Christianity 201

June 16, 2017

The Biblical Role of Incense

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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We linked to Elizabeth Prata at Thinking Out Loud but I believe this is the first time here at Christianity 201. This article follows from another from her blog The End Time and you might want to pause in the first paragraph and click the link in order to go deeper.

In the meantime, for this article, click the link in the title below to read at source.

How is incense like prayer?

by Elizabeth Prata

Yesterday I wrote about incense, and how the LORD told Jeremiah to tell the people that their sacrifices of incense were not going to be received, because of their sin. He was going to send judgment instead. I’d said that there is a connection between incense and prayer, to be explored today.

First, let’s look at the Temple and the altar of incense, called the golden altar. (Exodus 39:38).

for the altar of incense made of refined gold, and its weight; also his plan for the golden chariot of the cherubim that spread their wings and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 28:18–19).

The Lexham Bible Dictionary explains that pure incense was manufactured from equal parts of the following substances:

•      stacte—oil of myrrh
•      onycha—an extract from a Red Sea mollusk
•      galbanum—thought to come from the gum of an umbelliferous plant
•      frankincense

This mixture was seasoned with salt (Exodus 30:34–38). The LORD raised up perfumers whose job it was to produce the incense. (Exodus 30:34-38). One of the responsibilities of the priest was to keep incense burning on the altar daily. (2 Chronicles 13:11). Not to burn it was disobedience. (2 Chronicles 29:7-8).

There’s much more to the actual incense ingredients, blending, burning, and spiritual uses, but for now, let’s turn to the main idea for today- the connection between incense and prayers.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (Zechariah, in Luke 1:8-11)

John Owen in his commentary on Hebrews makes a distinction between the two times incense is used in the temple.

Whereas, therefore, there was a twofold use of the altar of incense; the one of the ordinary priests, to burn incense in the sanctuary every day; and the other of the high priest, to take incense from it when he entered into the most holy place, to fill it with a cloud of its smoke; the apostle intending a comparison peculiarly between the Lord Christ and the high priest only in this place, and not the other priests in the daily. discharge of their office.

Incense both accompanies and symbolizes prayer. ( Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4). The burning of incense as a sweet smelling offering before the Lord, indicated the worshiper’s duty to present prayers or offerings that were pleasing to God (1 Samuel 2:28).

When the New Covenant came, the new way of praying came. (Matthew 6:9,) No longer needing a priest to intercede, no longer needing incense to symbolize types and shadows, we now have the Spirit in us to intercede, and resurrected Jesus next to the right hand of the Father to intercede. We can ourselves go boldly before the throne of grace.

John Owen in his commentary on Hebrews lays out four ways incense is like prayer.

1.) In that it was beaten and pounded before it was used. So doth acceptable prayer proceed from “a broken and contrite heart,” Isaiah 51:17.

(2.) It was of no use until fire was put under it, and that taken from the altar. Nor is that prayer of any virtue or efficacy which is not kindled by the fire from above, the Holy Spirit of God; which we have from our altar, Christ Jesus.

(3.) It naturally ascended upwards towards heaven, as all offerings in the Hebrew are called “ascensions,” risings up. And this is the design of prayer, to ascend unto the throne of God: “I will direct unto thee, and will look up;” that is, pray, Psalms 5:3.

(4.) It yielded a sweet savor: which was one end of it in temple services, wherein there was so much burning of flesh and blood. So doth prayer yield a sweet savor unto God; a savor of rest, wherein he is well pleased.

Owen further observes:

We are always to reckon that the efficacy and prevalency of all our prayers depends on the incense which is in the hand of our merciful high priest. — It is offered with the prayers of the saints, Revelation 8:4. In themselves our prayers are weak and imperfect; it is hard to conceive how they should find acceptance with God. But the invaluable incense of the intercession of Christ gives them acceptance and prevalency.

What an inexpressible privilege it is to pray. The curtain is parted, we may boldly approach the throne of God. He not only hears our prayer, he Himself intercedes for us when we utter groanings too weak to understand. (Romans 8:26).

Do not neglect prayer, a sweet smell of our sacrifice of praise to our Lord who hears.

June 14, 2017

A Gospel Riot

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re again returning to the blog, Into the Foolishness of God by Shara Case. As happened in December, I got caught up in reading several articles here, and I encourage you to take several minutes to do the same.  For today’s piece, click the title to read at source. It’s longer than usual, but is great reading.

Sidewalk Peddlers

“And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way…” Acts 19:23

This chapter, if you’ve never read it is fascinating. There’s a riot going down in Ephesus. Some translations call it a great disturbance, some a ruckus; regardless, the gospel was being preached in Ephesus and it was ruffling some feathers.

A few verses earlier, in Acts 19, we are told that many people in Ephesus were turning away from their worship of false gods and confessing the name of Jesus (v 17). We have accounts of people “confessing and telling their deeds” and publicly burning their valuable sorcery books (v19). This was no small thing in a city that prided itself in the worship of the goddess Diana and to whom a great temple had been built. Enter a man called Demetrius, a silversmith who made his living crafting and selling little handmade shrines of Diana in her temple. It’s a timeless practice, if you’ve ever been to a large church or  cathedral you know how this works; people set up shop on the sidewalks or entrance and offer to sell you souvenirs. When we visited Notre Dame Cathedral with our kids one summer we walked away with a metal replica of the church and two wooden crosses simply because we couldn’t escape the onslaught of pushy peddlers who set up shop right where you are trying to get that all important family photo. It’s amusing to see this practice goes back 2,000 years. Verse 24 tells us that “Diana brought no small profit to the craftsmen.” Just like the hawking of plastic Eiffel Towers and cathedral keychains today, this was a lucrative business.

So naturally, following the very public turning away from Diana towards Christianity, these hucksters were getting ticked off. Demetrius called his fellow craftsmen together and riled them up so much that “the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Paul’s travel companions (v29). They didn’t even know what they were doing or saying, most of them had no idea why they had even come together (v 32). It finally took a city clerk to calm everyone down and explain to them how irrational they were being. This man wasn’t even a follower of Christ, he simply uses logic to point out that Paul and his men weren’t robbing the temple or even blaspheming Diana. What they were doing was operating in the power of the Holy Spirit and letting the proverbial chips fall where they may.

Paul and his team went about their business preaching and performing “unusual” miracles for two solid years in Ephesus. Diseases were healed, demons cast out, people were changed. It’s very interesting to note what Paul did when people didn’t agree with his teachings: “But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus” (v9). 

When someone’s heart was hardened to the message, Paul departed and withdrew. He didn’t hang around to argue, fight, persuade or worry. He left. He went to where the message would be accepted. This isn’t to say he didn’t have fight in him, I’m guessing he had his arguments down pretty solidly. What he did was simply rely on the Holy Spirit to do the work. Paul knew it wasn’t up to him to pull this off. The Great Commission was to GO and leave the rest to God. If people see the miraculous and still choose to turn away, so be it.

There is a battle to fight, but we’ve got to know our strategy. Sin doesn’t like being confronted. Idols don’t topple easily. When we go out into our culture and live according to God’s Word, we will be strongly and sometimes irrationally attacked. It doesn’t mean we cower or stop speaking, but it doesn’t mean we always need to attack the idol-makers either. Paul was effective because he spoke truth and left the results up to God. He made himself a vessel and allowed himself to be used. He didn’t stress about everyone who disagreed with him because he knew the purpose of his ministry was to preach the gospel, not to placate the culture.

When the whole city is full of confusion and rushing to and fro like headless chickens, it’s our duty and our privilege to stay the course. We need to remember its not OUR truth we are promoting, contrary to what culture wants us to believe. It’s HIS truth, THE truth. We aren’t peddlers on a sidewalk selling trinkets of an idol – what we have to offer was paid for at a very great price and is free for the taking. It will cost something though, being a part of this “Way”… our own little kingdoms, our comfort zones, our people on pedestals.

“And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way…”

There will always be a great commotion where Jesus is concerned, especially if we are sticking to HIS Gospel and not our own. Popularity and trinket-selling isn’t His goal for us.

It’s not always easy to go on record for our beliefs. The idols demand allegiance, just like the wild rioting crowd in Ephesus. The world is burning, literally and figuratively. Jesus calls us to choose life, repeatedly, daily, hourly, minute by minute. If you’re following a method or a person that doesn’t swing wide an open door to Jesus or push you to fiercely want to promote and protect His Word, I suggest halting and reevaluating. We aren’t that different from Ephesus in our idolatry and group-think ways. Self promotion, self preservation is the rule of the day, and if we are honest, we see that it gets us nowhere.

I’ll end with a fantastic quote from Lisa Whittle that snapped me right back to reality this morning after waking up at 5am with a zillion fears and annoyances running through my head:

“It’s time to make some heart determinations and declarations, my friends – to rise up, call out, stand firm, and walk strong. This is the time to rise up in holy anger, as Jesus did when He overturned the tables – to fight for holiness and purity and love. It’s time to fight for the freedom from the devil’s lies, which is ruining lives. It’s time to fight for the truth to be revealed about who Jesus is and how only He has the power to save so that other powerless gods will no longer be put beside or before Him. It’s time to fight for eyes to be opened about seemingly harmless distractions like social media and busy calendars and God-ish Christianity and how all of it at the end of the day keeps us from holiness. It’s time to fight for us to truly revere and honor God again. We’ve lost that, I think, that healthy fear of God. We don’t tremble before God anymore. We flaunt our independence.” 

It’s time. Cause a commotion if you need, God doesn’t mind. He has our backs. I think He probably wishes we were more stirred up. Choose your battles carefully, some are meant to win and some aren’t even meant to be addressed at all. Beware the peddlers on the sidewalk and beware the little idols, Jesus has so very much more to offer us. When the whole city is filled with confusion, be the one who rises up in love and power to fight for the truth.

June 10, 2017

Fanning the Flame

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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2 Timothy 1:6 NLT This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6 CEB Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands.

Today we have two shorter devotionals both based on the same verse. The first is from Jim Cymbala posted at World Challenge.

Stir Us Up, Lord

To the believers in Thessalonica, Paul wrote, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Amazingly, although the Holy Spirit is fully God, it is entirely possible for believers like you and me to hinder His work and quench His sacred fire.

Some people falsely believe that whatever God wants to do, He will do. Consider Jesus’ invitation to His own church in Laodicea: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). If He is Christ, and He wants in, why doesn’t He just come in? Why does He bother knocking and asking? That’s the mystery of God’s sovereignty and our free will. We must respond to Him or we will miss out on His planned blessing.

At one time Paul told Timothy to stir up the embers, to keep the fire going (see 2 Timothy 1:6). We need to do the same! For some of us, the embers are faintly glowing, and we need to tend to them, stir them up, breathe on them so they will burst into open flame.

We need the fire of the Holy Spirit changing our lives and our local assemblies. We need it spreading throughout our towns and cities, spreading so that Christ can be glorified. May this be our prayer today:

“Send the fire, God. Burn, penetrate, change, renovate, illuminate. Do as You promised, as we wait in Christ’s name.”

The second is from knowing-jesus.com

Fan Into Flame

As Paul neared the end of his life the wisdom he proffered to Timothy is as relevant today as the day on which he picked up his quill, to pen his final message as God’s chosen apostle to the gentiles. Having joyfully recalled his trust in Jesus as well as the sincere faith of his mother and grandmother, Paul called on Timothy to: fan into flame the gift of God, which was in him.

Christ was the final revelation to man and the God-breathed Scripture contain all that we need for life and godliness in our current generation. And though apostolic authority ceased with the last apostle, all God’s children are gifted by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit – and like Timothy we too are called to: kindle afresh the gift of God that is in us.

It is the Holy Spirit that sealed us and baptized us into the body of Christ at salvation and it is the Holy Spirit that enables and empowers us to serve the Lord as we grow in our spiritual life. It is the Holy Spirit that gives to each of God’s children the spiritual gift or gifts that each requires to fulfill the role to which we have been called and it is the Holy Spirit Who works in us all – to will and to do of HIS good pleasure. Let US kindle afresh the gift of God, which by His grace we have received – but let us do it in LOVE… for if we  function in the gifts of the Spirit without LOVE it profits us nothing… and dishonours our Lord.

Heavenly Father in the power of Your Holy Spirit I pray that I may fan into flame the spiritual gift that You have given me by Your grace, and I pray that in all I say and do – it may be done in LOVE, so that Christ may be formed in me, in Whose name I pray, AMEN


The image at the top of the screen is from an article by Shirley Swift Wilkinson (no relation that I am aware of!) from an article also worth reading: The Flames We Chose to Fan.

May 31, 2017

When Christians Make a Habit of Wielding Power

Luke 9:51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

About a month ago, someone recommended a devotional blog to us called Comfort and Challenge. We had originally bookmarked a particular column titled Ax to the Roots which is also good reading. Today we caught up with the same website and decided to share a more recent piece with you. Click the title below to read this at source.

Fire From Heaven

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 145, Ezekiel 4:1-17, Hebrews 6:1-12, Luke 9:51-62


When a Samaritan town refused to receive Jesus, the disciples James and John asked, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  Luke says Jesus rebuked them. They simply moved on to the next town.

Could “rebuked” have been an understatement? After Jesus had taught them about peace, love, and reserving judgment for God, what made a consuming fire seem like a reasonable option?

James and John were just being human: even a little authority and power seems like it’s there to be used. Since Jesus isn’t physically present today to stay our hands, it’s good we can’t summon heavenly fire at will. Yet here in the west, particularly in the United States, many Christians seem to make a habit of wielding power. We take the commandment to make disciples of all nations and twist it into coercion. Never did Jesus force anyone to follow him – or even to respect him. Rather, he let some potential followers know they might not be ready. Have someone to bury someone? Want to finish up a few things? Maybe this isn’t for you yet. This was neither coercion nor rejection, but a free choice. Jesus moved on his way, and they move on theirs.

So why do many Christians today find it difficult, when someone rejects Christ, to move on? We boycott (which may seem like moving on, but is decidedly aggressive), legislate against, picket, and ban people who don’t share our values, then wonder why our ranks dwindle. Such behavior doesn’t just fail to win people to Christ; it distorts the message of the Gospel into something repellent. Jesus warned us we’d be rejected, but now we have the numbers and influence to reject, condemn, and oppress … and too many times we choose to.

As we enter the week before Pentecost, let’s remember the last fire God sent from heaven was the Holy Spirit. Its flame rested visibly on each disciple’s head, and made it possible for all to understand them. Let’s choose our flame more wisely than James and John. Or move on.

Comfort: You aren’t bound by the law of rejection, but freed by the law of love.

Challenge: When fellow Christians speak in terms of rejection, speak up for love.

Prayer: Lord, light a fire in my heart to spread your good news to all. Amen.

Discussion: What’s a memorable example you know of Christians responding in love when they could have chosen rejection?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group.

May 28, 2017

Eternal Hope through Honoring the Spirit

by Russell Young

These passages dealing with the Spirit are from Romans 8 (NIV). They should inform the reader of his or her need for the continued ministry of Christ as Spirit in their life (Col 1:27) for the accomplishment of their eternal hope.

8:2 “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
8:4 “[H]e condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
8:5 “those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires”.
8:9 “You are controlled…by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit he does no belong to Christ.”
8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.”
8:13 “[I]f by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
8:14 “[T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

The “suffering” of Christ has been revealed in Hebrews 2:18. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (NIV) Consider Hebrews 5:7: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (NIV)

8:23 “[W]e ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
8:26 “[T]he Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
8:27 “[H]e who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

Wording that refers to life in the flesh has been left out in order to bring clarity to the full and necessary ministry of the Lord as Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18). The reader can discern that a system of laws (“the law of the Spirit of life”) still exists and that the righteous requirement of the law can only be met by Christ as Spirit living through the believer. The law of the Spirit that is to be met is not recorded on paper; it is dynamic and is revealed by the Spirit according to the Lord’s desire and purposes as he transforms the heart and soul of the believer. Accordingly, believers become his “workmanship” (Eph 2:10 NIV) or, “masterpiece” (NLT)

In these passages, Paul makes it clear that the Spirit must be living in the believer; he cannot just be in the believer. The Spirit is not to be denied, quenched, or thwarted in his workings but must be honoured and obeyed. (Mt 7:21; Heb 5:9; 2 Thess 1:8; Rev 22:14 KJV) if the Spirit is to complete his work so that a person’s eternal salvation might result. (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5─6; Rom 15:16)

Since the “misdeeds of the body” must be put to death by obedience to the Spirit, it cannot be accepted that the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross completed the believer’s hope or his need; it is the continued transforming ministry of Christ as Spirit, and the believer’s submission to the Lord that is also required.

The passages above should inform the reader why Paul taught that baptism symbolizes death to self (Rom 6:5─7) and new life through Christ, as well as his revelation that he no longer lived but that Christ lived in him. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in–obediently following–the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) They also teach that believers will not be adopted as a son of God until the body has been redeemed of its sinful interests and practices.

The Lord came to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17) for himself, and for the believer through his indwelling presence. The believer cannot be passive in his or her spiritual walk; it must be committed and intentional and requires “suffering” to overcome fleshly interests and temptations.

Deceptive teaching has allowed easy-believism; those who have fallen prey to such teachings will have their hopes dashed in the end when judgment by Christ is rendered for the things done in the body. Believers are to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV)

May 27, 2017

Jesus: His Three Count Case Against the World

A year ago here we introduced you to Jean’s Gospel, a series of teachings which appear on Michael Newnham’s blog Phoenix Preacher. Today we looked at a few of Jean’s more recent writings and chose this one to share with you. Click the title below to read this at source:

Jean’s Gospel: The Advocate

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:5-11)

When Jesus said, “I am going to him who sent me,” the disciples did not grasp the full significance of His departure. They understood only enough to cause them sorrow. His leaving would end their hopes that Jesus would establish a visible kingdom and government on earth. Moreover, Jesus had just finished preparing the disciples for the rejection and persecution they would receive from the world. Could they accomplish their commission without Jesus physically with them?

But just moments earlier Jesus had told the disciples they would accomplish greater works than He “because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Now He adds: “it is to your advantage that I go away.” Jesus was not leaving them alone. When He returned to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them as their Helper, Advocate and Comforter. The disciples would be the instruments of the Holy Spirit, and He would guide them into all truth.

Christ’s kingdom will remain and grow, but as a spiritual kingdom: “he will convict the world.” His kingdom is not a government constituted in worldly fashion by human wisdom and power, but a government of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ rules invisibly, not with bodily power, but through the Word alone. The Church proclaims Christ, His Word and His kingdom to the world.

But first Jesus had to return to the Father: “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Jesus had work to finish, in the flesh, as the world’s High Priest, by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice and substitute for the sins of the world. Thus His route to the Father would take Him to Calvary, to a sepulcher, to His resurrection, to His ascension and finally to His exaltation at the right hand of the Father.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8)

Pilate and the Jewish leaders thought they could convict and put an end to Jesus and His followers, but actually the Holy Spirit, through the office of preaching, would take the initiative, reverse the roles, and convict the whole world – rich and poor, strong and weak, kings and slaves, that the world is in the wrong before God. The world will be compelled to hear the Holy Spirit’s case against it regardless of rejection, threats, intimidation or persecution against Christ, His Church or His preachers. No one will be able to escape sin, death and hell, nor enter heaven, who does not hear and submit to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes His case against the world in three counts: concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Count #1: “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” (John 16:9)

Because it does not believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin.

When Paul preached in Athens, he accused the Greeks of “ignorance” concerning God (Acts 17:22-31). God is not “an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to God. If “sin” is defined as “missing the mark”, then one always will miss the mark if one is ignorant of the target. Unbelief in Jesus is the chief sin, because Jesus is the image of God and without belief in Him one is ignorant of God.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15); “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3); “Whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Only with belief in Jesus can one begin to fear, love and trust God; only then can one begin to live according to God’s will and commandments.

Belief in Jesus, that He is the Son of God, who has made satisfaction for our sins, who died and was raised for our justification, etc., falls outside of empirical knowledge and human wisdom, so none of us acquires a belief in Jesus through human means. The Holy Spirit must convict the world of who Jesus is and what He suffered in our stead, and of His victory for our benefit. He who does not believe in Jesus cannot be rid of sin nor escape the wrath of God, because he has no forgiveness and abides under condemnation.

Count #2: “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” (John 16:10)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world that Jesus is righteous and the world is unrighteous, because Jesus goes to the Father and the world sees Him no longer.

Jesus is the One of whom the Father said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) It is Jesus of whom David was speaking: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ” (Matt 22:44). By His going to the Father, the Holy Spirit convicts the world that Jesus alone is righteous.

On the other hand, there is no righteousness on earth. As God warned Moses: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). David also wrote: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps 143:2).

Therefore, man cannot obtain righteousness by his own efforts; he must clothe himself in the righteousness of Christ through faith in the Gospel. As Paul wrote: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:8b-9).

Count #3: “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world of God’s judgment in favor of Jesus and against the world. He will testify that Christ’s death and resurrection prove that Jesus defeated the powers of sin, death and Satan. By His victory, Satan is judged and condemned. Anyone who shares the unbelief of Satan is similarly judged and condemned.

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37)

The Holy Spirit has two offices. With the Law He performs His alien work which is to convict and condemn the whole world. With the Gospel He performs His proper work which is to comfort and make alive. “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6b).

What is the Father’s desire for everyone who receives the Holy Spirit’s verdict? Quite simply this: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Amen.

 

March 3, 2017

Devotional for 3/3: The Trinity

Someone pointed out the coincidence (if that applies) that a major motion picture about the Trinity is releasing on 3/3. That got me thinking that perhaps we could look back at this topic as it has been discussed here.

In November of 2014 we began with a quote from Tozer:

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

and then continued to look at “who does what.”

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13     By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
        by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
    and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The article continues as a scripture medley worth checking out… continue reading here.

In July, 2013 we looked at the idea of “One What and Three Whos” with this item by C. Michael Patton:

I believe in one God (ousia), who exists eternally in three persons (hypostasis) — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal.

Spirit of GodSince there is only one God, one member of the Trinity, in his essence, cannot have more power, authority, or dignity than another. They all share in the exact same nature (ousia, ontos, “stuff”). I did not understand this until later in my Christian life. For many years I existed as a functional polytheist (a tritheist, to be technically precise). I believed the three members of the Trinity shared in a similar nature, not the exact same nature. In other words, just like you and I share in the nature of being homo sapiens, so the members of the Trinity are all from the “God species” . . . or something like that. But this is a bad analogy since, though you and I may be the same species, we are different in essence. You are you and I am me. I have my body and you have yours. But in the Trinity, all three persons share in the exact same essence. One in nature; three in person. One what; three whos…

For more on the idea of a hierarchy within the Trinity… continue reading here.

In February of 2011, we offered “The Trinity Collection,” to go-to verses in which all three members of the Godhead are referenced:

Matthew 3: 16, 17 NIV

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28: 19 NLT

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John 15: 26 ESV

[Jesus speaking] 26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Acts 2: 33 NIrV

33 Jesus has been given a place of honor at the right hand of God. He has received the Holy Spirit from the Father. This is what God had promised. It is Jesus who has poured out what you now see and hear.

II Cor. 13: 14 The Message

14The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

Ephesians 2: 17 – 18 TNIV

17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

I Thess. 1: 2-5a CEV

2We thank God for you and always mention you in our prayers. Each time we pray, 3we tell God our Father about your faith and loving work and about your firm hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4My dear friends, God loves you, and we know he has chosen you to be his people. 5When we told you the good news, it was with the power and assurance that come from the Holy Spirit, and not simply with words…

I Peter 1: 1 – 2 NIV (UK)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world … 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Also included in this list is the longer passage at I Cor. 12: 4-13.

That’s pretty much the entire piece… read at source here.

Also in February, 2011, we had a discussion at Thinking Out Loud and noted that

…four of the seven statements in the National Association of Evangelicals Statement of Faith which specifically refer to God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, of which the first is primary for this discussion:

  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.

(For Canadian readers, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Statement of Faith is identical.)

For that article… continue reading here.

Finally, in January of this year, here at C201 we quoted Fred Sanders on Trinitarian Praise:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost! As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

The glory of God is from everlasting to everlasting, but while the praise of the Trinity will have no end, it had a beginning. There was never a time when God was not glorious as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. But there was a time when that singular glory (singular because, to gloss the Athanasian Creed, there are not three glorious, but one) had not yet disclosed itself so as to invite creatures to its praise. To join in the ancient Christian prayer called the Gloria Patri, directing praise to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to come into alignment here in the world “as it is now” with triune glory “as it was in the beginning.” All theology ought to be doxology, but Trinitarian theology in particular is essentially a matter of praising God. This doxological response is the praise of a glory (ἔπαινον δόξης, Eph 1:6, 12, 14) that always was, and whose epiphany in time entails its antecedent depth in eternity. Those whom God has blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ are summoned to join that praise: “Blessed be God the Father, who has blessed us in the Beloved and sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:3–14, condensed).

For more of that article… continue reading here.

December 18, 2016

Being Filled With The Spirit

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Across the wide spectrum of Christian belief the phrase “filled with the Spirit” is interpreted differently by different groups. In Paul’s writings on spiritual gifts he says “we know in part” and “we see only a reflection.” In the same chapter however his primary directive is that love should guide all our relationships in the body of Christ.

by Russell Young

There is a common understanding that the believer needs to keep being filled with the Spirit. That is, that he is much like a container from which the Spirit can be consumed and which, consequently, needs to be replenished. This concept is error! The filling of the Spirit needs to be considered in another light.

The Spirit is a person. He provides the enlightenment, leading, and power for victory over the devil, the flesh, and the world. He does not come to a person in fragments or pieces, but in full. Peter wrote, “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV) If he has given us everything we need, we need nothing more. This understanding is contrary to the understanding that the believer needs more and must seek more.

To be filled with the Spirit means to be emptied of all else—to be emptied of self and the interests of the natural spirit.natural-spirit

When the “body of death” (Rom 7:24), or that causes death, has been crucified or put to death, it has no more interest in sinful practices—it is dead. Consequently, the natural spirit holds no power; only the Holy Spirit remains. “Put to death, therefore, whatever remains of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5 NIV) When the natural spirit and its interest have been defeated, the believer has become filled with the Holy Spirit. To accomplish this filling, the believer needs to constantly put to death his or her earthly interests and the demands of the flesh. This is a matter of the will

Natural Spirit

Believers should not require any more of the Spirit. In fact, they cannot get any more of the Spirit. They need to appropriate what they have been given. Certainly, it is possible for God to affect those around us, and indeed, the circumstances of our lives to accomplish his purposes (Rom 8:28), but more of the Spirit is not required. It is not without reason that Christ told the believer to carry his cross so that he might crucify himself as his own interests and natural spirit start to emerge once again. The believer’s prayer should not be to seek more of the Spirit but to seek less of self, and even death to self. (Rom 8:13; Mt 16:25) They already possess the completeness of the Spirit and need no more.

The believer’s old self was pledged to have been crucified with Christ when he or she was baptized so that the body that causes sin should be done away with, that they should no longer be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died has been freed from temptation to sin and from its practice.

When Paul told the Ephesians “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph 5:18 NIV) he was admonishing them to be consumed with the Spirit, to will the Spirit’s sovereign right to their lives, and to put to death their natural interests and any inclination to consume too much wine.

Paul taught that the Spirit was poured out generously on us. (Titus 3:5─6) It is a human tendency to cast responsibility on another. The thinking that I just need more of the Spirit so that I can do all of the wonderful things that God would have me do is an attempt to excuse ourselves of our own failings and to demand more of God. To ask God for more of his Spirit in times of “praise” is a hollow effort to glorify ourselves by implying that we are waiting for his grace and his power so that we might serve him. Again, we already have all that is needed to live the life that is expected of us, but that life can only happen as death to ungodly interests is realized and interest is taken in agenda.

Either the heart of God is sought or the natural life; it cannot be both. Each person needs to determine their own level of commitment and to accept the consequences that accompany our decisions. The believer is to work out his own salvation with fear (terror) and trembling. (Philippians 2: 12) A self-righteous demand for more of the Spirit is a confession of our own defeat unless it is accompanied by an honest petition seeking death to self and victory over the flesh.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US



Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

May 22, 2016

What is the New Covenant?

•••by Russell Young

A covenant is a compact or an agreement that holds surety of promise between two parties.  The Old Covenant is often referred to as the Covenant of the Law through which the Lord promised good to those who obey Him.  “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in the ways I command you, that it may go well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23, NIV) This is also the “Everlasting Covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5)

According to the Old Covenant the Israelites had to obey all of the elements of the Law.  It was not arbitrarily designed but its purpose was to create a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6) Because man “was weakened by the sinful nature,” (Romans 8:3, NIV) he could not keep the Covenant.  However, the Covenant is everlasting and God’s blessings to man depends upon the believer satisfying its righteous requirements without which a holy nation could not be created.

The Old Covenant was brought to a close for those willing to accept Christ’s lordship (Romans 10:9-10) by having its requirement of death for sin satisfied through His substitutionary sacrifice.  The New Covenant makes the believer competent through Christ’s indwelling presence to overcome his sinful nature and become transformed into His likeness. (Romans 8:29)

The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6) The Spirit is Christ in the believer (Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) who is able to live without sin in the believer just as He had in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary…provided He is obeyed.

Paul wrote: “He [God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4, NIV) Rather than accomplishing the law through one’s own resources as required by the Old Covenant, the believer has been provided with Christ’s indwelling Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower Him to live righteously and develop a state of holiness (Romans 6:19, 22) without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) The requirements set by God have not changed but the means of accomplishing them has.  According to either Covenant, obedience is required.  The writer of Hebrews has stated that “eternal salvation” comes to those who “obey” Him. (Hebrews 5:9)

The New Covenant is not engraved on stone but is in the flesh…the mind and the heart.  It is not legally based on satisfying the law but is based on the believer having a personal, living relationship with Christ.  It is those who are led by the Spirit who are no longer under the law (Galatians 5:18) and who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) Those who choose to walk according to their sinful nature, even after pledging Christ’s lordship, will reap destruction. (Galatians 6:7-8; Romans 8:13)

Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.  That is, He is the One who intervenes on behalf of the believer to accomplish the eternal hope for the believer.  He has done this to provide access to the Covenant through His death.  As mediator He has provided His Spirit to accomplish its requirements.  As High Priest, He intercedes on behalf of the believer for sins committed “in ignorance” (Hebrews 9:7) and for sins that have been confessed and repented. (1 John 1:9)

Peter wrote that “His [the Lord’s] divine power [Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3); however, the believer is not to be passive or lukewarm but is “to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12, NIV) that is, through obedience.

The New Covenant is NOT the promise of an eternal hope through the sacrificial death of Christ on his behalf.  It is a covenant by God which allows the Christ to live in the believer and through obedience to satisfy God’s righteous requirements for His Eternal Kingdom.  In honouring God’s Son the believer will be transformed into His likeness, will truly become His brother, and will inherit all of the blessing that apply to a son of God.  In the end, the “Everlasting Covenant” will be honoured by both God and man.

May 18, 2016

The Well-Watered Christian

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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•••by Clarke Dixon

37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water. ’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 NRSV)

WaterfallHere is a wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit so infilling the Christian believer that “rivers of living water” flow and others are blessed as well. You get the impression that there will be “times of refreshing” to borrow a common phrase and that things can’t help but grow in the presence of Holy Spirit filled people. The believer will be a “breath of fresh air” to change metaphors. Of course we recognize that God is the source, we are merely the vessels. Yet when we are being honest there are some days we feel more like a drip than a river, more dry in our own spirituality that overflowing with the goodness of God. How do we get to that place of being so refreshed by the presence of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence overflows to refresh and bring life and growth to others?

Jesus tells us how: “Let anyone who is thirsty . . . ” It begins with thirst. But thirst for what? The timing of Jesus’ call to the thirsty helps us figure that out for thirst was an important theme of the festival happening that day. Actually it was seven or eight days, depending on whether you counted the eighth day when things were being wrapped up. This was the Feast of Tabernacles and over the course of seven days priests would go to the Pool of Siloam to fill pitchers with water which would then be brought up to the temple to be poured out around the altar. All this happened with prayers being made for rain and with certain “watery” scriptures floating in the background of people’s minds.

For example, the people would have been thinking of the time God provided the Israelites with water from a rock in the wilderness following the escape from Egypt.

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:3-7 NRSV)

That miracle began with thirst. They also would have been reminded of Ezekiel’s prophecy to God’s people in exile about coming back to the Promised Land. The temple was to be rebuilt and there would be a life giving river flowing from it.

1 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. . . . Then he led me back along the bank of the river. 7 As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. 9 Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. (Ezekiel 47:1,2,6-9 NRSV)

The exiled people of God were thirsty for God’s forgiveness and restoration. By the time Jesus makes his call to the thirsty the people had returned from exile, at least some of them, and the Temple had been rebuilt. However, with the Romans in charge, it hardly felt like God’s promise had been realized. Surely this is not what the prophecy through Ezekiel was pointing to! Hence, there was still thirst for the presence of the Lord in a fuller way, and for the fulfillment of His promises. “Let anyone who is thirsty . . . “, thirsty for God’s presence and provision, thirsty for God’s glory. Rivers of living water will not flow from us if we are not thirsting after the presence of the Lord.

While it begins with thirst, it does not end there: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” Here we have not just thirst, but a call to decision. God’s people had faced decisions before. Looking back to the example of God providing water from a rock in the wilderness, the people faced a decision. They could either go back to Egypt, or go forward with God trusting He will continue with the blessings of His presence and provision. They could cave into temptation, or crave the presence of God. When Jesus calls out to the thirsty at the temple, he is pointing to Himself as the rock through whom God’s presence and provision happens. He is calling people to decision, to trust in him.

The example from Ezekiel is similar. When Ezekiel prophesied the restoration of the nation and the rebuilding of the temple there would have been a temptation for the exiles to just blend into Babylonian society instead. Ezekiel’s prophecy about a rebuilt temple with a flowing life giving river came with a decision, either cave into the temptation to blend in, or crave the presence and provision of God, looking forward with trust to His keeping of the promise. When Jesus calls out to the thirsty at the Temple, he is pointing to Himself as the Temple, the source of the living waters, and those waters will not flow from a building, but from Himself and through the people of God. He is calling people to decision, to trust in him. We face that same decision.

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”

Perhaps we do not feel like the promised vessels of God’s blessing and refreshing because we are not thirsty for God. Or perhaps we are thirsty, but we try to quench that thirst with gods we have created instead of the God Who is. There is so much temptation all around us to cave and blend in. We will never be vessels for God’s living waters if we drink deeply from our society and culture with a fire hose while we sip at God’s presence with a straw. When we feel dry ourselves, when we feel our presence in the lives of others lacks any kind of spiritual refreshment, let us evaluate our thirst for God. Then let us evaluate the decisions we have made in quenching that thirst. Have we gone to Him? Do we drink deeply?

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”


Enjoy more of Clarke’s devotionals/studies at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

 

April 5, 2016

“He is not here, he is up there.” – The Ascension (Part 2)

Ascension of Jesus

I know, you were expecting “He is not here, he is risen.” Well, yes; that, too. Today we’re in the second part of what is a single article at Christian Today, a UK publication similar to Christianity Today in the US. If you missed yesterday’s post here, just click the link below to read both parts together at source.

Where is Jesus now? And what is he doing?

•••by David Robertson

What does it mean for us?

1) Jesus is not here – At least not in his body. He has gone. He is risen. We do not literally see his body, hear his voice or touch the holes in his hands. But that does not mean we cannot know him, hear him or be with him. We need to point out to our unbelieving friends that the argument ‘if only Jesus was here and I could see and hear him, then I would believe in him’ does not hold water. Why? Because most of the people who did see and hear Jesus did not believe in him. In fact many of them crucified him! They and we, need something more.

2) He has sent his Spirit – We have lost the human voice on earth and the presence of the physical body. But Christ still has a human voice and a physical body which we can communicate with. How? He sent his Spirit.

Through the Holy SpiritI have just become a granddad. The only problem is that my daughter is in Australia. I can’t just hop on a plane and go over and be physically with her. But through the wonders of modern technology I have seen my granddaughter, spoken to her and to my daughter. There is a sense in which the connection between the believer and Christ through the Holy Spirit is like the ultimate Skype call. The bible uses the idea of being ‘in Christ’ to describe the intimacy of the connection in such a way that it parallels the intimacy of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as Skype collapses the distance between here and Australia for some of our senses, so the Spirit collapses the distance between here and heaven so that we really are in Christ. When we sit at the Lord’s Table he really is there, when two or three gather he really is present. The Holy Spirit unites Christ and his Church in such a way, that although the ascended Lord is not everywhere, he is everywhere accessible.

Again to our unbelieving friends we point out that unless they are ‘born again/from above/of the Spirit’, they cannot even see the kingdom of God, never mind enter it. Becoming a Christian is not about adopting a way of life, religion or philosophy. It is about becoming connected to the living, risen, ascended Christ. Becoming part of his body. Knowing him, following him, serving him, loving him. It is the most dynamic and real of relationships.

3) Christ’s work continues – He is still actively our Prophet, Priest and King. He sends us his Word – the scriptures are the living, breathing, cutting voice of Christ to us today as much as they were when they were written. Christ’s work continues as priest. His sacrifice is finished but his work of intercession continues. Hebrews 4: 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

We really can approach the throne of grace. It’s not just some inner mystical experience. This is for real! When we take communion, it’s not just a symbol, nor is it the literal physical body of Jesus – but He is really present. We are connected to the whole Christ and fed by the whole Christ.

He is our king. Whatever our circumstances, however powerful our enemies appear to be – Christ reigns over all. His kingdom will come. Ephesians 1:

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

4) We have a glorious hope: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3 – NIV)

The Christian is always in the realm of the ‘now but not yet’. Christ reigns now, Christ is with us now, but there is more to come. There will come a day when our bodies will be renewed like his. We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. This is not ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but ‘steak on your plate while you wait!’ It is because we are ‘in Christ’, it is because we know Christ the king, it is because we are assured of his return and ultimate victory that we can live in hope, serve the poor, weep with the broken, and share the Good News. We are now Christ’s body here on earth. He is our Head. We can do nothing without him. But we can do all things through him.

This is the wonder. The Spirit not only collapses distance, he also collapses time so that we connect with Christ in the past – we are with him on the Cross, Christ in the present and Christ in the future.

Some might say, that’s all very well but it sounds like high falutin’ theology… not much practical use. You are kidding! There is nothing more practical than this. Even in terms of evangelism and worship, when we are gathered together as the covenant community of Christ’s people, we need to know his presence in such a way that any unbeliever walking in falls down and says ‘truly God is among you’! This is only the foretaste, the first fruits. The best is yet to be. We long for his return, when everything shall be reconciled. Maranatha.

Even so come soon Lord Jesus.


David Robertson is minister of St Peters, Dundee, Scotland; director Solas CPC; husband of Annabel, father of Andrew, Becky and EJ; author, debater, broadcaster and Uni chaplain. Follow him @theweeflea

April 3, 2016

The Resurrection of Christ

•••by Russell Young

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most astounding and celebrated events in the history of Christianity. His resurrection not only provides evidence of the reality of one’s eternal hope but it is also the means by which that hope is obtained. Peter wrote that the Lord’s resurrection has given us “new birth into a living hope.” Praise be to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1: 3-4, NIV)

The Lord’s resurrection has given us “a new birth” and “into a living hope.” Some take this to be “victory over the grave.” The new birth is just that…a birth, the beginning of a new life, a new opportunity, and it is this provision along with “a living hope” that comes through the resurrection of Christ.

Previous to the resurrection of Christ, one’s hope of glory rested in obedience to the law and the Prophets. The law had no life but was etched in stone. Paul said that it kills.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) The hope that had been revealed through the law was really no hope at all because no one could satisfy it. The “living hope” is the presence of Christ living “in” the believer. As Holy Spirit He enlightens, leads and empowers for victory over the flesh, the Evil One, and the world. Paul wrote to the Colossians that it was Christ in them who was their hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) He is their hope because the righteous requirements of the law must be met for those who will be privileged to dwell with the Lord in His Heavenly Kingdom and they are met through the ministry of the Spirit as the believer allows Him to live through them. (Romans 8:4)

A hope is an expectation, not a surety. As Paul wrote, Who hopes for what he already has.” (Romans 8:24) The believer has not won the victory nor has it been won for him; he has been given all that is necessary to win it through the Divine Power, the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:3) God’s righteous requirements must be satisfied must be achieved for those who will dwell in His kingdom since without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Justification-sacrifice-resurrectionWhile the sacrificial offering of Christ “justified” the believer concerning his past sins (Hebrews 9:15), His resurrection is also required for one’s justification. (Romans 4:25) The believer should not be confused; he was not justified through the blood offering of Christ at the time of his confession of faith concerning all sins and sinning. He must still work out his salvation (Philippians 2:12). The Holy Spirit provided through the resurrection of Christ is the means by which he can satisfy the law and achieve the righteous requirements of God. One’s immoral interests have to be cleansed from those practices that would bring about his death. How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences [moral consciousness] from acts that lead to death.” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV)

Justification results when one has satisfied God’s government concerning His laws. The practice of sin must be stopped, otherwise judgment for transgressions is required for one to be fully justified. To avoid the law’s consequence, the believer must be led by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18) That is, the resurrection of Christ, who is the Spirit, is needed to rescue the believer from the body of death (that brings death) so that he might be justified concerning the laws of God. James affirmed, You see a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, NIV)

All of this is to say that the resurrection of Christ allows for His Spirit to indwell the believer so that He might become an offering acceptable to God. (Romans 15:16) Peter states that it is through the resurrection of Christ that the believer is able respond to (“answer’) God with a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:21) Luke has recorded that following the Lord’s resurrection He blessed us by turning us from our wicked ways. (Acts 3:26)

The resurrection of Christ should be a time of celebration and a time of hope. He is not in the grave but as Spirit is present in the believer allowing him to gain victory over those things that would otherwise bring about his eternal death. Without His resurrection mankind would remain without hope, having to live the law and subject to death for failure. He is the believer’s living hope.

March 14, 2016

More On the Holy Spirit in the First Testament

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Usually when we pay a return visit to an author, we catch up to their most current writing. But in this case, something quite different; we’re running part two of the article we used a year ago. (Here’s our link. Links to all four parts follow.) As always, click the title to read at source, and note the links to the other parts of the series. The writer is Brennan Hughes and the blog is titled Heaven’s Muscle, which is also the title of his book.

The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible (2) Prophecy

Last time, we explored the idea of the Spirit as God’s presence on earth, the Spirit’s metaphorical association with water, and the Spirit as an agent of creation.  Now, let’s turn to things the Spirit does for people.

One thing the Spirit causes people to do is prophesy.  Topic number four is thus the Spirit’s association with prophetic activity.  But what does that even mean, really?  To get a handle on all the things prophecy entails, we need to examine what people in the biblical story do when they are said to prophesy by the Spirit.

Moses was a Spirit-filled leader, yet even he needed help.  In Numbers chapter 11, YHWH (that’s the Hebrew name for Israel’s God) gives Moses a break by helping Moses delegate his leadership responsibilities.  God tells Moses to select seventy elders who have proven leadership ability.  The group then assembles (with two of the elders missing).  The text says:

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with [Moses], and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on [Moses] and put it on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp.  They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent.  Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.  A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”  Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

Implicit in this passage is that the Spirit’s presence endows these 70 elders with authority and the ability to help Moses judge the people (Num. 11:17-29).  The Spirit’s presence is manifested in a temporary outburst of prophecy, but the text does not tell us exactly what these elders did that was so striking to the people around them.

Numbers 11 may be the earliest text that explicitly links the Spirit to prophecy, but it is not alone.  Let’s pause for a moment and think about what exactly these elders might have been doing when they prophesied.

Although prophecy sometimes entails proclaiming what the future holds (or rather, might hold), prophesy is not the same thing as future-telling.  Biblical prophecy is usually an intelligible message from God, either in the form of statements, dreams, or visions.  Prophets in other ancient near eastern cultures and in the Greco-Roman world also experienced visions and dreams and announced divine messages, but being a “prophet” in these cultures could also mean that one has ecstatic experiences.  Some linguists think the Semitic root word for prophet and prophecy means “bubbling over,” which is to suggest that prophecy involves (at least sometimes) wild, idiosyncratic behavior.  There are touches of this in the Bible, as well.

Let’s skip ahead to Saul, the first king of Israel.  In First Samuel 10, after anointing Saul, Samuel the prophet sends him on a mission and tells him:

you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost.  As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, timbrels, pipes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying.  The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.  Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. . . .

As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.  When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.  When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish?  Is Saul also among the prophets?” . . .  After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the high place. (NIV)

The Spirit of God again comes upon Saul in the next chapter, as Saul burns with anger against the Ammonites and summons an army using severed ox parts (I Samuel 11:6-7).

Unfortunately, the Spirit of YHWH later leaves Saul, and is replaced by “an evil spirit from YHWH” (I Samuel 16:14; 19:9).  By this time, Saul has become the enemy of David, God’s choice to be Saul’s successor as king.

First Samuel 18 records an incident in which Saul sends three waves of soldiers to Ramah to capture David.  Each band of soldiers runs into Samuel’s group of (musical?) prophets.  And each time, the Spirit of God “came upon” the soldiers, and they all prophesied.  Finally, Saul himself decides to travel to Ramah, and he meets the same fate:

So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.  He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Thus, in I Samuel, we see prophets that travel in groups, that play musical instruments, and that at least occasionally are publicly naked.  This prophetic activity is incited by the Spirit, and the Spirit’s presence changes a person’s heart and makes him “a different person.”  But for Saul, the prophecy was temporary and even his positive personality change ultimately did not last.

Much more common in the Bible, however, are episodes in which prophecy is equated with speech, and these divine messages are often explicitly linked with the Spirit.  For example, King David’s last words begin with “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2; cf. Matthew 22:43).  Much later, the author of Nehemiah notes that YHWH admonished the Jews “by his Spirit” through his prophets (Nehemiah 9:30).

Having the Spirit of YHWH come upon someone is often a prelude to a prophetic announcement (I Chronicles 12:18; 2 Chronicles 15:1; 20:14; 24:20) or a career of prophecy (Isaiah 61:1).  As an example of a prophetic announcement associated with the Spirit, Isaiah proclaims, “And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, with his Spirit.  This is what the Lord says.. .” (Isaiah 48:16).  When YHWH called Ezekiel, the Spirit came into him and raised him to his feet (Ezekiel 2:2, 3:24, 11:5).

The Spirit also gives visions (Ezekiel 11:24).  And interpretations of visions and dreams.  Even Pharaoh could see that Joseph the interpreter of dreams was “one in whom is the spirit of God” (Genesis 41:38).

These passages illustrate the common biblical connection between being filled with the Spirit and experiencing prophecy, whether that prophetic activity is defined as delivering a powerful verbal message from God, experiencing meaningful dreams and visions, foretelling the future, or — at least in one episode — joining a commune of ecstatic nude musicians.

Prophecy can also manifest itself as a brief episode or as a lifelong avocation.

We should not be surprised, then, to see a direct link between the presence of the Spirit and the experience of prophecy in the New Testament, in early church history, and, I suggest, in the church today.

As a postscript, I note that several New Testament passages identify the Spirit as the source of Old Testament prophecy.

In Hebrews, quotations from the Old Testament are said to be words of the Holy Spirit (3:7; 9:8; 10:15).

First Peter 1:10-12 says that

“the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  Even angels long to look into these things.”

Finally, “Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

I hope these glimpses of the Spirit’s prophetic activity in the Old Testament provide some useful context for understanding prophecy in the New Testament and even among God’s people today.  Feel free to share and to leave comments.  There’s more to come!
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part III
Click here for Part IV

December 29, 2015

All Your Church Needs to Grow is Jesus

This is our 4th visit to Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Baptist pastor Prentis McGoldrick. Click the title below to read this at source.

Is Jesus Not Enough for Your Church?

Churches are promising undeliverable enticements for people to visit. I heard one recently that promised that the people who visited would learn the purpose and meaning for their lives. Yes, it is possible to find that in Jesus Christ but no one can promise, no matter how hard they preach who Jesus is, that you will find purpose and meaning in one visit. I am afraid this is what the visitors believe will happen if they come. The local bar has a better chance of delivering their expectations.

I noticed another church promising that those who come will receive a “dynamic” sermon. I’m not sure what that means. Surely, no preacher is trying to make his sermons boring. Most preachers don’t know if their sermons are boring. I know I don’t. I just notice the sleeping people. I conclude that the sermons are boring.

Many churches are using marketing as their main draw for people to enter their churches. They are using “churchy” words and drawing in people from other churches who believe there must be something better than they have where they are. Then, these churches are crowing about their growth. Attendance and giving have become the main goals of the modern church. Any means of packing them in is okay.

But let’s look at what the Bible says.

Jesus said that He would build His church.

Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV)
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus said He would build His church on the testimony of a faith in Him as the Christ. This is the foundation of the Church.

Jesus said that the Father must draw people Himself before they can be reached.

John 6:44 (ESV)
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Is this why Paul was so determined to preach Jesus only?

1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV)
2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

For the longest time I blamed myself for every person who left the church and praised myself for everyone who joined. I kept thinking that I had to grab their attention with more creative messages. I searched for videos to enhance messages, practiced what I would say and did my best to find amusing and emotional stories to hammer in my points. Even now, I don’t think these things are inherently wrong. They are only wrong when the message of Jesus takes a back seat to the efforts of man.

Several months ago I began to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I have recently gathered with others to pray that God would fill our church with His Spirit. I am neither testing nor challenging God to act. I am asking that He would build His church on the testimony of His Son. I am praying that our church turns the corner and becomes so Spirit filled that no one says that it was marketing, better preaching techniques or any other reason for what God will do. I don’t pray that our church is filled with people. I pray it is filled with Jesus.

Personally, I believe He is enough.

November 16, 2015

The Holy Spirit Working In and Through The Church

“We don’t need the Holy Spirit. We have technology.”

Yes, someone actually said it. They said it in a church I attended years ago in a pre-computer, pre-Internet age when technology wasn’t all that it is today. And yes, I’m certainly hoping they said it tongue-in-cheek.

But the sentiment behind that statement rules in many of our local churches, district offices, national denominational headquarters, parachurch organizations and mission agencies. We are self-sufficent. We can do this. We don’t need help.

This Sunday morning our pastor referenced Judges 16:20 (italics added)

He [Samson] awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Samson, who is more of an anti-role model in scripture, has had his hair [the source of his great physical strength in conjunction with his Nazarite vow] shaved off, and once again has been tied up as he has been in two previous tests of strength. This time around however, he’s not going to be able break free. Matthew Henry writes about this (paraphrased)

He couldn’t help but notice his missing hair as soon as he awoke, and yet said, “I will free myself as I always did before after waking up…” …Perhaps he thought to shake himself free even easier than with the previous tests, and that his head would feel lighter, now that his hair was cut, little thinking how much heavier the burden of guilt was than the weight of long hair. He soon found himself in a never-before-experienced predicament …and yet even then doesn’t have awareness that the Lord had departed from him: he did not consider that this was the reason for him being in a different state.

Many have lost the favorable presence of God and are not aware of it; they have done something that provoked God to withdraw from them, but are not aware of their loss, nor ever complain of it. Their souls atrophy and grow weak, their gifts fall into disuse, circumstances starts going wrong with them; and yet they don’t credit this to the right cause: they are not aware that God has departed from them, nor are they in any hurry to reconcile themselves to him or to gain back his favor. When God has departed we cannot continue in a ‘business as usual’ mode.

Pastor Jeff also shared this quotation from A. W. Tozer (emphasis added)

If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on, and no one would know the difference.

That’s a rather sad commentary. Does this happen? Is it possible that “God has left the building?” In Romans 8:38-39 Paul tells us,

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But there are things we can do to impair the relationship between us and Him. In a long article — that’s worth seeing — George Kirkpatrick lists some of these things:

1 – Grieving the Holy Spirit
2 – Wrath
3 – Clamor and Sowing Discord
4 – Evil Speaking
5 – Unbelief
6 – Following false prophets and false teachers
7 – Sexual sins
8 – Free thinkers
9 – Jealousy and Anger
10- Unequally yoked to unbelievers
11- Rebellion against God’s authority

If the Holy Spirit was taken out of your situation, your family, your community, or even your church, would anyone notice the difference?

 

 

 

 

 

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