Where the Spirit of the Lord is, There is Freedom


In early 1997 I was staying in Cebu City, Philippines, serving as a missionary. Cebu is the second largest metropolis in the country, and a place of extreme poverty. Toddlers played naked in the sewage, which ran freely down the streets near the port. A stinking, sluggish river snaked through the slum, and all around it were makeshift tin and tree fibre shelters, stacked perilously atop each other on the steep, muddy banks.

Some friends and I went to stay with a local minister in the heart of the city. Each morning we’d pray, asking the Lord to lead us to those who needed him, and on one occasion we left the apartment and walked straight into a highly tense situation. A young couple were shouting at each other, pulling at a screaming, terrified baby. The mother had it by the shoulders and the father by its legs. My friends and I approached and stood quietly by until the shouting stopped.

“If you come with us, we can help you,” I said. In this kind of situation, I rely entirely on the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say.

They were so taken aback they went along with it, returning to the apartment with us, and it was then that the Holy Spirit took over. We are all called to develop spiritual gifts in the Lord, which are an expression of grace. Romans 12, 6:

‘Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.’

Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of grace, which is the power and ability of God to save, heal, and restore. Not only are spiritual gifts a manifestation of grace, but we are taught to earnestly desire and seek them. Even when the Corinthians over-emphasised them, practicing them chaotically in their meetings, Paul urged them to continue to seek out spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12, 31:

‘Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.’

He specifies that prophecy is greater than tongues, and doubles down on that in 1 Corinthians 14, 1-5:

‘Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

Prophecy is of crucial importance to the Church because it strengthens, encourages, and comforts the hearer. In other words, prophecy allows God to speak directly to his people, in a clear, understandable way. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen the message of God change lives. For me, the greatest privilege of prophecy is that in receiving and delivering the message of God, we get to feel his emotions. The love of God is tangible in those moments, as lives are changed by his word and his presence. I’ve learned more about the compassion of God through prophecy than through years of Biblical instruction.

If prophecy is a gift you are yet to use, the first step to its release is acknowledging that God wants you to know and use this gift.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

I’ve found the Lord is always ready to take us deeper, to say yes to our prayers to know him more closely, and to empower us for service. There was a time when I was completely useless in this regard, and there was a time that changed – it all started with the boldness to believe and ask for what the Bible clearly states God wants.

On that occasion in Cebu, I was blessed to be working with a couple of other able prophets, who knew how to follow the Spirit’s leading as He reached out to this troubled couple. First we learned of their situation. The young husband had been unfaithful to his wife, and she had caught him in the act. She was leaving him, and he was in a panic.

In the power and presence of God, we knew what to do. First, we shared the Gospel, and both were touched by the Holy Spirit, giving their lives to God on the spot. The Lord spoke to me of the young man’s past – a childhood in which he had been labelled and judged, setting him on rails he’d continued to slide down to that day. We spoke about the power of God to change him and reset his destiny. His wife made the extraordinary choice to forgive him for cheating on her, which reduced us all to tears. We prayed for the child, as did the parents, blessing it with the love and promise of God.

It was the most extraordinary experience, throughout which this couple, who only a short while earlier had been screaming at each other, wore expressions of childlike wonder. When the time came to part company, they walked away with the arms around their baby, happiness writ large across their faces. Importantly, the minister we were staying with took their details and was going to stay in touch, helping them connect with a local church, so they weren’t left to figure everything out on their own.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that further support and counselling wouldn’t be needed, but through the power and love of God this couple were given a fresh start, hope for the future, a relationship with God, and people to stand with and help them. It was a mind-blowing divine intervention, the likes of which I’ve not experienced since.

That night, I stood on the flat roof of the apartment and cried tears of adoration. I could hardly take in the goodness of God, or grasp that this whole encounter, with all its moving parts, had taken about an hour. I was lost in awe and wonder at the sweetness of the Lord, and the things he would do in our lives, if we let him.

When I tell people about this event, even some Christians are cynical – it couldn’t happen that fast, maybe they were pretending, maybe she was for real but he was pretending in order to get away with his affair, maybe they felt coerced, etc… But I was there. I felt the presence of God, heard his voice, felt his emotions, delivered his messages, and watched as he set this couple free before my eyes. The tears, the astonishment, the joy were the real deal – there’s no faking naked, sincere emotion. The truth is, in the presence of God, anything is possible; that which should take years can happen in a moment.

Reading the Gospels with spiritual gifts in mind shines a light on the way Jesus flowed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, during his ministry. Take the conversation he had with the Samaritan woman at the well, in which he uses gifts of knowledge and prophecy to lead her to freedom, and to worship. John 4:

The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’

(Jesus is already prophesying at this point, speaking of the salvation he would bring through the cross, and the indwelling Spirit who would fill all believers.)

Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

(This is deep, messianic prophecy, speaking again of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would live in all believers after Jesus had died, risen again, and ascended.)

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’

He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’

‘I have no husband,’ she replied.

Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’

(He moves into a word of knowledge, knowing details about her life revealed by the Spirit.)

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’

‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’

(Again, this is deep, messianic prophecy, speaking of the Church, which will worship in the power of the Holy Spirit, all around the world.)

Jesus is our perfect example. He moved comfortably in and out of spiritual gifts as an essential part of his ministry, and we are called not only to be like him, but to do the things he did. Modern believers can seek to be empowered as Jesus was empowered, and use spiritual gifts as a daily service to God. Sadly, many churches operate in ways that consciously or sub-consciously shut out the Holy Spirit. Please be clear – this is a sin and a crisis.

Lord, inspire us to seek a deeper connection with you, feeling your love and using your power to set people free. Let us be one with you, as you and the Father are one. Let us feel your compassion and be your hands and feet, ministering to those who need you. Let us be more like Jesus, who walked in spiritual gifts every day of his ministry, and through them, set people free. Amen.

2/8/2023 2:26:04 PM
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  • Duncan Pile
    About Duncan Pile
    Duncan Pile is a writer, author and speaker, living in Derbyshire, England with his wife and stepson. His mystical approach to faith straddles the Evangelical/Progressive divide, and flowing from lived experience, he is passionate about the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Christian faith.