Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – DON’T BAD-MOUTH GOD

DON’T BAD-MOUTH GOD

“‘If you bad-mouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked. But if you’re knowingly attacking God Himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked.'” Luke 12:10.

So-called ‘blasphemy’ against the Holy Spirit is called the unpardonable sin. There are believers who are concerned about whether or not they have unwittingly committed ‘the unpardonable sin’, but this is not possible. When they can’t ‘feel’ God’s presence, they assume that God has left them but, again, this is not possible. God does not come and go according to the way we feel.

What did Jesus mean by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? In the context of His conflict with the Pharisees, because He offended their religious scruples and refused to comply with their religious demands, they accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Jesus pointed out the fallacy of their thinking. How can Satan throw out Satan and his kingdom still remain intact? The idea is ridiculous.

But their accusations had a far more sinister implication. Character assassination does not make the truth go away. Jesus wasn’t bothered about their attack on Him but He was concerned about its implications for them.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is crucial to human beings. Jesus came to reveal the Father. His death on the cross was the final and fullest revelation of God’s attitude to us. His love took Him to the ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross to rescue us from our chosen foolish destiny on the trash heap of wasted potential.

However, what Jesus did for us is of no value to us without the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us. It is not that the Holy Spirit is more important than Jesus. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. It is the Spirit’s work to apply what Jesus did for us, to our hearts. Without Him we remain spiritually ignorant and dead. He is the one who lives in us to make the presence and work of Jesus real to us.

The Holy Spirit’s work in the unbeliever is to convict of sin. He moves the sinner towards Jesus. He awakens the conscience and enlivens our dead spirits through the faith that He provides. He opens our understanding and reveals Jesus to us through the Word of God. He is the Spirit of sonship. Without His work in us we can never understand or experience who we are and the place we have in God’s family as His sons and daughters.

If we deny or reject the work of the Holy Spirit, what have we that will lead us to salvation through Jesus? We are completely cut off from God because God the Father has given the Spirit to us as the link between us and Himself.

Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus issued such a serious warning? If we repudiate the Holy Spirit and attribute to the devil what He is doing, we place ourselves outside any possibility of receiving God’s grace and being prepared for a life in the presence of God in the eternal realm.   

 

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – UNTESTED!

CHAPTER FOUR

UNTESTED!

“When Jesus entered public life He was about thirty years old, the son (in public perception) of Joseph…son of Adam, son of God.”

“Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days He was tested by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up, He was hungry.” Luke 3:23-4:2.

I don’t know about you, but as I read Luke’s story, I am struck by the sober, down-to-earth way in which he reported the results of his investigation. There was nothing fanciful or imaginative about the details of his story. He was writing about things that happened.

At the age of thirty Jesus was eligible to enter the priesthood. But wait a minute. He was neither a Levite nor the son of a priest. He was from the tribe of Judah and His father was a carpenter and a builder. He had no earthly claim to priesthood.

But He had a connection with God the Father which overrode His human connections. As a twelve-year-old boy, He was already aware of His role as a Son, which took precedence over His obligation to be under the authority of Joseph and Mary. At the age of thirty He stepped into public view at the Jordan River to take up His office as high priest, not in the order of Levi but in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20; 7:15).

He was baptised in the River Jordan by John; baptised into humanity, baptised into John’s ministry and baptised into His high priesthood. After He was anointed by the Spirit and affirmed by the Father, He left the Jordan and made His way into the wilderness to be alone for a while. He had the connection with His Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. Now He needed the strategy for the huge mission that lay ahead of Him.

Satan needed no invitation to join Him! He was there, hovering in the background and waiting to pounce at every opportunity. And that was just what the Holy Spirit wanted him to do. The devil was playing right into God’s hands! If Jesus was to “get” God’s modus operandi, Satan would help Him to understand what it was not. Get rid of the alternatives and the right way would become crystal clear.

At this point in His life Jesus was untested. He had passed the test of infancy, boyhood and youth with flying colours and affirmed by the Father – “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased,” but, from now on it would be a whole new ball game. He was stepping onto the battlefield, and it would be a fight to the death, not just the death of His physical body but either His own death if He went the way Adam went (He was fulfilling the role of the “last Adam”), or the death of His adversary if He consistently lived as a true son.

“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. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:7-10.

What was the “death” this passage is talking about? If it refers to physical death, then it is not telling the truth. Was Jesus saved from physical death? No. But He was saved from eternal death because of His “reverent submission”. Does that mean that by becoming a man, Jesus risked eternal separation from God if He stepped out of line like Adam did? It surely does, otherwise He would not have been qualified to be the perfect lamb that took our place on the cross.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV).

THE BOOK OF ACTS – YOUR JERUSALEM

YOUR JERUSALEM

“But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about the extravagant generosity of God.” Acts 20:22-24 (The Message).

So Paul did know what was up ahead for him!

Like any other human being in a similar situation, Paul had one of two options — run from the trouble ahead or embrace it like Jesus did.

Why did God tell Paul beforehand what was going to happen? I think it was to enable him to set a steady course because he was sure of God’s will. Was he fazed by the revelation? Not at all! Long years of walking with Him had strengthened Paul’s confidence in God. He had suffered more hardship than many another person but he had learned through experience that “those who put their trust in Him will never be disappointed.”

Like Jesus, Paul set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem because Jerusalem was in the mix for him. He could deal with whatever was to happen in Jerusalem because God was already there, preparing the way for him.

We all have our own “Jerusalem”, the place of trouble and testing and we are very often not aware of what is happening and caught off guard. Most of the time our first reaction is to blame the devil or someone else, or ask the question, “Why me, God? What have I done to deserve this?”

Our outrage stems from the belief that we don’t deserve this kind of treatment — the “Job” response. With that kind of attitude, God will remain as silent with us as He did with Job. The quickest way to get an answer is not to ask “Why?” but “What?” God is sovereign. He is not obliged to respond to our whining but He gladly answers an honest question, “What’s this all about so that I can co-operate with your plan?”

Our answer comes from Peter who had his own “Jerusalem” to contend with and came out a humbler and wiser man. This was his conclusion: “In this you greatly rejoice (all the benefits of God’s salvation), though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV).

God is passionate about the quality of our confidence in Him. It’s all we have to link us to the resources of grace He provides for us to live this life. He has to do something to alert us to the “what ifs” and “if onlys” we hold onto that dilute our trust and make us wobbly and insecure. What better way to expose our insecurities than to orchestrate circumstances that show up what we are actually thinking and believing?

Instead of blaming God or life for giving us a bad deal, let’s use these times to ditch our suspicions and mistrust of God by owning our faulty thinking and changing our minds about God and His ways. Isn’t it true that, up to this point in our lives, many of us have wasted our trials by going the same route over and over again? We get upset and ask “Why?” In true “Dr Phil” style, how has that worked for you?

The height of folly is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different outcome! I know a way that works — admit to God that you mistrust Him and ask Him to reveal His ways. You’ll be surprised at the relief you will feel and the newfound confidence you will have in Him when you realise that He is at work in your circumstances to change you from the inside through what is happening on the outside!

THE BOOK OF ACTS – GOD INSIDE YOU

CHAPTER 19

GOD INSIDE YOU

“Now it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way through the mountains, came to Ephesus and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace Him with your heart? Did He get inside you?'” Acts 19:1-2 (The Message).

First of all, it’s possible that these disciples were not part of the mainstream church in Ephesus. Paul had spent time there and would no doubt have thoroughly taught the believers the practicalities of their faith, including the person and work of the Holy Spirit. These people might have been the fruit of Apollos’ ministry or an isolated group who had been influenced by other believers in Ephesus but had not yet heard the whole story.

When Paul encountered them, the first question he asked was very significant. If they were unaware of the Holy Spirit’s existence and work in them, they would have lacked an awareness of God’s presence, which was basic to their experience of being “in Christ” and “Christ in them”. As recent converts from paganism, the idea of “God inside them” would have been completely foreign.

Paul did not want them to have the wrong idea that they had simply changed religions. This was not about mental assent to a new belief system. This was about something as radical as relocation into a new dimension of living in which Jesus ruled in the core of their beings through His personal representative, the Holy Spirit.

It was vital that they understood that they were “under new management”, and that they acknowledged and became increasingly aware of His presence in them so that they would recognise and respond to His voice. What was the point of a new religion? That would simply be exchanging one lie for another. To believe that Jesus is who He said He is meant a change of master, a transformation of character and disposition, and a new destiny and destination.

Why is it, then, that the Holy Spirit has become such a contentious and divisive issue in the church? Is this another one of Satan’s ploys to divide the church, and to cloud the truth with such irrelevancies that the most important thing is forgotten? Without the Holy Spirit’s inward, intimate work in us, we can only give mental assent to Jesus, and He becomes just another religious figure among many.

The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is the key to knowing Him. “‘…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth'” John 14:16 (NIV).

“‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.'” John 14:25-26 (NIV).

“‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you.'” John 16:12-14 (NIV).

Could Jesus have said it more plainly? Is the church not full of immature believers because Christian leaders have failed to do what Paul did — introduce them to the Holy Spirit? Instead of quarrelling about the “doctrine” of the Holy Spirit, how much better it would be for us to get to know Him personally and, by so doing, get to know Jesus!

The Holy Spirit is not some “thing” that we can divide up and choose what we like about Him and ignore or reject what we don’t like. He is God, the third Person of the Trinity who indwells us in the fullness of His person. When we acknowledge Him, it is His divine right to choose what He does with us, and He will always do good because He is God.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME

WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT CAME

“There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then, when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongue being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, ‘Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?'” Acts 2:5-8 (The Message).

The Bible is a unique book! Written by more than forty people from all walks of life over a period of 2000 years, it is a whole and tells one story. Approximately 4000 years before this event on the day of Pentecost, the entire human race spoke one language and lived together in one area. From one couple, Adam and Eve, they had multiplied and become many tribal groups.

They had become so wicked that God destroyed them with a universal flood, saving only Noah and his family and pairs of animals and birds of every species to repopulate the earth. His instruction was that they multiply and fill the earth.

There were three major tribes, descendants of Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Instead of spreading out across the globe as God intended, they decided to establish a rival religion in defiance of God. They built a ziggurat at a place later dubbed Babel, which meant confusion.

God knew that they would do anything to defy Him if they stuck together. The only way He could force them apart was to confuse their languages. They separated into their tribal and language groups when they could no longer understand one another. From that moment they moved farther and farther apart until they inadvertently had done what God wanted them to do, to fill the earth.

In their rebellion and sin against God, in whose image He had made man to be one with Him and with one another, they lived in conflict and war from that time onwards. It was the coming of Jesus, who brought reconciliation to God and man through His death and resurrection that made unity possible. What happened on the day of Pentecost was the beginning of the reversal of Babel.

Jerusalem was full of pilgrims from every part of the Roman Empire which was the civilised world of their day. Passover and Pentecost were the great draw cards and Jerusalem the hub of their religious festivals. There must have been a babble of dialects, in spite of Greek being the “lingua franca” of the time

Into this scenario came the unifying power and presence of the Spirit of God who had left man at the beginning when Adam and Eve decided to go it alone. In a mysterious and miraculous way the disciples, who had been together worshipping Jesus, were speaking in all the dialects represented in Jerusalem.

The people were astonished and even more so because most of the disciples were from an outskirt province –Galilee — and spoke with a distinctive accent which gave them away. They were despised by the Judean Jews because they were far more liberal than their Judean counterparts and influenced by their non-Jewish neighbours.

The unthinkable had happened. They were able to understand the speech of these Galilean peasants who had never learned their languages. How did that happen? The answer is God! He did it as a sign to the Jews but, even more than that, He reversed what had happened at Babel. The time had come to reconnect alienated people to one another because the reason for their alienation had been removed.

Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers which would be a powerful witness to His coming from God. Now it was happening. Babel was being overturned because Pentecost had happened and is still happening every time another person embraces Jesus as Lord.