Tag Archives: HolySpirit

The Same God

The woman of my fantasies whispered in my ear. I had spent the night at the college infirmary and she woke me with the most seductive voice.  “It’s time to wake up, Honey.”  But when I opened my eyes, all my adolescent hopes were dashed.  I’m pretty sure that old lady knew what she was doing to us.  She could have sold alarm clocks with that voice…   But when you only hear a voice and can’t see the face, it’s easy to get the wrong idea.

That’s why so many people have screwy ideas about God – even people written about in the Old Testament.  Because they could not see God, they imagined all sorts of distorted things about Him.  But David – King David – had the right idea.  God said he was a man “after His own heart.”  David knew God.

Question is, was David’s God the same God portrayed in the New Testament?  You know how the 23rd Psalm starts out: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”  But take a closer look at how David ended that Psalm:

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

David’s God was the God of goodness and love, the God Who kept track of His people (He followed them…  probably not yet on Twitter) and cared for them faithfully.  This concept of God is nothing like how pagan gods were imagined to be.  It sounds right to us because it is a New Testament idea, but in David’s day it was fairly radical stuff.  Jesus reaffirmed the goodness and faithfulness of God in all His teachings.

But David’s final thought, the hope of living “in the house of the Lord forever,” is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches for those whose souls are dead, disconnected from God’s Spirit.  Without the redeeming work of Jesus, without being forgiven by God and reborn by His Spirit, no one can “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  Jesus made this clear when He spoke with Nicodemus:

“In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  (John 3:3)

“Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)

Without being brought to life by God’s Spirit, our souls are dead and cannot “live in the house of the Lord forever.”  God had given David a peek under the tent to glimpse a mystery that would not be revealed until the coming of Jesus.  It  was the mystery of how dead souls are brought to eternal life.  Here’s the third verse of Psalm 23:

“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

Here’s how Jesus said it:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a)

Maybe you have wondered if the Old Testament God is the same as the God described in the New Testament.  He is.  Scroll down through the previous posts.  Adam knew Him; Job knew Him 3500 years or more ago; Abraham knew Him; David knew Him; Isaiah knew Him and Jesus knew Him.  He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Be Meek

Google is looking for failures.  Well, not exactly; they look for people who have failed and who, through the experience of failing, have developed a certain humility and grace about how they learn and respond.  The NFL is looking for men who don’t know how to play football.  Well, not exactly; they are looking for players with lots of raw talent but who are willing to learn from a coach.  In every type of endeavor there are hotshots and superstars who flame out because they think they have all the answers.  They get replaced by people who are willing to learn and grow.

That’s the principle behind this next saying of Jesus:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  (Matthew 5:5)

Jesus didn’t say a timid milquetoast; He said the “meek,” which means teachable.  When used to describe a horse, ‘meek’ means gentled and trainable, responsive to the commands of its trainer.  A meek person is not a doormat.  Rather, he or she is responsive, in this case to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus described Himself as meek:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (literally, ‘meek’) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:29)

Meekness, in this teaching, follows spiritual emptiness (poor in spirit), and grief (those who mourn).  Jesus promised to comfort those who mourn their spiritual bankruptcy.  How?  By giving them the Holy Spirit (also called The Comforter in John 14:16) to live in their souls forever. (See: Don’t Take the Fire Escape!) But the Holy Spirit does no good for the person who is not meek, who does not listen and respond.

The promise for the meek, however, is that they will inherit the earth.  This promise, is in the future tense because it will become a reality one day.  It’s ultimate fulfillment will come at the end of the age, when God creates a new, perfect heaven and earth.

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  (2 Peter 3:13)

What will a perfect earth be like?  I cannot imagine it.  But you don’t want to miss it.  Be meek.

Little Word; Big Difference

JFK will be remembered for saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you…”  FDR is remembered in the words, “… a date that will live in infamy.”   For Ronald Reagan, it was, “…tear down this wall!”   For Bill Clinton: “It depends on what the meaning of the word, is, is.”   Doesn’t quite rise to the same level of dignity and inspiration, but Bill was on to something.  There are times when a tiny word makes a huge difference.  Like the word, “is” in this quote from Jesus:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:3)

In the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus holds out eight promises.  Mourners will be comforted, the merciful will be shown mercy, etc.  But the first and last promises aren’t “will be” promises, they are “is” promises.  Which means, at least in some measure, they matter right now!  

The first promise is for those who are poor in spirit” (For more about what that means, see: Winning in Last Place).  Those who are spiritually bankrupt and who know it, who come to Jesus with nothing to offer, are promised the kingdom of heaven now.  In the present tense.

Which means, most of what people know about heaven is wrong.

1.   Heaven is not merely that “better place” Aunt Sally went to be after her terrible accident at the car wash.  The kingdom of heaven is available now.

2.   Entrance to heaven is not determined by how good you have been.  The kingdom of heaven is open to those who are “poor in spirit.”

Here’s the not-so-fine print:  By definition, a kingdom has a king.  People in kingdoms have submitted to the king.  In this case, the King is Jesus.  Once you understand that Jesus is Almighty God, that He loved you so much, He lowered Himself to come for you in human form and die to pay for your sin – once you really grasp that reality – it is logical to acknowledge that He is your King.

People who think they can join the kingdom because they have been good, are not “poor in spirit,” and don’t understand that a kingdom only has one king.

However, those who enter the kingdom of heaven now have not yet experienced the full measure of how wonderful it will be one day.  People who surrender to King Jesus, are blessed now in His kingdom, and receive the Holy Spirit, living eternally in their souls – all right now.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

But they still live in this darkened, corrupted world where they will have trouble.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

The “poor in spirit,” who submit to King Jesus, have the kingdom of heaven “already but not yet.”   The full experience and glory of the Kingdom of Heaven will not be realized until Jesus is universally accepted as the King.  We yearn for that day but cannot begin to fully imagine what it will be like.  We are like children born in refugee camps who have no way to imagine life on a cruise ship.  We have no capacity to imagine the full experience of heaven.  Not yet.

However, right now,  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

The Point of No Return

You are standing on a tiny ledge of trim that runs around the top outside wall of a building.  Your shoes hang over the edge and looking down makes your head swim.  Just picturing this makes my palms sweat.  If you pay attention and keep your balance, you just might make it back to safety.  But, if you lose your balance and fall there won’t be anything anybody can do to save you.  

There is a sin like that, a sin from which there is no rescue, nothing anybody can do to save you.  John calls it “the sin that leads to death.”  Commit that sin and you have fallen off the ledge.  Even prayer isn’t going to help.

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)

Are your palms sweaty?  Do you want to know what the deadly sin is?  Jesus called it “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”  He said:

“But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”  (Mark 3:29)

But what does that mean?  The best explanation is that it refers to someone who knows that what he has experienced was accomplished by God’s Spirit, and that he nevertheless attributes that experience to the work of Satan. In simple terms, the sin that leads to death is deliberately and knowingly hardening one’s heart against God.

Bad news and good news.  Bad news: If you deliberately turn away from God, knowingly turn away from Him, there really is a point of no return. Good news:  If you are worried about this, you probably have not yet stepped off the ledge, so to speak.  And there is a way to be sure you don’t.   

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God  [Jesus] keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.   (1 John 5:18)

How can we be “born of God?”

Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name [believed in Who He is], he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent,c nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  (John 1:12-13  with my added explanations)

Gimme a Scroll Bar!

Were you surprised the government couldn’t run a website as well as Amazon does?  Not me.  The first time I filed my taxes online, I remember you had to click on a big button that said SUBMIT!  Submit, indeed…   But once I pushed the button, the screen went blank and nothing seemed to be happening.  For a long, long time.  Freaked me out, because I wasn’t sure if they got my return or not.  I wondered if I should shut off the computer and try again or if that would ruin everything.  There was no way for me to know because nobody at the IRS thought to program in a little scroll bar – you know that little green, line thingy that shows you the download progress when you order a new app or song?  it lets you know everything is okay.  Don’t panic; just wait.   That scroll bar has probably done more for mental health than psychiatry has.  It’s nice to have some real time feedback to let you know that everything is proceeding in the right way.

There is a “scroll bar” for Jesus.  Think about it:  How can you be sure, once you have put your faith in Jesus, that anything has changed?  How can you know that by believing in Jesus you really do have eternal life?   John said you can know in three ways:  First, you can know because Jesus came all the way down to where you are – all the way down to stand in the waters of baptism  (See “All the Way – Part 1″).  Secondly, you can know because Jesus went all the way to the Cross – giving His life, spending His blood – which no one would do unless it was going to work (See “All the Way – Part 2” and “What’s Love (or Justice) Got to do with It?“).

But you can know in a third way, too.  God gives us a scroll bar, too – something to let us know everything is okay – don’t panic.  God gives us real time evidence that we have been connected to Him forever.

This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  (1 John 5:6 )

The Spirit shows us day by day, in real time, that we are alive in Christ.  He is like a scroll bar.  Obviously, He is a lot more than just evidence that everything is working, but the fact that He testifies – continuously – is important.  We don’t need to wonder if trusting Jesus is really effective.  We don’t need to wonder if we have eternal life.  The Spirit shows us.

Here’s the rest of what John said:

For there are three that testify:  the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.   We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.   Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.   And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  (1 John 5:7-13)

That’s the truth.  It comes with a “scroll bar.”

The Main Thing

The teacher said, “Label these maps,” and I did that.  But some of the girls went overboard, trying to impress the teacher with how good they were.  So they colored their maps, too.  I’m still mad about it because it made me and my buddies look bad.  Got all the countries labeled right and I still got a lousy grade.

Pharisees in Jesus’ day colored their maps, too, so to speak.  They went overboard, keeping all the religious rules with strict detail.  Tried to impress God and made everybody else look like a putz.  Now, one of those Pharisee guys was also a head official in the Jewish ruling council.  Double toady.  But he got curious about Jesus, and went to see Him secretly, late at night.  He thought Jesus would be impressed with how good he was.  But Jesus flunked him, said he’d never make it, not the way he was.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again [literally – “born from above“].’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  (John 3:5-8  my added note)

It’s not about how hard you try to keep the rules.  The main thing is the Spirit of God, living in your soul.  How does that happen?  The Spirit gives birth to the Spirit.  It happens when you accept Jesus’ offer of complete forgiveness and reconciliation with God.  Then He gives you the Spirit.  Alive.  Inside.   Because this is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, God and Jesus take up residence in your soul.  His words, not mine:

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. … On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  …   “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   (Excerpts taken from John 14:16-23 –  Read the whole thing; it’s amazing!)

Being a Christian is not about “do this” and “don’t do that.”  It’s about surrendering to Jesus and receiving His Spirit, His eternal life.  That’s the main thing.   That is why John said:

 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  (1 John 4:13-16 )

How about you?  Do you know what John said he knew?  Do you have God’s Spirit living in you?  If not, consider this:  If you believe that Jesus was telling the truth, that Jesus really is Who He said He was, and that He really can connect you to God by His Spirit, then ask Him.  Sincerely ask Him for His gift.  You will likely have a few other things you want to say as well – but those are between you and Him.  Ask Him for the Spirit.  You will be amazed…

Living Love

In 1970, Stephen Stills sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with…”  A few years earlier, John wrote: “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7b)

Does that mean Stephen Stills is “born of God?”  Not necessarily.  Because when John uses the word “love,” he means something very different from what Stephen means.  The opposite.  Here’s the key to understanding what John means by love.  He wrote,

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  (1 John 3:16a)

“Love” is giving myself up for you – my wants, my pride, my self-interest, my needs, etc.  I set aside what I want in order to minister to what you need.  For, example If you “can’t be with the one you love,”  you will still be faithful to her.  The ultimate example of love is Jesus’ choice to die so that we could live.  It’s only in understanding what John means by love that we can make sense of the rest of what he wrote:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

Once again, John defines what he means by love.  But notice that God’s act of love is not pointless; it produces in us a new birth (born of God) into new life (…that we might live through Him).  Everyone who accepts God’s Gift of love – Jesus and His atoning sacrifice – is given the Spirit of God.  This Spirit is “born” in the believer and “lives” in him or her.  This is God’s Spirit, the Spirit of love, because “God is love.”

Make sure you follow the logic of these thoughts.  They are not just nice valentines from John, but revolutionary truths!  Only when you comprehend what John is saying here, only when you “get it” with an “Aha!” sort of understanding, will it make sense to read:

“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”