Archive for the ‘Holy Spirit’ Category

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The Triune Nature of Peace; The World’s Focus and the Christian’s Fruit…

October 21, 2011

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

If there is one unfortunate mark of God’s fallen creation under the reign of sin it is the absence of peace.   The absence of peace in our world, due to greed.  The absence of peace in our lives due to envy.  The absence of peace in our families, due to selfishness. The absence of peace in our hearts, due to sin.  In all of these areas peace is sought but remains elusive.    Creation burst forth from the mind of God, uttered into a perfect state of peaceful balance.  There was morning and evening, seas for fish, sky for birds, earth for creatures to crawl about and man to bear His image.  The harmony of God with His creation was denoted by the presence of peace in that creation.  With the emergence of sin came the eradication of this balance.  Think of it, within the first moments of the first sin, strife entered the marriage of the first couple, and separation emerged between man and the one whose image he bore.  God cursed man and creation, and prophesied that peace would be absent between the serpent and the fruit of the woman.  The effects of this proclamation were immediate.  Animals began to prey and brothers began fight, and long before rain fell, blood watered the ground of God’s garden.  God barred the entrance to that peaceful paradise and for thousands of generations we have sought to return. 

As the human family grew so too did the amount of strife.  Fighting families grew into fighting nations, warring against each other and against God.  Among these families, amidst these nations God chose the smallest and least significant to be His vehicle to restore peace.  This nation would bring peace to the world, peace in the present, peace in the future; they would be the children of God.  But as so often happens, the allure of sin proved a great obstacle, competing for the affections of God’s children.   Nevertheless, God’s mission would advance, the Messiah would come, and He would prescribe the pathway to peace.

Discernable in Christ’s teaching and example is a three pronged approach to finding and making peace.  Peace with others, peace with ourselves and peace with God.  Each of these has both a secular focus which often falls short and a spiritual fruit that defines true peace.  Let’s examine each.

External peace- This is peace with others.  Inter-relational peace.  Peace with those outside yourself, whether they are family members, competing companies, or ally nations.  This particular peace is the focus of the world.  The world community has never longed for something more than for there to be peace among the nations and never have they been more unsuccessful.  The League of Nations, the United Nations, the OAS, the G-6, G-8, even the IMF, World Bank and other economic organizations all exist to promote stability and the financial benefits of peace.  For the Christian, inter-relational fellowship, external peace with others, is not the product of mere cooperation, but rather the fruit of Godly fellowship.  We see the importance of external peace in Jesus’ life and ministry.  Peace begins with those closest to us and radiates out.  We reconcile ourselves with our brothers in Christ, through our fellowship with Him we work to maintain peace; and pursue confrontation only and always with repentance and renewal in view. (Matt 5:24, 7:1-5, 18:15-20)

Internal peace- This is peace with yourself.  Personal peace, the quiet calm of your soul amidst the storm of life. This particular peace is the focus of our generation.  In an age bereft of calm and full of strife, our generation searches in vain for any source of internal peace.  The acceptance of others, the acclaim of the community, fame and its fifteen minutes, and when these prove shallow this generation seeks to find peace in the numb nerves of drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, medications, therapy and sleep.  Each dark dead-end hallway leads on and on, deeper and deeper, never reaching the root of the problem.  For our generation internal peace remains elusive.  For the Christian, internal peace, peace with one’s self is the fruit of Spirit.  Internal peace comes only through the presence of the Spirit in the life of the believer.  Christian’s who “are Christ’s and have crucified the flesh with its passions” (Gal 5:24), walk with and in the Spirit which produces; love, joy and peace.  So close is this relationship, that when sin is committed and the Spirit is grieved, internal peace becomes the first casualty; and can only be reclaimed through confession, repentance and renewal.    

Eternal peace- The final and arguably most important peace is peace with God.  This is eternal peace, peace that reconciles you to God and stays His wrath against your sin.  This particular peace is the focus of the religious in our society.  Theists of all stripes detect the presence of enmity between the creator and the creature.  This leads to innumerable paths and strategies to appease and live up to divine demands.  Fasting, praying, pilgrimage, indulgences, meditations, sacrifices, mantras and karma; all attempting to fill the void of separation between God’s holiness and our sin.  The combined weight of these efforts, on their own, is unable to tip the balance of divine judgment.  And peace again, remains elusive.  For the Christian eternal peace with God is the fruit of the cross.  Christ’s birth was the advent of eternal peace on earth. (Luke 2:14)  His work at Calvary satisfied the price of our sin.  And when we believe in that work and in the lordship of the one who performed it, we gain the immeasurable presence of peace with God.  The weight of Christ’s work crushes the scales of God’s judgment, and beneath the banner of His name, we enter with confidence into eternal peace with the Father.

Jesus proclaimed that the sons of God would make peace.  This proclamation is both a  challenge and a reflection on reality.  Do you wish to be among the children of God? Then make peace.  Peace with God through Christ; peace with yourself through the Spirit; and peace with others through Godly fellowship.  Our culture is searching for the source of a peaceful life. As Christians, are we displaying the fruits of those who have found the source?

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Our Abiding Help… Can we lose the Spirit?

June 17, 2011

Psalm 51 is David’s great penitential psalm.  A record of his words of remorse and repentance following his adultery with Bathsheba, murder of Uriah, and deception of Israel.  In it he pleads to God for mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. (You can read my previous thoughts on his prayer here.)

Many of us have prayed this prayer.  Athanasius, the great church father suggested that it should be prayed by all believers when the lie awake at night.  Martin Luther said of the psalm that, “There is no other Psalm which is oftener sung or prayed in the church.”  For some of us Psalm 51 has become a well worn road of faithful repentance; relied upon frequently to reorient our minds toward our maker and renew our broken and contrite hearts.  But when we come to verse eleven, as Christians post-calvary, post-pentacost, having received the Spirit, how do we pray this prayer? In verse 11 though, he makes a request that is startling to consider; ‘take not your Spirit from me.’  All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for among other things training in righteousness; but concerning this verse, can it be prayed in light of the cross?

The answer is yes, we can pray this prayer, and recite this psalm to God, taking comfort from David’s prose and the God it addresses.  The task is not whether the words can be prayed but, what we mean by the words, and how we pray them.

Below are three treatments of the verse.  One, courtesy of Don Stewart, author and apologist and the other from C. John Collins and the ESV Study Bible both address the Old Testament context of the prayer.  And finally Charles Spurgeon from his Treasury of David, on how we should word this verse, consistent with our understanding to the abiding Holy Spirit and the desired favor of God.  I hope they are helpful.

 Can we Lose the Holy Spirit?[1] -Don Stewart

 Once the Holy Spirit enters a person, can He leave? In Psalm 51, David prayed:

Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11).

 The Bible gives the example of the Holy Spirit leaving Samson:

 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke, from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him (Judges 16:20).

 In another instance, the Holy Spirit is said to have left Saul:

 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him (1 Samuel 16:14).

 These passages seem to teach that one can lose the Holy Spirit. But this is not necessarily the case. There are other possible solutions to this question. Some believe that the situations of David, Samson, and Saul must be understood in their Old Testament context. It appears that during that period, the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers on a permanent basis; but rather His presence in the life of the believer was of a limited duration.

 Special Anointing

 A second view holds that it was not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that left these people, but a particular anointing or empowering of the Spirit that departed. David and Saul were kings and had a special anointing from God to rule the people. Samson also had a special anointing from God to lead Israel. What left Samson and Saul and what David prayed to retain was not the indwelling of the Holy Spirit but rather the Holy Spirit’s anointing to rule. In the same way, the Holy Spirit always indwells a believer, but can anoint that New Testament believer for a specific and temporary purpose.

 Whatever the case may be, the New Testament makes it plain that the Holy Spirit will not leave the believer.

 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever (John 14:16).

 Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:13,14).

From C. John Collins and the ESV Study Bible: (Crossway, 2008)

Ps. 51:11 “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” Some have taken this to imply that the Holy Spirit can be taken from someone, at least in the OT; others have suggested that the Holy Spirit is viewed here in his role of empowering David for his kingly duties, and that this is a prayer that God not take the kingship and the divine anointing for kingship from David as he did from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14;1 Sam. 16:13).

To evaluate these views, one should observe that the OT rarely discusses the Holy Spirit’s role in cleansing the inner life (besides here, Ezek. 36:27 is the main OT text on the subject), and certainly does not enter into technical questions of the Spirit’s permanent indwelling. Further, the fact that this is a psalm for the whole congregation argues against the idea that this is David’s personal prayer about his kingship.

The whole tenor of this psalm is that, if strict justice were God’s only consideration, he would have the right to bring dire judgment on those who sin (which includes all of his own people), and that the only possible appeal is to his mercy. The function of the psalm, as a song sung by the entire congregation, is to shape their hearts so that they feel this at the deepest level, lest they ever presume upon God’s grace.

Charles Spurgeon on Verse 11:

“Cast me not away from thy presence. Throw me not away as worthless; banish me not, like Cain, from thy face and favour. Permit me to sit among those who share thy love, though I only be suffered to keep the door. I deserve to be forever denied admission to thy courts; but, O good Lord, permit me still the privilege which is dear as life itself to me. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Withdraw not his comforts, counsels, assistances, quickenings, else I am indeed as a dead man. Do not leave me as thou didst Saul, when neither by Urim, nor by prophet, nor by dream, thou wouldst answer him. Thy Spirit is my wisdom, leave me not to my folly; he is my strength, O desert me not to my own weakness. Drive me not away from thee, neither do thou go away from me. Keep up the union between us, which is my only hope of salvation. It will be a great wonder if so pure a spirit deigns to stay in so base a heart as mine; but then, Lord, it is all wonder together, therefore do this, for thy mercy’s sake, I earnestly entreat thee.”

[1] Don Stewart, http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/stewart.cfm?id=489

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Two is the Loneliest Number

May 2, 2010

Ephesians 2:113:13

How soon we forget.  God has so wisely designed our bodies, each part performs a function, each part is necessary.  His body of the church has likewise been designed with a care and function which ultimately, if guided properly serves to give Him Glory.  Paul’s ministry to Ephesus brought God glory and brings us valuable and necessary encouragement and instruction.  Once we enter the body we must not forget the means by which we entered.  Paul repeatedly, in this passage calls the Ephesians and by extension each of us to remember.  Remember that one time “you were gentiles” (11); remember that one time you were “separated from Christ”(12).  In true Pauline fashion though, he follows these reminders of separation and alienation with his famous “but now.”  Now we the gentiles have been brought near through Christ, and have been joined into one new man literally, “in the place of two.”(15)  This unity of body is marked by three characteristics.

The first is peace.  Once God has joined us both Jew and gentile together into one body through the cross, the hostilities which marked their separation should cease.  This peace was preached to those who were far off and to those who were near; strangers and sojourners alike.  Now all are granted access through the Spirit into God’s household.

The second characteristic is worship.  This far-flung group is being gathered and joined for a function.  The new believers will add to the foundation of a structure begun by the apostles and prophets of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone.  Peter uses this metaphor to great effect in his first epistle in chapter two; that we are in fact living stones, being built up, a royal priesthood, a chosen race.  Here Paul proclaims that this structure is a Holy Temple, and all those in Christ are built into this structure which will serve as “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”(2:22)

The third characteristic is action.  Jesus’ gospel, “the mystery” made known to Paul by revelation, must be proclaimed to all, both Jews and Gentiles.  So Paul models the message that there has been a plan, a mystery hidden for ages that man must now be made aware.  God revealed that mystery in Christ and it is by God’s grace that Paul and all of us in Jesus, can preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Recognizing that these characteristics are part of God’s eternal plan, should encourage us to both seize hold of the promises God places before us; and take heart when misfortune falls on us as it did Paul.  For though he suffered for the Ephesians the message and hope of Christ pressed on; the structure continued to grow; for increase of our faith and for God’s glory.

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From Whence Cometh our Help…

April 6, 2010

John 15:18-16:15

Christ chose us, He appointed each of us to go and bear fruit.  This is a mission that can be and is fraught with difficulties.  If we abide in Him, as He does in us we will experience the hatred that the world expresses toward him.   What is so glorious is that we serve a Lord and are loved by a God who asks us to abide in His love.

This is a sovereign God who informs us in these passages of John’s gospel that he knows the future and has the future firmly in hand.  So He can simultaneously call us to work and acknowledge that His very call will come with a price and with consequences. (Vs2)  This consequence however will not be faced in isolation.  He who calls, gives an answer to the rejection His “called” must face, this answer comes in the form of a helper.  This Helper (the Spirit) will be from God (vs26) and will quench the sorrow felt by those who mourn the absent savior who has gone on to be with the Father (vs5-7).

The mission we are called to accomplish will be done through the Spirit’s faithful ministry in our lives enabling us to accomplish that which could not do under our own authority.  He will “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment.”(8)  While we, from God, seek to offer God service apart from the spirit we end up “killing” his servants and throwing them out of assembly only to learn that “we have not known the Father.”(2-3) However with the Spirit we are led to all truth, and through Him glorify the Father by receiving that which has been given to the Spirit by the Son.  Such help we cannot do without.