Neglecting the Holy Spirit is as sinful as misrepresenting Him

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Because of certain exaggerations, excesses and freak manifestations, and the crossing of the border line from the spiritual to the scientific, the political and the merely emotional, there are many people who are afraid of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, afraid of being too subjective. So they neglect it altogether. I would also suggest that others have neglected the doctrine because they have false ideas with regard to the actual teaching concerning the person of the Holy Spirit.…

Let me put it very plainly like this: you would all agree that to neglect or to ignore the doctrine about the Father would be a terrible thing. We would all agree that it is also a terrible thing to neglect the doctrine and the truth concerning the blessed eternal Son. Do we always realise that it is equally sinful to ignore or neglect the doctrine of the blessed Holy Spirit? If the doctrine of the Trinity is true—and it is true—then we are most culpable if in our thinking and in our doctrine we do not pay the same devotion and attention to the Holy Spirit as we do to the Son and to the Father. So whether we feel inclined to do so or not, it is our duty as biblical people, who believe the Scripture to be the divinely inspired word of God, to know what the Scripture teaches about the Spirit. And, furthermore, as it is the teaching of the Scripture that the Holy Spirit is the one who applied salvation, it is of the utmost practical importance that we should know the truth concerning Him.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Holy Spirit, 5-6

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

The fact that the Spirit of Christ in our hearts cries unto God and makes intercession for us with groanings should reassure us greatly. However, there are many factors that prevent such full reassurance on our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary, goeth about seeking to devour us by roaring: God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever. In all these difficulties we have only one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot be perceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil, the agues of death, the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us. The Law scolds us, sin screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: Abba, Father. And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.

The Spirit cries in us because of our weakness. Because of our infirmity the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our hearts to pray for us according to the will of God and to assure us of the grace of God.

Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble groans, Abba, Father, will be heard of God sooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2125)

The Greatest Gifts Can Become Deadly Substitutes for God

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, 14-15.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Fear of Man vs. Fear of God

I really appreciated this reminder from Driscoll in his recent sermon, Jesus vs. Fear.

The transcript follows:

See, if we believe that God loves us, then we believe that even if what’s happening to us isn’t good and holy and just, it’ll be used by a good, holy, and just God to teach us more about Jesus and to make us more like him. So we overcome fear of man with the love of God. God loves me. One way or another, he’s going to get me through.

And then Jesus closes with sort of the culminating big idea, that you overcome fear of man with the fear of God.

Luke 12:8–12, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man,” that’s a title of himself from Daniel. He uses it about eighty times. It means God become a man. “Also will acknowledge before the angels of God,” who will serve as the witnesses, “but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities,” the bullies are going to get you, you’re going to suffer at some point.

“Do not be anxious,” fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.

“Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Here’s the big idea: fear of man or fear of God. Those are your options. There is no alternative.

Someone is the most important person. Someone is the biggest dominant personality in your life. Okay, if it’s someone other than Jesus, you have fear of man. You’re worshiping them. They’re your functional lord even if Jesus is your theological Lord.

Proverbs 29:25 again, “The fear of man is a trap or a snare.” It won’t work for them, it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work at all. The alternative is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Before you can get anything straight in your life, you have to get straight who the Lord is. Jesus is Lord. The shortest confession of Christian belief is, has always been, Jesus is Lord.

Becoming Balanced

A few weeks ago, Dustin Neeley sat down with Mark Driscoll to talk about what encourages and concerns him about young Christian leaders. Here’s the video:

(HT: The Resurgence)

In the video, Driscoll points out a couple of things he finds encouraging:

  1. A renewed desire for gospel-centered, Jesus-based, Bible saturated teaching
  2. A renewed heart for having a good gospel witness in urban centers
  3. A renewed interest in church planting

He also notes the following concerns, specifically in regard to what’s been called the Young, Restless & Reformed/New Calvinism:

  1. Good Reformed, complementarian theology unaccompanied by a strong sense of Spirit-filled mission will lead to fundamentalism
  2. New Calvinists being defined less by what they are for than what they’re against
  3. A lack of certainty about the role of the person of the Holy Spirit

Neeley asks viewers to consider the following questions in light of these encouragements and concerns:

“Where do I fall on the spectrum he describes?” and “What changes do I need to make to become more balanced?”

I don’t know about you, but here’s where I fall:

I absolutely love Jesus, the Church and the Bible and want to consistently be a better witness to Christ in my city (although I fail constantly). However, when I look at those concerns listed above, there are a number of things that caught my attention—not necessarily because I’m guilty of them (constantly), but the propensity is there.

It’s easy to develop convictions about what you’re against, for example, in the name of discernment. It’s a lot harder to develop strongly held convictions about what you’re for.

And it’s even harder to strongly hold to your convictions with humility.

This is where I’m learning that an increasing dependence on the Holy Spirit to work in and through me—both to make me more like Christ and (where necessary) speak words of correction—is so essential.

When I’m not actively depending on the Holy Spirit to guide my words, thoughts and actions, it usually goes bad. I’ll say the right thing the wrong way or I’ll say the wrong thing altogether.

Becoming balanced means being immersed in the Word.

Becoming balanced means cultivating a consistent prayer life.

Becoming balanced means becoming dependent on the Holy Spirit.

God, help me.

A God-Sized Gospel

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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 1:3-14

In this passage of Ephesians, Paul shows his readers a picture of the triune God initiating and accomplishing the reconciliation and redemption of His people all for the praise of His infinite glory. It’s one of the most beautiful passages of the entire Bible.

And in the Greek text, it’s one, long, elegant sentence.

It’s the run-on sentence to end all run-on sentences—one that some commentators call a monster!

So what would cause Paul to create a “monster” sentence like this, detailing the story of redemption on such an epic scale? Why would he, in the middle of writing a letter, break out into what almost seems to be a spontaneous fit of praise?

It’s that he has a God-sized gospel. I really appreciated reading Fred Sanders’ insights into this passage in The Deep Things of God. Take a look and ask yourself: Is my gospel too small?

On the basis of Ephesians 1:3-14, nobody can accuse Paul of having a gospel that is too small. There is an abundance here bordering on excessiveness. And Paul’s sentence has that character precisely because, as Scripture breathed out by God, it faithfully corresponds to the character of the reality it points to: a gospel of salvation tha tis the work of the untamable holy Trinity. Like all Scripture, this passage is the word fo God and has within itself the life, activity, and incisiveness we would expect in an almighty speech-act through which God does his work (Heb. 4:12). It is an effective word, and one of its effects here is to snatch its listeners out of their own lives and drop them into Christ. It immediately takes the reader to the heavenlies, to the world of the Spirit, and from that vantage point invites us to join in blessing God for the blessing he blessed us with…

All of us think from our own point of view, starting from a center in ourselves and how things look to us. This is unavoidable, since everyone has to start from where they are. . . . The only way to escape this tendency is to be drawn out of ourselves into the bewilderingly large and complex gospel of God. . . . What we need is the miracle of being able to see our own situation from an infinitely higher point of view. We need to start our thinking from a center in God, not in ourselves. . . . Paul invites us to an ecstatic gospel: the good news of standing outside (ek-stasis) of ourselves. (pp. 101-102)

Book Review: The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders

For many Christians today, the Trinity is a doctrine to which we give almost no thought. While we certainly affirm it as being true, we don’t really know how it makes a difference in our lives.

So it gets easier for us to start thinking that maybe it doesn’t matter. The seeming paradox of God being one, yet three is a huge stumbling block to many people looking at the Christian faith… and maybe it wouldn’t change anything if we just let it go.

Fred Sanders, associate professor of theology at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute, disagrees.

“Deep down it is evangelical Christians who most clearly witness to the fact that the personal salvation we experience is reconciliation with God the Father, carried out through God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit,” he writes (p. 9).

But we’ve lost something as a movement; we’ve settled for a theological and spiritual shallowness, especially in regards to the Trinity. “Our beliefs and practices all presuppose the Trinity, but that presupposition has for too long been left unexpressed . . . and taken for granted rather than celebrated and taught” (p. 11).

That’s why he wrote The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. In this book, Sanders hopes to reawaken an understanding of, and desire to celebrate, the deeply Trinitarian nature of Christianity.

Because the Trinity is so overwhelming in it’s otherness, it’s tempting for us to avoid even attempting to speak to it. But as Sanders writes, “We . . . should not let ourselves be trapped into thinking that everything depends on our ability to articulate the mystery of the triune God” (p. 36).

The reality is we are tacitly (implicitly) Trinitarian in innumerable ways. The Trinity serves as the encompassing framework for our thinking and confession. “It is the deep grammar of all the central Christian affirmations” (p. 48).

This implicit knowledge leads to explicit expression in salvation, spirituality, church life, prayer and Bible study. These are the realms to which Sanders focuses the majority of the book. [Read more...]

One of the Greatest Gifts a Man Can Give His Family…

…is modelling repentance.

A few weeks back, Mark Driscoll preached through Luke 11:5-13 and spoke well to this as he examined verse 13:

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

Here’s the transcript for the video:

Gentlemen, one of the most powerful things you can do is acknowledge your own evil to your wife and children. This is telling your wife and your children when you’ve sinned and it’s owning it and naming it. All right, Jesus says that earthly fathers are evil. So when we do or say or fail to do good and we act in a way that is evil, it is very helpful for our families to see us repent of sin. Some of you have never heard your dad say things like, “It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” You’ve never heard that. Because even when your dad was wrong, he didn’t acknowledge it. He didn’t confess it. He didn’t agree with Jesus, “Yeah, that was evil.”

And so fathers, if you want to create a loving, nurturing, godly home, you model repentance by acknowledging your own evil. If you want to raise really stubborn, obstinate, rebellious, religious kids, tell them to repent of their sin but never repent of your sin. Tell them when they say or do evil, but do not acknowledge your own. You will then create a very religious culture with very discouraged children who will realize that they live under a father who is aware of their sin but ignorant of his own and that he is a cruel taskmaster and overbearing hypocrite.

So it’s important for us fathers to tell our children, “I want to be the best father I can be. God the Father is the perfect Father. You need him. I need him, too, because we’re both sinners that he’s working on and he’s dealing with our evil.”

Modelling repentance is not easy. Abigail looks at me like I’ve got two heads sometimes (she’s still in that age-range where Daddy apparently can do no wrong), but it’s slowly) helping her to understand that it’s okay to admit our sins and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve wronged.

I’m not sure if it will ever get easier, but I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit in her life.

Book Review: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Depending on who you talk to, the Holy Spirit is either overly discussed or utterly neglected. Francis Chan would be firmly in the latter group.

“[W]hat if you grew up on a desert island with nothing but the Bible to read? .  . . [Y]ou would be convinced that the Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer’s existence as air is to staying alive,” writes Chan (p. 16). And that’s why Chan wrote Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit—to help believers recapture the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the Christian life.

Running on Fumes

Chan feels that we have lost a robust understanding of the Holy Spirit. We have neglected Him. This neglect has caused us to look and act no differently than our surrounding culture. But this should not be. Chan writes,

If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (p. 32)

In this assessment, I think Chan is right on. If our lives do not have a marked difference in any way aside from what we do on Sunday morning, perhaps we have some bigger questions to ask ourselves, no? If we were dead but now live, there should be some kind of marked difference in how we live, what we think and how we speak… shouldn’t there?

Absolutely, there should. And it’s only possible by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This is a truth that we dare not take for granted and I appreciate Chan highlighting it.

The Spirit’s Work

Chan does a solid job of reminding readers of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person, a “He,” not an “it.” He is God; eternal & holy; omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He has emotions, a mind and a will. He prays for us. He teaches and reminds us of what we we need to know. He applies our salvation to our lives. Chan wants these truths to lead readers “to a deeper relationship with and a greater reverence for the Spirit—that good theology would lead you to right action, genuine love, and true worship” (p. 77).

Chan encourages readers to read John 14-16, to notice “how Christ desires that His disciples have peace and how He comforts His disciples with the truth that they are not left alone” (p. 110). He continues,

Part of His answer to how we are to have peace and be comforted is through the provision of the Holy Spirit, the other Counselor, who He promised would come once He left.

Having read these chapters, I notice that the peace that comes with the Holy Spirit is the fuller knowledge of what it means to be grafted into the vine (cf. John 15:1-11), and it’s the Spirit who does the grafting. The Spirit brings us peace and comfort by giving us the words to act as witnesses to the gospel, even as the Spirit Himself bears witness to Christ (cf. John 15:26-27). Truly, the Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus and to guide us into truth:

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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

A Life of Obedience

The heart of Chan’s message is that the Christian life is to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ, to the glory of the Father. We must not quench His work in our lives, caring more for comfort than for holiness. To walk by the spirit is to live a life that is counter cultural and often antithetical to the world in which we live.

But, it’s one thing to talk about what “walking by the Spirit” can be, and another to show it.

Where Chan best illustrates this is in the wonderful biographical sketches of men and women whose lives have been completely transformed as they’ve sought to obey the Spirit’s leading. These serve as testimonies to the truth that the Christian life is one that glorifies God in extraordinary ways.

A married couple in their 50s, Domingo & Irene, fostered thirty-two children and adopted sixteen. A teenage girl who works multiple jobs all summer to sponsor 14 children. Thomas Yun, who gave up a fortune in the restaurant business to work at a rescue mission because he believed that God was calling him to serve there.

These are the stories that move me and inspire me, probably more so than the rest of the book (no offense to the author).

The Primary Voice

What I find lacking is the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Chan writes that Spirit “teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember” (p. 74), but I think this needed to be more than a bullet point. God’s written Word is the primary means through which God speaks to His people—it is the Spirit who gives us the ability to understand them. It’s through the hearing of the Word that the Spirit’s primary active role takes place, bringing the spiritually dead to life, sealing them as God’s people and sanctifying them (cf. Eph 1:13), all serving to glorify Jesus.

If Scripture is the primary means by which God speaks, it should probably have a more prominent role in any discussion on the Spirit’s work. I would have really enjoyed seeing Chan address this a little more, in addition to focusing on the “private nudging” of the Spirit (which is where he spends the bulk of his time).

Is the Holy Spirit Forgotten?

In Forgotten God, Francis Chan reminds readers just how much we need the Holy Spirit. “There is no such thing as a real believer who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, or a real church without the Spirit. It’s just not possible,” writes Chan. Without the Spirit’s active presence in our lives, we cannot live a life of obedience to Christ. The question for you is, is the Holy Spirit forgotten in your life?

Read the book. It’s challenging and there are likely parts you’ll disagree with, but it’s worth investigating.


 

Title: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David Cook

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore