Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Living Our Baptismal Calling: Confess

well5c

John 4:1-42 Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Key verses:  John 4:13–14 (NLT)  Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

This is the familiar passage about Jesus meeting a woman at the well.  In John 3, we saw Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, sneaking in to meet Jesus at night.  Now Jesus is on his way back from Jerusalem and stops to rest at the well of Sychar, a village in Samaria.  Scholars believe that the village of Sychar is most probably to be identified with the town of Shechem, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph (John 4:5).

There was a well there which is ascribed to Jacob.  The well is still there near the village of Askar.  The well is 100 feet deep and is fed by a nature spring.  It continues to provide fresh water.  In Jesus time, the well was probably had a low wall around it and had a cover over it, upon which Jesus sits.  The well provides the main metaphor which Jesus uses in his discourse with the woman at the well.

We are not told the woman’s name.  In contrast to Nicodemus, she is anonymous.  This may be that she is meant to represent all of us.  In Jesus discourse with Nicodemus, we are left to wonder what happened to him.  Jesus gave him this famous call to eternal life:  John 3:16, 17 “For this is how God loved the world:  He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the wotld through him.” The contrast between Nicodemus and the woman couldn’t be more obvious.

A lot of sermon points have been made about the morality of the woman.  We shouldn’t judge her too harshly.  Women in the Jewish society of the ANE had few opportunities.  The likelihood is that she was abandoned and/or divorced by these 5 men.  And she was not married to the man she was now with.

The biblical claim is that the Samaritans are the descendants of the pagan settlers of northern Palestine who were resettled there by the Assyrian Empire after the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel.  These settlers married the poor Jewish folk who remained in the land.  DNA tests have proven the biblical claims of their origin.

There are some 700 Samaritans who still live in Palestine near Mount Gerazim.  Many scholars believe that there was a sizeable Samaritan population in the churches to which John was writing this Gospel.  Hence the inclusion of this passage, which is unique to John.

The antipathy between the Jews and the Samaritans is rooted in the Jewish return from exile as recounted in Ezra-Nehemiah.  When the returning Jews asked for help in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans refused.  (Ezra 4:7-24; Neh. 4:1-9).  Later they built their own temple on Mount Gerazim.  This temple was destroyed by the Hasmonean king John Hyrcanus in 128 BC.  Hostility toward Jewish travelers through Samaria resulted in most Jews choosing to take the longer route between Galilee and Judea along the Jordan R.

The key question in the passage (and in the Gospel of John) is “Who is Jesus?”  A. B. Simpson wrote a song entitled, “What Will You Do with Jesus?”  The woman’s understanding of who Jesus is changes from “a Jew” (v. 9), to a respectful “sir” (v. 11), to a “prophet” (v. 19).  The Samaritans only have the Torah, the books of Moses.  They do not include the Prophets or the Writings in their Scriptures.

“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  The gift of God of which Jesus speaks, he will later name as the Holy Spirit.  Later Jesus would say, (John 7:37-39), “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’ ” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)  The whole setting and discourse help us to remember our own baptismal calling, as the Samaritan woman is being called to make a confession of faith.

The Samaritan woman would have remembered the promise of the coming of a “Prophet” like Moses (Deut. 18:15).  This is the first prophecy of the coming Messiah.  So they too were a people awaiting the Messiah, as the woman’s response to Jesus confirms:  “I know the Messiah is coming – the one who is called the Christ.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  (v. 25)

The climactic moment in the story comes in the next verse, Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”  Literally, “I Am – the one who speaks to you!”  (Ego eimi – ho lalon soi.)  No where does Jesus make such a plain statement of his identity.  He is the Messiah, and all that goes along with that title:  Son of God and Son of Man.  Jesus, announcing the marvelous and unthinkable, stepped right into the center of her hopes.

Jesus’ discourse with the woman is interrupted by the return of the disciples.  Jesus uses the opportunity as a teaching moment for them as he speaks of the coming spiritual harvest (vv. 34-38).

Meanwhile the woman runs into the village and becomes the first disciple to preach the Good News about Jesus Christ to the Samaritans.  And the harvest comes:  “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus…”  And they also join the chorus of witnesses in Jesus:  “Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”  The promise of John 3:16 is beginning to be fulfilled.

A. B. Simpson’s Gospel song, “What Will You Do with Jesus?” first verse and refrain says:  Jesus is standing in Pilate’s Hall – friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all,

Harken!  What meaneth the sudden call?  What will you do with Jesus?

What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be;

Someday your heart will be asking, “What will He do with me?”

Jesus went out of His way to minister to this woman.  In the same way, He went out of His way – to the cross – so that we could know God’s truth about salvation.

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Radicalism

 

Matthew 2540 [widescreen]

Matthew 25:31–46 (NLT) The Final Judgment

31 “But when the Son of Man* comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations* will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,* you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.* 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

As I write this, I have just heard the news that the UK has voted to leave the EU.  This morning, we awoke to this news with the markets in disarray.  David Cameron, the British PM has resigned.  It seems the Brexit campaign won mostly through a campaign of fear, much those in the American presidential campaign, by preying on the fears of others:  the stranger, the immigrant, and the Muslim.  In the US, we have seen it in verbal attacks on particular groups:  first the fear of Mexicans and other immigrants, then after the recent  terrorist attacks, the fear of Muslims.

But Christians have not been given “a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  (2 Tim. 1:7)  Throughout the Bible there is a concern for those on the margins of our society:  the poor, widows and orphans, the stranger, the homeless, and the immigrant.  In fact, in many of the OT wisdom writings, “the poor” are synonymous with “the righteous.”  In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus makes it clear that we will be judged, not on the basis of whether we said a sinner’s prayer or any such modern contrivance of what salvation means, but on how we treat the other:  the poor, the immigrant, the stranger, etc.  Jesus calls them “the least of these my brothers and sisters.”  The Son’s words of damnation to those who treated others poorly are: “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  For I was hungry and you didn’t feed me.  I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home.  I was naked and you didn’t give me clothing.  I was sick and in prison and you didn’t visit me.”  (Matt. 25:41-43)

Karen, my wife, and I have been reading a devotional called A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Each day has a selection from some of Bonhoeffer’s writings.  The reading for June 23 was entitled “The Rise of Radicalism.”  Bonhoeffer is writing, of course, in Germany during the period of the Nazi regime, probably one of the most reactionary governments that has ever existed.  Hitler rose to power by playing into the fear of the other, in particular, he focused his vitriol on the Jews, and so we had the Holocaust.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “Radicalism always arises form a conscious or unconscious hatred of what exists.  Christian radicalism, whether it would flee the world or improve it, comes from the hatred of creation.  The radical cannot forgive God for having created what is… When evil becomes powerful in the world, it simultaneously injects the Christian with the poison of radicalism.  Reconciliation with the world as it is, which is given to the Christian by Christ, is then called betrayal and denial of Christ.  In its place come bitterness, suspicion, and contempt for human beings and the world.  Love that believes all things, bears all things, and hopes all things, love that loves the world in its very wickedness with the love of God (John 3:16), becomes – by limiting love to the closed circle of the pious – a pharisaical refusal of love for the wicked.  The open church of Jesus Christ, which serves the world to the end, becomes kind of supposed ur-Christian ideal church-community that in turn mistakenly confuses the realization of a Christian idea with the reality of a living Jesus Christ.  Thus a world that has become evil succeeds in making Christians evil also.”  (Ethics, 155-156)

In order to remain the church of Jesus Christ, we must resist those in our society who prey upon our fears.  We have not been given “a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  In order to remain the church of Jesus Christ, we have no choice but to love the other among us, as Jesus has commanded us and as Jesus demonstrated to us through his life, and especially through his death upon the cross.  “For this is how God loved the world:  He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  Everyone means everyone.  To remain the church of Jesus Christ, we have no choice but to love the other:  no matter whether they are different from us, whether they are Christians or not, whether they speak our language or not.  John Wesley called this perfect love:  “Love for God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and “Love for one’s neighbor as we love ourselves.”

And in the end, we will not be judged in the court of public opinion, but in the court of the Lord on the day of judgment.  I hope that he will say to me, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”

 

 

 

The Spirit of Power, Love, and Self-Discipline

2 Tim 1_7

2 Timothy 1:5–10 (NLT) I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.

2 Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament for his young friend, Timothy, who is like a son to him.  His main concern is to encourage Timothy to live out his calling in the power of the Spirit.  While 1 Timothy focuses on the character of a faithful congregation, 2 Timothy focuses on the character of a faithful minister.

In this passage, Paul encourages Timothy to not be ashamed of his testimony.  (v. 5)  Timothy was a person with authentic faith, which he had received from his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.

You can’t underestimate the power of praying parents and grandparents  The faith that I possess today can be directly traced to the prayer of my beloved mother Carol, and my grandmother Mary.  “The earnest prayer of the righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  (Jas. 5:16b)

Paul reminds Timothy to fan into flames God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of hands.  We often think of God’s gift as being in the realm of those who are in full-time ministry, but every Christian has a gift from God.  (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4)  If you don’t know what your gift is, there are spiritual gift surveys online that enable you to somewhat figure out what gift is yours.  Most of them will indicate what the top three gifts are indicated in your answers, or how you rate in all the gifts.  A better way to discover your spiritual gift is to get involved in ministry in the church or outside the church.  What kind of ministry do you feel called to?  What kind of ministry do you fulfilled in?  Try different ministries out and you will come to know where God desires to use you.

“Don’t be ashamed of the testimony about the Lord…”  (2 Tim. 1:8)  The Greek word for testimony or witness is marturion.  Its the word from which is derived our English word martyr.  Testimony or witness is the declaration which confirms or makes something known (Matt. 8:4; 10:18; 24:14; Mark 1:14; 6:11; 13:9; Luke 5:14).  In the NT usage, it is the witness or testimony of Christ (1 Cor. 1:6).  The meaning is that the person bases what he or she says on their own personal knowledge.

Many Christians are timid when it comes to giving their testimony.  What is this fear based upon?  If we are talking about speaking in front of a congregation, then the fear is often related to a fear of public speaking in general.  But if we are talking about sharing our witness with others with whom we already have a relationship, then I think its a fear of rejection.  We don’t recognize the power of our testimony, especially to those with whom we already have a relationship:  our friends, relatives, associates and neighbors.  It boils down to fear.  Paul says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Our witness is how we live our lives.  But to be an effective witness, eventually we must be able to speak up about what God has done in our lives.  Some people have no problem speaking to others about anything.  My son has this gift.  He never met a stranger.  You may find it hard to believe, but I had a stutter as a child.  I was shy and fearful.  And outwardly, I was standoffish.  Yet God has called me to preach.  Those whom God calls God also enables.  So God the Holy Spirit gives each of us a spiritual gift.

But even a shy person can learn how to speak about the wonderful things that God has done in one’s own life.  One of the most powerful witnesses is telling people how God is at work in your life.  In our church, we teach people to answer three questions:  Why God?  Why church?  Why this church?  The answer to these three questions can be summed up in a short (3 min. or less, in sales language, an elevator pitch) testimony which you can speak to people, your friends, relatives, associates and neighbors, as God gives you the opportunity.

Lord, help me to not be ashamed to tell others about you Lord, about the mighty works that you have done in my life.  Help me to fan into flame the gift that you have given to me.  Help me to not be fearful or timid, but to know that you have given to me a Spirit of power, love and self-discipline.  Holy Spirit, fill me afresh this morning, and strengthen me to live into the calling you have given me – first to be a disciple and witness.  Amen.

New Life in Christ

study_7212cp

Colossians 3:1–10 NRSV) So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

One of the first works of God the Holy Spirit in the new believer is regeneration.  That is we have new life in Christ.  Regeneration is the spiritual rebirth which produces new life in the believer in Christ.  The word translated regeneration is palingenesia (Tit. 3:5), meaning new birth. Regeneration is used of spiritual regeneration, involving the communication of a new life in the believer by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5, 6) through the “word of truth” (Jas. 1:18) and “the washing of water with the word.” (Eph. 5:26)

Paul says, “But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done but because of his mercy.  He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”  (Tit. 3:4, 5)  In these verses Paul tells us that the work of regeneration is a work of the Spirit.  He goes on to link the work of regeneration with God’s work of justification in Christ, “Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”  (Tit. 3:7)  So the work of regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit and is firmly linked to the work of justification.

Since we have this new life in Christ, we should live up to the standards of this new life.  (Col. 3:1)  How do we do this?  In the flesh, living the new life is impossible, but only in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.  (Rom. 8:1-13)  Our reality is that we live on earth, while we are yet alive.  But our new life is in heaven with Christ (v. 3), so we should “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”  (v. 2)  Our eternal life is oriented toward heaven and so we should no longer be controlled by the flesh, but by the Holy Spirit.  Our orientation should be toward heaven, where Christ rules.  As an added motivation, we should remember, that when Christ returns, we “also will be revealed with him in glory.”  (v. 4)

While we are yet alive, we live in the world.  But in Christ we are no longer part of the world.  So we should not live as we used to live lived when we were part of this world (vv. 5, 6).  In v. 8, Paul uses the metaphor of taking off one’s old clothing, literally stripping oneself of the old rags of worldliness and sinfulness, our old sin nature.  And “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”  (v. 9)

In the church in earlier days, Christians would put on new clothes when they were baptized as a sign of the new birth.  In a similar manner, we strip off our old life and put on Christ’s new life.  We allow the Christ to be our Lord and to guide us through his Spirit in the way we should live.  The new life in Christ is only possible through the Spirit working in us day by day and moment by moment.  This new life in Christ means walking in the Spirit and allowing the Holy Spirit to remake us into the image of Christ, which is the work of sanctification.

 

 

To Know the Love of Christ

ephesians_6302c

Ephesians 3:14–21 (NRSV) Prayer for the Readers

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Paul concludes his prayer of thanksgiving for God’s amazing grace that began in Eph. 1:3 (Eph. 1:3-3:21).  This passage is a prayer for the reader (so a prayer for us).  Paul begins this large section with a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3-14).  Now he prays for spiritual growth and empowerment for his readers.  (3:14-21)

In v. 14, Paul refers back to everything he has said in the preceding verses (1:3-3:13) concerning the richness of God’s grace.  Thinking of all the spiritual blessings in Christ, he falls to his knees in praise to God the Father.  (v. 15)  (vv. 14-19 is one sentence in the Greek)

1.  Empowerment through the Holy Spirit.  He prays that God will empower us with inner strength through his Spirit.  (v. 16).  God the Father is source of glorious, unlimited resources that the Father gives to all God’s children.  The result of this is “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  (v. 17a)  Having Christ in our hearts is the source of spiritual power for life and ministry.  The transition to the next verse is “that you, being rooted and grounded in love.”  (v. 17b)

2.  To know the love of Christ.  (vv. 18-19)  Christ’s love is great in every dimension.  The whole Christian life is based on the experience and personal knowledge of “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”  (v. 19a)   Christ’s love is greater than ordinary human knowledge.  It surpasses any human wisdom, science and philosophy.  (Rom. 5:6-8)

Love is incapable of being understood apart from the knowledge of the person who bestows it.  Just as a person cannot understand even human love without experiencing it.  The knowledge of God’s love can only be understood from the position of one who has experienced it.

If you have never experienced the love of a mother, for example, you cannot understand it.  And babies who have been deprived of the love of a mother do not grow up and mature emotionally in the way that they should.  The love of a mother and the closeness that they feel with her, the simple act of holding the baby and giving it the comfort of human skin to skin contact is necessary for healthy development.  So people who have never experienced the deep, deep love of God are somehow emotionally and spiritually stunted.  They can never be all that God intends for them to be apart from the love of God.

The believer is “filled up to the fullness of God” (v. 19:b) through the experience of Christ’s love.  We are conformed to the image of Christ and our life then reflects God’s life through out love for God and for one another.  (Eph. 4:14)  This is what Wesley means by Christian perfection or perfect love.

Paul’s prayer for us is also my prayer for you, the reader.  May you be empowered through the Holy Spirit, so that you have the power to understand, to know the love of Christ and so become the mature people of God, which is God’s ultimate destiny for us, re-made in the image of Christ.  Amen.

The Spirit of Adoption

Rom 8_15.png

Romans 8:14–17 (NLT)  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.* Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”* 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

In the preceding passage (Rom. 8:1-13), Paul begins his discussion about the Spirit filled life by talking about the freedom that we have in the Holy Spirit as a result of the new life in Christ.  Paul transitions from the preceding passage with a verse with a claim:  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”  (Rom. 8:14)  Children of God is a phrase from the Old Testament that refers to the nation of Israel.  Paul uses it to remind believers that God has given us an intimate, family relationship with God, and so we will share many of the promises and blessings of given to Israel.  We are no longer babies or slaves, but children with full rights (Gal. 4:1-7).

So John Wesley focused on Rom. 8:15, when he preached a sermon entitled, “The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption.”  (Sermon 9) In that sermon, Wesley made three points:  1.  The state of the natural person is that they are in a state of sleep spiritually.  2.  The spirit that makes you fearful slaves:  The state of the one who is under the law is that he has a spirit of bondage and fear, because they realize that they are under the condemnation of God for sin.  3.  The Spirit of adoption, by which we can call God, “Abba, Father.”  The state of the one who has found grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

1.The state of the natural person Paul covers in Rom. 7.  The state and standing of the person before Christ is the same.  Before salvation, we are confirmed sinners.  We might think ourselves good, as many sinners do.  But the fact is that spiritually we are dead.  We cannot discern whether our behavior is good or evil in the eyes of God, because all the avenues of spiritual knowledge are shut up.  In fact, we are ignorant of the state of our own souls.  So we think ourselves secure, while we are in fact under the judgment of god.

Wesley says that this is no ignorance so glaring as the ignorance of those who consider themselves wise or learned.  There were many of these wise fools in Wesley’s day as there are today.  The god of this world has given them a double blindness.

I was listening yesterday to the radio and heard an interview with John Lawrence Hill on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show.  He is a lawyer and was an atheist.  He felt, as many atheists do, that he was a good man, and a moral man.  But as he considered the philosophical underpinnings of his morality, he came to understand that atheism offers no rationale for a moral life.  All true atheists must be materialists.  That means that there can be no soul, no spirit, but only the physical, the material.  If all we are is meat puppets, then the only law are those natural laws that govern evolution.  The governing principle of human behavior is the law of the jungle.  There cannot be either right or wrong.  IN fact, this was the same argument offered at Nuremburg by the Nazis.  They claimed that everything they did was legal under German law.  Therefore, there was no legal claim by which they could be prosecuted.  The crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis was a natural outcome of their philosophy of atheistic humanism, led by the rejection of God in Nietzsche.  As Hill came to realize that there is no moral foundation for atheism, he began to seek a Lawyer who has created a universal law that governs the universe – God.  So he became a Christian.  His new book outlining this is After the Natural Law:  How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Views.  

2.The state of the person who is under the law:  the spirit of bondage and fear.  By God’s prevenient grace (the grace that calls us to salvation), God touches the heart of the person who is spiritually asleep and awakens us to an awareness of our danger.  We suddenly awake to understand that we are under the judgment of God.  So Jonathon Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  For as the Scripture says, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Heb. 10:31)  It is as if we have been laid “naked and open to the eyes of God” and God sees us “stripped of all the fig-leaves which he had sewed together, of all his poor pretenses to religion or virtue, and his wretched excuses for sinning against God… His heart is bare, and he sees it is all sin, deceitful above all things, desperately wicked.”  (Wesley, quoting from Heb. 4:13 and Jer. 17:9)

Sometimes this awareness is gradual, sometimes it comes like a bolt of lightning.  I knew a man who was a notorious drunkard.  He had grown up in the church with a Christian mother, but a father who was an alcoholic.  His mother never ceased to pray for him.  One night his wife left him, and he lay alone on his bed drinking.  As he lay there, it was as if he could feel the flames of hell licking at his skin and he knew that his eternal destiny should he die at that moment was to enter into eternal damnation.  In his fear of death, he cracked open a Bible his mother had given to him, and saw that she had underlined the verse, “Look and live.”  (Num. 21:8)  He cried out to Jesus in some remembered prayer, repenting of his sin and seeking God in Jesus Christ.  He began to live the Spirit-filled life and turned completely from drink and sin.  In fact, he became a preacher of the Gospel and an evangelist leading many to Christ.

When our spiritual senses are awake, we recognize sin’s control over us.  We become aware that we are sinners who stand under the judgment of a holy God.  So we beomce of aware of our bondage to sin and in fear of death.  (v. 15)

3.In those who are no longer under the law, but under grace or the power of the Holy Spirit reigning in our hearts.  We have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we are enabled to cry, “Abba, Father!” (v. 15)  Like the man in the illustration above, we cried out in our distress, and God delivered us out of our danger.  In fact, we are not only delivered from the threat of judgment, but we are adopted into the family of the judge.  We are delivered from both the guilt and the power of sin.  So we can say, “I am crucified with Christ.  It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”  (Gal. 2:20)

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  (2 Cor. 3:17)  So we are free from the guilt and power of sin, but also from the bondage of sin.  Before we could do nothing but sin, but now we have the possibility of living a holy life through the power of the Holy Spirit – that is, living a life that is pleasing to God.

Wesley concludes his sermon by asking us to consider where we are?  There are many sincere people who believe themselves to be safe and secure, while they are under the judgment of God.  Just because you were born in the church that does not make you a Christian.  We must each stand on our own before God, God will judge our hearts on the basis not of religion, but of relationship.

Are you part of the family of God?  Have you the Spirit of adoption, through which you can call God, “Abba, Father,” that is, “Daddy” or “Papa.”  The relationship to which we are called by God is not that of the condemned before the Judge, but that of a child before their parent.

 

 

 

The Spirit-filled Life (Part 2)

Ayear1120ec

Romans 8:5–11 (NLT)

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life* because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

The freedom from sin accomplished by the saving work of Jesus Christ results in a new way of living.  Paul contrasts those who live according to the sinful nature with those who live according to the Spirit.

Those who live a life dominated by the sinful nature (flesh) means essentially everyone apart from Christ.  Paul has already spelled this out, but here he rehashes what he already said.  Those who are controlled by the sinful nature live a life that leads to death.  Their whole orientation is hostile to God.

There is no such thing as being indifferent to God.  You are either oriented toward God, or you are hostile toward God.  So letting the Spirit control one’s life leads to eternal life and peace.  The peace to which Paul refers is first and foremost peace with God, as if we were at war with God.  So Paul said in v. 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been made right by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” For that reason, “those who are under the control of the sinful nature can never please God.”  (v. 8:8)

In contrast, those who have the Holy Spirit living in them are not controlled by their sinful nature.  Instead, we are controlled by the Spirit.  (v. 9)  The Holy Spirit directs the lives of believers.  This doesn’t mean that we do not sin.  We are still sinners saved by grace.  However, it does mean that the orientation of the believers life is now toward God, when it previously was toward sin and death.  That is what the word repentance implies, a turning away from sin and toward God, a reorientation of life from what the sinful nature desires to what God desires and wills for us instead.  We turn from death toward life in Jesus Christ.

This reorientation of the will is accomplished by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is part of what it means to say we have new life in Christ.  We are regenerated.  And because we are regenerated, we have the Spirit of Christ as a sign and seal of that regeneration.

Some folks have gotten the idea that we do not have the Holy Spirit in us after baptism, that it awaits some second event that will make us super saints.  But Paul disabuses that notion.  He says (parenthetically), “And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.”  (v. 9)  So in the United Methodist Church, after you are baptized, the pastor lays hands on you and prays for the Holy Spirit to “work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”  There is an understanding that this life of following Christ is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.  So Paul says that this same Spirit consistently opposes sin and death in our lives.

Paul is aware that not all the blessings of the Kingdom of God have been realized.  We still are subject to death until Christ returns.  (v. 10)  But the Spirit is the agent of eternal life.  The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is the first sign that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ.  And the presence of the Holy Spirit is the guarantee that the Spirit will resurrect us from the dead, “just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead.”

In some mysterious way, we are already living eternal life since the day of our salvation.  Since that day, the sanctifying grace of God has been at work in our lives transforming us into the image of Christ.  The presence of the Holy Spirit gives us reason to think that the life of glory has already begun in our lives.  Although we still live in this body of clay, in our spirits we have already begun to break away from this present age into the Kingdom of God.  So Jesus preached, “The Kingdom of God is already among you.”  For wherever the King is, there is the Kingdom.”

The sinful nature is dead in us as a result of the work of Jesus Christ in us, through the Holy Spirit.  But Martin Luther said something to the effect that the old man who is drowned in baptism, but the old man is a good swimmer.

Lord, help me to live each day into my baptism.  Help me to walk day by day in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.