Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Part 3: What the Church Needs. Now.

We've been taking the last Sunday of each month the past couple of months to visit other churches in our area. This, in conjunction with our travels to preach in various churches, gives us the opportunity to see how the Lord is working in our part of the world.

It appears, from what we can tell, that God is working in one of two ways. On the one hand, there are struggling, dying, small churches dotting the land around us. They are congregations full of few generations (which is a nice way of saying that they are filled with older people who have never left the small town where they were born). There's nothing particularly fancy about these churches. They still have fellowship dinners–carry-in–and sing songs from a hymn book. They still do traditional things like read Scripture as a call to worship and clutter up the spirit of worship with strange meditations before communion and too many announcements.

Yet these churches plod on day after day. They turn over their preacher every couple of years and operate on significantly small budgets. But they are still here, alive, and contributing to the Kingdom of God, in some way, right where they are. They wield very little power in this world. Yet here they are still here–living, breathing, and worshiping.

On the other hand, there are what I call hip churches. They are large and have virtually cut themselves off from anything resembling tradition. Their preacher is young and doesn't own a suit. They are spread out over large areas and consume a lot of resources. Their buildings are new and ergonomic. Everything is a production. The music is loud and modern and has a lot to do with singing about how great our problems are in this world and how God is somehow greater if we just open our eyes and see. These churches wield a lot of power and influence in the world precisely because they are so large.

And they too are here. They press on every day and face problems that are proportional to their size. Every church has problems and really it's simply a matter of size that determines the nature of the problem and solutions. They have large budgets and I suppose this might be one of the problems they face: how do we keep people interested and the money flowing? They are, nevertheless, here and they, too, are contributing to the advancement of God's kingdom–sometimes in spite of themselves–but here they are: living, breathing, and worshiping.

In Mark 1, we have seen that Mark had something to say to the church about preaching and repentance. In this third post of my short series, I'd like to look briefly at what he says about power. Here's what John the baptist said, "After me comes the one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

If I hear him, and I think I do, he is saying something like this: the One who comes after me will not only come in power but he will also empower you. Now it could be that John was talking to the individuals in his audience that day and probably was, but it could also be, and I think it is more likely, that Mark has him speaking to us, the Church in every generation who reads this verse. After all, these words were recorded for us and we read them. Right? So I suspect that even though these words were uttered a long while ago by a preacher we would surely not listen to then any more than now, the words nevertheless mean something to us or at least should.

I also noticed this: John makes a connection between power, baptism, and the Spirit in verse 7-8 and then in verse 9-11 he makes another connection between power, crucifixion, and Jesus. Here's how I see this. Mark uses a word in verse 10 when Jesus is baptized that our Bible's have translated 'ripped' or 'torn.' There's nothing particularly fancy about this word in Greek. We sometimes transliterate it as 'schism.' The interesting thing about this word, though, is that Mark only uses it's verb form two times. Once, here in Mark 1:10 at Jesus' baptism and again in Mark 15:38–at Jesus' crucifixion: "The curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." So, if I hear Mark, and I think I do, he is saying there is a serious connection between this Jesus who comes in power, who baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, and his crucifixion.

The crucifixion and the necessary resurrection are both a part of this powerful arrival of the Spirit of power.

Here's my point: this is what John the baptist preached. Look what Mark wrote: And this was his message. Or: And he was (continually) preaching saying. He was constantly preaching to whoever would listen that someone was coming who would do things in power of the Spirit. This echos the Older Testament prophets who made similar statements. In particular Zechariah who said, "This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:  'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty." (4:6). Now John says that this Spirit is the power of Jesus and that it was beginning with the arrival of Jesus and that it's full manifestation was to be realized at his crucifixion and resurrection. This is why he makes the connection between Jesus' baptism and his crucifixion.

This is what the prophets preached. John was another in that long line of Israelite prophets who announced this powerful arrival. Paul the apostle would later make this connection too when he wrote to the church at Corinth: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power" (1 Corinthians 4:20). The kingdom is about power. The prophets said it. John clarified it. Jesus brought it. Paul preached it. The Spirit is it. Here it is: the power of the church is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

It just so happens that this morning I listened to a rather old lecture by Professor NT Wright from 2012. In this lecture, he made something of a similar point as I am making here. He said:

"The way God rescues people from sin and death is by overthrowing all the powers that held them captive. And the way he does that is not with superior firepower of the same kind, but with a different sort of power altogether…The power that is let loose transformatively in the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And it will continue to work until every tongue confess and every knee bow."–NT Wright, How God Became King: Why We've All Misunderstood the Gospels (my emphasis)

So what am I saying? And how does all this tie together? What does visiting churches around the area where I live come into play here? What does the church need? Now? Well, I think it's rather simple, isn't it? The church needs prophets who will proclaim this message of the power of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. John didn't come in any fancy way. He came as a prophet of old, like Elijah. He used words that reminded us of Zechariah and Isaiah (or quoted them outright). He's the one prophesied by Malachi. He preached a message that pointed unalterably to Jesus–the one who came with power and the Spirit.

John didn't come doing miracles. John didn't come from a high class of people. He didn't stand in the temple. He didn't write books or anything like that. He simply, continually, preached the good news, the Gospel, that God was beginning to do what he had promised he was going to do: return to his temple and set all people free from the bonds of captivity and exile. There had been 400 years of silence, sin, and exile in Israel–490 years said Daniel–and this is what God did: He sent a prophet to proclaim his Good News. Nothing more. Nothing less. He sent a preacher to preach, prepare, and proclaim in power the coming of Jesus.

John came along and simply said: you want to be free? The power to set you free is in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

That is power!

I think this is what the church needs now. We live in desperate times, don't we? People are desperate for hope and healing and many churches and christians do little more than point to a political candidate and say 'vote for her or him.'  Churches keep plodding along as they always have–but with remarkably little demonstration of the Spirit's power. Some are old and dying and plodding along. Some are new and living and plodding along. But where is the Word of God? Where are the prophets? Where is the Spirit? Where is the Power? We will get things done not by strength and might but by the Spirit of God. How are we, as the prophets of God, manifesting this Spirit of power, the Spirit of God here, among ourselves and in the world in general?

Or is the church devoid of prophets?

How can we get out of the way so that the Spirit's power is evident among us?

How can we preach in such a way that when we are finished people will know that Jesus is arriving? How can we preach with such power that people know who empowers us?

What the church needs right now is the sort of prophets who will stand up, like John did, and take their place among the long history of Israelite prophets who proclaimed God's enduring message of hope that in Jesus God is becoming King of this world for all people and that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.

So here's a further point: it makes no difference if the church is small and dying or if the church is large and living. The same power is available to both and ought to be manifest in and among both. The same Holy Spirit of Jesus is available to the dying church as the living church. And perhaps if more dying churches recognized this there would be less dying churches. And if the living churches recognized this perhaps their fruit would be even greater.

Most of what we preach in the church is superfluous. Seriously. What we need in the church is prophets. Prophets who stand up and proclaim the unfiltered, unadulterated, Word of God. I'm tired of fluff. How are we, as the church, demonstrating the power of the Spirit of God among us?

I want power. Let's hear the prophets speak and so say with the congregations of generations gone by: Maranatha! Come Holy Spirit!

Or maybe our prophets will speak so powerfully, as a demonstration of the Spirit, that the Spirit will simply come among us, shake the place where we are meeting, and enable more of us to go forth and proclaim the Good News that Jesus is King!

Part 1: What the Church Should be Doing. Now.

Part 2: What the Church Should be Preaching. Now.

Plainfaith-3dcover-transparentTitle: Plain Faith

Author(s): Irene & Ora Jay Eash with Tricia Goyer

Publisher: Zondervan

Year: 2014

Pages: 208

Cripple Creek Horse Ranch

Tricia Goyer

[Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Plain Faith by Zondervan in exchange for my faith and unbiased review. I hope that helps clear up any confusion.]

I'm going to go out on a limb and break my book review tradition by stating upfront how I feel about this book: I loved it!! This is a book that I will definitely read again and will share with others too. In fact, I cannot wait for my wife to read it and my landlord.

I live in a rural community in the southernish part of Ohio. We are surrounded on all sides by Amish folks and their families. In fact, two out of my three years teaching I have had a young Amish girl as a student. The community where we live is largely populated by Mennonites and there is a fairly large Mennonite congregation about 500 yards from our rented house. Living in this community has given us a new perspective on simplicity and quietude. After reading this book, maybe some of my opinions will change.

There is a verse in the Bible that reads thus: "As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields see for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11). I intend someday that this verse will be inscribed on my headstone because it is the very foundation upon which I constructed my ministry when I used to be a preacher. The problem I believe we have in our world today is that most preachers simply do not believe it. So concerned are they with growth, so concerned are they with ideas, so concerned are they with themselves they fail to have the simplest of faith in the unadulterated, unfiltered word of God. Does that sound too simple? Does it make no sense that if a preacher stood up on Sunday morning and simply read from Scripture that the congregation would go home filled and satisfied? Is that too naive?

"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). It seems to me that the Scripture is powerful to effect such results that we can scarcely imagine. Yet we think we have to be so innovative and imaginative in order to 'get results'–I'm not sure yet what the word 'results' means just yet–but that's what I constantly see from leadership gurus: get results! results matter!

Well this is all so much of a rant to say that this book proves exactly the opposite is true. It tells the story of a man and a woman, Amish, who were thrust into a wilderness none of us would every wish upon anyone: the death of two of their children. This event in their lives began to reveal the emptiness of their Amish way of life, their Amish way of Christianity, and their Amish way of thinking about the God they claimed to worship. In other words, it thrust them into a wilderness not of their own making and the Enemy, taking every advantage to keep them enveloped in pain and sorrow, kept pressing the issue of their faith. But the enemy is shortsighted and did not foresee what his pressure and chaos would give birth to in their lives.

What may seem at first glance as arbitrary, as pointless, as utterly devoid of anything remotely resembling fairness ended up being the very thing that opened their hearts to a greater and more fuller expression of faith and trust in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. And to think that all of this, happened simply because at some point during their journey they opened up a Bible and started reading for themselves what it said: "As God's Word grew clearer, we found more freedom" (105). They go on:

Even as our eyes were opened, change came slowly over time. Our Amish traditions were deeply ingrained, including the belief that it was by our works that we are saved. But as we read, we saw a little spark of grace. The Word of God came alive, almost as if God was tapping us on the shoulder and saying, 'Take a look at this.' (104)

Isn't that just like God though? They tell the story about getting in trouble for reading the Bible on their own. "Bible reading was for preachers," they were told, and "to read too much was to make one 'wise in their own eyes'" (99). And prayer was "taking pride in your own words" (99). They conclude by writing, "Yet that taste of reading God's Word wasn't something we could shake" (99). Wow. I mean it is amazing that as the book went along they kept seeking and hoping and eventually, naturally, they became who they became. There didn't seem to be anything acting on them save for the Word of God and God's Holy Spirit.

For me this book is far less about their conversion from an Amish way of life–which brought them great struggles as a family–or the tragedy that in its own way served as a catalyst for their exodus and far more about how the Word of God continued to provoke them, prod them, and pursue them down every alley, every struggle, and every step. I was in awe at their development and growth in Scripture and how they continued pleading for their family to see the grace that God was leading them in and to.

This is a remarkable book. I love the alternating style of hearing from both Irene and Ora Jay. I enjoyed reading the letters they sent to family members and the circle group (for greiving families). I enjoyed very much learning about the Amish culture. The main point for me though was simply reading about how the Word of God did exactly what it was sent forth to do: it went back to the Lord with results.

The reader will enjoy this book too. It is a quick read, but not shallow. This is a book to be shared with people who are going through their own struggles with faith. This is a book to be shared with someone who is struggling with the legalism of a church. This is a book for someone who needs encouragement to simply and daily read the Bible. It is packed with raw emotion that is not easily shaken off. In other words, it's a difficult book to put down or to forget. Read this book and marvel at God's mysterious ways, and his amazing Grace.

5/5 stars

I've been thinking about God's Holy Spirit. And I have also been thinking about church. To be sure, I've been thinking about Christians. I've probably also been thinking about myself and how in some way or other I have had experiences with all three. I suppose the experiences haven't always been the best of times or the worst of times although the experiences could have been a little more or a little less complicated. I'm not saying one way or the other.

I was thinking hard about these things the other day when I was writing a book review about a book called Four Views on the Historical Adam. I read the book with great interest and enthusiasm and then wrote my review. Around the same time I finished reading Jesus Now by Frank Viola. Then I wrote my review. While writing my review I was complaining about Viola's characterization of those who might be considered cessationists because I would probably characterize myself as one. I'm grouchy like that at times because in Bible College that's what I learned and had to defend. And I was like that in Bible College because I grew up in a church that taught such things.

The Holy Spirit is useful for teaching, rebuking, and correcting us but there is simply no way the Holy Spirit heals people who are nearly dead or puts to death those who are a little too full of life (Annanias and Sapphira) even though in Junior Worship we sang songs about Annanias and Sapphira who got together to conspire, a plot, to cheat the Lord and get ahead. But speak in tongues? Well, the Holy Spirit hasn't inspired a member of the Church of Christ/Christian Church to speak in tongues since–well, Cane Ridge and even then it is debatable if it was the Holy Spirit. Isn't this what we are taught about the Spirit of Jesus?

Then I got to thinking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the Church and myself. I got to thinking about board meetings and committees and constitutions and by-laws. I got to thinking about how Paul said we should have order in our worship services and how we have probably ordered ourselves right out of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I got to thinking about arguing in the church and some of the stupid things we used to argue about in the last church I served. I literally got in trouble one time because some folks had donated an air hockey table to the church for a youth room. Well, someone actually  used the air hockey table to play a game of air hockey and a piece of the table broke. This required a board meeting where I was skewered because of the table's brokenness.

I think the church board ought to be done away with for good and entirely. Frankly, I think the church board actually grieves the Holy Spirit of Jesus and stifles his presence among us.  Why should the Spirit show up to lead and bless us when we have a church board?

Jesus-NowTitle: Jesus Now

Author: Frank Viola

Publisher: David C Cook

Year: 2014

Pages: 210

Other Resources:

    The Deeper Journey

    Love Not the World

[Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this e-book via NetGalley. It is my duty to inform you that I was provided this resource for a short period of time in exchange for my fair review of the contents. This is yet another example of the government intruding and infringing upon the rights of citizens. Nevertheless, this is my disclaimer.]

I cannot remember how I came across the name Frank Viola. It may have been when I was reading Primal Fire by Neil Cole. It may have been chance. It may have been Twitter. At this juncture, I'm not really sure that it matters all that much because I'm just about sold on his ideas. I probably need to do some more reading, but it is probably important that I started with Jesus Now. This really is an excellent book and I highly recommend that if you are a leader in the church or someone who seeks to be a catalyst for change in an otherwise boring and stagnant vacuum of faithlessness. 

That sounds remarkably harsh, but I speak from experience. Since being evicted from the ranks of paid, professional clergy five years ago, I have had the opportunity to travel about to various churches from various denominational backgrounds and listen to a variety of preachers. It has been my experience that for the most part most churches in most parts of the world are utterly boring–and it is precisely for reasons that Viola expounds upon in this book: "One of the greatest concerns I have for the 'good news' today is that we often present a gospel that is more 'true' than 'useful.' This is never more true than when we're considering the subject and actor of our entire faith: Jesus Christ" (6).

Or maybe I should say it this way: churches are bored. Yet I can attribute the same reason for their boredom: there is simply not any significant emphasis on Jesus as the Resurrected Lord who is our power, as the Lord who has been given all authority in heaven and earth, as the King who has ascended to the Right Hand of God, as the Messiah who has exposed the powers of this earth through His death on the Cross. Frankly (no pun), I don't think the church is enamored with Jesus. Maybe the church doesn't really know Jesus well enough.

I like the idea behind the book: that we will see Jesus didn't just quit working because he ascended to the right hand of the Father, but he continues to work in us, through, and for us in a variety of ways and in a variety of capacities. Some of the important ways Jesus continues to work are as our Great High Priest, as the Chief Shepherd, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Head of the Church, and Lord of the World. There are others too, but I think you get the idea of where Viola is going with this. He pays particular attention to the book of Hebrews which I appreciated immensely, but that's not all. The book is just filthy with Scripture references, quotes, and exegetical ideas from Scripture. This is for sure: there is no lack of Scripture in this book–in fact, take away the Scripture references and there's not much book left.

Theologically there are, of course, areas where the reader will find some disagreement with Viola. There were a few examples for me. For example, I am somewhat in disagreement with him concerning the idea of cessationism. Many competent theologians have concluded that some of the Spirit's gifts have, in fact, ceased to be fully present in the church–which is not to say that such gifts are not manifested ever. He writes, "There is no biblical merit for the cessationist idea" (65). I'm not so sure about this because there seems to be some indication that even for Paul such gifts were not perpetuated (i.e., leaving people sick at places, exhorting Timothy to drink some wine for his stomach ailments). That said, it's a disagreement that I'm not willing to die for. If the Spirit chooses to do what the Spirit chooses to do, then so be it. Maybe if the church stopped stumbling around in the darkness over silly arguments we would see an atmosphere where the Spirit is manifest more often. Maybe the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to finish with all our petty bickering and treating each other poorly. Or maybe the Holy Spirit simply refuses to show up in churches where the predetermined conclusion is that he is no longer working among his people. That is, maybe we prevent his appearance because of our disbelief. 

There are also areas where I am complete agreement with Viola. In chapter 5 he talks about Jesus the 'builder of ekklesia.' His question early on is: "So what happens when gifted Christians are reared in a human organization built on unbiblical systems rather than in an organic expression of the body of Christ?"  So what happens? Let me be honest. I am new to this whole 'organic church' movement so I remain just a tad bit skeptical when it comes to abandoning the 'old ways' of doing things. On the other hand, as someone who grew up, learned, and sought to perpetuate the 'old way' of doing things, I know how badly I was burned–strike that–how badly my faith has been wrecked by those old people doing old things the old ways. Much of the wrecking of my faith has occurred at the hands of people who simply didn't want to hear the truth about grace, Jesus, and the hard cost of following Jesus.

So I think it is true that Jesus can work through these structures and that perhaps he does; nevertheless, who is to say that the gigantic growth of a relative few churches has been the best thing for the many churches that have not experienced such growth? And who is to say that setting up the church like a multi-million dollar corporation with a CEO at the head is necessarily what Jesus had in mind? We Protestants scoff at the idea of the Papacy of the Catholic Church, but we are no better when we have one preacher set over thousands of people on several different campuses all connected via satellite and the internet. We just do it on a smaller scale than the Catholics.Viola is right: "The great need today in the body of Christ is to reinstate the headship of Christ. Tragically, all sorts of things have replaced Christ's headship. Church boards, committee meetings, church leaders, church programs, manmade rules and regulations, etc., have often supplanted the headship of Jesus Christ" (75).

As someone who has been at the mercy of these supplanters, I can only say 'amen!' and ask how many other preachers like me have suffered at the hands of these interlopers? How many of us have had our faith wrecked and turned upside down because of such ideas? I couldn't agree more that there must be something better for the church. And Viola may not come right out and say it in the book, but I have a suspicion he would agree that these things are not only killing God's prophets, apostles, and evangelists, but they are also slowly choking the church to death. When a church spends more time in committee talking about 'business' than they spend on their knees seeking the face of God there is a problem. A serious problem. "Christ alone has the right to rule his church–not any human or committee. It is His body, not ours" (76).

I could go on and on about this, but I'm writing a review of a book so I must stop. In that spirit, just a couple of final thoughts.

First, I love the few times that Viola gives us big long lists of things such as things the Holy Spirit is doing, names of the enemy, or the ways in which Jesus is exercising his authority over the church and directing the Work. I seriously believe that if the church took more time to see Jesus for who he is the church would be like Josiah whose architects found the word of God: "When the king heard the words of the book of the Law he tore his robes" (2 Kings 22:11) except that we would be tearing our robes and saying, "That is Jesus?!?!?! Woe is us!"

Second, I read the Nook version of this book (e-pub using Adobe Digital Editions) and I found the book very nicely put together (I only found one typo in the book). I always put in a plug for the Nook version of e-books since the other guys seem to get all the publicity.

I highly recommend this book. Again, it is true that not everyone is going to find agreement at all points, but that's not a bad thing. The author's enthusiasm for Jesus is what comes across in the book and is what, in my opinion, needs to come across. If you are interested in what Jesus is doing now, if you need a spark to your boring church life, or if you need your passion for Jesus reignited, this is a good place to start. And when you are finished reading it, give it to a friend or a preacher or to your entire church board. Do your best to be a catalyst to get the church's eyes turned back to Jesus.

This is an important work for the way in which it redirects our attention to Jesus and away from the wreck we have made of the church which will only be repaired when we fix our eyes on Jesus.

5/5 stars

 

Related articles

Book Review: Primal Fire

Four-Views-on-the-Historical-AdamTitle: Four Views on the Historical Adam

Authors:

Publisher: Zondervan

Year: 2013

Pages: 289 (e-book)

Additional Information:

Counterpoints: Bible & Theology Logos Software

General Editors: Ardel B. Caneday | Matthew Barrett

[I was provided with a free e-copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased and fair review. On another note, the government spends too much time worrying about what books I read and get for free. Thank you.]

I have provided plenty of links for you, the reader, to do your own research into this book because I have a particular point of view on this sort of work that may or may not be particularly helpful. To be sure, I read an 'uncorrected proof for review purposes' which is a bit frustrating because page numbers in references appear as (ooo) which is kind of annoying.

The book is laid out in a fairly manageable format. There is a lengthy introduction by the series editors (Barrett and Caneday) which explains the format and lays out some preliminary observations such as historical background, history of debates, and the various points of view that the authors will subsequently take up in the bulk of the text. Next comes the presentation of the four authors' points of view. Each author presents his view which is followed by responses from the other three authors and, finally, a rejoinder from the original author. I'm not sure if there was a reason for the order in which the various views are presented but they seem to follow from the most 'liberal' (Lamoureux) to the most 'conservative' (Barrick) with the two 'fence straddlers' (Walton & Collins; it's probably unfair to call them 'straddlers'; their positions are as robust as the others) resting in the middle of the sandwich. Finally, pastoral reflections are offered (Boyd & Ryken) representing a broad spectrum of opinion of how these various points of view might affect the church. Surprisingly, this is a debate left entire to the male point of view–that is, no women have left their mark on these pages. Not surprisingly, Boyd takes the more 'liberal' post and Ryken the more 'conservative.'

I should start off right away by noting that Lamoureux's point of view holds no sway with me whatsoever. When an author has to continually defend himself against the charge, imagined or otherwise, that he is saying 'God lied' or that 'Scripture cannot be trusted' then there is a serious problem. On the other hand, Lamoureux, out of all the authors, probably holds to the most literal reading of the book of Genesis even though he doesn't believe a word of Genesis 1-11 to represent anything close to a historical record. This is strange. I never cease to be amazed at those who hold to evolution as a means antithetical to pure ex nihilo creation. They always remind us that they find the evidence 'for evolution is overwhelming' (40). What is amazing is that so many equally trained theologians and scientists find the evidence underwhelming. Frankly, I decided a while ago that I will no longer live in fear of evolution or those who teach it. In my opinion God is a big God and doesn't need me to get all worked up about defending him or what he has done. I'm fairly certain Lamoureux is the only author who felt the need to talk about his academic credentials and, to be sure, much of his article is autobiographical–another defense mechanism.

I think the problem, for me, is that Lamoureux believes that Genesis 1-11 is merely indicative of the way God talks to humans. His evidence is that this is how Jesus talked to his disciples: "The Lord himself accommodated in His teaching ministry by using parables" (54). Honestly I think this is a rather poor understanding of why Jesus spoke using parables; furthermore, the parables were not merely "earthly stories [meant] to deliver inerrant heavenly messages" (54). This is a shallow and rather naive way of understanding parables and, to be sure, has nothing to do with the way God talked to people through Genesis. What I find amazing is the utter lack of faith Lamoureux has in Scripture. This is evident in that he really doesn't seem to get that the Holy Spirit had quite a lot to do with the actual final composition of the original autographs and, I would venture to assume, their translation and transmission to future generations. I'm not sure he gets this or if he does if he just rejects it as more unreliable biblical rhetoric. It is hard to tell at times.

 At the end of each author's presentation there is a hefty response from the other writers of the book. It's all fairly typical, as one might expect, with this type of book. Of course every author has a point of view, of course he defends it, of course others tear apart his arguments, and of course there's all sorts of moving 'what-a-great-guy-he-is' kind of comments. There is much mutual respect, in other words, except that there is some obvious tension between Lamoureux and Barrick. This is how it goes page after page. Honestly, the four points of view are not terribly difficult to understand and the responses are largely predictable. And even though the book is about four views of the historical Adam when it's all said and done there's really only two: you either believe he was a real, historical figure; or you don't. The book really revolves around the points of view concerning creation mechanisms (and various theories about the 'days' in Genesis) and how these points of view impact readings of later Scripture.

I enjoyed reading the responses from the pastors at the end of the book the most and I enjoyed Greg Boyd's best of the two if for nothing else because I think it captured the spirit of his assignment ('pastoral reflections') the best. Ryken wrote a fine reflection, but I thought he focused less on the pastoral implications and more on the theological implications of whatever view one chooses to adopt. 

Every author has something to contribute to the discussion (even though Lamoureux's view, in my opinion, lacks teeth). No one has it perfectly right and no one is absolutely wrong–which is evident by the responses. Frankly, there is a lot of agreement among the authors and this is healthy. It shows that the debate isn't as scary as one might think. It demonstrates that there can be a variety of orthodoxy amongst Christians and that satisfying and healthy debates are indeed possible. It seems to me that any of these men would stand up for one of the others if the debate were to include a die-hard, dyed in the wool atheistic evolutionist. Of this I have no doubt.

The evolution/creation debate is interesting and, sadly, ongoing. There will never be resolution to this discussion this side of the new heavens and new earth. The main question of this book is: does there need to be a real historical Adam in order for the Bible (Lamoureux believes 'real' biblical history starts in Genesis 12) to be true with respect to redemptive history? According to the book, yes and no. Whatever side of the debate the reader happens to side with, this much is true: all of the authors point us to Jesus. We may not necessarily agree with the path they take through Scripture to arrive at Jesus, but they all get there. For this I am glad. At times, however, I do wonder if perhaps we have carried on this debate long enough. It could be that it is time to move on to weightier matters and perhaps see how it is that we can take care of the earth we have been given whether by a Creator or through evolution. That is a different paper altogether.

This is a helpful volume. I don't think it adds anything new to the debate (as far as evidence, one way or the other, is concerned) and those who are well versed in the history and literature of the creation/evolution debate will find the book rather redundant and tired at points. Newcomers to the debate will find this a worthy volume that will help them sort through some of their early questions (about the debate) and develop some clear thinking on certain issues (such as the theological implications of there not being a historical person named Adam). They might even be persuaded to change their minds at certain points. Seasoned readers probably won't find much challenging and will probably only find their a priori arguments bolstered by fresh looks at Scripture (esp. Genesis; I think all four authors contributed some stunning ideas about Genesis even if, again, I didn't happen to agree with all the conclusions they arrived at from the evidence) and repetition of old arguments.

I give this book 3.5/5 Stars and recommend it for readers who are newer to the conversation.

*My page numbers may not align exactly. I read an draft version (.pdf) on my Nook and sometimes the pages and numbering are adjusted later.

Related articles

Four Views on the Historical Adam

DDD

Author: Joshua Harris

Title: Dug Down Deep

Pages: 232; +study guide & endnotes

(study guide written by Thomas Womack)

Publisher: Multnomah Books

Date: 2010, 2011

 I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for my review by Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing

"A religious person is trying to put God in their debt through hard work…A Christian knows they are in debt to God; it's an absolute miracle…"–Tim KellerBeholding the Love of God sermon.

When I read any book written by a Christian the very first thing I pay attention to, regardless of who wrote it or what the subject matter is, is how long it takes for grace to make an appearance. I literally count how many pages it takes for the author to use the word, talk about it, expound upon it, and associate it with the theological point of view from which he/she is writing. In this way, I learn pretty much all I need to know about the author, the book, and the subject matter–especially if said book is a book of theology as Dug Down Deep in fact is. 

In the case of Dug Down Deep it took 12 introductory pages (introduction, TOC, etc) and 25 pages for grace to make an appearance and then only because someone else 'talked about grace, sin…' I didn't really get to bite into grace until page 27 when Mr Harris states, "The deeper I delved into Christian doctrine, the more I saw that the good news of salvation by grace alone in Jesus, who died for sin–the Gospel–was the main message of the whole Bible" (27). Sad to say that it takes a while for grace to get back into the book with any substance. I think for me it was about page 72 and then again around page 124 where we get a less than compelling definition of grace from another author. To be sure, he finishes strong, but by then I had wondered if it was too late. 

I sensed in this book that Harris was having trouble letting grace outweigh doctrinal orthodoxy–as if doctrinal orthodoxy is our salvation. I do get it: doctrine matters, but it is in no way as vital as God's grace: "The message of Christian orthodoxy isn't that I'm right and someone else is wrong. It's that I am wrong and yet God is filled with grace" (231). If that's true, why did we need this book? Because at the end of the day, it's all about grace since not one single human who has ever lived will get it 100% right. So again I ask: whose orthodoxy matters?

None of this is to say that I think Joshua Harris is preaching a gospel of works salvation. I don't think he is, but there are times when he treads the waters a little too carelessly. For example, he writes, "Being a Christian means being a person who labors to establish his beliefs, his dreams, his choices, his very view of the world on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished–a Christian who cares about truth, who cares about sound doctrine" (19). It is all to easy to point to the apostle Paul's thought that we should 'work out our faith with fear and trembling' (Philippians 2:12-13) to justify such sentiments, but I'm not buying it at all. He spend more time talking about what we do in the first 3 chapters than he does talking about what God does. 

It may be implied, but it seems to me that the weak might miss it. I'm glad that Harris learned theological words like propitiation, sovereignty, and justification (23). But what about grace? What I wanted, what I kept hoping for, was more of Harris exorting us to seek Jesus instead of theological propositions: "Pursuing orthodoxy and sound doctrine has to begin with a heart drawing close to Jesus–not to a theological system, denomination, or book" (30). Here I agree 100%! Sadly this is not always how the book came together for me. I wanted an explosion of grace to flood the pages, but aside from a few spring showers, I was left dry. I wanted a deluge of theological propositions about God's grace to fill every page, but most of the time it was merely a Wadi.

In the first chapter, My Rumspringa, he writes, "Theology matters, but if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong" (11). He then spends a lot time time (about 220 pages of time) telling his readers that "theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity" (15). And I just do not know if this is true. Can I be wrong at one point of theology and get my whole life upside down? I think Harris is wrong about tongue speaking; he thinks I'm wrong. Who is to say who is holding the orthodox position? Does it matter? 

There is a nagging thought tthat kept creeping up on the pages while I read: Whose theology? 

I have no problem accepting that orthodoxy matters. I have no problem accepting that 'right theology' matters. I have very little problem with most of the ideas Harris expounds upon in this book–that is, they are basic enough theological ideas that, with the exception of a few minor points here and there, most Christians will agree with him. But spare me the idea that Biblical Theology matters if you are going to begin by reciting one of the creeds (14). Creeds are neither theology nor orthodoxy. 

There is, on the other hand, a lot to like about this book. It is, in fact, easy to read and filled with happy little anecdotes. Personally, I disliked chapter 7 (How Jesus Saved Gregg Eugene Harris) and I thought chapter 9 (I Believe in the Holy Spirit) was a bit condescending, but for the most part Harris is self-effacing and humorous (maybe more than I think) and takes a stab at himself ever so often for his blunders and failures. It was interesting to follow his early paths where he 'learned to dig' and see what he came up with out of the dirt. Yet he has led a life of theological and pastoral privilege and sometimes I think his lack of experience outside the pastoral walls clouds his view of what in the dirt theology really is. 

Second, even though there are times when I disagree with Harris profoundly (I'd like to see one passage of Scripture that tells us baptism is merely the entry point into the church, 204), I do believe he is grounded in Scipture and has a high view of it. He quotes it a lot and at times takes a page or two to expound it. I wish his theology sprung more from the Bible than the collected works of Grudem, Calvin, Stott, and Mahaney–but isn't that just the point? When I ask "Whose Theology?" I am directly pointing here to this point: even Harris is the product of a mixture of theological propositions and ideas–all of whom disagree with one another at some point. 

So when I ask the question "Whose theology?" I am kind of asking "What is orthodoxy?" This leads into my third positive point: The last chapter is the best. "I am wrong, but through faith in Jesus, I can be made right before a holy God" (231). Because of Jesus. Because of Grace. 

I rate this book 3/5 stars. It will be helpful for new Christians, but I think it will leave a more mature audience wanting. 

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podcastWelcome to the Life Under the Blue Sky Skycast (podcast). In this episode, you will hear a sermon from Ezekiel 37:1-4. I preached this sermon to my congregation on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009. Be blessed.

Access the sermon manuscript from box.net: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Waking the Dead

Prophesy to the Bones. And the Lord put words in his mouth: Say to them, ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to live. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’

And what does the Bible say? “I prophesied as I was commanded.” I think this means that he did as he was told, and he told as he was told. Then he says, “While I was prophesying, there was a rattling…” You see, here a beautiful thing: Nothing happened until Ezekiel started preaching. Nothing happens apart from the proclamation of the Word of God. If Ezekiel had just stood there, silent, disobedient, nothing would have happened. The bones would not have rattled. The tendons would not have appeared. Flesh would not have appeared. Skin would not have covered the flesh.

Nothing would have happened if the prophet hadn’t spoke. But see the Word of God creating worlds out of nothing. See the Word of God calling Lazarus forth. See the Word of God do it’s work. And why? “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” This is the revealing God—He speaks and dead, dry, very dry bones are recreated.

Still Ezekiel saw there was a problem: “There was no breath in them.” I think we want something to happen. We want some sort of hope. We want sort of revival. We say, “Our coffers are dried up. We are pews are empty. We have not a lot of youth.”

And God doesn’t send us anything but his Word. And what is His Word to us: I will make these dry bones live. Preach, son of man. “So I prophesied as I was commanded. That’s all. He just spoke aloud with ordinary words. No magic. No secret incantations. No conjuring tricks with bones. Just the living power of the word of the living God invading the valley of the shadow of death.” (Wright, 306)

You can access the audio here: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Waking the Dead

Or use the convenient inline player below.

As always, subscription options are available by clicking the link below.

Subscribe in a reader

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Here is my second installment of study notes for this week’s lectionary readings. This one focuses on Acts 4:5-12. The study focuses on the Spirit’s role, the Name, and the Exclusivity.  Quotes from William Willimon, Richard Philips, John Stott, Robert Tannehill, LJ Olgivie, DA Carson, Eugene Peterson, Aijith Fernando, Mark Driscoll, and more. There are 13 pages worth of notes, quotes, and commentary. There is Here’s an excerpt:

The leaders seemed to think that the church was no threat until the church started preaching in Jesus’ name. The world can safely ignore the church until we start making such exclusive claims about Jesus. The church is beside the point until Jesus is brought into the conversation. That is when the world begins to act in opposition. As long as the church is merely a glorified, so to speak, social services or dr phil, the world has no problem with us. It’s that pesky Name; that pesky Jesus whom the world crucified—But God resurrected! God issued his verdict on Jesus  and God’s verdict on Jesus ran and runs contrary to the world’s verdict on Jesus. Thus, the world is in opposition.

Acts 4:5-12, The Name of Jesus, May 3, 2009

Be blessed.

UPDATE: Access complete sermon mansucipt: No Other Name

Or download the MS Word manuscript here from box.net; formatted for your convenience.

Excerpt:

There is no other Name given by which men must be saved. What else on earth could possibly be of interest to the church but the Name of Jesus? Have we lost our nerve? Have we grown weary of the Name? Have we lost interest in the Name above all Names? Have we tired of the Name at which every knee will bow and every tongue confess? Do we think that people will be more interested in us if we preach something different or something softer or something more compelling or something more interesting?

Friends,

Here is the link to the sermon I have written based on this week’s Gospel Lesson from Luke 24:36-49. I have attached a link to the notes too. Be blessed.

Resurrection Changes Everything, Luke 24:26-49

Gospel Lesson notes: Luke 24:36-49

Here’s an excerpt:

Resurrection changed everything. The resurrection of Jesus set the world on a course that could not be predicted or controlled. The resurrection of Jesus, if it doesn’t, ought to scare the daylights out of us. And yet it brings us peace. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. I said it last week, I’ll say it again: Your Christian faith, your belief in the Resurrected Jesus, your acceptance of his Spirit into your life is not defined by your appearance here once per week. And perhaps if we are too willing to persist in sin, we are actually denying his work in our lives.

Resurrection changes us. And if resurrection hasn’t changed us, doesn’t change us, then perhaps it is not the resurrected Jesus who stands among us. Resurrection means that nothing remains the same. Resurrection means that we cannot stay the same. Resurrection means that we cannot sit still, we cannot stay, we cannot be content.

[But whatever else we may say, we may say this: Jesus did not stand among them, resurrected as he was, and allow them stand slack-jawed in awe and amazement. He commissioned them. He told them they were getting power to do something. He opened their minds to the Word so they could do something. He gave them peace so they could do something. He challenged their doubts and unbelief so they could do something. Resurrection does not bade us to stand around in wonderment; it compels us to obey the Resurrected Christ. It compels us to go. And we will see, it compels us to worship.] (This is not a part of the manuscript you can download.)

Thanks for stopping by. Have a blessed Easter season Sunday.  I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to Pentecost. The Lord be praised.

jerry

Friends,

This sermon is part 12 in the 14 part series tracing the grand story of God’s redemptive work through Christ. In this sermon, I look at the phenomenon called the church. In a very broad survey of Acts 2 I sketch three ideas about the church: the Church as God’s gift to us, the Church as Spirit driven and inhabited, and the Church as focused on Jesus alone. I emphasize the multi-cultural aspect of the church and conclude with an invitation.

Download here: The Church, Acts 2

Or listen online using the inline player below

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Part 1: Genesis 3, Where it All Went Wrong
Part 2: Genesis 12:1-9, A Blessing for All People
Part 3: Exodus 7-12 (a), Freedom For God’s People
Part 4: Exodus 7-12 (b), Freedom For God’s People, b
Part 5: 2 Samuel 5-7, The King
Part 6: Isaiah 60-66, The New Heavens and New Earth
Part 7: Jeremiah 31, The New Covenant
Part 8: Matthew 1, Jesus pt 1
Part 9: Luke 1-2, Jesus pt 2
Part 10: Mark 15, Jesus, pt 3
Part 11: John 20, Jesus, pt 4
Part 12: Acts 2, The Church

Other download options are available through feedburner and archive.org.

Always for His glory!

Friends,

While lurking, and taking a brief hiatus from writing at CRN.info, I read this in the comments thread of another post: “This place is supposed to be the “Christian” blog…er…right?” Well, I can say: “Yes! It is.” We don’t always agree (sometimes we don’t really even like each other very much); we certainly do not all share the same ideas about theology or politics!, but at the end of the day, we still have enough nerve to love each other, correct each other, demonstrate grace to each other, and help one another carry the burdens of this life. This is why I cannot, even though I said I would, stay away for a week. Not only is writing my passion, but I love those I write with here and those who read. This place, as a microcosm of the church, is where I meet grace daily–no matter how badly a post is written or how many people take umbrage with it. Grace. Ahh…how did Annie Dillard write it? “One catches grace as a man fills a cup under a waterfall.”

___________________________

My friend and brother Joe Martino wrote a great post about this very subject: Why I Stay in Church: What if it’s about Becoming Holy? What I appreciate about Joe’s post is that he is not afraid to be honest about the church: cuts, nicks, scars, bruises, blood, stink, tears, and sweat. It’s all there. I think it is only people who are not Christians who really expect the church to be perfect, an expectation that the Head of the church, Jesus of Nazareth, doesn’t even have (or else there would be no need for grace). Those of us who are Christians–whatever that means–have no such illusions. We, the baptized, are those who understand only too well that the church is a place for the misfits and losers of the world; those uninitiated in the ways of world domination; those unfazed by exploits of power, rebellion, and ‘wisdom’; those who demonstrate by their faith that they belong to a different time, and place, and person. The church is a place for people who are hungry for grace and forgiveness and mercy because they are tired of the manner in which the world conducts its business.

In short, the church is a terrible place at times; ugly; malformed; malnourished; distorted; unlovely; unkempt; and yet, strangely enough, among the church (es) is the place John tells us he saw Jesus: “And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest” (Rev 1:12b-13, TNIV).

Oh, he’s in the church? Oh, He’s in the Church! Here’s how Joe ended his thoughts:

I mean He didn’t have to create church this way. He could have done it another way.  How many people in church annoy you? How many people in church are just irrelevant to your life? How many people are lying to you? How many are cheating on their spouse? How many could care less if you can’t pay your bills this month?

So why did God design it this way and why should we stay. What are some common problems in the church and how might we wrestle through them?…What would happen if we looked at church more as a means to make us holy than we looked at it as a means to make us happy?

I couldn’t agree more. That holiness is shaped in us not because of the righteous things we do or the right things we believe or the holy places we go. No. It is shaped in us, we are formed for holiness, by the ever present help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us despite all those nicks, cuts, scratches, wounds, sins, etc. Strange that we are loved because of, despite our weakness and not despised for it. Strange that Jesus should walk among us. Strange the Holy Spirit should live in us. Strange that the Father would choose us. Strange that we are such a peculiar people and yet so fondly adored by the Creator of the Universe.

_________________________

I learn a little bit more each day about the magnificence of God. What sort of God chooses to align himself with the weak, the underdogs, the unwise–in fact goes out of his way to accept us? What sort of a God is it who loves people like us, people lacking in perspicacity and overflowing with indignation? I hear he is fond of us, his people. I’m glad. He has made me glad. There’s something to be said about ’sticking it out’ when we find ourselves in a place that makes us uncomfortable or unhappy or discourages us or abuses us or unhinges us. After all, God sticks around. In fact, Jesus promised never to leave, nor forsake us. Never. That’s a mighty long time. I guess I can tolerate a few years here on earth. What of you?

Semper Deo Gloria!

PS: Follow the original post and comments here.

Friends,

The other day, I posted some thoughts on the Joy of Jesus. In that post, I wrote:

What I would like Christians to do is recover. We need to recover from our sense of seriousness. We need to recover from our sense of dignity. We need to recover from our sense of pride and self-importance and sing and dance and run around with our arms flailing about like a the tentacles on a slimy octopus. You understand don’t you? David said, “I’ll become even more undignified than this,” after someone despised him for dancing naked before the Ark of the Covenant. You understand don’t you? We think we are better Christians if we have a sense of dignity and seriousness and if we act like adults. But we have a joy that is indestructible and Peter says is inexpressible.

Don’t you think it would be a good idea to spend a lifetime trying to express that which is inexpressible? Don’t you think it would be a valuable use of time trying to discover words that express what we currently have no vocabulary for? Don’t you think it would be a valuable way to expend our daily energy engaged in a non-stop pursuit of ways to express this joy that we have because Jesus has triumphed over evil, over suffering, and over the prince of this world? Don’t you think it is rather a waste of time sitting around clinging tightly to our grief? Don’t you think it would be better to dwell in joy than in Meshek? (Psalm 120)

Why do you think the world continues to gloat over us in their apparent victory? The world has no victory over us. The victory belongs to Jesus and therein we rejoice. The Lamb has triumphed!

I’m still thinking about these thoughts because it is hard to reconcile what I wrote with what you about to watch unless I really meant what I said. You judge:

The Curator at A Little Leaven,with whom I normally agree, posted this clip without comment. I assume that the Curator doesn’t approve, but does that mean what we see in this video is necessarily unbiblical? Does this mean that what we see in this video isn’t Holy Spirit driven and induced? What better thing to do when the enemy roars, when the world spews, than to laugh? Isn’t the fruit of the Spirit Love, joy…? (Yes, and self-control!)

Would that churches were overflowing with joy (any joy?) on Sundays instead of that pathetic, moribund, tired dullness that suffuses most congregations. Wouldn’t want anyone in this world to think we are out of our minds now would we?

I’m wondering…

jerry

John 16:5-15 (90 Days with Jesus, Day 73)

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

I have been thinking a lot, lately, about grace. Not just the kind of grace that we save we are saved by, but also the sort of grace that we live by each day. My conclusion has been that often we try to hard. It’s not too say that trying is a bad thing or that we should just lay down and let whatever happens happen. I think we are people who should make an effort. I just think the effort should be made differently or perhaps we should make a different effort.

_____________________

Here Jesus again announces that he is (was) ‘going away.’ This announcement has left his disciples, apparently, speechless. They have been, evidently, overcome by their grief and couldn’t think of anything at the moment to say in response to Jesus’ statement, “I am going away.” They had asked him earlier, but now they couldn’t repeat it. No matter. Jesus had plenty to tell them about what life would be like after he left. Fact is, Jesus was leaving, but they would not be left alone. Jesus was sending someone else to be with them and this One would only come after Jesus had gone. But the work of this One who would come was in complete harmony with the work of Jesus and the will of the Father.

This One Jesus is speaking of is the Holy Spirit and according to these few verses, the work of the Holy Spirit is extensive. He will convict the world—pronounce the world guilty—of sin, righteousness and judgment. The world cannot escape this conviction, and the Holy Spirit will be certain to make certain this pronouncement is clear. I wonder if this pronouncement is made through the disciples to whom the Spirit was given: The preaching of the Gospel.

It was, understandably, a difficult evening for the disciples. Jesus recognized this and deliberately didn’t tell the disciples everything that he needed to tell the disciples. Thus, he withheld some things, but not permanently. He says that another work of the Holy Spirit was to complete the testimony about himself. One of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit is to lead the disciples into truth which will in turn bring Glory to Jesus as the Spirit’s testimony about Jesus is believed and accepted for what it is: The Truth. (That’s probably not the best way to phrase that sentence.) If the Spirit leads the disciples into truth, then the Spirit cannot lead them into lies or false things. I think it is safe to say that we can trust the testimony of the Spirit.

Too often this aspect of the work of the Spirit is neglected. I think too often people think the only thing the Spirit is good for is some sort of ‘spiritual’ gift or some sort of miraculous display. But Jesus mentions neither of those things in this short paragraph. Instead Jesus says that main work of the Spirit is continue testifying to Jesus and bringing glory to Him. And the Spirit doesn’t create new teaching: He takes the teaching of Jesus (‘what is mine’) and pours it out into the disciples. Thus the Spirit’s work is in complete harmony with the work of Jesus which was in complete harmony with the work of the Father. There is a unified effort by Father, Son and Spirit to complete this testimony to Jesus and bring glory to His Name. The work of the Spirit cannot be contrary to the work of Jesus or the work of the Father. There is no competition between the Three.

I think it is safe to say, then, that if there are things going on in the church that do not ultimately bring glory to Jesus Christ then these things are not ultimately of the Spirit that Jesus sent. Whatever goes on in the church must be in accord with the work of the Spirit (conviction of the world), the leading into the truth (conveying the Gospel), and the glory of Christ (continuing the teaching of Jesus). We must make careful examination of what goes on for precisely this reason: The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11.) Jesus is not going to contradict himself: It is impossible.

So what all of this means is this: The Spirit will not lead Christians into error or sin or lies. I think this is perhaps one reason why John later says we should ‘test the spirits.’ In fact this is so important, let’s read it:

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:1-6, NIV)

I don’t think it is ironic that the manner in which false spirits come at is in the false prophets of this world. The spirit of the false prophets is the spirit of the antichrist. Furthermore, this is a matter of truth and lies. We must be always on our guard, always testing, always studying, and always listening carefully to what is being said. There are many who would deny that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. They are not to be trusted.

Soli Deo Gloria!