Archive for Holy Spirit

Pondering Teaching


I began my walk with Jesus Christ by studying the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. My very first mentor was a former Presbyterian minister from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named Donald Barnhouse. Through this study the Holy Spirit placed in me an unquenchable thirst to know more and more of God’s word but also to discover Dr. Barnhouse’s method of studying it.   


As it turned out, Paul’s letter to the Galatians was a great place for me to start. Paul’s desire was to clarify to young Galatian Christians, who were being confused by a crowd of religious zealots, what the gospel is. I spent my first few years in that book studying the truth of the gospel and the meaning of God’s grace.


My greatest desire has been and continues to be to lean heavily upon the Holy Spirit to teach me the Scripture. After all, Jesus Christ said that is precisely what the Spirit is sent here to do. “When He is come (the Holy Spirit) He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore, I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14). The word “glorify” means to shed light upon. I liken it to using a flashlight to make visible things in the darkness.


In this case the Holy Spirit will teach God’s word and through it make Jesus Christ and His work more and more visible and understandable to the student. The Holy Spirit teaches the believer’s living human spirit God’s mysterious hidden wisdom. He does so by taking the spiritual meaning of the words of the Bible in context and turning them into spiritual thoughts or truths that feed our living human spirits. He feeds our souls the very thoughts and truth of the living God. Wow! (1 Cor. 2:7-16). That is heavy thinking! It is through this “feeding” that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Son of God (2 Pet. 3:18). Blessings!    

How Did Paul Receive the Gospel?

Paul is clearly explaining the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Yesterday we looked at the value of preserving the clarity of the gospel at all cost. We live in a nation that has not done this. We have blurred the lines of the true gospel. We have not valued the truth of the gospel, nor have we taught our children to love it. This is why we find ourselves as a nation in the spiritual cesspool of God’s judgment (Roman 1:18-32).

Today we look at Paul’s words, “Unless you have believed in vain.” Another way of expressing this is “unless your faith is empty of any real content.” This can be taken different ways. Paul may be saying “unless you have placed your faith in a false gospel” – an empty, twisted gospel that has been adulterated (mixed) with the addition of human works – a gospel that has no power to save – and obviously many have. Or on the other hand, Paul may mean that unless God really did not become a Man nor did He die on a cross for sin, nor did He really rise from the dead, nor is He alive today and coming back to establish His kingdom. The result would be the same. There would be no saving power in the gospel either way. I personally think that by saying “unless you believed in vain” Paul meant the latter.

Let’s continue. Paul said, “I delivered to you that which I received.” This begs a question.  How did Paul receive His message of the gospel? This is truly amazing. When Paul was saved on the way to Damascus, he did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, meaning he did not go back to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles (Galatians 1:15-16). He did not get his message from them.

Paul went immediately into the desert of Arabia alone – but He was not alone. He went to meet with someone. Get ready now for some strong meat – an amazing glimpse. He met with Jesus Christ once again – face-to-face. Wow!  He said thatthe gospel which he proclaimed did not come from flesh and blood. Now I quote verbatim, “but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Jesus Christ unveiled himself once again, and He gave the gospel message to Paul, who had been called from his mother’s womb to preach this message to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16).

Later Paul told the Ephesian believers that he had actually become a prisoner of Jesus Christ for them. The only way Ephesian believers could understand what Paul meant would be for them to have heard and understood of the dispensation of the grace of that was given to him – by Jesus Christ when He made known the gospel to him. A dispensation is a stewardship, a window of opportunity. In Arabia Jesus Christ had made known to Paul not only the gospel, but also the result of the gospel.

The gospel is the truth that not only saves but will immediately result in the baptism of the Spirit – real baptism.  This baptism joins both Jew and Gentile into one body – the church.  This amazing truth had been hidden in God for ages.  This mystery was not made known to the Old Testament prophets – anywhere. If it had been, then they would have no doubt proclaimed it again and again. They did not! (Ephesians 3:1-12). Spirit baptism occurs instantly upon hearing and believing the gospel. The believer is instantly baptized into one body – Jew and Gentile – in Christ. Paul was the first to make this mystery known. 

Now through the church preaching the gospel and many believing and being saved and also being instantly immersed into Christ, the principalities and powers in heavenly places can finally know this truth. This is why the angels are looking onto it (1 Peter 1:12).  Through the gospel God is raising a new generation of people – made up people from every tribe and tongue – Jew and Gentile – made lower than the angels but in Christ, raised far above them.  This new generation will ultimately reign with Christ over a renewed earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6) and then reign with Him for eternity in a new heaven and a new earth forever (Revelation 22:3-5). Remember, it was in the angelic realm and in the old heaven where the first rebellion – Satan’s rebellion against God – occurred (Ezekiel 28:11-15; Isaiah 14:12-14).  This is amazing is it not? This is God’s eternal purpose revealed. This is the reason for the gospel. Stay safe and stay tuned.


Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Control (part 2)

Still pondering! Our subject is the control of the Holy Spirit. There is no substitute for learning to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance. We are told to walk by means of the Holy Spirit and not by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). We are told to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean not on our own understanding.  In all their ways we are to acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). We are to learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

The more time we spend in the Scriptures, the more we have the tendency to become doers of it.  The longer we trust God’s Holy Spirit to help us do what God’s word tells us to do, the more we will do it.  Said another way, the more we learn to lean on the Holy Spirit’s control, the stronger our faith becomes.

A friend once shared with me that the most terrifying thing he had ever done was fly an airplane by instruments. He spent months learning how to use them. He worked hard imagining what it would be like to depend solely on the many gauges and dials in front of him. He said the first time he actually put into practice what he had learned was a heart-wrenching life changing moment. He took off from the airport and for the first time had to fly into a cloud bank at over three hundred miles per hour. He could see nothing past the windshield of the aircraft – nothing.   

At first, he felt the overwhelming tendency to panic and revert to flying the airplane by sight. He took a deep breath, steadied himself, and focused on the instrument panel in front of him. The instruments were all he had to tell him how fast he was flying, how high he was flying, whether he was right side up or upside down, and in what direction he was going. It was extremely exhilarating as well as terrifyingly scary!

Operating by the instruments alone, he came out of the clouds, hoping that the airport was where the instruments said it was supposed to be. And there it was! He had the overwhelming desire to shout. I think he probably did. Success after success taught him that he could rely on the airplane’s capability. The airport was always there. The more he flew using this method, the more confident he became. He learned to trust that the instruments were telling him the truth.

That accurately describes how Christians learn to live by faith. Believing that God’s word is telling the truth and trusting the Holy Spirit to give us the power and the encouragement to live by it. At first taking small steps of faith, we learn to rely upon the sound teaching of God’s Word, not our own human desires or inclinations.

This works well as long as God’s Word goes along with our human desires. When we can clearly see out of the windshield. But when there is clash and life gets a little testy, when God’s Word often goes contrary to our human inclinations and tendencies, we have an overwhelming inclination to revert to flying by sight.  For instance, when God’s word tells us to serve those that we wish to lead – that goes against our human inclinations. Our success is not found through self-promoting pride and arrogance but through submission and humility. When we begin to align a ourselves with God’s word, we can see through the windshield. Then we begin to give Him honor when we can’t see. We become consciously aware of His continuing presence 24/7. And our goal is to honor God in private as well as publicly.

My pilot friend said that when flying by instruments, he could not allow himself to revert to what his human inclinations were telling him, not even for a moment. He had to train himself to depend solely on the instruments. The same is true when living by God’s Word. As we learn to walk by faith, we discover that God is always faithful to do what He says He will do. We can trust Him with our very lives.

This does not mean that we do not fail. We do! We sin because we are sinners. We are to quickly right ourselves by confessing our sin to God and putting our eyes back on the instruments (1 John 1:8-9).

As the disciples spent personal time with Jesus Christ every day, their faith grew. They walked with Him, talked with Him, and learned to put their confidence in Him. They grew to love Him. We can do the same thing today—by faith.

By faith, we can attend the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where the Christ turned the water into wine. By faith, we can sit beside Him in the boat on the Sea of Galilee, when He stilled the storm with the words “Peace, be still.”  By faith, we can observe the faces of the blind man that the Christ caused to see, the leper that He cleansed, and we can rejoice with the crippled man as he walked for the first time in his life. By faith, we can stand with Him under the sycamore tree when Jesus called old Zacchaeus.

By faith, we can be there as He cursed the fig tree and as He talked with the woman of Samaria.  By faith, we can stand with Him and sense His grief as He wept at the death of His friend, but then we can stand amazed when He called Lazarus to life. By faith, we can observe Him on the cross as He cried out, “My God, my God why have your forsaken me?” By faith, we can hear Him say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” By faith, we can stand by the two Mary’s at the mouth of His empty tomb and hear the angels say, “He is not here, for He has risen as He said He would.” By faith, we can walk with Him along the road to Emmaus after His resurrection. By faith, we can touch His resurrected body as Thomas did. By faith we can stand with Him and watch Him ascend back into heaven with His promise to return ringing in our ears. By faith, God’s airport will always be there. Stay safe and stay tuned.


Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Control (part 1)

More pondering from the Ponderosa. The last ministry of the Holy Spirit that I will cover is His controlling ministry, or His filling. This will take a few posts, but please bear with me. We are told to walk by means of the Holy Spirit and not by the flesh (Galatians 5:16). The reason is clear.  The flesh – the old Adamic nature that still remains in us – lusts (wars)against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Galatians 5:17).  It’s an ongoing inner battle that we will wage as long as we are in this fallen body.

Christians are by our very nature people of faith. We are given life from God by personal faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are not only saved by faith, but we are to grow in faith and learn to live our entire lives by faith. Paul said that we are to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). What did he mean by this? Catch this glimpse!

Walking is an interesting physical movement. We push forward into the walking motion by putting weight on one leg and then shifting that weight to the other. Our bodies move forward, one step at a time. There is a brief moment (ever so slight) when we must trust that the next leg will hold us up. We really do not know for sure, but we learn to trust it. When we are very young, we take short unsteady steps learning to trust our legs.  But as we grow older, we no longer even think about it.  We just walk and run. This is why God used walking as a picture of learning to live by faith. He’s a genius, is He not!

Walking by faith is placing our spiritual weight upon the truth of the Word of God, moment by moment, throughout our lives. At first, we take small steps of faith, learning to trust God for little things. But as we mature in Christ, we take larger steps of faith, trusting God for more important things.

Moses told the Jews that God had humbled them, allowing them to go hungry in the wilderness so that He could supply their need. God creates needs in order to teach us to trust Him. He fed the Jews in the wilderness with manna. The word actually means “what is it.” That would be an appropriate description (Exodus 16:31-21).  God gave exactly what was needed by each one for that day – no more, no less.  If they gathered too much, it would spoil and rot. God was teaching them to trust the Giver and not the gift. He was teaching them that He is true to His word and that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of His mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3). God wanted them to realize that He was faithful! They were to learn to walk by faith.

Paul was growing old. His body was wearing out, but that which was going on inside him—in his spirit—grew stronger with each passing day (2 Corinthians 4:16–17). He called the problems he faced in this life “momentary light affliction.” What was this momentary light affliction? In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times he received forty stripes minus one. Three times he was beaten with rods; once he was stoned; three times he was shipwrecked; a night and a day he was in the sea; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting’s often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, including his deep concern for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). I don’t know if Paul ever had to endure a novel virus of any kind, but there is a good chance that he did. 

 This was momentary light affliction?! Compared to the exceeding and eternal weight of glory awaiting Paul beyond this world, it was. Paul wrote that the fleeting trials that we face here are crushed by the weight of the glory that awaits us. He then told us how to strengthen our faith in the things to come. We are to learn not to look at the things that are seen but at the things which are not seen. Things that are visible with human eyes are temporary, but the things that our eyes cannot see are eternal things (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We are not to put our confidence in the visible things that are locked in time and space in this physical world. Walking by faith means that we work hard to understand the clear teaching of God’s Word and allow the Spirit to unravel for us the divine wisdom found there. We then submit our human wills to what is written. The Bible is to become the absolute source of our faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). We are not to build our lives by becoming attached to the stuff in this life. Why? Because all that is seen with the eyes is said to be temporary and destined to perish. We are to learn to trust in the Giver, not the gift. Stay safe and stay tuned.

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Teaching (part 2)

More pondering from the Ponderosa. The rulers of Jesus’ day obviously did not understand God’s wisdom, because had they known it, they would not have carried out the crucifixion. Paul said that God’s wisdom is mysterious—a hidden wisdom—that God predestined before the ages of time for our glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). A hidden wisdom?

Hidden means that God’s wisdom does not originate within the human mind. Paul wrote this wonderful truth. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit teaches the human spirit the things of the spirit of God.

God’s wisdom contains that which is hidden from human eyes and ears. This wisdom does not come through mystical human visions nor voices heard! Nor has this wisdom ever before entered the mind of man. God’s wisdom is not rehashed human thoughts, ideas, or opinions. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

How do we receive this wisdom? There is only one way! “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). God alone knows the thoughts of God.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthian 2:12-13). God has given to every believer His Spirit (1 Corinthian 12:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19). A man knows only his own secret thoughts, not those of another. That is comforting! Likewise, the Spirit of God alone knows the thoughts of God. Since as believers we have received the Spirit of God, God has given us the capacity to know His truth.

Catch this incredible glimpse. Paul wrote, “Comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” This sounds like an anomaly – a mystery. But it is not. The spiritual things are spiritual words. The Word of God is spiritually alive (Hebrews 4:12). The second spiritual are thoughts. This means that as I diligently study the Word of God—every word, every line, every paragraph—God the Holy Spirit begins to teach my human spirit through spiritual thoughts, the things of the Spirit of God.

Please indulge me some repetition. As Christians study the words of the Bible, the Spirit places God’s truth in the mind, allowing them to see with the eyes of the mind God’s amazing plan for believers and for this world. This is God’s method of teaching every believer His wisdom, His mind. God does not give different information to different believers, but it is the same truth given and received in the very same way, for hundreds of years. The Bible has one body of truth to give.

The Christian cannot approach the text looking for or seeking to find these divine truths. God does not give them to us this way. He gives them to those who diligently study the Word of God word by word, line-by-line, hour after hour, year after year. God opens His wisdom through the Spirit’s illumination. Again, as we study God’s spiritual word, the Holy Spirit within us begins to open to us spiritual thoughts. It is truly a magnificent way to learn.

It is clear that God does not teach everything one desires to know about any given subject in His Word. If He did, He would not be God. He reserves the right to give or to withhold truth (Matthew 13:10-11). He has given me just small “glimpses” of His plan through the years. A glimpse is a “brief, incomplete view or look, a brief flash of light.” But as I began to connect these small glimpses one with the other, God’s magnificent wisdom began to emerge—the eternal nature of Jesus Christ, why God took on flesh (incarnation), the truth about the virgin birth, the facts surrounding the death of Christ, His resurrection (bodily), His ascension back into heaven, and the truth that God has provided His salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, and the truth concerning His kingdom, to name some. This is God’s method of revealing to us His hidden wisdom.

We were visiting some friends in Houston, Texas, some years ago. After a trip to the mall, my daughter brought home a hologram. A hologram is a picture hidden within a picture. They handed me the print of a beautiful American flag and asked me to find the hidden picture. Everyone saw the hidden picture quickly. I tried and tried, but I just could not see it!

My daughter kept repeating, “Dad, just look deep within the flag.” I tried time and again. Finally, after many attempts, I caught a glimpse of something! Ah, there it was. Hidden in the flag was a beautiful eagle with its wings spread majestically. That’s fascinating, I thought.

The hologram is a perfect illustration of the Holy Spirit opening the truth of God’s Word to the mind of the student. Glimpses of grace come only as God the Holy Spirit reveals them to us. It has been these glimpses that the Spirit of God has used to teach me and to motivate me through the years. Stay safe and stay tuned.