The final word!

Selwyn finishes his study on the emblems of the Holy Spirit and provides us with a summary of each of the emblems he has been writing about over the past two months.

The bit, I like in today’s study, is this: “But to see the Holy Spirit purely in terms of emblems is not enough. We must know Him, not merely know about Him. How well do you know Him? He waits to give Himself to you, but remember: you can only have all of the Spirit if you are willing to let the Spirit have all of you.

Yet, we must always keep im mind that Jesus loves us – even when we are far off – He will run towards us with open arms, to welcome us into His Kingdom. We will be given opportunities throughout our lives to accept or refuse the embrace of God – it’s our choice. Do you agree?

New men – overnight

Selwyn continues to discuss the point that it is essential for the Holy Spirit to empower Christians – if Pentecost never happened, we would be reading about the Church, in history books – do you agree?

His conclusion is good: “The disciples left everything and followed Him, but after the crucifixion (even though they knew Christ had risen from the dead) they became deeply disillusioned. The new life within them was functioning feebly and intermittently. They were half-souls trying to produce a whole service.

Then something happened – the same thing that must happen to each one of us: a divine reinforcement took place. The Holy Spirit filled them and took up residence within them. Overnight they became new men doing a new work.” We read about the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts; the main verse, out of the text set for reading and meditation (Acts 5:12), highlights the Holy Spirit’s empowerment: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.”

On a slightly different issue, I think today’s study is interesting because although the disciples knew a lot about Jesus (before Pentecost); this knowledge did not help them in telling others, the ‘good news’ about Jesus. They could only do this after they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Many people study theology, and the New and Old Testaments – they can become experts in the various languages used (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) and their detailed knowledge of the times and customs when Jesus lived can be impressive. Yet, their relationship with Jesus can be feeble or non-existent; it is only through the Holy Spirit taking up residence within them, can they actually experience a relationship with God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth; therefore those ‘experts’ who distort the message of the Gospel – are in effect, antiChrists – they do not know God – what do you think of this view?

Information not enough

What Selwyn writes about today is important because so many people in mainline churches think of the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity but not as God’s indwelling Spirit; who lives in us so that we may do the things, God has planned in advance, for us to do. In one sense a Christian may know this as something they should believe; but, in general, do they really live the reality of what this means?

I like Chapter 14 of John’s Gospel because it outlines for us some of the important aspects concerning God’s Spirit. I think it’s worthwhile slowly reading these words and let the meaning flood into your heart and mind (verses 15-21, Jesus talking to his disciples): “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

What these words actually mean (referring to our relationship with the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit; as represented by the concept known as the Trinity) is something that we will not fully understand until the last day: “On that day you will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you.” [Richard Wright is right re his comment, when he says, that ‘On that day’ is a reference to the Day of Pentecost & not to the ‘last day’, which my clumsy sentence structure appears to imply. Thanks Richard for picking this up.]

Yet, there is no doubt that it does mean that God’s Spirit dwells within us – knowing this truth should strengthen our resolve to do God’s work; do you agree?

Selwyn’s conclusion sum up these thoughts well: “We must, of course, be careful that we do not lose sight of the value and significance of our Lord’s incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, but the fact remains that had not the Holy Spirit moved into the lives of the believers with the empowerment they needed to make known the good news, the story of the Christian Church would now be a different one.”

A religion of God’s Spirit

I found today’s study to be truely great – inspirational, an excellent summary by Selwyn on the work of God’s Spirit.  I think it is important to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is not just some sort of ‘life force’ but God Himself. He is the God who loves us – who is in us – and we live through Him – to give Him glory.

As Selwyn says: “Jesus was conceived of the Spirit, baptised with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, cast out evil spirits by the Spirit, was offered up in sacrifice through the Eternal Spirit, and was raised from the dead by the Spirit. The same Spirit that worked in Christ now works in us, and only those who are led by the Spirit are counted as God’s children.” 

The last sentence is really one to meditate upon – because the significance of it (I think), is often overlooked by many within the Church with the result that their ministry if far less than what it might otherwise be, if they took hold of this fact and lived with the full power of God directing their actions.  What do you think?

Selwyn follows on with more great truths on the work of God: “We are made into Jesus’ image and are transformed from glory to glory by the Spirit. … It is the Spirit who guides us into all truth, empowers us for the work He wants us to do, and the fruit that comes from our lives is not said to be the fruit of self-effort but the fruit of the Spirit. Our mortal bodies are given life by the Spirit who dwells in us, and the law of the Spirit delivers us from the law of sin and death.”

I agree, with his conclusion: “If Christianity is not a religion of God’s Spirit then it is not a religion at all.” In the first few verses of Genesis (the first book in the Old Testament) we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Likewise, in the last few verses of Relevation, the last book in the New Testament, we read (22:17): “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let them who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.” We see the Spirit of God at work in the beginning of our history and He will be there at the end of our history on earth – for me, it strengthens my belief that God’s love will always be with us – life with God’s Spirit is a life worth living – don’t you agree?

Looking to the future!

I think that as time goes on it will become more difficult to follow Jesus without being condemned by a post-‘Christian’ western society. Yet, to a certain extent this is not a new situation.

In the Gospel of John, the last part of Chapter 6, we have Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Many of His followers at that time, found His teaching to be difficult to accept. This was part of His ‘hard’ teaching: (verses 6:53-54,57-58) “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. … Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers (the Israelites in the desert) ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Notice how Jesus answers them (verses 61-65): “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” … “This is why I told you that none can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”

Today, words such as these from the New Testament are just as offensive to people who don’t believe, as they were when Jesus first said them. Many followers of other religions find it offensive when they hear a Christian say: “It is only through Jesus that you can be saved.” Even those people who  have never heard of Jesus, can only be saved by a sovereign act of grace by Jesus – do you agree?

As Selwyn says in today’s study: ‘The Holy Spirit who is present in our hearts is the pledge for the future.’ It’s God’s promise to us and I think we are given enough of a glimpse of the future to hold onto – to steady ourselves – while we are knocked about by the criticism of an unbelieving world.  Just focus on the finish line because when we cross it: “The imperishable is to replace the perishable. Glory is to replace dishonour. Power is to replace weakness. The spiritual is to replace the natural. The heavenly is to replace the earthly. Immortality is to replace mortality. And ‘something’, which at the moment we cannot comprehend, is to replace flesh and blood.”

It’s a fantastic future which waits to greet us – don’t you agree? Something worth dying for …

Only a foretaste

I like two points Selwyn makes in today’s study. First, “the truth is that humankind has been turned out of the Garden of Eden, and there is no way back into it. Instead God has prepared for those who love Him another garden called Paradise, which will have all the blessings and more of the original Garden of Eden.” The praise point here is that Satan will not be in our new and eternal garden – we will never leave!

The second point, is: “While we are in this world we can expect to suffer the effects of the Fall. Criticism will hurt, people will let us down, death and disease will take their toll. In the midst of all this, however, God’s Spirit upholds us and keeps us buoyant (even if we are sad or despondent).” We are kept safe in His hands – as, was discussed yesterday, we may struggle but never drown.

As Selwyn says in his introduction, ‘the Holy Spirit, is the pledge of an eternity of delight’ with Jesus. I like to keep in mind, when the going gets tough, that we only have eighty or so years of this life to demonstrate our love for God while He has billions and billions of years to demonstrate His love for us; it kind of lightens the load when you think of it like that – do you agree?

Am I safe?

Today, Selwyn starts his study with an important question: “Since the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts is the pledge that God’s promises will be kept and His purposes will be carried through, today we ask: Does this mean that once we are saved we can never be lost?” I think that from God’s side of the relationship that is certainly true – He will be true to His promise.

But what about us – if we actively go against what we know to be true – will we still be saved? This aspect of Selwyn’s question does not have a consistent answer within the Christian community.

Many will refer to Hebrews, Chapter 10; and I think it’s worthwhile going through the relevant verses: (10:26-39) “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died wthout mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that santified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? … So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith, And if he or she shrinks back, I will not be pleased with them.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who believe and are saved.”

I think that these verses are saying that those who have received the gift of God’s Spirit do not deliberately keep on sinning and they also don’t insult God’s Spirit. Consequently, those who follow Jesus and love God with all their heart, mind and strength; and also love their neighbour in the same way that God loves them – do not shrink back because they believe. Do you agree?

I also agree with Selwyn that we should keep verses, such as this one: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28): always at the front of our mind. Isn’t it great to fall into God’s loving hand; and to know that no-one can snatch you out of His hand – absolutely no-one, not even Satan or any of your enemies. The answer to today’s question – am I safe? Is a heart-felt, and resounding ‘yes’; go, and look at the night sky and see the millions of stars kept in place by God’s power – and know, you are safe – forever!