Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

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.

Romans 8:1-17 — There is an old saying that says, “there are two kinds of people in the world, the haves and the have-nots!”

This saying usually is talking about material wealth. Those who have it and those who do not. In the context of today’s passage, Paul talks about the haves and the have-nots, too. However, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit rather than the material wealth. Paul divides people into two categories. We are either those who are dominated by our sinful nature or those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit – the have-nots and the haves. All of us would be in the have-not, sinful nature-controlled category, if Jesus had not been sent by the Father to offer us a way out of the first category. Once we have said yes to Jesus, accepting Him as the Savior of our souls, we will want to follow Him because His ways bring life and peace. Daily, we must consciously choose to center our life around God. We use the Bible to discover God’s guidelines and then follow them. The popular bracelets of recent years that say “What would Jesus do?” remind us that we must choose to follow the ways of the Lord because it is our nature not to do so. We must consciously decide to ask this question daily, “What would Jesus do?” Through the Holy Spirit living in us we will know the answer to the question and we consciously and eagerly must do what the Spirit leads us to do.

Have you ever wondered if you were a “have”, one who has the the Holy Spirit living in them. This question goes to the very core of our faith and what it means to be a Christian. A Christ-follower is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in them. If you have sincerely trusted Christ for your salvation and acknowledged Him as Lord, then, the Holy Spirit lives inside you and as a result your are a Christ-follower. You can be assured that you have the Holy Spirit living inside you because of one thing. Jesus promised it to us. Since you now believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life comes through Him, you will begin as Christ directs through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. Our old ways of luxuriating in our sin nature no longer appeals to us. When we commit sins now, it is not because we did not know. Sinning causes us inner struggle now where it did not before. The Holy Spirit has much work to do when He comes to live in us. He spends our lifetime perfecting us. Helping us to see sin for what it is. Sin separates us from God. Sin is destructive. We have the Holy Spirit living in us to be our Advisor, to point us to do the right thing, to be more Christ-like. He directs us to make choices to serve the Lord and to do His will. The Holy Spirit guides to pray and deepen our relationship with the Father. This is how we know we are a “have” – one who has the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Father, in Heaven, in your great wisdom as the Creator and Sustainer of all life, You send us the Holy Spirit at salvation to help us to make choices that please you. You send us the Holy Spirit to begin perfecting us and to help us repent of our sins. You send Him to clean us up and perfect us so that we may join you in Heaven at the end of our days. Thank you for the Holy Spirit, Father. The Spirit is how we know your presence in our lives. Help us to feel His presence in us. Help us to listen to Him. Help us to consciously choose the Holy Spirit’s ways over our base nature of sin. Help us to know you better through the Spirit. Help us to bring you glory through the Spirit living in us that guides us to be more like your Son progressively each day. To you, Father, is all the honor and the glory for loving us in this way by sending us the Spirit. Amen.

Have you ever felt like you were coming up short? And, no, I’m not talking about the fact that I am vertically challenged! I am talking about that feeling you get after maturing in Christ for a while and you feel like you are not doing enough to spread the gospel, you are not saving lives, not saving souls. Have you ever felt like you were missing out on opportunities to serve the Lord because you had to work? Have you ever felt that even if you were not chained to your desk for 60 hours a week that you would be doing more? Have you ever felt that nothing is going to happen when you finish seminary though it is my hope that I will go in the ministry sometime soon after graduation? Have you ever felt that you would not pull the trigger to do so when it is time, after graduation? Have you ever been surrounded by people that seem to be spiritual giants to you – who can quote Scripture easily at key moments, who are out there on the cutting edge doing real things for real people – while you feel sapped and stuck in inaction? These are the feelings that have been plaguing me lately.

I accepted Christ as my Savior in December 2001 and Christ went to work in removing layers of crud in my life, but most particularly removing the idols in my life. That took a long time. It was not until about August 2009 when Elena and I joined a church similar to Lifesong when we were living in California (Livermore Alive Community Church in Livermore, CA) and it was there I began maturing after shedding many of the ghosts and fears of my past with the help of the Holy Spirit. Prior to that time, I was a spiritual baby or a toddler. Just learning to walk in my new legs. There, God let me know that it was time to start stepping up my game not because He had a checklist but because it was just time in His plan for me. Then, it was time for the big leagues…at Lifesong Church. Here, I have learned that you are not going to be asked to do something as in most churches. In those churches, you have to earn your way and have seniority and such. Here, if you want to do something, as long as it is consistent with the mission of the church and with Jesus’ command to us (Luke 10:27), then, you are empowered to do so. Here, I have grown so much in my faith in and my walk with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have gone from greeting people as they come into church on Sunday to leading one of the five stakes of ministry at our church. But therein lies the rub, the more you mature in Christ the more out of control, the more “less than” that you feel.

I have truly been blessed to participate in some of the truly community transforming activities of our church. It has been awe inspiring and empowering. So much so, it led me to go begin seminary two years ago. This experience has been one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences of my life, of my walk with my Savior. I am generally recognized as a pretty smart fellow and fairly gifted in “getting at the heart” of Scripture. However, I have been so humbled by the things that I don’t know about the Christian faith, about the plethora wonderful literature and research out there about the Bible and about Jesus himself, about the depth of knowledge and depth of faith of my classmates and my professors. It has and can at times make you feel like you are coming up short – making you feel “less than”. I compare it to the first day at school each and every time I moved as the son of Methodist preacher. That insecurity. That feeling of “less than”. At my church, there are spiritual giants. My senior pastor, Jeff Hickman….oh man, what a giant (not a comment on the fact that he is 6’3″ and 220 lbs). He is an intimidating figure physically but more so spiritually. He is so on fire for the Lord! In his presence, I feel less than. Equally there are others at our church that just blow me away with their spiritual intensity. And, its not a holier than thou intensity. It’s real. It’s impact the world for Christ real. Hayden. Humbert. Ginger. Danny. Scott. Brian Sr. All giants to me. Then, there is my wife, Elena, what a whirlwind for Christ she has become since she was saved by His grace three, almost four, years ago. She is a giant to me. All of these people can make you feel “less than.” Not that they are trying to do that. Most assuredly, they are not.

In thinking on this subject the last few days and being Jacob wrestling with God, several things have become clear.

First, earlier, I told you that after my salvation, God had a LOT of work to do – cleaning out the crud in my life, my soul. The biggest thing was that I measured my worth by the woman who was in my life. I lived and died by their approval or disapproval. That expressed itself in me valuing myself by how much intimacy I had with women. When there was much intimacy, I had great value. When the intimacy was down, so was the value I placed on myself. I allowed intimacy to rule my life. In that, I allowed the women in my life a great deal of emotional power over me. In that, I allowed the women in my life over the years to become my god. It caused me to de-elevate the things that should have been important in my life—my children and my integrity. These things took second place to access to intimacy. Anything for intimacy including not having the relationship I should have had with my children during my second marriage. That began to change when my salvation came. I got a late start on this thing—when I was 39, when I got God. So, I am only 11 years old spiritually and it is my personality to be slow to recognize things. Thus, these spiritual giants are ones who God has been able to work with longer and probably faster.

Second, and this is the biggest point, maybe at this point in my life, where I have grown so much in Him, He is wanting me to see that it is REALLY not about me. Cause, even when I was subverting myself to the women in my life, it was still in a way (a weird and twisted way) all about me. This is the point in spiritual maturation that I could easily get a big head about what He has allowed me to achieve, to be. Here among the true spiritual giants, I see that I have a lot of growing to do in Christ. Still a lot of crud to get rid of. Here among the true spiritual giants, it is clear that God wants me to be a cog in His machine. It is clear that I have so much to learn. Watching these giants is what He wants me to do right now. Watching and learning. He wants me always to feel “less than”—not in some low self-esteem way. He wants me to feel “less than” Him because that IS the way I should feel. My Savior is Jesus. Jesus is One with the Father in Eternity. He is amazingly way more powerful than me in a way that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I am “less than”. I do come up short. It is only through the grace of Jesus Christ that I am alive right now. He drew me out of the pit of false gods and false hope and has kept me from destroying myself. In that, on my own, I come up short. I am less than my Savior. But my Savior in me, through the Holy Spirit, makes me of great value. It is through this writing, through the Holy Spirit’s hand, that I realize that He is still working on me. He has me here to watch the spiritual giants. He has me married to one! I am to learn. I am to be humbled by how their faith works. I am to be broken of my pride. I am to have this moment of time of doubt. I am to have this time to break me down. So…..He can use me for His purpose at His time.

Patience. Humility. Learning. Timing. Broken. Useful.