Friday, February 23, 2018

Both the Spirit and the Word

1Jn 1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1Jn 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1Jn 1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In preaching on the subject of how the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to both convert us and sanctify us, I have used the illustration of a washing machine.  Our dirty minds and hearts are the dirty clothes that need cleansing, the soap is the truth of the blood of Christ that not only washes away our guilt but casts light on our sin so that we will believe what the Bible says and not what sin says and so this helps us clean up our lives so we live for the Lord.  The water is the Word, water that conveys the truth to us so it can do its work.  So the Holy Spirit is the agitator that gives power to the Word so it can transform our minds.

This might be a little convoluted but I think it stresses the need for both the Holy Spirit and the Word in both conversion and sanctification.  This is important since many fall into error because they want to emphasize or even ignore one over the other.  Let me press the illustration a bit further to show what I mean.

What would happen if you put your dirty clothes into the washer added soap but no water?  Not much.  You can agitate the clothes with the dry soap and expect no change.  This is what happens with many churches that emphasize the Holy Spirit with little to no biblical study; such as many charismatic churches.  They have a lot of agitation, emotionalism, but there isn’t much truth to direct the emotion and so it is misdirected and won’t help much when their emotions are under attack during trials.  They know much of experience but know little of God and his will.  They know a little about the Spirit and a little about the blood but how it all works together under duress is sometimes lost. 

The Spirit’s job is not to excite us but to help us understand and apply truth.  When we understand the Truth our own emotions will excite us.  The gospel is the good news of how our guilt can be alleviated.   We are saved by grace, through faith.  But what causes us to quit believing in this world and ourselves and start believing the gospel?  The Holy Spirit awakens us so that we believe the Truth!  He gets us to trust in Christ by shining the truth into our darkened minds and enabling us to flee to the cross and thus our sins are forgiven.  So he doesn’t “clean” us without us believing Truth and acting on it.  His work isn’t mystical in that he just does it all for us, but he brings us to the point that we actually believe the Word and live according to its truth.

What does the Word of God have that can convert and sanctify us?  In both cases it is truth.  Why did you go to church last Sunday?  It was knowing where the world is headed and that you have been saved by Christ and wanting to hear from your Savior, etc.  In other words, it was knowing truth.  Why does the drunk or drug addict or businessman or pleasure seeker stay home or go to work or play?  Because they believe sin’s lie that they are more important than God, and not the Word.  The Spirit has given us ears to hear and hearts to obey.

Let’s press the illustration the other way.  What happens if you dump dirty clothes into the machine, turn it on but don’t add water?  Not much.  To me this is the error that the Hyper-Calvinists fall into because they put all the emphasis on the Spirit’s work and power but don’t feel it is necessary for us to do anything.  But this ignores the need for the cleansing work of Truth.  The Spirit converts us by teaching us of the deceitfulness of sin and the sufficiency of the Cross and enables us to believe Truth and act upon it.  He doesn’t work apart from the Word.  I have met Hyper-Calvinists who have told me the Holy Spirit doesn’t need the gospel to save people; he doesn’t need us to respond by faith; he can do it all without means.  But that is just not biblical.  Another form of this is that the Holy Spirit believes for us or that he gives us Jesus’s faith.  One form of this is also the Deeper Life Movement where we are told to “Let go and let God”.  But the Bible doesn’t say that Jesus’s faith saves us but our faith is the means by which we are justified.  Notice in the above passage that we are to use truth to live for the Lord.  “Walk in the light” is another way of saying this.

We need both the Holy Spirit and Truth in order to be saved and to grow in our faith.  One alone would just produce emotionalism and mysticism; the other alone produces dead orthodoxy.    

Jesus teaches us that both of these will work in unity in Joh 16:13  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. Joh 16:14  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit doesn’t magically make us holy, he uses the Word, 1Pe 2:2  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.  He gives us hearts that want to love Christ and so hear what he says that we might do his will, Eph 4:30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Let's Be Reasonable!

Rev 1:8  "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Rev 1:18  and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Rev 21:6  And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
Rev 22:13  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

I choose the above verses to show how the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is eternal.  We could add Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God. Joh 1:3  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  John connects all these verses back to Genesis 1:1 and to the Triune God himself.

What is sadly interesting is that when we quote such verses and make such points the atheists, who are by definition naturalists, accuse us of making a religious statement; something that they would never do supposedly.  Except this is just another hypocritical, self-deceiving assumption of those who hate God.  For example here is what Carl Sagan, perhaps one of the most well know atheists, said of the universe, “the cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.   Now that sounds almost identical to the verses above from Revelation.  The atheists assume that when we say it about Christ we are being religious; when a naturalist says it he is being scientific.  But it doesn’t take a high school degree to see how illogical such thinking is.

We are often criticized for using God as the “God of the gaps”.  By which they mean we use God to explain things we don’t understand.  For instance, how did the universe come into existence?  God created it.  They would say but that is a statement of faith by which we have no proof and so they look for physical proof and deny anything so “spiritual” or religious.  But it should be obvious that Sagan is using something to gap his ignorance as well.

I would contend that the statements of Carl Sagan and those of that ilk are exactly the same as the ones in Revelation, except much more illogical.  They are saying that the universe is either eternal or came from nothing.  So either the universe is a god that is unthinking and uncaring; that it is just matter; or they are trying to get us to believe that nothing produced something.  Either way, this is a “religious” statement in that you are expressing a belief.  Carl Sagan wasn’t at the beginning of anything and so to make such a statement is a wild guess at best.  But it is absurd since any rational person knows that unconscious matter cannot be eternal; it had to come from something and certainly nothing cannot produce something.  Such statements can never be more than a guess since no one was at the beginning; not one other than the One who created everything!  If a Christian suggested this they would be dismissed at once as a lunatic.  Yet similar “lunatics” are allowed to teach our children such nonsense. 

How much more logical is it to assume that someone who existed before anything else and with wisdom and power beyond anything we have created it?  Fundamentally it is the same reasoning of Carl Sagan only much more reasonable.  And, in fact, the Bible tells us that all men know this to be true but sin causes them to reject it,

Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Rom 1:19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Rom 1:20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Rom 1:21  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Rom 1:22  Claiming to be wise, they became fools.

Carl Sagan like all of us before God saved us was a fool who thought himself wise.  Unfortunately for him, he knows better now but it is too late; he’s dead.  May we learn to think through the foolishness of this world and teach our children how to think and pray that God will shine his light and wisdom in our hearts.  2Co 4:4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Just before his death, knowing that he was dying, Ted Koppel asked Sagan if he had any pearls of wisdom for the human race.  “We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy, which is one of billions of other galaxies, which make up a universe, which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes.  That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.”  He also wrote, “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.  In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”  This is why all of this matters and we must make the effort to show how the Bible answers these questions and objections.  This is about the person of God, not about science.  You won’t answer to science!  Such thinking leaves mankind without hope and without the salvation we so desperately need.  It is hardly a “pearl of wisdom” but it is the best a mind in darkness can come up with.