Life Through the Spirit: An Introduction

Do you ever think of the Holy Spirit as Someone you know a lot about but not Someone you really know personally? It’s like we know Him (cognitively) but don’t know Him (relationally).

The Holy Spirit rarely shows up in the O.T. and frankly rarely in the Gospels. Then all of a sudden, the church blows up in Acts 2, and the Holy Spirit is everywhere. In fact, about 50x in the book of Acts, there are references to the Holy Spirit.

Who is this Holy Spirit? What was He up to? And what is He up to now?

In the church today, you could say that most people fall into one of two categories of extreme.

  1. Some are all about experiencing the Spirit apart from the Word. They are clueless to what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and are focused on listening to voices in their hearts, seeking signs from God in the heavens, waiting for God to audibly speak to them, etc. They fear the objective words because they think it some way restrains the Spirit’s movement.
  2. Some are all about understanding the Spirit in the Bible but don’t ever personally experience His presence or ministry. They know all the theological points, can explain most everything about the Holy Spirit biblically, but cannot identify the times in the life where the Spirit is leading them or filling them. They fear the experiences because it can be too subjective.

Either extreme is filled with good and godly men and women, but neither extreme is a healthy place to reside.

I contend that our Creator and His Word want us to have balance between the two. His desire would be that, just as we worship in spirit and truth, that the Holy Spirit would be a doctrinal and experiential pursuit.

In the weeks to come (on Wednesdays), we will attempt to bring balance to this issue – to educate ourselves about the ministries of the Holy Spirit and to demonstrate how we can experience the Holy Spirit in our lives.

By my count, there are 10 active ministries of the Holy Spirit, and we will survey all of them in the next few months: convicting, drawing, sealing, baptizing, indwelling, comforting, filling, illuminating, leading, and sanctifying.

Next Wednesday, the journey begins.

Selected Quotes from My Favorite Non-Biblical Work (J.C. Ryle’s “Holiness”)

See the source imageOn the Spiritual Disciplines – “I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.”

On Preparing for Heaven – “Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for heaven while we are on earth…we must be saints before we die, if we are to be saints afterwards in glory.”

On the Evidence of Practical Holiness – “True holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known, and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savor will be perceived. It is a precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid.”

On Triviality – “Nothing so hardens the heart of a man as a barren familiarity with sacred things.”

On the Process of Becoming Holy – “And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but,” and “howbeit,” and “notwithstanding,” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross – the light will never shine without some clouds.”

On the Definition of Sin – “A sin consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God…The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God’s revealed will and character constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God’s sight.”

 

The Unashamed Boldness of Daniel

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you possess a large appetite. (Proverbs 23:1-2)

Is there a better example of this than Daniel? After being taken into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire, Daniel was immediately tested. Nebuchadnezzar attempted to brainwash him by putting him through a Babylonian education, gave him a Babylonian name that meant “May Bel protect” and then given food and wine from the king’s table.

Daniel accepted the first two but rejected the last. Why? There was no prohibition in God’s Law for having your name changed or the type of education you received. However, there were rules about what a Jew could eat or drink. There were 2 reasons he chose not to eat or drink from the king’s table.

First, Babylonian food was not clean. There wasn’t any distinction in Babylon between clean and unclean. Leviticus 11-17 was never considered the Babylonians were organizing their menu.

Second, eating at the king’s table would align you with the gods of the hosts. To accept the king’s provisions might show allegiance of friendship towards him and his gods. If you accepted the king’s provisions, you might show your allegiance toward him or his gods.

Daniel refused these delicacies. This is the faith of a young man away from home, with no mother or father looking at what he is going to do, and he was faced with the decision to make the king happy by obeying him. The uncompromising nature of Daniel stood strong. There was an unashamed boldness that surrounded Daniel.

As believers, we too must have unashamed boldness in defending the truth. Jeremiah talks about being a valiant for the truth (Jeremiah 9:3). Ezekiel tells his people to set their face like flint; flint is hard and difficult to move (Ezekiel 3:9).

Have you recently compromised your faith? Do you regret staying silent when someone asked you about your faith?

Take heart, Christian, Daniel’s example of unashamed boldness can be your own example.

John Owen, On Why We Must Mortify Sin

See the source image“We must be exercising mortification every day, and in every duty. Sin will not die, unless it be constantly weakened. Spare it, and it will heal its wounds, and recover its strength. We must continually watch against the operations of this principle of sin: in our duties, in our calling, in conversation, in retirement, in our straits, in our enjoyments, and in all that we do. If we are negligent on any occasion, we shall suffer by it; every mistake, every neglect is perilous.” (Prophetic Untimeliness)

Just In Case You Missed It: November 3-9, 2019

36 Purposes of God in Our Suffering” by Joni Eareckson Tada (Counsneling One Another). This is the blog of Paul Tautges, but the material is Joni’s.

Mohler: ‘I Will Accept Nomination’ as SBC President” by Diana Chandler (Baptist Press). In my opinion, this will be an upgrade from their current President.

Thanking God for My 11th Pastoral Anniversary” by H.C. Charles, Jr. One of my modern heroes celebrating on this day what God is doing in Jacksonville, FL at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Visualize the Entire World’s Wealth Inequality” (HowMuch.net). With this infographic, you will see the average wealth per adult.

Join a Local Church

There is not a verse in Scripture that commands Christians to join the church. There is not a “Thou shalt apply for church membership” verse. While there is no church membership proof text, there are a number of biblical reasons why it is a healthy choice to make and why we believe that the Bible assumes that Christians will and should join a local church.

First, the early church has lists of people who were part of the church. When people were saved and baptized, they were added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). I Timothy 5 refers to a list of widows who were part of the church. Without formal church membership, none of this could have been done.

Also, when a Christian would move to another city, it was common practice for their former church to write a letter of commendation to the church in the other city – for the purposed of affirming their candidacy for membership (Acts 18:27; II Corinthians 3:1-2).

Just because formal church membership is not mentioned in the N.T. doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

Second, church membership supports the body metaphor for the church. The word “member” occurs 9x in I Corinthians 12. Paul never talks about the body as a unity of Christians or disciples, but a group of members. I Corinthians 12 teaches us that each of us have spiritual gifts as members of a body. In other words, we each have our functions towards one another.

Third, church membership allows the church leaders to know exactly who they are responsible for (Hebrews 13:17). This verse tells us to submit to our leaders. Is the author saying church leaders everywhere in every church? No! He is referring to a specific church – a local church.

You see, elders shepherd the church (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2-3). Elders labor among the church (I Thessalonians 5:12). Elders have charge over the church (I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 5:17).

And, elders need followers. They must know who those followers are. It can’t just be anyone who comes – that would be near to impossible.

When you join the church, you are formally asking the leaders of this church to shepherd you. Without church membership, I am not sure what mechanism that exists in the church would communicate to the elders that you are willing to submit to them – it can’t just be giving a tithe check or occupying a pew. There must be some formal way that this is communicated to church leaders.

Church leaders must know who they are responsible to shepherd. Church leaders are responsible to those who have submitted themselves to their care. Church membership is really an implication of church leadership.

Fourth, church membership is about identity. Our identity is being in Christ, being in the church. That is not as obvious when you are a non-member of the church. Just like we might want to identify with AAA or a Weight Watchers club to share experiences, have something in common with others, or take advantage of certain perks, so it should be with the church that our primary way of identifying ourselves is as members of Christ’s body. The church is not a club that you should go in and out of. The church is not like dating girlfriends that you like or don’t want to date any more. The church is a family; it is a body. And joining the church is an acknowledgement of that.

Fifth, and finally, Christians are the kind of people who should value commitment(s). Coming to Christ, dying to self is the supreme commitment. Joining a small group is a commitment. Choosing a Sunday School class is a commitment. Obedience to Christ is a commitment. Signing up to help at an event in a commitment. Church membership is a commitment; it’s what we do. Christians commit.

Christians are far less likely to leave a church they have joined (e.g., true at WBC). Christians are far less to bail on a community that are committed to. A commitment to the church binds us together in a way that no other earthly commitment can. It is a formal covenant of love to one another, founded in the same doctrine, under the same leadership and moving towards the same goals. If you are not a member of a church, what other way can that unity be experienced?

The question is not, “Should I join a church?” but “Why wouldn’t I join a church?”