Monday, October 11, 2010

In the Spirit

Who, or what, is the Holy Spirit and what does the Holy Spirit do? Here is sampling of various views I found on the web:

  • The bridge to God within you: one part being your own mind, the other The Mind of God;
  • One of nine spirits of God;
  • One of three gods;
  • An aspect of God (mode) perceived by the believer;
  • An active force, God’s breath or energy; inspiration;
  • The power/mind/character of God; or, one of three aspects of mind action;
  • The bounty of God; the conduit through which flows the wisdom of God; the reflection of God’s attributes;
  • The created spirit that acts as an agent of divine action or communication;
  • The reality of God;
  • Haile Selassie
The New Testament book of Romans contains 31 references to the Holy Spirit, 21 of which are found in Romans chapter 8. Here we learn the active work of the third person of the trinity the first being His work in us, setting our mind on spiritual matters (8:5); makes of us the dwelling of God (8:9), the sons of God (8:14); gives life to the moral body (8:11), putting to death the deeds of the body (8:13); help in weakness with intercession (8:26). The Holy Spirit imparts life because of the righteousness of Christ (8:10) and He searches our hearts (8:27). Finally, working for us, there is now no condemnation (8:1). We are because of Him free from the law of sin and death (8:2). The Spirit fulfills the righteous requirement of the law (8:4), gives life and peace (8:6); adoption as sons (8:15), bearing witness that we are His children (8:16), heirs of inheritance (8:17) and gives hope as we await redemption of the body (8:23).

One distinguishing feature of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is that He is not an impersonal, passive force. He transforms, changing the very nature of the believer. He brings change to body, mind and spirit. The change to the body is an anticipated, future change; the change to the mind is a developmental change, as the person as a new creation grows; the change to the spirit is instantaneous.

Here’s a question for us to consider. Paul writes, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22). Why is creation groaning? Some suggest that creation is expressing the pain of being under mankind’s sin. The news is filled with accounts of stress, violence, hatred, war, disease, tragedy upon tragedy. This is correct, but only to a point. We get a better grasp of what is happening when considering the following verse, “Not only [that], but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23) Yes, we, too groan under the sin that remains; but, the groaning is not our lamentation of “why does this happen to us,” nor does creation groan saying, “why did you sin?” This is not pessimism; rather, our groaning together is of waiting for redemption. We wait to be delivered from the presence of sin and creation is groaning with the same anticipation—creation itself cannot wait for the redemption of our bodies! This is not mere optimism, but the very work of the Holy Spirit!

Consider for a moment what our Lord Jesus Christ told the disciples in the upper room (John 14:15-17): “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

The Lord Jesus Christ gives the disciples a command (“keep My commandments”) and a promise (“He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever”). The abiding of the Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of God within those who do what He says—abide in His Word! Oswald Chambers writes, “The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself. J esus Christ will not force me to obey Him, but I must. And as soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.” (Nov. 2, “Authority and Independence,” My Utmost For His Highest.) Our obedience and His indwelling are love-motivated.
“The Spirit-filled life does not come through mystical or ecstatic experiences but from studying and submitting oneself to Scripture. As a believer faithfully and submissively saturates his mind and heart with God’s truth, his Spirit-controlled behavior will follow as surely as night follows day. When we are filled with God’s truth and led by His Spirit, even our involuntary reactions— those that happen when we don’t have time to consciously decide what to do or say—will be godly.” (John MacArthur)
The world has variant ideas concerning the identity of the Holy Spirit and even fewer ideas regarding His role. The Bible plainly teaches He very God, living in us through Christ Jesus to change us into His image. This is the predestination of the elect.

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