Does the Holy Spirit have you?

Does the Holy Spirit have you? Does he have all of you, or only some parts of you? Do you grieve him? (see Eph. 4:30), or are you led by him (see Rom. 8:12-14, Gal. 5:18-24)? Do you rely on him to enable you for all those responses to Christ to which he prompts you? Do you reckon with the fact that “… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? …” (1 Cor. 6:19 NIV). Do you revere his work within you and cooperate with it or obstruct it by thoughtlessness and carelessness, indiscipline and self-indulgence? Here again, the specific questions must be understood Christ-centeredly; they are all in reality ways of asking whether Christ your Savior is Lord of your life. But to ask them in relation to the Spirit, who indwells us in order to transform us and who works constantly in our hearts and minds to bring us close to Christ and keep us there and who is himself as close as can be to any foul thinking or behavior in which we allow ourselves to engage, is to give them a force and a concreteness that otherwise they might not have. In the world of projecting pictures onto screens this would be called sharpening the focus.

J.I. Packer in Keep in Step with the Spirit, p.78

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Theology … is essentially proclamation that Jesus Christ saves men…

The givenness of Jesus Christ is bound up with the givenness of New Testament theology, which is … nothing less than the Father’s own witness through the Spirit to the Son. Surely there is no real Jesus save the Jesus of that theology.  And New Testament theology … is essentially proclamation that Jesus Christ saves men from the bondage to false gods, false beliefs, false ways, false hopes, and false posturings before the Creator, into which all non-Christian religions and philosophies, impressive as they often are, are locked. New Testament proclamation diagnoses this whole kaleidoscope of falseness and falsehood as rooted in actual if unwitting suppression of general revelation, misdirection of man’s worshipping instincts, and ignorance or rejection of the gospel God has sent. Romans 1:18-3:20, to look no further, is decisive on that; and certainly Emil Brunner was correct when he wrote: “In all religion there is a recollection of the Divine Truth which has been lost; all religion, there is a longing after the divine light and the divine love; but in all religion also there yawns an abyss of demonic distortion of the Truth, and of man’s effort to escape from God.

J.I. Packer in Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 39

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What are you trusting in today?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
(Psalm 20)

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Your Love is As Heavy as the Sea

All of my life I’ve been searching for something
Endless and out of my reach
I’ve seen the height and the depth of the splendor
This world can offer to me
All that I find quickly fades in the sight of
Treasure that flows from above
All of the earth is now bending, collapsing
Under the weight of your love

Like a mighty mountain towering above us
Wide as the horizon
Deeper than a canyon
As heavy as the sea

Comparison fails in describing the sweeping
Majesty held in your hands
Limitless, boundless, eternal and massive
Measureless, knowing no end
Infinite love overflowing and rising
Breaks like a wave over me
Nothing compares to this far-reaching vastness
The endless expanse that I see

Like a mighty mountain towering above us
Wide as the horizon
Deeper than a canyon
As heavy as the sea
Like a mighty forest stretching out before us
Higher than the stars reach
Broader than the sky is
The love you’ve given me

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What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit?

Source: DesiringGod, sermon by Pastor John Piper

In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1)

So what did Paul mean in Ephesians 1:13 when he said that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit? No matter which of these meanings you use the basic truth is the same.

  1. If the Spirit seals shut, the point must be that he seals in faith and seals out unbelief and apostasy.
  2. If the Spirit seals us as a sign of authenticity, then he is that sign and it is the Spirit’s work in our life which is God’s trademark. Our eternal sonship is real and authentic if we have the Spirit. He is the sign of divine reality in our lives.
  3. Or if the Spirit marks us with God’s seal, he protects us from evil forces which won’t dare to enter a person bearing the mark of God’s own possession.

However you come at this message contained in this word “sealed,” it is a message of safety and security in God’s love and power. God sends the Holy Spirit as a preserving seal to lock in our faith, as an authenticating seal to validate our sonship, and as a protecting seal to keep out destructive forces. The point is that God wants us to feel secure and safe in his love and power.

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Ecclesiastes

ecclesiastes.jpg

The name of the OT book comes from the Hebrews “Qoheleth” often translated “Preacher” or “Teacher” but apparently more immediately means “gatherer”, I suppose gatherer of true and wise sayings. Ecclesiastes is therefore a collection of wise sayings.

I have always been somewhat frustrated by this little book of the Old Testament. It seems to undermine so much of the certainty and purpose and confidence you find elsewhere in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. (Think of Paul’s purposefulness). On a superficial reading, it may even seem to undermine the sovereignty of God, leaving so much up to us, or up to chance, or the circumstances and ups and downs of life.

But not so. My wife has challenged me to read more closely, because she’s had a longtime fascination with this little gem. And with the help of a few resources (see below), I think Ecclesiastes is growing on me.

So what’s my takeaway? Why am I enjoying this book?

I’m increasingly convinced that the message of the book is to resist becoming frustrated or vexed by life’s unanswerable questions, life’s enigmas. Rather, to find joy in everything as much as possible, obeying and trusting God and becoming wise.

What are life’s enigmas, you ask? Well, the writer delves into these with shocking realism. Consider the dominance of evil, suffering everywhere we look, how might makes right, how money corrupts people, how work and toil sometimes seems meaningless, oppression everywhere. This is probably the most down-to-earth grappling with reality “under the sun”, meaning this temporary life with sin in us, sin in the world.

What do you pursue, he asks?

  • you pursue pleasure? “Hebel”
  • you’re a workaholic? “Hebel”
  • you know how to make money? “Hebel”
  • you think you’re wise? “Hebel”
  • you pursue knowledge and understanding, philosophy? “Hebel”

Hebel is the Hebrew word we translate as vanity, or meaningless. That’s why I originally found this little book frustrating. What do you mean all of these things are Hebel?! Of course, not. Qoheleth, have you not read the rest of your Bible? But wait… Consider closely what he says. Qoheleth wants to undermine our pursuits of everything as an end to itself, showing that it is ultimately not going to satisfy and will not by itself make sense of life and everything. Enigmas will remain. We will live with questions unanswered, hopes and desires unfulfilled. Our only hope is to walk in the path of joy and wisdom, the path of God. Christians know the message of the whole Bible, that true joy comes only in knowing, trusting, and walking with Christ. He will not resolve all of our enigmas now. But he teaches us how to point beyond Hebel to what is lasting and beautiful: Himself.

Here are some key passages which I think underscore the message of the book:

1

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

2

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

3

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 
I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

4

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 
When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

5

 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

6

There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. 
When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.

7

 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. 
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

8

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. 
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. 
Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

9

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

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Exhortations to a Christian worker (2 Timothy 2)

Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Like a soldier, don’t get sidetracked by civilian pursuits. Aim to please the one who enlisted you.

As a worker, aim for God’s approval so that you will not be ashamed. Handle the word of truth correctly and honestly.

Remind yourself of this foundation for assurance: 1. I am His. I am known by Him. 2. I must confirm and live up to this by turning my back on sin.

By setting yourself apart for God, you will be like a special tool he uses for special purposes; you will see the beauty of holiness and will prove useful to the Master.

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” (NLT)

Be known as a gentle but committed servant of God. Don’t quarrel and don’t get involved in useless controversies. Aim at exalting God’s Word and God’s truth because it is able to change hearts and minds and save from the snares of the devil.

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