Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fresh Manifestations of God

On-Going Encounters of the Holy Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

Eph. 5:18

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an overwhelming experience of the Spirit’s presence, power, and purity: a total submergence within the person of the Holy Spirit. This individual God-encounter is instantaneous and reoccurring: one baptism, many fillings. The Baptism of the Spirit refers to the initial work of the Spirit in uniting believers to Christ as well as on-going encounters with the Spirit bringing refreshment, renewal, and endurance to the Christian’s life.

No matter what level of spiritual maturity we are on, we need renewed appearances, fresh manifestations, new visitations from on high. While it is right to thank God for the past and look back with joy to His visits to you in your early days as a believer, I encourage you to seek God for special visitations of His presence. I do not mean to minimize our daily walk in the light of His countenance, but consider that though the ocean has its high tides twice every day, yet it also has its spring tides. The sun shines whether we see it or not, even through our winter’s fog, and yet it has its summer brightness.

If we walk with God constantly, there are special seasons when He opens the very secret of His heart to us and manifests Himself to us – not only as He does not to the world but also as He does not at all times to His own favored ones. Not every day in a palace is a banqueting day, and not all days with God are so clear and glorious as certain special sabbaths of the soul in which the Lord unveils His glory. Happy are we if we have once beheld His face, but happier still if He comes to us again in the fullness of favor.

I commend you to be seeking God’s second appearances. We should be crying to God most pleadingly that He would speak to us a second time. We do not need a reconversion, as some assert. If the Lord has kept us steadfast in His fear, we are already possessors of what some call the higher life. This we are privileged to enjoy from the first hour of our spiritual life. We do not need to be converted again, but we do need the windows of heaven to be opened again and again over our heads. We need the Holy Spirit to be given again as at Pentecost and that we should renew our youth like the eagles, to run without weariness and walk without fainting. May the Lord fulfill to His people His blessing upon Solomon! ‘That the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon.'”

C.H. Spurgeon, “Essential Points in Prayer,” in The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, ed., Robert Hall (Emerald Books, 1993), 136.

Grace: Empowerment to Live the Christian Life

Empowering Grace

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thes. 5:23

Empowering grace is Jesus enabling us to overcome temptation, make righteousness right choices, and obey the commands of our heavenly Father. Grace makes it possible for us to do “the righteous requirements of the Law” (Rom. 8:3-4), be a conduit of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and serve as Christ’s witness in the world (Acts 1:8).

The meaning of sanctification is that the Son of God is formed in us (Galatians 4:19); then our human nature has to be transfigured by His indwelling life, and this is where our action comes in. We have to put on the new man in accordance with the life of the Son of God in us.

If we refuse to be sanctified, there is no possibility of the Son of God being manifested in us, because we have prevented our lives being turned into a Bethlehem; we have not allowed the Spirit of God to bring forth the Son of God in us.

Oswald Chambers, Our Brilliant Heritage (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996), 73.

Grace: Freedom Not to Sin

Power to Say, “No,” to Ungodliness and, “Yes,” to Righteousness

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age . . . .

Titus 2:11-12

Grace is not the freedom to sin, but the freedom not to sin. Grace is God’s heart extending itself towards us as he initiates in us the ability to overcome our weaknesses, failures, and inadequacies. The foremost characteristic of living by grace is trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ: the Cross forgives our past sin through Christ’s death, puts away our present sin through Christ’s burial and triumphs over future sin through Christ’s resurrection. Grace is not an abstraction, but Jesus living his life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To be in Christ—that is redemption; but for Christ to be in you—that is sanctification! To be in Christ—that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you—that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ—that changes your destination; but for Christ to be in you—that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home—the other makes this world His workshop.

Major W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ/The Mystery of Godliness (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1988), 22.

Grace: Embodied in a Person

Grace Is Not a Thing, But Jesus Christ Himself

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

2 Cor. 9:8

Sanctifying grace is Jesus being the desire, ability, and power in us to respond to every life situation according to the will of God. Jesus is our desire for he works in us a hunger for holiness. Jesus is our ability for he enables us to make godly decisions and choices. Jesus is our power for he strengthens us to overcome the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. Grace is the person, Jesus, living his life in and through us empowering us to live a righteous and holy life (2 Cor. 9:8, 2 Cor. 12:1-10, Titus 2:11-14).

The sanctification of the Bible never fixes you on the fact that you are delivered from sin: it fixes you on the One who is Sanctification. Sanctification is not something Jesus Christ gives me, it is Himself in me.

Oswald Chambers, God’s Workmanship (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996), 48.

Christus Victor


Recapitulating the Enemy

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15

Christus Victor, Christ is Victorious, was the favorite expression of the Ancient Church. Why? The world, the flesh, sin , death, and the devil were defeated by Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. Christus Victor is the declaration that Christ undid Adam’s tragic choice of sin. Jesus has taken back this fallen world for the Father’s glory by defeating Satan’s grip on humankind. Christus Victor means that this fallen world is now retaken from Satan’s domain, redeemed, and brought under Christ’s Lordship. Therefore, God the Father is summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:15-20).

Adam came forth from innocence and was tempted by Satan bringing sin and death into the world through disobedience at that awesome tree (Rom. 5:15). By contrast, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, stood fast against Satan’s wiles, and was victorious over sin through obedience to God by hanging on that cursed tree. Christ passed through every phase of our lives-redeeming birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and even death-so that we might be set apart unto him as lights to the world. Every aspect of the life of Christ was lived in order to undo the work of Satan. The temptation in the wilderness is Christ passing the ultimate test of temptation when Adam and Israel had failed to obey God’s commands. Jesus’ finished work on Calvary’s Hill defeated death, sin and Satan and his resurrection was the ultimate declaration of that victory.

According to the theory of recapitulation (the Christus Victor view of the atonement), Christ’s shed blood on the cross was the ransom paid that brought about our release from Satan’s captivity. God the Father used the deception of Jesus being God incarnate in human flesh to trick Satan. Satan did not know that Jesus was God. In exchange for sin-trapped humankind, the devil took Jesus as ransom payment. Unwittingly, Satan was deceived for he did not know that Jesus would triumph by overthrowing sin and death.

Without equivocation, I affirm Jesus defeat of Satan’s power over believers’ lives, but the theory of recapitulation leaves much to be desired. The theory gives Satan more power than he has, makes Christ death on the Cross a transaction with the devil, and the Lord’s defeat of Satan is described in terms of deception and trickery [John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 112.]

However, the strength of the Christus Victor understanding is that the doctrine of the incarnation is stressed along with the death of Christ in the overall atoning work of Jesus in conquering sin and defeating the devil.

At the risk of oversimplification, the theme of Christ as bringer of victory can be compared with a child who has been kidnapped. In such a  case, the object of the parent’s anger will be directed not toward the child, but rather it is the kidnappers who must be dealt with . . . . As a result of the Fall, they became the captives of the kidnappers: sin, death, and the devil . . . . Christ came to do battle with humanity’s enemies and thus open the way for us to return to our rightful home.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, Vol. I, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 149.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through his transcendent love, become what we are, that he might bring us to be even what he is himself.

Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon (2nd century AD – c. 202)

The missing link in Western theology is a deep appreciation for the incarnation and subsequent Christus Victor theme of how God incarnate won a victory over sin and death. . . . Christus Victor was the primary atonement view of the early church fathers (this view does not in any way deny the sacrifice of Christ).

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 170.

“Both Convey the Same Christ”

Word and Sacraments

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

John 6:51

The Lord’s Supper is precious: an encounter with the living Christ. Grace is poured forth, faith renewed, spirit-encouraged, healing released, and hope restored at the table of the Lord. At the table, the resurrected Christ meets the people of God as the heart of God makes known the love of God in bread and wine.

This same renewal occurs in the hearing and receiving of the Word of God. In the Word, we are drawn to Christ: faith received, hope renewed, obedience empowered, and hearts healed. The Word and sacraments work together: the sacraments portray to our eyes the written truth of God’s promises.

The sacraments are visible means through which we and Christ commune. They encourage us to be like Christ in all His holiness. The grace received through the sacraments is no different from that received through the Word. Both convey the same Christ.

Joel R. Beeke,  Feed My Sheep, ed., Don Kistler (Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 2002), 121.

Thus does God make known His secret purpose to His Church: first he declares His mercy by His Word; then He seals it and assures it by His sacraments. In the Word we have His promises: in the sacraments we see them.

John Jewell cited in Philip E. Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 189.

Our Greatest Gift

God’s Gift to Us of the Holy Spirit

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.

John 14:16

The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life: fully God working in the world bestowing life, empowering for service, purifying our hearts, providing God’s presence, bearing godly fruit, and guiding God’s people.

God gives the Spirit; we receive him. Indeed, the greatest gift the Christian has ever received, ever will or could receive, is the Spirit of God himself. He enters our human personality and changes us from within. He fills us with love, joy, and peace. He subdues our passions and transforms our characters into the likeness of Christ.

Today there is no man-made temple in which God dwells. Instead, his temple is his people. He inhabits both the individual believer and the Christian community. ‘Do you not know’, asks Paul, ‘that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?’ Again: ‘Do you not know that you yourselves [plural, corporately] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?’ (1 Cor. 6:19; 3:16).

John Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1990).

Abound in Good Works . . .

. . . by Trusting Christ’s Enabling Grace.

He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Titus 2:14 NRSV

Good works cannot produce or achieve right standing before God. However, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis. Good works flow from Christ’s grace enabling us to say, “yes,” to God and, “no,” to ungodliness.

Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Good works can be described as the fruit of faith. A biblical expectation of redemption is living in a godly manner. There is no place in the Christian life for claiming a “born from above” experience while giving no evidence of a changed life. A changed life is a life that allows Christ to live in and through us (1 John 4:9).

Good works are not produced by the Christian, but good works are borne in the life of the Christian by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We are fruit-bearers not fruit-producers: enabling grace works out the life of Christ in us.

Good works, or deeds, display to the world the changed heart that Christ has created (Matt. 7:15-20). Faith in the finished work of Christ expresses itself in deeds done for God and others. Therefore, good works are the fruit of faith, they follow after justification, they are evidence of a changed heart, and therefore flow from a life changed by the Cross.

The biblical call to endure in faith and obedience is a call to trust the Christ-purchased, empowering grace of God. God’s grace is first the gift of pardon and imputed righteousness; then it is the gift of power to fight the good fight and to overflow in good deeds. Christ died to purchase both redeeming pardon and transforming power: “[Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

Therefore, all our ability to endure to the end in good works is a gift of grace. This is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Grace abounds to us so that we may abound in good works. It is our work, yes, but enabled by his grace.

John Piper, The Roots of Endurance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 27.

Those Bunch of Hypocrites!

Are Church People Hypocrites?

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

Matt 23:13 NLT

You sit down with with a relative, friend, or acquaintance. You badly want them to know Jesus the way you do: the love, peace, joy, and forgiveness. Your talk seems to be going well until you invite them to church. They hee haw around and then say, “I don’t go to church because church people are a bunch of hypocrites!”

A long awkward silence ensues for you know that church folk have not always honored their Lord in their actions or attitudes. You mumble something about how your church is different, but the conversation is not the same.

What do you say when they claim that the church is a bunch of sinners? You say that you that you would not expect anything else. You say the condition for church membership is admitting your sinfulness. We don’t claim to be perfect. We claim to be needy, hurting, and weak, and in need of help.

What happens is that people observe church members sinning. They reason within themselves, “That person professes to be a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to sin. That person is sinning; therefore, he is a hypocrite.” The unspoken assumption is that a Christian is one who claims he does not sin. It reality just the opposite is the case. For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sin as a condition for membership.

In one sense the church has fewer hypocrites than any institution because by definition the church is a haven for sinners. If the church claimed to be an organization of perfect people then her claim would be hypocritical. But no such claim is made by the church. There is no slander in the charge that the church is full of sinners. Such a statement would only compliment the church for fulfilling her divinely appointed task.

R. C. Sproul, Reason to Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982).

HT: Challies Blog

Holy Spirit Penetration

The Holy Spirit Changes Us

He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Titus 3:5-6 NLT

Our theme for the week is change by the power of the Cross and through the person of the Holy Spirit. Our last post focused on the Holy Spirit for he is the only real and true change agent. Why? The Holy Spirit can transform us because he can enter our hearts, convict us of our sins, cleanse us from our transgressions, and empower us to live holy lives (Rom. 8:3-4). Only the Holy Spirit can penetrate into the depths of our being, know our secret struggles, and supernaturally save, deliver, and heal. The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, he knows our need, and he has the power and capacity to remake us (Rom. 8:26-27).

How shall we think of the Spirit? The Bible and Christian theology agree to teach that He is a Person, endowed with every quality of personality, such as emotion, intellect and will. He knows, He wills, He loves; He feels affection, antipathy and compassion. He thinks, sees, hears and speaks and performs any act of which personality is capable.

One quality belonging to the Holy Spirit, of great interest and importance to every seeking heart, is penetrability. He can penetrate mind; He can penetrate another spirit, such as the human spirit. He can achieve complete penetration of and actual intermingling with the human spirit. He can invade the human heart and make room for Himself without expelling anything essentially human. The integrity of the human personality remains unimpaired. Only moral evil is forced to withdraw.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man [formerly The Divine Conquest] (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 65.