Monthly Archives: April 2018

Permanent Pentecost (Part II)

The Holy Spirit movement has many virtues for which we can give God thanks.  The first of them is its very God-centeredness, something that is easy to get away from even while mouthing such coined cliches as “sovereignty”.  Closely related is its emphasis upon praising God in everything, as the Scripture enjoins, rather than practicing mere patience in adversity.  Attempts at real worship, especially via Bible quotations in song and prayer, is another.  We are tempted to identify worship with theological orations or even week-day work.  The Holy Spirit movement stresses the importance of Body life, in contrast to the rugged individualism that tends to intrigue us Calvinists.

Many long-neglected doctrines of Scripture are currently coming into their own.  One of them is our identification with Christ.  We are usually satisfied to limit atonement to the idea of substitution.  Similarly, we have been prone to think of salvation primarily in terms of justification: “Christ died to pay for my sins; that I might be forgiven,” forgetting that Christ is a “double cure” who also makes me a new person and keeps me from sinning.  This “new” idea also has been the subject of repeated articles in [Christian magazines], plus the reminder that Christ is our sanctification as well as our justification (I Cor. 1:30), rather than the regenerate man showing his gratitude to God for being saved.  Another example of our innate tendency to autonomism.  The hardest thing for all of us to “lick” is not sin or Satan, but sheer self.

But basic to all these is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit Himself, which has never come into its own the way that it should have.  Abraham Kuyper, writing 1900 years after Pentecost, lamented that fact as the rationale for his monumental book on the subject.  And the brilliant Princeton Professor B. B. Warfield, in that same book, says that Kuyper has by no means said the last word.  The Apostles’ Creed confesses nothing about the Holy Spirit except the bare fact of His existence.  (On this count as well as others we ought to make more use of the Nicene Creed in divine worship; like other heirlooms in the back of the Psalter Hymnal, it gathers honored dust.)  The more used Heidelberg Catechism devotes only one question out of one hundred and twenty-nine to the person and work of the Holy Spirit per se, and says nothing about His role in Creation, in my personal conception, nor his inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures.  Even more amazing is the common ignorance as to His very Being.  Many otherwise orthodox minsters are practical tri-theists, thinking of God today in essentially Old Testament concepts.  This is evident in the criticism against current Holy Spirit “over-emphasis” on the score that it neglects the first two persons of the trinity.  But Christ Himself said that He reveals only what the Father first gave to Him (John 16:13) — to say nothing of the fact that the three are more inseparable and indivisible in the New Testament than ever before (John 14:9). What is more, the New Testament Holy Spirit is not the “same” Person that He was in the Old (John 7:39).  Every Christian child knows that the Second Person of the Trinity is not identical with the Son of God as we know Him in the New.  In very related fashion, the Third Person of the Trinity has become “incarnate” in the New, has become the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the two have become wonderfully one. (II For. 3:17)  Illustrations of this union may be found in the “change” that is made in a beam of light when it passes through a colored glass, assuming inseparably the tint.  Or compare the “difference” in a girl who, upon wedlock, is no longer Miss Jones, but has become Mrs. Smith.

Take it on the personal testimony of this garden-variety missionary and run-of-the-mill Christian, when this concept of Christ’s indwelling via His very own Spirit takes possession of a person’s thinking, feeling, and believing — believe me, then for the first time you really begin to realize what the Bible is talking about when it says that we actually died with Christ long ago, and now we are a brand new person in Him. Gone is all the struggle, the self-effort, the “confession/obsession” (except to confess Christ constantly as Lord), the resolutions to “witness” more instead of letting the Light shine through and letting the Spirit take over the tongue, in understandable English.

Without it, it is perfectly possible to be living chronologically long after Pentecost (as Acts 19:1-7 sadly demonstrates) and still be operating spiritually way back in the Old Testament, wandering around in the wilderness of the world after the fashion of the Israelites, getting nowhere, when Canaan and its “rest” are so near at hand, attainable in this present life.  These things all happened, says Paul, for an admonition to us upon whom the end of the ages has come.  Let us take heed, then, that we do not deny Christ’s Spirit.  He Himself said that every sin is forgivable except that.  (Matt. 12:32))

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Permanent Pentecost (Part I)

The “Holy Spirit movement” — which began way back in Genesis 1:2 is known by a variety of names.  This is not strange, for it has to do with God, whose names are as countless as they are wonderful. The moral of this first fact is that God’s work is never obstructed by the simple device of giving it a label, as some are prone to do.  Neither should we, as fellow-Christians, spend our strength in sparring over semantics, quarreling about whether to speak of “Baptism in (with?) the Spirit, vs. “filling”, etc.

The Holy Spirit movement has, over the years, inevitably taken on all kinds of different forms and expressions.  Once more, this follows from the fact that the infinite God works how and where he chooses, plus the fact that no two of His children have ever been exactly alike.  Two equally Spirit-filled Christians can be drastically unalike in their experience and demonstration of His possession.  “Tongues” and miracles do not begin to exhaust the charismatic catalog, nor should they ever be made the touch-stone of “filling”.

Like any “revival”, there is much in the Holy Spirit movement that is as old as creation, and, like the Reformation, simply re-emphasis on what was becoming sadly neglected.  There is much in so-called neo-pentecostalism that is regarded as somewhat avant-garde, when actually it is as old as the Old Testament and commanded so plainly that even he who runs can read it.  (Every Christian has had the experience of reading a given Bible passage a dozen times before actually seeing what it clearly says.)

On the other hand, there is much in the Holy Spirit movement that is as brand new as it is possible for anything “under the sun” to be.  This too is perfectly expectable and desirable.  (Matt. 13:52)  Theology and our understanding of God’s self-revelation are as  open-ended as eternity itself.  The “discover” of new truths is not disparagement of the past but rather a recognition of our spiritual heritage by building upon it.  Even a dwarf can see much farther than a giant if he is standing on the latter’s shoulders.

The Happy Home

Editor’s Note:  Taking a break from the daily posts (after posting daily for 3 months).  Will try to post a couple of other times this month and then be back once again on a daily basis for the month of May.

Everybody want a happy home.   No matter how successful or rich a man  may be, if his home is not happy, “he is of all men most miserable.”

And yet very few homes are truly happy.  One fourth of all families are broken by divorce.  A sociologist has said that half of the others are like an armed camp in a state of cold war.

The thing that makes it so ironic is that there is so little excuse for it.  Our homes “have never had it so good.”  Our houses have beautiful family rooms, play rooms, television, books, and every convenience.  But  many people are home enough to do little more than eat and sleep.

This is serious business, for home is the basis of both society and the church.  No nation is stronger than its individual homes.  And God builds His church along family lines.  Heaven is called our “home”, God calls Himself our Father, and we are His children.  Home is not just a hotel or a restaurant, but a place where character is devleoped.

That is why Satan tries so hard to destroy it.  The home is the devil’s bull’s-eye, the very center of his attack.  Communism has been successful in suppressing religion in Russia by first destroying the home.

Here where we profess to love our homes but do little to preserve them, Satan is more sly.  He tries to persuade mothers that there are more important and interesting things to do than raising babies.  He keeps parents busy night and day in social affairs, business, and other activities.

The result is that many people have just enough children to satisfy their ego — “A girl for you, and a boy for me”, as one popular song said it — and reduce the business of parenthood to a minimum, turning over their youngsters to sitters, teachers, and clubs as soon as and as much as they can.

What can you and I do to frustrate the devil and make our homes happy?  First of all, we ought to stay home more than we do .  How can God bless our home — as the motto on the wall wishes — if there is nobody home for Him to bless?  An empty house is not a home.

We must appreciate our home, and regard it as more important than even our outside work and social life.  It is a pity that God has to permit wars periodically to make absent sons appreciate their distant homes, and parents appreciate their absent sons.

Our homes must have regular and worthwhile devotional exercise.  Bible reading and prayer at table are excellent if they are not hurried through as a dull duty to get done.  But why can’t we have, in addition, a little quiet time as a family, at bedtime or in the evening, when we sing together and take turns in praying with one another, and for each other, by name and need.  Try it, and see what a wonderful change comes into your home and your heart.  This kind of  home is a foretaste of Heaven itself, “the house with many mansions”.