The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1)

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I know that we just came off of a super long Bible Study, which is mostly due to my lack of blogging. But it’s pretty much my policy that if God doesn’t give me something personal to share, than I turn the the Word. So we’ve selected a new passage of Scripture to start.

Paul starts writing this letter from within a prison cell. He has been imprisoned because of his beliefs and for professing them. Yet Paul does not begin his letter by stating “Woe is me. I have been held captive. I cannot believe they arrested me.” Instead He starts his letter the opposite way a lot of people would when they have been arrested for their beliefs, he praises God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3, NASB). This alone should be proof enough that we should be praising God no matter are circumstances, but Paul does it all over Scripture (Acts 16:25-30, Galatians 1:4-5, Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:3-8, etc.)

But I found myself drawn to certain portion of this chapter, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14, NASB). What I really noticed was the comment “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit”.

I feel like most people tend to forget about the Holy Spirit. Everyone speaks about the Father and the Son, but usually never mentions the third part of the Trinity. I have to admit, the Holy Spirit is a really complicated character. With the Father, we know that He is the one who created us and sits enthroned on high over all of Creation. The Son is also a pretty easy thing to grasp, He was the one that came to earth and sacrificed Himself so that you and me can have our salvation. But what about the Holy Spirit?

Paul is saying in this section that the Holy Spirit is the God that marks us for salvation. Now He also does many other things (ie. spiritual gifts, power to the apostles, etc), but in this section Paul teaches us that God marks us with Himself by the Holy Spirit. The only way that we can receive that “mark” is by receiving God’s gift to us, the blood of Jesus. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to keep the promises He made for salvation.

We cannot count out the Holy Spirit. More people need to talk about Him as well. Without Him, there would be no salvation, no way to show honor to God, and there would certainly be no Church today. The Spirit is just as important as the rest of the Godhead. It is the work of the enemy to make you believe that any one part of God is less important then the others. The Holy Spirit was present in the beginning, along with Father and Son. We cannot separate the Holy Spirit for the rest of God. To do so, would be to allow the enemy to win a part of our hearts.

How can we maintain the Spirit’s standing as a part of the Godhead? I would suggest, by way of Francis Chan, that we no longer call Him “it”. “It” implies that He is something different and unknown. But God has chosen to reveal Himself as triune and with the male gender. So from now on when we refer to the Holy Spirit, no longer is He “it”. He shall always be “He”.

Then we must learn to understand Him better. Ask your pastor, ask a Biblical scholar you trust, and (most importantly) ask God. Pray and ask God to show Him where His Spirit is present in your life and how to better understand Him. When we forget about a part of God, we choose not to glorify God in the way that He has revealed Himself. Instead, we form our own idols of who think God is. Remember, God is Father, Son, and Spirit.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 133-136

Faithful Work, Loving Deeds, and Enduring Hope (1 Thessalonians 1)

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We are going to start taking a look at Paul’s first letter to Thessalonica. This epistle is one of the first that Paul wrote, probably even the first. This letter was written in order to give encouragement to the Christians found in Thessalonica. This would have been something the church needed since it was located in Greece. At the time, Greece, not only was highly philosophical, but also believed in many gods. The Christians faith, not only taught against several things the Greek philosophers were teaching, but also taught that there was only one God. In this world, I’m sure Christians needed lots of encouragement.

Paul opens this letter the way he typically opens, with acknowledgement of who is writing and giving thanks for the church and what it is doing. Paul gives thanks for their “faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NLT). These are the marks of the Christian lifestyle. If we are to be true followers of Christ, and get to know the heart of God, than these three things should be present in our own lives as well.

“For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.” (1:5a, NLT). This fits with something Paul writes later, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, NASB). These two passages together show me that the Spirit matters. Many evangelists get frustrated when they tell people about Jesus, but they see no conversions. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to make any difference in people’s lives. Plus, the Spirit must also be affecting the people you’re talking to, otherwise it won’t make sense to them. People who only see the world, can only think in terms of the world. My mother remembers a time before I became a Christian where I asked the simple question, “How can you believe in a god you can’t see?” I feel that this is common of people who don’t have faith, because they judge the world through scientific observance, which largely relies on experience. Paul was this same way, but if we read Acts 9, we see that his experience changed him into one of these “spiritual people”.

“So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.” (1:6a, NLT). This is also important for us to hear today. The Christian life isn’t easy. Looking back at 1 Corinthians, people often think we are foolish, because they don’t understand Jesus Christ or God. So they make attacks, calling you “dumb”, “silly”, “ignorant”, and when it comes to current issues “hypocrite”, “bigot”, and other hurtful things because you are standing up for the God that loves you. The message of Jesus Christ brings suffering on our lives. It isn’t easy. But it is our duty to spread the message as far and wide as we possibly can, despite any harm that can come to our bodies or reputation.

“And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere,” (1:8a, NLT). Our faithfulness to God, speaks volumes louder than any words we could use. Paul is writing that because of the love and joy the Thessalonians showed, the message of Jesus was spreading just from knowledge of who they were. It reminds me of churches that are known around the world like Passion City Church (Atlanta, GA), Hillsong Church (Sydney, Australia), Saddleback Church (Lake Forest, CA), among many others. People know these churches, and knowing who they follow causes people to want to search out who this Jesus is. By living like Christians, we cause people to want to know what is up with us. Often times when people first accept Christ, people notice a difference and ask what it is. When they hear that it was Jesus, many others begin to try to find Jesus for themselves. So our own lives and actions can teach better than any amount of speaking and teaching we could ever do.

The Spirit Inside

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There is a Scripture that I’ve been wrestling with this week. It all started while I was preparing my heart for worship on Sunday, and watching a sermon video. I think I’ve gotten what it has been saying to me, so I thought I would share. The passage is found in Ezekiel, right before one of my favorite stories in the Bible (the Valley of Dry Bones). God is talking to the people of Israel, for after they have been exiled from the Promised Land:

“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. The I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” –Ezekiel 36:24-27, NLT

This passage floored me when I read it that morning! I couldn’t believe I had ever missed this section before (during the other times I’ve read through Ezekiel).

As I was saying yesterday, sin makes us dirty and filthy. It’s not a place you, or God, want to find yourself in. So God is saying to the people of  Israel that He knows what they have gone through, but He wants to make them clean. He will take their sin from them, so that they may learn to live a clean life. This new life that He wants to give them is by taking away their selfish desires and giving them a heart to care for others. He then says that He will put His own spirit within them so they will know what it means to follow God.

God makes this same offer to you and me. The difference between them and us is that we understand God fulfilling this promise through Jesus Christ. While he was on earth, Jesus taught us what it meant to follow God and live godly lives. It wasn’t all about the religiosity of the Pharisees (and even the same as many Christians today), instead it was about loving God and loving one another. To love God means to help others and love them. John writes this, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17, NASB). So knowing the love of God, compels us to love and care for others. This is the problem that the ancient Israelites were facing. They knew God, but they cared more about the rules then what it meant to be the Children of God.

The Spirit of God lives within us. This means God lives within us. He is not some bearded man in the clouds watching the world from his throne. He lives within you and I, by our acceptance of Christ’s saving death. The Cross not only saved us from our sins, but allowed us to have the closest relationship with God no one before him was able to have. We are able to know God in this way because of the Spirit. Paul writes, “For to us God revealed [the things of God] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depth of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by humans wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13, NASB). This knowledge of God helps us to see and know what it means to follow him!