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Archive for Holy Spirit – Page 2

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Equipping (part 3)

More Pondering from the Ponderosa. We are discussing the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to leave this subject without thinking of the Holy Spirit’s use of miracles and especially His use of the gift of tongues (languages).

Many have been given the false impression that the Bible is a book filled with one miracle after another. This is simply not true. Miracles in the Bible are the exception not the rule. They occurred in small clusters as the living God broke into history and unfolded His plan for man. Miracles were used to gain favorable attention to something important that God was doing. He wanted His work to stick in the minds of those observing because it was to be a game-changer. There are three major outbreaks of miracles recorded in Scripture. They are found surrounding the lives of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God used miracles to deliver Moses and the people of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 7–12). The rod became a snake; the river became blood; and there were the plagues of frogs, lice, flies, disease, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally the death angel. Through these miracles, God convinced an unbelieving Egyptian pharaoh that Moses was His messenger and that the Israelites must be released.

During the life of the prophets Elijah and Elisha miracles were used regularly. I will mention one. Baal worship threatened Israel’s relationship with the true God. Baal’s false prophets were convincing the Jews that they were the true prophets of God.  On Mount Carmel this changed. The living God and the false god Baal were pitted against one another in an epic battle. Elijah was used to graphically illustrate to the Jews that their God is God. Elijah built an altar and asked the prophets of Baal to cry out to their god to light the fire of the altar. Baal was thought to be the god of fire, and if there was anything that a god of fire could do it was to start a fire.

Baal’s prophets cried to him to strike the match until they were exhausted. Nothing! Nada! They even cut themselves with knives to show their sincerity, but no fire came. Elijah had the servants pour water on the altar three different times to make it more of a powerful illustration. He then asked God to once again perform a miracle. Light the fire! Fire immediately came down and consumed the wood, the water, and even licked up the dirt. God used this miracle to reassure the Jews that He is the living God and Elijah was His prophet. It turned the people back to the living God (2 Kings 18:18–38).

Miracles surround another pivotal time in God’s plan for the world. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and presented Himself to Israel as their King. The Christ made His identity extremely clear by performing many incredible miracles. He demonstrated power over nature (Matthew 8:26-27), disease (Matthew 9:22), demons (Matthew 8:29), and death itself (John 11:43).   

One supernatural gift that Satan – master deceiver – has completely distorted to keep blind sheep from coming to the Shepherd is the miracle of tongues. When Satan confuses, he always confuses in the areas that are critical, never in the trivial things. Understanding the miracle of tongues is absolutely critical if we are to ever understand that the church is one body in Christ – no longer Jews nor Gentiles, not slaves nor free, not male or female, but one body in Christ. 

The Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues has been distorted and confused by the old master of illusion himself, Satan. The reason? This gift was crucial in understanding the bond of unity held by the church of Jesus Christ. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, His Holy Spirit was to be given, and He was to unite both Jews and Gentiles into one body. Catch the word unite. This was remarkable because for centuries God had worked exclusively through the Jews. There had been a few individual Gentiles included, but not many. Gentiles as a group had been on the outside looking in. In fact, there was a wall that excluded them from worship in God’s Jewish temple. It shut them out! Talk about segregation!

That was about to change abruptly. The promise that Gentiles would someday be extended God’s grace was mentioned all through the Scripture (Isaiah 11:10, 42:1, 6). Jesus plainly said, “Other sheep have I (Gentiles) which are not a part of this fold (Jews).” He said that He was going to add these and at that point there would be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).  The Jews hated the Gentiles and discriminated against them at every level.  It would take strong persuasion – a miracle of seismic proportion – to convince both the Jews and the Gentiles that God was breaking down the wall and bringing them together into one body. A part of this miracle was that God, for the first time in history, was going to live in the bodies of believers—both Jews and Gentiles—and that both were going to be immersed into His body, making from two, one new man – the church. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). That day I believe to be Pentecost. The miracle predicted is absolutely astounding. “You in Me and I in you.” Wow!  Paul calls this miracle a mystery (Ephesians 3:9).

This event needed a sign that was so convincing that it would shake the Jews and Gentiles to the core of their very beings. A miracle that would absolutely shout that God was fulfilling His promise to the Gentiles. That miracle is known as the sign of tongues (languages).  The miracle was that heretofore unknown Gentile languages (languages that actually hurt the ears of the Jews)  were being supernaturally spoken and understood by Jews – Jews! Wow!

This miracle was being witnessed by Gentiles. The miracle clearly marked the very moment in history when two groups of people came together as one (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19).  The miracle continued to be used to convince both groups that this had happened until the Jews were dispersed by the Romans in 70 AD.  The miracle died away because its purpose had been accomplished (1 Corinthians 13:8). Both groups, Jews and Gentiles, got it!

The irony of ironies is the very miracle (tongues) that was intended by God to reveal that He was uniting Jew and Gentile into one body in Christ is now the very thing that is causing division. The reason? The “tongues” being spoken today is not the true sign gift. As mentioned, the original miracle had accomplished its purpose.  The tongues spoken now are not real languages, they are a gibberish used by Satan to deceive. These static utterances do not unite, they divide. The tongues used today are not even close to God’s original miracle and His original plan. Only Satan – the wisest creature that God created – could pull this off, and that he has done.  

Does God continue to work miracles today? Yes. He is God! He reserves that right to break into history at any time and do that which is beyond human ability to control. I personally think that this deadly virus reminds us of this very point. But to answer the question of miracles, yes, He can and does work miracles, but He works miracles at His discretion, not ours. Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Equipping (part 2)

It is a beautiful day at the Ponderosa. I am still pondering the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit. After the original apostles and prophets had done their part in laying the foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20), God brought in the rest of His construction crew who are still building on the foundation today.

There are workers with the gift of faith (1 Corinthians 12:9). These believers are equipped by God with an over-the-top ability to trust Him regardless of the turmoil that is happening around them. They take God at His word regardless of apparent odds against them. Other believers weak in faith observe their ministry and follow their lead and in the process learn that God is faithful and they grow in their faith.  During the time when our lives are in jeopardy is when those with the gift of faith shine.

Those with the gift of teaching (Romans 12:7) have an insatiable appetite and ability to study the depth of the Word of God and have the capacity to communicate its meaning to others who have the desire to know. The Bible is their textbook, not a quarterly. New believers have the chance to grow in grace and knowledge of the truth because of the ministry of these gifted believers.

Helps (1 Corinthians 12:28) is the gift of serving the body of Christ behind the scenes. The person with this gift makes an excellent deacon, serving unselfishly. The work is often tedious and thankless.

The gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28) is the ability to organize the local church ministry. Those with this gift are God’s efficiency experts. They have a desire that God’s work be carried out decently and in order (2 Corinthians 14:40). They go about their business with such love and reverence for the Lord that they are a blessing to everyone.

The gift of exhortation (Romans 12:8) is the gift of encouraging. The word literally means “to call to one’s side.” This is a great complementary gift to teaching. The teacher brings one to the point of saying, “I see that.” The encourager brings him to the point of believing, “I can do that.”

Those with the gift of giving (Romans 12:8) are able to give to the Lord’s work consistently, liberally, and cheerfully. They go far beyond what they feel God requires. The giving is done without any secret reluctance or false pretense. There are people who give as long as others know that they are giving. This is not Biblical giving at all, and it is certainly not the gift of giving. The gift of giving is not reserved for the wealthy only.

The gift of mercy (Romans 12:8) is so necessary yet so misunderstood. Mercy is not justice. Justice is to give one what is felt to be deserved. Mercy is to give what is not deserved. Expectations are not placed on those who receive mercy from those with this gift. If the recipients in some way deserved acts of mercy shown them, it is not mercy.

Those with the gift of evangelism (Ephesians 4:11) have the ability to present the gospel of God’s grace with extreme clarity to anyone, anywhere, at any time. They also have an overwhelming desire to do so.

The gift of shepherding (Ephesians 4:11) is the ability to guide, feed, and guard the church of Jesus Christ. This is the ideal gift for a pastor.

The motivation that drives all of these gifted people is the conscious awareness that they are serving not only the sheep but its Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is continuing to build His “living temple” through these construction workers.  The only prescription given in the entire Bible for the growth of the church is found in Ephesians 4:15-16: “Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Most of the organizations today calling themselves churches are trying every worldly method under heaven to grow a congregation. These schemes draw crowds, but they will not call sheep, feed sheep, nor build the flock. As soon as the unbiblical methods wear thin, the crowd will leave. On the other hand, when the last member of the true body is in place, the Head—the Lord Jesus Christ—will return and remove His church from this planet (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).  Stay safe and stay tuned.

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Equipping (part 1)

More ponderings from the Ponderosa. Today, we will ruminate (meditate) on the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit. It’s going to take more than one session to adequately cover this matter. Remember that God provided those who built His original temple with gifted artisans. There were engineers, carpenters, brick masons, and other specialists (Exodus 35:10; 36:1).  They were all specialized to make all that the Lord commanded. This may come as a surprise, but God has likewise equipped a group of gifted artisans to build His temple now. God is the great genius! Remember, His temple now is the living body of Christ.  The contrast is clear. Just as God selected and equipped gifted craftsmen to build the old physical temple, Jesus Christ has selected and equipped gifted craftsmen to build His new spiritual temple, the church (Ephesians 4:11).

When Christ ascended back into heaven, He began this selection. “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’ (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:7–11). It is not Paul’s intent to name all of the gifts here. Others are mentioned in Romans 12:3-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

Apostles and New Testament prophets were the first communicators of the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the world. An apostle was one sent with a message. During His short time on this earth, Christ poured His life into His disciples. A disciple is a learner. After Christ’s resurrection, these learners became Christ’s apostles – sent with the message of the gospel.  God’s living church began to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

During the early years of the church (just as today), Satan has his deceivers positioned among the church claiming to be apostles and prophets of God. They were and are used by Satan to distort the message of God and to deceive the nations (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1). They claim to be believers and look very much like them. These wolves in sheep’s clothing were not easily spotted. The imposters looked and sounded pretty much like the genuine teachers. How were God’s sheep to know the difference?

God gave His apostles and prophets special miracle-working power as ID cards to verify their identity and the importance of their message (Hebrews 2:3–4). The signs of true apostles were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Corinthians 12:12). Signs were miracles that no doubt shocked and amazed those who witnessed them. The identity of the real apostles was verified by these miracles. The miraculous signs were meant to say, “Hey, listen! I am who I claim to be and what I am about to say is indeed the very Word of God. Pay close attention!”

The Bible was then completed and contains all the necessary info to determine the good guys from the bad.  These early miracle workers slowly passed from the scene when the need for them no longer existed. They had done their part of the construction. As the living, spiritual organism of the church began to grow, a new group of workers came on the scene (1 Corinthians 3:9–15; Ephesians 4:7–16). These workers could be compared to carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and brick masons in a construction business. Until the day of His return to establish His promised kingdom, Jesus Christ will continue to build His church through gifted people, proclaiming the power of His word.  These gifted craftsmen are continuing to this very day to build on the prepared foundation. Stay safe and stay tuned!

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Sealing

More Pondering from the Ponderosa.  We are thinking about seven ministries of the Holy Spirit.  We have gone through regeneration, baptism, indwelling, and now we will consider the Holy Spirit’s sealing ministry. Does a Christian truly have eternal life or do we receive probationary life from God, until we commit a serious sin? It should be obvious to the most casual Bible student that if eternal life can be lost, it was never eternal life to begin with.  

 A truly amazing characteristic of God’s Holy Spirit is His sealing ministry. Speaking of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote that inHim (Christ) you trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation (one is to respond to the gospel by faith in Christ), in whom also, having believed (one first hears the gospel and believe in Christ) you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit? One of the most cherished teachings in the Bible is the life of Noah and the great flood. God judged and destroyed the entire civilization of man, sparing only one family. You remember that God placed Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark, and He shut them in (Genesis 7:16).  God alone was the doorman! He saw to it that the door remained securely closed until all were safely deposited in the new world.

When the flood was over, Noah and his people and all the animals exited the ark safely onto a new world. Why? God guarded that door. After the flood, God promised never to destroy this world again—by water. But He did not promise never to destroy this world again (2 Peter 3:3–5).

Scoffers are here today! They are asking, “Where is your God? What about His promise to once again engage this world with His judgment?” Evil is rampant. The Bible’s view of marriage has been compromised. Babies are being slaughtered by the millions. We are immersed in a sexual revolution, and a civil revolution, and now this pandemic.  Many thought that these events would never happen, but they are here.  Once again, people are asking, “Where is your God?” Centuries have passed and still no Christ. Things continue to get worse. The scoffers are once again doing exactly what they did before Noah’s flood.

Just as Noah and his family were spared from God’s wrath by being positioned in the ark, those who will be spared from God’s coming wrath must be positioned in the body of Jesus Christ (baptism of the Holy Spirit) (1 Corinthians 12:13). He is our Ark. Those who are “in Christ” will never perish (John 10:28).  Once in Christ, we can never get out of Him. Just as God shut Noah and his family safely in the ark, He, by the sealing ministry of His Holy Spirit, also shuts us safely in Christ.

With no postal service in the ancient world, important documents were sent by runners. These documents had an official seal pressed upon the folds of the document. If the seal was broken for any reason before the letter was delivered, the carrier was arrested and punished, and the contents of the document rendered of no value. The seal could be broken only by the one to whom the letter was addressed.

Believers in Christ are sealed forever in Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). We are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of our redemption. “Until” is a time word. We are sealed until the redemption of the purchased possession. We are sealed until God Himself breaks the seal by taking us to be with Him. He opens the door into His kingdom. Wow! This sealing ministry of the Spirit is said to be a guarantee. This is the Greek word, arroban, a pledge, which can be translated engagement ring. An engagement ring is a symbol that a promise will be kept. God the Holy Spirit’s seal becomes the guarantee that our position in Christ is forever secure. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).  Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Indwelling (part 2)

Pondering from the Ponderosa, continues. It is true that there was a time when God made Himself known to the Jews by revealing His presence in a temple made with hands. This temple was to be a very special place. God handpicked craftsmen to build it. Each of these builders was adequately equipped and given special wisdom and talent. There were engineers, carpenters, brick masons, and other specialists. They were all gifted artisans who came together to make all that the Lord commanded (Exodus 35:10; 36:1). They were to follow an exact blueprint that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:9).

God made it abundantly clear why such great care was to be taken on the physical earthly dwelling. He was going to meet with the people in that tabernacle (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 6–8). That must have been an incredible sight. People stood in awe and watched as the cloud came down and rested upon the temple. The God who created them, the God who created this entire universe, visibly revealed Himself to fallen human beings. His presence made known in this way is called “the glory of the Lord” or the shechinah glory. In the Old Testament, these manifestations of God were in the form of the angel of the Lord, light, fire, or a cloud, or a combination of these.

God continued to manifest His presence to Israel in the temple for many years, but the Jews began to rebel against Him. Their rebellion became so blatant that Ezekiel wrote that God’s presence eventually left the temple. This extremely sad scene is described in Ezekiel. God is shown as leaving in stages, each one showing His reluctance to go. He went from the mercy seat and paused over the threshold of the temple and then moved above it (Ezekiel 10:4).

From the threshold of the temple, He moved above and beyond the temple and stood at the eastern gate (Ezekiel 10:18–19). Next the glory of the Lord went up from the east side of the temple and stood on the mountain (Ezekiel 10:22–23). At last, the word Icabod,which means “for the glory of the Lord has departed,” was etched over the temple. God had departed from the temple. What a horrible day that must have been!

Hundreds of years passed. Then one day, it happened. Catch this glimpse! God moved into a new temple, a temple not made of wood or stone or bricks. It is a temple not filled with pews or laden with carpets or with windows filled with stained glass or beautiful rooms with hanging chandeliers. Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God sent the Holy Spirit who located His presence within the bodies of all believers. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4). The church of Jesus Christ—believers from every nation, kindred, and tongue—became the dwelling place of God that day. The bodies of Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and we have been bought with the price of His precious blood. Therefore, we are to glorify (shed light upon) Him (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 2 Corinthians 6:16).

Paul’s letter to Roman believers makes clear the same truth (Romans 5:5). The moment we become a Christian, God the Holy Spirit comes into our bodies and takes up permanent residence. In fact, the Spirit’s presence is absolute proof that we are connected to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9).

Paul called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Christ.” This is one of the miraculous things about the Trinity. The members of the Trinity are coexistent. When one member is present, all three are there (Colossians 1:27). All of Christ’s prophetic words in John 14:20 are fulfilled. Christ is now seated with His Father, we are in Him, and He is in us! What an incredible thought! What an amazing glimpse into the unseen realm of a holy God. Stay safe and stay tuned.