Wading Deeper: The Holy Spirit Anointing
The word anointing actually means to be smeared with oil or ointment. In the Old Testament, new kings would have oil poured on them, symbolic of the Holy Spirit coming upon them to enable the person to function in the office into which God had placed him. This practice was followed for commissioning prophets, priests, and kings. That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit comes on us—we are smeared with the oil of His presence. It gets all over us, from our head to our feet, and we are empowered to be kings and priests and prophets on the earth. We have been anointed.
We are talking about a life-giving Spirit. In John 6:63, Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” This is weighty; He says here that without the Spirit, anything you do is not profitable. In Luke 4, Jesus makes the bold claim, “The Spirit of the Lord…has anointed Me” (Luke 4:18). Even Jesus couldn’t do ministry without the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
John Piper describes the Holy Spirit this way: “The Holy Spirit is the eternal love that flows between the Father and the Son as they delight in each other.” Wow. The eternal love that flows. That’s weighty. And it is weighty when the anointing comes upon you; that’s why so many people find themselves knocked down. It also explains why so many find such joy (laughter) or they shake and roll on the floor. When the “eternal love” comes upon you, it might make you shake.
The deeper we go in the anointing, the less control we might have. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that there is fruit that comes with the anointing, including love and joy and peace— and self-control. But self-control means God gives you control over you to defeat issues of sin and wrong choices, not to have control over the Holy Spirit. When we say, “Come Holy Spirit,” we want Him to come and do whatever He wants to do. To the world, that might look messy or out of control. But when you’re under the anointing, you’re not out of control; you’re gloriously under His control.
There was a time I was in New Zealand, and some of the guys I was with told me that the best fishing in the world is in the rivers there in New Zealand. So I made a point of having a couple of extra days just to check out their claims.
It had just rained like crazy, and so, for whatever reason, we didn’t even see a trace of a fish, much less catch one on a hook. But I did go into the river with some hip waders on. When I waded in so the water was just over my feet, I was fine. No problem. Then I went a little further in, about up to my knees, and it was a little more work to stay in place. I didn’t want to fall down. I could feel the current of the river, and who knew where it would take me. By the time we waded in up to our waists, I realized we were really no longer in control here.
The Holy Spirit is like that. When we wade in a little bit, things are still mostly under our control. But the deeper we go, the more the Holy Spirit can direct us, and before we know it we’re gloriously in over our heads in Him. At that point, He’s in control, and we go where He wants us to go.
There are so many analogies to describe the Holy Spirit— river, fire, wind, rain, oil, and even wine. With each one of these things, the more of it there is, the less control we have over it. When we come under the anointing, the smearing of the Holy Spirit, we get filled to overflowing.
There’s something more that happens in our hearts as we get immersed in the Holy Spirit. The more of Him we receive, the more of Him we can contain. It’s as if the more anointing we get, the more anointing we can carry. This is how the “outward” part of our journey works — we get so full of the Holy Spirit that it overflows.
This overflow is what we might call “ministry.” Probably the greatest revival ever was recorded in the book of Acts. The whole Roman world was completely converted to Christianity. Think about that for a minute—how do you take a pagan world that worshiped all the many gods of Greece and Rome, had it all thoroughly entrenched in their culture—including worshiping the emperor mingled with rampant sensuality and all kinds of other crazy things going on—and make a real difference? Imagine going to Caesar and saying, “A couple hundred years from now, your whole empire will turn away from the gods of Greece and Rome and will worship the Jewish God as He is revealed through Messiah Jesus. How do you like that?”
What would Caesar have said? Probably that you were crazy, that it would never happen. He would probably have you executed for suggesting such a thing. But it did happen, because those who had received from the Holy Spirit were ministering out of that river.
The Integrity of the Minister
Without this anointing of the Spirit, we are ministering in the flesh. We certainly don’t want to settle for that. Sometimes we are impressed with ministers and leaders who are anointed, but what if the character or integrity of that minister doesn’t seem to match the anointing? No one is perfect, of course, and we live with the provision of grace and forgiveness, but don’t mistake grace for license and a lack of integrity. It’s important that the character of the minister is growing to match the character of the Holy Spirit in whom he or she ministers. For us as ministers, as we seek revival, we need to work on our character. We want to be Christlike in character and anointing.
Ministering under the anointing can be heady stuff. It can be exhilarating. And it is. It’s more fun than I’ve ever had. But sometimes the attention you get from what happens when you minister can go to your head. It can play to your woundedness, your insecurity, and it’s easier than you might think to make it about you and how gifted you are rather than God and how it’s all about Him. It’s easy to fall into a “look at me, watch me” kind of thing. We might call that pride—which can actually stop up the river. It’s the flesh, not the Spirit.
But humility—recognizing that without God I can do nothing—is the thing that will keep your spirit open and ready to receive when He pours out. I think that’s why God loves to knock us down; it’s hard to be prideful when you’re laughing and shaking in front of everybody.
As we look forward to a greater wave of Holy Spirit anointing, we need to stay humble. We need to stay in a place where we’re ready to receive, no matter what it looks like—no matter what it may do to our pride. In fact, we should be ready to lay down our pride. Crucify it. We only boast in Jesus.