Christianity 201

August 28, 2016

The Law of the Spirit

by Russell Young

It is knowledge of the working of the law of the Spirit that is the means of the believer’s eternal salvation.  The effectiveness of the law of the Spirit as availed through the New Covenant replaces the ineffectiveness of the law of Moses.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:1-2, NIV)

The “law” must be fulfilled (Mt 5:19) and it can be for those who have confessed faith in Christ and it will be for those who walk in obedience to the Spirit. (Heb 5:9) Christ said that he had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. (Mt 5:17) Paul wrote, “And so he 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.” (Rom 8:4, NIV) It is Christ through his Spirit who will fulfill the righteous requirements of the law as he lives in and through the believer.

The Law of the SpiritThe law of the Spirit is the living law.  It is not fixed in stone.  It comprises the dictates and instructions of the Spirit and is revealed as the Spirit leads the believer in God’s light and in accordance to his will.  Because it is so, it need not bring death but life.  Jesus said that “the Spirit gives life.” (Jn 6:63, NIV) He must be obeyed however, since to knowingly deny his leading results in destruction. “Whoever sows to please the flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:8, NIV) A person’s sowing is serious business and its truth is not overruled by the love of Christ or by God’s grace, and the evil doing of a person following his confession of faith is not nullified by the ministry of Christ on the cross.

The believer’s walk must be righteous if he or she is to avoid judgment and the wrath of God. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians “He will punish those who do not know (understand) God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day that he comes to be glorified by his holy people.” (2 Thess 1:9-10, NIV) Daniel prophesied, “But at that time [following the Great Tribulation] your people –everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered.  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan 12:1-2, NIV) Not all will awake to glory even though their names have been written in the book.

The good news for the believer is that Christ is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17) and he has come, by permission, to live his sinless life in the believer just as he did in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27, NIV) God had tried to have his people achieve the righteousness that would bring him pleasure by starting the human race again with righteous Noah and his family following eradication of life by the flood. He attempted It through the exercise of punishment for disobedience and blessings for obedience, and by providing the written code.  None of these tactics worked because of the evil imaginations of the heart of man. (Gen 6:6) His solution ant that which brings life was for Christ to take the deserved death for all men because of their sin and then to live his life through them.  He is the way, the truth, and the life…and the law of the Spirit.

The law of the Spirit will lead the obedient confessor of Christ’s lordship (the believer) in righteousness and in transformation to his likeness.

The Word presents that faith and belief save.  They do, but that faith (persuasion) must be sufficient that the believer recognizes his or her need and believes strongly enough to obey the law that Christ is presenting to them.  They are to cling to their Lord and to love him with all of their heart, soul, and mind.

The Spirit is to be obeyed; he is not to be denied, quenched, or thwarted.  Those who do not honor his law will find that destruction rests upon their souls. The law of the Spirit sets a person free from the law of sin and death.  It is the law of God and must be appreciated as such. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law (of Moses) so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Rom 7:6, NIV)

March 9, 2016

Acts and What the Church Looks Like

Note: This week, for the first time, I not only get to post Clarke Dixon’s weekly contribution, but I also got to hear this message preached live at his church. Click here to read at source.

•••by Clarke Dixon


What should a church look like? What should the Church look like? There are no shortage of answers. Some might appeal to tradition, to the tradition of our particular church over the past 130 years, or the traditions of Baptists over the past 400 or so years, or of Protestants or beyond. Some might appeal to the experts, whether lecturers, leaders, or writers. Some might appeal to documents, such as the church constitution. While each of the above can be of benefit, there is one book we we really ought to have front and centre. Yes, the Bible. And of all the books that make up the Bible there is one that jumps to the front and centre in giving a description of what the Church looks like: Acts.

The book of Acts chronicles the highlights of Christianity up until the apostle Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. There is no good reason to not trust the earliest records which tell us that Acts was written by Luke, the same author of the Gospel of Luke. Indeed the two books belong together as a two volume work. This means Acts was written by someone who was around during those days and who was a companion to the apostle Paul. Luke was also an eyewitness himself to some of the events he narrates as we see implied in the use of “we” instead of “they” in some places. We who are Christians will appeal to the inspiration of the Scriptures, but even the non-believer should take a moment to consider that Luke is a reliable historian.

The Church in ActsSo what does the Church look like in Acts? With all that was going on what does Luke consider important enough to record for us to see? Even more importantly, reminding ourselves of the inspiration of scripture, what does God want us to see?

First let us begin with what we do not see. We do not see any mention of church constitutions, policy manuals, or even mission and vision statements. We do not see a focus on programs and programming whether for men, women, seniors, or children, or any other people group. We do not see a dress code. We do not see building programs. While we do see some mention of leaders and leadership roles, there is neither a well spelled out hierarchy nor as complete a listing of job descriptions as we might like.

So what do we see?

We see a church on fire. And by the reference to fire, I mean we see a people connected and filled with the Holy Spirit:

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:1-4)

We often think of the full title of Acts as being “The Acts of the Apostles.” It would seem that in the earliest of days Luke’s book was simply known as “Acts.” It has often been said that it ought to be known as “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” for when you read through you are constantly hearing about God’s Holy Spirit involved in everything that is going on. We see the Holy Spirit guiding individuals, we see the Holy Spirit guiding the leaders collectively in church meetings: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” (Acts 15:28) We see the Holy Spirit guiding the theology, direction and future of the Christian movement: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47) The Church in the earliest days was a people on fire with the Holy Spirit’s presence, leadership, and activity.

After visiting our home one day my Mum and Dad drove down the hill on which we live. On stopping at the Stop sign at the bottom my Dad hit the gas pedal to get going again. The engine revved up but the car refused to move. My Dad hit the gas harder, the engine revved higher, but the car still sat motionless. After some time of revving up my Dad finally figured out the problem. The car was in neutral the whole time and Mum and Dad had simply rolled down the hill to the Stop sign thanks to gravity. This reminds me of an illustration I once heard, I forget from whom, of a church being like a car and the Holy Spirit being like the fuel or even the engine. Back in the 1950s when church and churchgoing was such a big part of the culture of Canada, you could build a “successful” church as long as you had a half decent public speaker along with half decent music. You didn’t need the Holy Spirit to operate like a church. I heard this metaphor in the 1990s when better preaching and better music could still be a big draw (especially drawing people from other churches!). But now it is 2016 and we are at a Stop sign. We are not getting anywhere without God’s Holy Spirit.

There is much more for us to notice about the Church in Acts. We see a church soaking wet. And by soaking wet, I mean we see people responding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and professing their faith through baptism. It was not a social or service club, but a transformed people. We see a church under pressure. Though Luke tell us about many successes, it was not always smooth sailing and persecution was almost normal. We see a church that looks like the kind of crowd Jesus would welcome. The history of the church is the history of sinners and sceptics becoming saints. We see a church that looks like Jesus. To drive that point home the last words of the first martyr will sound familiar:

59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.. (Acts 7:59-60)

We see the earliest of Christians modeling their lives, not on religious duties or traditions, but on Jesus Christ.

So what should a church look like today? As the history of the Church unfolds in the Book of Acts, the focus is never on the organizations, the systems, the buildings, the hierarchies, or the programs. Instead the focus is on a God-filled people.

We can tend to hold as our primary focus things that I don’t think God is very passionate about. The church looks like a people passionate about what God is passionate about. So what is God passionate about? According to Acts: People. God is passionate about inviting people into His kingdom. God is passionate about bringing about that day spoken of in Revelation 21:3 which does not say

See, the church with the biggest steeple, the largest attendance, the most efficient budget, the most money raised, the sweetest sounding choir, the best dressed pastor, the least preachy preacher or the most preachy preacher depending on your preference, the most comprehensive constitution, or the most succinct mission statement.

Rather it says:

See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
(Revelation 21:3)

God is passionate about bringing about that day. As His Church does that passion drive everything we do? Or, on the other hand, is that passion supplanted by everything else we do?

(All scripture references are from the NRSV)

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?






October 13, 2015


Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

Is it just me, or is conviction of sin a topic that you don’t hear preached as often as it once was? Apparently we’ve only looked at this topic here once before. Another one, which I see we’ve covered more frequently, is assurance of salvation. Still, I find certain themes are just not heard in the modern church. When was the last time you saw an altar call for people wanting assurance?

But back to conviction. A few weeks ago a friend shared with me after church that he felt God was impressing something on his heart. As he talked, I was reminded of the movie The Color Purple (which I haven’t seen and I’m not necessarily recommending) and the song, “Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something.”

Can’t sleep at night and you wonder why
Maybe God is trying to tell you something
Crying all night long, something’s gone wrong
Maybe God is trying to tell you something

Have you ever felt conviction? At Acts 17:11 Bible Studies we read,

The first work of the Holy Spirit is the conviction of sin. If we are temples of the Spirit, His presence, His name in us will convict us, and others, of sin. We will feel more affinity towards those who, like us, long for more conviction, repentance, and the power of God to live a life that will stand the test of fire.

Often there is confusion between the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting us, and work of the enemy in condemning us. This is from the website of Marriage Missions:

It is important for those of us who are born again Christians, to know that there is a huge difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation of the enemy of our faith, because it can affect how we approach life.

Please, let there be no confusion. The Holy Spirit works to convict us to push away from the ensnarement of sin (doing that which is wrong) and towards God in freedom. The condemning spirit of the enemy of our faith works to push us away from God in shame and condemnation, so we are more prone in hopelessness, to continue to do what we should NOT. (emphasis added)

In researching this topic, I found a very lengthy article at the website Outside the Camp. Here is a summary of the middle section, which deals with the operation of God’s Spirit in our lives:

  • The Holy Spirit regenerates
  • The Holy Spirit sanctifies
  • The Holy Spirit gives freedom
  • The Holy Spirit gives belief of the truth of the gospel
  • The Holy Spirit speaks of and glorifies Christ
  • The Holy Spirit gives access to the Father
  • The Holy Spirit gives love, peace, joy, and hope
  • The Holy Spirit causes people to confess the true gospel and keeps people from confessing a false gospel
  • The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of heaven
  • The Holy Spirit gives assurance of salvation
  • The Holy Spirit causes obedience
  • The Holy Spirit joins people to the true church

So the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit is just one of many things He brings. Paul writes to Titus:

3:5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (emphasis added)

But the initial repentance and confession at the moment of salvation is not the end. Sanctification is a process; a life-long process. In 2 Corinthians 7:1 Paul says,

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Nathan Bingham writes:

Regeneration is a momentary act, bringing a person from spiritual death to life. It is exclusively God’s work. Sanctification is an ongoing process, dependent on God’s continuing action in the believer, and consisting of the believer’s continuous struggle against sin.

Different denominations teach different things about how and when this works. In one church I attended, they spoke of “Saved, sanctified and filled with the spirit.” Was that the order in which these occur? The phrase “second blessing” or “second work of grace” is often used. But in other churches, the gift of tongues (or more generally, the filling of the Spirit) is called the second blessing. For this, we turn to that great theological source (!) that is Wikipedia:

According to some Christian traditions, a second work of grace is a transforming interaction with God which may occur in the life of a Christian. The defining characteristics of this event are that it is separate from and subsequent to salvation (the first work of grace), and that it brings about significant changes in the life of the believer.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that there were two distinct phases in the Christian experience. During the first phase, conversion, the believer received forgiveness and became a Christian. During the second phase, sanctification, the believer was purified and made holy. Wesley taught both that sanctification could be an instantaneous experience, and that it could be a gradual process.

Regardless of your theological take on the subject of sanctification, I hope and pray you have moments where you are open to the voice of God speaking to you about sin in your life. This conviction is a gift from God, though often we don’t see it as such. Maybe God is trying to tell you something.

2 Cor 7  “But 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. 8“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”

The opening verses in today’s devotional are from 22 Bible Verses about Conviction of Sin.







May 2, 2015

The Gift of Apostle

Ephesians 4:11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.    (NLT)

If you are aware of what is called “the five-fold ministry” you have run across the term apostle. Those with a pastor’s heart are easy to spot. If you have the gift of evangelist, you’re probably hitting the streets (or their online equivalent) to share the gospel. But apostle can be confusing.

At the website Spiritual Gift Test, we read:

The spiritual gift of apostleship is sometimes confused with the office of Apostle.  The office of Apostle was held by a limited number of men chosen by Jesus including the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19) and Paul (Romans 1:1).  The requirements for the office of Apostle included being a faithful eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Corinthians 9:1) and being personally called by Jesus (Galatians 1:1).  The Apostles were given authority by Jesus to do many different things to establish the church, including writing Scripture and performing miracles (John 14:26, 2 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Corinthians 12:12).

There are no more that hold the office of Apostle today, but the gift of apostleship continues in a different sense.  Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers at His ascension (Ephesians 4:7-12), and these represent a distinct category of apostles.  They do not have the authority to write Scripture as the original Apostles did.  They also have a different purpose in the sense of establishing the church – the foundation has already been set.

The mission for those with the gift of apostleship today is to plant new ministries and churches, go into places where the Gospel is not preached, reach across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments, raise up and develop leaders, call out and lead pastors and shepherds, and much more.  They often have many different gifts that allow them to fulfill their ministry.  These are leaders of leaders and ministers of ministers.  They are influencers.  They are typically entrepreneurial and are able to take risks and perform difficult tasks.  Missionaries, church planters, certain Christian scholars and institutional leaders, and those leading multiple ministries or churches often have the gift of apostleship.  See also Ephesians 4:11, I Corinthians 12:28, Acts 1:21-22, 1 Corinthians 9:1.

Still, I have concerns for those who use the term as a title, as in, “Our guest today is Apostle John Jones.” But nonetheless, the job does carry with it a certain authority.

Apostle is not synonymous with Missionary. At the website Biblical Studies we read,

Many think that the term “apostle” simply means “missionary.” The word “missionary” does come from a Latin root which means “to send,” so the inference is understandable. Paul was involved in much mission activity, as were other apostles, but it is also clear that many, if not most, of the apostles remained in Jerusalem for several years. So the function of an apostle was much more than only missions.

Their function was basically to, 1) lay the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20, Matthew 16:18), 2) give God’s revelation to men (Ephesians 3:5), and 3) demonstrate the truth of that revelation by the exercising of their sign gifts (II Corinthians 12:12).

And we need to be reminded there are more than just the ones Jesus taught. From the same website we see this list:

The Eleven

First of all, of course, there were the original twelve apostles, minus Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. They were Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew (called Nathaniel in John’s Gospel), Thomas, Matthew, James (the less), Lebbaeus (surnamed Thaddaeus, also called Judas, the brother of James the less), and Simon Zealotes. These men are listed in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, and Acts 1:13.


In the first chapter of the book of Acts, these eleven, after much prayer and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, chose Matthias as the replacement for Judas Iscariot (verses 12-26). Some think that Matthias was not, after all, the replacement God appointed, but rather Paul. This view seems to rest more on assumption than Scriptural evidence. The fact of the matter is that Matthias was chosen, not Paul, and no hint to the contrary is ever given. Nowhere is it stated that the eleven were too hasty in their choice. In fact, verse 26 directly states that Matthias “was numbered with the eleven”; in other words, he was number twelve.

Furthermore, Paul did not meet the qualifications stipulated in Acts 1:21-22 which required that the replacement be one who companied with Christ during His earthly ministry up until His ascension. Matthias was the twelfth apostle.


James, the half-brother of the Lord and writer of the epistle which bears the name, was another apostle. His is an interesting biography, unbelieving until sometime after the resurrection. He is identified as an apostle equal to the others in Galatians 1:19, and in Acts 15 his high standing among the apostles is evident.


Barnabas (“the consoler”) was an apostle as well. He is so designated in Acts 14:4 and 14. Some today question his apostleship; however, note that he is referred to as an apostle equal to Paul.


Paul, then, was the last man to enjoy the position of apostleship. He was “one born out of due time” in that he was a later (indeed, the last) addition to the apostolic company (I Corinthians 15:8-11). Because of this, evidently, some questioned his apostolic authority, which was no small matter to the apostle. Several times he was forced to defend his own apostleship (cf., I Corinthians 9:1ff, Galatians 2, etc.). In nine of his thirteen epistles, he is careful to identify himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ” (e.g., I Corinthians 1:1). He does so most forcefully in Galatians, specifying that his apostleship is a commission of Jesus Christ Himself, not Paul or any other man (Galatians 1:1).

Unfortunately, I can’t agree with that website’s cessationist conclusion that the gift no longer exists. How you interpret this is up to you, but many respected Christian leaders believe this gift is still active, and some go so far as to say that in every church there is one person who has one of the five-fold gifts resident in them, for a minimum of five people representing the APEPT set of giftings.




There’s also another good article on this from a Charismatic/Pentecostal site, Spirit Filled Christian Living, hosted by Duke Taber. Duke does not anyone to use his material, so click this link to read at source.


February 23, 2015

Understanding Spiritual Gifts

On the weekend, I discovered the blog Parking Space 23. They have multiple authors and go deep on many subjects.  In looking for something we could borrow here, I was impressed by this piece on spiritual gifts.  To read this at source, click the title below. When you’re done, click to the home page and look around at other topics they cover.

Two Misconceptions about Spiritual Gifts

gifts and gifts and giftsby Matt Tarr

We hear a lot about “serving” our church. But what does that actually mean? When I say “serve your church,” my intention is not to tell you about all the programs and ministries our church offers, and where there might be an opening for you to get plugged in. You may very well be the most “active” person in the church, performing the greatest number of tasks than any other person, while using your spiritual gift the least. And as such, you are not serving your church well.

The hypothetical is unlikely, but certainly a possibility. We would therefore do well to ask ourselves, “Is this ministry distracting me from using my spiritual gift, or is it providing me with an opportunity to use it?” Only when all the members understand the nature of their gifts and how they fit in to the corporate body will we truly see how the Lord can bless our church. That to say, this is an important issue for the health of our church – or any church. Of course, if you want to know how to serve our church by using your spiritual gifts, you’ll need to know what those gifts are – that’s the nature of this post. It answers the question, “what are spiritual gifts,” so you can ask the question, “what is my spiritual gift,” so you can ask the question, “How can I utilize my spiritual gifts at my church?”

Now, we need to recognize that there has been a lot of confusion about the nature of spiritual gifts. A LOT of confusion, so let me clear a few of them up.

  1. Spiritual gifts are not for your benefit.
    It may seem obvious, maybe even redundant for me to point out, but spiritual gifts aren’t for your benefit. Every believer has them, but the intention is that these gifts serve the body of Christ. In other words, they are for the body of Christ (the church) – to build it up. They are not for your personal edification, but for the edification of the church. That is not to say you won’t benefit from using them. You certainly will, but your benefit is not the objective – and if it’s become your objective, then my guess is that you’re not serving the body, but your body. It comes with thoughts like, “What am I gonna get out of this?” or, “How will this take away from what I want to do?” For others, this attitude might be better reflected by the way you answer this question, “Why am I doing this?” If it’s because it makes you feel good, or because it makes you feel important, then I’d say it sounds like you’re using your spiritual gift to serve your body. Again, this isn’t to say there won’t be personal benefit. There will be. Not only do you store up for yourselves treasures in heaven as you use your spiritual gifts, but you also nurture a deeper love for the church, resulting in greater joy as you serve. Not only that, but you’ll also increase in spiritual maturity as you use your gifts. Case in point – my primary spiritual gift is that of preaching and teaching. Do I gain a personal benefit from using my spiritual gift? Certainly! I count myself doubly blessed! There is great joy in studying God’s Word and I am regularly refreshed by it as I prepare for each Sunday’s message. But that’s not why I study. I study for the benefit of the flock. Any gift used for your personal benefit rather than the benefit of the body prostitutes and perverts that gift. We are given gifts to serve others.

    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving on another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10).

  2. Spiritual gifts are not talents.
    This may be one of the more misunderstood elements regarding spiritual gifts, if not the most misunderstood. We hear it often. “I have the gift of music.” “I have the gift of singing.” “I have the gift of media,” and the list goes on but you get the idea. A spiritual gift is something that’s supernatural – you wouldn’t otherwise have it except that it was given to you by the Holy Spirit – hence why we call them “spiritual” gifts. They are also imparted solely by God’s grace – hence why we call them “gifts.” These two statements are further strengthened by the two words used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts. First, there’s pneumatikos which means “spiritual,” and has its root meaning from the word pneuma meaning “spirit.” This is how Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians 12, “Now concerning spiritual (pneumatikos) gifts.” He then goes on to say, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit (pneuma),” and “the same Spirit (pneuma) works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (vs. 4, 11). Secondly, there’s charisma. This isn’t talking about that certain je ne sais quoi that certain people carry themselves with. It means “gift,” coming from the root charis, meaning “grace.” That being said, we should understand spiritual gifts as just that – spiritually bestowed gifts of grace for the specific purpose of serving the body of Christ. Where a talent is something you’ve been born with, a spiritual gift is something you were supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit upon your conversion. There might be overlap in their use, but they are distinct nevertheless. That means while you might be using a talent in your church, that does not necessarily mean you are using your spiritual gift(s) in your church. In fact, your talent might even be distracting you from appropriately using your spiritual gift.

    Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly (Rom. 12:6a).

So, each believer has been given spiritual gifts, and if we aren’t using them, it’s to the detriment of the body. All the members are important, because each has a gift to serve the church.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing  e? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body ,just as He desired… Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:14-18, 27).

Now, there are two categories of spiritual gifts in that exist in the church today – gifts related to teaching, and gifts related to serving. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Of course, the question at hand is obvious. Are you serving the body of Christ, utilizing the gifts you have been given by the grace of God to serve your church?


June 15, 2014

The Wind of the Spirit

In John 3:8 (NLT) Jesus says,

“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

Yesterday morning we woke up to a rather dark and windy day. The previous night The Weather Network had little sunshine icons with a few clouds, but there was no sign of sun all morning. I decided to try to see if there was any active weather in the area, but the radar only picks up precipitation that is actually in progress; it’s not a predictor of what’s to come. I wanted something a little more authoritative.

Traffic CameraSo it was then I got a bright idea. Most of our weather systems come from the west, so I decided to go on the traffic camera system in the large city about an hour west of us.  My plan was simple: You can’t actually see the sun in the sky, but if there are shadows from the cars, or the bridges, you know the sun is shining and it’s safe bet that kind of weather was heading in our direction.

Sure enough, there were shadows, so I took the plunge and started the laundry. Yes, that’s what this desperate quest for information was all about; being able to hang clothing outside!

I couldn’t see the sun in the tiny, grainy pictures from the traffic cameras, but I could see the effects of the sun. Today, God’s Spirit is at work all around us; we don’t see it, but we see the effects in changed lives, renewed relationships and a hunger and thirst for more of God.

In context, Jesus is talking about the salvation process. We’ve written before about this twice before here. We looked at the process in light of a passage in Numbers which Jesus directly refers to. On a second occasion, I felt led to return to the passage in Numbers and flesh it out fuller, because I think it can a very helpful text in teaching the salvation process.  That text of course is John 3:14

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up…

The Voice Bible translates the last half of our verse, “Life in the Spirit is as if it were the wind of God.”

In a slightly similar vein, C. S. Lewis once said,

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

He of course was talking about taking on a Christian worldview, seeing things through the eyes of faith; but the principle is the same, we sometimes don’t see things directly but we see the effects.

God’s Spirit is alive and well and moving in the hearts of people around the world.

August 5, 2012

The Holy Spirit Prays for Us

I found this article through Dwight at the blog Strengthened By Grace.  I’ll let him introduce it:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26)

That verse should bring much comfort to every Christian heart. We have a Helper in our prayers!  Why is that so important. As this verse points out we are weak and we are ignorant.  And from other Scripture we know the Spirit is powerful and knows all things.

Paul Tautages expands on the above thoughts in “The Spirit’s Silent Prayer Ministry.”


Here is the article:

The Spirit’s Silent Prayer Ministry

by Paul Tautges

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Just as creation groans, waiting for the fullness of redemption; and as believers groan, waiting for redemption from their earthly bodies; so the Holy Spirit groans in prayer.

The Holy Spirit prays for us because we are weak.
The Spirit who resides within us as believers in Christ “helps” us, that is, He comes to our aid, rescues us, and helps to carry our heavy burden. This is the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in our “weaknesses,” our human frailty. It is significant for us to realize that physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness reveal human frailty, but are not necessarily the result of sin. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, experienced human frailty, which is partially what qualifies him to be our High Priest who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses,” yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:14–15). The omniscient Holy Spirit knows our weaknesses as well and it this same “Spirit of adoption,” whom we have received from God, “by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).

The Holy Spirit prays for us because we are ignorant.
Often we “do not know what to pray for” (v. 26). Sometimes we are aware of our ignorance¸ like the disciples who said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). And sometimes we are blind to our ignorance. For example, when the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with their mother to demand a position of leadership, Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Matthew 20:22).

The Spirit prays for us because our knowledge is incomplete. Matthew Henry writes, “We are short-sighted…like foolish children, that are ready to cry for fruit before it is ripe and fit for them.” One of my young daughters loves to eat pears, but she does not know how to tell when they are ripe. As a result, she will often grab a hard, green pear off the kitchen counter, take one bite, and leave the rest behind, claiming “it is too hard.” We often do the same. We want the “fruit” that God is preparing for our future, but we want it now, before it is ripe. We do this because we are ignorant of what is best for us and, therefore, don’t know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit is not ignorant—and He prays according to perfect knowledge. He prays with “groanings too deep for words.” The Spirit pleads on our behalf in longings that are verbally inexpressible. This is his silent prayer ministry.

The Holy Spirit prays for us because God’s knowledge is perfect.
The passage continues, “he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit” (v. 27). The omniscient Father already knows what the Spirit is thinking. That explains why there is no need for the Spirit’s groaning to be verbalized. The Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and the Father knows the thoughts of the Spirit. The two are always in full agreement. Since the thoughts of God are revealed by the Spirit in words (1 Corinthians 2:13), his prayers never contradict the written Word, the Bible, which he inspired (2 Peter 1:21). This is crucial for us to understand since we can be guilty of fleshly prayer that is not always in sync with the will of God. R. C. Sproul writes,

Professing Christians often ask God to bless or sanction their sin. They are even capable of telling their friends they have prayed about a certain matter and God has given them peace despite what they prayed for was contrary to His will. Such prayers are thinly veiled acts of blasphemy, and we add insult to God when we dare to announce that His Spirit has sanctioned our sin by giving us peace in our souls. Such a peace is a carnal peace and has nothing to do with the peace that passes understanding, the peace that the Spirit is pleased to grant to those who love God and love His law.

Here is where the Spirit helps us immensely. We often fail to pray according to God’s perfect will. We may pray with our mouths, “Thy will be done,” but mean in our hearts, “My will be done.” The Holy Spirit does not possess the same inconsistency. He always intercedes according to the will of God!

June 27, 2012

Paying Attention to the Movement of God’s Spirit

Today we’re introducing the blog ministry of Scott Daniels at The Rest That Works, where this particular post appeared back in April under the title Breezes.

I’ve been studying the Biblical imagery and language of The Spirit lately and was struck by a quote I came across today from James Caroll:

“There are times whe we stop. We sit still . . .  and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.”

The first mention of the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2 employs the word “ruach” which means breath or wind. It implies movement as part of The Holy Spirit’s very nature. Later, Jesus implied the same thing about The Spirit when he was talking with Nicodemus:

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8, NRSV).

When we really look at that passage, it seems to imply that being born again is about paying attention to the movement of The Holy Spirit.

When I think about it, Jesus was always paying attention to the movement of spirit. Often the Pharisees said the right things but in the wrong spirit – they were clearly moving in a direction contrary to love. They were often working through a condemning spirit, or at least a spirit of ill-will. On the other hand, if a prostitute or tax collector engaged Jesus in the right spirit, he was quick to commend them. The direction the spirit was moving in a person meant everything to Jesus.

I’m trying to pay attention to the movement of spirit in me. I know when I am moving in love, and I know when I’m not. It can be tricky when I’m moving in fear; love sometimes involves fear, especially for loved ones. But then, if I’ll stop, remind myself of The Spirit’s presence and God’s love, fear subsides. As I trust The Spirit will work with my sincere desire to be about love, whispers come, not that the immediate situation will always come out perfect, but that God will work with and through hearts moved by love. The Holy Spirit can work with a heart intending the well-being of souls; bringing wholeness through love is what the Holy Spirit is all about.

We can rest in that and work with it.

Blessings in your efforts to rest in God’s love and move with The Spirit,


…I also enjoyed another longer article at Scott’s blog from April, check out Beyond Doubting Thomas.

April 1, 2012

The Spirit Gives Life

Today marks the beginning of Year Three here at Christianity 201. As I’ve stated before, I began writing this for purely selfish reasons: To keep my personal devotional life grounded and accountable, and to keep from being distracted by the issues, controversies and news stories that characterize tens of thousands of other Christian blogs, including Thinking Out Loud.

I am learning so much in the process of doing this, and I thank all of you who read regularly for your support and comments, and especially those of you whose writing has been “borrowed” to be part of the collection here.

I’ve just started reading Spirit Rising: Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan). His first book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire was a unique reading experience simply because the story of what God did and continues to do at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is a very unique story. It’s a church that was birthed into existence through prayer. I’m only a chapter in, but I hope I can whet your appetite for Jim’s writing through this and a couple of other excerpts I’m sure will run here.

First, from the introduction by Francis Chan:

It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is of no help at all. (John 6:63)

The Holy Spirit is not merely helpful. He is our only hope. He is the one who gives life. Yet when people lack life, the church often points to other solutions. When church services lack life, we grasp at so many other methods to gry to generate excitement. This is not true at Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Pastor Jim has served faithfully for decades. Their solution to everything is prayer. And it shows…

…We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point those out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: The Holy Spirit.

And from the first chapter by Jim Cymbala

The Holy spirit is God’s agent on earth, yet ye is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of Trinity. And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical struggle… I can’t think of anything else that will change your prayer life, your study of God’s Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the  Spirit to join you in a new way…

…If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come in and do something new in you… I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical. Instead, it will be filled with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God’s goodness.

January 8, 2012

The Strength and Vitality of the Spirit

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This quotation appeared at the blog, Standing for God.  A. B. Simpson was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me freeRomans 8:2

The life of Jesus Christ brought into our hearts by the Holy Spirit operates there as a new law of divine strength and vitality. it counteracts, overcomes and lifts us above the old law of sin and death.

Let us illustrate these two laws by a simple comparison. By the law of gravity my hand naturally falls upon the desk and lies there, attracted downward by that natural law which makes heavy bodies fall to the earth.

But there is a stronger law than the law of gravity-my own life and will. Through the operation of this higher law-the law of vitality-I can defy the-law of gravity, lift my hand and hold it above its former resting place and move it at my will. The law of vitality has freed me from the law of gravity.

Precisely so the indwelling life of Christ Jesus, operating with the power of a new law, lifts me above and counteracts the power of sin in my fallen nature.

by A.B. Simpson

December 14, 2011

Praying for Difficult People

Back in June, I introduced you to the ministry of George Hartwell, and since I spent several hours recently going over some of George’s newer material, it seemed fitting that today’s C201 post be something by him.  The quotation is from the website, George is a Christian counselor in Toronto, Canada.

A Multi-Purpose Prayer of Release

“Put it on the Altar” is versatile: a prayer of release, a prayer of commitment, and an act of worship. It is a prayerful way to release stress. Any work can be put on the altar: the week’s work, a life’s work, one’s ministry, and one’s investment in a person. By doing so you are making it clear that this work has been done “as unto the Lord.” Putting one’s work on the altar frees one from concern of what people think and concern about the results of your effort. So it clears your heart from the fear of man and your mind from lingering on the project.

I know that for many of you, it may take a re-reading of the quotation to see how it fits with the headline I gave this post. Many times the difficult people in our lives are very much in opposition to something we have done or something we principle or value we espouse.  But at the end of the day, there is very little that we can do to instantly change things.

A prayer of release of this type may be the only thing to free us from the feelings that are stirred when that person crosses our path or their name is mentioned. The person who has placed the situation on the altar will not only have greater peace, chances are they will live longer, also.

November 17, 2011

The Appearance of Piety

Kentucky Baptist Pastor Eric Douglas was featured on this blog a year ago.  Today’s item appeared recently at his blog, It is Well, under the title, Would You Let This Man Teach Sunday School?

What would you think of one who possesses the following characteristics?  This person:

  • Makes a great effort to be near Jesus
  • Bows before Jesus in an act of worship
  • Has a solid theology, recognizing that Jesus is the “Son of the Most High God”
  • Recognizes the sovereign power of Jesus Christ
  • Does not act apart from the permission of Jesus

We would be thrilled to have one like this as our pastor!  If such a man attended our worship services, we would quickly make him a Sunday School teacher or even a deacon.  After all, the piety described above exceeds much of what we see in our churches.  Many who have been Christians for years still do not yet possess these wonderful characteristics.  What are we to think of a person such as this?

While these are wonderful attributes to have, the worship-attender I just described is not a Christian at all.  Instead, the one just described is demon possessed and under terrible oppression.

There once was a man who lived in the country of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  The man lived among tombs and the local villagers were quick to keep distance from him.  He was out of control; no one could do a thing him.  Locals attempted to bind him with chain and shackle, but it did not help.  The man was so strong that he broke the shackles into pieces.  No one was able to subdue him.  Night and day, he would scream among the tombs and in the mountains.  He inflicted pain upon himself as he would gather stones and gash himself with them.  The locals were terrified as they heard the screams bellow from among the tombs.

The man was not mentally ill; he was demon possessed.  The demon had complete control over the man, affecting his actions and speaking through him.  The demon said his name was “Legion”.  The name Legion represented the multitude of demons working together to destroy this man’s life; enough to possess 2,000 pigs.

The man was not a true follower of God.  He did not know Jesus Christ and had not trusted his life with Him.  He did not have the Holy Spirit, but instead had a demonic spirit.  Mark chapter 5 details the actions of the man which exceed the piety of many church-goers.  Though his actions were controlled by Legion, notice the actions of the man when he encountered Jesus.

The man sees Jesus from a distance and runs up to him (v. 6a).  He makes a great effort to be near Jesus.  While others did not seek after Jesus in this way, this man dropped whatever it was he was doing and ran to Jesus.  Neither did he wait until Jesus came to him; he eagerly ran to Jesus.  The man did not just run to Jesus to shake His hand.  He ran to meet Jesus so he could bow down in worship (v. 6b).

Here’s the picture: When Jesus was not around, the man was out of control to the point where all who knew him feared him.  Yet when Jesus comes on the scene, the man is under control and even also humbles himself in a prostrate position before Him.  He is publicly bowed in worship before Jesus Christ.

In our context, the man has attended a worship service with one of our churches and is on his knees at “the altar”.

The outward act of humble worship is just the beginning.  The man begins to speak to Jesus and calls Him, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (v. 7).  What great theology!  He knows who Jesus is better than many Christians.  He knows His name (Jesus) and His position (Son of the Most High God).  Surely such a great theologian must also be a great man of God!

It does not stop here.  The man (with the demon speaking through him) implores Jesus to not torment him (v. 7).  Obviously the demon’s theology is so developed that he understands judgment, end times, and eternal torment.  He also recognizes that Jesus has the power and authority to bring about judgment and torment.  Thus, the man not only speaks well about who Jesus is, but also unquestionably recognizes what He can do.

But it does not stop even here.  The demons implore Jesus to not torment but to rather send the them “into the swine so that we may enter them” (v. 12).  Jesus “gave them permission” and the demons obediently followed (v. 13).  The obedience demonstrated here is remarkable!  How many Christians ask Jesus for permission before acting, and then do exactly as Jesus permits them to do?

The point here is not the discussion of the actions of the man vs. the actions of the demons.  Neither is the point determining the extent of the possession or seeking to determine when the man acted on his own vs. being overwhelmed by the demons’ actions.  The point is this:

Here is a man who runs to Jesus, bows down in worship before Him, has a great theology and a remarkable obedience.  Yet, he is unsaved.  He is possessed by a demonic spirit rather than the Spirit of God.

How can this be?  How can a person with all of these wonderful qualities be unsaved?  This is because it matters less about which actions your possess and matters more about who possesses you.  All of the outward religion action in the world won’t get you an inch closer to God unless you are possessed, empowered, sealed and delivered by the Holy Spirit of God.  This is only possible by the atoning work of Jesus Christ through His death, burial and resurrection, and only comes about in those who have turned from their sin to trust in Christ.

Outward worship means nothing if it is Christless.  Many will preach and minister in the name of Jesus even though they do not know Him (Matthew 7:21-23).  Many will spend their lives in ministry but will spend eternity in hell.

Theological knowledge means nothing it if is Christless.  James writes, “You believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).  There is hardly one who knows the content of the Bible better than Satan himself.

Outward obedience means nothing if it is Christless.  When it came to testing Job, Satan obediently listened to God and did not exceed the boundaries He had set (Job 1:12).  If anyone understands his lack of ability apart from the power of God, it is Satan himself.

A person can walk an aisle, weep at an “altar”, gain perfect Sunday School attendance, bow in worship, teach a Sunday School class, minister in the name of Jesus, go on mission trips and praise Christ from his lips everyday for the rest of his life only to die and go to hell.

There is but one way to God and it is through Jesus Christ alone.  There is but one way of salvation and it is through the cross.  There is but one proper response to the Gospel of the cross and it is repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.  There is but one great evidence of conversion and it is a changed life.

Though the demon possessed man outwardly worshiped, it was not until he met Christ that his life was forever changed.  After truly meeting Christ, those who had known him before were “frightened” at his new life (Mark 5:15).  He wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went (v. 18) and became one of the first great missionaries to the Gentiles (v. 20).  Though these actions did not save the man, the dramatic change in life is evidence that he had met the Savior.

Are you going through the motions?  Are you depending on your good works?  Are you trusting in your experience of weeping at the altar?  Are you resting on your Sunday School attendance?  Are you confident in your ministry?  Or, are you trusting in Jesus Christ?  No amount of religious activity will bridge the sin gap that stands between you and your Creator.  It is only Christ.  It is only the cross.

Do you trust in Him and what He has done?  Or are you trusting in what you have done?  Has your heart and life been forever changed after meeting Jesus Christ?  What possesses you?

~Eric Douglas

October 11, 2011

Growing Deeper With The Holy Spirit

When you read Christian books more extensively and start getting into more serious commentaries and classic works, there’s a tendency to be somewhat spiritually snobbish and look at the “Our Daily Bread” booklets from Radio Bible Class in Canada and the U.S. as a type of lowest common denominator in devotional reading.  Quite honestly, I think if that’s all you’re doing in the course of week — no other books on the go; no Bible reading; no small group involvement — then you need to be doing more.

But on the other hand, today I happened to pick up a copy and turned to the reading for the day, and was quite impressed with this quick review on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  You can follow the daily readings online at where this one borrowed a title from a popular book and appeared as The Forgotten God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (NIV)

God’s Wisdom Revealed by the Spirit

 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written:

   “What no eye has seen,
   what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
   the things God has prepared for those who love him—

 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

   The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,

   “Who has known the mind of the Lord
   so as to instruct him?”

   But we have the mind of Christ.

When we quote The Apostles’ Creed, we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Author J. B. Phillips said, “Every time we say [this] we mean that we believe that [the Spirit] is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.”

Sometimes we forget that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Bible describes Him as God. He possesses the attributes of God: He is present everywhere (Ps. 139:7-8), He knows all things (1 Cor. 2:10-11), and He has infinite power (Luke 1:35). He also does things that only God can do: create (Gen. 1:2) and give life (Rom. 8:2). He is equal in every way with the other Persons of the Trinity—the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is a Person who engages in personal ways with us. He grieves when we sin (Eph. 4:30). He teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13), prays for us (Rom. 8:26), guides us (John 16:13), gives us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11), and assures us of salvation (Rom. 8:16).

The Holy Spirit indwells us if we have received forgiveness of sin through Jesus. He desires to transform us so that we become more and more like Jesus. Let’s cooperate with the Spirit by reading God’s Word and relying on His power to obey what we learn.

God’s guidance and help that we need day to day
Is given to all who believe;
The Spirit has sealed us—He’s God’s guarantee
Of power that we can receive. —Branon

The Christian who neglects the Holy Spirit
is like a lamp that’s not plugged in.

~Marvin Williams

August 14, 2011

Restricting the Holy Spirit’s Ability to Move

As a worship leader serving in local churches under various pastors, it was always crucial that I knew where the pastor/church stood on the operation of spiritual gifts — in particular gifts of utterance — since I was the one holding the microphone and controlling a good portion of the opening of each weekend service.  In once church we came up with this “policy” — with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I should stress — for dealing with tongues and interpretation:

TRUTH # 1 — People are free to give a message in tongues as long as there is someone present to interpret.
TRUTH # 2 — There is no one here to interpret.

As insane as that sounds, it’s actually reflective of how many churches deal with the issue of “the gifts” and the movement of the Holy Spirit in general.  There may not be an actual policy — or even a tongue-in-cheek one — but there are unstated rules which limit the possibilities for God to ‘break in’ to the service; and the larger the church, the more of these unstated rules exist.

  • We don’t have time in this service for that
  • We tried that once and it was a disaster
  • We’re open to that, but we do that in a group that meets on Wednesday morning at 6:30
  • People desiring that type of worship might prefer a different type of church
  • Once we do that, it opens the flood gates for similar things and then gets out of hand
  • It might intimidate or drive away visitors
  • If the service runs too long, the children’s ministry workers complain
  • It will remind everyone too much of what it was like when _________ was the pastor
  • It sends the wrong kind of message
  • Our services are carefully crafted by the planning team to fit a specific theme and format
  • It might damage the carpet

Okay, I threw that last one in rather randomly.  But the tone of argument might sound familiar to you if you’ve spent any time in church.  On the other hand, there are probably people reading this who attend house churches (or simple church) who have no idea what I’m writing about, since those smaller settings allow for a greater set of possibilities to take place. But we do create barriers to God’s Spirit moving in freedom.  Instead, we should be meeting with expectancy; leaving spaces in our worship and teaching times for unplanned things to happen.

Here’s I Thess. 5:19 in a few translations:

  • Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.  (NLT)
  • Do not quench the Spirit (NASB)
  • Do not extinguish the Spirit (RV – Spanish – trans.)
  • Don’t suppress the Spirit (MSG)
  • Do not hold back the work of the Holy Spirit  (NCV)
  • Don’t suppress the Spirit  (Common English Bible)
  • Do not dampen the Spirit (Luther – German – trans.)

Are there patterns we’ve fallen into, and unwritten rules we’re following that impede the work of the Holy Spirit in our churches?

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