We Need A Heart Transplant

If we know Scripture we are aware that as we reach an age of understanding we become sinners. As men the flesh controls our actions.  This isn’t an individual problem, all men are sinners because they seek the pleasures sin brings into their lives. Truthfully, before God forgives our sin we are a sinful, rule breaking, immoral mess.  Romans 5 tells us when we were without strength Christ died for us. The blood of Jesus was shed that we might have forgiveness.  Praise God we receive mercy instead of justice!

Once we are Christians, how do we change the way we live our lives?  Can we will our way to obedience?  We quote Scripture containing God’s command to repent and automatically we begin to think, “Stop whatever sin you are committing.”  The implication is, “Will your way out of your sinful lifestyle.” How hard it is to give up the sins that we have enjoyed for so long!

Allow me to illustrate our problem.  We go to the doctor and are examined.  The doctor says, “unless you lose fifty pounds you are going to die in a few years.” Immediately we start a diet to lose the fifty pounds.  It isn’t long before we realize a hard truth.  I am heavy because I eat too much of the wrong things.  I eat too much of the wrong things because I like sweets, carbs, and everything I should not have.  I need help!  It is extremely difficult to will myself into giving up the things that I enjoy.

Serving God is somewhat similar.  I may want to change my mind and actions. I honestly want to give up the things of the world and serve God.  The desire may exist but I need help.  For many of us we fail to realize help is there for us.  We have made the implication that serving God is totally in our hands.

How often do we find ourselves disheartened?  We read how we ought to act, but try as we may, we continue to sin.  After all, we have God’s Word we should be able to obey, shouldn’t we?  The problem is we try to serve God by shear will power.  God never intended man walk alone.

The prophecy God made concerning the new covenant centered on the heart of man. The old was written in stone the new on the heart.  In Deuteronomy 30:6 God made this promise to us, He said “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.  Paul explains this in Romans 2:29 when he says, “circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by written code.  In case you miss the meaning of the promise, God is telling us He will change our hearts, He will create within us a changed heart.

By the Spirit God has declared us righteous and now is changing our hearts. God said through Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.   In Romans 5:5 we are told God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Galatians 5 describes to us a transition of those who walk with God.   We become like Christ through the molding work of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5-9 describes in detail the problem we experience.  We want to do right but we fail miserably.  Inspiration describes what God does for us.  For those who walk with Him, God controls our hearts and minds through His Spirit, Romans 8:9. If we do not have the Spirit, we do not belong to Christ.

God will credit as righteous those who trust in His promises. God doesn’t stop at this point.  God continues to strengthen, change, and lead by His Spirit those who will continue to trust.  Most of my adult life I have heard the saying if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  This is one case when the old saying isn’t true.  God’s grace is more than we can imagine.

Christ died for us when we didn’t deserve it.  He credits us as righteous when we trust in Him to keep His promises.  He gives us His Spirit to dwell in us, changing our heart and strengthening our resolve.  All the while He continues to mold us into the likeness of Jesus.  How could it get any better?

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Ephesians 1:13-14

This week a good friend of mine asked the following question:  He asked, “What do you understand Paul to be teaching about the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13?  This was my answer:

  • In regard to your question,  the word “sealed” is translated from a Greek word  which means to mark with a seal.  The seal God uses to mark us is the Holy Spirit.  I don’t think you can get a proper understanding of this verse unless you examine it in view of the next verse.  Verse 14 tells us  this seal is the Holy Spirit. He is also a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.  A deposit is a small measure of a greater promise that is to come.  When we buy a house we put down a deposit. We might deposit $10,000 promising to pay $250,000 at a future date. This deposit is a smaller amount of what we will get in greater measure at a future date.  The Holy Spirit represents God’s seal or signature. The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s mark guaranteeing his promise of heaven.  It is His deposit guaranteeing a greater blessing still in the future.  We understand the future blessing to be heaven.  What we sometimes fail to grasp in this analogy is that God’s deposit of the Holy Spirit brings just a “small part of heaven” into our present lives.  This “deposit” guarantees us a larger portion is coming down the road.  He does this through the various blessings He brings to our lives as the Holy Spirit dwells in us. 

What does this mean for the Christian today?  When we obey today does God still mark us as belonging to Him?  Does the truth taught by Paul in Ephesians 1 still have application in our lives today?  The answer to the last two questions is an undeniable yes!  A portion of the work of the Holy Spirit is to give us assurance.  God wants us to know that we belong to Him.  He further wants us to know that our salvation is sure. This doesn’t mean that we cannot fall.  It does mean that God intends our salvation be something we can be sure of at any given time.  God accomplishes this by marking us with His Spirit.

God has given us His Spirit as a deposit of the blessings He will give us in the future.  Every gift the Spirit brings our way is a small portion of the type blessing we will get in the hereafter.  As the Spirit dwells within us He continues to bless our lives along the way.  We fail to see the deposit of God because we fail to look for His blessings.  Part of the purpose of the indwelling of the Spirit is to assure us of the blessings that are yet to come.  He does that by continuing to be God’s seal upon us.  As our seal the Holy Spirit remains a deposit of a glorious future for the child of God.  When you put your Saviour on in baptism you receive the indwelling of the Spirit as a marvelous assurance of God’s gracious promises.

For Your Interest

I recently completed a class section on the Holy Spirit.  For those who might be interested I have posted the final class on our church website.  The address is http://www.paysonchurchofchrist.com/  The class may be found in the audio section of our website.  If this class or series is of interest to you and you wish to order a copy of this lesson or series please let me know at williamokimberly@yahoo.com.  Thanks for your time and interest.

Holy Spirit (conclusion)

This post is a conclusion of what I have  taught in the past few months concerning the Holy Spirit.  This study is by no means an end all in this important Study.  My hope is that you will use this as a beginning in finding God’s truths in regard to His Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is given as a gift from God for all believers.  As He indwells us He plays a role that is unique within the Godhead.  The responsibilities of the Spirit are basically two-fold.  He is given to allow us growth in our likeness of Christ.  As we mature as Christians the fruit of the Spirit becomes more prominent in our lives.  The Spirit also gifts individual Christians so that the local church may be built up.  This helps both Christians and churches to bear fruit for the Lord.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that Christians ought to seek gifts that build up the church.  The work and gifts of the Spirit  continue until the return of Jesus.

Without the Spirit we would become a sterile church.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 says we ought not quench the Spirit.  This requires that we as Christians  realize God is still operating in the lives of men today. The work of the Holy Spirit has not stopped. Let me state a couple of examples that will bring this point into clear focus:

  • When we pray we are asking God to directly intervene in the lives of mankind. Our hope is that God will change the course of things that would otherwise occur.  When God answers these prayers He does so through the power of His Holy Spirit.
  • When one becomes a Christian he begins a major journey.  If  he continues to mature through Spiritual growth he becomes more like Christ in his character and life.  This transformation is performed by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Each Christian develops within themselves the fruit of the Spirit.  This falls squarely within the role of the Holy Spirit.

It is important we realize the role of the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the lives of Christians and the work of the church today.  We should not assign to the Holy Spirit a role centered in emotionalism.  At the same time we ought not limit His responsibilities because we can’t explain how He accomplishes His task.  God has given His Spirit as our helper.  We should always center our minds on the fact we are to walk by and with the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit (Part Eight)

1 Corinthians 14:26 specifically tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to build up the church.  Different groups emphasize different gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Our fellowship emphasizes the gift of Scripture.  In the mind of some the role of Scripture has replaced the Holy Spirit as God’s mode of operation.  A primary source of this confusion is the result of a mistaken view of 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  I grew up being taught that the gist of this chapter concerns the idea that most spiritual gifts ended with the  assimilation of the written Word.  We have developed doctrine and an entire direction around this view of 1 Corinthians 13.  If you grew up as I did you were taught that gifts of the Holy Spirit could only be given by the laying on of the apostles hands.  When the apostles died and all those they had laid their hands on died most gifts of the Spirit ceased to exist.  This would have been a few years after the last New Testament book was written.  Thus the idea that when the perfect (Scripture) came the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer available.  This was necessarily inferred by our excellent line of human reasoning.

There are more than a few problems with the doctrine we have built around this view of 1 Corinthians 13.  The primary thrust of 1 Corinthians 12-14 deals with the misunderstanding  the Corinthian church had with the gifts of the Spirit.  The Corinthians mistakenly believed that the gifts made you a superior Christian.  The gifts of the Spirit did not show the superiority of individual Christians but rather show the goodness of God.  The gifts given to the Corinthian Christian were not for the benefit of the individual but the benefit of the church.  It is in this context that Paul discusses the gifts of the Spirit.  Paul ends chapter 12 by telling them to eagerly desire the greater gifts but he continues by telling them that he would show them a more excellent way.

Scripture is a tremendously important gift given to man by the Holy Spirit.  However, that described in chapter 13 as the perfect is not the written word.  Allow me to outline just a few of the difficulties this interpretation poses.  Initially,  if the written word is what has previously been described we have a time problem.  By conservative estimates all apostles and those with whom they had personal contact had died by 160 AD.  New Testament Scripture  wasn’t assembled as we know it until the late 4th or early 5th century.  This would mean for a space of several hundred years God could not have operated in the lives of men by means of the Holy Spirit or by Scripture.  If the previously mentioned doctrinal view is correct there would have been a disconnect in the operation of God in the lives of men for several hundred years.  I do not believe this happened and neither do most you.

Paul says chapter 13 we can now only see a poor reflection as in a mirror  but when the perfect comes we will see face to face. He continues by stating that now we know in part:  but then we shall know fully even as we are fully known.  If the perfect refers to the written word  Paul saw a poor reflection but we see face to face.  If the perfect refers to the written word Paul knew in part but today we know fully even as we are fully known.  If that which is perfect is the written word then our knowledge of God is superior to that of Paul.  I am not willing to claim knowledge of God that is greater and deeper than the knowledge of God held by Paul!

A more reasonable definition of the perfect would be the Christ.  Consider these Scriptures:  Revelation 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”  When will we see perfection face to face.  Is it remotely possible that it will be when every eye sees him?  1 John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Where have we heard this thought?  When I was a child I acted like a child when I became a man I put away these childish things.  When will we be mature enough to put away the incomplete?  The answer is when we become like Him!  When He appears!  At the appearing of Christ we shall know as we are fully known because we will be like Him.

Why does this matter?  The very heart of much of the direction of our fellowship is built on the idea that since we have the written word God  operates only through this word implying  other Spiritual gifts have ceased.  We have made this an either-or-argument.  The correct argument is both.  God operates through Scripture but He continues to operate through other gifts of the Spirit as well.

Let me pose these questions for your consideration:

  • Has God limited His role in the lives of mankind to one gift of the Holy Spirit, that being the gift of the written word?
  • When we pray what role does the gift of the written word have in bringing about the answer to our prayers? Is written Scripture the power that brings about our answer?
  • God said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were to build up the church.  Does the church still need to be built up today?
  • Does the Holy Spirit still occupy His role as the earnest and deposit of our salvation?
  • If God has limited the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the written word, how does He fulfill His role as earnest and deposit of our salvation?

Thanks for your interest and thoughts, there will be more to come.

Holy Spirit (Part Seven)

We belong to a fellowship of believers steeped in intellectualism.  This is not necessarily bad.  It is simply a statement of facts.  This past weekend I was blessed with an opportunity to attend a mens’ retreat with fellow Christians from through out the state of Arizona.  Multiple times I heard this phrase repeated, “We must be men of the Word.”  I knew what was meant and agree to a point.  Scripture supplies necessary knowledge  to become believers in Jesus.  As a fellowship we have prided ourselves in the knowledge that comes from being “men of the book.”

Unfortunately for many this has placed us in an “either-or” situation concerning the Holy Spirit.  Often we place our trust either in Scripture or the Holy Spirit.  The relationship between Scripture and the Holy Spirit is not an either-or-relationship.  Scripture and the Holy Spirit are given as gifts from God to His followers.

Scripture contains material facts about God.  This knowledge is the foundation for the faith necessary to bring about salvation. Scripture contains knowledge for daily living, worship, the church and a multitude of other necessary directions and thoughts.  Let me state in terms that cannot be misunderstood.  It is essential that we spend time in the Word of God.  We must learn as much as we possibly can from Scripture.  With that said, it is equally important that we not substitute knowledge of Scripture for the role  the Holy Spirit should occupy in our lives.

I am a big fan of our former president James  Garfield.  I have many books in my library written about this fine man.  I have learned much about James Garfield from these books. As a result I have become very familiar with this man’s life.  The facts I have learned have allowed me to have more than a passing knowledge of this former president.  Unfortunately,  it doesn’t matter how many facts I know about James Garfield I do not know the man.  I have no relationship  with James Garfield.

I fear we allow our knowledge of Scripture to be a substitute for a relationship with God.  Scriptural knowledge about God doesn’t necessarily equate to a relationship with God.  As a fellowship we pride ourselves in the fact that we are “men of the Word,” and rightfully so.  Yet if we allow our knowledge of Scripture to be the major point of emphasis in our life we have missed the big picture.  Jesus died that man might be reconciled to God.  Man was created in the image of God that he might fellowship with God.  Knowing Scripture does not equate into fellowship with God.

The Holy Spirit was given as a gift to Believers.  As He dwells within us He provides a path to a relationship with God that Scripture cannot bring.    The indwelling of the Spirit provides far more than knowledge about God.  He provides a relationship with God.  I fear that in our quest for knowledge we have forgotten the reason we were created.  We forget we were created in the image of God in order that we might have relationship with God.

The truth Scripture introduces into the life of the believer is brought alive by the work of the Spirit.    When we emphasize perfect knowledge of Scripture without the proper emphasis of the Spirit we produce a form of legalism that misses the relationship with the Father we have been created to enjoy.  Being “men of the Word” without relationship is not at all what God intended.  Think on these things.

Holy Spirit (Part Six)

With this post I intend to change the direction of our study of the Holy Spirit.  Up until this time we have been talking theory and foundational material concerning the Holy Spirit.  In the weeks to follow my intent is to deal with practical application of the previously mentioned truths concerning God’s Spirit in our  lives.

1 Corinthians 6:11 states we have been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God.  As we examine what has been said we find that among the responsibilities resting with the Holy Spirit is the responsibility to sanctify and justify believers by the name of Jesus Christ.  This is not man’s responsibility.  Man’s sanctification and justification can’t be accomplished by his good works.  It is the Spirit who sets us apart for the work of God.  It is the same Spirit who justifies us before the Father.  The responsibility of mankind is to accept God’s gift of salvation through obedience to the Gospel.  It remains the work of the Spirit to set us apart as justified believers reconciled to a gracious Father and ready to do the work of bringing praise and glory to the name of God.

As Christians set apart to do the Lord’s work we face a great battle.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness.  It is a battle against Satan and his demons.  The battle isn’t about earthly things nor is it about direction.  This battle is for the souls of men.  As the Spirit dwells within  us He gives us strength to deal with the battles and temptations we face.  Romans 8:13 clearly states the boundaries of these battles.  Scripture says, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die:  but if you live by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”  It could be stated no more certain terms.  If we live by the direction of the Spirit we live.  If we fail to follow His direction we die.  To win our spiritual battles and ultimately the spiritual war we must walk by the Spirit.  This is only the beginning of what God intends His Spirit do in our lives.

In my mind,  one of the most important works of the Spirit is His responsibility to bring us the assurance of salvation.  We know from Scripture such as 1 John 5:13 that God intends we be absolutely certain of our salvation.  The Holy Spirit gives us this certainty.  In Ephesians 1:13-14 Scripture says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession to the praise of His glory.”  The Holy Spirit was given as a seal assuring both believers and the world around them of the Father’s ownership and the assurance of their salvation.  The seal of the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we belong to Him.  Through the Spirit God has marked us as His own.  God further gives the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.  This deposit is a small measure of the greater portion to come later.  When we buy a house we put down a deposit guaranteeing what is to come later.  When we pay for the purchase we produce in much greater quantities the very item we placed as a deposit.  In the case of a retail purchase our deposit is money.  The deposit God gives to us is the Holy Spirit.  God is bringing a little of heaven down to us.  He is guaranteeing  our inheritance of heaven!  The Holy Spirit is a little part of heaven dwelling within us.

The deposit of the Holy Spirit is recognized by those who receive the Spirit. In Acts 19 Paul asks an interesting question. In verses 1 and 2 Scripture says, “There he found some disciples and asked them, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  Paul could have asked them a number of different questions but he didn’t.  Paul chose this question.  He asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”  The implication is astounding!  Paul is implying in no uncertain terms that Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they become believers.  Furthermore, Paul’s implication by the inspiration of God is that we know when we receive the Holy Spirit!  We know because there are things the Spirit does for us that can be done in no other way and by no other being.  More to follow.  Think on these things!