The Holy Spirit and Freedom

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  2 Corinthians 3:17

Paul begins this section of the letter to the Corinthians by saying that he is the minister of a new covenant — a covenant not based upon following the laws but upon the Spirit of God generating faith within us.  The old covenant was good, but this one is better.  Under the old covenant, God’s glory was obscured by a veil — the people had only an incomplete understanding of the Messiah and what His coming would mean.   Now, the veil has been lifted and through faith in Christ we have eternal life and freedom from trying to save ourselves through perfect adherence to the law.  What a relief to have this burden lifted!

Does this mean we are free to do whatever we want?  Of course not.  Paul addresses this very question in Romans:

“What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!”  Romans 6:1-2

Once we have been united with Christ by receiving the Holy Spirit in our baptism, we are also free from the power of sin in our lives.  Yes, we will still sin, but we are no longer enslaved by it. Our desire will be to live holy lives, and through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, we will become increasingly Christlike.

Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!

For more on the topic of freedom see these posts:

The Freedom of Baptism

What Freedom?

The Freedom of Grace

 

Inspired by the Spirit

This was written by Becky, a member of our congregation who is one of our adult Sunday School teachers.  She used it to open our class, and said she felt the Holy Spirit inspired her to write it.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“things which happened to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that my chains are in Christ.”

Prison became holy ground, a sacred place set apart for God’s purposes.  In his confinement he made room for God.  So consider our confinement in isolation during this epidemic an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and to encourage others.  Paul also said,

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

His heart was so filled with the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  He had peace with God no matter the circumstances and wanted to serve and bless others.  God’s presence with us in confinement makes this one of the most significant times in our lives and a key to fellowship with Him.  He is still in control, declaring,

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Our strength must be in God.  Times of crisis demand that we turn to each other, not on each other.  As Christians, we are called to be faithful to God and to one another.

All of us want things–expressing them differently.  We want heroes; we want assurance someone knows what is going on in this mad world;  we want someone to lean on.  Paul says Christ is the one to worship and serve–King of Kings–Lord of Lords–the Mighty One–to occupy first place in our hearts and home.  It’s so easy to allow things and even people to be central in our lives.  When we replace Christ with these, we have sinned.  We’re to live in this world as a representative of Christ –serve Him by giving Him our best and sharing His love with others.

For more about the pandemic see these posts:

Small Things

All Times Are Uncertain

Clarity — First Step

 

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit #2

O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart.

Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.

Saint Augustine

For more prayers see these posts:

A Prayer for One Another

A Penitent Prayer

A Prayer from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

Unity in the Spirit

Most Christians agree that unity within the church is not only a worthwhile goal, but necessary,  In the high priestly prayer of Jesus, shortly before His death, he makes this request of God::

“…. that they (his followers) may all be one in me, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:21-23

This spiritual unity of believers is described in the Bible with organic analogies, such as the vine and the branches (John 15:5) or the human body (1 Cor. 12:12).  It is only possible through the reconciling death of Christ on the cross, and the action of the Holy Spirit.  It does not depend upon uniformity (we all have different gifts) or complete agreement with one another, but on love and forgiveness.  In Ephesians, Paul says:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”  Ephesians 4:1-6

If you look closely, you will see that our unity depends upon the fruit of the Spirit:  love, gentleness, patience, and peace.  These are gifts.  Treasure them, cultivate them, be worthy of them.

For more on unity see these posts:

Unity Not Uniformity

Tertullian on Christian Unity

Dwelling In Unity

 

John Stott on the Holy Spirit

“Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible.  There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from His fruit, and no effective witness without His power.  As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”  John Stott

This quote pretty well sums up all we have been discussing this month about the Holy Spirit.  For more about John Stott, see these posts:

How Should We Then Live? –A Quote by John Stott

How to Read Scripture (according to John Stott)

Stott on the Christian Life by Tim Chester –Book Review

 

Grieving the Spirit

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. ” Ephesians 4:30

In our most recent class about the Holy Spirit, we discussed ways that we can mistreat or grieve the Spirit.

  • Disobedience–In Galatians, Paul says, “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  If we deliberately live in ways contrary to God’s law, we are hurting the Spirit.
  • Blaspheming — this is not only cursing, but using the name of God in an unreverent or trivial way — such as using the phrase, OMG.  This is disrespecting the Spirit.
  • Lying to the Holy Spirit — remember Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts?  They tried to pretend they were giving more than they really were.  Peter chastised them, saying, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?” Acts 5:9.  A promise to God should not be taken lightly.
  • Hardening our hearts — God is love, and if we when His Spirit is in us, we will be loving;  however, we can resist that Spirit by being angry, resentful, or unforgiving
  • Quenching the Spirit–the Spirit gives us gifts to be used for the benefit of the church and other people;  when we refuse to use those gifts, we are denying the Spirit
  • Spurning the sanctifying Spirit — the Spirit wants to make us holy.  When we refuse to participate in our own sanctification by neglecting worship, prayer and Bible study, we are turning away from the Spirit.

Why do we do these things? (and we all do some of the time).  There may be many reasons — fear, ignorance, worldly influence are at play for sure.  Mostly though, there’s one big answer — SIN.  God loves us; He wants us to be Holy.  He placed His Spirit within us to help us.  Don’t waste that gift.

 

 

The Counselor by A.W. Tozer–Book Review

A. W. Tozer writes in a style so clear and straight forward that you will easily imagine yourself sitting in church listening to him preach.  He presents the Holy Spirit as a person, not a quality such as enthusiasm or courage.  This person is a full member of the trinity, and as Christians, we should desire a close and transforming relationship with Him.

Tozer does not pull punches.  He believes that the Holy Spirit will change us, just as the disciples were changed..  After Pentecost:

  • They had the illuminating knowledge that God was with them
  • They were filled with joy
  • They preached with power
  • They had authority
  • They were separated from the world
  • They delighted in prayer
  • They loved the Scriptures

A Spirit-filled church will exhibit these same qualities, seeking a knowledge of God, exhibiting joy, being useful to the community and influencing the society around them.  Unfortunately Tozer says:

“Much of our Christianity is social instead of spiritual.  We should be a spiritual body with social overtones, but most of our churches are social bodies with spiritual overtones.”

Instead of being led by the Spirit, many Christians fall into one of these categories:

  • “Fun” Christians — using Christianity as a form of entertainment
  • “Sunday” Christians — going to church on Sunday, but living in a worldly way the rest of the time
  • “Comfortable” Christians –refusing to allow their faith to interfere with their own plans and routines
  • “Cultural” Christians –believing the cultural value of the church is good for them, but unwilling to allow the Spirit to change them

On the contrary, Spiritual Christians:

  • Want to be rid of their sins
  • Desire to know God
  • Hear God’s voice
  • Sense God’s presence

In spite of agreeing with Tozer about these and other fundamental points, I take issue with his understanding of how and when a Christian receives the Spirit.  As a Lutheran, I believe the Holy Spirit is imparted at the time of baptism.  Tozer maintains that the coming on the Spirit into the Christians’ life is a second event, separate from conversion.

VERDICT:  3 Stars because of the doctrinal differences

If you would like to purchase this book, go to the link below:

https://www.moodypublishers.com/the-counselor/

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more on A. W. Tozer see this post:

A Quote by A. W. Tozer

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit and Prayer #2

The true spirit of prayer is no other than God’s own Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the saints. And as this spirit comes from God, so doth it naturally tend to God in holy breathings and pantings. It naturally leads to God, to converse with him by prayer.”

Jonathan Edwards

For more about prayer see these posts:

Prayer Works

Begin With Prayer

 Prayer: A Holy Occupation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken Signposts by N.T. Wright–Book Review

In this book, Bible scholar N.T. Wright, discusses seven “signposts.”  These are things that all humans search for as ways to make sense of the world.  You might say they are part of our DNA.  They have been recognized across most cultures throughout history.  They are:

  • Justice
  • Love
  • Spirituality
  • Beauty
  • Freedom
  • Truth
  • Power

Unfortunately, in our fallen world these signposts have become broken.  As usual, we sinful people have taken the good gifts of good and misused them.  However, our universal desire for these things reveal that they are indeed point to the fact that we were made by a good and wise creator.

The author explores each theme in the light of the ministry of Jesus as chronicled in the gospel of John.  Interspersed are “interludes” with related background information to further illuminate the topic. Former Bishop Wright’s desire is:

” …  that many who read (this book) will themselves be led, perhaps through quiet meditation on John’s gospel, not only to a deeper faith and hope for themselves, but to work on these vocations in their own communities.  Justice, love, spirituality, beauty, freedom, truth and power need not remain as elusive as they sometimes appear.”

This work is clearly written and not difficult to read and understand, but still challenging.  I learned some things and enjoyed the way the author followed a variety of themes through the New and Old Testaments.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I recommend it.

For other book reviews see these posts:

The 4 Wills of God — Book Review

Martin Luther: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North — Book Review

A Holy Pursuit by Dianne Jago–Book 

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

I came across this quote in my devotional reading, and it reminded me of the great power of the Holy Spirit.

“Why do we grow so little in grace?  It is because we do not use our intellect to meditate upon the forces of the unseen world amidst which we live, or our will to draw upon them.  We know that we are weak, and sin and Satan are strong, and we know the truth.  But there is a third power stronger than either our weakness or the forces of evil, which we commonly forget, and which will never disclose itself except in our using of it.  We must stir up the gift within us.  Within us we have the Spirit of power, the Spirit of Jesus, the life of Jesus. It remains to us to appeal to it;  in constant acts of faith to draw upon it and to use it.  Thus it will become to each of us as much a truth of experience as it was to St. Paul, and no vague language of metaphor, that ‘it is no longer merely I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.'”

Charles Gore

Paul was indeed aware of the power of the Holy Spirit in His life. He acknowledges His own lack of ability and dependence upon the Spirit in Ephesians when he says:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”  Ephesians 2:1-5

By all accounts Paul was a short, bald man with poor eyesight.  He insists here and in other places that he is not a polished speaker.  His own sin caused him to persecute the Christians.  Only the power of the Holy Spirit could make him into the apostle he became.  You and I have that same power within us.  A power to do good, and speak God’s truth.  Are we using it?