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Posts from February 2011

Choose Joy By Learning From Others (9)

 

01 9 - Choose Joy - _By Learning fro

Paul tells the Philippians to just watch him if they want to know how to live as a godly person. Is this an egotistical statement or something much deeper.  In this message, we look at the last portion of Philippians 3 and answer this question.

I reference the old "Battle of the Network Stars" show at the beginning of the message. For those under age 40, here's a YouTube clip of the referenced "Simon Says" game from the show.

 


"Singles Ministry" May Be a Thing of the Past

I have noticed this trend over the past few years. I remember hearing a twelve year old say "I'm single now." I immediately thought "Now? What is this 'Little House on the Prairie?' I didn't know there were many twelve year olds getting married."

Of course, the pre-teen wasn't referring to marriage at all. Apparently, the term "single" now refers to anyone who not only isn't married, but doesn't have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

I was talking to one of our singles ministry leaders yesterday and he was sharing how he has discovered the challenge to this term. An unmarried couple had visited our church one Sunday morning, so the small group leader gave them a call to invite them to give the group a try. The group leader introduced himself and shared that he was leading a small group for single adults. The guest said "Well, I'm not single."

Thinking he had misread the guest information card, he apologized and pursued the discussion. Apparently, it went something like this. . .

"Oh, I'm sorry. I see you and [the woman's name] came together."

"Yes, that's right."

"Oh, I just wanted to invite you to give our singles class a try. Come meet some new friends and study the Bible with us."

"That's great, but I'm not single."

"I noticed you have different last names."

"That's right."

"I'm sorry, I see here you have the same address."

"We do." (This is a topic for another day - the vast increase in co-habitation before marriage.)

"Uh, are you married?"

"No."

"Then, you're single."

Long pause on the phone.  Then, cordial goodbyes. 

Hmmm. Seems that our group leader just learned what I discovered a few years ago. The term "single" apparently has nothing to do with being unmarried in today's culture. 

Single This is a challenge for churches looking for a descriptive term for ministries focused on those who are not married. Even if couples are living together out of wedlock, a married couples class isn't a good fit. Why? Well, it should be obvious. . .because they're not married. 

A singles ministry should be the normal fit, but couples who are dating or engaged don't consider themselves single (just check their Facebook relationship statuses.)

So, what terms should we use?

Perhaps "Unmarried Adult Ministry" but that's a mouthful. Still, it's self-descriptive.

This is a real challenge and yet, a great opportunity. At least half of all adults who visit our church on a weekly basis are unmarried.  Some are young, never married adults. Some are professionals who are career minded and have not yet and may not ever be married. There are those who are "playing like their married" by living together. Others are people who have been married, but due to divorce, now find themselves in a new category of what we used to call "single again." 

Some aren't even thinking about marriage. Others are interested and searching for God's man or woman for their lives. Still others are working through the pain of a broken marriage.

Just know that the cultural lexicon is in flux and terms change meaning. I've noticed that when you Google the term "single adult" the vast majority of sites are related to church and religious groups and ministries. I guess this shows that the non-churched adults in our culture don't use this term. Is this possibly why the term "Singles Ministry" is so confusing to the non-churched crowd?

I pray for Brandon Phillips and our leaders in this "Unmarried Adult Ministry" as they seek to reach and minister to all. 


Are Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney and Others Preparing for the Fulfillment of the "White Horse Prophecy?"

I was talking with a friend of mine today and the discussion turned toward the latest push by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to be considered just another mainstream Christian denomination or sect. My friend asked if I was aware of the "White Horse Prophecy."  I was not, so he began to explain it to me.  Apparently, this prophecy shared by the Mormon founder and prophet Joseph Smith has to do with the overthrow of the United States government and the Constitution.

Glenn-beck Political reporter Dana Milbank of The Washington Post had an article featured on The Huffington Post in October 2010. He referenced one of Glenn Beck's first appearances on Fox News.  Milbank says that in this appearance Beck sent a coded message to the nation's six million Mormons, or as the writer states "at least those Mormons who believe in wht the Latter-day Saints call 'the White Horse Prophecy.'"

On November 14, 2008, in an interview with Fox's Bill O'Reilly, Beck said "We are at the place where the Constitution hangs in the balance. I feel the Constitution is hanging in the balance right now, hanging by a thread unless the good Americans wake up."

This statement was made as a reaction to President Barack Obama's election. While most viewers would have chalked this up to another conservative analysis of the election, there seems to be more to it.

Those "in the know" saw this as a reference to the White Horse Prophecy.

So, what is the White Horse Prophecy?

Joseph smith Apparently, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1843, there would be an attempt to overthrow the American government and the process would result in the destruction of the Constitution. Joseph Smith predicted the time would come when the Constitution would hang, as it were, by a thread, and at that time "this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction" (Journal of Discourses, 7:15).

What about the white horse? According to the prophecy, the Saints would "go to the Rocky Mountains and. . .be a great and mighty people", identified figuratively with the white horse described in the book of Revelation.  The Constitution will one day "hang by a thread" and will be saved "by the efforts of the white horse."

In other words, not only will the Mormons save the Constitution, under the prediction, but the prophecy goes further, insinuating that Mormons will control the government. Apparently, this was one of the reasons the Mormons were driven west.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

LDS attachment to the Constitution has been further encouraged by an important oral tradition deriving from a statement attributed to Joseph Smith, according to which the Constitution would "hang by a thread" and be rescued, if at all, only with the help of the Saints. Church President John Taylor seemed to go further when he prophesied, "When the people shall have torn to shreds the Constitution of the United States, the Elders of Israel (LDS leaders) will be found holding it up to the nations of the earth and proclaiming liberty and equal rights to all men." (JD 21:8) To defend the principles of the Constitution under circumstances where the "inquity," or moral decay, of the people has torn it to shreds might well require wisdom at least equal to that of the men raised up to found it. In particular, it would require great insight into the relationship between freedom and virtue in a political embodiment of moral agency. (Encyclopedia of Mormonsim, Vol. 1, 1992)

This phrase "hang by a thread" has been used by Mormon church leaders and prophets for decades. It's also been shared among some who feel the last days of America are upon us. 

Back in 1999, after announcing his candidacy for the office of President, Republican Senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch was featured in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune titled "Did Hatch Allude to LDS Prophecy?"  The article stated:

Sen. Orrin Hatch has denied his Republican presidential campaign is motivated by a longing to fulfill and obscure Mormon myth. But during an interview with a Mormon Church-owned radio station this week he borrowed the exact phrasing of the apocalyptic belief.

Utah's senior senator. . .complained Democrats' political correctness will be the ruin of the country.

"They tolerate everything that's bad, and they're intolerant of everything that's good. Religious freedom is going to go down the drain, too." Hatch said, "I've never seen it worse than this, where the Constitution literally is hanging by a thread."

. . .Wright [the radio interviewer], also a Mormon said Hatch clearly was "talking to his folks" in the church audience and his use of the phrase was the buzz of the station afterward.

"It just caught me by surprise. It was worded carefully," Wright said Wednesday. "I'm not sure he saw himself as the one who would fulfill the prophecy, but I thought it walked a fine line. It's such a well-recognized phrase."

Do you remember "Deep Throat?"  This was the name given by Woodward and Bernstein for the informant interviewed during the Watergate scandal. Felt was a career FBI agent, Mormon and apparently, a firm believer in the White Horse Prophecy.  

Pat Shea, a former U.S. Senate staffer, recalled Felt's desire to get to the bottom of things during a congressional investigation of the U.S. intelligence community, including assassination plots against foreign leaders.

Shea, a longtime Democratic Party activist and Bureau of Land Management director during the Clinton administration, believes Felt was motivated by anger over not being named FBI director and by long-standing animosity betwen the FBI and CIA.

"But," added Shea, "he also was a kid from Idaho." Felt retained a lot of small-town idealism from the culture in which he had been raised, including the LDS notion that in the latter days the U.S. Constitution would be hanging by a thread.

"Mark Felt saw himself as that thread sometimes," says Shea. ("Deep Throat" Lived in SLC, Supervising 40 FBI Agents, by Lisa Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, June 2, 2005)

So, what does this prophecy have to do with Mitt Romney? While Romney has been up front and honest about his Mormon beliefs, he has avoided discussing the White Horse Prophecy. Perhaps he has learned from Hatch's mistake or he truly feels it's not relevant and that he is not the one to ride in on the white horse to save the day. However, that does not mean others aren't talking it up. Back in 2007, numerous articles hit the blogosphere speaking of "Mit to the rescue" and referencing Joseph's Smith's prophecy when he stated "Power will be given o the White Horse to rebuke the nations afar off, and you obey it, for the law go forth from Zion."

Mitt Whether it's Romney or another Mormon candidate in the future, the White Horse will be a point of discussion. When Mitt's father, George Romney ran in 1968, when Hatch ran in 2000 and when Mitt Romney ran in 2008, the topic was hot.  

The "hanging by a thread" phrase is intentional and while maybe not a "code," it definitely speaks to the Mormon populace (and yes, I understand that not all Mormons believe the prophecy, but the vast majority know what it is.)

When you hear it said, whether by Glenn Beck, a political candidate or commentator, let that red flag come up in your mind. There is more than likely Mormon teachings and beliefs attached.

Now to make sure you understand that I don't hate Mormons.

Mormonism is the American-made religion and patriotic in many ways. Mormons are by and large very good people and citizens of our country. They are mostly very family oriented, patriotic and responsible. Of course, there are always some bad apples, but that's the case with all folks.

I have family and friends who are members of the LDS church and the Community of Christ church (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ o Latter Day Saints.) Hate is far from my heart for these people. In fact, there is nothing but love and concern.

Why am I concerned? Because I love these people and they are believing a lie. I'm not talking about the lie of the White Horse Prophecy, but the lie of the Mormon doctrine. (I'm sure this will get some comments.)

To be fair regarding the White Horse Prophecy, there are many Mormons who believe it holds no credence at all.

In 2006 Susan Easton Black, a BYU professor of church history and doctrine, reportedly said that "the prophecy as a whole is false" ("White Horse in the White House," www.opinionjournal.com, November 3, 2006). However, this blanket denial seems inconsistent in light of the many statements by LDS leaders over the years. If LDS leaders felt the prophecy "as a whole" was false, why refer to any of it?

On January 6, 2010 the LDS Church issued the following on its Newsroom blog: "The so-called 'White Horse Prophecy' is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine." The claim that it is not "embraced as Church doctrine" does not explain why so many LDS leaders have referred to it. Would these leaders even bother to speak of the prophecy if they really didn't believe at least portions were true? Words like "doctrine" or "official" have little meaning given the fact that many aspects of Mormonism are believed to be true by members even though a particular teaching may never be described as "binding" or "official."

Just to be fair, some LDS have stated the prophecy was false. In 1979, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie dismissed the prophecy as a forgery. However, an article in the BYU Studies indicates that Smith did give such a discourse and that it was copied down by a faithful Mormon. (The Historians Corner, BYU Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 391-392)

If you're interested in reading a Mormon apologetic paper about the White Horse Prophecy, check out Mormon author George Cobabe's paper on the FAIRLDS site here.

Why is this even worth writing about? It's wise to understand the times and not walk blindly. We, as Christians, are to be like the sons of Issachar.

"Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ouught to do. . ." 1 Chronicles 12:32a


"Foundations of Our Faith" - Salvation

7 - Salvation


According to our confessional statement, we, as Baptists, believe the following regarding salvation:

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.  In its broadest sense, salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ.

It's important that when we speak of the doctrine of soteriology, that we understand the language. Language changes meaning over time and the doctrine of salvation, which is foundational to Christianity, often carries other meanings when talking to others of different faiths or even church backgrounds.

This session covers the truths of our salvation as evidenced in the the process of justification, sanctification and glorification. The process of regeneration, that is, of repentance and receiving Christ as Savior in one's life is the birth point of a believer and is the beginning of relationship.  Check the message and the blog posting from Sunday, February 20 for more info on the process of salvation.  In that post, I describe the big "churchy" words.

Foundations of our faith_t


Choose Joy When the Past Keeps Coming Up (8)

01 8 - Choose Joy - _When the Past K

There are three phases to salvation in Christ. 

  1. Justification - what Christ did for us on the cross and through rising from the grave
  2. Sanctification - the process we, as believers, are living through now (this is the hard part)
  3. Glorification - when we receive perfect bodies and are taken home ot heaven.

Don't misunderstand, a person experiences salvation from sin at the moment of justification, when they receive Christ as Lord and Savior and repent of their sin. That moment is essential.

It's the sanctification process that is so difficult, especially for perfectionist Christians (of which I am one.)  This life-long process of being made holy is hard.  Why?  Because, it's hard to remain focused. Yet, God, in His gracious patience, works through us for His glory.  

Now, we can short-circuit that process for sure.  That's another story.

Also, there's a passage in this section of Philippians where Paul reminds us to look forward, look ahead in life, not backward.  Often we carry so much baggage in our lives we have great difficulty looking ahead.  We can't seem to be beyond that which used to define us.  This may be the most difficult part of being sanctified.

Rear-View-Mirror


"Foundations of Our Faith" - Mankind

The recording of this session of Foundations did not come through. I may re-record it at some point.  In the meantime, here are the highlights:

First of all, thanks to Calvin Wittman for compiling the detailed information used in these Wednesday night studies.

The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) summarizes and encapsulates the biblical teaching on mankind.

Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image.  He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation.  The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God's creation.  In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.  Therefore, as asoon as they are capabele of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.  Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.

The Origin of Humanity - How Did We Get Here?

There are numerous theories.  One of the most popular is that of Charles Darwin and evolution, as shared in his book The Origin of Species. Interestingly enough, Darwin never offered a real explanation of the origin. Instead, he merely offered a theorty as to the evolution of species.  In other words, he could not explain how matter first came into being.  Instead he hypothesized how one form of matter mutated into another form of matter. Even this theory is impossible to prove.

As a believer, I wholeheartedly regect the evolutionary theory. There's much that could be written here regarding why, but there are websites and blogs all over the place that debate that issue. By believing that humanity is God's crowning creation, the concept of evolution has no place. No, I don't believe God used evolution to create humans.

One, if not the primary reason for claiming an evolutionary theory, is to discount the existence of a Creator God. Without God, there's no such thing as absolute truth.  Therefore, there would be no such thing as sin. This is a fully humanistic viewpoint and at odds with Scripture.

According to Dinesh D'Souza, Darwin's theory fails in three areas:

  1. Evolution cannot explain the beginning of life.
  2. Evolution cannot explain consciousness, which illuminates the whole world for us.
  3. Evolution cannot explain human rationality or morality. No other created being, other than humans, have this capacity.

Authors like D'Souza and Ken Hamm demonstrate in their books and talks, beyond any reasonable doubt how Darwinism is based on an atheistic philosophy and is just as much a religious dogma as anything taught in the church.  This is based on the fact that no one is neutral in their thinking. All of us have presuppositions.

Regardless of our presuppositions, due to God's general revelation, we are without excuse when it comes to acknowledging Him.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV

Human Nature and Our Fallen State

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

  1. We are created to be "persons" meaning we have individual personalities, designed for intimate relationship.  Like God, we can be known and can know.  
  2. We have been created to be eternal. The Bible states that God has put eternity in our hearts. Each person is tripartite, that is, we are made of body, soul and spirit. The beasts of the field have bodies and they have the spirit of life, but they have no soul. Of all God's creation, we alone have souls and therefore, we alone are created for eternity. In other words - God did not send Jesus to die on the cross to die for my dog, Max.
  3. We have been given certain physical aspects that relate to the image of God. We have eyes to see, ears to hear and mouths to speak. Though God is spirit, he sees all things, hears all things and speaks truth.
  4. We are created in God's moral image, as creatures who are morally accountable to Him for our actions and thoughts.
  5. We were created to rule. Adam and Eve were given dominion over all creation. Therefore, when they fell, all of their dominion fell as well - all creation suffers from the sin of mankind.

These facts that affirm that we have been made in the image of God have a profound impact on the way that we as believers view every other human life.  (NOTE: These are not political issues, though the culture has made them out to be. These are biblical issues.)

  • We oppose abortion because God is the giver of life and every child, from the moment of conception, is created in the image of God and has dignity and worth.
  • We oppose homosexuality because God created male and female intentionally for His glory and great plan. God designed and defined the roles each gender is to play in the family. Homosexuality runs contrary to God's design, not to mention that God specifically condems it.
  • We oppose euthanasia because all people, regardless of their age or physical or mental capacity, have dignity and worth.

Believers should stand on the Truth regarding these issues. I fear that sometimes, in our opposition to the sin, we forget to love all and to do our best to reach all with the message of truth. 

What Are We To Do?

Four summary statements:

  1. Live in relationship with your Creator - through the Son, Jesus Christ.
  2. Live in accordance with your Creator's purpose.
  3. Live in accordance with your Creator's principles.
  4. Live to advance His rule and reign.


What Do Talking Vegetables & the Southern Baptist Convention Have In Common?

Talking tomatoes and cucumbers and Southern Baptists. On the surface, they may not seem similar. However, I think I may have discovered some similarities.

A few weeks ago I attended a pastors leadership group in Jacksonville. The comaradarie was nice and the discussions were challenging.  We weren't there to discuss church growth strategies or brag about new buildings, baptisms, finances, or any of the other things that often come up when pastors get together. (This was refreshing - a group of pastors who weren't gathering to brag on themselves or their churches.  Does that make me prideful in that I'm proud I was in a group that wasn't prideful.  Ah, the challenge of sanctification.) The purpose was to challenge and minister to each other as pastors, men and friends. We discussed our individual journeys of faith and calling and noticed some similarities. It seems that all of us have experienced a "wilderness" experience at some point early in ministry. Those times are terrible when experiencing them, but necessary as God refines us.

Anyway, as we finished up our gathering, the leaders handed each of us a book to read.  We were to read it before our next gathering. I expected another Ed Stetzer or Reggie McNeal book or something else on missional growth (BTW - I like those books, so that's not a shot) but was surprised when we were handed a copy of Phil Vischer's 2006 story of the rise and fall of VeggieTales.  The book is titled Me, Myself and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables. Honestly, I thought this would be about the worst book to read. Now, I like VeggieTales as much as the next guy. I am humming the theme song right now. I think of Larry every time I need a hairbrush, but seriously - this book for pastors?

Veggietales Well, being a good team member, I took the book home and after a week or so, cracked it open to see what it was about.  I was drawn in. I couldn't put it down.  I read it quickly and found myself relating to much of what Vischer was talking about.

Since finishing the book, I've quoted it online and in sermons.  

I even encouraged my associate pastors to read it. One of them called me today and said he started the book yesterday and had to finish it.  He was amazed. He brought my attention to the following portion on page 220.  It is the portion of the book regarding the lessons learned from the bankruptcy of Big Idea and the auction of all things Veggie to another company. I'll just print it here. . .

Then we attempted to launch our second series, 3-2-1 Penguins.  We hired additional artists to build a dedicated team, keeping pay scales in line with the VeggieTales team, of course. As a result, 3-2-1 Penguins inherited the cost structure of the "hit" series VeggieTales. And it never had a chance.

Two years later, a new executive team arrived to save the bloated, sagging company. What did they immediately realize? Big Idea's animation studio was just too expensive for our business model. We could crut our production costs by a third, they estimated, by outsourcing our animation to any of a number of competent studios in Canada. And so the ax fell, and all those great animators lost their jobs. Some of them remarked on their way out that they would gladly work for less money if they could keep working on the shows they loved with the team they loved. But it was too late. The damage had been done.

It's a pretty eye-opening and sobering story. The characters in the story are not just characters, they are real people. People who had bought into a dream, a vision, a plan, but lost focus and somewhere along the way entered crisis mode. Consequently, jobs were lost, changes were made, a new team of advisors and leaders came in to clean it all out, but as Vischer said "It was too late. The damage had been done."

My associate pastor asked if that was the case with the SBC? I didn't know where he was going at first, but he continued to explain that with all that is coming with the Great Commission Resurgence and the Florida version (Imagine If. . .Great Commission Resurgence) being implemented, does it not look like what is being described in this story about VeggieTales. 

Gcrweb6006234 We all know that numerous people have lost their jobs in an effort for agencies and conventions to cut costs. I do not think that these decisions have been easy. I feel for those who have had to make the hard decisions as well as those who are no longer employeed by either the denominational agency, Baptist convention or associaton. 

Hard questions are having to be answered. In some cases, there are things that God has called the church to accomplish and the church just has not stepped up to the task. I believe wholeheartedly in the Cooperative Program and networking, cooperative churches and ministries. However, I do fear that just as some believers give their offerings to the church with the mentality that "I've given my money. It's the pastor's job to do all the evangelism, discipleship and ministry," that some of our churches have shirked the responsibilities given by God with the false justification of "I've given to CP, so it's the convention or NAMB, or the IMB or our association's job to do the task." 

Don't hear what I'm not saying (thanks Reggie McNeal for that statement.)  I am not for trashing all our denominational offices, convention roles, agencies or associations. However, as I shared with some pastors earlier this week - like it or not, change is coming. We had better prepare for the "new normal."

I go back to Vischer relating to something he said about vision. We all like the verse in Proverbs 29:18 where it says that where there is no vision the people perish. Have you noticed that in most every modern, English translation, the word "vision" is replaced by "revelation." That's not an editorial change for the sake of change. It's that the word "vision" meant something different in King James' day than it does today. Today it relates to something you or I can create in our mind and then, by following all the leadership gurus of our day, proclaim our "vision" and lead to reach this task.

However, in King James' day, the word meant something different. It meant "revelation." Guess that's why the newer translations use that term. What's the difference between a vision and a revelation in our modern language? Vision comes from our own creative minds. Revelation is given to us from God. So, what Big Idea and VeggieTales learned the hard way was that apart from a revelation from God, people are unrestrained and perish.

It's been made clear through numerous reports that our model is dated and some changes are needed. Messengers to the SBC and to the state convention have affirmed that changes must come. The question that all involved are asking is "Is it too late?"

I, for one, do not believe it's too late?  Why, because the SBC is not just another company or organization. However, there is danger of acting like just another business. 

As changes come, join with me in praying for the health of our denomination, but also, maybe more importantly, for the men and women impacted by changes. 

Phil Vischer shares that he asks a lot of "What if?" questions. We don't want to find ourselves asking "What if we listened more closely to God's voice?"

We need revelation from God and total focus on Him as we seek to not just implement the changes recommended by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, but to live fully as men, women and churches of God.


Choose Joy When All You Have Is God (7)

01 7 - Choose Joy - _When All You Ha

It sounds like a bad title, and maybe it is.  Yet, in our culture today, we often fall into the trap of desiring "God plus," whether that has to do with how to know Him or what we feel we should get from Him.  However, the truth is that, for believers, God must be enough.  

As C.S. Lewis said "He who has God plus many things has nothing more than He who has God alone."


"Foundations of Our Faith" - Who Is The Holy Spirit?

01 5 - Holy Spirit


He's the forgotten person of the Trinity, the one that is hard to describe.  The Bible is clear this third person of the Trinity is fully God and holds all the attributes discussed in previous weeks.  The mystery of the Holy Spirit has led to modalistic thinking, inaccurate teachings on gifts, and either over-emphasis or total avoidance by churches.

In this audio session, with information taken from the Bible (of course), Francis Chan's book Forgotten God, the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), and a message by Calvin Wittman (oh, and thanks to James Peoples for the graphics.)

Rather than post the entire text of the message, I'm going to post the key points and Scripture references.

First, based on our confessional statment (BF&M) this is what we believe, according to Scripture and God's revelation about Himself, about the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Savior, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism and service.

First, let's look at the Person & Nature of the Spirit.

It's had to understand that He is a person, but in the sense that a person has attributes and is known and can be known, He is a person.  Oh yeah, the Holy Spirit is a "He," not an "it."

He is not an impersonal fog that comes and goes.  He is God.

Jesus said this about Him. . .

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whome the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)

He is the third person of the Trinity.  He is not simply Jesus or the Father appearing in a different mode.  This is often taught and leads to the heretical teaching called modalism (I talked about this in a previous post.)

He is active throughout the Old Testament, the New Testament and today.  We can be in fellowship with him or not.  We can lie to him.  We can resist him.  We can grieve him.  We can quench him.  

What does He do?  What is the working of the Holy Spirit?

Author Wayne Grudem defined the work of the Holy Spririt by saying, "The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church.  He is God present and active in the life of every believer."

  • He brings revelation.

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 ESV)

  • He brings conviction.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8 ESV)

  • He extends an invitation.

As it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." (Romans 3:10-11 ESV)

  • He affects regeneration

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:5-6 ESV)

  • He indwells believers

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9 ESV) 

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,   for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)

  • He teaches believers.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 ESV)

  • He makes intercession for believers.

Now, this is one of the most difficult aspects to understand.  In fact, you may never fully understand it. According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.   And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)

Now, since this is a difficult subject and some have used this passage to support the teaching of tongues, I wanted to share information from The Bible Knowledge Commentary on this:

One evidence of their weakness is the fact that believers do not know what they ought to pray (lit., “what we should pray as it is necessary”). In their weakness both the content and the manner of proper prayer eludes them, but the Spirit Himself comes to their rescue and intercedes (pres. tense, “keeps on interceding”) for us with groans that words cannot express. Natural Creation groans (Rom. 8:22) and believers groan (v. 23), and so does the Holy Spirit. This has nothing to do with praying in tongues, as some suggest. The groaning is done by the Holy Spirit, not believers, and is not stated in words. The help the Spirit gives (v. 26) is His interceding. “Intercedes” translates hyperentynchanei, which occurs only here in the New Testament; it means “approaches or appeals to someone.” The One who searches our hearts is God (1 Samuel 16:7, Hebrews 4:13), and He knows (oiden, “knows perceptively or intuitively”) the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes (entynchanei; cf. Romans 8:26) for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Even though the Spirit’s words are not expressed, the Father knows what the Spirit is thinking. This is an interesting statement about the Father’s omniscience and the intimacy within the Trinity. The Lord Jesus continually intercedes for believers in God’s presence (v. 34; Hebrews 7:25) and the Holy Spirit also intercedes on their behalf! Though believers are ignorant of what to pray for and how to voice those requests, the Spirit voices their requests for them.

  • He brings unity to God's people.
  • He empowers God's people for service.
  • He equips believers with spiritual gifts.

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Choose Joy When You Can't Do It Alone (6)

6 - Choose Joy - _When You Can't Do

The artist mentality leads me to want to do things on my own.  It's the same feeling I had when in school and was placed in groups for the dreaded "group project."  You know that feeling.  The one where you want to say "Just give me the assignment so I can get it done and won't have to worry about you guys."  We often live with a mentality of "If you want something done right, do it yourself."  The problem is that doesn't fit into God's plan for the church. 

Like it or not. . .we need each other.

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