Month: June 2018

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 178

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June 30

Jesus’ commands, to His disciples, are specifically tied to God’s purpose for their lives. They are centered in a loving and real relationship because the disciples have surrendered themselves to the will and purposes of God. To “do what Jesus commands” actually flows out of the necessity of “taking up our cross daily and following after Him.” (see Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

carrying the cross

This is the first crucial step for discovering a real, consistent, and dynamic relationship with the One Who desires to lead us in the course of our lives. With Jesus, there is always the first calling of surrender, of all we hold dear… to draw near and hold dearly to Him. Jesus is the access to the great “treasure” to be found in the field (Matthew 13:44). He is the entry point for discovering and obtaining the “pearl of great price.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

pearl of great price

But with Jesus, it is always first things first. He must be the One Who is preeminent in our lives. We must love Him with our obedient, surrendered hearts. We must be fully abandoned to God’s will and purposes for our lives. This is the obedience of which Jesus is speaking, and of which He is seeking in us. This is what truly proves our love for Him.

It is important to note that Jesus is not asking something that He was unwilling to do Himself. He is the Model of heartfelt surrender and devotion. Jesus tells His disciples as much: “I love the Father and …I do exactly what My Father has commanded Me.” (John 14:31) And:

my food

Jesus asks His disciples to do what He has demonstrated with His Own life. To love the Father, according to Jesus, is to practice a lifestyle of doing the Father’s will and of obeying what the Father commands. Jesus even goes so far as to say that obeying the Father is His daily “food” or sustenance. It is what feeds Him, sustains Him, and keeps Him going.

This is the very basis of everything truly Christlike. Jesus’ obedience was the constant expression of His love for the Father. It was His lifelong commitment to accomplishing the Father’s will that constrained Jesus in everything He did. This same kind of passion for obedience is required in anyone who would desire to be Jesus’ disciple. To love the Father is to seek out, and do His will, first and foremost — to the exclusion of all other enticements and motivations in this life. Only a true love for God will produce the obedience that Jesus’ seeks in us.

This is why it IS the greatest command:

mark 12-30

This is the way Jesus lived His life on this earth – and it is how He expects all His disciples to live as well.

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 177

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June 29

Every disciple of Jesus needs to understand that there is a direct correlation between loving Jesus and obeying Jesus. The real proof of our love is not how we feel about the object of our love, but whether we are completely committed to, hold to, and give ourselves to, the One we say we love. We should not gloss over this fundamental step. It is easy to say that we love God, but it is often not so easy to be truly committed to keeping our relationship with God as our foremost priority.

If I tell my wife that I love her every day, but ignore her, demean her, or am unfaithful to her regularly… my actions prove that I do not really love her. It is my conduct that either verifies or refutes my love.

Verbal-Abuse

Obedience and devotion are the articulation of real relationship. What is true in our natural relationships is also true with our spiritual relationship with God. It is not just fond feelings, or following an array of rules, or performing a plethora of religious rituals. Jesus tells us that obedience is to be understood as the ongoing act of expressing our love for God, from our hearts. Without devotion to simple obedience, we do not really love God. The apostle John emphatically expressed this truth when he was inspired to write:

woman-washing-jesus-feet

According to Jesus, obedience is centered in the concept of seeking the Heart of God, the things of God, and the will of God, and then pursuing what we have discovered with an unreserved passion. True obedience is defined as knowing what Jesus asks of us, and committing our energies and efforts to everything to which He is committed. We, quite literally, pledge our lives to willingly perform whatever He desires.

Obedience is concentrated on the yearning to know what pleases God — and on a devotion to do what pleases God. It is not really about our attempts at being good moral people, or possessing good intentions, or performing all the right religious rituals. We should readily recognize that it is possible to keep an unending list of rules, or do all the right religious practices, and yet not have the slightest hint of love for God in our hearts.

To see this truth so vividly illustrated, all we need to do is open the pages of the Gospels and observe the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the teachers of the law. They were stalwarts of moral and religious observance, but were void of God’s love within them.

Pharisees (2)

Our love for Jesus (and our obedience to Jesus) are more personal than that. True Scriptural obedience is centered in the relationship that God offers us in the New Covenant. It is a personal, intimate relationship with Almighty God Himself. Through this personal relationship, God offers His Own personal insight, blessings, and commands – all through the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the believer!

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 176

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June 28

John, the apostle, was inspired to record some of Jesus’ most important words in all of the Scriptures. Chapters 13 – 16 of John’s Gospel record Jesus’ last actions, teachings, and instructions to His disciples before He is betrayed, falsely accused, tried, condemned, and tortured to death on the cross – fulfilling God’s plan of the perfect sacrifice, for all of mankind, for all of eternity.

John records the last precious moments that Jesus has with His disciples. The words He speaks to them at this crucial moment, are meant to find a home deep in their hearts, and are intended to shape the course of their lives with their truth, counsel, and wisdom. Jesus Himself prefaced these profound words with His heart-felt sentiment: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (see Luke 22:15)

upper-room (1)

Jesus was yearning to impart these most important words into their lives. He knows that He is about to suffer the ordeal of the cross, and these final words are designed to make an indelible imprint upon the disciples’ lives. In the course of His conversation, Jesus makes prominent mention of the next course of God’s action plan – and the Person Who would make it all possible. Jesus, introduces the disciples to the subject, and the Person, of the Holy Spirit…

A prerequisite for the promise

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The first thing that draws our attention is found in Jesus’ opening statement. Jesus lays out a foundation, for all He is about to say, by focusing upon a significant pre-requisite. He speaks of the necessity of loving Him, and of obeying what He commands.

The Greek word translated here as “obey” is also properly translated as “keep.” This word carries the connotations of unwavering devotion (or dedication) of one’s self to a certain person, standard, concept, or lifestyle. It involves obedience, but not just compliance to a set of rules or laws. It is obedience to the ideals, or person, behind those rules, ideas, and laws.

When Jesus speaks of obedience, He is speaking of a lifestyle of devotion to that which garners His devotion. Jesus’ disciples obey Him by keeping what He keeps, and holding on to that which He holds… with a steadfast dedication. Once again we see our definition of a disciple emerge:

imitate-jesus

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 175

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June 27

We have certain Scriptural evidence that the Holy Spirit is a Person. But is He God? The evidence here is more subtle but, nonetheless, conclusive.

First, we see that the Lord Jesus commanded that all new disciples, should be baptized “in HS Baptismthe Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:20) This directly indicates that God’s New Covenant, which baptism signifies, is to be in the Name of all three Persons. All three are linked together as the first party of the covenant agreement with Almighty God, made available to the second party (humanity), through the atoning and redeeming work of The Christ. To enter into covenant relationship with God, in the New Covenant, is to enter into covenant, not only with the Father, but also the Son, and the Holy Spirit – three distinct divine Persons interconnected and working together (and recognized) as One.

Further evidence of the Holy Spirit’s divinity is found in the accounts of the virgin birth of The Christ. Matthew records it this way: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was mary-hs.jpgfound to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) Luke records Mary’s response to the angel messenger’s news of her pregnancy: “How will this be… since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

We return to Matthew’s words to conclude the matter: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:22-23) The Holy Child, The Son of God, would be born to a virgin through means of “the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit’s participation insures that the child of Mary would be unblemished by the human nature to sin, and would be holy, as God Himself is holy. Only God could produce a holy progeny, proving that the Holy Spirit is, indeed, God.

One last passage offers further significant proof of the deity of the Holy Spirit. We mentioned previously that Ananias and Sapphira had lied to the Person of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the Book of Acts (“Ananias… you have lied to the Holy Spirit.” Acts 5:4). What we did not mention, at that time, was what Peter declared as his conclusion to the matter in the very next verse: “You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:5)

(c) Royal Academy of Arts; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Within the same conversation, Peter equates the Holy Spirit with God. Peter’s conclusion is clear: to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God, because they are One together and the same.

Considering this evidence, we should readily conclude that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person within the Holy Trinity of Almighty God. He is, in fact, God, the Holy Spirit.

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 174

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June 26

Is the Holy Spirit really God? Couldn’t He be just some cosmic all-powerful, invisible “force” that permeates our world? Why should He be considered as a Person – or as God Himself? As we turn to the Scriptures for guidance and understanding, we find that they are abundantly clear on this issue.

A Personal Spirit

HS fractalIn the record of Acts 5, we see that Ananias (and Sapphira) did not lie to a “force” but to a Person: “Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit…”” (Acts 5:3).

Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit interacts and instructs as a Person: “The Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” And, “…the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me.” (John 14:26; 15:26)

The Holy spirit possesses a will, makes decisions, and gives gifts just as a Person does: “…these (spiritual gifts) are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11)

The Holy Spirit hears and speaks as a Person: “He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” And, “…the Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers…” (John 16:13; Acts 28:25)

HS P & WHe offers help and assistance as a Person: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness…” (Romans 8:26)

He teaches and tutors, as a Person: “…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” And again, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Luke 12:12; John 14:26)

Scripture is absolutely clear. The Holy Spirit is not some inanimate aura or force, but a real Person with real characteristics and personality. As a Person, He performs a specific and essential role within the framework of the Holy Trinity.

 

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 173

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June 25

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Just Who is the Holy Spirit? The theological answer to this question is that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Triune God (i.e. three distinct divine Persons, functioning as One). He has a specific role within the Godhead (i.e. a term meaning the triune God), but is just as certainly divine as is the Father and the Son. Literally, He is God, the Holy Spirit – with a specific function in His divinity.

trinity-stained-glass-window

The Holy Spirit’s specific role is perhaps best understood as one of connection, and transference, of divine power. Between the spiritual realm, and the created physical realm, there exists a distinct separation and a need for God to be able to connect, interact, and act within both realms. The Holy Spirit performs this essential role. The Holy Spirit functions in the capacity as a “bridge” (or conduit), and as the means of connection between the physical and the spiritual realms of existence.

As we take a closer look at the life and ministry of Jesus, we understand that the second Person of the triune God, the Son, performs the Father’s will by the Holy Spirit working through Him.

This is illustrated so simply for us within the very first verses of the Bible:

Genesis 1 1-3

Scripture clearly tells us that Jesus is the Creator of all things. “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

It is highly significant that the very first Scriptural concept shared with us (in Genesis 1) is that the Holy Spirit was waiting to act upon the Son’s words of command (as ordained by the Father). We see:

A) God, The Son, spoke “light” into physical existence (as well as all other aspects of creation);

B) God, The Father was directing The Son according to His purposeful will (see Hebrews 1:2); and

C) God, the Holy Spirit, was “hovering over” the “formless and void” material elements to convey the power of God and to enact the Father’s will whenever the Son commanded.

trinity in creation

The Holy Spirit is the power of God at work to bring about the Father’s will and purpose, as initiated through the Son. The Holy Spirit’s role is to provide the means of connection, interaction, and divine power between the spiritual and physical realms.

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 172

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June 24

We are warned of this great danger (of attempting to do God’s work without God’s power) through the apostle’s inspired words to Timothy, emphasizing that it is possible for people to try and live the Christian life with, “a form of godliness but denying its power.” (from 2 Timothy 3:1-5) The apostle goes on to describe these pseudo-Christians as…

2 Tim 3 7

Christians are often quite well-educated with knowledge about God, but don’t seem to really understand that knowing the facts about God is not the same as knowing Him. God is seeking people who are surrendered to His will… and willing to be clothed with His power. Only the power of Almighty God is capable of confronting the powers of darkness and overwhelming them.

What is more, The Church is intended to experience this type of power as the norm of our Christian lives. We need to understand that The Church is designed to operate in the realm of God’s power, with so much effectiveness that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

gates of hell

Clearly, in order for The Church to be all that She is called, and destined, to be… The Church must be continually living in God’s provision of the Holy Spirit.

If the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit is just this essential, then we need to understand Him. We need to know Who He is, and how He works within our lives. We also need to grasp how we are to work in concert with Him to accomplish all that God wants to do through us…

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 171

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June 23

When Jesus speaks of the need for the Holy Spirit, He is abundantly clear. Without the power of God, the “ministry” of the disciples will not be able to accomplish God’s purpose of “going and making disciples.” Without the power of God at work, in and through them, the disciples’ efforts will be largely in vain. We might even go so far as to say that the power of the Holy Spirit is so crucial to the work of God, that the ones assigned to accomplish that work are actually prohibited from beginning their work of ministry without Him.

What does this tell us?

1) True and effective ministry requires the Holy Spirit. True ministry is not human beings doing good things in the Name of God. True ministry is God doing God things through human beings who are devoted to glorifying His Name. We must get this truth deeply embedded into our thinking processes. Only God can do the work of God – but He can, and does, choose to do this work through His committed people. The Holy Spirit is the One through Whom this work is inspired, and occurs.

HS working

2) Training accomplishes little – without the Holy Spirit working within those who are trained. We must be careful here. Christian training is a good and necessary thing. Jesus commanded it as a follow-up to the “going and making disciples” decree (see Matthew 28:20). But Christian training is not a substitute for the power and work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do enough “Christian things” to make up for the lack of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are not even intended to try. No one was better trained than Jesus’ first disciples. Yet, even with The Master’s Own extensive and thorough training, they were not yet equipped to perform God’s work. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is not optional – He is required. True work of God, true and effective ministry, just cannot happen without Him – no matter how well we are trained, or how noble our intentions.

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3) God’s purpose for The Church can only be fulfilled when the Church is “clothed with power from on high.” The key component for God’s people is God’s power. Jesus said we are to be “clothed” with it. That power comes through the Person of the Holy Spirit working in, and through, those who are “the clothed.” Our programs, our services, our prayers, our “ministries,” and our gatherings cannot truly fulfill God’s purposes without the Holy Spirit accomplishing the work of God through God’s power. Sadly, in many of our churches today, so much of what we trying to do, is done without being properly “clothed.” This approach to ministry can only produce human results, in a futile attempt to minister as God alone can do. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no true divine power at work.

HS baptism many

Six – Understanding the Holy Spirit, p. 170

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June 22

Disciples talk with Jesus

If there is one area of fervent controversy that tends to arise in the midst of many churches, it is centered on the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit. Or rather, how the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to be understood and expressed within our churches.

All truly Christian churches believe in the Person of the Holy Spirit. All readily accept that He is the third Person of the triune God. Orthodox Christianity accepts that the Holy Spirit is wholly and completely God. However, not all churches agree as to how the Holy Spirit is to function within the Body of believers. Our focus, in this chapter, is on the Person of the Holy Spirit. We will endeavor to understand His purpose… and how He ministers to, and through, individual believers — to minister God’s love, grace, and truth in accord with God’s purpose.

The Vital Importance of the Holy Spirit

How vital is this issue of the presence, work, and ministry of the Holy Spirit?

He is so vital that Jesus warns His disciples not to begin their appointed work of ministry until after the Holy Spirit has come upon them. “I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) This command occurs just as Jesus’ time of earthly ministry is drawing to a close. He is preparing to leave the disciples and ascend back to the Father. Jesus’ command occurs after they have spent a considerable time of training with the Master, watching and learning everything they would need to know about living for God, and about ministering in His Name. We should rightly conclude that Jesus has fully trained the disciples to do what He has called them to do, but they are not to spend one second, doing what they were trained to do, until they are “clothed” with the power of promised the Holy Spirit!

Luke 24 49

We must draw from Jesus’ words that the disciples are adequately trained, but not yet adequately equipped. Something is yet needed for them to accomplish the will of God for their lives. This essential equipping is found in being “clothed with power from on high.” This “clothing with power” is so indispensable that it is the focus of Jesus’ very last words to His disciples before He ascends back to the right hand of the Father: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8-9)…

Five – Understanding Revelation, p. 169

Man with lamp walking illuminating his path

June 21

Conclusion

The great heritage of true Biblical faith is that God chooses to reveal Himself to those who seek Him with all their hearts. All true Christians are fixed on this purpose – knowing that the God they serve is intent upon the life-changing revelation of His divine Person to them, in them, and through them – all for His Own glory.

This is just exactly what the inspired apostle declared:

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Amen!