on our relationship with God:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – Jas 1:2-8

Life is not easy! You will go through trials that test your faith! But your responsibility is to keep your eyes on the promise of God: even when it seems impossible, and especially when it seems irrational.

God will give you what you need! But you have to ask in faith. If you doubt, you are “double-minded” (v 8). That means God wants you to have the mind of Christ so you can pray like Him (2 Cor 2:16); but when you have doubt instead of faith, unnecessary blockages materialize that can interfere with what God wants to do in your life.

Faith is the key ingredient that causes the answers to your prayers to materialize. Even if you have all the other elements in place – you know your word, and you take time to pray – your efforts will not bear fruit unless you mix them with faith!

When you doubt, you can get so scared that you actually talk yourself out of doing what God has called you to do. In 2014, God called me to write a book. He downloaded the vision for every single chapter in a matter of days. I felt the burden to write it: it felt like something had been deposited in me that I had to get out! But then doubt started to creep in. I had only been a full-time pastor for one year. What business did I have writing a book? I was only twenty-seven years old. Who did I think I was writing a theological dissertation? There were so many doubts! But I had to choose faith over those doubts.

I pushed through those doubts, and I wrote that book.[1] I had to have such tunnel vision that I forgot about all the what-if’s! I had to protect my faith by intentionally blocking out any discouraging thoughts that worked their way into my mind. And I’m glad I did. The book has been such an immense blessing to our church community. One of our members sent me the following message yesterday:

“I feel like you were reading my mind while I was walking through the words of your book – every question & doubt that I have was clarified.”

Wow! It wasn’t easy; but it was worth it!

I was sitting on the couch last night talking with my wife about this message. I asked her how many times she had been through a situation where it was almost impossible to keep her faith. I wanted to know about her struggles to keep her faith in the midst of trying circumstances.

Before she was pregnant with Clive (our first son), she worked with a woman who was also trying to get pregnant. Try as she might, her co-worker could not conceive. The process had been going on for years. The woman was considering in-vitro fertilization. She was researching all her different options to try and conceive. So she printed out a copy for Rachael, too. “Just in case.”

Imagine my wife’s faith-battle as she tried to continue to believe for conception as someone without faith printed out a packet of information on IVF and left it on her desk. My wife made a decision: I am going to believe, instead of doubting! She threw all that information right in the trash; and not long after that, we were pregnant with our happy, healthy son!

When doubt rears its ugly head, you cannot afford to let it breathe. Cut it down immediately. Put your eyes back on the promise of God! He will do what He said He will do; but you have to have faith!

When You Have Faith

Here is what happens when you silence the doubt, and give voice to the faith:

Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” – Mk 11:20-24

When you have faith, mountains will move! Whatever things you ask for in prayer, you will have them!

The disciples marveled at Jesus. They wondered, What is it about this Man that makes His prayers so powerful? So He told them: “Have faith in God” (v 22)! Do you want to know what made Jesus so different than you and me? FAITH! He had a perfect relationship with God, which led to perfect faith in God. Jesus had a perfect understanding of who God is, and complete confidence in everything God would do.

But I Don’t Have Faith

So what do you do if you don’t have the faith required? Should you go home and repent, and wish you were a better, stronger Christian? Absolutely not! Whenever you need faith, all you have to do is ask for it.

Do you know what the disciples did when they didn’t have enough faith?

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” – Lk 17:5

They asked Jesus to increase it, and He gave it to them!

Do you know what a man who needed a miracle did when he didn’t have enough faith?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24

He asked for help, and Jesus helped him! If you don’t have faith, don’t panic! Don’t beat yourself up. Simply ask God for help:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” – Matt 7:7-8

Pray In Faith

God will do everything He has promised. When you pray, stop giving yourself an easy way out. Don’t waste time planning what your life is going to look like if you don’t get an answer to your prayers. Don’t waste time rationalizing a reason why God might not show up.

Faith is built as you wait for God’s promises. Guard it with all your heart. If you need more, just ask! Pray in faith, and watch God come through.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://amzn.to/2yHLw2u

Praying in Tongues

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Praying in Tongues’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/15/2018, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast, please click the play arrow above.

A Necessary Introduction

Praying in tongues can seem weird. Instead of avoiding it, let’s just acknowledge it. What was your first experience with tongues? Let me tell you mine.

I grew up in a church with a very conservative worship expression. There was no raising your hands in worship, no dancing, and certainly not even talk of praying in tongues. So imagine my shock when I walked into a Spirit-filled church for the first time as a young adult, shortly after moving to New York City.

The service started gently enough. The worship team – a full band – started playing, and I actually liked the music. Two songs in, I was wondering if what I had heard about Spirit-filled churches was all wrong. “Be careful,” people told me. “Things can get a little weird,” my friends cautioned. But this was nice!

Three songs in, I heard something. It started out as a grumbling: like people whispering in a language I couldn’t understand. Four songs in, it got louder. Now I heard something coming from a couple behind me, definitely audible, and making me uncomfortable. Five songs in, I couldn’t take it anymore. Two people behind me were yelling in tongues at the top of their lungs, and jumping up and down. I stared at them, hoping they would stop; but instead, they got louder.

I left immediately after service, avoiding awkward handshakes with the “crazy” people all around me. I went home, and I prayed. “God, what was that?” I made a vow to never go back to Spirit-filled church. But then the Lord spoke to me in prayer. Do you think a whole congregation of people has it wrong? Or is there something in YOU that needs to change?

That day was the start of an incredible journey God has taken me on to discover the power of praying in tongues. It definitely got off to a rocky start; but from that day forward, I have been searching the Scriptures to discover everything the word of God has to say about praying in tongues.

Praying in tongues can seem weird. Every time I preach on “tongues,” I know there are people in the sanctuary who simply won’t come back. But just because something is weird, doesn’t mean it’s not from God. Just because a message isn’t immediately palatable to people who have never heard it before, doesn’t make it any less true.

Tongues Is A Gift

First, we have to establish that “tongues”[1] is a gift. The Apostle Paul includes “different kinds of tongues” in his description of nine “spiritual gifts” in his letter to the Church at Corinth:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. – 1 Cor 12:1, 3-11

Tongues is a gift, not a reward. A reward comes when you do something to earn it; but a gift is given when you position yourself to receive it! Here is why that is important: I know many Christians who think they have to earn the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (the two go hand in hand). But God is not holding back His Holy Spirit for the moment you get your act together. He has already “poured out His Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). The Holy Spirit is already here! All you have to do is open your arms and receive.

The Power and Purpose of Tongues

Here is why you need the gift of tongues:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. – Rom 8:26

There will be times in your life where you simply don’t know what to pray. Sometimes, an obstacle you are facing will seem so overwhelming that you simply don’t know how to tackle it in prayer. And do you know what? That’s ok! That is what praying in tongues is for!

When you pray in tongues, you are making the decision to open your mouth, but the Holy Spirit is deciding what to pray. So is it you, or is it God? YES! You are opening your mouth, and God is praying a perfect prayer through you.

The Apostle Paul refers to praying in English (or your primary spoken language) as praying “with understanding,” and to praying in tongues as praying “with the spirit” (1 Cor 14:15). When you pray “with understanding” (i.e. in English or your primary spoken language), your prayer has to pass through the filter of your mind. It is subject to influence by your thoughts, will, and emotions. But when the Holy Spirit prays through you (i.e. when you pray in tongues), there is no filter. You have a Scriptural guarantee that the Holy Spirit is praying perfect prayers through you. He helps in your weaknesses, and makes intercession for you with groanings which cannot be uttered.

So next time you encounter a situation so complex that you don’t know how to pray, try praying in tongues! Whenever you come up against an obstacle that seems too scary to face, try speaking in tongues!

When should you pray in tongues? All the time. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

I pray in tongues more than you all… – 1 Cor 14:18

He unashamedly admitted that he prayed in tongues more than anyone else he knew in the church; and we see the fruit of it in his life. Here was a man whose handkerchiefs and aprons (Acts 19:12) healed the sick! But you can’t walk in the power Paul demonstrated, without praying the prayers he prayed.

Some Christians see praying in tongues as something you should do at the end of your payer time, when you run out of things to say in English. I couldn’t disagree more. I like to start my prayer time by speaking in tongues. As I do, God will start to show me what He wants to pray for through me. As I pray in tongues, He will show me the faces of people in the church whom He wants me to lift up in prayer. He will start to remind me of the promises He has spoken over my life. He will start to fill me with faith to believe for the impossible, every day of my life! When I start off praying in tongues, God will show me what He wants me to pray “with understanding.”

There is power in praying in tongues:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. – Jude 1:20-21

Praying in tongues – or “in the Holy Spirit” –is the way we “build ourselves up” on our “most holy faith.” Praying in tongues is the way we keep ourselves in the love of God, and keep our eyes on Jesus! The implication is there is “building up” that God wants to do in you, that can only get done when you release His perfect will over your life by praying in tongues!

Why Don’t We Talk About Tongues More?

If praying in tongues is so important, why don’t we talk about it more in church? I believe the short answer is: pastors and churches are afraid you won’t come back. It is a subject that is difficult to explain and easy to misunderstand. What’s more, many people have had bad experiences in churches that pray in tongues, so many pastors and leaders don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole!

Most people with bad “tongues” experiences fall into one of two categories. First, you may have been exposed to tongues in a way that completely caught you off guard and took you by surprise. I know a woman whose friend had invited her to church dozens of times. She finally said yes; but when she showed up, the pastor decided to throw his sermon out the window. Instead, he preached a message in tongues. Then, he “fell out” (i.e. fell down) under the power of God and started rolling back and forth on the floor. A few seconds later, everyone else in the church did the same thing. Can you imagine her terror as a first-time guest?

Second, you may have been frustrated because you know about tongues and have been seeking the gift of tongues, but for whatever reason it has proved elusive. I know many Christians with this experience. I remember a woman in a discipleship group who had been wanting to pray in tongues for years. One night, visiting a friend’s home, she found herself in a Bible study, surrounded by well-meaning Christians who wanted to see her baptized in the Holy Spirit. So, fifteen people surrounded her, started praying in tongues, and expected her to do the same. But nothing happened! She really desired to speak in tongues; but she felt so much pressure from the people around her to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and start speaking in tongues that her prayer changed from, “Lord baptize me in the Holy Spirit,” to “Lord, get me the heck out of here!”

The topic of “tongues” has definitely caused some heartache and pain in the church! So instead of revisiting the subject from a Biblical perspective, we throw it out altogether. We seek the first seven “spiritual gifts” (see 1 Cor 12, above), and then avoid the last two. But just because a principle has been abused does not make it any less true.

Why We Need to Talk About Tongues

There is a whole generation of believers growing up in the church that does not understand the power of praying in tongues. We need to change that. At the end of our lives, you and I will be accountable to God for truths we passed on to the next generation, as well as any truths we kept to ourselves. I, for one, do not want to be held accountable for withholding any Biblical truth that God wants His people to embrace!

That is why we preach on finances at our church. Yes, some pastors and televangelists have abused the principle of Biblical prosperity. But that doesn’t make the principle that you “reap what you sow” (Gal 6:7) any less true! If I don’t talk about giving, and encourage you to tithe, there are blessings God wants to give to you that won’t come into your hand (see Mal 3:10).

This is why we practice prophecy at our church. Yes, some people – ministers and lay people alike – have abused the practice of prophecy. I’ve heard of men in the church telling ladies who are not interested in them, “But the Lord told me you are supposed to marry me.” What a disgusting abuse of a gift God meant for good! But just because abuse has taken place, doesn’t mean the gift of prophecy should be thrown out altogether. In fact, Scripture reminds us to, “Purse love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1, emphasis added).

The same is true for praying in tongues. After my first run-in with aggressive tongue-talkers at a Spirit-filled church, I almost never came back. But look what God has done! If I had avoided the truth that praying in tongues is powerful, there are things that God never could have accomplished in my life that are now done!

Abuse of Biblical principles doesn’t mean we should throw them out; it simply means we need better instruction. It means we need to teach the people in our churches to know and love the word of God for themselves, instead of learning what to believe from other people!

Holy Spirit Etiquette

Did you know God devotes an entire chapter of Scripture to Holy Spirit etiquette? He tells us where and when exercising certain spiritual gifts is appropriate. I highly recommend you read through all of 1 Corinthians 14 and see it for yourself. It will allow you to better interpret whether what you are seeing in church is “genuine.” It will also allow you to better evaluate when and where to use the gifts God has given you in your own life.

Here is an excerpt:

Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. – 1 Cor 14:13-15

Listen to what the Apostle Paul is saying here. When he prays in a tongue, his spirit prays, but he doesn’t understand what is being prayed. So what should he do? Does he throw out the practice of praying in tongues altogether because he doesn’t understand what is going on? Of course not! He doesn’t have to choose either praying in English, or praying in tongues; he embraces both as 1) powerful and 2) from God.

But look at the warning the Apostle Paul also includes:

Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue. – 1 Cor 14:16-19

By and large, corporate worship is not the place to speak in tongues. Why not? Because guests – unbelievers, or “the uninformed” (v 16) – will have no idea what is going on. If we do things in our Sunday service that unchurched people won’t understand, we are placing stumbling blocks in front of them. How many first-time guests do we have to send running for the exits before we start to operate with a little discretion?

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I am not saying for one moment that we should ever back away from the Biblical truth that all believers should speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is powerful, and you need the gift of tongues if you are going to go out and do everything God created you to do! But we have to be able to explain Biblical truths in language unchurched people will actually understand.

How to Receive the Gift of Tongues

If you’re convinced that praying in tongues is Biblical, and you want the gift of tongues, you need prayer. Don’t worry; this is the easy part. The difficult part is getting past the mental and emotional blocks that immediately materialize as soon as we mention “tongues.” Actually receiving the gift is easy.

The Biblical way to receive the gift of tongues is to ask for prayer. Believers receive the ability to pray in tongues as a by-product of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The pattern we see in Scripture is as follows: a believer who has already received the baptism of the Holy Spirit will 1) lay hands on and 2) pray for someone who hasn’t, and the Lord will impart the baptism in the Holy Spirit, along with the gift of tongues.

Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 8:14-19

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” 

So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”

So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”

Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. – Acts 19:1-6

So, are you ready to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues? Ask someone who already speaks in tongues to lay hands on you and pray. Believe that as they do, you will speak in tongues.

But what if nothing happens? What if I have been trying to speak in tongues for years, and I still can’t?

Relax! Your story is unique. We aim for the Biblical model because that is what we see in Scripture. We also have to acknowledge, however, that God works through different people in different ways.

I spoke in tongues for the first time when I was sitting in my seat in worship service (at the same Spirit-filled church I ran out of only months before)! I had gone up for prayer a couple weeks prior, but I didn’t speak in tongues. I was nervous because 100 people were staring at the back of my head, waiting to see what would happen. I was on-guard because I didn’t want to feel forced to speak in tongues. I wanted a real, authentic experience with zero manipulation and no hype! So God honored my desire. I didn’t speak in tongues that day I got prayer; but I did speak in tongues several weeks later, while I was sitting in the pew and minding my own business. Your testimony is unique; so don’t assume it will happen for you like it happens for someone else!

For a more extensive discussion on praying in tongues, please see the Intelligent Charismatic book.

© Michael D. White, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Please note that for the purposes of this resource, I am going to refer to “tongues,” “praying in tongues,” “speaking in tongues,” and “the gift of tongues” interchangeably.