Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Numbers 7:89

The Cherubim Above the Ark

Have you ever noticed as a parent that you can pick out your child’s voice, your child’s cries among many voices? When you child is a baby and is in their crib in another room in another part of the house, maybe even on a different floor of your house and you wake up instantly when that child begins to cry in the night? We as parents know our children so acutely that we can pick out their cries among a din of voices or from a distance. We are in tune with our flesh and blood. We know our children intimately. We spend a great deal of time with them. We know the difference between tones of their voices when they need us. As they grow older, we know from their tone of voice as to whether they are telling the truth or lying. We know from how they look as to whether they are happy or sad, sick or healthy, hungry or full. It starts when they are babies. As you learn your child, you know which cries are hungry cries and which cries are just fighting sleep cries. We know which cries are bad dream cries. We learn our children. I was discussing with my wife the other day that when my girls need something from me, they put multiple a’s in the word, daddy. So, it becomes daaaaaady. It is a matter of tone as to knowing whether it’s a “daddy I need money” daaaaady or whether it’s a “please fix this for me” daaaaady. As my oldest child went through a grueling 18 hour labor from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning this week, there were the “please fix this for me” daaady cries. I know the difference. By their voices, I know when my daughters are happy, sad, in need, angry, and so on.

 

When I read this final verse of the passage/chapter of Numbers 7 again this morning, I was about to move on to the next passage, Numbers 8:1-4, but something struck me about this final verse of this passage that I had to circle back to and write about. The idea of Moses hearing the audible voice of God was what struck me. Just as I know by the sound of my children’s voices what was and is going on with them, Moses actually heard the voice of God on frequent occasions. What was that like? Was it an actual, audible voice that could be heard through Moses’ ears that could possibly have been heard by others if they were standing beside or near where Moses was?  Or was it something that Moses perceived as audible in his mind but was not an auditory sensation through his ears? Either way Moses got to hear the voice of God. That is a privilege accorded only a few in the Bible. Let’s read again what this verse says:

 

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

 

To hear the actual voice of God! Wow, what an honor that must have been! To hear God speak words! To hear Him say words where there was no mistaking what He meant. No trying to figure out what God is telling us. No discerning what His message is to us. Just plain out hearing and understanding. How awesome would that be! That got me to thinking though. Why is it that you and I do not hear the actual voice of God? Was Moses actually that much better of a person than we are? What’s the deal here?

 

Imagine hearing the very voice of God. Moses must have trembled at the sound. But why do you and I not hear an audible voice of God like Moses. Do we not have the voice of God available to us? Yes, we do, in fact. We have the Word of God recorded for us in the Bible and we should have no less reverence and awe for it as Moses would have had for the audible words going forth from God. He sometimes spoke directly to His people to tell them how to live. The Bible records these conversations to give us insights into God’s character. How tragic it is when we take God’s Word lightly. Like Moses, we have the privilege of talking to God, but God answers us differently – through his Written Word and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. To seek God’s voice and to understand God’s Word in ways that give us answers to our life questions, we must seek to know God intimately so that we can discern his voice through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives just as Moses did.

 

According to gotquestions.com, it says, on this issue:

 

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

 

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

 

Just as we know our children’s voices and know what each and every inflection of their voices mean (because we spend so much time with our children over the years). Just as we know how they different inflections of using the very same word means different things, we know this. We know this because we know our children on an intimate level. We know our children better than anyone in the world with, maybe, the exception of our spouses. When you live with a child for all those years as they grow up, you know them almost on a molecular level. You know them intimately in a way that you do not know other people who live outside your home.

 

We can know God intimately through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It is only through that act and Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit that we can truly begin to understand God. It is through His Holy Spirit that we can discern God’s Word that once seem folly to us. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to apply the truths of the Bible to our lives. We have God’s Word and we have the Holy Spirit. These are the materials for an intimate relationship with God.

 

I am not saying that God cannot or will not speak audibly to us or someone else now or in the future. He is God. He can reveal Himself to us the way that He wants. However, He has given us His Word and He sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. These are the tools that He gives us. We must become intimate with the Holy Spirit by listening to that voice that tells that which is right and wrong and guides us toward God’s will. We must. We must study the Word of God, not just read it. We must become so immersed in the Bible that we devour it. We must study it daily. We see it as essential to our lives. We must also spend time with the Lord in prayer. Being intimate with Him where you focus is totally on Him. There are so many things that we put in the way of spending time in His Word or in specified prayer time. We do not think it is important and then we wonder why it is difficult for us to discern God’s will.

 

What if you did not spend time with your kids? What if you did not spend countless hours with them over the course of their home years? The only way we know our kids is the intimate time, the intimate years that we spend with them. It is the same way with God. We learn everything about him through making Him our Lord, studying not just reading His Word, and spending specific times of prayer with Him. We learn his traits and his characteristics this way and thus learn to better discern His will. Maybe one day we will be so in tune with Him that we will actually hear His voice like Moses did, but that will only come if we focus on and be intentional about being intimate with God. Then and only then will we recognize His voice in the same way that we can hear the small voice of our baby in a crib in a different part of the house as if the baby were right in our ear.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples

Have you ever had someone just get up in your face and tell you the truth? Often, it is the truth that you do not want to hear? When other people either won’t tell you the truth because they fear it will hurt your feelings or they just want to avoid the conflict. But, there is that one friend. You know! The one who really cares about you and is willing to risk your friendship to set you straight. Jesus is being that friend in this passage. He is in our face. He is telling us the truth. He is willing to risk our friendship with Him to set us straight.

As we draw to the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets more and more direct and to the point with his commentary. No parables. Just straight up, in your face words of spiritual reality. Words of authority and his place as judge. In this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me: you evildoers!’

What is Jesus saying to us here? Let’s bottom line this thing. I think Jesus is saying one central thing…only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter God’s Kingdom on judgment day. This passage is all about obedience to God, the master of the universe. As Matthew Henry says in his textbook series, “Commentary on the Scriptures”, when speaking of this passage, “He shows, by a plain remonstrance, that an outward profession of religion, however remarkable, will not bring us to heaven”…

Henry goes on to say, “He is an excellent Christian on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun shines upon the earth on the first day of the week, all his religion is awake, but, alas, he is a very queer Christian on a Monday, and a remarkably bad Christian on Saturday nights. Many people keep their piety folded up and put away with their best clothes, and they only give it an airing on the Sabbath. Their Bible is to be seen under their arm on Sunday, but on a Monday, where is that Bible? Well, not at the man’s right hand, as a perpetual companion. Where are the precepts of Scripture? Are they in the shop? Are they in the house? Alas the golden rule has been left in church to lie dusty in the pews until next Sunday. Religion is not wanted by some people on a weekday, it might be inconvenient. Many there be who sing psalms of praise to God but confine their praises to the congregation; as to praising Him in their heart at home, it never occurs to them. Their whole religion lies inside the meeting house walls, or comes up at certain times and seasons during the day, when the family is called in to prayer.”

Wow, can’t put it any plainer than that. After reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary it is very clear that Jesus is saying that we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Jesus is saying that only the only who does the will of my Father will enter into heaven. There is no list here of things you have to do in life. No need for flashy public displays of your “love of Jesus”. Do the will of the Father. That’s it. Plain and simple. Without that, you are not in the Heaven club!

How do we do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? I think that we must answer the second question first and answer it this way. The will of the Father is different from our own human fleshly will. Thus, to do the Father’s will is to give up our own will. To give up our own will, our own control over our lives, is an act of obedience led by faith. Just as a child obeys his parents out of his faith that his parents will not let them come to harm so is giving up our will to that of God. The will of the Father is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to do more for others than we do for ourselves, love without expectation of return, loving the unloveable, being selfless instead of selfish, serving others without expecting a reward for it, never being ashamed of placing God at the kingship of our lives, being willing to die for our belief in God. These are the things of God’s will. These are the things of a full-on commitment to God. These are the hard things.

Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian, wrote this on the subject, “Do believers ever always do God’s will? Sadly the answer is no. We are not yet glorified. We still possess the fallen flesh. Clearly, genuine believers from time to time choose their will over God’s will, but when they do, as disobedient children of God, they subject themselves to the disciplining hand of their Father. In contrast, those individuals that Jesus is describing in this passage continually, habitually and as their “normal” pattern of life choose their will over God’s will. In short, what Jesus is describing is not “perfection” but “direction” of one’s life as evidenced by one’s daily thoughts, words and deeds – believers while not perfect (perfection) in this life are headed toward heaven (direction), although from time to time they do live like they are headed in the opposite direction!”

Taking Spurgeon’s thought a little further, if we are from fallen flesh, then what hope do we have to continually do the Father’s will. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, then we are hopelessly unable to complete a life of doing the Father’s will. Going back to Romans, Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, as our parents punished us for living outside their will, we suffer the results of our own living out of alignment with their will. We suffer the results of our sin. However, through the redemptive love of Jesus who died for our sins, we can be reconciled to God. Just as our parent’s wipe our slate clean and reinstate us to their favor, so does the redemptive grace of Jesus.

So, what does all this mean? To me, it means intentionality. It is choices. It is a mindset change. We must intentionally seek to do the will of God. To intentionally seek to do the will of God, we must give up our will. Willful children suffer when they purposely live their lives outside the will of their parents. So, we as God’s children must give guidance of our lives up to God. We must willingly seek His favor and His will. It is only when we see how lucky we are to be given good standing with God through Jesus’ redemption that we willingly take our own will off the table. We want to do God’s will. We live our life in that direction. Our actions of compassion, love and forgiveness and mind choices that demonstrate that direction. Any child no matter how angry and willful ultimately wants their parent’s approval and will glory in it when they get it. So, are we as God’s children! We willingly submit to his leadership of our lives. We want to represent him in the world. We want the world to know that through the covering of His Son that we have new life. We are so happy in that we want to do more, we want to be more for God. So happy in the new lease on life we have been given – taking us away from the life of selfishness and the pit that it dropped us in. Just as the Prodigal Son found himself in a pit with pigs (willing to eat the husks that people had rejected) realized that he could return to his Father. When he returned to his father, he was willing to be a lowly servant to just be in his dad’s house. His father rather gave him his place back in the house as his son. Although the Bible does not go on with the Prodigal story, but can you imagine the immense joy felt by the son who days before was in the pit. That’s how we feel as a true Christ follower, yes, father I want to do your will … anything you ask I will do … whatever you say I will follow it … I know from my life experience that you know best for me.

Those who say, “Lord, Lord” but yet live in a different direction are deluding themselves. We may think that going to church at the coolest church in town is enough. We may think that listening to and singing along with the most modern music with concert quality sound systems is enough. We may think that listening to a message by the hippest pastor around is all we need. However, if there is no salvation, there is nothing. If there is no life change, there is nothing. There is an old saying that goes, “They praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Just sitting in church on Sunday at the “in church” in town without life change, without salvation, without living a submitted lifestyle is just saying “Lord, Lord” and Christ will say He never knew us. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we do this? We must truly accept Christ as our Savior and He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Nothing can replace or imitate salvation. The Holy Spirit then puts on His work gloves and begins to work in us daily. We must begin daily, hourly, minute by minute, make the mental choices to listen to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our mind. We must make choices that are consistent with God’s will as expressed in His Holy Word. It is hard work, this renewing of the mind thing. Sometimes, our flesh cries out against the Holy Spirit and it is a real struggle to do what the Holy Spirit says. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirits says for us to do is so very much in contrast to our nature and our culture! It is a choice to follow the Holy Spirit. It is a renewing of the mind. It is submitting our will to the will of God. How hard it is to let go of our will! There is no list or prescribed checklist here. Our faith is not about doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things. That is legalism. That is meaningless in God’s eyes. What God wants is our heart, our allegiance, our undying devotion to Him, our willingness to give Him glory and not ourselves. What God wants is all of us. He wants us leave our will at the door and follow Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes a hard dose of reality is what we need. That is what Jesus gives us in this passage. It is not hard to figure out. It is not a story that we must figure out the meaning. Jesus could not have put it any plainer. Even a child could figure out what Jesus is saying to us here. Direct language. Plain and simple, Jesus is direct. He says it straight out…do the will of my Father in Heaven and you will be there when your time comes! Do the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father will show through our Prodigal son-like thankfulness for having been saved from the pit. Doing the will of the Father, Jesus says, is more than public displays to be seen by other men…it is actually living a life that is actively seeking to do the things that the Father wants us to do…really wanting to. As they say on American Idol, we need “to be in it to win it.” In it to win it…all in…thankfully joyfully seeking our Father’s favor by doing his will… His will not ours…Plain and simple.

1 Corinthians 13 — Yesterday, we talked about how pretty much every gift given from God is meaningless unless we love, unless we show love, unless we act in love. Then, that begs the question, What is love? In this next paragraph of this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes love. It reminds you of that scene from the movie, Forest Gump, when he asks Jenny to marry him for the first time and the speaking parts of the scene end with Forrest saying, “I might not be a smart man, but I do know what love is!” Paul, in this paragraph, tells us what Forrest already knows. Since love is the central theme of Christianity, we will spend a few days here on these definitions of love. Just think how patient Forrest was with Jenny. That was patient love. That was abiding love. We can learn a lot from how Forrest loved Jenny.

The first definition of love is that love is patient. Right out of the gate, Paul uses patience to describe love. It must therefore be a primary characteristic of love. Just as food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of food you purchase in their order of relative content in the food. If patience is listed first, it must mean that Paul sees it as the most important ingredient in love. What is patience then? Dictionary.com defines patience as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It goes on to define patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience is also quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To be patient is to have these qualities and to live out these qualities. Love is patient.

According to gotquestions.com, patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Without patience can we truly love? The lack of patience in relationships means that we are not willing to invest in them. Lack of patience with others means that we see our agenda as greater than theirs. Impatience is the fruit of selfishness.

Patience means setting aside getting my needs met. That is where impatience is born is in our selfish, depraved, sinful desires to get what I want and I want it now! We start out young being impatient. Babies that do not get their needs met immediately shower us with their curdling cries and screams. We come into this world wanting what we want and wanting it now. Patience only comes when we care about the needs of others more than our own needs. Think of the wife how suffers through decades of her husband’s alcoholism but still loves him. She still sees the best in him.

Patience gives us hope. Patience believes in the best in others. Just think of the joy that she has when her husband finally admits his problem, joins Celebrate Recovery, and begins his sobriety journey. Impatience would have ended that marriage decades ago. Patience is rewarded in this scenario we are talking about. Often the strongest marriages are those that have survived devastating setbacks, pain, and troubles. When marriages come out of the valley, one or the other or both see the godly love that has been shown them by their spouse and it deepens their love for one another. Without patience that would never happen.

Patience sees potential in others. Patience allows us to nurture that which is good in others. It allows us to invest in another person even though right now that person is so annoying. Patience allows us to give them space to be themselves. Patience concentrates on that which is good in others rather than that which annoys us.

Patience allows us to grant others grace, the same grace that we have been shown by Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In a world where Christians are bombarded by a world now that sees what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong, patience can be in short supply. We want to wash our hands of a world gone mad. We may find it disgusting and it may turn our stomach and make us nauseous to watch Bruce Jenner in an evening gown being rewarded for his courage. We can lose our patience over things like this because it just seems that the world now glorifies everything that is the opposite of what we think is right. But weren’t we ourselves ones who used to shake our fist at God by the way we lived our lives in opposition to Him. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who accepted Jesus as your Savior as a child, then, you and me have lived lives that grieve the heart of God. It was not until God allowed circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees before Him that we quit shaking our fist at God. We must be patient with those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. We must offer them the same grace that we have been given.

Patience allows us to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, it means that we don’t write people off as beyond redemption. We don’t write people off because what they do makes us sick to our stomach, literally. Jesus would have encountered Bruce Jenner not rejected Him. Jesus would have ate dinner with a same-sex couple. He would have not waffled on God’s truths with them. He would have told them like it was, but He would have done it in a way that made them think. He would have done so in love. Imagine the patience of Jesus with us sinners. He loved us. He sat down with us in the midst of our sins. He went to the cross and died for us and patiently waits for you to accept Him as your Savior even now while you shake your fist at Him.

Jesus, The Holy Spirit and The Father are one. In Scripture it says God is patient. According to gotquestions.com, since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).

If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be little Christs, we must have love in our hearts for others. We must be able to set aside our need to have our needs immediately met. We must have godly patience with others. We must love them to the cross. Sometimes that takes long-suffering patience. Patience is the hallmark of love. Patience means never giving up, never writing off, always hoping, always seeing a child of God in others even when they are shaking their fist at us and everything that we hold dear. God, grant us patience daily! OK. Let’s go watch Forrest Gump again!

Luke 12:1-12 — As we conclude our look at this passage today, we tackle one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible, Luke 12:10 (and its companion verses at Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-29). Jesus says, in Luke 12:10, “Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” It is called the unforgiveable sin, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but what does this mean?

First, we must establish what the word, blaspheme, means. Since we are in the New Testament, we must go the Greek language. The English word, blaspheme, comes from the Greek word, blasphemeo. The meaning in the Greek language is to use speech that brings down another’s value, honor, due respect, or to injure another’s reputation in the eyes of others. So, in this context, Jesus is saying that discrediting the Holy Spirit is the unforgiveable sin. Matthew 12:31-32 tells it a little different in saying that this sin will “never be forgiven” whereas Luke says “not”. Matthew goes on to say that this sin will not be forgiven “either in this world or in the world to come.” Mark 3:28-29 concludes that statement with “This is a sin with eternal consequences.” To discredit the work of the Holy Spirit (part of the Holy Trinity) is to discredit God and to discredit God has consequences of eternal ramifications for those who commit this sin both in this life and the hereafter. Jesus lays it all out on the line here.

To illustrate the concept, my ex-wife used to get mad at her boys and tell them in anger that they were “on restrictions for the rest of your life.” That’s a long time! I used to tell her not to say that because you are automatically setting yourself up for a loss of credibility with the boys. If you tell them that they are going to be on restrictions for the rest of their life, you better be prepared to carry that out. The boys knew she wasn’t serious when said such things and they would go on about their business. It didn’t help that even when she calmed down that she would put them on restrictions for say two weeks. But, my ex was a softie, and the boys knew they could beg and plead long enough that they would get themselves off restrictions by bargaining with her about promises of action that they knew they would never keep. It was this type of thing that was the undoing of our marriage (second marriages often break up over kid issues). The boys knew that my lines in the sand were realistic and were not to be crossed. But often when they got in trouble with me and I would not negotiate with them about their punishment, they would go behind my back to their mother and she would eventually cave in to their constant begging and pleading. The line in the sand was washed away. My credibility as a disciplinarian/father destroyed. Children learning nothing about consequences to your action. It was not to be mean to them but rather it was to grow them into men who could function in a society that rightly so includes consequences for the stupid stuff we do as adults. Men, especially, must learn to be providers for their families and must learn that life is about hard knocks. You make mistakes. You learn from them. You dust yourself off and move on. Boys must learn at a young age that the world throws stuff at us that is not fair as we see it in our eyes but we gotta put up with and and deal with. They learn that at home as boys when there are consequences to breaking established family rules.

Jesus is saying here that there is indeed a line in the sand. There is a consequence for action. Just as good parenting to our own children sometimes includes there being real consequences for bad behavior that are non-negotiable. There has to be a line in the sand in parenting our kids and there has to be a line in the sand when it comes to matters about God and our eternity either with Him or separated from Him.

You must be saying wow like I am right now. This is the first time that I am really studying and writing on the concept of blaspheming the Holy Spirit as the unforgiveable sin. I am partially in shock. The God of love that we preach about has a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. A God of love and forgiveness seems to be contradictory to what we want to believe about God. However, what is lost in today’s watered down gospel world is that God is not only a God of love but He is a God of justice as well. There are real consequences here. Jesus is saying that very thing as plain as day right here in this passage. Remember in the context of this passage, we have been talking all week about standing up for Jesus. We have been talking about not denying Him. We have been talking about acknowledging Him and following Him even when it costs us our comfort and even our freedom or even our very lives. Thus, when Jesus gets to this statement at this point in the passage, it is very clear that rejecting Jesus, rejecting the Holy Spirit, rejecting the Father (the holy trinity of God) has real consequences. We all know what that is but we never talk about it much today. The real consequence of rejecting God is an eternity in hell. The place of darkness and the burning of flesh and the gnashing of teeth against flesh and bone – for eternity. Not just a couple of weeks on restrictions, like my stepsons in my previous marriage, but eternity. As Prince says in the song, “Let’s Go Crazy”, forever is a mighty long time. Rejecting Jesus as the Messiah is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that illuminates to us who Jesus is. Rejecting that power to see Jesus as who He is reveals a heart that is beyond illumination and is therefore hopeless. Those who reject God as a figment of ancient imaginations are blaspheming the Holy Spirit and there is consequence to that. Those who reject Jesus as the Messiah have real consequences that await those who stay on that path and never accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Real consequences for bad behavior that cannot be changed or made wishy-washy.

God is a God of justice. Yes, He is a God of love but He is also a God of justice. If we had judges in our court systems here in the US that did not mete out punishment for crimes we would throw them off the bench. But, yet, we today in our anything goes world believe that there is no eternal consequence if we believe in eternity at all. We think that there is no hell. All roads lead to heaven. If we just do more good than bad we will make it there. If there were no consequences in eternity for our actions here, then Hitler got to to heaven. Even the most unrepentant soul gets to go to heaven. In this philosophy, there is no need for the Holy Spirit. There is especially no need for Jesus. We control our fate. We are God. But that is a fabrication of Satan, of hearts that are hardened. We blaspheme the Holy Spirit when we reject Jesus. A just God will judge us for our rejection. A just God will judge us for our imperfection and cast us out because we need to be perfect and holy to be with Him. We are all sinners in need of rescue. We need Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to who He is. We need to know that Jesus is the only way to the Father. We need to know that He is the Messiah. We need to know that our sins will keep us from spending an eternity with a Holy God. We need to know how precarious our eternal situation is. We need to know that we need saving. We need to know that we cannot do it ourselves. We need to know of our need for grace. We need to know. When we purposefully reject the Holy Spirit because we do not believe in all that Jesus stuff, we shake our fist at God. When we purposefully reject the Holy Spirit by scoffing at Jesus as the Savior and the only way to eternity, we shake our fist at God. When we do this, we are disobedient children who deserve the just punishment of not recognizing what we have been told, what we have witnessed and seen. Hell is that consequence. As the Reformation Bible says in its commentary on this passage, “When His influence is deliberately and knowingly refused, in opposition to light, then the irreversible sin can be committed as a voluntary, informed act of malice. In response there is a hardening of the heart from God that rules out repentance and faith.” That leads us to two other things to consider. One is for ourselves as Christ followers and one is for those who currently reject Him.

As Christ followers, the first thing that pops into our mind is that, if blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the unforgiveable sin, have I done it? None of us came into this world perfect except for Jesus. There is a period in each of our lives that we have rejected Jesus in one way or another. For example, I did not accept Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old. In those 39 years, I must have blasphemed the Holy Spirit in one way or another. Am I hopeless? Am I destined for hell because I once shook my fist at God and grieved and blasphemed the Holy Spirit by the way I lived – a life of rejecting God. If this is the unforgiveable sin then it does not matter that I have accepted Christ as my Savior. Does it? The answer is that it has to do with repentance. I may have actively rejected God for a long period of my life but I came to realize my folly finally. Christians need not worry because this sin is defined as a heart attitude. It is defined as an ongoing rejection of God, an active rejection of God. As the Reformation Bible commentary says, “a person who wants to repent, that is, to reverse the sins they are guilty of, has not suffered this hardening [of the heart] and has not committed the profound act of hatred that God has determined that He will not forgive. Anyone who has been born again will not commit this sin, because the Spirit lives in that person and God is not divided against Himself (1 John 3:9).” What the commentary is saying to me is that the unpardonable sin is to actively go to our grave shaking our fist at God. As the Quest Study Bible puts it, “Jesus gave the solemn warning in these verses to people whose hard-heartedness placed them on the brink of disaster. Blasphemy against the Spirit evidently is not just a one-time offense; rather, it is an ongoing attitude of rebellion – a stubborn way of life that continually resists, rejects and insults the Holy Spirit. This is what makes it, in effect, an eternal sin (Mark 3:29). Blasphemy against the Spirit is not unforgivable because of something done unintentionally in the past, but because of something being done deliberately and unrelentingly in the present.”

Going to your grave without letting in the Holy Spirit to your heart to illumine who Jesus is a death warrant. There is no stay of execution for it. A just and righteous God gives us every opportunity to come to Him through the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. The Holy Spirit teaches us of our need for a Savior whose name is only Jesus Christ. To reject that all the way to your grave reserves your place in the prison of tortured souls in hell. There are no ways to get off the hook on this one. It is the final consequence. It is like the parent who finally has to punish their kid after having given them every opportunity to reform. It is not what the parent wants and it is often more emotionally punishing to the parent than to the child. But the parent must teach the child that there are consequences to behavior no matter how much it pains the parent to do so. Just as, too, when a child emerges from their punishment and has learned from it, the parent lovingly accepts the new behavior of the child and never revisits the past but only praises the child for the new and better behavior. God does the same with us when we accept Christ as our Savior. He only praises us for what He sees in us going forward. We are a new creation and it is the new creation by which He judges us. Thank God for Jesus taking my punishment on the cross for the punishment I deserve. Thank God for the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to who Jesus is and what He did for me. Thank God for not holding my past against me.

That leads us to the sorrow that we must feel as Christians for the non-believers that we know that are all around us all around the world. We must be pained to the core. We must cry for their souls. The Reformation Bible commentary that I just mentioned goes on to say, in its discussion of the Unforgiveable Sin, “God permits the decision of the human will to be permanent in this case. God does not do this lightly or without cause, but in response to an offense against His love” that he offers freely in Jesus Christ. Jesus says there is a hell. Jesus says that going to our grave rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in our soul consigns us there.

Many people say that “if I could just see a real miracle I would believe in God.” We have plenty of evidence. All acknowledge that Jesus existed. We know of His birth, death, resurrection and ascension. We know of centuries of His work in believers around the world. Romans 1:18-25 tells us that we are born to know God and that we can see evidence of Him in the universe that He created. Yet we reject Him actively. Even though we are born with knowledge of God from the intrinsic sense of right and wrong that we all have in us, we actively reject Him. Romans 1:32 says, “though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Just think of today where those who condemn anyone who says that our anything goes lifestyles are not of God. We get vilified when we say such things. We guarantee at health clubs now that if I feel like a woman I can go dress in the women’s locker room. If you stand up against that which is blatantly wrong (that feeling we are wired with by God), you get your gym membership revoked. Just see how lifestyles that are anti-biblical are glorified on television and in film because by doing so they think they validate these lifestyles as acceptable. Such behavior must resort to governmental enforcement to get its way because it takes this force to enforce that which is fundamentally against the nature of man and the way God created us. We reject God in favor of the lifestyles that we want to lead. I am not just talking alternative lifestyles but any lifestyle that stands as blatantly against God. We shake our fist at Him.

If we as Christians know the consequences of rejecting God in these ways, we should not be protesting we should be crying for these people who out and out shake their fist in the air at God. You do not protest when someone is in a burning house. You run in and try to save them. We know that anyone who goes to their grave shaking their fist at God will spend their eternity in hell. We should be pained to the core by this. We should be crying for the lost souls that think they are so enlightened but yet so completely ignorant of their eternal fate. When we reject the Holy Spirit in favor of living in ungodly ways we cannot see the train wreck we are approaching at our death. We think that we are enlightened. We think we have grown beyond God. We think that God was some fiction created by society just to keep us from living out our potential. God was nothing but to hold us back from the very nature of man and the freedom to pursue what is right for the individual. We must not let them go to their grave in defiance of God only to find out that they were wrong permanently in eternity. We should be getting into their lives by befriending them and looking for ways to teach them of what Jesus did in our lives. How he fundamentally changed us to the core. How we used to be like them in shaking our fist at God and where that road led us. How we are sinners. How we all grieve the heart of God. How God though loves us so much that He sent Jesus to save us from ourselves. How recognizing that fact changes everything. How that fact clears the ledger for each one who accepts Christ. No judgment due for past crimes. Just the joy of being set free. Just the joy of salvation. Just the joy of living on Christ’s dime and not ours. Just the joy of knowing that we are no longer under the judgment of the unpardonable sin. Let us have that urgency for those who still are shaking their fist at God and the judgment that they are currently under for that.

Let us resolve to spread the gospel in each of our individual Judeas, our individual Samarias, and our individual ends of the earth. There are souls at stake. There is eternity at stake. We should be like Mr. Schindler at the end of the movie, Schindler’s List, who wept at the Jews he did not save. Just one more, he said. Just one more. That is how we should be about those currently stand condemned before God, don’t even know it, and shake their fist at Him. Let us cry for them. Let us be heartbroken for them. Let us be so moved that we witness to one more…and one more…and one more. The stakes are high. They are eternal. Our resolve to not see someone not go down into their grave shaking their fist at God should compel us to action. Love can. Love can. Love can compel us. Let us be Schindler-esque in our desire that lost souls come to Christ. Let us weep. Let us care.

Luke 10:17-24 — Today, we move on to a new passage, Luke 10:17-24. We will spend a few days here as well.

Jesus spent a pretty extensive speech in the previous passage about what to expect and how to react to it when spreading the gospel message. Somewhere between Luke 10:1-16 and Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two are sent out to prepare the way for Jesus. At Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two return to Jesus. The disciples are excited. They had expelled demons by invoking Jesus’ name. They were on a spiritual high. They were pumped up.

You know this feeling. If you have ever participated in one of our church’s Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, you know this feeling. You have participated in a Holy Spirit move.

You know this feeling. You have been witness to someone accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

You know this feeling. You have just witnessed the most amazing church service where people let loose and praise the Lord like it’s nobody’s business while at the same time you see that their country is one that suffers from desperate poverty.

You know this feeling. We, as Christ followers, have often seen the power of the Holy Spirit move through us, seen Him act in others and in situations around us, that inspire wonder and awe on our part. When this happens, we feel special. This is how the returning 72 felt. They were walking in the clouds. They felt they had been witness to the power of God and they reveled in the moment. Everything Jesus had promised had played out right before their eyes. As humans, though, we can easily mess things up. Pride can sneak in. We can sometimes take pride in the accomplishments that we see in the name of the Lord and begin to take credit for what happens as if it were something that we had done. Notice that the disciples said, “the demons obey US…” Notice that. The disciples are claiming that the demons are obeying them, rather than the Holy Spirit who is working through them.

Jesus handles this situation with His usual grace and charm. He wanted them to know that they should be excited to see what God can do. They should be excited that their faith allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them. He wanted them to know, “see this is what you can do when you have an all-in kind of faith, that totally sold out to me kind of faith”. Jesus wanted them to know that it is this kind of faith that can conquer anything. So, Jesus celebrated the victories with them. However, He also used the victory as time for additional teaching. He warned them about taking personal pride or credit for that which is of God. The demons were driven out by the Holy Spirit acting through the disciples not because of any special thing about the disciples. Their only qualification was their willingness to be sent. He warned them to remember, basically, to give credit where credit is due, to God. We are the vessels and not the contents. Our names are registered in heaven simply through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and being willingly submitted to Him and whatever He sends us to do. There’s an old saying that “Jesus does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” We must remember that any power that we have has been granted to us not anything that we are ourselves. God uses so many different kinds of people in so many different kinds of ways, there is no common thing that we can learn to acquire the power of God. It is something that He grants us when we are submitted to Him.

We can easily become prideful for the successes that we see in the name of the Lord. The church I call my home, LifeSong Church, in Lyman, SC has been extremely successful over these 7 years of its existence. It has grown from a handful of people meeting in Pastor Jeff’s living room to now where we have 700-800 people on our campus each weekend. It would be easy for us to take pride in that. But as Pastor Jeff tells us as the staff that the success of our church has nothing to do with him as lead pastor or any of us as staff. The growth of our church is, he says, a testament to the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and not us. The only credit we should take is that we are willing and submitted to Him and earnestly wish to do His will. There is a reason that our church has grown so rapidly. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. Yes, we are to work hard and be witnesses and develop systems and processes to make our jobs easier and our work more fruitful, but that is simply the window dressing for what the Holy Spirit does all on His own. Don’t get me wrong, we must have all of our systems and processes in place so that we can indeed not have to think about mundane things and can consciously participate in the Holy Spirit’s move among us. Our systems and processes should be so well oiled that we don’t have to think about our systems and processes – they just work. That is so we can be fully engaged and watch what the Holy Spirit does and assist in any way that He calls us. We cannot take credit for what He does but we can be there as He does it. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

With the phenomenal growth of our church over the past 7 years, we can also easily take pride in the fact that “we get it and you don’t”. We can look at other churches in our area and see them struggling but yet we are growing and say we get it and you don’t. My church is better than your church. Sure, we can see that there is something special going on at LifeSong and be thankful that we happen to be at this place at this point in time with these people doing what God has called us to do at this place at this point in time, but it is not because we get it and you don’t. It is because God has chosen this church at this moment in time at this place with these people. Our only qualification is our willingness and our submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. What is happening at LifeSong is not about how cool our worship is, not about the cool names we give our ministries, not about how talented our leadership team is, not about how special we are as a team, but rather, about God Himself, about the power of the gospel message in its purest form. The only credit that we can take is being willing to serve Him, being willing to share the gospel in His Name, being willing to love as Jesus loved, being unpretentious about who can come to our church, remembering that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

Father, in heaven, I thank you for your providence in which you have guided and directed me to be at this church at this moment in time with these people doing the work that you have called us to do at this time in this place. Help me to always remember that you are the One who makes everything happen. I am just the vessel but you are the content. Help me to always remember that the credit for miracles that we see in the lives of people that cross our doors is not because we are the coolest church in the area or because we have the corner on the market of salvation, but rather it is because of the pure and simple power of you. It is because you through the Holy Spirit change people from the inside out not because of the snazzy building, or the cool music, and the awesome names of our ministries. It is you, Lord. It is you. Help me to remember that you are Lord and I am just your servant with a willing heart. Help me always to give the glory to you for you are the Sovereign Lord. Amen.

Luke 2:25-35 — Simeon’s Song. There are several things we must understand about this passage that are significant to our faith. First, today, let us not forget where this meeting between Simeon and Jesus’ parents takes place. Second, Wednesday, we will think on Simeon’s Song itself, Finally, on Thursday, we must consider Simeon’s warning to Mary.

First, let’s think on where this meeting took place. We must remember that in the Temple, there was progressively restrictive access to the inner parts of the Temple. First, there was the Court of the Gentiles, where God-fearing non-Jews could worship the Lord. Next, there was the Court of Women. Jewish women could proceed past the Court of the Gentiles into the Court of Women where they could worship the Lord. Finally, past that point, only Jewish men could pass into the Court of Israel. It and was part of the sacred inner court of the Temple. It was a rectangular area that was just inside the eastern wall of the sacred Temple court. It covered half the area from the eastern wall and the Great Altar, and it was slightly lower in elevation than the Priest’s Court to its west, where the offerings were made.

It is significant that this meeting occurred at the Temple. It was where God’s presence dwelled. Three parts of the Trinity come together here. God, the Father, is in His dwelling place. God, the Son, is being brought to the center of worship. Jesus was always obedient to the Father throughout His life on earth. In His earthly function as the Son, He is always seeking to please the Father. Here, we see Him being brought to the Father to be dedicated to His service to the Father. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and reveals to him that He is in the presence of the Son. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the other two parts of the Trinity, the Father and the Son. Here, as in Jesus’ baptism, we see the convergence of the three parts of the Trinity. Thus, this is a significant event. Jesus’ parents are bringing Him to dedicate Him, as the firstborn son, to God’s service as any Jewish firstborn male had done by any righteousness-seeking parents would do. As Jesus would later state, He came to fulfill the law not abolish it. He was the fulfillment of the law. He was the culmination of the law. The law points us toward Him and our need for Him. It is the beauty that He observed the very same law of which He was the fulfillment. This moment, thus, is so significant that all three parts of the Trinity are present. All of this sounds pretty high brow theological doesn’t it? It is in a way. But what does it mean to us? Let us remember that from birth Jesus was dedicated to God’s glory. You repeatedly see throughout the gospels that Jesus’ main aim in everything He did was to glorify God. His earthly parents were righteous people were obedient to the Lord because they wanted the same thing – to glorify the Lord. For us, let us model this Holy Family’s ideal. Let us measure everything we do by whether it brings glory to the Lord. May we seek to be in His presence, in His will always. Just as Mary and Joseph are in the presence of the Trinity at this moment, may we seek the same by seeking to honor God in everything we do. Mary & Joseph were devout in keeping the Word of God at the center and as the reason for their actions. Let us be the same and it is there that we will find the presence of the Lord.

Not only should we notice that this meeting took place in the Temple but we must notice where in the Temple this meeting takes place. The fact that Mary is still in the scene is significant. She was not allowed in the inner part of the Temple. She was a woman. She would have had to stop in the Court of Women. It should not be lost on us where this meeting takes place then. Mary is still present. This means that this meeting either took place in the Court of the Gentile or at the farthest in the Court of Women. This, to me, is the signal to the readers of Luke that Jesus was not here just for the pious Jewish man. He was here for all people including women. Luke’s gospel often stresses the importance of women in Jesus’ ministry and the fact that Jesus was here for the Gentiles as much as the Jews. Jesus is not exclusive. He is for all. Jews, Gentiles, women, men. He is accessible and available to all. He offers salvation to all, not just those who have certain pedigrees or gender. He is here for the entire world. You don’t have to be born the child of a church member. You don’t have to born in a certain part of town. You don’t have to be a member of a country club. There is no one more deserving than another of God’s grace given us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is in the inner Temple. He is in the Court of Women. He is in the Court of the Gentiles. He is the Savior of the World.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Blessed Trinity. We seek Your presence Lord. Help us to glorify you by obeying your Word, by seeking to please you in everything that we do, by seeking your presence in our lives. In so doing may we learn that no matter who we are or what we have done, You gave us grace in in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Savior of the World. All we have to do is seek Him, want Him to rule over our lives, and seek to please Him in everything we do just as when He was here on earth that He sought daily to be an obedient Son. May we remember too that the grace we enjoy is grace for all so that we will share the Good News with all. Jesus came for us all. Amen.

Romans 12:1-2 — Living sacrifices and renewed minds. This two verses are some of the most remembered verses in the Bible. We find here a very short but clear description of the essence of the believer’s response to God’s grace in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a reminder to us that being a Christ follower is about choices. It is about our mind as much as it our emotion. Many think that we are supposed to be on a spiritual “warm fuzzy” or spiritual high at all times when we give our lives to Christ. Sure, we have our spiritually high moments but most of being a Christ follower is about choices on a daily basis.

Living sacrifices. In the Old Testament (OT) animals were sacrificed or killed as symbolic penance for sin. These sacrifices had to be perfect and spotless. They were the animals that were set apart from the rest of the herd. As living sacrifices, we should be set apart from that which is profane and worldly. The OT sacrificial animals were set apart and were dedicated to the purpose for which they were to be used. In the OT sacrificial system, the animals taken from life to death to square us away with God. As living sacrifices, we are taken from the death that sin has caused in us into new life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Similarly, we as living sacrifices should dedicate ourselves to God and seeking to do that which is holy and honorable. In the OT sacrificial system, the animals were completely ignorant of the fact that they were about to be slaughtered. As living sacrifices we are different. We are not sheep led to slaughter. We become living sacrifices, we seek to be set apart and holy and in service to God, not unwittingly like an animal, but willingly and intelligently. We choose to live according to God’s Word and not according the current fads that are acceptable and pleasing in society. We choose. We think. Being a Christ follower is a thinking thing.

We are transformed by the way we think. Many Christians think that they are supposed to be on some spiritual high all the time. That amazing feeling of closeness to God that you get from your favorite worship songs and a powerful sermon on Sunday is what people think we are supposed to feel like all the time. Then we get disappointed and often fall away when we don’t “have that feeling” all the time. The problem with that thinking is that Sunday worship is indeed a celebration. It is not what we are to be like daily. It is just impossible. It is the culmination of Christian fellowship. It is restorative. It is refueling. It is worship. It is praise time. It is celebration. Sunday morning worship is the tip of the iceberg though. It is the whole, all-to-end-all, of being a Christian. It is intended to lift us up, and recharge us so that we can be sent back out to live life in the trenches. We need Sunday worship. It is integral to the development of our faith. Praise and learning are its purpose.

Real life change though happens through transforming of the mind. Our thoughts are the genesis of our actions. A new orientation in our thinking leads to a new orientation in behavior. We must daily lay aside our selfish, and self-centered desires to follow Christ. We must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us to renew, re-educate, and redirect our minds. Our thoughts control our behaviors. Every sin has it beginning in the mind. Every adulterous affair began as lustful thoughts. Every act of greed began as constantly thinking about ways to get ahead financially. Everything that is stolen begins as a desire to have something. Every murder begins with thoughts of anger and frustration with another person in our mind. All of our thoughts when you really analyze them are pretty selfish. Our natural thought patterns are about ourselves and what we want and how to satisfy ourselves. Me. Me. Me.

Being a Christ follower flips all that on its head. We are to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to seek after God’s will and not our own. We are to serve others instead of ourselves. We are to give glory to God in all of these things and not ourselves. Being a Christ follower is a radical departure from our normal nature. Being on a spiritual high does not change us though it may temporarily. We must transform our thinking. We must make choices. We must go against our normal grain. With the help of the Holy Spirit this becomes easier and easier over time as He takes control of who we are. However, even after we are saved, we have to make conscious choices to replace worldly selfish thoughts with the ways of God. We must pray. We must read His Word. We must meditate on it. And most of all we must apply it to our lives. We have to think. Being a Christ follower involves your mind as much as your heart. Evil, selfish thoughts enter our mind daily, hourly, and sometimes every minute. We must battle our original nature every second of every day. To think that your natural nature just magically disappears at salvation is just not true. It takes the Holy Spirit a lifetime to transform us into the perfect beings that we become when we are united with Christ in heaven. We must do our part and replace the worldly with the Christ-like. Instead of feeding our selfish desires, we pray for God to replace those thoughts with holy ones. We replace worldly inputs into our lives with holy ones. As we make these intelligent and though-out choices in our lives, we become more and more capable of rejecting evil. The colloquial definition of insanity is “doing the same old things but expecting different results.” As Christ followers, we cannot expect to become more holy if we do not renew our minds. The only way we mature as Christ-followers is to recognize that it is not all emotion. It is about the mind. It is about choices. Christ following is not a zombie like activity where we do nothing but drift along. We participate in our faith. We make choices. We choose to be more Christ like. We seek it. We pursue it. We think!

Father, help me to understand that I must allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in me. Help me not to get in His way with my old ways of think. Help me to participate in the work that He is doing in me. Help me to take my old thoughts captive and replace them with your thoughts. Help me to replace my ways with your ways. Help me to flip the rankings in my life from me first to You first. Amen.