God where it counts – Pentecost Sunday

So often I go to a Church meeting and hear all about what events or outreach activities have been planned – and often the emphasis is on the participant’s abilities to undertake the various tasks. There is so much talk about learning the correct answers to the different questions people may ask when talking about Jesus. There appears to me to be a heavy reliance on the intellectual and memory skills, of those endorsed by a Church, to ‘lead the charge’ on evangelistic programs.

Yet, we don’t need to worry about what words to say to anyone who enquires about our faith in Jesus.

God, Himself will provide us with His words, when required – and, they may sound clumsy or unsophisticated or simple to us – yet – they will be perfectly absorbed by any heart seeking Jesus.  In the Bible, God has told us that He has not left us like orphans – that He will always be with us – even to the end of this age. In Matthew 13:10-11 (NIV), we read: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” 

In faith, whenever we talk to anyone about our hope in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will talk through us, not only on those times we may be arrested and brought to trial – but at all times during our walk with Jesus; and, especially when we are telling people the good news. Do you agree?

Consequently, I think that Selwyn’s introduction contains a very important truth: “We pause on this Pentecost Sunday to remind ourselves that the coming of the Holy Spirit has put the resources of the Trinity where they count – within. I love the definition of the Holy Spirit given by a little boy in Sunday School: ‘The Holy Spirit is God in action.‘ He is!”

The scrutiny of God

Selwyn’s conclusion was good: “The psalmist, as we see today (Psalm 139:23-24), had the right idea when he prayed: ‘Search me, O god … See if there is an offensive way in me …’ . Begin (every day) with that prayer, wait before God to see what He will make you conscious of. Then ask Him for forgiveness and go into the day – forgiven and cleansed.”

I think it’s a good idea to start out each day with a reflection on the previous day’s activities. It’s a bit like cleaning ourselves from the dirt and grim of normal living – some, may just have one bath – once a week, others (myself included) prefer to have a wash or shower every day.

Either way, (to keep the metaphor going) – the Holy Spirit is our spiritual soap – to be really clean, we need some help – and the Holy Spirit is always available to ‘wash our feet’,  although we need to remove our shoes or sandals to allow Him to do His work. That is, we need a real sense of humility to open up our most secret thoughts and desires to the full gaze of God’s eyes (in any case, He can see though our poorly placed camouflage) – then, we are in the right state of mind to listen to His cleansing words.

What’s your view?

Sensitivity to sin

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: “It is perilously possible that, without realising it, we may have been affected by the tendency of this age to reduce the eternal distinction between right and wrong to a question of taste. Ask yourself now: Am I as sensitive to sin as I think I am?”

My answer: just read any newspaper, or watch the news on TV , and witness the division that is occurring ‘within the Church’ over various issues – a division, over an interpretation of ‘taste’ versus the discernment of sin. I believe it’s a time when the goats and sheep are being actively separated – in a not too subtle manner. What’s your view?

The purifying Spirit

Today’s study was fairly straight-forward, I totally agree with Selwyn, moral permissiveness is now commonplace. He states the following in his introduction: “The work of the divine Counsellor in pleading against the arguments of sin is perhaps needed more now than at any other time in history. I say this because moral permissiveness is so commonplace that we are in danger of being brainwashed by the world into reducing our standards to less that those to which Christ called us.”

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read (Romans 12:1-3, NIV): “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Plus, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 2:11-13, we again see that there is to be a difference between the way the world thinks, and the way we should think when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”

Lastly, John 15:18-19 (NIV), Jesus talking to His disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

The first point I would like to make is that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and God’s word is written for all ages and for all cultures. The developments in today’s world has not taken God by surprise – the spiritual truths found in His words written nearly two thousand years ago: are just as relevant today, as they were, when first written.  God knew that the world was round and revolved around the sun; when 2000 years ago, people thought it was flat and at the centre of their cosmic system. He also knows everything there is to know about genetics and environmental factors and their respective influences on mental processes and behaviour.

The second point is that a follower of Jesus does not have the spirit of this world but the Spirit of God; this means that in most aspects of human behaviour there should be an obvious difference between us and the rest of the world. There should be plenty of evidence for others to see that we are different. If you merge into the ways of this world, and there is no apparant difference – then you need to answer the question – why is this so?

He is always there!

Today, Selwyn talks about an important aspect of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives.

He says: “A question I have often been asked concerning the Holy Spirit is this: Does the Holy Spirit withdraw from our hearts if we ever fall into sin? I have thought long and hard about this, and I have to say. He is hurt by our sin, even deeply saddened by it, but He remains with us and in us nevertheless. … Experiencing the sting of one’s own conscience when one has sinned is bad enough, but the thought that the Holy Spirit is there in the soul also – hurting, grieved and pained – seems to make the sin more heinous still.”

I agree with Selwyn that God stays with those He has ‘predestined’ to be His. Not only do we have the verses from Ephesians (1:13-14, which Selwyn quotes, ‘ … you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit … guaranteeing our inheritance.’ We also have a number of other verses, Romans 8:28-29 (NIV): “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

However, I think that there are two sides to a relationship – God, always stays with us, His children; but we can separate our will, from God’s will – in a sense we can take a different path, yet He is always with us to lead us back to the one, true path.  In 1 John 2:4-6 (NIV), we read: The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

It is important to recall, the words of Jesus on this issue, which clearly and unambiguously tells us, the role of the Holy Spirit, John 14:14-2, 26 (NIV):  “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 realize 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. … the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Did you notice there is a condition –  ‘If, you love Me – you will (try to) obey my commands – I’ll will then live in you’?

Satan and the Holy Spirit cannot co-exist in the same heart – do you believe this statement?

A lot of what Paul writes about in his letters points to a gradual transformation of our heart, and with perseverance, it becomes more and more like the heart of Jesus. We seek His perfection, but we never, even get close to reaching it – this side of the grave – yet, it is the direction which we must follow. It is in following Jesus that we experience the full benefit of the Holy Spirit.  Consequently, it’s my view that during periods of conscious sin; we do separate ourselves from the guidance and benefits of the Holy Spirit – but not His presence. And, He can intervene at any time and in any way, to point us in the right direction – just like He did with David – as an act of grace. Do you agree?

David’s great sin

Why do, we do or think about those things, which are evil – and cause us to be separated from our Lord?

David had a fantastic relationship with God, if he wanted the most beautiful woman in the world, then his God would have listened to his request.  “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.” (2 Samuel 12:8)

Yet, he did not place his trust in our Lord, instead he took matters into his own hand. He allowed his desires to deceive him and to occupy his mind to the extent that he forgot about talking over the issue with God, his loving friend. That’s the sad part about sin – it takes us away from God, it robs us of ‘friendship’ time  – because it diverts our attention away from the need to talk to God –  do you agree?

The following verses, clearly spell out what the issue was, 2 Samuel 11:26-27 (NIV): “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”

2 Samuel 12:9: “Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.”

It’s hard to understand why David took so long to recognise that he could not escape God’s judgment. Yet, we all do, exactly the same thing – we’re all slow to see the sin in our lives – because we have rationalised the reasons for being in a state of sin.

On one level, I don’t agree with Selwyn’s statement: “David was so self-deceived that on this occasion even the Holy Spirit [God] was unable to get through to him.”  Yes, God used Nathan, the prophet, to deliver His message – because it was the best way to deliver such a message. In addition, Nathan would be the on-going, human voice to remind David of the consequences of his actions, which was – ‘the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

All of us – will find many reasons, to fall on our knees and cry out: “Have mercy on me, O God … please blot out my transgressions …

What’s your view?

‘The arguments of sin’

I think Selwyn makes two good points in today’s study.

One: ‘[Confrontation] must enable the person being counselled to understand the damage and devastation caused by sin, but be done in a way that shows deep respect for the person.’

The second point: is that the arguments of sin involves the rationalisation of sinful desire – ‘standards change from age to age, no one can blame me for just one lapse‘; and, ‘everyone does it’. This type of rationalisations reduces our will-power to meet the standards which God has set. It causes over time, a reduction of the out-pouring of our faith, and allows Satan a foothold into our lives.

The verses set for reading and meditation, cover one aspect of Selwyn’s second point very well (James 1:12-18): “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

In summary, we cannot appreciate what Selwyn is saying (or James, for that matter) unless we have a good understanding of what is sin and its consequences. Sadly, I feel, many don’t have much of an idea – at all. Do you agree?