There are churches all over the world where the Holy Spirit is not present. He is not present because the people don’t fear God. They may be socially active, economically viable, and organizationally functional; but where there is no fear, there is no godliness. Where there is no godliness, there is no anointing. There can be no comfort because God will never comfort you when you are outside His will.
People go to some churches week in and week out seeking to be comforted in their sin. You can find a church that makes you comfortable with its ritual, its tradition, and its ministry emphasis. But it is a tragedy if a church’s leaders do not strain to create an atmosphere of godliness and the body does not fear God as it works out its salvation. The comfort one finds in that situation is one of the greatest deceptions of the devil.
Satan desires to make you comfortable in your sin. If you are comfortable in your sin, you will not see the need to confess it. If you do not confess your sin, you will not know the cleansing forgiveness of God. Without His cleansing forgiveness, you cannot enter into His presence, because your sin separates you from Him (Isa. 59:2). Then Satan has you right where he wants you–in sin and apart from God. If you are in sin and comfortable in your church, please know that you are being deceived by the enemy. God won’t help you walk in sin. What He will do, however, is help you get up and walk away from that sin so that you might get back on the path of righteousness and walk in the fear of the Lord. He says if you walk in fear of Him, you will know the comfort of His Spirit and a fruitful, spiritually productive relationship with Him.
Philippians 2:12 says, “Theerefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Paul said work out your own salvation in a holy reverence for God and a righteous “afraid-ness” of Him. You don’t work for your salvation; you work out your salvation. You don’t work to get saved. Your salvation is fleshed out in a daily process of living in the power of the Spirit of God.
A remarkable thing happens when a church is foull of godly men and women who work out their salvation with a fear of God. Acts 9:31 says, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.” Now watch this: “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were maltiplied” (emphasis mine). The church grew numerically and spiritually, quantitatively and qualitatively. Why? They did so because they walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. Walking in the comfort of the Holy Ghost does not mean shouting, running down aisles, laughing uncontrollably, barking like a dog, or jumping across benches. The comfort of the Holy Ghost is that ministry of the Spirit that stabilizes you. It is the settling of your spirit by His Spirit. It is when God strengthens you by coming alongside you in your particular set of circumstances.
The context of the Acts 9 text suggests that at the time this comfort settled on the aforementioned believers, the church was suffering intense persecution. Christians were sought and killed for following a man named Jesus. But in spite of their oppression, they were edified and growing individually and collectively. They were growing because the Holy Spirit was comforting them, and there would have been no comfort without fear.
By the way, fellow pastor, how is your church growing? If it is alive, it ought to be growing. If it is not growing, maybe God is calling you to examine the spiritual atmosphere in your congregation. Dear pastor, maybe God is telling you to examine your own lifestyle and your own heart. Now, don’t take my position to the extreme. I am by no means suggesting that the only gauge for vitality and growth in a church is the size of its roll.
The world will always “out crowd” the church. Crowds have assembled for every reason, from viewing the tail of a comet to supporting a follower of Mohammed. Don’t measure the godliness of a church by the size of the crowd. The Bible says “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:14). Don’t count bodies. Count lives. See if the people followed Jesus into the assembly or if they followed some other leader. See if there is a holy, reverential fear of God woven into the fabric of their behavior. A growing church is filled with people who walk in the fear of the Lord. Because they fer the Lord, they know the comfort of the Holy Ghost. This is the path to godliness and growth in any church. How is your church growing?