Luke 1:13-17 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
Luke 1:35-36 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God."
Luke 1:41-45 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry,"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
Luke 1:67-69 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David."
Luke 2:25-32 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
The dawn of the New Testament era was ushered in by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit initiated the process by bringing into birth two key persons of this new era: John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. The Holy Spirit first came upon Zechariah, and Elizabeth in bringing to birth John who was himself filled with the Spirit from birth. The Holy Spirit then came upon Mary to conceive the Son of God and spoke through the elderly prophet Simon to confirm the child as the Son of God. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is the power and presence behind the New Covenant of grace. Grace is not a doctrine but the Power of God indwelling every believer and the Presence of God in Christ-honoring assembly of God. What a wonderful privilege to be people of the New Covenant (i.e. the Church), for we are people filled and full of the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit ushers in the Kingdom of God where people are set free from sin, sickness and spirits. We cannot have New Covenant faith without New Covenant power. Churches that refuse to acknowledge the ministry of the Spirit will continue to live under bondage to legalism and law, engaging in fruitless debates and discussion instead of living in the freedom of the Spirit. Wherever the Spirit is present, He convicts people of sin (what is wrong), or righteousness (what is right) and of judgment (consequences of our choices). While we should make a stand against sin and for righteousness, ultimately the Kingdom of God will advance through Holy Spirit power, not more talk: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power."
In recent days, there has been much online talk about the HPB's FAQs on homosexuality. I remember once when I was in Bangkok to help in a church's first Alpha Weekend, an effeminate Alpha guest with long hair came to see me with his group leader after everyone had left during the prayer session. He confessed that he was still engaging in homosexual activity even though he was married. He knew it was wrong and wanted prayer. Through the group leader who was also interpreter for him, I shared the simple message of the Gospel and asked if he was willing to confess Jesus as Lord and receive the Holy Spirit. He was ready and so I prayed a simple prayer over him to set him free from the homosexual bondage.
I didn't think much of it after that. A few months later I went back to the same church for another Alpha training and joined them for their new Alpha course. I saw this male helper with short hair. At first I couldn't recognize him from behind because his behavior was quite normal. When I saw his face, I realized that he was the same guy who came to me for prayer for deliverance. I was surprised he looked so different: manly and no trace of effeminacy. He was set free from his bondage to homosexuality. It was not the doctrine that set him free but the Holy Spirit presence and power that came upon him at the last Alpha Weekend retreat.
I am totally convinced that if only more churches preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and allow the Holy Spirit room to set people free, we won't have to waste too much time convincing gays that homosexuality is a sin. The Holy Spirit himself will convict people what activity is sinful, what is holy and what will incur divine judgment. I have come across many situations where Alpha guests were convicted by the Holy Spirit about the sinful nature of their conduct without us trying to make them feel guilty by condemning the act. When demons started screaming within them, they knew they had done something wrong to put them under demonic bondage.
Father, thank You that Your Holy Spirit is the Person responsible for ushering in the New Kingdom of Grace. Thank You that we can experience freedom from all kinds of bondage through Your Spirit because of what Christ has done for us at the Cross. Amen.