Monthly Archives: April 2014

Idealism and Reality

I can’t believe the month is almost over. Tempus really fidgets, as the Romans didn’t say.  In my “daze” only old people talked that way; nowadays even kids seem to notice.  Perhaps because we all live such busy and full lives, with travel, etc.  At any rate, if a person were not a Christian and had no conviction of the reality and endlessness of perfect life hereafter, I should think he (or she) would be a confirmed cynic, an awful criminal (getting all he could by any means), or a suicide (get it over with).  And, of course, there is a lot of each one nowadays, alas.  Which makes it hard for Christians to hang on (or let Christ hang on to them).

In that general connection, I think I said on a previous occasion that while Mom and I hope and pray that your relation to God and Christ may be the same as ours (and more), this does not mean that our particular life-style, in matters that are not absolute (say, marriage fidelity) does not have to be yours.  The husband-wife relationship and their joint one to society and the “world” is one that every family has to work out for itself.  My mother, for example, never drove a car, nor did your maternal grandmother.  Now “all” girls do, and with it has come a big change in their wifely role.  And that is just one smallish item.

And I hardly need say that this applies too to the particular denomination with which one expresses his faith and relationship to God and fellow Christians.  That too has changed in recent years, so that denominations which were once “miles” apart have come closer together, and others have parted company.  The organized structure must never be confused with the invisible Body of Christ; some people are in one but not the other, and vice versa.  One big thing some denominations have to learn better is that membership in a given congregation (even “good and regular”) is not to be regarded as possession of the New Life which marks the born-again member of Christ Himself.  In deciding what particular congregation or denomination a person wants to belong to, it isn’t always a matter of where one feels the most comfortable and thus receives/enjoys the most, but sometimes is a matter of where one is the most needed, to help keep or restore, strengthen and enliven.  Here again, we tend automatically to make such decisions on the basis of what do I want, what will I get out of this, what will it do for me.  (Which is why many marriages flounder; it can’t deliver what we want and expect.)

Maybe more on that later, especially for those of us who have high ideals, and big goals and expectations for ourselves and others.  In my boyhood I did a lot of reading.  In those days “literature” (fiction) was much more unrealistic, escapist, idealistic than today, in which everybody “lived happily ever after” and everything turned out OK in the end.  That served a good purpose of release from the realities of life which is the big reason why a person does read for a hobby – but it is not the best preparation for marriage and career if you know what I mean.  We all have feet of clay.

The discovery of that fact in ourselves and others can be a wholesome thing, however.  Why settle for silver when we can have gold, for human models when we can have God – not just as an example, but as our very existence!  Wow!

Be Filled with the Spirit!

Editor’s Note:  This is the third in a series of three blogs or entries about the Holy Spirit.  The original notes were sent to me as a resource for a paper when I was taking a course on the Holy Spirit in school.  Being a preacher’s kid was not without benefits.

God wants this, being filled with the Spirit, for every one. (I Thes. 4:3; Eph 4:13)  This is why He made us.   God occupies or enlivens (without being identical with, in pantheistic fashion) all existence – nature, animals, and man.  (Acts 17:25, 29)  He comes into, indwells the believers, his children, in the same fashion that he did Christ himself.  That sounds like presumptive blasphemy (of which they accused Christ, of course) but Jesus gave the lie to that accusation more than once.  “I am the light of the world; you are the light of the world”; “I am the vine, you the branches”, etc.  At the end of the world this will all be withdrawn, except for Christians, who have eternal life (already).  There are degrees to eternal life.  There are “carnal’, fleshly Christians, who will be “hardly” saved. (I Cor. 3:15)  Jesus came that we might have life “abundantly”; have “full” joy.  Hebrews is the important book on this theme.  In sum, God wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

What or who is the Holy Spirit?  It is not just his influence, effects upon us.  It is God himself! It is His very life, or being.  Our doctrine of the Trinity, as was noted previously, is a term not found in scripture and is very misleading.  God is not three individuals.  We never say, “God, they….”  “Our Father in heaven” is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God is one.  A good illustration of this is a single man and his breath (spirit, life) and the speech (words) that his breath produces.  Criticism that the Holy Spirit is over-emphasized today is ridiculous.

How do we receive God’s very Spirit? In the Old Testament, God came in temporary visible form and was with people; ate, talked, etc.  Then when Jesus was born God became embodied in a man permanently; God filled him.  Gods’ Spirit was Jesus’ spirit – motivating, empowering, informing him completely.  This is why the world makes so much of Christmas; God became one “with us”.  “Man” was finally made in God’s image.  “This is my beloved Son”, filled with the life, spirit of God.  From now on, God, the Holy Spirit, Christ, Christ’s spirit (Acts 16:6,7) all mean the same “thing”.

Comes the question, how does Christ figure into this process?  In other words, why didn’t God come directly into us, as he did with Jesus? Well, unlike Jesus, we were occupied, tenanted by an interloper, usurper, Satan, who had to be evicted, and his dirty work straightened out.  That was done via identification with Christ through the atonement, in which Satan was defeated, his claims to us cancelled; he was “thrown out of heaven” and his role as Prince of the world, human race.

Then, when Jesus went to heaven, he turned right around and poured out that Spirit of God which had been given him in fullness, to fill us, his people, his very Body.  (Acts 2:33)  Jesus became the father of a new race.  He predicted it throughout John 14-16; “The Father will send the Spirit through me.  I shall return.”  On Easter evening, Jesus said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”  (John 20:22)  Illustrations of this are found in an electricity transformer, a funnel, or biological life transmitted from a grandfather to numerous grandchildren.

The result of all this is that a Christian is an extension of Christ himself, a part of his “body”, because we have Christ’s very spirit, life, personality, being, in ourselves.  (Many biblical scholars compare this to the ark in the Holy of Holies; the Holy Place is man’s soul  – mind, emotions, will; the Outer Court is his body.  For the unbeliever the Holy of Holies is a “god-shaped vacuum”, empty as was the Temple after the captivity.)  We have even the mind of Christ! (I Cor. 2:16)

The result of all that, in turn, is that we have  (are) Christ’s very power to overcome Satan, and to live perfect lives (not, alas, that we do!); we have his peace, joy, and all the other fruits(s) of Christ’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  Because all these are God Himself (God is love, not loving; wisdom itself, not wise); when we want wisdom, patience, etc., we should say, “Lord, be my wisdom, etc. Give me more of yourself; fill me with Christ, with his life, personality.”  Spiritual gifts are intended only for the purpose of our realizing more of God himself in us.  They are tools, not toys (or tricks).  They are not the same as natural talents.  They can be counterfeited by Satan, so possession of spiritual gifts is no guarantee of regeneration.

We must not get the impression from the foregoing that we are now all identical clones of Christ, like an army of little robots.  Each has distinctive differences, peculiar specialities, all of them reflections of some aspect of the infinite or “complete” Christ, but not duplicated exactly in anybody else.  You are Christ in your form, while I am Christ in Rolf form, etc.  (Just think of all the human beings who are basically alike – two eyes, one nose, etc. and alike enough to  be recognizable as men versus women, orientals vs westerners, etc. and yet no two precisely alike, even twins.  What a great salvation, redemption, re-creation!)

Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is not a static thing, any more than any kind of life.  It must be constantly sustained and developed (like an expanding balloon). How?  1. Want it, for its own sake.   2. Ask for it.  3. Empty self of Self.  4. Use the means, chiefly the Bible, which is God Himself “in paper form”. (Col 3:16)  5. Act on the basis of; “Rejoice always”.  “Walk by the Spirit.” “Grieve not.”

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The most important fact for any one to know is God.  For one thing, we can’t know anything without him; He is our wisdom.  Now, everybody believes that there is a god.  The trouble is that most people have wrong ideas about Him, and many who have the right ideas do not believe in Him.  Many “Christian” people are in these last two groups.  For example, they have the idea that God is (not are) three individuals, like three separate human beings.  The first one made the world, period.  The second one became a man and saved it (by dying on the cross, etc.). The third is not really real, because he has no body and you cannot see him (it); he is a spirit like we talk about school’s spirit, which is nobody.

This doctrine is called the “trinity”, a word which is not found in the Bible.  It is not wrong to use the word, but it does create a lot of confusion.  It is like saying that water is H2O (which it is), but you can talk about hydrogen and talk about oxygen, and you still don’t understand what water is like.  We should just say what the Bible says about God (or anything else) and not try to make it plainer by making it more complicated.  For example, the Bible says “God is love” – not, notice, loving, but IS love.  Thinking about just that idea will keep us busy enough.  And knowing that God is love is enough to save anybody.

There is only one God.  The Bible says that repeatedly.  (It is impossible for there to be more than one god; that is the mistake of the poly-theists, the native religions which have lots of spirits who fight each other as much as they fight us.)  That one God made the world; He made everything.  He made the angels, for the purpose of helping and serving us.  (He doesn’t need anybody to serve Him.)  Some of these angels (creatures without bodies) rebelled against God and became devils, evil spirits.  Now they are doing everything they can to destroy us, because they cannot touch God.

When human beings were created, they were without sin.  That does not mean they were perfect in the sense of being ready for heaven; they were like “perfect” babies who have to grow and develop, who have not sinned yet and are innocent. But instead of choosing not to sin, and growing better and better (so that finally they just could not sin – which is the way we will be in heaven) our first parents – from whom we have all descended regardless of age, gender, race – disobeyed God, and “sided” with satan, who tempted them to sin.

So what to do?  God could have just junked the whole thing – angels, human beings, the world – and started over.  But then He would not have been “love”; He would not have been God.  Only human beings and demons operate that way.  (Evil for good, or evil for evil.) So, like the life-saver who jumps into the water in order to rescue a drowning person, God “changed himself” into a human being himself.  (Nobody, of course, can understand how that is possible.  But it is so important that the whole world has celebrated Christmas ever since.)  That wonderful human being, who had a body, soul, and mind exactly like ours, except for sin, was perfectly obedient to God, even though it resulted in his being killed because of his refusal to sin and do what is wrong.  But because he was sinless, he rose from the grave (and almost everybody celebrates Easter ever since) and after he showed himself and talked to his followers for about a month, he went to heaven (which is not millions of miles away, but all around us, like TV signals; heaven is the unseen world in which the angels operate, “dead” saints are, and Jesus, who is running it all).

So, Jesus did not really “go away”; he just became invisible.  He is still right here.  Only now he is not with us, but in us.  That is why we say that he “returned”; he “went away” in one form, and “came back” in another, in spirit.  THAT is who the Holy Spirit is; he is Jesus, himself, closer to us than he was to his disciples.  And because Jesus is God, in human form (still today), so the Holy Spirit of course, is God.  Not one third of God; not one of three individuals who together are God.  But God, period, who made the world, then became a man, and now is in our spirits.  Praise the Lord.

Walk, Live, Be Filled with the Spirit

Every single one of us is as directly descended from Adam (and Noah) as the next person.  This explains the fact of creation and flood traditions in many cultures. Our common connection with Adam is used in the Bible as a picture of how we all can and should be connected to Christ, the “second Adam”, the father of a new race. (Rms 5:1, Cor 15)

However, the spirit world is the real world, not the one we see with our eyes.  And that spirit world, the “heavenlies”, is all around us – be it angels (good and bad), God, Jesus, or possibly even departed loved ones. (Heb 12:1)  Jesus did not go “up” at his ascension but simply “out of sight.” In much the same way, a church building is not God’s house. (Jn 14:2)

The Holy Spirit is Christ’s spirit.  “The Lord is Spirit.” This explains why Jesus, in his farewell (John 14-16) said he was about to go away and the world would see him no more, but he would come again, he would send his spirit, which happened in his appearances and on Pentecost (for keeps).   This explains how Christ can be literally “in”us today, and we can be “filled’ with his very spirit.  In his farewell talk Jesus said seven times that we can pray “in him”, and being “in Christ” is stated more than 150 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was “with” God’s people and worked “on them”; now we have him in us. (Rms 8:26-27)

Every Christian is filled with the Spirit, in varying degrees, much like a balloon is filled with air but can still be filled fuller. Or, when it comes to “walking” in the Spirit, we sometimes tell a grown adult, “Be a man!”, by which we mean, “You are a grown up; now act like one.”  I Cor 6:17 says, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”  It is possible, of course, to be “filled” or controlled by evil spirits.  They too can work on us, as Christians, but it is not possible to be possessed by Satan or his countless helpers and by Jesus Christ’s spirit at the same time.  Some Bible teachers believe we can be a “civil war”, with two spirit forces fighting for the mastery of us, but Romans 8:5-9 says it is either/or, one or the other.  I John 3:4-10 says the same thing.  One of the most effective ways for evil spirits to take control of a person is through drugs or alcohol.  This is why Ephesians 5:18 says do not get drunk.  Instead be filled with the spirit.

Now God has given each of us an independent will.  This is what gives a person individuality.  This is what makes him human, in contrast to an animal who operates by instinct.  This is what makes us an “image bearer”,  a “carbon copy” of his creator.  Jesus could not do miracles in his hometown because of their unbelief or refusal to believe.  He said of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, “I wanted to….. but you didn’t want to.”  John Calvin said we are not sticks and bricks.  This means that we cannot blame anything on God or on any human being, like our folks, or “society”.  By the same token, we are not responsible for our parents; every one of us individually must give an account of himself to God.  (II Cor 5:10.)  People who “lose their souls” do not want others to.  (Luke 16:27)

Our prayers, requests of God, fit into his plan, “influence his will.”  Jesus told his disciples, when he was about to leave them, that if they asked anything in his name it would happen.  He repeats that seven times!  We cannot say of anything that it has already been decided, ahead of time.  God is outside, above time.  What is more, he knows “ahead of time” that you are going to pray, ask him about a certain thing.  And the best things we can ever ask of God are invisible, such as a new heart, more true love, patience, generosity, etc.  (Compare Matt 7:11 and Luke 11:13)  But now, notice this: Do not ask God to give you invisible “things” as though he could go someplace and get them for you; ask him to BE your patience, even your faith.  God IS love, IS wisdom, IS courage, etc., so ask him to BE all these things IN you. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according his good purpose.”

The careful reader will notice how many of the above facts are found in what we call “wrong religions”, because every human being has a religion or a “faith” of some sort.  One reason is the first paragraph, something which Paul noticed in the non-Christian Greeks.  Another reason, which is a good argument for Christianity, is that Satan is the great counterfeiter, imitator.  “Ethnic” religions consequently believe not only in creation (versus evolution), but of the spirit world, “hereafter”, “medicine men” who emphasize harmony with the laws of nature; that each of us has a mind of his own, that we all want or need a model, a master, be it a parent, Uncle Sam, or whoever.