You know that guy or gal at church you really just can’t stand. You know, the one you strive to avoid eye contact with so as to not have to have a conversation with them when you’re the only two people in the area… yeah…
Jesus loves them. He died for them.
Whatever he/she did that rubs you the wrong way. Let it go. Love your brother/sister well. This means in spite of their faults. In spite of slights or offenses. In spite of not understanding why they are they way they are.
Understand that they’re just a work in progress. The Lord’s not done with them yet. And maybe, just maybe, the Lord made them exactly the way they are because he has a purpose for what he’s sown in them.
The very thing you find so distasteful in your brother or sister’s style, opinions or personality is the very thing the Lord loves about them. The way he made them. So love them, as best you can, as he loves them.
“8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
“I doubt whether any Evangelical ever denied the deity of the Holy Spirit. However, we certainly neglect Him and His lordship within the church. This failure to honor the Holy Spirit has resulted in much desolation within the church.”
— A. W. Tozer
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.
There is a very real fear of the Holy Spirit in the Lord’s church.
I’ve seen it my entire life.
Being like the wind we know not from where He comes or where He is going and this uncertainty, this inability to lay our eyes on Him and pin Him down scares us.
Then the Enemy comes along and counterfeits Him and His gifts so we fear those as well.
But no one ever counterfeits a thing with no value. On the contrary, the counterfeit is great proof of the genuine and not only that it exists but that it has great value.
It is expressly THAT reason that the enemy counterfeits the genuine. Because it is valuable and powerful.
The goal is to convince the church to altogether abandon the gifts of the Spirit even the Spirit himself.
To throw the baby out with the bathwater if you will.
Now a good disciple of Jesus will never actually admit that they do this. But they do, and here’s how you know they do.
They don’t say His name.
And if He’s ever spoken of is it in terms that acknowledge Him for who He actually is?
What do I mean by that?
I mean this.
Historical orthodox doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit is as follows:
1. He is God. The third person of the Triune Godhead. (2 Corinthians 3:17, Acts 5:3-4) 2. He is a person. That is to say, He has everything that constitutes personhood; a mind (Romans 8:27), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), emotions (Ephesians 4:30) even animation (1 Timothy 4:1), the Holy Spirit clearly exhibits all of these traits in Holy Scripture. 3. He dwells IN US. Meaning, the God of all creation is not simply in the heavens but he is actually IN THE ROOM WITH US, moreover, He is IN OUR HEARTS. (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Knowing these three fundamental things about the character and operation of the Holy Spirit, how then do we:
1. Speak of him 2. Treat him
In my experience the church largely pays the Holy Spirit lip service.
They know they have to acknowledge him because the text of Scripture demands they do. But in practice they treat him like the crazy uncle who lives up in the attic that no one really likes to talk about in any real way and as soon as he is brought up or acknowledged great effort is made to change the subject to something “less weird and uncomfortable”.
To add to this, if the Holy Spirit is discussed it is always in a way that treats Him as if he is the subject of a book, a topic for discussion and not a PERSON who is IN THE ROOM with you.
We simply don’t treat him like he’s an actual person. A person with a mind, a will, emotions and animation. A person, who also, by the way, created the world and all there is in it. The same person in whom we live and move and have our being.
Now if you’re reading this, you’re probably responding in one of two ways.
1. “Yes and amen brother! Preach it.” 2. “This makes me mad. Is he talking about me?? I love the Holy Spirit, I’m just not one of those crazy charismatics…”
If you’re in the later group, let me challenge you with something. The Holy Spirit doesn’t belong to the charismatics brother. He’s God. And we, his people, belong to Him. And he has never been anything to us but GOOD.
So do we treat Him like he’s God? More importantly, do we treat him like he’s good? Do we love the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? Or do we treat him with suspicion or worse, contempt?
Do we say His name openly and unashamedly? Or does it make us uncomfortable to speak of Him, even in church? When we speak of Him do we speak in a way that treats Him like he’s an actual person in the room with us? Or is He reduced to the role of a character in a story book we read when we come together?
Next question. Depending on how you answer the above…
How do you think your answers make the Holy Spirit feel?
Is he highly esteemed and honored as God in your heart and before men? This God who made you, loves you and works your salvation in you. (Romans 8:11) Do you love Him?
Do you love the Holy Spirit?
Or is he an embarrassing, weird byproduct of antiquated doctrine we sheepishly acknowledged before our brothers in the faith?
The Scripture says that the Holy Spirit speaks and that he speaks “as long as it is called “today””.
My final question for you is this: do you fear His voice?
“12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” – John 16:12-15
“7Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice, 8do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” – Hebrews 3:7-19
After writing this the author of Hebrews gives us this stern warning:
“25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:25-29
“51“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” – Acts 2:51
So few people understand how to “bear one another’s burdens”, especially when it comes to grief.
I don’t fault those who are bad at it but do in fact actually try.
I do however find fault with those who don’t even try. Because you should.
Over and over we are commanded in Scripture to fulfill the “one another…” commands.
Some of these we do better at than others and I think attending to our brother’s mental and spiritual health is probably one where we’re lacking.
There is a massive need for counseling in the church.
Countless people, even before the last two years of this pandemic, who silently and continually carry around really significant burdens and do so largely in isolation.
Part of that is because nobody can afford the professionals.
The other reason is we can so rarely seem to get past the noisy shop talk, the programs and the “doing stuff”. We so rarely take time away from the busyness of “church life” to simply slow down and go deeper. Really get to know our brothers. To know them intimately.
Sure we do the quick prayer requests for the light and mundane stuff. Job stuff, Aunt Edna is sick again. Very rarely does the really heavy baggage come out of the closet.
I can’t help but think the primary reason for that is people are afraid if they share what’s really going on in their heart that their brothers and sisters will just look at them in bewilderment and awkward silence.
I think they’re afraid nobody would be willing to even enter into whatever it is they are going through.
And I think they’re probably right.
That’s some heavy lifting.
And frankly, most just aren’t willing to put in the work of love.
So we keep it surface level. We only reveal what we feel will be received. And the real heavy stuff, that stays in the closet to be carried out in isolation.
So the issue remains, we have a massive need for real counseling in the church.
But here’s the deal. We don’t need professional counselors to help our brothers and sisters who are grieving, anxious, depressed. We don’t even need to push this significant burden on the church staff because they’re the “professionals” and we’re just an unqualified pew sitter.
And those are really poor excuses anyway for failing to love our brothers and sisters well by helping them to bear their burdens. Because we don’t need professional counselors, we don’t need church staffers, we just need brothers and sisters who are willing to come along side and love one another in a deeper way.
We simply have to love them.
We have to stop thinking about ourselves long enough to actually take notice of our brother’s countenance and then when the Holy Spirit moves upon our hearts, instead of suppressing that inclination to ask, “Hey brother, how are you doing? I mean really? Are you okay? I just want you to know that I love you. The Lord loves you. And I’m hear to share your burden with you in any way that I can.”
You just have to be willing. You don’t need to be a professional counselor to do that. You don’t need to be a church staffer or have a seminary degree to do that.
You simply have to care enough to ask. Or to follow up. Or to stop saying, “I’ll be praying for you.” and instead say, “Okay, let’s just pray right now okay.” And then pray over your brother. And then follow up with them. Check in on them. Give them liberty to take some of whatever weight their are carrying around and throw some of it on your shoulders.
You don’t need a degree and certifications to do that. You just need a heart that’s inclined toward your brother and his welfare.
But here’s the deal. A heart that works like that is only born of the Holy Spirit. No natural man can love his brother like this. The Lord however, he loves perfectly. And if we would simply yield to the Holy Spirit in our lives, if we would simply embrace his fellowship, like he’s a real person (because he is) he would work mightily in us to be ministers to our brothers in their need. To bind up wounds, to share in burdens to fulfill the law of Christ. “Love another.”
So here’s my challenge to you.
Are you doing this?
Have you ever stopped the surface level chit chat and actually asked your brother, “Hey man, how are you doing? You okay? Need to talk?”
If you haven’t, then you probably should.
I’d encourage you to pray and take this to the Lord. Ask him, “Lord, who needs me to share their burden?” And then wait and listen. He’ll show you. He knows who needs to be ministered to and exactly how that ministering needs to be done.
You just have incline your ear to him, that’s all.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” – Ephesians 4:17
Why did Paul call our minds “futile”?
He uses the Greek words here: “mataiotés” for “futile” which means: vanity, emptiness, unreality, purposelessness, ineffectiveness, instability, frailty; false religion.
And “nous” for minds, which means: the mind, the reason, the reasoning faculty, intellect.
So Paul says our minds, our reasoning ability, our intellects are vanity, emptiness and ineffective.
Now consider 1 Corinthians 1:27 and 2:6:16
“16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eatd of it you shall surely die.”” – Genesis 2:16
“It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” – John 6:45
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” – Romans 10:17
“But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.” – Job 32:8
“0Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” – Matthew 13:10-17
“33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. ” – Matthew 27:33-35
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’” – Revelation 2:7
And he does this by GRACE (that is a free gift) through FAITH (belief in that which is NOT seen.
And faith comes by HEARING the LIVING VOICE of Christ, that is the Holy Spirit.
Consider the following passage from John 10:
“1“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?””
So friends, who is the Door?
Jesus tells us plainly he is the Door.
But what of the Gatekeeper, the one who “opens the door for the sheep.”
Who opens the Door (Jesus) for the sheep?
Certainly not the Scriptures, they are those that imprison all things under sin.
It is the Holy Spirit that opens Jesus to us friends. It is God the Holy Spirit himself who sets us free in Christ.
And he does this by grace through faith, in the very good news that Jesus Christ died and rose for the forgiving of our sins and ALL of that… in accordance with the Scriptures, the very Scriptures that imprisoned us under sin.
Do you hear the cross and the resurrection in this friends?
Do you see how at once the Scriptures are the righteous demands of a Holy God that slay sin in the flesh? But the cross is not the totality of the good news! The Resurrection is the SPIRIT! It is He who sets us free from the bondage of sin and death because of the precious shed blood of Jesus.
So we see the cross is still at work. The Scriptures still crucify but when the reader enters the Door by the Porter, he’s made alive in the resurrected power of Jesus that IS the Holy Spirit.
The letter does indeed kill friends. But the Spirit so also gives LIFE!
“4Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3
Ask me about evidence… are you joking? I mean is this a joke? You want me to provide you some kind of proof? Some kind of evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact?
You know every year I hear the same refrain over and over again.
Arguments made for the historicity and legitimacy of the claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
And they’re all good arguments with frankly just about as high a burden of proof being met as any claim would need to meet in order to be established as fact to any reasonable person.
But can I be honest with you? As a personal friend of the Man, I’m indignant at the request.
I see all these appeals to the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts. To the reliability of Scripture and the extra biblical historical sources that corroborate the testimonies we find in the Gospel accounts.
I hear the common appeals to the reasonability or logical soundness of the claim that Christ conquered the grave; why this audacious claim should in fact be believed as true. It’s as if I can use the faculties of my feeble intellect to compel you, or perhaps it’s myself I’m attempting to convince here, that what I say I believe is actually true so then I won’t be, in fact, a mad man who believes the silly idea that a dead man up and walked out of his own grave and did so by his own power and volition no less.
Just hold up right there for one second okay. Let me be totally honest with you for just a minute.
I have personally walked with this man for over 30 years. I was just a little boy when I first heard his sweet voice.
I testify before God and all men, that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to me and promised me that if I trusted him he would save me from my sin.
And every single day since, I have sinned and he has saved.
I have walked with him. I have learned from him. I have prayed to him and I have heard him. I have run from him. I have screamed at him at the top of my lungs. I have begged and pleaded with him. I have praised him and worshiped him. I have suffered with him and I have found him. I have supped with him and he with me and I have known the steadfastness of his love and the immeasurable riches of his glorious grace.
I don’t know OF the Man. I know HIM. I know Him by experience.
66After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
There’s no where else to go.
I don’t know who needs to hear this right now but I feel compelled that many of you may in fact be the one for whom this word is intended.
Everything you need for the valley that you are walking through right now can be found only in Jesus.
Don’t run from him.
There’s no where to go out there. There’s only darkness.
Return to your Shepherd, find comfort at his side.
If you don’t have the strength to make it back to him then simply call out his name.
Help me Lord Jesus.
The good Shepherd cares for the sheep.
If one is lost will he not leave all the others to search out, to seek and save that which is lost?