Friday, April 28, 2017

Sins Against The Holy Spirit I

There are certain sins we can commit against the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 4:30-commands, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”   There are certain things which, if allowed in Christian’s life, grieve the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:19-21 describes these as the works or actions of the flesh.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”  They are typical of the kinds of actions and attitudes Christ died to set us free from. 

When people who claim to be Christians behave in such manners they dishonor God and cause others to blaspheme or speak evil against Him, according to Romans 2:21-24.  “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?  Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?  Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?  For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.”  Such activity is exactly the opposite of what they Holy Spirit is attempting to produce in the Christian’s life and it grieves him that they choose to live that way.  Whe wants to glorify God rather than dishonoring him, according to John 16:14-15. “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.”

There are many today who believe that because they have been saved, they don’t have to worry about such sins because they cannot lose their salvation.  They don’t seem to understand that the fact that they can continue in the sin raises the possibility they are not truly saved, as we have already seen.  If they are saved, they are making a mockery of God, and as I Corinthians 3:13-15 tells us, they will lose their rewards, even though they will get into heaven.  “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 

Galatians 5:16-17 tells us how to avoid dishonoring God and grieving the Holy Spirit.  “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  Unless Christians learn to walk in the Spirit, they will constantly struggle with doing what is right and good.  The Great Commission, found it Matthew 28:19-20 commands, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  The first teach is the Greek word meaning disciple or cause to become a follower.  Once they have been save, we are to baptize them and teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded.  An important part of that is teaching them to walk in the Spirit.  Because that part of the Great Commission has been neglected, many Christians are grieving the Holy Spirit.  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit VIII

Paul has given some specific guidelines about how the gifts of Prophecy and speaking in tongues are to be used.  He made the point that these gifts needed to be used in a spiritually mature manner so that they drew people to Christ rather than driving them away.   This next guideline is a point of contention with many today.  

“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

Many feel this is an extremely chauvinistic statement and should not be taught or followed in the modern church.  I we look at what Paul said in I Timothy 2:11-15, we find the reasoning behind it is not chauvinistic.  “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.   But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was first formed, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.  Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” 

While Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, she did so because she had been deceived.   Adam was not deceived and deliberately took of the forbidden fruit in rebellion against God.   It was his rebellious attitude that was passed down to all humanity resulting in their becoming sinners deserving judgment and death.   Because the man caused the problem, it is the man’s responsibility to teach people how to make it right.  Women should not enable men to avoid taking their responsibility.  She does not have to take his responsibility to receive the blessings.  God has promised that if she learns to walk in the Spirit she will have his blessings.  The problem is not that the woman is inferior or less able, but that God has designated the man to take the responsibility.

The real issue is whether we believe the Bible is truly the word of God or not.   II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  In other words, if we will follow all the scriptures we will be able to do everything in a way that is pleasing to God.    

Unfortunately, some believe that they have gotten some special revelation form god authorizing them to ignore certain teachings.   Paul addresses that teaching in I Corinthians 14:36-38.  “What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?  If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. 1co 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

We don’t get to decide what God’s word should say, nor does he give special rules for different groups.  Anyone who is genuinely spiritual or has the gift of teaching and understanding what God says will recognize that these rules are in fact what God commands.  Anyone who refuses demonstrates their ignorance of spiritual matters.  I John 4:6 tells us, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

With these things in mind, I Corinthians 14”39-40 instructs, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.   Let all things be done decently and in order.”  We ought to be more concerned with teaching other what god wants rather than on speaking in tongues.  That does not mean God will never use someone that speaks another language to deliver a message.  We just need to follow his guidelines  so things are done in a proper manner, as God intended.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit VII

The gift of tongues has been a source of conflict since Paul’s day, as demonstrated by his writngs on the subject here in I Corinthians 12-14.  As I Corinthians 14:20 tells us, we need to develop a mature attitude about the gifts in general and especially about tongues.   “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”  As we saw in the previous post, tongues were never intended for use among believers.  Misusing them poses a serious problem. 

“If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?  But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:  And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.” (I Corinthians 14:23-25)

If a person who is unsaved or not familiar with the custom comes into a church where everyone is speaking in different languages he doesn’t understand he will undoubtedly be confused and lose respect for the people, thinking they are crazy to keep talking in all those different languages.  Over the years, I have talked to number of people who visited such churches, and many felt exactly as Paul described, often refusing to go back.   On the other hand, if everyone gives a clear statement about what God has commanded, even the unbeliever will realize they are serious about God and be forced to think about his own relationship, even possibly accepting Christ. 

A mature attitude will be more concerned with helping others to grow than with making themselves appear spiritual.  I Corinthians 14:26 asks, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”   Why is it that everyone thinks they have to sing a song or give a testimony or share a scripture every time?  These things can become such a big part of a service the that God’s word is neglected.  As we have already seen telling people what God has said is the most important activity gift in the church.  When music, testimonies or other activities take precedence over the teaching of God’s word, the church has lost its focus.   It is with that in mind that Paul gives some specific guidelines as to how the gifts should be handled in the church. 

“If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.” (I Corinthians 14:27-28)

There should never be more than two or three speaking in different languages in single service, and arrangements to have each message interpreted into a language should be made before the speaker starts.   If there is no one to interpret the language, the person should not speak publicly, but only in his own heart and to God.  

“Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.  If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.  For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.   And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.  For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:29-33)

As many prophets or teachers can speak as are desired, because the focus is on everyone learning.   There should be freedom for others besides the pastor or elders to speak.  When someone is speaking the other people are to be checking out what he teaching to be sure it is right.  We are not to blindly accept what a preacher or teacher tells us, so that we do not wind up following false doctrine.   In Acts 17:11, the Berean Christians were considered greater Christians because they followed this advice.  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Part of the fruit of the Spirit is temperance or self-control.  God is not the author of confusion, so if someone is unable to control themselves, or wait their turn, it is a clear indication they are not led of the Holy Spirit, because II Corinthians 3:17 tells us, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  The popular ideas of being slain in the spirit and falling to the floor when the spirit touches you or of being unable to stop dancing around or speaking in tongues indicates they are under the power of a different spirit.   When Jesus cast out evil spirits, the evil spirits sometimes threw the people to floor and the Lord lifted them back up as we see in Mark 9:26.  “And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.   But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.”   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit VI

The most valuable gifts are the ones that help people know God and his desires.  Those who are most interested in demonstrating god’s gifts and power should be focused on the best gifts, as I Corinthians 14:12-17 tells us.  “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.  Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.  What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?  For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. “  Speaking in a language that no one understands is a waste of time unless someone interprets it.  If you don’t know what you are saying, only your emotions (your own spirit) are affected and you gain no spiritual understanding or growth.    As a result, Paul was determined not to spend time in those prayers, so that he could worship both with his emotions and his mind. 

Likewise if he prayed audibly in an unknown language, other people would have no idea what was really said.  How could they honestly say amen, or let it be so when they didn’t know what was being said?  For all they know it might be cursing Jesus rather than praising him.    A Chinese missionary described hearing a person who supposedly had the gift of speaking in tongues cursing the Lord in fluent Mandarin Chinese, and a man who visited our church had a similar experience with one of the Native American languages.   I Corinthians 12:3 tells us,”Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed…”   

“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (I Corinthians 14:18-19)  Paul had grown up speaking Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.  In his various missionary journeys to different cultures he had also learned at least some of various other languages.  He could accomplish more with five words in a language he and the people understood than in hours of talking in language they didn’t understand.   

It is okay to have childlike attitude toward grudges and hurt feelings, but in things of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, we need to have a mature attitude, as I Corinthians 14:20-22 tells us.  “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.  In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.  Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

Several times in the Old Testament, Most notably in Isaiah and Joel, God had warned that the would send people  speaking other languages in an attempt to turn the Jews back to God, but they would not listen any more than they did to the Jewish prophets.   Acts 2:5-12 describes on situation in which this prophecy was fuflfiied, with every person hearing the messages in their native language.  “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,  Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.  And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

Clearly the gift of tongues was given as a sign to reach people who were not Christians.   Those who already believe do not require some special sign to convince them of God’s power.  They will be satisfied to know what God has said, but those who do not believe will not.  As we saw in I John 4:6, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.”   The gift of tongues only matters to those who do not trust God and need constant reminders and reassurance of his power. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit V

I Corinthians 12:31 instructs, “But covet earnestly the best gifts…”  As we have seen, every part of the body is important because of the particular function it plays.  In the same way, every gift of the Spirit is important in the church.    The body can function without the tonsils, although somewhat less efficiently, and there are some gifts the church can function without.  Other gifts are like the heart or lungs, essential if the church is to be able to survive on its own.  Paul is saying these are the gifts we need to be most concerned about. 

In I Corinthians 13, He pointed out that without love, or charity, the gifts of the Spirit are worthless, so in I Corinthians 14:1-4 he points out why one is more important and essential than another.  “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.  For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.  But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.  He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.” 

In modern language, the word “prophesy” is nearly always used in reference to foretelling the future.  The biblical usage had a much broader meaning, referring to telling people what God said, whether about the future, or about something teaching God wanted them to know.  The gift of prophecy was a special ability to receive a message directly from God which was to be shared with the other people.   When the scriptures were complete, those special messages were not necessary.  Teachers can fulfill the responsibilities of the prophet in our day because they have God’s word to teach from.  As a result, I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us, “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

When Paul wrote that the scriptures were not yet complete, so prophecy was still a necessary gift.  Because there was such a variety of languages, the ability to speak in tongues was also necessary, but Paul says the gift of prophecy, of telling people what God wanted is more important because tongues were only of benefit to people who understood them, whereas prophecy could strengthen everyone that heard it.  Tongues would only build up or strengthen other Christians if they understood them so they were worthless unless they were interpreted, as he explains I Corinthians 14:5-11.

“I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.  Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?  So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.  Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me. “ (I Corinthians 14:5-11)

If people do not understand what is being said, it is just meaningless noise.  They may legitimately think the church is insane for putting up with such confusion.  On the other hand, even a bugle or musical instrument, can convey a message if played in a recognizable pattern.  If we are to have an impact on others, they have to understand what is said. So Paul says it would be better for the church if they taught what God wanted than if they spoke in tongues.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit IV

But now are they many members, yet but one body.   And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.   Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (I Corinthians 12:20-26)

A few years ago, doctors routinely removed children’s tonsils because they so often became infected.  They were shocked to find that those who had their tonsils removed were more susceptible to various diseases.  They discovered that the tonsils were the first line of defense against certain diseases.  Especially during the depression children didn’t get adequate nutrition, and immigration and trade policies allowed them to be exposed to more pathogens than they could handle in a malnourished state.   When they were properly nourished the tonsils protected the children from disease. 

Frequently, in the church there is a person who doesn’t seem to contribute very much, but they may be praying or encouraging others in ways we aren’t aware of.  If they are hurt or ignored the entire church will suffer, even though they don’t realize why.  Every member of the church plays a vital role in the church’s health.  We need to learn to have equal concern for the little old man or woman who can’t do much as for the youth or the church leadership.  They are all part of the body. 

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (I Corinthians 12:27-28)

When God started the churches, he started with the apostles, who laid the basic foundation and wrote out what they had been taught by Christ.  He gave them special gifts such as healing, miracles, and speaking in tongues as a means of convincing people they were actually messengers from God.  Paul referred to those gifts as signs or proofs of apostleship in II Corinthians 12:12. “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”   When the apostles were no longer present these gifts disappeared as well.

Because the scriptures were not yet complete and people were not familiar with how a church should run, God gave certain men a gift of prophecy so they could tell people about things that had not yet been addressed.  Once the scriptures were complete and the principles established, this gift would cease as well.  John and Matthew were written very early, apparently before about 37 AD.  As persecution began to grow in 37 AD, the Christians were forced to scatter, taking copies of John and Matthew with them.  The Holy Spirit gave certain men a special gift for teaching so they could explain the scriptures to the people in the different communities. 

The people in these other communities still had the same needs as those in Jerusalem, and the gifts of healing or miracles were still common in the churches, although only the apostles are described as having them later in Acts.     In addition the Holy Spirit gifted certain men with abilities to help people physically, emotionally, and financially.  As the churches grew there was a need for people to administer or govern the church and some people were gifted in that area.  As they moved into gentile communities and began to reach out to them, the need for people who could speak the different languages grew and some were given special gifts for speaking different languages. 

“Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:29-31)

Even in that day, there was no need for everyone to have the same gifts.   Only 12 were chosen as apostles.  Not everyone had a gift for teaching, or for healing or speaking in tongues.    Some gifts were more important and desirable than others, and as we saw in the first post on Spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit is far more important than any of the gifts.  Without it the gifts are worthless.   

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit III

In the previous post we saw that the Holy Spirit does not give everyone the same spiritual gifts, but gives each person the gifts he chooses for the benefit of the entire church.  It is crucial we understand this point or we may well begin to believe, like many do that a person is not really saved and doesn’t have the Holy Spirit unless they have a certain gift such as speaking in tongues.  Paul explains why not everyone gets the same gifts. 

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.” (I Corinthians 12:12-14)

The church is the body of Christ, and like the human body, there are numerous parts, each performing a certain function.    In order to perform the different functions they have different abilities or gifts.  For example the heart pumps the blood that carries the nutrients throughout the body, and removes the waste from the cells.  Since it is inside the body it has no need for the ability to see, but has a special ability to keep pumping continuously for a lifetime.  The cells necessary to see would interfere with its ability to pump the blood.  Similarly, if the eye had muscles like the heart muscle that constantly contract, it would be very hard to see things.  In the same way, Gifts that person doesn’t need to perform his function in the church may prove to be distraction and interfere with his ability to do his job, so the Holy Spirit does not give them. 

Sometimes in the church, people get jealous because they want to do a different job and feel like they are not part of the church.    I Corinthians 12:15-21 addresses this problem.   “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.   And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Just imagine what would happen if a person’s foot decided that if it couldn’t be his hand instead, it just wouldn’t do anything or act as part of his body, or if the ear decided to not to be part unless it was given the job of seeing.  While a person can learn to do almost everything with his feet that he can do with his hands, everything is much more difficult, and some are almost impossible, and since the foot refuses to be part the person will be unable to walk normally.  Even if it got the job, the ear could never do the eye’s job because it doesn’t have the necessary abilities, but by refusing to do its proper job it would leave the person deaf.    

Without a heart to pump blood to it. a digestive system to get the nourishment from the food, or feet to carry it to where food is available an eye could not survive and the ability to see would be worthless.  In the same way, a church where everyone had the same gifts or are competing to do the same jobs cannot function as a church and will probably not survive very long.  God has put each person in the church where he wanted them, giving them the gifts they need to do the job he has given them.   They need to focus on doing that job to the best of their ability instead of looking to obtain a more prestigious job or expand their ministry. 

At the same time, those in the more prestigious jobs need to understand they could not do their job without the others doing their job any more than an eye could survive or function without The efforts of those who do the less visible and prestigious jobs.  God has placed every person in the church as it has pleased him and we have no right or authority to dismiss them or eject them from the church just because they don’t go along with the way we want them.    

Many of the attitudes and actions we see in modern churches are clear indications of a carnal, unspiritual state.  The constant focus by many to attain a more prestigious position or pastorate.   Efforts to drive out or eliminate those who resist change or don’t care for particular style of music or service indicate the same thing.  Insisting that everyone must have the gift of speaking in tongues indicates an ignorance about the Holy Spirit’s working., as does insisting that other groups are wrong for having a different organizational structure or way of doing things.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit II

Most of the time in modern churches talk about gifts of the Spirit focuses on four main areas, prophecy, miracles, healing, and speaking in tongues, probably because they seem more exciting.  As we saw in the previous post, the gifts were given to meet a special need and disappear when they are no longer needed.  As Paul pointed out, once the scriptures were complete, the need for a prophet to get a special message from God was no longer as necessary.   If everyone in the church speaks the same language,  the ability to speak in other languages as they did in Acts 2 is far less important.  I Corinthians 12-14 were written to help us get a proper understanding of the spiritual gifts, as verse 1 tells us. 

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.   Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.  Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (I Corinthians 12:1-3)

The Corinthians were gentile people who had been taught false doctrines about a lot of different gods.  Since Christianity was new to them they would tend to to carry over some of those false doctrines and attitudes for a while because they simply didn’t understand the difference, and this was true of their attitudes toward spiritual gifts.  In order to determine whether a gift was truly from the Holy Spirit or not it would be necessary to try the Spirits as we saw in I John 4.  A Chinese Christian visiting a church in America heard a man who claimed to have the gift of tongues cursing Christ and accusing him of being a fraud in fluent Mandarin Chinese, but because no one understood what he was saying, no one questioned whether it was from God or not.  The Chinese man was quite concerned.   In chapter 14 we will see some guidelines to prevent such things from happening.  First we start with some basic principles about the gifts. 

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (I Corinthians 12:4-7)

The first thing we need to realize is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do everything the same way every time.   He does not give everybody the same gifts.   A person can have the Holy Spirit without speaking in tongues for example.   The Holy Spirit may lead one church to have a single pastor and another to have several elders.   One group may be led to support missionaries individually while another may use a cooperative program.  One pastor may earn his doctorate while another never goes to college.  The Holy Spirit can do different things in different people.  He is still the same Holy Spirit.  Looking down on someone who has different gifts or does things a different way only demonstrates our lack of spiritual maturity. 

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (I Corinthians 12:8-11)

One person may have a gift or talent for helping people to make wise decisions, while another has a special gift for learning important facts.  A third person has a much greater level of faith while someone else has a gift for healing people or doing various miracles.  One may have a special gift for recognizing whether something is from the Holy Spirit or some other spirit while another may have a gift for speaking different languages.  Still another may have a gift for interpreting from one language to another effectively.  The Holy Spirit gives each person the gifts he wants them to have for the benefit of the entire church.  They are not intended to be used to enhance our own prestige or make us rich. 

In Samaria there had been a religious teacher named Simon who had gained great wealth and influence through his activities.  When he accepted Christ he wanted the same kind of power and prestige in the church   Acts 8:18-23 tells the story.  “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”  The very fact that Simon was concerned about being able to make a lot of money or gain such respect in the church indicated he was not led by the Holy Spirit, but was being directed by an evil spirit.  Unfortunately many use their gifts and talents to benefit themselves rather than to strengthen other Christians.     

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Gifts Of The Spirit I

The Holy Spirit produces fruit in every person who receives him, and as we saw in Romans 8:9, that is true for every Christian.  How much fruit is produced is limited only by our willingness to study the scriptures and allow him to change our attitudes and behavior.   Unfortunately, most people are more concerned about the special gifts or abilities the Holy Spirit gives.  This had become a major problem in Paul’s day and continues to the present time, with the result he devoted three chapters of I Corinthians to the subject, explaining what the different gifts are, how they are received, and the guidelines for their use.    I would like to start with I Corinthians 13.     

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

Paul states that without the agape love that is the first part to the fruit of the Spirit, none of the gifts are of any value.  No matter how many different languages a person may be able to speak, both human and unknown languages, without the fruit of the Spirit, they are just meaningless noise, like pounding a sheet of tin or slamming cymbals together.  In its proper place, speaking in tongues can add a great deal to the music, but improperly used it just messes up and distracts from everything else. 

Similarly, the ability to preach, to tell what God says, regardless how many degrees one has or how perfectly one understands the scriptures, is completely useless and meaningless without the fruit of the Spirit, and especially charity or love.  The hearers may learn a lot, but no spiritual change will occur.  People’s faith will be based on Human wisdom rather than the power of God, as Paul said in I Corinthians 2:4-5. 

Finally, Paul points that without the love that the Holy Spirit produces, all our efforts to please him will be wasted.  We can give to feed and help the refugees until we starve ourselves, or serve in some humanitarian effort, even being killed for our effort and without the Holy Spirit working in us, it will not benefit us at all.  As Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?   And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. “  

The love the holy Spirit produces is different than the love the world expresses.  I Corinthians 13:4-7 describes what that kingd of love is like.  “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”   That spiritual love is only concerned about what is good for others.  It doesn’t manipulate people or take advantage of them, nor does it destroy their self-respect.   It doesn’t look down on people, but at the same time it is honest about what they are really like, and is willing to put up with some inconvenience, hoping for something better in the future.  It is not blind idealism like much of what is charity today, but is concerned that helping one group does not hurt another.  It is key to producing all the other parts of the fruit.   

“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:8-13)

All of the gifts are given to fulfill a temporary need.  When they are no longer needed they will disappear.  The fruit of the Spirit on the hand, will remain as long as the earth continues.  They will never lose their power.  The focus on the gifts implies a spiritual immaturity.  It’s kind of like playing in the shade the tree produces, but not bothering to water the tree or protect it from gophers or harmful insects.  If we take care of the tree it will provide the shade as well as the fruit, but if not we may not have either shade or fruit. .  

While all the parts of an apple are important, the most valuable part is the flesh, the part you eat.  Similarly, all the parts of the fruit of the Spirit are important but the most important part is the agape love or charity.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spiritual Freedom

Many today feel that Christianity is very restrictive and demanding.  They find statements sucha s Galatians 5:19-21 intimidating.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”   Numerous groups have adopted very strict codes of conduct  to ensure their people act like Christians. 

This appears as a direct contradiction with what II Corinthians 3:17 tells us and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”   Galatians 5:18 said, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”  The conflict is a result of trying to be good enough to deserve ones salvation by fleshly means.   Paul addressed this problem in Galatians 3:2-3.  “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”  We will never attain an acceptable lifestyle by following a set of rules. 

Romans 8:1-11 tells us that that will only come as result of allowing the Holy Spirit to control our life.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” 

Instead of constantly struggling to do the right things, the Holy spirit will guide us, making it far easier to do what is right.  We do not need those codes of conduct.   This does not mean we are free to go and do whatever we feel like doing.   I Corinthians 6:12 tells us, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”  A Christian will not lose his salvation or go to hell for doing those things, but some things are not beneficial to him.  Some activities are typical of those who do not believe in god and cast doubt on the reality of his salvation.  Others tend to take over one’s life and interfere with his spiritual life.  While we ought to avoid such activities, we do not need to fear making a mistake, knowing God is a forgiving God.    As Galatians 5:13 says, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”  We have the freedom to commit things that are sin, but love should constrain us not to do things that hurt others, and the love is a result of the Holy Spirit producing fruit in the Christian’s life.

Before accepting Christ, we were slaves to sin and could not choose whether to do right or wrong.  Even our efforts to do good were for wrong motives, so that nothing was truly good.  With the Holy Spirit in our lives we now have the freedom to choose whether to do right or wrong.  Romans 6;20-22 explains.  “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.   What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”  We do what is right because we choose to, not because we have to.  

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fruit Of The Spirit

In a previous post we talked about how that a person who had truly received the Holy Spirit and been saved would not be content in a sinful life style.  Today we come back and see why that is true.  Galatians 5:16-18 Informs us that victory over sin and the flesh will not be a problem for those who follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership.  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.   For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” 

There are certain things that clearly indicate a person has not been saved and does not have the Holy Spirit, as Galatians 5:19-21 clearly states.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

While many people have no problem believing murder, adultery and other sexual sins such as rape, or homosexuality or drunkenness are signs that a person is not a Christian, they tend to consider things such as jealousy, competition, hatred, a dirty mind, or arguing as being acceptable, when in fact, they indicate a person is not walking in the Spirit and may not be saved.  All these things are the result of an improper heart attitude, and Matthew 15:18-20 tells us.  “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”

To walk in the Spirit and get victory over sin it will be necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to produce a new attitude or spirit of mind in us, as Ephesians 4:22-24 says.  “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  Changes in attitude result in major changes in what we do. 

Galatians 5:22-23 describes the new attitudes the Holy Spirit produces.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”   One of the things that the Holy Spirit changes is our attitude toward other people.  His gives us that conscious choice to care about them even when they treat us badly, the agape love or charity described in I Corinthians 13:4-7. He produces an attitude of joy, of enjoyment in our daily life.  Joy is accompanied by and depends on an attitude of peace, of not being constantly upset or worried about what is happening around us.  Peace is a result of an attitude of faith, that God is in control and that he will make everything turn out the way it should for our good as promised in Romans 8:28. 

When we are living in peace joy and faith, we can deal with setbacks and conflicts without much difficulty, and depression or despair will not be a problem.  Because we love them and are not upset about the things that are going on, we can be gentle to people going out of our way to avoid saying or doing things that hurt them.  This will result in  an attitude of meekness, putting other people’s needs and desires ahead of one’s own.  With a proper attitude toward the people and things around us, treating other people right comes naturally, so that we don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to decide what the right thing to do would be.  The ability to control oneself ceases to be a problem because one is not upset and worried.   All of the parts of the fruit of the Spirit are interconnected and depend on each other just like the parts of any other fruit.  An apple tree doesn’t just produce seeds and the Holy Spirit doesn’t just produce love, for example.  Both of them produce complete fruit.    

Romans 6 makes the point t5hat we are dead to sin but alive to God through the Spirit.  Since that is true, we need to learn to walk or live in a fashion befitting a person who has the Holy spirit as his guide, as Galatians 5;24-26 directs.  “And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”  We ought not be jealous of each other or stirring up conflict and trying to get the advantage.  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trying The Spirits III

As we saw in the previous test, the focus and who is interested wasan important indicator whether a thing is directed by the Holy Spirit.  This next one is similar.  I John 4:6 says, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”  Here, John is speaking specifically of hearing what the apostles and Prophets said.   II Peter 3:1-2 makes the same point of paying attention to the Apostles and prophets.  “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”

II Peter 1:19-21 declares, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.   For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  The apostles and prophets spoke as they were directed by the Holy Spirit, and no one has the right to make up thri own doctrine or interpret what they said to satisfy their own agenda.    If a person will not accept what the scriptures teach it is a clear proof that he is not led by the spirit that directed writing them.  Spirit led people, on the other hand will be focused on what the scriptures say.

II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”   Many theologians and preachers have taught that only part of the scriptures are from God or is relevant today.  Such a belief clearly indicates they are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, regardless how many degrees they may have or how popular their teachings may be.    

I John 4:7-8 gives the final test.   “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.   He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”  The word translated ‘love’ is άγαπαω (agapao).  It refers to a deliberate choice to care deeply for a person, as compared to a mere emotional feeling toward them.  It is the kind of love God demonstrated  as Romans 5:8-10 describes.  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.   For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”  Even though we were his enemies, Christ died for our sins because he loved us. 

Such love is not dependent on people doing what the person wants, and is not selfish or manipulative.  It is willing to sacrifice its own convenience or pleasure for those who are loved.   The evangelist who demands that people give him all their money or the preacher who spends all his time attacking those who do not do things as he thinks they should clearly indicates they are not being led by the Holy Spirit.  They are only concerned with themselves. 

Satan is a liar and his followers are deceptive.   They may be able to fool us in some areas, but by applying all the tests we can tell whether they are of God or not.  We are responsible to obey God, and so it is important we check out those who purport to tell us what God commands.  I Corinthians 14:29 commands, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”  Acts 17:11 tells us the Bereans were greater Christians because “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  Don’t just blindly accept what people tell you. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trying The Spirits II

The second test for whether a message is inspired by the Holy Spirit is an examination of the life style of the messenger.  I John 4:4 states, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”   The Holy Spirit gived his people deliverance from the power of sin as I Corinthians 6:9-11 shows us.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.   And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

I John 3:5-9 is very specific that a person who lives a sinful lifestyle is not inspired by the Holy Spirit.  “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
The third test is of the subject matter andf who it appeals to.  I John 4:5 says, “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.”    While they are important, things such as financial success, drug or alcohol addiction, physical or psychological health , and political affairs are of the world.  and should not be of primary concern to Christians.  Matthew 6:31-33 says, “ Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?   (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.   But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”   These things are things everyone is searching for and God knows we need them.   We don’t usually need some special spiritual instructions about them. 

Because they are things the world is concerned about, the world will flock to get advice about them.   People flocking to hear the messages is a clear warning the message may not be of God.  The world does not want to hear what God says, as John 15:19-21 tells us.   “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.   Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.   But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.”

To know if a program or message is of God we need first to look at the things it focuses on,   If the focus is just on making things better here on earth, it isn’t from the Holy Spirit, even though they may be good things.  Secondly, if it drawing large numbers of people we need to examine the composition of these crowds carefully.  Using these tests, many motivational speakers, seminars and religious programs are not inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Clearly a mega church that brags anyone can attend and be happy there is not a spiritual church.  Ungodly people will not be happy in a place where God is the focus.  They will either change or leave.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Trying the Spirits I

While every Christian has the Holy Spirit, not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is, and many of those who are Christians are not following the Spirit.  As a result we see conflicts and contradictions in the teachings and actions of different groups.   We need a way of discerning which are being led by the Holy Spirit and which are from some other source.   I John 4:1-8 gives some important guidelines for discerning which is of God and which is not.    

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)

Just because an idea popped into yoru head or you feel a compulsion to do a certain thing, or a pastor or prophet tells you to do a certain thing does not mean it is the Holy Spirit directing you.  We are to test the spirit to see whether it from God or not because other spirits have caused many to become false teachers and prophets.  II Corinthians 11:13-15 warns: ”For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.   And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”    Satan passes himself off as an angel from god so it should not surprise us that satanic spirits and false teachers pose as being from God.  Fortunately there are several ways to tell whether they are from God or not.    

The first thing to look for is what do they teach about Jesus Christ.  I John 4:2-3 states, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

There are two crucial elements in this statement.   First they must recognize that Jesus is in fact God, the creator of the world.   Hebrews 1:8-12 states, “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.  And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” 

Although he is God, he came to earth as a true human, experiencing human life just as other humans experienced it, from birth to death.  Hebrews 2:14-16 tells us, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”    This was crucial if he was to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world.   Hebrews 4:14-15 states,  “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus could not be Messiah if he were not God come in the flesh.  Refusing to accept Jesus as go in the flesh rejects him as the Messiah.  I John 2:22-23 tells us, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.  Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.”  Any teacher or group that refuses to acknowledge Jesus as God is not of God, no matter how much they may use God’s name.   He is not just a great teacher, or a good moral man, or a brother to Satan.  He is God. 

Anyone who preaches anything else is preaching another jesus and is lead by a different spirit.  In I Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul voiced a serious concern.  “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”  They might well be led away from the truth by the an ungodly spirit.  To avoid that, Galatians 1:8-9 commands, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” 

If they preach that there is another way of salvation than through Jesus Christ as the messiah we are to consider them as being from Satan, even if they claim to be an angel from heaven or one of the apostles. 

Please understand this is only the first test.   There are others.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Let The Holy Spirit Direct Your Tongue

In Acts 1:8, Jesus told his disciples, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  It would be the Holy Spirit’s power that made them effective witnesses to the world.  He had already told them much the same thing in John 15:26-27.  “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”   

We need both the Holy spirits teaching and his power if we are to accomplish God’s work.  In I Corinthians 2:12-14 Paul talked about How the Spirit enabled him to witness and teach.  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  Without his direction and power we can only appeal to the natural intellect.  We must have the Holy Spirit’s power to reach the person on a spiritual level and bring them to Christ. 

Unfortunately we tend to focus on our understanding of what will reach people rather than letting the Holy Spirit lead us.  We teach classes in Hermeneutics or homiletics and train people is how to prepare sermon outlines to make them more effective.  Paul took a different approach, as he described in I Corinthians 2:1-5.  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.   For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Instead of studying our sermon and how we want to present it, we need to spend the time studying God’s word and let him speak through us to present the message.   Luke 21:14-15 commands, “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.”  When he speaks through us, bringing to mind the things we have studied and learned, it will overcome any objections and preconceived ideas people may have. 

Matthew 22:15 tells the attitude of Pharisees when the confronted Jesus.  “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”  They intended to trip him up.  When Jesus answered them and shut them up, the Sadducees tried.  Finally Jesus asked them a question of his own.  Matthew 22:46 tells us, “And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.”  When we let the Holy Spirit lead us, we have the mind of Christ, according to I Corinthians 2:16, and will be able to stop the attacks the same way, and reach those we are talking to. 

Understanding what Jesus said, I wonder how much differently the Scopes trial would have turned out had they trusted the Holy Spirit rather than Clarence Darrow’s legal expertise.  As Jesus said in Matthew 13:11, “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.”

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Holy Spirit Is To Be Our Teacher

One of the Holy Spirit’s most important functions for the Christian is enable us to understand what we need to know to serve God.  I Corinthians 2:12 states, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”   This is critical because, as I Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”   Normal human language simply does not have words to explain spiritual things.   Attempts to dumb it down so the unsaved can understand simply lose the meaning because the people lack the necessary vocabulary. 

Fortunately God understood this, and in John 14:26, Jesus said “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”   The Holy Spirit will cause Christians to remember everything Jesus taught and teach them to understand them. 

No matter how good or bad a teacher may be, how much a student learns will be limited by how much effort the student puts into learning.  If we are to learn what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach, we must put some effort into learning.  II Timothy 2:15 commands, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  If we do not want to be embarrassed when we stand before God, we will have to study God’s word to make sure we properly understand it.  II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 

By studying all of the scriptures we can have all the information we need in order to please God completely.  We do not need any other books or teachers to teach us.  I John 2:27 states, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”  The Holy Spirit is able to make us understand everything the scriptures teach. 

II Peter 1:19-21 addresses the same things.  “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.   But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” 

The scriptures were given by God.  Unfortunately the process of copying and translating them into various languages has introduced various errors.  As a result, we cannot base our interpretation of a passage solely on that passage, but must compare it with other scriptures, as I Corinthians 2:13 teaches, “…comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”  Many false doctrines have developed because people did not take the time to compare the scriptures to be sure they were understanding them properly. 

With this in mind, in I Timothy 4:13-15, Paul instructed Timothy, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.  Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”  By spending his time reading and studying the word, not ignoring the Holy Spirit’s direction while meditating on what the scriptures taught, everyone would see the benefits . 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.  He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:13-15)

If we will spend the time studying and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us, we learn everything possible about the Lord and what he expects and wants from us, as well as how much he loves us.  In I Corinthians 1:4-7 Paul told the Corinthians, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Because of the Holy Spirit’s working and teaching they were in no inferior to any other Christians. 

A Christian who has taken the trouble to study the scriptures and let the Holy Spirit teach him is just as spiritual and qualified as the best known and most respected preacher or college professor, even though he has never graduated from high school or attended Bible College, and frequently more so, because he got his teaching from the Holy Spirit rather than from men.   Learn to trust the Holy Spirit rather than  the commentaries.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Spirit’s Presence Results In A Godly Life

I John 5:5:8 states, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”  There are three things that indicate that we are God’s children in the world.   As we saw in the previous post, the water refers to the physical life or lifestyle.   Even that life style is a result of the Holy Spirit working in the person. 

In John 16:7-8 Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”   One of the things the Holy Spirit does in the world is to make us aware of sin and its consequences.    Romans 1:32 tells us that those who are not of God reject the Holy Spirits warnings.  “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”   The Greek word translated commit means to practice repeatedly.  Those hardened sinners understand that those who live such lifestyles deserve death, but continue to practice them, and encourage others to get involved as well. 

I John 3 accentuates the difference between those who are of God and those who are not.   I John 3:2-3 states, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”   People who have the hope of Salvation in themselves believe that one day they will appear before God with their sins forgiven.  As a result they make an effort to eliminate sin form their lives, emulating Jesus Christ.

I John 3:4 states, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”  Any sin involves breaking God’s law. and as Romans 3:20 tells us,  “…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”    Many today believe the law no longer applies, but in Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”  As long as the earth remains, God’s standard of right and wrong will be in effect.    Societal values may change but right and wrong does not. 

With that in mind, I John 3:5-10 continues.  “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.  Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.  He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  0 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” 

Jesus came to take away sin, and there is no sin in him.  People who live in sin do not know the Lord.   We are not allow ourselves to be deceived that a person can live a sinful lifestyle and be satisfied.   If the Holy Spirit is there, he will be constantly reminding the person he is doing wrong until the person finally gives up their sin.  He cannot continue to practice the sin repeatedly because the Holy spirit is there.   As Romans 8:9 tells us, if he does not have the Holy Spirit, he is not God’s child.  A person’s way of life is a clear indicator of whether he is really a Christian or not.    
II Corinthians 5:4-9 expresses the same idea.  “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.  Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.  Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.  Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”

Real Christians are not just looking for their sins to be taken away, but for God to replace teir sin with something better.  They are not just looking to avoid hell fire and go out of existence as some religions teach.   Instead, they look forward to obtaining eternal life in heaven with God.   Because they have the Holy Spirit as proof of their salvation, they have the confidence to do what is right, in an effort to please him rather than the world around them.  They will resist the world’s efforts to get them involved in sin.    

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Earnest Of Our Salvation

When one agrees to buy a house or piece of land he is often required to put up a sum of money as earnest money as proof he intends to follow through on the deal.  If he backs out at some point, he forfeits the earnest money to help defray any losses to the seller because he cannot sell it to someone else.   If the transaction is completed, the earnest money is applied as part of the sale price.  Other industries may call the earnest money a restocking fee.    

II Corinthians 1:21-22 tells us, “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”  In other words, God gives us the Holy Spirit as proof that he will not back out on our salvation.    Ephesians 1:13-14 reinforces that statement.  “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”  He is the proof that our salvation is real. 

Romans 8:9 lends additional support.  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  Quite simply, if a person does not have the Holy Spirit, he has not been saved and is not a Christian, even though he may have joined the church, been baptized, prayed the sinner’s prayer or followed some other religious ritual. 

Jesus referred to this concept in Luke 8:13, when explaining the meaning of the parable of the sower.  “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. “   While they have performed the prescribed ritual, they do not have the Holy Spirit to connect them firmly to God or provide nourishment and strength.   They are frequently active in the church for years, but when problems arise they walk away.  As I John 2:19 tells us, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

Clearly one’s assurance of salvation is not based on whether they have been baptized, or prayed the sinner’s prayer properly, or performed some other ritual.  Instead it is based on whether or not he has the Holy Spirit.  Romans 8:16 tells us, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: Ro 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”    If the Holy Spirit is present, he will provide assurance of one’s salvation.  Providing that assurance is part of his job.   
I John 5:5:7-8 states, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”  Just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in heaven making it clear that Jesus is the Son of God and the savior of the world, there are three things here that indicate we are the sons of God. 

John 3:5 tells us, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  The phrase “born of Water” refers to the Physical birth.  In the same way, the water here in I John 5:8 refers to the Physical life or lifestyle as witnessing that we are the children of God.  The blood of Christ takes away our guilt, enabling us to have peace with God, and the Holy Spirit bears witness we are God’s children, as Romans 8:16 says.  All three will be in agreement for the person who is truly living in Christ.  If they do not agree, we need to find out why.