Posted in church, holy spirit, jesus, the body

Ladies, resolve not to over-extend yourself in ministry this year

If you resolved this year to be more submissive to Jesus, more useful to the Body, and/or employ the Spirit’s gifts for His glory, here is a bit of food for thought. Even if you didn’t resolve those things…here you go!

The New Testament teaches us that Christ is THE HEAD of the church and we are members in vital union with vital ministry to each other– 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-16. But reading something in the Bible does not mean “experiencing” it. For the most part, churches today do not function as bodies in which all the members are connected to the Head and to one another in vital union and ministry. Frankly, I’m glad my own PHYSICAL body is not in the shape many churches are in— if it were: My mouth might start talking against my ears. My feet might stop listening to my head, My hands might run off and ‘join’ another body, etc! ~Pastor James Bell

How to maximize your Kingdom impact in 2016 

By Jack Graham
December 30, 2016 

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20. 

Several years ago, I got suckered into buying one of those pocket knives that has everything on it you could imagine. It has a can opener, about five different sized blades, tweezers, a toothpick, a nail file, and screwdriver heads. If there was something you could use a pocket knife for, this one claimed it could do the job. 

But here was the problem: none of the tools on the knife worked very well. The blades were dull, the tweezers and toothpick fell out and got lost, and the screwdriver heads were so small that I couldn’t use them to turn a screw. 

The tool was so versatile, but didn’t do anything well. And as I look at a lot of Christians today, they’re a lot like that knife. So many are multi-talented and well-rounded, but they rarely commit to doing one thing really well. They’re spread so thin that their impact is minimized. 

As you step into 2016 this week, put your focus on one thing you want to do well in the coming year. Resolve to make a deep impact in one place. Do what you do well, and you’ll make a tremendous difference for the Kingdom in the coming year! 

CONCENTRATE ON ONE AREA OF KINGDOM IMPACT IN THE COMING YEAR AND WATCH GOD WORK THROUGH YOU IN A POWERFUL WAY!

I have found that in loving Jesus, in loving the saints, and in gathering with the congregation, there exists a tendency to become “busy.” Sometimes we say “yes” to a task, or a ministry, and it is’t really for us, but we feel like we “need” to say yes. Or even if we aren’t asked, sometimes we women feel the need (silent pressure?) to jump in anyway so as to be seen “doing our part.”

Resist that pressure, whether it comes from leadership or your own self. Slow down and examine whether it is something that will glorify the Lord, or will take away from family, or will use your gifts…in other words, examine your motivations for stepping into a use within the body. I’m careful not to get spread too thin. When I do spread myself thin, my mood sours and it’s not pretty. I thrive when I am mindful of doing the things I truly feel the Lord is guiding me towards and doing the m well and 100% to my ability.

On the other hand, as Pastor Bell noted, doing nothing isn’t helping the Body either. The Spirit delivered gifts so as to maximize all the saints’ usefulness here on earth. He has stationed us here and there knowing what gift within which person will best serve the Lord’s church for it’s growth and Jesus’ glory. Since each of us has a gift or gifts, and each of us is called to use them, it stands to reason that doing nothing isn’t serving the Lord in any meaningful way, and is in fact an abuse of the Spirit’s patience and ministry.

A hand is a hand. It doesn’t try to be a foot. And it doesn’t lay dormant, either. Work, but work wisely.

EPrata photo

Posted in discernment, encouragement, ephesians, galatians, holy spirit, jesus

What is the fruit of the Spirit and how does it grow?

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We Christians know that a false teacher is identified by his fruits. It states in Matthew 7:16,

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

We know that a Christian will be identified by his fruit, too.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

No Christian is ever a fruit-free zone. As John MacArthur said of the Matthew verse,

Now, listen to me, people: all Christians bear fruit. Did you get that? There’s no such thing as a no-fruit Christian. There’s a lot of little fruits, got nothing but a few shriveled raisins hanging on, but there’s no such thing as a no-fruit Christian. If there’s life, there will be product. (source)

So what IS this fruit that is supposed to be visible in us? And notice that in the Galatians verse the word fruit is singular. It’s fruit of the Spirit, not fruits of the Spirit. The difference between the fruits that false teachers or false professors produce and the fruit that the Christian produces is that the former is produced from the flesh and the latter is produced by the Spirit through the Christian. Here’s more, from Matthew Henry:

And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh, because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root: 

and whereas before the apostle had chiefly specified those works of the flesh which were not only hurtful to men themselves but tended to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly takes notice of those fruits of the Spirit which had a tendency to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as easy to themselves; and this was very suitable to the caution or exhortation he had before given (v. 13), that they should not use their liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 

He particularly recommends to us, 

—love, to God especially, and to one another for his sake,
—joy, by which may be understood cheerfulness in conversation with our friends, or rather a constant delight in God,
—peace, with God and conscience, or a peaceableness of temper and behaviour towards others,
—long-suffering, patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries,
—gentleness, such a sweetness of temper, and especially towards our inferiors, as disposes us to be affable and courteous, and easy to be entreated when any have wronged us,
—goodness (kindness, beneficence), which shows itself in a readiness to do good to all as we have opportunity,
—faith, fidelity, justice, and honesty, in what we profess and promise to others,
—meekness, wherewith to govern our passions and resentments, so as not to be easily provoked, and, when we are so, to be soon pacified,—and temperance, in meat and drink, and other enjoyments of life, so as not to be excessive and immoderate in the use of them.

EPrata photo. Figs in Georgia

Source Matthew Henry, (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 2303–2304). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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Here is another great commenter on the Christian’s fruit of the Spirit.

There is a pointed contrast here. As verse 16 indicated, there is no need for a believer to display the works of the flesh. Rather, by the Spirit’s power he can manifest the nine graces that are now listed. It is important to observe that the fruit here described is not produced by a believer, but by the Holy Spirit working through a Christian who is in vital union with Christ (cf. John 15:1–8). The word “fruit” is singular, indicating that these qualities constitute a unity, all of which should be found in a believer who lives under the control of the Spirit. In an ultimate sense this “fruit” is simply the life of Christ lived out in a Christian. It also points to the method whereby Christ is formed in a believer (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 1:21). 

The first three virtues are habits of mind which find their source in God. Love (agapē) is listed first because it is the foundation of the other graces. God is love and loves the world (cf. 1 John 4:8; John 3:16). Such self-sacrificing love that sent Christ to die for sinners is the kind of love that believers who are Spirit-controlled manifest. Joy (chara) is a deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ (cf. John 15:11). It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things (cf. Rom. 8:28). Peace (eirēnē) is again a gift of Christ (cf. John 14:27). It is an inner repose and quietness, even in the face of adverse circumstances; it defies human understanding (cf. Phil. 4:7). 

The second triad reaches out to others, fortified by love, joy, and peace. Patience (makrothymia) is the quality of forbearance under provocation (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 1:11; 3:12). It entertains no thoughts of retaliation even when wrongfully treated. Kindness (chrēstotēs) is benevolence in action such as God demonstrated toward men. Since God is kind toward sinners (cf. Rom. 2:4; Eph. 2:7) a Christian should display the same virtue (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 3:12). Goodness (agathōsynē) may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved. 

The final three graces guide the general conduct of a believer who is led by the Spirit. Faithfulness (pistis) is the quality which renders a person trustworthy or reliable, like the faithful servant in Luke 16:10–12. Gentleness (prautēs) marks a person who is submissive to God’s Word (cf. James 1:21) and who is considerate of others when discipline is needed (cf. “gently” in Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25; “gentle” in 1 Cor. 4:21; Eph. 4:2; “gentleness” in Col. 3:12; 1 Peter 3:16). Self-control (enkrateia; this noun is used in the NT only here and in Acts 24:25; 2 Peter 1:6) denotes self-mastery and no doubt primarily relates to curbing the fleshly impulses just described. Such a quality is impossible to attain apart from the power of God’s Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16). As a final summary statement Paul affirmed that there are no prohibitions (lit., there is not a law) against such virtues. In a litotes (understatement) he asserted that obviously no one would make laws against people who practice such things.

Source: Campbell, D. K. (1985). Galatians. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, pp. 608–609). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

EPrata photo. Grapes in Tuscany

A false teacher or false Christian will not consistently be growing in those nine graces. Though a Christian can seem to stall out for a while in his or her growth, the trajectory will always be upward. He will always be increasing. This is because of the gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit, who always points to Christ and is always conforming us in His likeness.

An even more important question than what is the fruit of the Spirit, is how can we work in the Spirit to have Him develop fruit in us? For that, we go back and look at verse 16 in Galatians 5. That verse tells us.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16).

S. Lewis Johnson preached the following on how to walk in the Spirit.

You know, when the Lord Jesus says, “You are fishers of men,” fishermen understand a great deal about witnessing because they know fishing. Fishing enables you to understand a great deal about how to witness. Well if you want to know how to walk by the Spirit, study walking. Have you ever noticed how babies learn to walk? They don’t theorize, they don’t sit in their high chair and look and see father and analyze what he’s doing. You won’t find any child who said, “Walking is rather easy, I’ve analyzed it philosophically. What you do is you put one foot out, transfer your weight to that foot, then move the next foot out, transfer your weight to that foot. Keeping them apart so that you have good balance.” And then the child to take the highchair and put it over its head, slide out and walk. You don’t do that. You don’t find that. You’ll never find it.

Reason I know that is that my children didn’t do it that way. Nor do my grandchildren do it that way. How do babies learn to walk? Well in the first place they roll over on the bed. You remember when they rolled over the first time, “Look, Johnny has rolled over on the bed.” Of course he rolled off and hit his head, but nevertheless he rolled. He’s rolling. And then he’s sitting up. And then he’s crawling. And then he’s on his feet, hanging on to pieces of furniture. And he’s now able to make his way from one piece of furniture to another piece. He collapses against the side of it, but nevertheless he can make it. And finally he takes one step and then collapses. Either sits down from fear or topples over from excess of courage. And soon he’s walking. Very unsteadily. This happens over a period of time. Finally he can walk, but of course he never reaches the place where he cannot fall. And as he gets older and older and reaches his maturity, walks well. (source)

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Most of the Christian life sounds simple to do. But anyone who ever battled the flesh knows that it is not simple. Not at all. It is a daily battle to walk in the Spirit and not stumble. It is a daily battle to pick up one’s cross and follow Jesus. But the Lord is so gracious, He sent the Spirit to dwell IN US (something that amazes me every day). The Spirit’s kindness in molding us like Christ and nudging, prompting, convicting, occasionally chastising us- He is our constant Friend. What a worthy goal- be more like Christ today than tomorrow! What a worthy Helper, aiding us in this walk. His work with His forgiven sinners is so simple but so complex, so magnificent, so eternally glorifying to Jesus, it is astonishing especially given how depraved we really are.

Praise the Spirit today in growing His fruit in you. And pray to request more of the same tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that…

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, (Ephesians 3:16)

Posted in holy spirit, police, prophecy, restrainer

America’s legal order begins to fray. And, police are one of the common graces God gives us

The Bible says that the inclination of man’s heart is always evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:12).

The Bible says that God’s wrath is already upon the world. (Romans 1:18, Ephesians 5:6).

Jesus said that the coming Great Tribulation will be the worst time on earth that ever was and ever will be. (Matthew 24:21).

So, if man is evil and His wrath is already upon the world, why is it that we don’t have complete and total anarchy all the time?

There is a difference between types of wrath.

  • Eternal wrath– this is the wrath that unbelievers endure in the Lake of Fire forever, (Mark 9:48)
  • Eschatological wrath– this is the wrath that will be unleashed upon the world prior to Jesus’ Second Coming, the one spoken of in Matthew 24
  • Cataclysmic wrath– The Flood, the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeobiim, the historical times when a cataclysm occurred such as Vesuvius erupting in 79AD or the Christmas Tsunami of 2004,
  • Sowing and Reaping wrath– such as AIDS upon the homosexual,
  • Abandonment wrath– when God turns a society over to its sin.

You can read more about these five kinds of wrath here in this MacArthur sermon “The Reality of God’s Wrath.”

The second answer to my own posed question as to why the earth doesn’t descend into anarchy all the time is because The Holy Spirit restrains sin. He does so through four means-

  • Conscience
  • Family 
  • Legal Order
  • Church/Holy Spirit in believers (source)

It seems that in America, the conscience of many people is seared. The acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage and the defense of the Planned Parenthood videos shows us that. As for the family, satan has done a good job in destroying the foundation of it by feminism, abortion, and no-fault divorce. Also he has chipped away at it by the pollution that destroys families of teenage and adult indiscriminate sexual activity, molestation of children, society’s acceptance of unmarrieds living together, and porn.

As for law enforcement, Satan is currently doing a good and evil job destroying our trust in this basic foundational block of one of the means through which the Spirit restrains sin in society. Of late, there have been a number of tragic murders of law enforcement personnel across the nation.

America’s Legal Order Begins to Fray
Amid the escalation of violent crime are signs of a breakdown of basic respect for law enforcement.

Jim McDonnell, head of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the nation’s largest, tells me that the current anticop animus puts the nation in a place where it hasn’t been since the 1960s. “The last 10 years have witnessed dramatic decreases in crime,” Sheriff McDonnell says. “Now, in a short period of time, we are seeing those gains undone.”

The current hatred of police/law enforcement in America, the overt disrespect, with the attendant killings of cops has prompted the question, “is there a war on cops?” Certainly, the statistics indicate something going on, but maybe not what one wold think by looking only at the surface. Yes, cop killings have doubled this year, but that only seems high because last year was the safest year for law enforcement in history. By comparison to only last year, it seems that more police are being killed, but the numbers remain consistent with most of previous history excluding last year. (Source)

Yet…yet…the more measured Wall Street Journal notes that

“The lawful use of police power is being met by hostility and violence, often ignored by the press. In Cincinnati, a small riot broke out in late July when the police arrived at a drive-by shooting scene, where a 4-year-old girl had been shot in the head and critically injured. Bystanders loudly cursed at officers who had started arresting suspects at the scene on outstanding warrants, according to a witness I spoke with.” 

Jim McDonnell, head of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the nation’s largest, tells me that the current anticop animus puts the nation in a place where it hasn’t been since the 1960s. “The last 10 years have witnessed dramatic decreases in crime,” Sheriff McDonnell says. “Now, in a short period of time, we are seeing those gains undone.” 

Police officials I have spoken with in recent months say that they long to hear America’s leaders change the tone of the national conversation before respect for the rule of law itself deteriorates further. They’re still waiting.

Personally I don’t remember this level of hatred for law and its representative, police. I know there is a general feeling that justice is not prevailing, and perhaps people are lashing out for that reason. Perhaps a lot of reasons, but mainly, remember that nations exist because God ordains them, and each inhabitant of that nations populates it because God ordains it.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (Acts 17:26).

The Holy Spirit converts each person and dwells inside them as the restrainer, there’s the conscience, and there’s the visible representation of God’s family on earth for the purpose of making disciples and bringing glory to God through their worship. How about the civil authority? Here John MacArthur explains the biblical basis for civil authority and how God restrains evil in the world:

Biblically, the prime duty of civil authority – if you look at the Bible, the Old Testament and New Testament – it’s not charity, it’s not economics. The primary duty of civil authority is the moral well-being of its citizens. It is restraining sinners and rewarding those who do good so that we can be civilized; enjoy a measure of peace and joy in life and God’s creation.  

The civil government uses an even increased threat. The law of God in the heart has a threat, conscience, which will pile guilt on. The family has a threat, the rod, which will discipline the disobedient child. Civil government has an even greater force, even a deadly force if necessary. Civil government is a God-ordained institution to restrain sinners.

We have the nation of America where the personal conscience is seared, where family is breaking

down and being redefined away from the biblical model, and we have a growing rebellion against civil authority. Knowing that God uses these as a restraint against evil, the removal of these is not a good progression, to make a typical Yankee understatement.

I remember an episode of Andy Griffith called Lawman Barney. The show hearkens back to a more innocent time, and most of the problems presented during the course of the show were small compared to our day and were usually resolved by an aw shucks attitude and a sweet appeal to the conscience.

In the show, two big men had set up an illegal farm stand within Mayberry’s jurisdiction. Andy sent Barney to tell them to move on. The men refused.

Andy went out to where the men were. Unbenownst to Barney, Andy told the men that he was going to send his mad-dog, volatile Deputy to move them along, and after a scary speech Andy asked for their next of kin in case things went wrong.

Andy did send Barney out there and the men, remembering Andy’s speech, hastily packed up and took off. Barney was elated.

Later as the men stopped at the local filling station, where Floyd the Barber was getting a pop, they happened to mention the mad-dog deputy, and all the filling station men and Floyd laughed at such a thought, scoffing about Barney in front of the men. The men turned the truck around and went back to set up their stand.

Floyd came to the Police station and laughingly told Andy about the silly notion the stranger men had about Barney, while Barney was in the back room, overhearing. Andy vowed to go out there and stop the men. Barney asked Andy why he wasn’t going to take his gun. Below, starting at 18:37, is the rest of the story.

Barney: Andy?
Andy: Yeah?
Barney: Ain’t ya going to take your gun?
Andy: I’ll get them out without a gun. Like you said earlier, this badge does all my talking for me. I’m sworn to uphold the law and that’s what I mean to do. Folks better respect it. Simple as that.

On the ride to the site, Barney asked Andy to let him handle the men.

Barney: Fellas. I warned you before and I’m warning you for the last time. You take your truck and you get out of here.
Perps: [remain where they are.]
Barney: This is the Deputy Sheriff talking. So git moving. Now!
Perps: [move closer to Barney]
Barney: Do you see this badge? It says that I’m sworn to uphold the law.
Perps: [move closer to Barney and bookend him]
Barney: Now that’s what I mean to do and you fellers better respect it. Understand? It’s just as simple as that.
Perps: [tower intimidatingly over Barney and glower at him]
Barney: [looking up at each of them] You’re both a lot bigger’n I am. But this badge represents a lot of people that are a lot bigger than either one of you. Now are you going to get moving?

Of course today a gun is necessary and there are much worse perps than illegal fruit stand men. But Law Enforcement is about the authority police have to protect citizenry from mayhem and to ensure a peaceable community. Police restrain evil sinners by the authority given them. It’s why you see them show their badge and say “stop in the name of the law.” They don’t say “stop in the name of Phil”.

When the general population’s respect and restraint of their own evil under that authority disappears it’s because they no longer see the police as representative of the greater authority. This is when mayhem will occur. I believe that this is happening now. It’s why teenagers or even adults get into a flash mob and overrun a store, vandalizing and stealing with impunity. The following Bible verse ends the sad story of a nation that threw off civil restraint and immediately descended into moral anarchy. They formed a plan to get wives by kidnapping/raping the dancers at Shiloh and carrying them off. Why?

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible  explains:

In those days there was no king in Israel,…. No supreme magistrate, Joshua being dead, and as yet no judge in Israel had risen up; for all related in the five last chapters of this book were done between the death of Joshua and the time of the judges: every man did that which was right in his own eyes; there being none to restrain him from it, or punish him for it; and this accounts for the many evil things related, as the idolatry of Micah and the Danites, the base usage of the Levite’s concubine, the extreme rigour and severity with which the Israelites treated their brethren the Benjaminites, the slaughter of the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead, and the rape of the daughters of Shiloh.

When there’s no respect for authority the nation has set over the people, and/or no fear of punishment and you have the very expression of the verse I began this essay with: every man’s thoughts were of only evil all the time. Those thoughts don’t stay thoughts though. they become actions.

The final restraint God uses in the world is the church with its Holy Spirit-dwelling believers. And one day God will remove that restraint, also:

Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7).

Here is an article from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on common grace and the operations of the Holy Spirit in society. I recommend reading it in its entirety here. Or listen here.

God, through the Holy Spirit, restrains the foulest manifestations of sin, but there are times when He gives people up to them. Are we, I wonder, living in such an age? Compare the twentieth century with the nineteenth. It is obvious that the moral level is very much lower today. That does not mean that everybody was a Christian in the Victorian era, but it does mean that even people who were not Christians were better men and women, speaking generally, than people now. Why? 

It was because of the general influence of the Holy Spirit. But it does look as if again, today, God is giving humanity over ‘unto vile affections’ as Paul outlines in Romans 1. Therefore I deduce that one of the results of the operation of the Holy Spirit in common grace is that God does restrain men and women. He does specifically restrain sin. That is why God has appointed governments, authorities, magistrates and powers: it is to keep sin within bounds. Though God knows that there are certain people in the world who will never be saved, He does not allow them to live just as they please and to give fuller manifestation to sin; He restrains it in them.

We have a magnificent God who uses all these means, including law enforcement, to restrain evil on our behalf, when we certainly do not deserve it. Did you ever stop to think that Law Enforcement Officers are an expression of the Lord’s common graces? Pray for our Officers of the Law.

Sirs . . . we also are men of like passion with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities [these gods] unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: who in times past suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:15–17)

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Further Reading

Officer Down Memorial Page

Posted in baptism, encouragement, holy spirit

An encouraging day in Christ!

What a wonderful wonderful day. We are so blessed as Christians, BLESSED!

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

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I sing praises to the Savior who hears prayer. I thank the Holy Spirit for moving in the two people at our campground ministry to be baptized in the river today. There is nothing greater than a regenerated heart, saved by grace.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, 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 3:8)

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I praise and thank the Savior for drawing many to Him, some of whom are emerging from besetting sins to once again live a holy life in these last days.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I praise Him for raising up good pastors who preach the word from the Living Water and edify their sheep.

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What a refreshing, encouraging day. The Holy Spirit is moving in the world, maybe not widely, but deeply, soul by soul.

He is as ever, open for business.

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My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145:21)

Posted in holy spirit, martyn lloyd-jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the Holy Spirit’s work through Common Grace

I listened to a wonderful sermon today. I’ve been enjoying and savoring Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ series called “The Great Biblical Doctrines.” The one from today was called Creation and Common Grace.

It’s only 27 minutes long, because unfortunately the beginning portion has been lost. Nevertheless, you can easily understand the points this great pastor is making from the jumping off point where the sermon does open.

I was struck by the multi-layered aspect of the sermon. I’ve been studying end time prophecies for a long time, of course; and also on Wednesday nights at church we are going through Acts, and have recently studied both Pentecost and Stephen’s sermon.

The sermon puts so many pieces together. The bible is one great, unified work. It’s the revelation God wants us to know about Him and His work among the people and of earth. It is THE TRUTH, not a truth and not many truths. As you study to understand it precept by precept, a jot here, a tittle there, you begin to see a large picture emerge.

This sermon explains the work of the Holy Spirit through His ministry of common grace, and through understanding common grace, you’ll understand how when the restraining ministry of the Spirit ends this will be a dramatic moment as the Tribulation begins. (2 Thessalonians 2:7). You’ll understand how men could be so sinful that without the common grace of the Holy Spirit’s restraint we’d all kill each other immediately. You’ll understand why Jesus said that unless the days of the Tribulation were cut short, no flesh would survive. (Matthew 24:22). You’ll understand that the Holy Spirit has been working on earth since before earth was created. You’ll understand that it’s the Spirit Who sustains all, Jesus does it through the Spirit. (Colossians 1:17).

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7:51).
The Spirit is the conscience that exists in all men. Though Jones’s sermons sadly are not transcribed on the site, someone took the time to publish long excerpts of this particular sermon here.

Jones said of man’s conscience,

You will remember that we are told in the prologue of John’s Gospel about ‘the true light which lighteth every man’ (John 1:9). It does not matter how you translate that verse – ‘the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ says the Authorised Version; ‘the Light that lighteth every man was coming into the world,’ says another. We are not concerned about that. We are interested in the phrase ‘the light which lighteth every man’. And there is such a light. It is a kind of natural light, as we call it, natural understanding. It is the light that is in the conscience and there is that light of conscience in every person born into this world. Now that is one of the operations of the Holy Spirit in what is called common grace.

You will remember that in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 it is written, For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. When the Spirit lifts his retraining hand from man’s conscience, sin will be loosed in such a way that it is today impossible to comprehend. No man will have a conscience. Sin will reach its full expression. The horror of the few believers who come to faith in the Tribulation and live long enough to see these horrors will be permanently scarred by what they see, save the promise that God will not allow them to remember. (Isaiah 65:17).

Dr Lloyd-Jones’ delivered this sermon in 1954, and already back then he could see the decaying effects of a society being given over to its sin. That was 61 years ago, and how much more we see the accelerating effects of societies being given over to sin now. He said,

God, through the Holy Spirit, restrains the foulest manifestations of sin, but there are times when He gives people up to them. Are we, I wonder, living in such an age? Compare the twentieth century with the nineteenth. It is obvious that the moral level is very much lower today. That does not mean that everybody was a Christian in the Victorian era, but it does mean that even people who were not Christians were better men and women, speaking generally, than people now. Why? It was because of the general influence of the Holy Spirit. But it does look as if again, today, God is giving humanity over ‘unto vile affections’ as Paul outlines in Romans 1.

The Holy Spirit’s influence in the world and upon the world is not to be underestimated in light of the more visible qualities of the Messiah Savior and Father God. Please listen to the sermon and its part 2, The Significance of Pentecost, where the Spirit’s ministry dramatically changed when the Church was formed.

EPrata photo

Posted in anointing, discernment, holy spirit, joseph prince, Joyce Meyer, power

We’ve gone from ministering and serving to releasing. Yes, words matter

Release the hounds!

The phrase ‘release the hounds’ comes from fox hunting. Photo source

Release the Kraken!

Release the Kraken! is a catchphrase and image macro series based on a memorable quote uttered by Zeus in the 1981 fantasy adventure film The Clash of the Titans as well as the 2010 3D remake. Despite the dramatic delivery of the line in the reboot, the quote was perceived as unintentionally funny and quickly became a target of image macro jokes on the web.

You’ve heard the word “release” applied to many different cultural contexts, above are two examples. The word ‘release’ has also been used more frequently these days in Christian situations. “Release” is a frequently used word. It is a very bad word in Christianity. I don’t like it.

Why? It isn’t used to say that prisoner Barabbas was released. It isn’t used to say that Paul was released from jail. It isn’t used in the Old Testament way to indicate a release from debt in the Sabbatical Year (Deut 15:1).

The word ‘release’ is used as a substitute for ministering or serving. When we minister or serve, we are under someone or under an authority. When we release, it means we have the power over something or someone. Here are some examples.

Compassion International has edited their mission statement to say, “our mission of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”

What they are saying is that they have the power over poverty and the authority to release from it the people whom they choose, in this case, ‘children’. They are not saying they are serving or ministering to children in poverty. They are saying they have the power over poverty.

False teacher Joseph Prince preaches how to “release the anointing into your situation.”

Prince is slyly saying that we have an anointing but there is a trick to releasing it. Most false teachers strive to tell you some kind of secret or action or trick to releasing it. However, this mysterious anointing isn’t mysterious and it isn’t laying dormant until you learn the secret password to having power over it. The anointing is the Holy Spirit in us, and all Christians have the Spirit. (1 John 2:27, more here).

What Prince is saying is not that we submit to the Spirit, or minister in the Spirit, but that we can obtain a certain kind of power that we wield as we wish, for ourselves, into ourselves.

Word faith false prophetess Joyce Meyer tells us “What words you choose will reveal what you believe and release the power of that belief.”

She is not saying submit to Jesus in faith and belief, she is saying we have the power to choose certain words that have power in and of themselves, and moreover, these words can release certain powers over myself at my behest, timing, and choosing.

And so on. There is a big difference between ministering and releasing.

Do we have power to release anointings, blessings, beliefs, finances, health, cures, or anything else? No.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)

Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10b-11)

To suppose that we have any power on our own is unbiblical.

Now, some might argue that these teachers are not false, that they are saying we are releasing power that God grants us. Not so again. We are His servants … His slaves. Any power in us is from the Holy Spirit. We submit to that power. We serve that power. We minister in that power. God decides when and where His power in us is released, and to what degree. We do not decide when or how to use His power and certainly NOT for our own ends, like to get a bigger house, or a better parking space.

While the false teachers tell you that you have power over things, power enough to release “into your situations”, the truth is actually the opposite. The weaker we are, the stronger we are. God shows His power through weakness. Paul wrote,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Be aware of the word ‘release’ and how it is used. It isn’t always used in unbiblical contexts. But more and more often, it is.

Posted in comfort, encouragement, god's word, holy spirit, providence, providential care

Jesus’ amazing provision part 1 & 2

Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen

This is a story of how Jesus and God and the Spirit worked in my life this week. I attend a Wednesday night prayer meeting/bible study. We read through a book of the bible a verse at a time. There is no curriculum except for the bible. We have a good teacher. Our teacher allows discussion and comment after he introduces us to the verses and explains.

Last week we looked at Romans 12:9-

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good

This week we looked at Romans 12:14-

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

I find both of those verses very difficult to adhere to the way I should.

About three years ago I started praying for the Spirit to ramp up my sanctification and for Him to grow me in spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23), especially love. I had no clue how hard it would be. This is because of my own flesh.

My prayer was more like,

“I think I got this, but just in case I don’t, and I’m only hedging my bets here because really, I’m OK, would you just drip a little note in my heart to help me inch along? Thanks so much.”

And if I was an Old Testament prophet and could hear God reply, it would be like this:

“I will do what you ask. You are not OK. As a matter of fact, you’re a lot worse than you think. Come, I’ll show you. Repeatedly. For three years. You’re welcome.”

And so every morning I’d pray to the Holy Spirit to give me strength to love the way the verse says we should love our enemies. And every day I’d fail. Some days I’d compound my sinful failure with grumbling and hatred in my heart.

And every day I’d come home in tears and sit at my table and repent.

Rinse. Repeat. I felt like my own nation of Israel with all the rebellion, repentance disobedience, and repentance cycles. I learned a lot though.

The bad:

–I really AM worse than I think. Depravity goes so deep I can’t see the bottom of it,
–I disobey God all the time.

The good:

–Every time I repented sincerely, and I did, I felt terrible over my sin, He forgave 70 X 70 times,
–He grew me in all the ways I needed it,
–His grace is one of the most magnificent gifts humankind ever received, therefore my gratitude grew.

So now I have a new opportunity to learn to love the way the bible says to love our enemies. With this new opportunity, maybe I’m a little wiser this time than the last time. Maybe I can love more genuinely and better than I loved before. Since sanctification is ever in-process and won’t be complete until I die, there’s no coasting. This new opportunity began one month after the other situation resolved itself. And so it goes.

Yes I’m a lot worse than I think. But now I know God is a lot better than I think, too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote the above to my teacher after the class. I usually keep thinking about what was taught all night and all the next day and all week. I do try to take the lessons to heart and to participate with the Spirit in sanctification, meditating on His word as Psalm 1:2 says to do. Sometimes I share these follow-up thoughts with my teacher so he can guide me.

As I went on from composing and sending it, I got a bit despondent over my failures. It’s heartbreaking to sin and I abhor it and earnestly strive to please my Savior. Sighing and flipping to the next open tab on my browser, I saw this on Twitter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceedingly great imperfections, and yet be a holy life.” ~Jonathan Edwards

“Hey!” I thought, “that is a exactly what I’ve been worrying about! Let me follow up on that to find what book or sermon it’s taken from.”

The things tweeted online and attributed to a particular person are often wrongly attributed. Validation is the first order. Context is the second.

I found that it was indeed a quote from Edwards and it was taken from a series of 16 sermons preached to his Northhampton congregation titled “Christian Love, As Manifested in the Heart and Life

Wow. Very applicable to our discussion in bible study night and my continuing thoughts today. I downloaded the book. LOL his 16 sermons wound up being 505 pages.

The larger context surrounding the tweeted quote is this from Edwards’ sermon:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Christian, the meaning is not, that the life is a perfect and sinless life. On the contrary, a Christian’s life may be attended with many and exceeding great imperfections, and yet be a holy life, or a truly Christian life. It may be such a life as to clearly, and even necessarily show, that the grace which the individual has, is of the kind which has a tendency to holy practice. His fruits may be such as to be good evidence of the good nature of the tree, and his works such as to show his faith.

And if you ask for still further light, then I would say, whatever your imperfections and failings may be, examine yourself whether you find the following evidences of your grace being of that kind which tends to holy practice.

First: Has your supposed grace such influence, as to render those things in which you have failed of holy practice loathsome grievous and humbling to you? Has it such influence in your mind as to render your past sinful practices hateful in your eyes, and has it led you to mourn before God for them? And does it render those things in your conduct that since your supposed conversion have been contrary to Christian practice, odious in your eyes? And is it the great burden of your life, that your practice is no better? Is it really grievous to you, that you have fallen, or do fall into sin; and are you ready, after the example of holy Job, to abhor yourself for it, and repent in dust and ashes, and like Paul to lament your wretchedness, and pray to be delivered from sin, as you would from a body of death?

Second: Do you carry about with you habitually a dread of sin? Do you not only mourn, and humble yourself for sins that are past, but have you a dread of sin for the future? And do you dread it because in itself it is evil, and so hurtful to your own soul, and offensive to God? Do you dread it as a terrible enemy that you have often suffered by, and feel that it has been a grievous thing to you heretofore? And do you dread it as something that has hurt, and wounded, and stung you, so that you would see it no more? Do you stand on your watch against it, as a man would keep watch against something that he dreads, with such a dread as led Joseph to cry “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis xxxix. 9.

Third: Are you sensible of the beauty and pleasantness of the ways of holy practice? Do you see the beauty of holiness, and the loveliness of the ways of God and Christ?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Genesis 3:15

His comfort and His manifold grace is beyond what words can express. I will never be sinless in practice. Yet by His grace I will have a tendency toward higher holy living, and will have an ever growing hatred of sin. What just happened this morning was a moment of real comfort- a manifestation of this verse

2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Is there any doubt Jesus is an ever-present friend in our lives? That the Spirit is daily growing us and comforting us because He knows us better than we do ourselves? And that the Word is living and active?

Why do people seek superficial miracles when the miracle of how VERY PRESENT He is in our lives is so lastingly precious? How can I not love this Jesus with all my strength and soul and mind, and not seek to follow His ways?

Brother or sister, take comfort in knowing beyond knowing that Jesus is with you every step of the way. His grace IS sufficient.

Above: Depiction of the Holy Spirit dove (ceiling fresco in St. Charles’s Church, Vienna, 1700’s). Public Domain
Posted in Father, grace, holy spirit, irresistible grace, salvation

The Irresistible Grace of the Father and its role in Salvation

I had resisted the pull from the Father toward the cross and His moment of justification. (John 6:44). I was not successful, obviously. But I vividly remember the feeling that I was OK about the concept of God but not OK with the sin and the blood of Jesus. It was just too weird. Of course we know the bible teaches that Jesus’ general call to the world (Matthew 22:14) was not an effectual call for each person upon it. (Romans 8:28). My thoughts and opinions of the matter didn’t figure into His process of salvation for me one iota.

I remember feeling like I was being drawn somewhere, (John 6:65) but kicking and screaming. I used to liken it (mentally) to the science fiction use of the famous “tractor beam.”

The 1960s show Star Trek used the tractor beam a lot, with ship engineer Scotty always yelling they were caught in it and they couldn’t get out no matter how many shields they put up or how much force they turned the engined up to. Star Wars too.

We’re caught in a tractor beam! It’s pulling us in!” ―Han Solo, Star Wars

In “Star Trek,” tractor beams were often used to pull spaceships and other objects closer to the focal point of the light source attached to another ship. The term came from a 1931 science fiction story where the author had used the term “attractor beam”.

I used to call this palpable draw ‘the invisible tractor beam’ and now I know it was the Father drawing me to Jesus. I resisted it forcibly.

I was unsuccessful. Thank God!

After I was saved, I was talking with another Christian and I was laughing about my foolishness to resist the Holy Spirit. I said, “I was dragged kicking and screaming to the cross.” They looked at me disdainfully and said “You were not!” I knew I was. The notion that person had, and so many others have, is that we all come to the cross gently and walking on cotton candy rainbows, placidly and willingly. It is such a false view. We resist salvation every step of the way and it is the Father drawing us that gets us there. (So none may boast- Ephesians 2:9)

We resist the grace of Jesus in salvation, we are in a spiritual war in which we are the enemy combatants, and we never, ever seek after righteousness or holiness, in fact we resist it.

I picture Justification as a courtroom where the guilty criminal is hustled by burly bailiffs to stand before the judge in handcuffs for his own safety, the accused yelling he’s innocent, but made to look at the judge and receive his sentence while he writhes against the process. (Sentence: PARDON!). It is all spiritual warfare and none of it is easy or gentle. But Scripture reveals a truth about a call, a summons that cannot be ignored and it cannot be resisted. It is the unyielding summons from God. It is a subpoena to appear before Him in His court for the purpose of being declared righteous… ~John MacArthur

We’re all dragged in the ‘invisible tractor beam’ toward the point of Light, and we all resist – some more than others but resistance is 100% for each person. However just like the science fiction stories say, “Resistance is futile!” lol. Wouldn’t you like to see a behind the scenes view of the process of our own justification, the angels around us, both holy and unholy, and the Spirit doing His work?

My own experience notwithstanding, as I learned by studying the Doctrines of Grace, His grace is irresistible. That is a very good thing, because if we had the strength to resist Him fully we would be sovereign over God. In addition, He would not be God if His will could be thwarted. And finally, none of us would be saved. (Romans 3:11)

Here are three good essays on the Irresistible Grace of the Savior. I’ve included an excerpt from each.

John Piper: Irresistible Grace
“The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills. “He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand!” (Daniel 4:35). “Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). When God undertakes to fulfill his sovereign purpose, no one can successfully resist him.This is what Paul taught in Romans 9:14-18, which caused his opponent to say, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

“Irresistible Grace – is it biblical?”
“Simply put, the doctrine of irresistible grace refers to the biblical truth that whatever God decrees to happen will inevitably come to pass, even in the salvation of individuals. The Holy Spirit will work in the lives of the elect so that they inevitably will come to faith in Christ. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation those sinners whom He personally calls to Christ (John 6:37-40).”

John Murray: Irresistible Grace
“When we speak of irresistible grace, therefore, it is not to assert that all grace is irresistible, nor is it to deny the numberless respects in which grace is resisted and resisted to the culmination of resistance in everlasting doom.”

The Doctrine of God’s Effectual Call
Paul understood that he was just grabbed by the neck by God and awakened to the glory of Christ and saved and made an Apostle.

Posted in discern, holy spirit, jesus, mind, philip, study, understanding

Do you understand what you are reading?

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot. So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:26-31)

Above, The Monteleone Chariot is an Etruscan chariot dated to ca. 530 BC. It was originally uncovered at Monteleone di Spoleto and is currently part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Though about 300 ancient chariots are known to still exist, only six are reasonably complete, and the Monteleone chariot is the best-preserved. Wikimedia Commons

The above is a tremendous passage, full of meaning and worthy of lengthy study. I’ll mention a few things that caught my eye, but the central lesson at this moment, is this:

The mind versus the heart. Then versus now.

Philip was going along and heard a word from the Spirit. Philip obeyed Him. We have the closed canon now but we obey the Spirit-inspired word.

Here was a eunuch reading the text of the word of God. (Isaiah 53). Philip saw him and was directed to the eunuch by the Spirit. Philip obeyed, more than that, Philip ran. Today we don’t obey, or if we do, we don’t hasten to do so.

When Philip arrived at the chariot, he heard the eunuch reading Isaiah. Philip recognized:
–it was the word of God the eunuch was reading, and
–where within the word of God the eunuch was reading from.

Today, biblical illiteracy abounds so that some people don’t even recognize the word of God when it is spoken, or believe that non-words of God are from Him when they’re not.

Philip asked the Eunuch if he understood what he was reading. This is the key thought in this essay today.

“Do you understand what you are reading?”

Manet, The Reader, 1851.

In today’s world, people don’t ask that. They ask, “How did you feel about what you read?” Or, “How did it make you feel?” It’s considered rude and intolerant to ask a person if they understand. The word for understand in the context used is from Strong’s word concordance, “I am taking in knowledge, come to know, learn; aor: I ascertained, realized.”

People get huffy if they’re asked if they understand. You can just see the reaction, either verbal or mental- “What do you mean, understand? I’m not an idiot. Maybe YOU don’t understand!”

In addition, look at the Eunuch’s reaction. Philip didn’t know the Eunuch. He didn’t work for several years to establish a relationship with the Eunuch before talking of Godly things. He didn’t seek to meet the Eunuch’s felt needs. He didn’t make the Eunuch comfortable. He didn’t give him a donut. He simply asked him if he understood it. The Eunuch’s reaction wasn’t huffy or prideful. The Eunuch responded humbly,

“How can I, unless someone guides me?”

Today’s Christianity is all about experience and feelings. This is thanks to Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, and Joel Osteen, among others in the purpose-driven, seeker sensitive, word/faith movements. Osteen in particular is known for what Osteen calls a ministry of encouragement, but unlike Barnabas’ ministry of encouragement in persevering the Lord through the scriptures, Osteen is simply in the pop psychology biz in making people feel good about themselves through the heart. Osteen doesn’t make people even feel good about Jesus, he strives to make people feel good about themselves, turning their mind away from Him and focusing their feelings on themselves.

The Eunuch provides a good example of a man humbly submitting to the Spirit. He admitted his biblical inexperience and his need for a teacher. He acted on his need by inviting Philip up to the chariot.

Understanding the scriptures always leads to a positive action, either obedience, or salvation, or witnessing (Woman at the Well) or ministry. In this case, we see that the Eunuch was baptized immediately.

Lambert Sustris (1515–1591) The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch
by the Deacon Philip

The bible is replete with verses that tell us to learn with our mind. Our minds are being renewed, (Romans 12:2.) Difficulties in understanding parables such as in Matthew 13:11-13, and symbols, such as in Revelation 17:9, call for a mind with wisdom, says the verse. We need to understand with our mind, before we decide how we feel about it with our heart. And even at that juncture, feelings are often murky and misleading. Yet so many of today’s bible studies involve circumventing the mind and going straight to feelings, based on experience. And you see where that has gotten us.

The next time you’re in a bible study group, ask the question that Philip did, “Do you understand what you are reading?” If you don’t want to go that far, then ask “Do I understand what I am reading?” That’s a good question to ask anyway. Don’t let the discussion revolve around feelings launched by questions such as “How do you feel about that?” with responses given through personal experiences, therefore coming to a conclusion that is what the verse means.(I.E., ‘I experienced it, therefore it is true.’)

Luke 24:45 says that when Jesus appeared to His disciples post-crucifixion, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. He called the men of Emmaus foolish and slow of heart for not understanding.

How you feel about what you read is of no real consequence. Feelings are temporal, ephemeral, and often faulty. Why, even God allows the wicked to rest in a feeling of security. (Job 24:23). The security they feel is unprofitable for them because it is a false feeling. Don’t trust feelings about scripture, but seek to know, to understand, to comprehend. Feelings aren’t bad, but we learn the word of God through our mind. It is study which renews your mind. After that, you gain more and more clarity.

We all have the same guide that the Eunuch had, and in fact that Philip had: the Holy Spirit. He guides us into all truth. (John 16:13). We must study personally and also study under a guide or a teacher or a pastor so the scriptures will become understandable to us. Do you understand what you are reading? Ask the Spirit to deliver wisdom to you, He will do so without reproach. (James 1:5).

Posted in holy spirit, sanctification

Do you look like Jesus?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

Progressive sanctification means we are continually being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Spirit and the sinful, forgiven human are in a partnership. There is responsibility by the forgiven sinner to participate in his sanctification. “Kill the old man” as Paul would say. On the other hand, we cannot accomplish this without the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit. We can’t change ourselves for the good, only He can. But we do bear responsibility. How does this dual union work?

We present our bodies to God for Him to send the Spirit to sanctify. (Romans 6:13; 12:1). We surrender to the Spirit’s work. However we also listen to our consciences, choosing right over wrong. We wash ourselves in the word, actively absorbing His statutes. Like Joseph, we choose to flee immorality. As Philippians 2:2 says, we work out our sanctification in fear and trembling.

In the transformation process of sanctification, we go back to the verse at the top. We are transformed into His likeness. I think of the old married couples who wind up looking like each other. Though Jesus our Groom is not being transformed into the Bride’s likeness, we are being transformed into His.

Anyway, the old married couples looking alike … that is really true. It’s not just perception. Popular Science asked,

American Gothic, Grant Wood, 1930

FYI: Why Do Old Married Couples Look Alike?
Through the years, couples’ wrinkles form in the same places because of a lifetime of shared emotions, he wrote in the journal Motivation and Emotion“.

Why do old couples look alike?
“…[T]he study also offered some answers on why couples may look alike. To start, consider that life experiences can end up being reflected physically. Someone who is happy and smiles more will develop the facial muscles and wrinkles related to smiling. The years of experience of an old couple’s marriage, happy or otherwise, would then be reflected in their faces.

Just think, if two people in a marriage share enough experiences over time, their experience shows on their faces and they end up looking like each other. If that happens on this sinful earth, through mere biology, what will we look like as we continually submit to the Spirit? What power the word has to transform us! What power the Spirit has to metamorphose us into His likeness! How glorious that he adopts us and transforms us into His image.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29)