Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

When He has come, He will convict the world of sin . . . —John 16:8

Very few of us know anything about conviction of sin. We know the experience of being disturbed because we have done wrong things. But conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit blots out every relationship on earth and makes us aware of only one— “Against You, You only, have I sinned . . .” (Psalm 51:4). When a person is convicted of sin in this way, he knows with every bit of his conscience that God would not dare to forgive him. If God did forgive him, then this person would have a stronger sense of justice than God. God does forgive, but it cost the breaking of His heart with grief in the death of Christ to enable Him to do so. The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Jesus Christ alone that enables the divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. Once we have been convicted of sin, we will never say this again. The love of God means Calvary— nothing less! The love of God is spelled out on the Cross and nowhere else. The only basis for which God can forgive me is the Cross of Christ. It is there that His conscience is satisfied.

Forgiveness doesn’t merely mean that I am saved from hell and have been made ready for heaven (no one would accept forgiveness on that level). Forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a newly created relationship which identifies me with God in Christ. The miracle of redemption is that God turns me, the unholy one, into the standard of Himself, the Holy One. He does this by putting into me a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ.



“He led them forth.” Forth out of the world–forth out of sin–forth out of a profession–forth out of a name to live–forth out of everything hateful to his holy and pure eyes. “To go to a city of habitation.” They had no city to dwell in here below; but they were journeying to a city of habitation above, whose walls and bulwarks are salvation, and whose gates are praise; where there are eternal realities to be enjoyed by the soul; where there is something stable and eternal; something to satisfy all the wants of a capacious and immortal spirit, and give it that rest which it never could find while wandering here below. If we have a city here, we want no city above; and if we have a city above, we want no city here.

This then must be our state and case; either to be pilgrims, journeying onwards, through troubles, to things above, or taking up our abode below; seeking heaven here, or heaven hereafter; resting upon the world, or resting upon the Lord; panting after the things of time, or panting after the things of eternity; satisfied in self, or satisfied only in Christ. One of the two must be our state and case. The Lord decide it clearly in the hearts of his people that they are on his side; and give us to know and feel that our very restlessness and inability to find food and shelter in the things of time and sense, are leading us more earnestly and believingly to seek after the things that have reality in them; that finding no city to dwell in here below, we may press forward to be manifestly enjoying testimonies of being citizens of that city which is above, “which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God!”

In the Garden of Eden, Eve was seduced by a fantasy. “When the  woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye,  and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” (Genesis 3:6)  Her choice to pursue that fantasy rather than stick to God‘s will was a costly  error. Adam soon followed in his wife’s footsteps, and together, they learned  the difference between fantasy and reality.

God’s reality as revealed in His inerrant Word is the reality you should be  concerned about….rather than simply relying upon your current perception. It  is often said, “Perception is reality.” Well….perhaps to a certain extent that  is true….that is, until God’s reality bursts into your reality.

Many people today are living in a fantasy world of their own making. They  have seen some images online….or they have devised some grand scheme in their  mind….or they are living in the trance which an illicit relationship  produces….and they are charging ahead in pursuit of their fantasy. It drives  them. It energizes them. But if it is outside of God’s will for their life, it  is going no place good.

Fantasies are often fueled by the sinful desires which dwell within us as  human beings. These desires are longing to be satisfied. The more that these  desires take up residence in our heart, the harder it will be to say “No” to the  fantasy and “Yes” to God’s will.

Fantasy allows a person to escape to a make-believe reality. Your heart gets  transported to a world which seems like it would be so satisfying. When this  life isn’t going quite the way we envisioned it going, we are tempted to escape  to our fantasy world and indulge in thoughts about our dream. We assume that if  only we could achieve our fantasy, we would experience fulfillment.

But not every dream is pleasing to the Lord. Not every dream is about  something wholesome and noble. Sometimes our dreams and fantasies involve things  that God says are forbidden. At that point, we must decide whether or not to  continue in our dream world….or begin to fill our mind and heart once again with  God’s Word and God’s will for our life.

Your mind and your heart will be energized by something and by  someone….either by the Lord and things that please Him….or by your fantasy and  things that are outside of His will for your life. Adam and Eve were content  with what God had given them….until they allowed their hearts to consider the  forbidden fruit. Once tempted with the idea, they began to assume they could get  close to the fire of their fantasy without getting burned….but boy were they  ever wrong.

You and I are wrong too whenever we make that dangerous mistake in our mind.  When we think that we can find satisfaction outside of God’s will, we are only  kidding ourselves….and we are living in a dream world of our own making. We set  up this “thing” in our mind as being the ultimate experience….and we think we  must have it….even though deep down we know that our pursuit of it is only a  waste of time, energy, and resources.

Fantasies can easily become addictive once we give into them. There are many  kinds of addiction…and most of them will only lead us away from a close  relationship with the Lord. Those things will only consume us with our perceived  need to fulfill our fantasy and reach that “high.” Any momentary “high” will  soon be met with plenty of “lows” which are the byproduct of chasing a fantasy  that is outside of God’s will.

Sinful desires inside man prompts him to invest hundreds of hours chasing a  dream that will at best only give him a few minutes of pleasure. Man soon  becomes as addicted to the “chase” as to the few minutes of fleshly fulfillment.  It quickly becomes an obsession….and one that can never bring man to a place  of rest and inner joy.

The flesh drives us….while the Holy Spirit gently leads us. One approach  involves man hustling after sin….while the other involves a peaceful walk with  Christ who dwells in the heart of the believer through faith. Driven by the  flesh….or gently led by the Spirit. Your life cannot travel down both roads.  Those two paths are diametrically opposed to one another.

Are you chasing a fantasy which you know is not God’s will for your life?  What is it going to take for you to stop pursuing that thing which has heartache  written all over it? Now is the time to say “goodbye” to your fantasy…and  “hello” to God’s will for life. Why live in deception any longer? When has that  chase ever led you to a place of real peace and contentment?

God’s will gets lived out in the moment…in the reality of the “now.” Fantasy  exists in the realm of the “later.” We think that something is being offered to  us which actually does not exist….it only exists in our mind….and in our  dreams….but not in the real world…and certainly not in God’s reality. Eve’s  fantasy in her mind was never fulfilled…but only imagined and dreamed about  for a short time. That is the nature of a fantasy.

So then why do we continue to chase it? Simply put, we find ourselves  compelled to chase it once we have made the choice to give into the initial  temptation. It started out as a possibility…but now it is a pursuit. It went  from temptation to compulsion. It went from free will to a state of being  driven. Our free will at that point has become ensnared by the deceitfulness of  sin, and we now have subjected our “will” to that insatiable drive to make this  fantasy a reality in our life.

It didn’t work for Adam and Eve….and it won’t work any better for us. Any  pursuit outside of God’s will is doomed to fail….it is dead on arrival….but we  just don’t know it when we are living in a state of compulsion and in the mental  region of “fantasy land.” It’s like our feet lift off the ground and we seem  unable to bring them back down to earth….to that place of God’s reality.

Peace is found in God and in His will….not in our sinful fantasies. You and I  are not really any different than Adam and Eve in that sense. We have been  placed in a garden…and offered spiritual riches in this life, and eternal riches  in heaven that come only through faith in Christ. But there is another tree…and  a serpent with some enticing words for us. Fantasies are often born out of  listening to the wrong messengers or viewing the wrong images.

The solution? “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our  faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and  sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) The mission  Jesus came to fulfill was not a fantasy….but rather, the greatest reality in  the history of the universe. There is nothing more real than the cross where  Jesus gave His life for your sins and mine.

Jesus came to earth and died on the cross as part of God’s reality. He came  to a bunch of people who were not pursuing Him, but instead, chasing their own  dreams and wishes. He came here to restore order in the soul of man…for anyone  who would surrender their fantasy life to the real world of His cross and  resurrection. Many today have a fantasy of Jesus which involves Him not being  the Savior of the world. Their fantasy will eventually come crashing down…either  by spiritual conversion to Christianity…or by their own physical death…or by the  Lord returning to earth before they die.

If you are ready to leave the virtual world of fantasy land, then I have some  good news for you. Soul satisfaction is right around the corner…you may not have  experienced it yet because you have been too busy with your fantasy, but that is  all about to change if you are ready to be serious about God’s reality.

So go ahead…step into His world…and His reality…and His grace…and just see  what God can do when you stop trying to meet the needs of your soul and heart  and mind with things that can never bring true satisfaction. Once you leave  those things in your past and start to get addicted to Jesus and His Word, you  will know the difference between “living by the Spirit” and “walking in the  flesh.” It’s the difference between night and day.

And besides, what have your fantasies ever been able to deliver to you  anyway? They have only provided big promises and sensational dreams…but little  results. If you stop and think about it, you will probably admit that the  “reality” of your fantasies has been very much like a mist that appears for  awhile and then vanishes. The more you chase it…the more elusive it becomes.  It’s really just a ghost…an apparition of your own wild imagination.

Such is the life of one who chooses fantasy over God’s will. It’s a chasing  after the wind…and we all know how hard it is to catch the wind.

I guess God really did know what He was talking about when He set those  boundaries in place for Adam and Eve. It’s almost like He designed men and women  to only be satisfied when we do things according to His will. Hmm. And here I  thought the whole universe revolved around me…or was that just another one of my  fantasies?

Peter . . . said to Jesus, ’But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ’. . . what is that to you? You follow Me’ —John 21:21-22

One of the hardest lessons to learn comes from our stubborn refusal to refrain from interfering in other people’s lives. It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s plan for others. You see someone suffering and say, “He will not suffer, and I will make sure that he doesn’t.” You put your hand right in front of God’s permissive will to stop it, and then God says, “What is that to you?” Is there stagnation in your spiritual life? Don’t allow it to continue, but get into God’s presence and find out the reason for it. You will possibly find it is because you have been interfering in the life of another— proposing things you had no right to propose, or advising when you had no right to advise. When you do have to give advice to another person, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His Spirit. Your part is to maintain the right relationship with God so that His discernment can come through you continually for the purpose of blessing someone else.

Most of us live only within the level of consciousness— consciously serving and consciously devoted to God. This shows immaturity and the fact that we’re not yet living the real Christian life. Maturity is produced in the life of a child of God on the unconscious level, until we become so totally surrendered to God that we are not even aware of being used by Him. When we are consciously aware of being used as broken bread and poured-out wine, we have yet another level to reach— a level where all awareness of ourselves and of what God is doing through us is completely eliminated. A saint is never consciously a saint— a saint is consciously dependent on God.

. . . the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me —Galatians 2:20

We should battle through our moods, feelings, and emotions into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus. We must break out of our own little world of experience into abandoned devotion to Him. Think who the New Testament says Jesus Christ is, and then think of the despicable meagerness of the miserable faith we exhibit by saying, “I haven’t had this experience or that experience”! Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims and provides— He can present us faultless before the throne of God, inexpressibly pure, absolutely righteous, and profoundly justified. Stand in absolute adoring faith “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:30). How dare we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! We are saved from hell and total destruction, and then we talk about making sacrifices!

We must continually focus and firmly place our faith in Jesus Christ— not a “prayer meeting” Jesus Christ, or a “book” Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate, and who ought to strike us dead at His feet. Our faith must be in the One from whom our salvation springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute, unrestrained devotion to Himself. We can never experience Jesus Christ, or selfishly bind Him in the confines of our own hearts. Our faith must be built on strong determined confidence in Him.

It is because of our trusting in experience that we see the steadfast impatience of the Holy Spirit against unbelief. All of our fears are sinful, and we create our own fears by refusing to nourish ourselves in our faith. How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear! Our lives should be an absolute hymn of praise resulting from perfect, irrepressible, triumphant belief.

Acting Out Unbelief

Human sin began with loss of faith in God. When our mother Eve listened to Satans sly innuendoes against the character of God she began to entertain a doubt of His integrity and right there the doors were opened to the incoming of every possible evil, and darkness settled upon the world. The Bible talks about mans being alienated from and an enemy to God. Should this sound harsh or extreme you have only to imagine your closest personal friend coming to you and stating in cold seriousness that he no longer has any confidence in you. I do not trust you. I have lost confidence in your character. I am forced to suspect every move you make. Such a declaration would instantly alienate friends by destroying the foundation upon which every friendship is built. Until your former friends opinion of you had been reversed there could be no further communion. Only a restored faith could bring about a restored friendship. Now, it is well known that people do not go boldly to God and profess that they have no confidence in Him, and no one except the rare professional unbeliever is willing to witness publicly to his low view of God. The frightful thing, however, is that people everywhere act out their unbelief with a consistency that is more convincing than words.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Today is Wednesday, November 7. In fifteen days, those of us who live in the United States will celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. On this day, we convene with friends and family to offer thanks to God for personal and national blessings. Sometimes we gather together for organized worship services in which we offer gratitude to God. But, for the most part, our Thanksgiving celebrations focus around food and even football. We eat far more turkey (with all the trimmings) than is healthy and top it off by watching some of our favorite college and professional teams pummel each other with gratitude on the gridiron.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have to admit that I need more than just Thanksgiving Day to express and experience the gratitude that God deserves and my soul needs. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Thanksgiving holiday. But I just don’t have much time on that actual day for intentional, thoughtful gratitude.

So, in the past few years, I have started thinking of November as a month for thanksgiving. I try to make time each day for deeper and wider gratitude than would ordinarily get included in my daily devotions. Perhaps you would like to join me in this tradition. Today’s reflection, as well as those for Thursday and Friday, will help you get started.

To begin, you might try imitating Paul’s example of nonstop thanksgiving. When he says that he has “not stopped giving thanks,” Paul does not mean that he is literally praying every moment. Rather, he’s speaking of a thankful frame of mind that finds expression in consistent prayers of gratitude. Perhaps daily, or perhaps several times throughout the day, Paul briefly thanked the Lord for those believers who were faithfully living as God’s people in the world.

I try to structure my life with regular times of gratitude each day, including morning devotions, praying before meals, and evening prayers. But, often my prayers of thanksgiving are brief and relatively predictable. How might my prayers be different, I wonder, if I spent a few additional moments thinking about how God has blessed me? What would happen if I asked the Holy Spirit to bring to mind blessings I had never even considered before? What if I asked the Lord to help me live each day with a consistent sense of gratitude? What if I paid attention to each gift of the day, offering thanks to the Lord? How different my faith would be! How different my life would be!

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Let me encourage you to consider the questions I have just asked myself. How might you make the next two weeks before Thanksgiving Day truly a season of gratitude? What might you do by yourself? What might you do with family and/or friends?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul in this passage, for his consistency in thanksgiving. Help me, Lord, to imitate this example in my own life. May I learn to thank you, not only in predictable times and ways, but also throughout the day. Help me to pay attention to the manifold gifts you shower upon me and to offer nonstop thanks for them. May these next two weeks be filled with gratitude to you. May they be a season of thanksgiving. Amen.