May 27, 2017

APPRECIATING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT...


APPRECIATING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

I REALLY WANT TO KNOW GOD BETTER

Most believers in Jesus Christ deeply desire to know God better and experience increased sensitivity to Him. With the Apostle Paul they may well say, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

And, they may heartily sing with hymn writer Thomas Chisholm:

“I have one deep supreme desire
That I may be like Jesus
To this I fervently aspire
That I may be like Jesus
I want my heart His throne to be
So that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me
I want to be like Jesus.”

EVERY TRUE BELIEVER IN CHRIST POSSESSES THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Bible teaches that when sinners are “born again” (saved) they receive the Holy Spirit. He resides in us to glorify Jesus and enable us to be like Him. For instance, when Paul challenged Christians to purity of life, he appealed to them on the basis of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He said, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The believer in Christ must be very conscious that he or she is the property of the Holy God. The Holy Spirit resides in every believer. “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). Having the Holy Spirit is tantamount to being the possession of God. On occasion I’ve kidded with my wife saying that because she married me, I now own her! (Try that on your beloved and see how it goes over, or doesn’t - I smile). But the above Scriptures teach that as Christians, when we became part of the bride of Jesus Christ, we at that moment are no longer our own. We belong to Jesus Christ. The text above says so…“you are not your own.” 

And, furthermore, the Holy Spirit seals the fact. The writer Paul attests to this when he says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal. Deity cannot be broken. Therefore believers are secure in Christ, eternally saved. Since the relationship is unbreakable we are motivated to lovingly and submissively yield to the fact of His presence. And, because the Holy Spirit plays such an integral part in the believer’s life, then it stands to reason that awareness of and sensitivity to His presence is paramount. Really, the very phenomenon itself supernaturally works to these ends. Now, in light of this New Testament teaching let us further note A MOST INTERESTING OLD TESTAMENT ACCOUNT wherein ancient Israel and her relation to the Holy Spirit unfolds:

In many Old Testament passages we learn that the Holy Spirit was very prominent in Israel’s history. (There are distinctions between the Holy Spirit’s presence in Israel and that with which He blesses today’s Church.) But long ago the prophet Isaiah addresses God’s people in a time of horrendous spiritual declension. They are far from God and the prophet highlights how their behavior has offended the Holy Spirit. Their power is gone and the blessings and close care of their Almighty are eclipsed. Isaiah records wayward Israel as follows:

“But they rebelled and grieved HIS HOLY SPIRIT; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put HIS HOLY SPIRIT in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; As the cattle which go down into the valley,
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, To make for Yourself a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:10-14, underlinings mine).

In conjunction with the above three mentions of the Holy Spirit, three truths come to the fore:

1.   THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON WITH EMOTIONS THAT ARE INHIBITEDLY AFFECTED BY ERRANT BEHAVIOR ON THE PART OF GOD’S PEOPLE. 

Israel “rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” As a result they lost power and effectiveness for God, let alone intimacy with Him and special care by Him. God ever cares for His own, even when they disappoint Him. But there exists a “special love and care” which all believers may experience and should cherish. We might call it Special Care Plus..

In setting forth truth about the soon-coming Holy Spirit, Jesus says “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” - John 14:21 – Do not these words from Jesus indicate the existence of a special care or love granted His obedient followers? We are surely loved before salvation and always as His children, but when saved and obedient we are objects of a further intimate kind of love. Not all believers enjoy this! A dad may well love a child, unendingly so, but when that child behaves obediently and pleases the dad, a special feeling of love surges forth and may well be to the advantage of the little one. And so, as Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father.” The love of God that saves us is necessarily unconditional. Salvation is all of grace. But a kind of daily intimate love is premised upon our response to Jesus’ Words. We have the commandments of the Lord and the one who “keeps them….will be loved by My Father.” I love my child and will always love him. I hug him. But when he obeys me in a specific incident I hug but with an extra special strength. Even so Jesus instructs those who already have saving love that they can warmly enjoy even more. In effect He says, I love you and will always love you but I want to love you moment by moment even more intensely. Therefore, in the present Church Age loved Christians can be on the receiving end of even more love, when obediently pleasing the Heavenly Father. This is why the New Testament tells us not to grieve the Spirit, nor quench Him. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

Christians are not only indwelt by the Spirit but are “sealed for the day of redemption.” This ‘sealing’ guarantees that the Spirit never leaves the believer in Christ, BUT He can be deeply hurt. When He is hurt it is like relegating Him to the basement of our souls instead of granting Him full run of the house. Walking in the Spirit means sensitivity to Him in every square inch of our lives. And this guarantees victory in the daily walk of the Christian.

Do catch the promise of such victory in this phrase of Scripture: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). This is a most important verse because there is a promise in it. How can we overcoming our natural disposition to sin? Well, note the promise. If we walk in the Spirit we “will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

I like this story I clipped from a daily devotional: “An elderly man who grew an amazing amount of food in a small garden sad, ‘I have little trouble with weeds because I leave them no room. I fill the ground with healthy vegetables.’ A listener responded, ‘I tried this formula a few years ago when I found the weeds outgrowing my impatiens in a 5x5 area. After pulling out the weeds, I added another box of flowers and watered them well. I had to uproot a few weeds, but the flowers soon took over, leaving no room for unsightly vegetation.’”

The author (H.V.L.) goes on to say, “This formula works not only in horticulture but is also effective in keeping sins of the flesh out of our lives. Paul put it like this: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.’ And Peter said that we would neither be ‘barren nor unfruitful’ if we supplement our faith with virture, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Peter 1:5-8). In the Old Testament, Isaiah promised the Israelites that the nation would become like a watered garden if they would fill their lives with good deeds. Isaiah 58:11 says, ‘And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden.’” Are sinful weeds getting you down? If so, pull them out. Confess your sins. Trust God to forgive you.  Become accountable. Then fill your life with good things. It’s the old ‘displace/replace’ theory of life. Pull out the weeds, BUT put in the new seed. You’ll soon find your garden fruitful and productive, with hardly any room for weeds.

2.   WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED OR QUENCHED, IT MAY APPEAR THAT GOD HIMSELF HAS ABANDONED HIS PEOPLE. 

Isaiah asked, “Where is He who put HIS HOLY SPIRIT in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, Who led them through the depths?”

    God never forsakes His true people! His Covenant with Israel of old is irrevocable. In Psalm 89 God said concerning David: “If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, If they violate My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful. Selah” (Psalms 89:30-37).

His love for the Church is likewise inviolable. He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6). 

That being said, when God’s people persist in sinning “it may appear” as if God has abandoned His own. Hence, in the Christians service a void of power becomes obvious and any lasting impact missing. Fruitlessness is experienced. The efforts of Christian leaders and preachers seem empty and routine. A kind of boredom sets in. Everything seems routine. When such is the case Christians must get on their knees, confess sins, cry out to God in repentance and seek a re-manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s fullness and power. The Holy Spirit is ever present but has been grieved and quenched. 
  
    Once in London a social gathering of high society was in progress. Present was a well-known actor. After some time an elderly and much esteemed minister asked the performer if he would give a recitation. A strange look passed over the great actor’s face. He paused for a moment, and then said, “I can, and I will upon one condition; and that is that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same.” Impressively the actor began the Psalm. His voice and his intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound; and as he finished a great burst of applause broke from the guests. Then, as it died away, the aged minister arose and began to recite. His voice was not remarkable; his intonation was not faultless, but when he finished, no sound of applause broke the silence, but there was not a dry eye in the room, and many heads and hearts were bowed in reverential awe. The great actor rose to his feet again. His voice shook with uncontrollable emotion as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the aged minister and said to the audience, “I have reached your eyes and ears, my friends, but this man has reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the 23rd Psalm but he knows the Shepherd.”

Today’s Church is truly Laodicean in its all too frequent action-packed but power-lacking, struggling and anemic mode of existence (Revelation 3:14ff). Christian leaders seem ever to plan yet another “how to” seminar trying somehow to gain more effectiveness and/or numbers. To the Laodicean Church and to so many in today’s Church, surely Jesus says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (vomit) you out of My mouth.” The Church had “deeds” but apparently functioned in a hum-drum, compromising and business-as-usual fashion. In our day it seems this same malady prevails in too many circles. Does it not behoove us to fall on our knees, confess our sins and this rather common and mere methodological  approach to His work, begging for forgiveness and a reinstatement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and power? When self-oriented living and ministry are replaced by Spirit controlled living and service for God, we just may know again the deep effect of the godly old minister who movingly impacted his listeners.

3.   WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS IN CONTROL, A CARNAL, OVERLY-AMBITIOUS AND STRIVING RESTLESSNESS IN CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WORK IS REPLACED BY A CALM AND SENSIBLE POISE OF A CHRIST-HONORING DIGNITY. 

    Of Jesus it is recorded, “HE will not quarrel, nor cry out;
    Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19). Although always hard at work, He never appeared flustered. Likewise, in referencing Israel’s days of triumph when the people walked obediently with God, the Prophet describes it like this: “Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble; as the cattle which go down into the valley, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD gave them rest.” There exists a very special patience, calmness and rest to those who stay close to God. Listen to the wise man of Proverbs: “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:27). A “cool spirit” pertains to calmness.

Be this as it may, at the same tune it nevertheless is true that sincere Christian living always entails a tension between the flesh (the old sin nature) and the spirit (the new life within every Spirit indwelt believer). The saintly Apostle Paul encountered this. At one point he shares that he found “a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:21-23). The stress of this struggle can be extremely volatile and persistent. It’s the new tangling with the old. But God purposes to give us victory, a victory attained ONLY when the Christian walks in the Spirit. This presupposes a moment by moment exacting obedience to the words and ways of the Holy Scriptures. The righteous Lord loves righteousness and loves to reward such living. (Read Proverbs 11-12). When the Christian lives righteously (the sum total of all our acts of righteousness is holiness), then, and only then, the Holy Spirit is unleashed (un-grieved and un-quenched) to fill us, control us and produce the Christ-life within and through us. God does not look for perfection, but He does prize obedience. We then gloriously experience what Jesus taught us when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, He immediately gives us rest with God (the sin question is settled and we are fully justified in Christ), and then, day by day when we permit His Lordship in our lives, we wonderfully experience the peace of God, which, as set forth in Philippians 4, “passes all understanding.” It’s all part of the riches of grace every Christian has in Christ Jesus. It available. It’s right at hand or within. But, we must by faith avail ourselves of it. This is what is entailed when we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As Paul instructs, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Only the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to ward off the sinful impulses within and the evil onslaughts that come from without.

F.B. Myer used a striking analogy to illustrate how it is possible to be victorious. He wrote, “When I was a boy, I’d go to the Polytechnic in London where my favorite diversion was a diving bell.  It had seats around the rim, and at a given time it was filled with people and lowered into a tank. We used to go down deeper and deeper into the water, but not a drop ever came into that diving bell, though it had no bottom and the water was quite within reach. You see, the bell was so full of air that though the water ‘lusted against’ the air and the air ‘lusted against’ the water, because air was being pumped in all the time from the top, the water could not do what it otherwise would. Likewise, if you are full of the Holy Spirit, the flesh-life is underneath you, and though it would surge up, it is kept out.”

And lso when the believer in Jesus is full of the Holy Bible, full of prayer, full of the fellowship of the saints, full of faith and, because of obedience, full of the Holy Spirit, the life of God controls us and the old flesh nature is kept subdued. Then we realize the teaching and promise of Galatians 5:16 - “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” This is truly knowing God and the power of the resurrection.

With this in mind, someone may well say, “but this taxes the Christian and places an enormous amount of responsibility on his shoulders. And further, it seems opposed to the principle of grace. Really? Then, in closing, consider this: Paul, ever extolling salvation by grace alone, nevertheless admonishes believers with these words….For the grace of God has appeared,  bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The grace that appears, saves, but also instructs Christians how to live.


-       Dick D. Christen