February 2011

Monthly Archive

Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia

Posted by on 28 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Martin Luther, The Cross

The Cross Alone Is Our Theology

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Col. 2:8

This blog is dedicated to Christ and his finished work on the Cross. Paraphrasing the words of Martin Luther, the Cross alone is this blog’s theology. Why? The Cross is our victory over the oppression and enslavement of sin (1 Cor. 15:57), our justification that satisfies the penalty of sin (Rom. 4:25), our adoption which grants us the legal status of a son of God and an heir of the kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23), our reconciliation which restores our broken relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:19), our forgiveness of offenses as a result of his pain and suffering on Calvary, our ransom paid to free us from the captivity of sin (1 Cor. 6:19), our healing from brokenness created by our sin (Isa.53:5), our representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), our participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and our substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

Christ died for us (substitution) now we are controlled by Christ’s love for us and our love for Christ (motivation). As a result, our hearts are changed (transformation) and therefore, we can now live fully for the Christ who died for us (surrender).

Crux Sola Est Nostra Theologia.  And I shall never forget the first time I encountered those words of Martin Luther.  I have arrived at Cambridge in 1978, fresh from the study of theology at Oxford, and had begun a process of total immersion in the field theological literature of the Reformation.  Having cut my theological teeth on Karl Barth, I decided to deepen my knowledge of two fundamental forces of modern religious thought Martin Luther and John Calvin.  It was during the spring of 1979 that I came across those words. They seemed to leap of the page, ‘The cross alone is our theology.’ I stopped taking notes and paused to think.  Luther’s declaration seemed electrifying charged with power, potential, and challenge.

It also seemed absurd.  How could a past event have such present day relevance? And why should it be this event? Why conceivable justification to be given for this collective attention, this concentration upon the cross? To demonstrate how that focus arose within a Luther’s theology in spiritual malady was one thing; but how could the cross function as the core of Christian theology in a dominated by the insights of the Enlightenment? Molded as I then was by the English liberal theological tradition, I eventually dismissed Luther’s approach as outdated and obsolete, of interest only to historians of doctrine in early Reformation Theology.  They could have no place in modern Christian Thought.  I resumed taking notes.

Nevertheless, his words remain in my mind.  Somehow they seem to capture something that I intuitively felt was indefinably wrong with the gentle theological liberalism with which I then identified myself.  Looking back on the development of my thinking since then, Luther’s brief phrase proved to be the rock, which my liberalism floundered.  The ‘theology of the cross,’ through which Luther challenged his own age to allow the cross of Christ to assume center stage proved able to challenge modernity!

Alister E. McGrath, Spirituality in an Age of Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 75-76.

 

My Baptism in the Spirit (Conclusion)

Posted by on 25 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Holy Spirit, My Sermons, Prayer

 

He Wants Us to Ask

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13

My testimony of Spirit-infilling is not intended to be a formula or a model or a pattern for others, but a testimony of God’s faithfulness. I asked for more of his Holy Spirit in my life and ministry and God answered. I found that I lack power for witness that morning in Dallas and by that afternoon God provided through a bold petite African-American witness. God’s word’s was true, “Ask and our Heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit” (Luke 11:13).

The Persistent Neighbor

Let us examine Luke 11:5-13 and discern what Jesus would want us to do. The context of the chapter is prayer, with Jesus telling a parable describing a persistent neighbor. In that parable, the main character is the next-door neighbor. He has suddenly received an unexpected guest. The neighbor is very needy because he lives in an age where food is not readily available. He has to care for his guest, and he does not have the resources to provide. He goes to his sleeping neighbor and asks for his leftover bread. The neighbor is perturbed. If he gets out of bed, he will awaken his whole family who are all asleep in the same bed with him. Any parent knows the difficulty of getting a group of children to go asleep, but now the needy neighbor wants to disturb them. Yet, the sleeping neighbor does hand over his leftover bread because of the friend’s boldness. Jesus commends the friend’s boldness as a true characteristic of genuine prayer. All God wants us to do is to ask and to ask boldly! “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13, NIV). How to we receive the Holy Spirit? We ask and we ask boldly!

However, we must have a flexible attitude. Whatever type of bread the Father decides to give must be acceptable to us. Many times, we will say “We want the bread of the Holy Spirit!” but when God gives it we say, “This is not the kind of bread we wanted!” “No Lord, I wanted rye, wheat, or pumpernickel!” When the Holy Spirit comes whatever gifts he wants to display through us, we must be willing to receive. Remember the gifts of the Holy Spirit are just that-gifts. Gifts are for blessing, for encouragement, and for spiritual growth. The purpose of the charismata is to bring you and me, as the Body of Christ, into a deeper love relationship with Jesus. So, Let us ask! [Robert Smith, Jr., “Christian Preaching Practicum” [class notes] (Birmingham, AL: Beeson Divinity School, 2002), April 30.]

Like the disciples, all God desires is that we recognize that we are at our wit’s end and we cannot go on any farther without him. All he waits for us to do is ask! Then, he will come and pour his presence upon us, bathe us in his love, and display his great and mighty mercy. The Holy Spirit will come and will reveal Jesus to us. If you desire more of the Holy Spirit, pray boldly, and you will be filled afresh with the sweetness of his presence.

Glenn E. Davis, “Who Is the Holy Spirit for Us Today?”, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, ed., Timothy George (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 97.

My Baptism in the Spirit (Part Three)

Posted by on 23 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Agape Force, Holy Spirit, My Sermons

Holy Spirit: Power for Service

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8 ESV

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, and guiding God’s people. My story continues . . .

Later that morning as the team moved north, we began to walk down Commerce Street. We were very conspicuous in a crowd as we carried our Bibles in one hand and held on to our sleeping bags with the other. We turned and began to walk through a plaza where a number of executive-types were sitting on park benches eating sack lunches. Out from the crowd, a short, plump African-American lady stood up and yelled, “What are you boys doing?” We replied that we were from Lindale, Texas and we were out witnessing. At the top of her lungs, she cried out, “Have you ever been filled with the Holy Ghost?” I thought, “Oh, my goodness, we have got a live one.” My team leader, who was standing front of me said, “Yes, I have.” The team member bringing up the end said, “So have I.” I thought, “Good, maybe she will leave us alone.” Then without warning, the last member of the team shouted, “No, I have not!” I thought, “Why did you have to go and say that?” Immediately, she asked us to come over, so that she could pray for him.

This is the scene: four men in their early twenties knelling in front of a park bench as this lady is standing over the one young man praying loudly in tongues. She was praying very loudly in tongues. As she began to pray, I asked the Lord whether this whole thing about the fullness of the Spirit was for real. The denomination in which I was raised discounted the gifts of the Spirit. I told the Lord that I did not want to resist anything if it was genuine, even if it seemed a bit bizarre. At that moment, I began to speak in tongues. Very gently and without great emotion, the Holy Spirit began to touch my heart and bless me with the sweetness of Jesus. My emotions were so subdued that I wondered whether my ministry team understood what God had done in my life. I was experiencing for the first time, a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit with a manifestation of a spiritual gift. Already, God was answering my prayer from that morning; he was responding to my cry for his personal power, presence, and authority. Thank God for that little African-American lady who was willing to be bold for Christ.

Glenn E. Davis, “Who Is the Holy Spirit for Us Today?”, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, ed., Timothy George (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 90.

My Baptism in the Spirit (Part Two)

Posted by on 22 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Agape Force, Holy Spirit, My Sermons

My First Experience of the Holy Spirit’s Power

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22 NLT

Yesterday, I defined what I mean by the infilling or baptism of the Holy Spirit. Please allow me to reiterate. 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 God. This individual experience is instantaneous and can be reoccurring: one baptism, many fillings. The Baptism refers to the initial work of the Spirit in uniting believers to Christ as well as on-going encounters with the Spirit bringing refreshment and strengthening in the Christian life.

It was a hot summer in late August 1979. I was a member of a parachurch organization called the Agape Force, which conducted a training program named Crystal Springs Institute. As part of that program, each of us was required to participate in a mission trip. This mission trip was highly unusual. You and your team are dropped off in a Texas town with instructions to minister to whomever God brings in your path, to trust God for shelter and finances, and to rely on the Lord for safe return. The Agape Force ministry called the trip, the “Weekend Mission,” but the students called it the “Trust God or Die” weekend.

My four-man team was assigned South Dallas, I did not know at that time what a rough area it was.  For the first time in my life, I did not know from where my next meal was coming from, with whom I would be staying, what was going to happen, and how I was going to get home. After getting off the bus, the first thing we did was pray.  We were desperate. As we prayed, we felt that the Holy Spirit wanted us to begin at the beginning. So, we decided to start by evangelizing the first people we met on the street. My partner and I began to talk with an African-American man who was obviously down and out.

As we shared, he grew more and more obstinate. The more we shared the less and less effective I felt we were in reaching him. In fact, it seemed as if my words were dropping out of my mouth and straight onto the ground. I felt that I was not communicating the gospel clearly, effectively, or powerfully. Finally, in desperation I said, “If a car hit you this afternoon, where would you go, to heaven or hell?” He just looked at me and began to curse. I walked away feeling empty and helpless. I had no authority and power in my witness. I began to pray anxiously that God would somehow help me to be an effective testifier of God’s grace. I did not want the weekend to be a waste (to be continued).

Glenn E. Davis, “Who Is the Holy Spirit for Us Today?”, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, ed., Timothy George (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 89.

My Baptism in the Spirit (Part One)

Posted by on 21 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Holy Spirit, Keswick Convention, Oswald Chambers, W. H. Griffith-Thomas

 

 

What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Be (continuously) filled with the Spirit.

Eph. 5:18

As I begin this series of personal reflections of my experience in the Holy Spirit, let me define what I mean by the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a state of being totally overwhelmed in the presence of Jesus Christ both within and without. “Being filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) refers to God’s presence fully saturating our hearts, souls, minds, and spirits. This infilling is not only a one time experience at conversion or just a singular dramatic encounter occurring later in the Christian life. The filling of the Spirit is to be a life lived continually in God’s presence. The infilling of the Spirit is a crisis, a one-time encounter, and a process. This on-going experience of the Spirit is sometimes described as one baptism and many fillings.

The filling of the Spirit should be our moment by moment experience of the constant, conscious presence of Christ.  “Being constantly filled,” (Eph. 5:18) with the Holy Spirit is freedom to enjoy Christ and his presence on a daily, if not, hourly, and even possibly, minute-by minute basis. The filling of the Spirit is described by the Apostle Paul as a daily “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). The Lord desires something better for us, a continual abiding in the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) as we perform the daily tasks of life.

The supreme test and proof of the fullness of the Spirit is the Presence and Preciousness of Christ.

W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Holy Spirit of God(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1913), 278.

The thought is unspeakably full of glory, that God the Holy Ghost can come into my heart and fill it so full that the life of God will manifest itself all through this body which used to manifest exactly the opposite. If I am willing and determined to keep in the light and obey the Spirit, then the characteristics of the indwelling Christ will manifest themselves.

Oswald Chambers, Biblical Psychology : A Treasure Chest for Christian Counselors, (London: Simpkin Marshall., 1996), 146.

Simple Faith

Posted by on 17 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Christ in You, Exchanged Life, Keswick Convention

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Heb. 11:6 NLT). 

Faith is a response of the heart which receives what God has already done for us in Christ. Faith is relying on God’s character, standing on God’s promises, believing God’s Cross, and obeying God’s Spirit with a certainty that surpasses physical sight and human reasoning. Faith ignores bad circumstances, negative feelings, or discouraging thoughts to stand on God’s word and walk in his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). In short, faith simply believes what God says is true.

Just as salvation is by faith, so also is the exchanged life. Just as we accept the Lord Jesus by faith as Savior, so by simple faith we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Just as we took the Lord as our sin-bearer, we take the Holy Spirit as our burden-bearer. Just as we take the Savior as our penalty for sins that are past, we take the Holy Spirit for power over indwelling sins that are present.

The Savior is our atonement, the Holy Spirit is our advocate. In salvation we receive newness of life, by the Holy Spirit we find life more abundant. In each case the appropriation is by faith, and by faith alone, wholly apart from any feeling on our part.

V. Raymond Edman, They Found the Secret: Twenty Lives That Reveal a Touch of Eternity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 152.

Flee to the Eucharist

Posted by on 16 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Holy Eucharist, Robert E. Webber

Finding Rest and Peace in the Sacraments

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8 NLT

The Apostle Paul describes the Eucharistic meal as a koinonia (1 Cor. 10:16).The Greek word, koinonia, has a great depth of meaning: sharing, partaking, fellowship, communing, and unifying participation in the life of God. When we drink the Blood and eat the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ: we commune with Christ, we share in his resurrection, we partake of his grace, we fellowship with God and his saints, and we are brought into union with his heart and will. In short, we become partakers—people who share in the very life of God. Whenever we share in the life of God, we are encouraged to trust Christ, to love others, and to hope in God (1 Thess. 1:3).

I am continually comforted and ministered to by Christ at his Table. I often counsel students and friends who are facing difficult times in their lives to “flee to the Eucharist.” Bread and wine are God’s signs . . . of grace and love toward us. . . . [Those] who have taken this advice have talked to me later about the healing they experienced through these symbols of God’s ministry.

Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 11.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

Bored and Weary

Posted by on 15 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Oswald Chambers, Sanctification

Loss of Joy and Fulfillment in God

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Col 3:1 NLT

Boredom is the refusal to enjoy the presence of God and weariness is our unwillingness to be refreshed in Christ. Boredom is the result of becoming so focused on the passing pleasures of this life that we forget the joy of our heavenly reward. Boredom is being so absorbed by the immediate gratification of electronic stimuli that we cannot enjoy the simple blessing of God’s presence.  Boredom is a state of being weary and restless caused by the loss of the constant conscious presence of Christ. Boredom and weariness are sisters, they are both symptoms of our loss of joy, peace, and rest in God.

There is no such thing as weariness in God’s work. If you are in tune with the joy of God, the more you spend out in God’s service, the more the recuperation goes on, and when once the warning note of weariness is given, it is a sign that something has gone wrong. If only we would heed the warning, we would find it is God’s wonderfully gentle way of saying—“Not that way; that must be left alone; this must be given up.” Spiritual fatigue comes from the unconscious frittering away of God’s time. When you feel weary or are exhausted, don’t ask for hot milk, but get back to God.

Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House, 1996).

Enclosed in God

Posted by on 14 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: F.B. Meyer, Suffering, Trials

God in and Through Our Circumstances

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Gen. 50:20 NIV

We live in the midst of the fallout of the fall: sin has affected every area of creation and all aspects of our lives. Disappointment, pain, and trouble are significant ingredients of our daily lives. Ill-timed, unexpected tragedies can shape our lives for the better or make our hearts hard through bitterness. Our choice: trust that God is sovereignly working or become angry that life is not going our way.

The Bible teaches that is not God’s will that people sin. However, when people sin against us, their actions become God’s will for us. Because of the Cross of Christ, we can trust that God has something bigger and better planned through our being ill-treated, misunderstood, hurt, and disappointed.

The Lord is working his purposes in and through our circumstances: the molding of our character, the testing of our faith, and the ministry of Christ’s life. Through trials, the Lord is giving us our heart’s desire: Christlikeness. “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17 NLT).

Now it seems to me as if you and I are enclosed in God. An arrow comes from the enemy’s bow. A man hates me writes an anonymous letter. Someone defrauds me. Some woman sets an unkind story afloat about me. The evil travels toward me. If God liked, He could let the arrow pass this way or that. But if my God opens and permits the evil to pass through His encompassing power to my heart, by the time it has passed through God to me, it has become God’s will for me. He permits it, and that is His will for my life. I do not say that the man will escape his just doom. God will deal with him. I am not going to worry myself about him.

In early days, I have taken infinite pains to avert the evil that men wished to do me, or perhaps to repay them, or to show that the evil was perfectly unwarranted. I confess that I have ceased to worry about it. If you silence one man you will start twenty more. It is ever so much better for peace of mind to accept the will of God, to accept His permission and His appointment, to look up into His face, and say, ‘Even so, Father.’

F. B. Meyer, The Christ-Life for Your Life (Chicago: Moody Press, no date), 121.

Don’t Give Up So Easily

Posted by on 12 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Church Fathers, Dallas Willard, Hearing God, J. Sidlow Baxter

open_doors_0001

Opportunities and Opposition

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

1 Cor 16:9 KJV

God’s call may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

God’s call may lead us to a season of difficulty and opposition from the enemy (Matt. 4:1). Trials do not indicate that we missed God or somehow lost our way. The very thing that God most desires to accomplish in us and through us, intimacy with him, is the very thing that the kingdom of darkness wants to oppose. We should not allow difficulties and discouragements to prevent us from obeying the call of God. If we obey and trust God’s call, the Lord will be glorified by our obedience and our faith will grow exponentially.

There are open doors in every life, doors to high achievement and wide usefulness and spiritual discovery. Many of us, in moods which we allow too often, look upon our circumstances in life as barriers to attainment; but in our moments of truer perception we discern that the imagined prison bars are in reality open doors of opportunity. Our circumstances only look like barriers because the inward eye by which we recognize spiritual values is diseased.

But there are never open doors without opposition. . . . There is an opportunity in every difficulty and difficulty in every opportunity. That is why so many blessings are missed, so many heights left unscaled, so many chapters of service left unwritten. Some of the finest foreign missionaries are those who never went! They heard the call, they felt the urge, they were keen to go, they saw the open door and would had gone through; but there were adversaries, obstacles, discouragements; there was hesitation; the vision faded; and the grand vocation was never fulfilled.

J. Sidlow Baxter, Awake my Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations for the Year (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1960), 10.

It was precisely because the opportunities were so great that Paul had so many adversaries. The devil is always active when he risks losing his booty.

John Chrysostom cited in 1 & 2 Corinthians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 186.

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