Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Holy Spirit's Activity In Your Life

The Holy Spirit is active in the believer's day to day life by imparting wisdom, discernment, ability and empowerment. The writer James says that if we desire wisdom all we need do is ask for it, but we must ask with the commitment that we will apply what God gives us. We know that when we pray in alignment with the Lord Jesus' will and in the complete surrender to His indwelling presence, He will give what is being asked for. In Acts 15 this is what the council did, together with the whole church, and made a decision once "It seemed good to the Spirit, and to us."

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” James 1:2-8

If you are that kind of person, you can't make up your mind, and keep all your options open, you surely can't be trusted. So don't expect the Lord to give you anything at all.

1) A prerequisite for receiving God's direction and guidance is being committed to doing whatever God wants you to do.
★ You must share God's outlook and adopt His priorities.

★ You must will God's will….choosing it deliberately by an act of your own will. To accept His will even though it may conflict with your personal longing.

God will not give direction until you are ready to receive it. When you are ready, God will show you. Believe that God knows what He wants for you and for your family to do. Breakthroughs happen for people who believe God

2) Sometimes God will often first speak to you directly from His word because, remember, as part of your spiritual growth you are both proactively getting into the Bible every day, and you are depending on God to give you what you need from His word.

Biblical wisdom is taking scriptural principles and applying them to what's going on in your life. Biblical knowledge is not useful for spiritual growth unless it is applied. Most of the world’s tope leading Biblical scholars today are not even Christians. They are simply scholars. Only biblical wisdom fosters spiritual growth.

3) Already be in prayer to sense the Spirit's words to your heart. Whereas it is useful to ask for advice, think about it, write pros and cons lists, work your circumstances, see if you can find people to help you; what you need to do first is to get quiet with God to ask Him for guidance. Throughout scripture God promises to guide you, so believe that and pray for God's direction

4) God may cause circumstances to reveal His will – such as an invitation that you didn't generate, to serve God in some way; or maybe a job offer, or the chance to do something, or move somewhere, or be with a certain person. Sometimes a piece of important information comes your way at just the right time. As you pray through each step, see if the logistics work out for you

5) If God invites you with circumstances, He will give you confirmation through Scripture, His spoken word. If God invites you through His word, He will give you confirmation through your circumstances, and always be speaking to you through the inward testimony of His Spirit.

Right after there will often come some testing, either doubts or trouble of some kind, that will rattle you. Then you must go back to the process and the circumstances that proved the settling of God's will in order not to be moved away from the direction God has shown you.

You must trust God. Why do doubts and misgivings arise in our heart about His guidance? We often question our own capacity to interpret guidance.

This fear can be perplexing. How can you be sure you are being led by God and not mislead by your own desires? If you can be sure it's God's will, you will make any decision however much others might misunderstand or criticize you or whatever hardships you might be called on to face. But how can you be sure? Do the best you can with what you have, trusting that the Holy Spirit is real, He is able to speak to you in a way that you understand, and He is able to course correct at any given time.

Then move forward without looking back once your decision is made. Because we believe in God's sovereignty, we don't worry about maybe not getting it right. Instead we have confident faith that He's going to make sure we know how to get it right, and even more, that He's going to empower us to do it right.

[Those who speak of "practicing the presence of God" have this kind of relationship with God, through His Spirit, where every aspect of the day is saturated with this kind of guidance, an organic conversation where every decision, every word and every action is consciously made in partnership with God through His Spirit's presence in one's heart and mind, and tangibly present in one's body.]

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Holy Spirit's Activity In The World Today

The Holy Spirit has three main activities in the world today.

[A] He brings forth new life
• By opening people’s minds and hearts to understand the gospel
• Convicting people of their sin
• Drawing people to repentance
• And creating within them new spiritual life, what Jesus called being born again

Every believer receives the Holy Spirit when he or she puts their faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, it’s the regenerating work of the Spirit that makes faith possible. This is the true baptism of the Holy Spirit, and by definition this happens only once, permanently and immediately altering a person from mortal to immortal at the moment of rebirth, imparting to that person every spiritual blessing in heaven in the form of God Himself.

This is a permanent relationship. Once you ask Jesus into your life, He is there to stay. He doesn’t come and go, you can’t get more of Him or less of Him. The Holy Spirit is a whole Person, He comes complete and he seals you to God forever, with the promise of being glorified the day we are reunited with Him –

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

That seal is your guarantee on your resurrected, glorified body, which you can read about in 1 Corinthians 15.

Until that time, you have a deposit on God’s resurrection power,

What is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places...” Ephesians 1:19-20

This is not some theory, or flowery religious talk. This is actual, real power. The genuine article.

So our goal as believers is not to get more of the Spirit, it is give the Spirit more of ourselves, to become vulnerable to His control of our behavior, our thoughts, our actions, our time and resources. Take a moment to think about that. What have you been holding back from God recently that you could surrender to the Spirit this morning, so He has more of you?

[B] He grows the life He brings forth
• He enables and empowers believers to testify about Jesus
• He causes believers to bear fruit
• He enables and empowers believers to desire God’s will, pray in alignment with God’s will and to obey God’s will
• He transforms believer’s characters and personalities to be ever more like Jesus’

The Holy Spirit is the revealer of truth. He works in conjunction with scripture, helping every believer to understand God through His word. Jesus taught the disciples that the Holy Spirit would interpret Scripture for them, illuminate God’s word, witness to them and through them -- even to the point of giving them the actual words to say – about the gospel, and could cause them to remember everything that Jesus had done and taught, whenever they needed it.

God expects believers to bear fruit. That means both in terms of bringing the gospel to others as God’s rescue plan to save lives, and also the fruit of becoming more like Jesus. God does His part by giving us the Holy Spirit, Who is the agent of our transformation. We can’t make ourselves change, or grow, that’s a divine work, God does that part. But we do have a part, too.

You and I are to proactively cooperate with God. This is no passive “let go and let God” thing. The epistle writers, as well as Jesus Himself, were clear in their teaching that we are also responsible for what the Bible calls sanctification – our progressive spiritual growth. You and I do our part in two ways: spiritual dependence and spiritual discipline

1) Prayer: communion with God. You and I talk with God, but we are also to listen to Him, the discipline to pray, the dependence to listen and receive

2) Bible study: to absorb and apply God’s word. The discipline to get into God’s word, the discipline to apply it to your life every day; the dependence to trust God to help you understand His word, and the ability to apply it

3) Fellowship: sharing your life in Christ with other believers. The discipline to talk about spiritual things, the dependence to receive what others share, knowing that’s something for you

4) Worship: pouring heart and soul out in gratitude, love and honor of God. The discipline to worship in every circumstance, the dependence to receive what He has for you in it

5) Good works: serving God and the people He points you towards: the discipline to seek out and follow through with ways to do good on a regular basis, dependence for the inner resources, as well as practical resources like time and money, you need to do it.

Believers also discover that we can grieve the Holy Spirit and even douse His flame, the Bible calls it “quenching the Spirit,” which happens when you and I indulge in sin. The apostle Paul talks about it

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (Also in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.)

The Spirit doesn’t leave you, but it will FEEL like He is gone. This happens when you and I refuse to listen to Him, when we indulge in something that’s wrong for us, or simply wrong, and it’s a warning to every believer: the writer of Hebrews calls it being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and it’s a warning to every believer.

If you’re recognizing yourself right now, I have really good news for you.
Tuck a little scrap of paper in that page of your Bible, get somewhere quiet today, read it and follow what it says. Believers always have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, that’s a forever thing. But you and I need to be filled again and again with Him, once again opening our minds and hearts to His presence.

[C] He sustains the life He brings forth to this day,
• By the inward testimony of His presence within each believer, that you are God’s beloved child, and that God – Father, Son and Spirit, have made their home within you
• By giving every believer guidance in every day life, both big decisions and small
• By giving every believer spiritual gifts designed to be shared with the whole body of Christ to keep the church vibrant and healthy.

The Holy Spirit gives believers particular gifts, like teaching, preaching, shepherding, giving and serving in order to build up the whole of the church.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good...

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills...

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it...” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11, 27

Every single believer in a local gathering of the church has a vital portion to share with the rest of the body. Not 20%. All. What are you actively sharing with the church as the portion God has given you to build up the life of Christ’s body?

The most important gift of all that the Holy Spirit imparts to every believer is love, as the apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Roman church, saying “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Every other gift is worth nothing if the gift of love is not exercised, as the apostle went to great pains to explain in this next chapter. This love protects the unity and harmony of the church, the thing Jesus wanted most for His own, besides seeing His glory (John 17).

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Is The Holy Spirit?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light," and there was light.” Genesis 1:1-3

Elohim, a Hebrew word connoting multiple persons yet one being, created the world.
God the Father, the voice Who spoke, was the designer of creation and the planner of redemption.
• The Word God spoke was God the Son, Jesus, the Light of the world.
• Today we will think about God the Holy Spirit, hovering over the face of the waters Who by His power brought forth life, the earth and everything in it, from the void. He is the agent of creation.

Throughout the Old Testament the writers spoke of the Spirit of God. Pharaoh recognized that Joseph had the Spirit of God to interpret dreams and run a nation. Later God told Moses He would fill two men with His Spirit in order for them to create all the artwork in the tabernacle and to teach other artisans how to do their work. When the Spirit of God would come in power on someone, that person would prophesy, beginning in Exodus, from Balaam to the elders in the desert camp, to king Saul and the prophets of the Old Testament. It was by the power of God’s anointing, His Holy Spirit, that kings and prophets were made and unmade. As the prophet Zechariah said, quoting God, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.’

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, sent to prepare the way for Messiah and announce His arrival. God told the Baptist that when he saw the Spirit of God descend in the form of a dove and alight on a man’s head, that man would be the Messiah, the lamb of God. The apostle Matthew recorded that historic moment:

When Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

• The voice Who spoke was God the Father, planner of redemption
• The man arising from the waters was His word, God the Son, Jesus, the Light come into the world
• And the dove that hovered over the word, and the waters, was God the Holy Spirit. The first time was to create the world. The second time was to save it.

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the trinity. As such He is equally God, equal in power and authority, with all the same attributes as God the Father and God the Son, eternal, infinite, all-present, all-powerful, all-knowing. He is in no wise less than, or lower than, any other person in the trinity, though He is spoken of less often.

Even though the word trinity is not found anywhere in the Bible, Jesus taught on this doctrine in the apostle John’s gospel.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

The Holy Spirit would be a gift from the Father, given by the Son. One God, three Persons. Each member of the Godhead, distinct in personality and activity, yet all working together with one mind in all things.

When Jesus said “another,” He meant “exactly the same other,” and interchangeable other. Jesus was sending the same personality that lived within Him to live within His disciples and all believers after them. The Spirit would be a Helper, or some translations say Counselor or Comforter. That word in the Greek means “One called alongside to help, to strengthen and encourage.” For that reason God the Holy Spirit is also called an ever present Advocate and Strengthener.

His chief work is found in John 15:26 and John 16:7-15; listen for the trinity

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me....

“...Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Spirit calls attention to the Lord Jesus and provides the way for people to testify about and glorify Jesus. One way to test the spirit of what’s going on in any meeting is ask whether Jesus Christ is being lifted up and glorified. If yes, then the Holy Spirit is at work in that place. If something else is being glorified, then no, the Spirit is probably not at work there.

The Holy Spirit’s work is found mostly in Acts and the letters of the New Testament. He calls men and women to faith in Jesus, making them alive with the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead. He is not at “it.’ He is not a force, like “Let the force be with you.” He is not a feeling. We can work up all kinds of passions and feelings, but as vivid as our emotions are, and as convincing as they may feel, that’s not the Holy Spirit. He is a whole person Who either literally lives within you, Who has literally come into your body and possesses you, filling you with the essence and vibrancy of God’s life. OR He hasn’t. You’ve just been flirting with God, but you have not received Him as your own.

If this post got you to thinking, please leave a comment and join the conversation