Posted in back to basics, born again, holy spirit, regeneration, sanctification

Back to Basics: Hello, Holy Spirit

By Elizabeth Prata

I’d mentioned that I had wanted to get back to basics and do some blog entries on the foundational things. The Holy Spirit is near and dear to me. But He is often overlooked in the Trinity, in favor of prayers to Almighty God and to Lord Jesus. But the Holy Spirit has an important ministry we’ll take a look at in this essay. We’ll also see how He is prophesied to minister in the last of the last days and in the Tribulation.

The last days are the entire Church Age. They began at Pentecost and they will end after the Rapture/Tribulation/Millennium Kingdom. So Paul was in the last days. Martin Luther was in the last days. Charles Spurgeon was in the last days. We are in the last days. But I believe we are in the last of the last days, the moments remaining perhaps but few. Well, we are 2000 years closer, anyhow!

However the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been with us since Genesis 1:2 where we’re told “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Don’t you visualize Him as a dove, his wings outstretched and fluttering over the waters almost hugging the world as it was being formed? He is referred to again in Genesis 1:26 when God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Therefore we can conclude the Holy Spirit is God.

He has a personality. In Genesis 1:2 and Job 33:4 we read that He creates life. He inspired the Bible writers. He comforts (Acts 9:31) and He teaches (John 14:26). He imparts the love of God to the saints and joy too. He maintains the church in edification (Acts 9:31). There is so much more I could write about the Spirit, books have been written, but turn to this one,

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23). He is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding! (Isaiah 11:2). And we need Him for that, desperately. Without Him we cannot understand the Word of God.

“But as it is written, no Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

God reveals the things God wants us to know and to have by His Spirit. That is huge. God revealed Himself to us in creation, then He revealed Himself to us in Jesus on earth as His Son, now He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit bringing understanding of the Word, which is Jesus. Kind of circular, you say? Yes, that is the Trinity. They are God but they each are a Person distinct from the other, with different ministries, which are harmonized perfectly and completely in holiness in One. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, I don’t either! It is one of the mysteries of God that He can be three in one…

The Spirit’s ministry in some ways remains the same and some ways changes throughout the course of the covenants. In most cases in the Old Testament, the Spirit “came upon”, He did not indwell. John the Baptist is an exception. John the Baptist is considered an Old Testament prophet because he died before the cross. Nevertheless, John was filled with the Spirit in the womb. Another example of God filling someone with the Spirit prior to the cross is Exodus 31:1-2, filling Bezalel to know how to build the temple. But normally, the Spirit came upon them for the period necessary to fulfill the task set before them (2 Chronicles 24:20, Judges 3:24).

God could and did take away the Spirit. The Spirit came upon Saul as King (1 Sam 10:6) but God removed it when Saul rebelled (1 Sam 16:14). David begged God not to take away the Spirit in his rebellion with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51:11).

When Jesus told the Disciples that He was going away but He would send a Comforter, it was the Spirit He was referring to. The Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them. (Acts 2). However that portion of the Spirit’s ministry changed, He now indwells us permanently. He is the deposit of guarantee of our inheritance and His seal of ownership on us. (Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22). If we confess our sins and believe by faith Jesus is Lord, He sends the Spirit into us and we can never lose Him (John 10:29). This doctrine is called “Once Saved, Always Saved” and I believe in it. If we could lose the Spirit as in OT days then there would be no guarantee, would there? If God sends the Spirit to indwell but takes it away, He breaks His own seal, doesn’t He? No, it cannot be so!

One ministry the Spirit inhabits is the restraining ministry, and it is that one that I’ll finish with. In Genesis 6 we read that God tell us that “My spirit will not strive with man forever…” This is the chapter of the conditions leading up to the worldwide judgment of the Flood. It seems to be telling us that at a certain point, He removes the restraining ministry from man when sin has reached a certain point, or that he removes Him prior to a worldwide judgment. However, He never removes His Spirit from the earth completely because how would we be drawn to the cross, otherwise? The verse goes on to say ‘nevertheness his days are 120 years’.

We know He is the restrainer of lawlessness because Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 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. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

He restrains Lawlessness. The Greek word is defined “lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin”. He restrains sin.

Doesn’t it seem like things are getting worse and worse in terms of morality, crime, greed, apostasy? I’m 60 years old and I look back and think on the formative images I saw on the news during the 1960s and 1970s. I saw the riots, the advance of the homosexual agenda, political upheaval, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war. Women’s rights and abortion and Planned Parenthood and the Pill came in too. When I saw the Democratic National Convention riots, I thought the world was coming to an end, literally. It seemed to my young eyes and heart that everything was crashing down. It looks to me now from the vantage point of half a century on earth, that each new generation was exponentially worse than the previous one, and that lawlessness is compounding.

Romans 1 describes a progression of sin and when it saturates a society enough it seems that God lifts His hand, because we read several times in Romans 1 “God gave them over.” When enough people have been given over in a society, sin reigns more and more and the society runs rampant with sin.

I have no clue if He is lifting His hand fast or slow. I do not know at what rate the restraint is being removed. But my opinion is that the sudden change in society in the 1960s, and with the lurch forward into sin in America this past year, is evidence that He had lifted it some, because such a flood of lawlessness came in all at once. In the last year, the cravenness of apostasy and false doctrine in the church is another indicator to me that His hand is going up, faster and faster now.

I think the worldwide judgment is very close, and one of the reasons I believe so is that the lawlessness (sin) has increased to such a degree, and that is because the Restrainer is restraining less and less until the moment in 2 Thessalonians He does not restrain at all. The Thessalonians verse says the antichrist will not be revealed until the Restrainer is removed, and that is in the middle of the Tribulation, and what a time that will be! No time in human history will be worse, because sin will be given free reign to do its worst.

You can avoid being on earth, and be purified and refreshed if you appeal to Jesus in repentance for sins and trusting in Him. It is the Spirit that brought you here to read this, He draws one and all to the cross, and then convicts you of your sins. Read Galatians 3:1-5, and this commentary says of it, “The two are linked: the cross opens the door for the Spirit, and the experience of the Spirit is the result of faith in the message of the cross of Christ.” Kind of circular you say? That’s the Trinity, of which the Spirit is a part!

If you are an unbeliever, appeal to Jesus for your sins to be forgiven. This is repentance. You’re sorry for your wrong things you do and you understand that they are crimes against Jesus. He will forgive you if you are sincere, and then He will send the Spirit to come inside you and help you resist more sinning. This is called regeneration, literally being born again as a new creation.

You can never escape sinning but when you do (and we all do, Christians too) appeal to the Spirit for help resisting them and repent to Jesus for them. We repent after we are saved, too. As you submit more deeply to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, though, you will find that you want to sin less and less. The Spirit is making you a new creation, in His likeness and in holiness. This is sanctification.

Posted in glorification, sanctification

In through the door of justification, out the door of glorification. What’s in between?

By Elizabeth Prata

We enter the door to the Kingdom over the threshold of “Justification.” Justification is-

“…to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Continue reading “In through the door of justification, out the door of glorification. What’s in between?”

Posted in bible, reading, sanctification

Meditating on God’s Word

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD. (Psalm 104:34)

Thomas Brooks offers an excellent description of Biblical meditation…

Remember that it is not hasty reading—but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, which makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey (cp Ps 19:10-note; Ps 119:103-note)—but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most, but he who meditates most—who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

I’ve read oftentimes that meditating on God’s word is similar to chewing on cud. Not having an agricultural background, I researched exactly how cows digest their nutrients when they graze grass.

What is cud, and why do cattle chew it?

Have you ever noticed that when you see a cow it always seems to be chewing something? The reason is because cows must chew their food twice in order to digest it properly. Cows spend nearly eight hours out of every day chewing their cud. This plus normal chewing of food can total upwards of 40,000 jaw movements per day. 

Cattle are ruminant animals, this mean their stomach contains four compartments:
1. Rumen
2. Reticulum
3. Omasum
4. Abomasum 

Cows have one stomach with four different compartments. 

When a cow first takes a bite, it chews just enough to moisten the food. Once swallowed, the food goes into the first section, the rumen, where it mixes with other acidic digestive liquids and is softened. The softened food is called cud, small balls of food. 

Next, the rumen muscles send the cud back up to the cow’s mouth, where it is re-chewed and swallowed again, this time going to the Omasum section of stomach in order to squeeze out all of the moisture. 

Finally, the food enters the last part, Abomasum of the stomach where it mixes with digestive juices and makes its way to the intestine to be completely digested.

To “chew” on the Bible, we must first read it. I’m always surprised at the number of professing Christians who simply don’t directly read the Good Book. Secondly, when I meditate on God’s word, this is what I tend to do. It may not work like this for you but I find it’s easier to ask questions.

Why is this word here? What does it mean in the original language? What kind of writing is this, Law, Narrative, Poetry, Prophecy? What is the symbolism Agricultural? Cultural? Symbolical? Eschatological? An Idiom?

For example, we read many times in the Bible that they will be “going in and coming out”. (Psalm 121:8, Ezekiel 37:28). Barnes Notes (as well as other commenters) tell us that this is a common Hebrew expression meaning

The Lord shall preserve thou going out and thy coming in – Preserve thee in going out and coming in; in going from thy dwelling, and returning to it; in going from home and coming back; that is, everywhere, and at all times.

Who is the audience here? What do the parallel verses say? What does it make me think of? How does this inform me of God’s attributes?

Like that.

You may write some thoughts in a journal. You may want to discuss the verse or passage or chapter in your small group, or one-on-one with a friend or elder. However you meditate, as the saying goes, just do it.

Some people find that they are distracted during the day and forget the morning’s devotion or the day’s quiet time quickly. Here is where the very present help in the Holy Spirit aids us. He brings these things to mind, He keeps our mind focused on God. He reveals the attributes of Jesus. If you pray and ask for wisdom from reading and learning the verses, He will give it. One of His ministries is to draw us closer to the Lord. We do this through His word. (Ephesians 2:18, 1 John 3:24)

The Spirit sanctifies us through His word. When we meditate upon it, we aid the sanctification process. Ask the Spirit to apply the word you’re meditating upon to your heart and mind’s sanctification to the good of your soul. (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:26, Psalm 119:9-12, James 1:21)

He Guides into all truth. When we meditate upon the Word, the Spirit uses that clay of the Word as a Potter uses the lump of clay to form it into a new creation.

When I meditate upon the Word I find it helpful to mention it during the day, even at work. I might say, “I’m reading Genesis 40 and this morning I read about Potiphar’s wife. Where it says in Genesis 39:12 that Joseph fled the wife and left his coat behind…Man, Joseph and his coats, two times his coats were used against him.” This does several things. It gets the Word into public for any hearers nearby. It helps me process what I’ve read by talking about it out loud. And it helps wash the person you’re talking to when you use the verse, and last, they might have an insight to share back. I like sanctifying conversations.

However you meditate, I encourage you to do it. The process enlarges our heart, solidifies biblical world views in us, sanctifies us, and keeps our focus on Jesus.

“Cud” you do it? 😉

Posted in glorification, new earth, new heaven, sanctification, sin

Those distressing sin-battles

Sin is a torture. There is no avoiding it. There is no getting away from it. I hate the sin in me, and I hate that the older I grow in Christ, the sadder and more disappointed about my sin I become. Why? The more I’m sanctified the more sin I see. The more sin I see the more I realize that, blessedly, Jesus is the only One who can catch me up. He will glorify me on His Day. The most I can do is run the race. Persevere. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

I love the bible. My Savior, who I really love, sent His Spirit to inspire an entire book which reveals God to us. I love that. It encourages us with words of life. In this book are common men, men and women who were living lives and worshiping or not worshiping, or in Apostle Saul/Paul’s case, killing. One day, Jesus broke the veil and converted Paul. Hallelujah!

I can’t wait until our soul and our flesh are both perfectly pure!

However, even with a direct confrontation with a glorified risen Jesus, and even with the Spirit as fully on Paul as He was, Paul still did what he didn’t want to and didn’t do what he wanted. That old flesh.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:15-20)

In other words, Paul struggled. The flesh certainly has a grip on us, doesn’t it? I’m grateful again that the people who are written down in the book are regular people, saints of grace, but not saintly. At least I can relate to the passage there in Romans.

When Jesus came, and some disciples told John the Baptist that people were going over to Jesus, John replied.

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

O, Lord, please increase the Spirit in me! Please, more each day. Yes, I know that’s sanctification, but it is all right to long for the glorification, is it not? When there be no more sin in me, when I can worship Jesus properly? O happy day. I know I am not the only one to feel this way.

There is then…there is then sort of an ongoing sadness in the Christian life, isn’t there? And the longer you’re a Christian, the sadder you are over your sin. And what makes you sadder than you used to be is you keep assuming that you ought to grow out of this. There’s a place in life for fun and there’s a place in life for joy. And the Lord wants us to rejoice, all of that. But there’s always that nagging reality in the life of a true Christian, that deep-felt grief and sorrow over sin until it is repentant of. ~John MacArthur, The Only Way to Happiness is to Mourn Over Sin

There is the joy that we know we don’t have to increase by ourselves. We can’t. We have joy in knowing the Holy Spirit in us is the One who will increase us to Christ-Likeness.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

He is a glorious, wonderful Savior to save us from wallowing for an eternity in our sins. What a blessed relief that is coming, final and eternal release from the sinful flesh.

New Heavens and a New Earth

17“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
18But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.
(Isaiah 65:17-20)

What a Creator. We brought sin into the world, but He will finally banish it. No more distressing flesh-battles…only peace- and purity.

Posted in confess, encouragement, forgiveness, sanctification, sins

Oliver Cromwell, "Warts and all"

BBC History describes Oliver Cromwell as:

an English soldier and statesman who helped make England a republic and then ruled as lord protector from 1653 to 1658. After overthrowing Charles I and then successfully defending the republic from his son Charles II, Lord Protector Cromwell reorganised the national church, established Puritanism, readmitted Jews into Britain and presided over a certain degree of religious tolerance. Abroad, he ended the war with Portugal (1653) and Holland (1654) and allied with France against Spain, defeating the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunes (1658). Cromwell died on 3 September 1658 in London.

Such an august person would naturally sit for a portrait, and in the Puritan days, Flemish painter Peter Lely was the go-to court painter. Wikipedia says,

Lely was of Dutch origin, whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court. … His talent ensured that his career was not interrupted by Charles’s execution, and he served Oliver Cromwell, whom he painted …

In the days before photography and social media, controlling one’s personal image was easy to do, and common. Leaders commanded idealized portraits, paintings, or statues, as opposed to realistic depictions. As this blogger opined about idealized portraiture,

It goes back as long as portraiture itself, of course; early classical portraits of emperors and such tended to cycle through emphasis on either a rugged, realistic appearance (as would befit a warrior and statesman) or an angelic, unblemished appearance (as would befit a god). In the same way, later emperors (such as Constantine) saw value in associating themselves in the public eye with prior, well-regarded emperors.

In modern times, photographic airbrushing was common as well. See the official photograph of Mikhail Gorbachev, last Secretary General of the old Communist Party of the USSR (it was to Gorbachev that President Reagan urged, “Tear down this wall!”)

Where is Mr Gorbachev’s birthmark?

Oliver Cromwell was a not too attractive man whose ruddy complexion and wrinkles was studded with pimples and warts. Cromwell commissioned Peter Lely for the official portrait. Lely sketched Cromwell and then presented the proofs for perusal. There were no warts.

For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20)

In one of those 100-years-later (mis)quotes, Horace Walpole allegedly captured Cromwell’s reaction,

“Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me; otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.”—Anecdotes of Painting in England (1763) by Horace Walpole>

It seems that the quote is likely somewhat accurate, since the final portrait did indeed to have been controversially painted in realistic and not idealistic fashion. Whatever Cromwell actually said, it is generally accepted that this incident is where the phrase, “warts and all” comes from.

I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

We’re all vain to some degree. We all want to put forward ‘our best face’ as it were. Just think of Facebook. We all put out our best sayings and our most cordial attitudes but our warts still show.

He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You’ (John 21:17). Peter did not conclude from Jesus’ knowledge of his heart that he knew all things; rather he concluded from the omniscience of Jesus that he knew his heart.
See, that’s the thing. There is no point in hiding our warts. Cromwell’s were on the outside but ours are on the inside. It makes no difference to Jesus, He sees all of them. Nothing is hidden from Christ. He knows all our sins, all our flaws, all our foibles, all our proclivities. Our Father loves His children anyway. That is really the miracle. Our Holy Savior loves His sinful children.

There is no point in hiding from Him. There is no point to airbrushing away our flaws. We really are like little children when we fail to go to the throne and confess our sins. It’s like we’re toddlers who scurry to the bed and pull the covers up to hide from mom, thinking if we can’t see mom, then mom can’t see us.

Source, CC

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

Since He sees us as we are, and He has already forgiven us, it glorifies Him to approach Him and confess our sins. This is our part in participating in our sanctification, where He is conforming us to His likeness.

Live humbly before Jesus, with no pride or vanity. Live before Him warts and all. I believe we will find in the end, that the more we do this, the more beautiful our face will become, because it will be like His.


Further Reading:

John Piper: Nothing is Hidden from Christ

GraceGems, Arthur Pink: “Nothing Is Hidden

Posted in false teachers, sanctification, sheep's clothing, wolves

Has so-and-so false teacher always been false, or did it just start now?


A reader asked if the seeds of apostasy were always in Beth Moore or if they are just emerging now.

The answer is both.

There are only two states for man: we are either ‘in Adam’ (sin) or we are ‘in Christ’ (righteous). (1 Corinthians 15:22). If a teacher is in Christ, they will always grow more sanctified. Sanctification ALWAYS grows in an increasing, upward direction. Sure, sometimes it is slower than others, and for a season a teacher might teach something false, but Spirit will never allow a sanctified teacher to remain in heresy or falsity. The Spirit is in us to testify of Christ, not satan. (John 15:26). The Spirit will cause a sanctified teacher eventually to see his or her error and repent of it, and then continue growing.

There are false teachers who are in sheep’s clothing. (Matthew 7:15). Since those ‘in Adam’ always grow too, but grow in their sin, eventually they outgrow those sheep’s clothes and their falseness becomes apparent. At some point they are unable to keep up the charade. Moore has outgrown her sheep clothes.

But she has always been false.

It’s a business chart but it shows clearly what I’m talking about
in the Christian, sanctified life.
Wolves might walk for a while with us, but they outgrow their ability to hide

Posted in discernment, growth, sanctification

Looking backward to mark forward progress

After Jesus justifies us, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us to help us resist unholy desires, and to grow us in Christ-likeness. He helps us resist the “old man” (Romans 6:6) and creates in us a “new man.” (Ephesians 4:24). This process is called progressive sanctification.

Progressive sanctification

Indeed, the more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin that remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it….Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness.” -John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied

Even as the old man fades away, the new man is budding. EPrata photo

Sanctification is hard to see, and it is easy to see. It is hard to detect because the Spirit’s work is invisible. Like the minute progress of a blade of grass, you know it is growing but you can’t see the actual growth as it occurs. All you know is that one day you drive down your driveway and you notice the grass and you say, “Gee, I should mow the lawn.”

The growth of trees and plants takes place so slowly that it is not easily seen. Daily we notice little change. But, in course of time, we see that a great change has taken place. So it is with grace. Sanctification is a progressive, lifelong work (Prov 4:18). It is an amazing work of God’s grace and it is a work to be prayed for (Rom 8:27).” ~John Owen, The Holy Spirit

On the other hand, the process of sanctification in a person is easy to see because His work bears fruit.

Does your life bear fruit? Evidence of sanctification? EPrata

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).

I got a glimpse of it when I was looking up my account. I was searching for a book I’d ordered earlier in the year whose name I couldn’t remember. Yes, that is evidence of aging, not sanctification! If I don’t write it down it’s gone forever, seems like. Anyway, then I saw that I could go back and review my orders year by year. Curious, I went backwards as far as my account went, for me that was from 2013 back to 1997. First of all, I was startled to see evidence that I’d been an Amazon customer for 17 years! Secondly, it is very interesting to look backwards at the journey I was making, unknown at the time, toward Christ. Here was graphic proof, in the form of dozens of book covers…

I was justified and saved by His grace in January 2004. (Well really late Dec 2003 but for ease of  chronicling purposes, say beginning of 2004).

In 1997, ’98, ’99 most of my purchases were of music. Mostly blues. Some Christmas presents were mixed in, and there were sprinkled in purchases my husband was making on my account also. If I bought a book, it was either politics, culture, or crafts. I was not interested in spiritual things, at least, not enough to buy and read a book about it.

In 2000, ’01, and ’02 suddenly my purchases were all on the topic of spirituality. I’d gotten got very spiritual. I was at first buying stuff about the Native American religions and bought a lot of books on that topic. Music too. Then the book-buys gravitated to nature/earth religions like shamanism and animal knowledge etc and the merchandise I was buying reflected that interest. Female power and goddesses and women wisdom. Then came the meditation and Buddhism phase. Lots of spirituality that was “inner” and Gnostic. Plus, candles. Oy.

In 2003 my purchases abruptly reflected a drastic turn for the dark side. I was consumed with books on demons and vampires and seamy mixtures of the two. Kundalini and serpent power and tantra and worse. It was stunning to see the rapid turn that my allegedly lighthearted former spiritual interests took into the hellish side. Of course, all spirituality that does not stem from Jesus IS from the dark side, but I didn’t know that at the time. And it shows me it does not take long for satan to draw a person experimenting with “spirituality” ever deeper into bondage and away from the Light. I was sinking fast.

I believe 2003’s purchases were graphically reflective of the spiritual warfare going on in me and all around me.

In January 2004 I was saved! Praise God in the highest for His grace. My book purchases started lightening up. I was still interested in unholy angels for a while, but from a more sanctified perspective. “Who are they? How did they get that way? Can they be saved?” Like that. There was a short spate of interest in modern-day prophets and books from false teacher C Peter Wagner, and ‘creating your own reality’, personal-power kind of books. Even as a newbie to the faith I rapidly discerned that books like those were not profitable. Thank you Holy Spirit for your discerning wisdom you impart! Then I was interested in holy angels, church life, and then abruptly, since 2005, my purchases became heavily theological- and centered on Christ.

Even then I can see the progression from light theology to deep theology. From “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” and “How to be an Expository Listener” to books about church history, to the Puritans such as Thomas Manton, “Counterfeit Miracles” by BB Warfield, and finally to this day, Jerry Bridges books and a LOT of books by modern day theologian John MacArthur. I think his “Because The Time is Near” is my all-time favorite.

For your New Year resolution, make a determination to look out with refreshed eyes from His inner position of sanctification through your life, your living space, your stuff. Sort and ruthlessly remove anything that could be a stumbling block. Because, they’re there.

Every once in a while I go around the house and remove things which are not profitable, and this includes books. All the books I mentioned above I have long since thrown into the garbage. I review my bookshelf occasionally not only to refresh me as to what is there (and so I’ll know what I can give away if someone mentions an author) but to remove anything that my increased sanctification shows is not edifying.

Progressive Sanctification

True believers grow. When God begins a true work of salvation in a person, He finishes and perfects that work. Paul expressed that assurance when he wrote in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If you are a true Christian, you are going to be growing-and that means you are going to be more and more like Christ. Life produces itself. If you’re alive you are going to grow, there’s no other way. You’ll improve. You’ll increase. The Spirit will move you from one level of glory to the next. So examine your life. Do you see spiritual growth? Do you see the decreasing frequency of sin? Is there an increasing pattern of righteousness and devotion to God?” ~John MacArthur

Sanctification is a process by which the Spirit opens your eyes and conforms your self to Jesus. The Spirit’s ministry is to point to Him, and away from ourselves and unholy things. Resolve to look with refreshed eyes at your wants and needs, but also your clothes, books, art hanging on the wall, knick-knacks, etc. If you are saved, you have grown. Look to see how much. So then you can praise the Spirit and thank the Christ and submit to the father and do it all over again. Pick up your cross daily, and, my brethren, grow by His Spirit!

Photo by EPrata

The soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory; rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrancy; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun. There was no part of creature holiness, that I had so great a sense of its loveliness, as humility, brokenness of heart and poverty of spirit; and there was nothing that I so earnestly longed for. My heart panted after this – to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.” ~Jonathan Edwards

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)

Posted in growth, jesus, sanctification

It’s the weekend and I’m filling my moat with water and alligators. And other thoughts on sanctification

One of the kindergarten teachers plays a welcome song every morning and on Fridays it is the Friday Song with the refrain of “It’s Friday! It’s Friday! We love it!” The kids dance. It’s really cute.

I do believe there is nothing like the feeling of driving home on Friday after a ___________ workweek. Insert your own descriptor.

1. a stressful work week
2. a fruitful work week
3. a productive work week
4. a tiring work week.
5. A dull work week.

This week I choose work week descriptor… #1 and #2!

When I get home on Fridays I put the car in the garage. It’s my signal of the boundaries between home and work being set. If I had a moat, at this time I’d be filling it with water and alligators.

I gather my things from the back seat of the car and go in. This is a momentous occasion. Crossing the threshold of my home

photo credit: Stewf via photopin cc

from the outside on a Friday night is a tremendous feeling of relief and release. As I step inside, there actually should be a mariachi band playing.

I close the door and lock it. The ‘tick’ the lock makes cements the feeling that I have now separated from the world.

I’m IN!!

I make sure to have cleaned up the apartment Thursday evening or Friday morning so that when I come in the place looks orderly and nothing stands out as needing attention or to be done. I close the windows, fire up the AC, and unpack. I change into comfy clothes, currently a stretched white Hanes tee shirt and very soft blue stretch pants. The world is now dead to me.

I fire up the laptop and pour a chilled green tea, warm up piece of pita bread to enjoy dipped in hummus.

Weekend has begun.

The above was what I posted tonight on my secular blog. But the work week also presented some opportunities to be a good witness for Christ- or not. In this one short work-week, we had a death, a funeral, training for a new task we’ll be performing, a job loss in our ever-shrinking staff numbers, and an influx of visitors to our Grandparents Breakfast. Phew.

When these things happen, they cause emotions to run at high gear, everyone has an opinion, it’s 90+ degrees out, and I haven’t even added to these the stresses people are feeling in their home lives.

Phew again.

A natural inclination for people, especially me, is to talk and talk and gossip and gossip and to have an opinion about what’s happening. I say this is ‘natural’ because events affect us and we have feelings about them. And again it is natural to talk and hash it all over because the flesh wants to do what is wrong and not what is right.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)

At a time when emotions are running high, it’s tempting to want to weigh in, especially if the topics are what everyone is talking about. But this is the exact time to stop and take to heart the warnings so often given:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
(Proverbs 18:21)

Was I a poor witness and stirred up strife and anger with my tongue? Was I a good witness and was calm and gentle and a help to people in building them up? I don’t know the answer to that fully. The Lord knows.

I know I failed in some areas this week. Did I do better this week than last week? Probably. Did I do better than I would have done last year? Definitely.

And that is sanctification. Day by day I feel the struggle, the ups and downs and victories in Christ and sins of the flesh. But the long term back-look is good. Sanctification may be slow, it may not be visible day by day, but it’s there. If you look back across your life over the year, years, decades, you should definitely see growth. puts it this way:

photo credit: marrngtn (Manuel) via
photopin cc

Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Christ. This conforming to Christ involves the work of the person, but it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a godly character and life in the person who has already been justified (Phil. 2:13). Sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not the work of God alone. The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly (Gal. 5:22-23). Significantly, sanctification has no bearing on justification. That is, even if we don’t live a perfect life, we are still justified.

Where justification is a legal declaration that is instantaneous, sanctification is a process. Where justification comes from outside of us, from God, sanctification comes from God within us by the work of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Bible. In other words, we contribute to sanctification through our efforts. In contrast, we do not contribute to our justification through our efforts.

It’s a process. As with any process, there are bumps and progress, hesitations, fallbacks, and strides.

Sanctification isn’t easy—it takes faithfulness, hard work, and self-discipline. And even then, it’s not purely a function of your will, but the work of the Holy Spirit in you. It’s not manufactured overnight. I can tell you that faithful Bible study, prayer, and self-discipline play a vital role in your sanctification. As we’ve seen over the last several weeks, we can’t manufacture spiritual growth on our own, but we can certainly hinder it through unchecked sin and spiritual laziness.”

photo credit: Christaface via photopin cc

It is impossible to detect how much of our growth is God (likely MOST) and how much we of what we do contributes to it, but the point is, growth is a must for the Christian. Picture the pencil lines on a doorway of measuring a child’s height over his lifetime. They should be going up.

So I’m sitting here at the end of a workweek behind my moat with floating alligators, privately assessing my behavior during the week. How did I do? Well, my goal this week was to honor Christ in all I said and did, and to be a model to the younger employees. Of course I failed. Of course I repented. Of course He forgave me. Of course I try again. Of course it is He who enables me to grow. This is all normal. I’m glad I’m a normal Christian and not a radical Christian.

The only problem comes if, when looking back over weeks of years, I don’t see growth. If there is no growth and no fruit, then I am not being sanctified. That could mean two things. One is that it could mean I’m justified but lazy:

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)

Gill’s Exposition: I know thy works … Which were far from being perfect, and not so good as those of the former church: that thou art neither cold nor hot; she was not “cold”, or without spiritual life, at least in many of her members, as all men by nature are, and carnal professors be; she was alive, but not lively: nor was she wholly without spiritual affections and love; to God, and Christ, to his people, ways, truths, and ordinances; she had love, but the fervency of it was abated. … so uses this phrase [lukewarm] to show his detestation of lukewarmness, and that it is better to be ignorant, and not a professor of religion, than to be a vain and carnal one; Christ desires not simply that she might be cold, but that she might be sensible of her need of spiritual heat and fervency.

Or a lack of growth could mean that I’m not justified at all.

“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1b-2).

Gill’s exposition again:but art dead”; for, the most part, or greater part of the members of these churches, are dead in trespasses and sins; and as for the rest, they are very dead and lifeless in their frames, in the exercise of grace, and in the discharge of duties; and under great spiritual declensions and decays

Did I exercise His grace this week? I think so. All in all it was a good week, despite my failings and despite my successes, because ultimately God brings glory to Himself no matter what I do. He grows me in His likeness, despite my own fleshly, stumbling self. And next week is another week to do it all over again.

Further reading:

Counterfeit Sanctification

How do you measure up?

Posted in potter, sanctification

Of Pottery and Christian living, honor and beauty

When I visited Italy with a friend, we went to Deruta, a town near Perugia. It is a pottery town, where the major ‘majolica’ comes from. Somehow we ended up at the 13th oldest family run business in the world: U. Grazia Maioliche.

Ubaldo Grazia was on hand and we were personally escorted by him around the facility. When I say ‘facility’ picture a 16th century Umbrian rambling farmhouse. However the age of the place can’t hide the fact that they make high-end pottery in both traditional and cutting edge designs and the world’s top importers clamor for Grazia maiolica. Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany import from Grazia, who is one of the better ceramics producers.

We were allowed to take photos, so here are some that I took and others are from the Grazia website.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:6)

The LORD formed Adam from the dust of the ground and His breath (Genesis 2:7). To heal the blind man, Jesus “spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud.” (John 9:6)

He is sovereign and He makes us as He wills. Can the clay speak back to the Potter? No, we are depraved, unfit for any use!

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6).

Yet our Father, who is holy, makes us useful for His glory. He cleans us. Then He uses us. This is a privilege. He doesn’t need to use us, as He is perfectly self-sufficient. But He does use us and what an honor it is.

Grazia workers hand painting the vessels

We are cleaned inside when we become born-again. And as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12) we become brighter on the outside too. Slowly the Potter’s hand adorns us with righteousness as the Spirit’s sanctification process saturates us even more each day.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

While here on earth, we can see the progression of a person’s sanctification, dimly. We see the transformation of their lives in their speech, and their acts, and in their countenance. They shine.

But imagine what shining countenances and trophies of grace we will see in each other when we are fully glorified! We will see Him as He is.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Like the unfinished pottery above, the Potter’s hand is always at work upon us. The dish is pretty, its design is nice and the color is sweet. However, not until we get to heaven will we see the full effect of His work upon the formerly shapeless lump which He formed, and made, and decided for which use, and then adorned with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8-10).

Jesus’s life, death and resurrection; the Spirit’s ministrations, the Father’s creation of us work together to make a vessel which has been made holy and beautiful. In all eternity, I will never comprehend the Goodness of a Savior who redeems polluted lumps of clay to His very bosom, and then spends our lifetimes making us beautiful.

Someday the work will be complete, and we shall see Him, and we shall be like Him…

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

We will adorn His table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Matthew 22:2; Revelation 19:9). All praise the Lamb who was slain!

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12)

Thank you, Jesus. Just…thank you.