Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

It’s interesting when you read some passages in the Bible and you can actually see just how right Jesus is. I mean, if there was any doubt that Jesus knew the hearts of men, He makes it pretty clear in some instances. I think I just read one.

In Matthew 17, shortly after the Transfiguration of Jesus (the subject of my 2nd run at the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation), a man brings his son who “has seizures,” or as referenced in the King James Version, is a “lunatic.” The man originally brought the boy to the disciples and asked them to cast the demon out of him. Yet the disciples, who had been given by Jesus the power to heal and exorcise demons (Mark 6:7), could not cast this demon out of the boy.

So as Jesus comes down from the mountain (one pastor I heard recently believes this to be Mt. Hermon), the man asks Jesus to heal him because the disciples couldn’t. Jesus answers. “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus then casts the demon out of the boy.

The disciples, no doubt, were astonished. They had cast out demons of others before, yet were unable to. So of course they needed to know why they no longer had this power. Matthew 17:20 is Jesus’ reply: “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Clearly, the faith that the disciples had in Jesus had suffered from a lapse. Jesus even suggests that perhaps it had not only waned, but dissipated, as he called the disciples part of an “unbelieving and perverse generation.”

Now this seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? Don’t you think God could have seen that the disciples largely had the best of intentions and let it slide, giving them the power to cast out demons? But God knew the disciples’ hearts. He knew that they at this point didn’t even have the “faith of a mustard seed.” Jesus explains how much God can do with a little bit of unassailed faith. I think throughout history He’s proven faithful Himself on this account. Look at some of the pillars of faith, not only from Hebrews 11 but from some of the early church fathers, and even these same disciples who received the power of the Holy Spirit.

But we can even see that the disciples didn’t have the necessary faith. It’s evident in the very next passage! Matthew 17:22-23: “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.” Jesus predicted both His death and resurrection in the same sentence, and what is the disciples’ reaction? Were they excited about Him coming back to life and reigning once again? Nope, they were filled with grief because of His death! They didn’t understand the power of coming back to life. Why? Because they didn’t even have the faith of a mustard seed.

So why do we not believe that God can do great things with our belief? Even in this story, Mark 9 records that the father asks for Jesus to “help his unbelief.” As a result of his belief, Jesus casts the demon out of his son. So with our own belief, with the faith of a mustard seed, what could Jesus do for us, or through us? I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us (myself included) don’t even have the faith of a mustard seed right now. If we did, we would be moving mountains for God’s kingdom.

This is a personal challenge to me, and I’m extending it to you, the reader, as well. What can I do in examining my own life to determine how to get my heart to start acting in faith? What can I do to “help my unbelief?” I know the answer–I can’t do that myself–but I also know that God doesn’t call me to be inert. I need to move to where He is pushing me so that I can see His power and renew my faith. Hopefully, more of us can accept the call-to-action that our faith so desperately requires.

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Desperate

Many folks in our church are reading the book “Radical” by David Platt. In going through it, one thing stuck out to me in the chapter we read this week about relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a simple question posed right at the end. Platt asks the reader, “Is your life characterized by a desperation for the Holy Spirit to come and take control of your life? Is your church characterized by this desperation?”

This is a really powerful question. When we think about the work of the Holy Spirit, typically it is either in a sort of behind-the-scenes, “all works together for the good” type of way, or it is in the “when I really need the Spirit, then I’ll ask for it” kind of way. Neither way is Biblical!

God has never outlined in Scripture any context where it is perfectly acceptable to go it alone. The Holy Spirit isn’t a failsafe, something that will catch you when you can’t catch yourself. The Holy Spirit is supposed to be a Guide, the Instigator of the work in your life. God is not a background character, resigned to a bit part in the play that is your life. Rather, God should be the co-star, someone that you work alongside of, or maybe even shrink back and let Him get the curtain call. Isn’t that our purpose anyway? To make Him known and to bring Him glory?

So why don’t we do this? Is it forgetfulness? Is it laziness? Or is it a conscious decision not to surrender complete control to the One who made every rock that goes into every patch of asphalt you walk or drive across? Have we deliberately chosen not to give over our steps to the One that designed the feet that make them? Any person, Christian or not, who reads this paragraph and says, “You know, I really think I’ve given over everything to God. I can’t give any more or do any better,” has failed to grasp the nature of true holiness. There is but one Spirit that requires no extra work in order to be spotless and without need to be directed.

So why aren’t we more desperate, as churches and as people, to see this power envelop our lives? Is it because we’re afraid of what we’ll be asked to do and where we’ll be asked to go if His power is pre-eminent? Is it so we’d rather someone else be imbued with such power so we can remain comfortable? If we don’t understand what it means to be under God’s power, we cannot possibly wield it in our own defense, and we can too often take the credit for things that we cannot do without it.

So today, take the challenge to begin to be desperate for the power of the Holy Spirit. Doing so may not be comfortable, but it is respectable, and your Heavenly Father is glorified when you do so. Fulfill to the best of your ability the purpose for your creation, but never do it on your own strength. When you do that, you are not desperate in vain.

We Are His Body

I mentioned that from time to time I might share something interesting in my study of Ephesians. While I got a bit behind, I recently became sort of re-dedicated to having a morning quiet time, and using this time to continue in Ephesians. This morning I finished chapter 1, and something in these verses really stuck out to me. Let me see if I can re-create what I wrote in my notebook from this morning for you here.

Ephesians 1:22-23
“And God placed all things under His feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”

While these verses speak largely about Christ’s authority as head of the church (which is consistent with the book of Hebrews, which refers to Christ as the High Priest of the church), it was a phrase right in the middle that got the wheels turning: “which is His body.”

As my mind traipsed through anatomical images and songs about this (“If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns is what I’m referring to here; I’ve posted a video with this song below), it ended up on the Lord’s Supper. This is a notably relevant subject for me right now; this week in our Spiritual Boot Camp at church the pastor is preaching on the spiritual discipline of fasting. But Jesus broke the bread and said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) But the verse in Ephesians says that the church is also His body. So in a sense, the bread also symbolizes the role of the church. It pointed me to the other part of the Lord’s Supper, which I’ll hit on as part of my conclusion.

I felt like God was impressing on me an understanding here about His character, and what I was surprised to reach as my conclusion is how personal each aspect of the Trinity is in regards to the church. We often think of the church as Christ’s; after all, Jesus referred to it as His in his charge to Peter (Matthew 16:18). But if you think about what it takes to make a body worth anything but a lifeless lump of immovable mass, there are several pieces, and each part of the Trinity uniquely provides for these:

1) The Father formed the body at creation and provides sustenance (physically and through His Word).
2) The Spirit indwells the body and provides direction (by way of sanctification and spiritual growth).
3) Jesus the Son gives the body His blood and provides the means of life (eternally and salvationally).

So the body is a great picture of how personal and involved our God is within our lives individually, and also within His church as a whole. How can we do anything but act on this understanding through worship and sharing these things with others. I hope this blog encourages you as much as coming to this realization encouraged me. Let’s take great joy in being part of God’s body, and hopefully in doing so we will move forward even more boldly in our faith. I pray that God blesses each and every reader of this post as they read it. Amen!

The Lord is One

Isn’t it amazing how something you have heard and read many times can all of a sudden just jump out at you or create a whole new meaning in your mind? This is what happened to me last night.

In our Bible study, we referenced Deuteronomy 6, from which Jesus quoted what He said is the greatest commandment. Most of us have heard this verse before, maybe even in a song by Lincoln Brewster: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is a powerful statement, and from it we get that the greatest thing we can do is to love God. Pretty awesome.

But what got me thinking last night was the phrase preceding this commandment. The phrase is in Deuteronomy 6:4, which says, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (emphasis mine) This simple statement conveys multiple meanings, and they are incredible!

The first one that sticks out to me is the number used to describe the Lord: one. To me, this simple phrase speaks to God’s sole authority. There are no other gods that have dominion and power the way our God does. Allah or Krishna or Baal (which by the way if you pronounce the way we do in western culture it sounds like “bail,” which is pretty funny and somewhat descriptive of this god) cannot do the things that the God of Israel can. The Lord is THE one, which is why Jesus doesn’t say, “I am A way, I am A truth…” but instead says, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life.” There is one God, and we believe in His authority.

The other piece to this speaks to God’s perfect unity. Christians are well aware that the Bible speaks to three distinct parts to God’s nature: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, a phrase like this speaks to the harmony that exists between these entities. The verb in this phrase is singular: “is”. The word “one” in this sentence is called in parts of speech a “predicate nominative,” which means that it is a noun that refers to the subject of the sentence in a different way (i.e. if you say, “she is my mom,” the words “she” and “mom” refer to the same person). This means that God, being three parts, is also a singular being. This simple phrase also references how these three pieces of the picture work together to make up the one God. That is why there are not three authorities; they are all unified with the same authority.

Man it’s amazing what God can say with just four words. It’s interesting that a lot of times we gloss over these verses as filler verses getting us from one memory verse to the next. It’s becoming increasingly evident to me that as the inspired Word of God, the Bible doesn’t contain words or phrases that aren’t important for us to understand. I thank Him this morning for giving me a reinforcement of His nature, and I hope that the rest of you, like me, will continue to look for these hidden (but not really) gems in the Scriptures.

The Concept of Salvation

So I finally read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words” and have to say it was definitely an interesting read. Lots of real-world examples that make very compelling arguments. At the end of it, I had to sit back and think about whether or not my theological perspective had changed. I came to the conclusion that mostly it had not. However, as I started thinking about one particular position, it led me to an interesting idea, and one that I’ve tried to defend: that salvation only affects us as we cross from this life into eternity.

Here’s my thinking. If salvation is a gift from God (as is explained in Ephesians 2:8), then it seems like if we have free will we have the choice to open the gift or not. However, God has predestined some to open that gift, and others not to. This allows for the idea of unconditional election while still giving credence to unlimited atonement. I’ve been thinking that if salvation is really being “saved from our sins,” it doesn’t really take affect while we’re still on the earth, because it doesn’t really stop us from sinning. In that sense, salvation is the removal of our sins from us when we die, so we can be made perfect (the concept of glorification) and fit for heaven.

However, WIFE brought up a good point earlier this week. She said that salvation isn’t necessarily just from our sins, but from being enslaved to past sins and tied down to them. Another friend, who we’ll just call Theology Man, said something similar in a brief text discussion. I tend to think this is more in line with the concept of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the point at which we accept Jesus as Lord in our lives and the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives (sanctification). This is how 2 Corinthians 5:17 becomes a part of our lives, as the old is gone and the new has come.

Interestingly, I was surprised that Paul addressed this very issue of salvation vs. sanctification in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” It seems evident from this verse that salvation and sanctification are tied together with faith. So what is the relationship between salvation and sanctification? The relationship between salvation and glorification?

In short, my theological perspective has changed slightly. I now believe (which I assume is not an uncommon position) that the 3 big Bible words (sanctification, justification, glorification) are encompassed by the overarching concept of salvation. Salvation includes these three things, which is why God is able to use the past, present and future tenses in the Bible when discussing the salvation He has given us. I still believe that salvation is an eternal decision that is extended to all men, but I think at least now I better understand why.

Is WIFE correct? Yep. Is Theology Man correct? Most definitely. Am I correct? I think so now. What once was a belief that salvation is tied to glorification has now turned into glorification as the final step to salvation. Thank you Lord, for providing a Word that gives us a glimpse into Your awesome ability to do such works in us, and what exactly that means in the course of eternity!

My Take on Calvinism’s 5 Points

So in reading back through some of blog posts I remembered that I said I wanted to tackle where I stand in terms of Calvinism versus Arminianism. While I haven’t seriously studied Arminianism enough yet to see how I view that theology, I did do some research on the 5 points of Calvinism. While these points don’t comprise totally the philosophy of Calvinism, they are tenets that strong Calvinists adhere to. I like that they form a pretty word acrostically, but as for the tenets themselves, some questions arise.

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perserverance of the saints

TOTAL DEPRAVITY – due to the fall of Adam, everyone born into the world is enslaved into the service of sin (i.e. we are born with sin)

My take: I agree with this one completely. No objections.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION – it is God’s choice from eternity whom He will save, and it is not based on foreseen virtue, merit or faith in those people

My take: This idea is supported by Paul in both the book of Romans and 1 Corinthians, so I agree with this one too.

LIMITED ATONEMENT – since God predestined the elect, Jesus’ death that atoned for sins was only meant to atone for the sins of the elect, and not all of the world

My take: Paul doesn’t make the claim that “Christ came to the world to save SOME sinners, of whom I am the worst.” I believe that Christ came to testify to the truth (as He states in John 18:37) to all of the world, otherwise Christ wouldn’t have said, “Go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS.” The Word of God is readily available to anyone who wants to read it, not to an elect few who were destined to read it. The caveat comes in the form of free will. I believe God would give everyone the chance to accept the atonement; it’s just that not everyone does, and He knew that from eternity

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE – the Holy Spirit is able to overcome any obstacles put up in the way of saving those whom God had predestined to be with Him

My take: I like the idea of this one, but not the explanation. This explanation makes it sound like the Holy Spirit tries harder to reach some than others, because they are the elect. I think God tries with the same earnest to reach every individual, because as He tries to reach someone, another might come to Him in free will as a result.

PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS – Those whom God has called into communion with Himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who fall away were either never really saved or will return.

My take: I don’t like this explanation either. What happens to a person who is undeniably saved but dies in a sinful act? For example, what happens to the saved pastor who is killed while trying to murder a man who raped his daughter? No chance to return, but no one doubts the salvation. If you simplify the explanation of POTS to simply “You can’t lose your salvation,” then I agree.

So that’s it. I guess I’m a 3 1/2 point Calvinist, which means I must agree with some of Arminius’ beliefs too. Or perhaps not. I guess we’ll find out eventually.