A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Saturday, February 02, 2008

By What Spirit?

"And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." 1John 3:24

The picture was taken east of Aspen, CO, early fall, 2007

Jesus promised to baptize those who believe on Him with the Holy Spirit. "I will send you another Comforter..." He said. What are the attributes of this Holy Spirit? Besides all the attributes that apply to the Godhead, Scripture assigns these to Him:

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of adoption. He assures us that we are the children of God: reject any word that would cast doubt upon this.

He is the Spirit of holiness: We are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all: it is the Spirit that separates us unto God and unto holiness of life.

He is the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. The Holy Spirit works effectively in us to love God and our neighbor and to think clearly in terms of God’s revelation.

He is the Spirit of Christ and the Father: The work of the Trinity is One and never in contradiction to the work of the Father and the Son. He calls those predestined by the Father and redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the Spirit who inspired the prophets and gave us the Holy Scriptures. Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. It is impossible that the Holy Spirit’s work in the believer would be in conflict with the Scriptures. He is the Spirit of power, love, and soundness of mind. He brings order into our lives, families, and churches just as He did in Creation, moving upon the faces of the waters.

He is the same Spirit who works in all the people of God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. He is not the spirit that works in the disobedient, the rebellious, the disorderly, and the ignorant. His works are longsuffering, temperance, patience, mercy, grace, and peace. The Lord’s people hear in the Spirit the voice of the Good Shepherd and will not follow another voice.

What Spirit moves you?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Grace and Peace to the Faithful Saints

Paul's greetings to the church at Ephesus is typical: "to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

The first two words describe the people of God: saints and faithful. They are saints because they are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all and have received the gift of the Holy Ghost which is given to them who belong to Christ. They are believers because the Holy Spirit works faith in them and hope which is the adjunct of faith. By hope they trust in the promises of God, which they esteem more precious than any thing in the world.

The last two words describe the most precious gifts that God gives to his faithful saints: grace and peace. Grace means that they live in a state of blessedness by the free gift of God; their sins are forgiven them, they are adopted children of God and inherit freely all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are showered upon them, described in Galatians 5.

By peace is meant the assurance of all the blessings of God by the free gift of God through Jesus Christ, so that the soul rests, ceasing from its agitation about the favor of God, for this is assured to Him by grace. "Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." God would have his people live with a settled peace in their souls. The peace of God is to keep our hearts and minds.

So peace also means confidence that God will supply all our needs, so that we need not be agitated over what we shall eat, what we shall drink, or wherewithal we shall be clothed, as Jesus said. Our heavenly father knows what we need before we ask and will supply all our needs, according to our riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Peace means that we are not so attached to the things of the world that our souls become disquieted because of them; we learn in what ever state we are to be content.

Because the soul is at peace with God and because it does not fret over earthly things, the faithful saint is able to live at peace in the church with the people of God. He trusts in His father and does not fear what men can do to him nor does he presume to control the behavior of others, the two major causes of strife in the world. He faithfully does the work that God has given him to do and does not meddle in the affairs of others. Pr 20:3 "It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling." The fool meddles because wisdom is not in his heart and mind.

Grace and peace go together, just as holiness and faith go together. Holiness and faith are characteristics of the likeness of Christ, and grace and peace are the precious gifts of God.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ye Shall Be as Gods!

It is the oldest of all the temptations, even older than the oldest profession! It had nothing to do with sex, even though the woman was deceived in the temptation. It had to do with whether or not man would define right and wrong independently from the word of God.

The test was a simple one. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That's what the test was about: what is good and what is evil? God did not leave it to Adam and Eve to decide: they could eat every tree of the garden except that one.

It was not that the Tree was evil in itself, nor was it evil because Adam esteemed it to be evil: no, the evil of eating the tree was evil because God said it was evil: the measure was not in Adam himself or in the tree: the measure was in the wisdom and mind of God, revealed to Adam in words.

The minister of the Gospel is obligated to "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine." He is obliged to do as Paul told Titus: Tit 3:8 "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men."

This did not mean that Titus was to constantly affirm that believers follow their own hearts or decide for themselves what the grace of God tells them to do, for this was simply a return to the first temptation. Adam was not to decide for himself what his relationship with the Tree was. That relationship was defined by God, and God didn't give a flip whether or not Adam had his feelings hurt or not. The church or the world is not to be governed by whether or not so and so has his feelings hurt.

A lot of people had their feelings hurt when Sodom was overthrown and when the earth opened up and swallowed Korah and Abiram. I don't suppose that Ananias and Sapphira had good feeling when they lied to the Holy Ghost and died before Peter and the church at Jerusalem. Truth is not decided by appeal to feelings.

Titus was not to exhort unbelievers to "be careful to maintain good works," for that would have been useless, but to exhort believers, which is good and profitable. This is not contrary to grace, but necessary as the Lord's commands: we should not try to be smarter than God, setting aside what He commands because of our rebellious spirits. Grace does not turn us loose as wild beasts in the Lord's vineyard.

The good works which are commanded are not to be defined by ourselves any more than Adam's were. No, the Bible speaks of them in this way:

1. They are of faith, for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. They must come from a thankful heart that knows that all its sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

2. They are for the glory of God, for all other works are a perversion of the image of God, who resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

3. They are according to the commands of God, for sin is transgression of the law of God.

Every faithful minister must do these things and must be highly esteemed if he does them, as the Bible says. He is ordained and given authority to do this by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, if his ordaination is biblical. If it is not biblical, then he should be quiet and live at peace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

There Is Always Something Else!

When people are acting crazy, there is always something underneath that others don't know about.

Little Johnny went to school one fine spring morning and captured a wasp, which he carefully put in a little metal box he had in his back pocket. He forgot about the bee.

But after a few minutes in class, the top worked off the box, and the wasp began to work on Johnny. He begin to squirm. This was in the days when students were expected to sit still and be quiet and listen to the teacher, so the teacher said, "Johnny, be still."

"Yes, Ma'am," said Johnny. But a few minutes later the bee popped him again and he jumped.

"Be still, Johnny," said his teacher. "Yes, Ma'am" said Johnny.

A few minutes later, the bee hit him again and this time he yelped and jumped from his seat.

"Johnny! Didn't I tell you to sit still?" said the teacher again.

"Yes, Ma'am," said Johnny, "but there's something going on back here that you don't know nuthin' about."

When people are unreasonable and get up in the air over nothing, you can be assured that they are being worked on by their own private bee. There is something going on that you don't know about, but sooner or later it will come out so everyone will know about it.

There was indignation among the disciples when a woman anointed Christ with precious ointment. The instigator of the strife was Judas, the traitor of our Lord, who pretended to be very concerned about the poor, and objected to the waste of the ointment that was used to anoint Christ. He didn't give a flip about the poor or about Jesus, he was just a thief and wanted the money in the common bag so he could steal from it. [John 12]

Pious protestations and agitations of spirit very often cover a great deal of wicked thought.

James put it this way, "Where there is envy and strife, there is confusion and every evil work." [James 3:16]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Don't Take It Out on Me!

Jas 4:1-2 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

James nails it: the reason we fight and war with each other in the church is because we are expecting to get from people what only God can give us. "We have not because we ask not."

Others simply cannot deliver what is essential to my soul. The reason there is external war is because there is internal war. Disgruntled and unhappy people war with others because of the misery that is in their own souls.

When I was a kid, from time to time you would hear somebody say, "Well, don’t take it out on me!" because even kids are smarter than we often think. Every one knew that when you didn’t get your own way you had a tendency to strike out at someone. "Kicking the dog" is the name of the behavior. We knew that bullies essentially were very unhappy people.

When there are fightings and wars within the soul, the result will be fightings and wars with other people--either that or a form of suicide, depending upon the person. Some people, frustrated in their own lives, react against other people and pick fights with those around them. Others, of a different temperament, will turn against themselves and drink themselves to death, use drugs, eat too much, or fall into other forms of self-destructive behavior. In extreme forms the aggression results in murder in the former case, and suicide in the latter case.

In either case, the solution is found in the gracious words to Cain, when his sacrifice was not accepted of God: "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."

The solution to unsatisfied desires is neither murder nor suicide. Our business is always with God, not with men. "When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." (Pr 16:7)

Pr 22:24 Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
Pr 29:22 An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.

Let them kick their own dog. It is best to leave them alone.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Risings of the Spirit

"12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves." (1Th 5:12-13 av)

Just as insurrection against the legitmate authorities in the civil realm, insurrection against the officers of the church is contrary to the Christian faith and can be justified only on a very narrow basis.

The work of the church authorities is described in three verbs: "labor among you," "are over you in the Lord," and "admonish you."

It is the express command of the Lord that His people live under the authority of the officers that He has appointed. They are to "labor" in the work of the Gospel and their role is clearly defined: "reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine." It has been the experience of this poor minister over some 50 years of ministry that those who so harden their hearts against this work of Christ will not end well.

It is not the nature of the flesh to endure reproofs, rebukes, exhortations no matter how longsuffering the minister is or how sound his doctrine, so the apostle begs the people of God to "know" their ministers and esteem them highly in love because of their work. It is a thankless job, but the work of the ministry is performed for the good of the church.

"Be at peace among yourselves" is a direct command and not a "beseeching." "Peace" and "rest" are mentioned directly at least 150 times in the New Testament, and "war" and "fight" and such words are used less than one fifth as much.

In addition there is the command that we "study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you." (1Th 4:11) The word quiet literally means to be silent, to stay at home and mind your own business, to be at rest.

This is the reason that the constitution of the Reformed Church expressly requires that contentiousness be dealt with by discipline, for there is no greater work of the devil than a refusal to live at peace and a refusal to be reconciled to the people of the God. In fact, Jesus said that we "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Mt 5:24 av)

Solomon understood this well: Pr 25:28 "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." Self control means to control the risings of the spirit--the anger, distress, hurt, strife, pride, and such--that destroy the peace and tranquility of the church and allow it to be raided by all sorts of bad things. It is the duty of the officers of the church to see that this does not happen, to see that the walls are intact and in good repair.

"For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." (Jas 3:16 av)


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