Dec 13 - The Holy Spirit Of God - Part 3

The Holy Spirit Of God Part 3

December 13, 2015

 

December 13th, 2015

THE HOLY SPIRIT – part 3

 

Two weeks ago I spoke on the OT hope that a new era would be ushered in when God’s Spirit would fall on all of God’s people, and do so for life, unlike the way that he feel on people under the Old Covenant.

 

Last week I pointed out that Jesus inaugurated that new era, and since Pentecost, the HS indwells Christians permanently at the point of conversion.  However, just like in the OT, the HS can fall on believers from time to time after their conversion, usually to empower them in service to others.

 

Some Christians believe that the assurance of salvation, which the Spirit gives (as he testifies with our spirit), comes from the manifestation of one or more spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, or perhaps what is called slain in the Spirit, or perhaps what is called “signs and wonders,” often in terms of instant miraculous healings of illnesses. 

 

The point I concluded with is that the real sign of the presence of the HS is the compassion, love, charity, and concern for others that motivates individuals to use their spiritual gifts in service to others.   

 

Today I want to continue and look a bit closer at the changes within us that ought to give us assurance of salvation.

 

Part of the OT hope was that under a new covenant, God’s people no longer have to be reminded to love and obey God because the Spirit would teach them all they needed to know.  

 

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. … And no longer will one have to teach his neighbour or brother, admonishing them, ‘Know YWHW,’ for they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.                                       Jeremiah 31:33-34

 

So the HS writes God’s law, in essence God’s will, on the hearts of God’s people in the new era (under the new covenant).  To my thinking that means, that those who are indwelt by the HS, will have their conscience renewed so that it will reflect God’s will, rather than their personal preferences or social convention. 

 

Those who have the HS will no longer have to be admonished to “know” God, NOT simply knowing about God or even believing in the existence of God, but to actually “understand” or “comprehend” God.[1] 

 

I don’t know if you saw the movie Avatar back in 2009, maybe you remember the character Norm Spellman explaining the meaning of the Nav’i greeting “I see you” to Jake Sully.[2]

 

As Norm explains, the expression means more than simply looking at a person (physical vision).  It really is an opening of the mind and heart to the other person, in essence understanding and comprehending the other person, and therefore embracing him or her for who he or she is.   When Sully is dying both he and Neytiri say, “I see you” to each other … and they might as well have been saying, “I love you.”

 

Knowing God means opening one’s heart and mind to embrace God, even to love God.  In the new era of the coming covenant, God’s people no longer have to be reminded or admonished to love God because the indwelling HS will accomplish this within them.

 

Jesus’ work on the cross and him subsequently sending the HS, brought this hope into reality. 

 

Jesus referred to the HS infilling a person as “being born again” (John 3:3,8) or as “being born of the Spirit” (John 3:5,6,7), in his conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, and expected him to understand what he was referring to. 

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.   Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.”                              John 3:5-7

 

There may be a difference between professing and actual Christians, but there is no such animal as a genuine Christian who isn’t “born again.” 

 

Unfortunately, when someone says that they are a born-again Christian, there is an immediate negative connotation attached to the term because of some hypocritical, narrow-minded and hateful individuals applied this term to themselves, in contrast to any Christian who might differ from any of their own convictions, some of which are simply wrong.

 

The question that arises from Jesus’ words to Nicodemus is not what Jesus meant with rebirth due to the HS, but with what being born of water is referring to (physical birth, baptism, or the very same as spiritual rebirth – note the living water in John 4:14).

 

The HS leads to rebirth (regeneration), which in turn leads to a kind of death to self.  Let’s see how that rebirth, that inward work of the HS is described by other NT writers.

 

Just as an aside, theologians think of sanctification as a two-fold process.  First there is a setting aside to God as holy.  We may call this “consecration.”  This happens when we are what Jesus calls “born again.”  

 

The second aspect of sanctification that theologians typically identify is what can be called “purification.” This is a process that continues throughout a believer's life and through which the believer is made more like Christ.  This usually is understood as a believer becoming less sinful and more righteous over time. 

 

[You were] foreknown by God and sanctified [= made holy; set apart for God – in standing leading toward action] by the Spirit in order to be obedient to Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood.                                                                                1 Peter 1:2

 

You were washed, you were sanctified [= made holy; set apart for God – possibly in standing - consecration], you were made just [or: right] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.                                                               1 Corinthians 6:11

 

Since we have these promises [God living among his people and being their father], let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of the body and spirit, in the fear of God, striving after complete sanctification [= process of becoming holy in conduct].                       2 Corinthians 7:1

 

We know that our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing and we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For someone who has died also has been set free from sin.  … Sin leads to death, obedience to right living.   … you have become obedient from the heart … Just as you once presented your members [= physical and mental components of the body] as slaves to impurity and lawlessness, leading to even greater sinfulness, so now present your members as slaves to right living, which leads to sanctification [= becoming more holy in actions].                                                   Romans 6:6-7

 

 

It is this second kind of sanctification is both due to God’s work in us, and also to a person’s cooperation with God’s work, something we’ll return to.
 

The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded that he [Jesus] has died, therefore we have died [to ourselves].  He died for all so that those who are alive might no longer live for themselves but for him who died for their sake.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.                                         2 Corinthians 5:17

 

God condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. … The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, because it does not, in fact, cannot submit itself to God’s will. … All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. … If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live. … The Spirit himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are God’s children.                                                                                             Romans 8:3-16

 

The deeds done in the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. … Everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ has crucified the fleshly body with its passions and desires.                              Galatians 5:19-24

 

It is much more important to display the fruit of the Spirit than to focus on some sign gift.  The first, even if it is a bit greater joy or peace or love for others, is the real miracle of the indwelling HS.

 

Put off the old self, which belongs to your previous life and is corrupted by deceitful desires.  Be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self, which is created after God’s likeness, in genuine right living and holiness.                                                Ephesians 4:22-24

 

In Galatians and Romans, the apostle Paul makes the point that believers who conduct their lives (walk) according to the Spirit (Gal 5:16,25; Rom 8:4), who set their minds on the Spirit (Rom 8:6), and who are choosing to be led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14) WILL live in obedience to God’s will (living according to the Spirit Rom 8:5; putting to death the deeds of the body Rom 8:13).

 

So what does all of that mean?  Does the HS remove our physical desires … for food, for sex, or in some way diminish our desires?  No, not at all.  Does the HS make us immediately overcome an addiction?”  I’ve seen this happen from time to time, but for most addicts who become believers, often they will struggle for some time to overcome their nicotine or alcohol or drug addiction. 

 

Does the indwelling of God’s Spirit within us mean that we will all of a sudden be sinless or holy or perfect?  Our spouses or children or parents may hope for this, but unfortunately that’s not the case. 

 

Will the indwelling HS mean we face less temptations?  Well, the one person who was infilled more than anyone else would have been Jesus and we read about him that he was tempted in every respect as we are (Heb 4:15), and that his temptation included how he could have responded to physical suffering(Heb 2:18).

 

Will the HS give us such confidence and the necessary self-esteem to no longer make us susceptible to flattery, or the desire to please others, and in the process to compromise our own morals because of it?  No, it may take years for the HS to help us to overcome the stuff from our past we tend to get stuck in … our own insecurities and dysfunctions if you will.

 

Even indwelt by the Spirit, humans continue to be fallible, frail and easily swayed by their desires.   

 

So what is the benefit of being indwelt or filled by the HS, if any?  If Christians are just as prone to stumble and mess up as non-believer, where is the new birth, the new self, the new creation?

 

In order to answer this questions, a number of things need to be taken into consideration.  For one, it is simply false to assume that God is going to do everything for us.

 

In fact, very rarely will he take from us the need to make choices and decisions.  You know, the believer that doesn’t go out to look for a job, waiting for something to fall in his lap. 

Or the Christians who think that God will miraculously provide a life partner without ever going out of their way to find one. 

Or the addict who thinks that God will take away any desire for alcohol if he wants someone to quit.

Or the couple who won’t take birth control, in the belief that God will stop them from having kids if he so desires.  Guess what? 

 

You will stay unemployed, single, addicted, or with LOTS of kids, regardless of whether or not that is God’s will.

 

It isn’t that God couldn’t do these things … miraculously provide a job, have a potential couple meet quite accidentally, take the desire for cigarettes or some other craving away, or stop someone from being able to have children.

 

But those instances are extremely rare.  In the vast, vast majority of cases, God will not take our responsibility to decide and act away.

 

According to Phil 2:12, the actual process of sanctification, of being made holy, involves human effort coupled with complete reliance on God’s enablement:

 

As you have always obeyed, so now ... work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who is at work within you, to bring about both the desire and will to do it, even beyond your good intentions.                                                                              Philippians 2:12-13

 

Because God is at work within, we can work out.

 

Jesus’ followers are to work out their salvation – likely in reference to the process of sanctification – yet at the same time, they are to realize that their desire to do God’s will, and the ability to actually do God’s will, is from the HS, who is at work within them.

 

So did you get this?  The HS gives us the knowledge of God’s will, he gives us the desire to follow it (which will lead to feelings of guilt and remorse when we don’t; and feelings of satisfaction and joy when we do), and the ability to actually do what is right, quite apart from whether or not we chose to use that ability.

 

The real choice that Christians have is whether or not they will respond to the knowledge, desire and ability the indwelling Spirit gives to them – and seek out and obey God’s will for their lives. 

 

You might remember from two weeks ago, that the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph 4:30), in particular when believers chose to go against the knowledge and desire and ability the HS gives. 

 

You may also remember that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thess 5:19).  Believers quench the Holy Spirit when they stop praying, when they stop being thankful, when they stop reading the Bible, when they stop meeting with other believers to encourage them in their spiritual walk and be encouraged in their own.

 

And lastly, that the HS can be resisted (Acts 7:51) … that is, individuals can simply try not to hear the HS any longer.  It is like holding their spiritual ears shut.

 

However, all believers innately know God’s will for their lives: Love God more than anything and love others as you love yourself. 

 

God is not so much interested with your profession, what you end up doing for a living (as long as it is ethical and legal).  He’s not all that much concerned where you live, but he is concerned that you live for him wherever you settle. 

 

God isn’t so concerned in the car you drive, as long as you don’t go against your conscience when you buy it.  God isn’t so much interested in what cell phone you have, but he is interested in your personal communication with him.  He’s not so much interested in how talented you are, but he is interested in your compassion for others and how you act on it. 

 

So figuring out God’s will shouldn’t be that hard. 

When professing Christians make lifestyle choices that they know are against God’s will, they have to either deal with constant guilt, something no one wants to do, or they have to find a way to justify themselves, to excuse themselves, or they have to get away from God – no longer profess that they believe in God. 

 

So why is it that we may not be experiencing the new man, the new creation?  In part, it has to do with the fact that we may grieve, quench or resist the HS as he works in our hearts and minds. 

 

For another, we may have wrong expectations as to what God has to do for us because the HS indwells us.

 

Thirdly, we may be dealing with a besetting sin, or an addiction that will need concerted effort on our part and likely additional help from others in order to see a lasting change. 

 

I also think that we may not experience the new creation as we would like, because we are so concerned with not doing something bad, we stop focusing on doing what’s of greatest importance: something good.

 

What is the most effective method of keeping kids who are at risk of getting into a gang or into drugs, or into some other very destructive choices?  It is providing them with a positive alternative:  Sports camps, or outdoor survival, for example.

 

So when we are focused on doing what God wants us to do, busy helping others, there is a much smaller chance that we get caught up in a lifestyle that dishonours Jesus.

 

I think that is what is meant when it speaks about being led by the Spirit.  We chose to be led by the Spirit when we focus on the things that are good and right and wholesome and loving.

 

So while we are called to set aside bad actions (Rom 8:13 – by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body), one of the best ways we can do this is to focus on the good actions or good deeds that we were created for (Rom 8:5 - set your minds on the things of the Spirit).

 

I think we are only in real trouble when we have resisted the HS for so long that we have made it impossible to work in us anymore.  We simply do whatever we want without any feelings of remorse and without any thought on trying to change. 

 

Take care, brothers, so you will not have an evil and unbelieving heart is in you which will cause you to fall away from the living God.               Hebrews 3:12

 

The result is that we not only drift from God, we don’t just stop living for God, we actively walk away from him. 

 

The assurance of our salvation comes from the fact that we can see the HS at work in us, changing us, particularly making us more loving in our attitude and actions toward others in need (cf. 1 John ), as we display what’s called “the fruit of the Spirit” in our lives.[3] 

 

CAN I NOTICE MY “SANCTIFICATION”?

IF NOT, AM I ENCOURAGING OR QUENCHING THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN ME? 

 

[1] In German, “erkennen.”

[2] O’el n’gati kamei’e for the geeks.

[3] The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23), as opposed to the “works of the flesh,” consisting of sexual immorality, overindulgence, selfishness, envy, temper tantrums, violence of every kind, etc. (cf. Gal 5:19-21).