Tag: holy spirit

Word and Spirit

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If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you know how much I love the opening chapters of the Bible. Every school year starts with reading Genesis 1. So naturally I was pretty excited that the Bible Reading Challenge #samepagesummer started today with John 1-4. No one can read the opening verses of John’s Gospel without hearing echoes of the creation account.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In verse 14 we read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” So we know that that Word is Jesus Christ Himself. He is the light of Genesis 1 and John 1 and John 8 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our own hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

All these passages resonate with tones from the creation narrative–beginnings, creation, life, darkness, and light. All these passages bring us face to face with the Triune God–Father, Son and Spirit. And how could it be otherwise? Jesus is the Word–the same Word that was used to speak the universe into existence, the same Word that is revealed in the pages of Scripture. The God of Genesis 1 is the same God of John 1, so of course we are going to see nothing but consistency of character within the pages of Scripture from beginning to end. As the creation narrative unfolds, we are bound to see hints of God’s redemptive purposes, which according to 1 Peter 1:20 and Ephesians 1:4, were ordained before the foundation of the world. And as the gospel narrative unfolds, we are likewise going to see the back drop of creation, the stage upon which the great drama of redemption plays out.

So when in John 1:6 we are introduced to this new player I couldn’t help but see hints of a similar character in Genesis 1 as well. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” In verse 15 we read “John bore witness about Him and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.” He continues by affirming that he was not the Christ, nor a prophet but rather “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.” Verses 24-34 give us even more insight into John’s person and role. We read there that John came baptizing with water for the purpose “that He might be revealed in Israel.” Again we have John bearing witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

When you consider the role of the Holy Spirit as the Supreme Witness–the one sent to testify to the glory of the Son, the member of the Trinity always at work exalting the person of Jesus Christ–doesn’t it make sense that our first introduction to both He and John are with the backdrop of wilderness, darkness, water and then glorious Light!

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Think about the fact that we get “without form and void” from the Hebrew tohu wabohu, meaning an empty, unformed, chaotic wildernessAnd then consider that the description of the Holy Spirit’s movement over the waters comes from the Hebrew rachaph, which is to brood, like a bird over her nest of eggs. So when you have John, the voice of one crying from the wilderness, baptizing with water for the purpose of revealing the Son of God, testifying to the Light come into the world, and this same John sees with his own eyes the Spirit of God descend like a dove over the waters of Jesus’ baptism, well I just have to assume this John the Baptist guy ain’t your average witness.

In fact Jesus Himself said that “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).” What made John so great? Luke 7:28 seems to indicate that it was his becoming the least that made him so great and indeed his words in John 3:22-36 bear evidence to his role as the lesser bearing witness to the greater. Indeed, John’s assertion “He must increase, but I must decrease” should be the believer’s mantra each and every day.

We often hear of Christ figures, and we read of types and shadows in the Old Testament that point us to the Messiah in the New. John the Baptist is indeed an Old Testament figure in that he appears to us before the coming of Christ. But his role as witness, testifying to the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world, seems to be couched in terms that point us to none other than the Holy Spirit. When we read of John’s humility, we should be overwhelmed by the Spirit’s humility.  The Spirit who is God Himself, and yet seeks not His own glory, but rather testifies and bears witness to the glory of another.

It is this same Spirit that breathed out Scripture, giving us the glory filled revelation of God in the face of Christ Jesus. It is His testimony IN HIS OWN WORDS! Won’t you listen to what the Holy Spirit has to say concerning the person of Jesus Christ? Just for 5-10 minutes a day? You can do so and be on the same page as thousands of other Christians each day through the Bible Reading Challenge. By reading 4 chapters a day, 5 or 6 days a week, you can finish the entire New Testament but the end of the summer!

To whet your appetite for the book of John and every page that follows here are a couple links to some messages worth every minute of listening to.

Click here and here for an excellent 2-part series by Christopher Ash called “Word and Spirit in John.” And click here for a stunning message by John Piper about John the Baptist called “He Must Increase, I Must Decrease.”

 

Devo 23: repost

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

Have you ever heard verses like the one above used to explain why we can’t understand hard texts in scripture?  Or how about this one?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29

What about the statement that we are too much influenced by the Enlightenment and that we need to read scripture with a Jewish mindset which was more accepting of mystery?

We might call it an acceptance of mystery.  Jesus called it spiritual blindness and rejection of what the prophets clearly foretold.

Just look at how that Deuteronomy text continues.  

BUT the things that are REVEALED belong to us and to our children forever, THAT WE MAY DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.”  Moses then reiterates to the Israelites the blessing that would be theirs if they called to mind the commandments and the “statutes that are written in this Book of the Law” and the curse that would be theirs if they did not.  And then he makes this stunning statement in Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is NOT IN HEAVEN, that you should say, ‘who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it  to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  NEITHER IS IT BEYOND THE SEA, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hearit and do it?’  But the word is very near you.   It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do It.”  

Is Moses not saying that what the Lord has revealed in His word, He has not made unattainable to the understanding of His people? 

If the first 5 books of the Bible were meant to be understood by God’s people so that they would obey them, why are we so quick to dismiss other portions as too mysterious for human comprehension?

Now just listen to the rest of Isaiah 55:9!  The very next verses read,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth  and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, SO SHALL MY  WORD BE THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH;  IT SHALL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY,  BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH  THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, AND  SHALL SUCCEED IN THE THING FOR WHICH I SENT IT.

God has sent us much more than a mystery.  He has sent us a manna -filled, purpose-succeeding Divine REVELATION!  Do you know why?

So that we would recognize in that revelation the life-giving glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

AND SO THAT WE WOULD RENDER HIM THE WORSHIP HE IS DUE!

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, can’t you see that every time you relegate a “hard text” to the category of “unattainable mystery,” you are robbing God of the exaltation that He so deserves?

Just go back to the last post and read the texts for this week.  All of them proclaim the infinite “high-ness” of God’s thoughts and ways. 

In fact the whole Bible is the particular REVELATION OF HIS THOUGHTS AND HIS WAYS to ALL mankind concerning His son, Jesus Christ, by which WE MIGHT BE SAVED!  And where else was the magnitude of His high-ness and other-ness more on display than on the cross?

When Psalm 37:5,6 proclaims that God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens, His faithfulness to the clouds, His righteousness like the mountains, and His judgements like the deep.  Where else was the extent of His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgement more clearly seen than on the cross?

And again in Psalm 103:11,12 the Psalmist proclaims that not only is God’s steadfast love “as high as the heavens are above the earth” but also that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  How was that removal of transgressions accomplished but through the cross?

Read 1 Corinthians 2.  Yep.  The whole chapter.  I know this violates every rule in the blogosphere but it really is THAT important.  

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

Did you catch that?  Yes, there is a secret and hidden wisdom of God which was so misunderstood by those willing to write all the hard stuff off as a mystery that they “crucified the Lord of glory!”  And yes, no-one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… but we have the Spirit who was from God THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND INTERPRET THEM!

It is this Spirit that enables Paul in Ephesians to address mystery after mystery with confidence and clarity.  In every instance the mystery itself is accompanied by an assurance that it CAN BE UNDERSTOOD!

God lavished His grace “upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will (1:8,9).”  “This mystery was made known to me by revelation…when you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ (3:3,4).”  “It has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs (3:5,6).”  Grace was given to Paul to preach and “bring to light for everyone the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (3:9,10).”  About the profound mystery of marriage Paul says confidently that it refers to Christ and the church (5:32).  He closes by asking for prayer that he would proclaim boldly the mystery of the gospel (6:19).  

Now, just listen to Paul’s prayer for the church in the same letter:

“[May] the Father of glory give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you (1:17,18).”  

Please, I urge you, when you come to a text you don’t understand, dig deeper, pray harder for enlightenment. In those depths you will only find more reason to worship the crucified and risen Christ.  The one who has been made spiritually alive need not settle for mystery.  For WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST!  Let us use it to see Him more clearly, know Him more deeply, and render Him more fervently the glory due His Name!

Devo 23

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

Have you ever heard verses like the one above used to explain why we can’t understand hard texts in scripture?  Or how about this one?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Deuteronomy 29:29

What about the statement that we are too much influenced by the Enlightenment and that we need to read scripture with a Jewish mindset which was more accepting of mystery?

We might call it an acceptance of mystery.  Jesus called it spiritual blindness and rejection of what the prophets clearly foretold.

Just look at how that Deuteronomy text continues.  

BUT the things that are REVEALED belong to us and to our children forever, THAT WE MAY DO ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW.”  Moses then reiterates to the Israelites the blessing that would be theirs if they called to mind the commandments and the “statutes that are written in this Book of the Law” and the curse that would be theirs if they did not.  And then he makes this stunning statement in Deuteronomy 30:11-14,

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is NOT IN HEAVEN, that you should say, ‘who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it  to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  NEITHER IS IT BEYOND THE SEA, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hearit and do it?’  But the word is very near you.   It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do It.”  

Is Moses not saying that what the Lord has revealed in His word, He has not made unattainable to the understanding of His people? 

If the first 5 books of the Bible were meant to be understood by God’s people so that they would obey them, why are we so quick to dismiss other portions as too mysterious for human comprehension?

Now just listen to the rest of Isaiah 55:9!  The very next verses read,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth  and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, SO SHALL MY  WORD BE THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH;  IT SHALL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY,  BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH  THAT WHICH I PURPOSE, AND  SHALL SUCCEED IN THE THING FOR WHICH I SENT IT.

God has sent us much more than a mystery.  He has sent us a manna -filled, purpose-succeeding Divine REVELATION!  Do you know why?

So that we would recognize in that revelation the life-giving glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.

AND SO THAT WE WOULD RENDER HIM THE WORSHIP HE IS DUE!

Oh, dear brothers and sisters, can’t you see that every time you relegate a “hard text” to the category of “unattainable mystery,” you are robbing God of the exaltation that He so deserves?

Just go back to the last post and read the texts for this week.  All of them proclaim the infinite “high-ness” of God’s thoughts and ways. 

In fact the whole Bible is the particular REVELATION OF HIS THOUGHTS AND HIS WAYS to ALL mankind concerning His son, Jesus Christ, by which WE MIGHT BE SAVED!  And where else was the magnitude of His high-ness and other-ness more on display than on the cross?

When Psalm 37:5,6 proclaims that God’s steadfast love extends to the heavens, His faithfulness to the clouds, His righteousness like the mountains, and His judgements like the deep.  Where else was the extent of His love, faithfulness, righteousness, and judgement more clearly seen than on the cross?

And again in Psalm 103:11,12 the Psalmist proclaims that not only is God’s steadfast love “as high as the heavens are above the earth” but also that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  How was that removal of transgressions accomplished but through the cross?

Read 1 Corinthians 2.  Yep.  The whole chapter.  I know this violates every rule in the blogosphere but it really is THAT important.  

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

Did you catch that?  Yes, there is a secret and hidden wisdom of God which was so misunderstood by those willing to write all the hard stuff off as a mystery that they “crucified the Lord of glory!”  And yes, no-one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God… but we have the Spirit who was from God THAT WE MIGHT UNDERSTAND THESE SPIRITUAL TRUTHS AND INTERPRET THEM!

It is this Spirit that enables Paul in Ephesians to address mystery after mystery with confidence and clarity.  In every instance the mystery itself is accompanied by an assurance that it CAN BE UNDERSTOOD!

God lavished His grace “upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will (1:8,9).”  “This mystery was made known to me by revelation…when you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ (3:3,4).”  “It has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs (3:5,6).”  Grace was given to Paul to preach and “bring to light for everyone the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (3:9,10).”  About the profound mystery of marriage Paul says confidently that it refers to Christ and the church (5:32).  He closes by asking for prayer that he would proclaim boldly the mystery of the gospel (6:19).  

Now, just listen to Paul’s prayer for the church in the same letter:

“[May] the Father of glory give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you (1:17,18).”  

Please, I urge you, when you come to a text you don’t understand, dig deeper, pray harder for enlightenment. In those depths you will only find more reason to worship the crucified and risen Christ.  The one who has been made spiritually alive need not settle for mystery.  For WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST!  Let us use it to see Him more clearly, know Him more deeply, and render Him more fervently the glory due His Name!