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Monday, December 26, 2011

How quickly we forget what we must remember

Tears poured out as I was overwhelmed by a glimpse into His faithfulness. I haven't cried in a long time, but today, something triggered an emotional response to God as I was moved by His Holy Spirit.

Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling the weight of preaching God's Word to people. Sadly, I think for some, spreading God’s Word is something that they take lightly or for granted; for others, it’s their way to make a living. I hope, however, that the majority do it because they want to participate in revealing the beauty of God to those who hear. Because I have seen the spectrum of how people approach their responsibility, I wanted to make sure that I was not taking it lightly. There is great responsibility that comes with preaching the Word of God.

As I have been preparing for the last month or so, I have felt variations of God's presence in my life - the most significant experiences revolving around my time in prayer, in the Bible, and through a network of friendships that I will rejoice in for all eternity. Yesterday being Christmas, I was reminded of how quickly I forget the reasons why I exist. I was fortunate enough to spend time with my extended family in Chicago for Christmas and I learned a few things through my observations. My cousins are so great with their kids, and their kids truly reflect the love they receive from their parents. As they opened their presents, my cousin-in-law Peter asked why they give gifts on Christmas to which they responded with a rendition of the Gospel that blew me away, something that only a child could do. They said that they give gifts because it reminds them of the gift that they received from God: the perfect sacrifice of His son as a free gift to all those who would accept Him.

This morning, as I was getting prepared to drive to Michigan with my friend Brian, I noticed that he had stones of remembrance placed on his counter. The Israelites would set up alters of remembrance whenever God had done something significant to reveal that He was with them and that He was watching over them. Most significant is the passage in Joshua 4:1-9 when they crossed over into the Promised Land. Twelve stones were gathered from the River Jordan and placed as altars so that future generations would remember what the Lord had done for them.

This triggered in my mind Genesis 5, the genealogy from Adam to Noah. If you look closely, Adam was alive when Methuselah was born. Methuselah was the grandfather of Noah, which means that Methuselah had a first-hand, eyewitness account of the creation of Man and the Fall of Adam. Adam had probably recounted the story thousands of times to whoever would listen, with a painful memory of the Garden of Eden and how His relationship with God was uninhibited prior to his sin. And only two generations after Methuselah, it is mentioned that the entire world became wicked except for Noah. In other words, the entire world had already forgotten God the day after Christmas.

I sat there thinking about how God had mercy on Noah, and it felt like the entire world went quiet. In the background, “God with Us” by Mercy Me was playing with the lyrics, "Such a tiny offering compared to Calvary; nevertheless, we lay it at Your feet."

As I pondered the mercy displayed to Noah, the fact that I am so quick to forget the goodness and faithfulness of God and that He paid a sacrifice for me that even if I gave up my entire life, it would be but a tiny sacrifice compared to what He did for me; I was exposed to His great love. I asked Brian to pray with me before we headed out, and upon uttering the words, "I thank you God for your love. I am overwhelmed by what you did," the tears poured out with a sense of relief and gratitude because I can call God my Father, my King, my Friend, and my Savior.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Understanding the Holy Spirit

There seems to be a great divide in the church when it comes to the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, you have Cessationists who believe that the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit had ceased once the early church had been founded. On the other hand, you have Charismatics who believe that the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is very much alive today. Both parties believe that the Holy Spirit is active, but is active in more functional ways. Most people in the reformed tradition, emphasize the ultimate authority of the Word of God as His revelation to us. There is a great weight placed on the sovereignty of God and the completed works of Jesus Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. Most people in the Charismatic tradition emphasize that the power of God is manifested through a tangible encounter with God, whether it be a specific insight into a person's life, a prophetic word, miraculous healing, speaking in tongues, or even chasing demons away.

As for me, I consider myself a Reformed Charismatic. My leanings are towards a reformed tradition, but I would not dare ignore or discount the workings of the Holy Spirit in miraculous ways. I believe that it was a great insight into the nature and character of God through my mind that overwhelmed me emotionally. For me, I find that the roots of my encounters with God find water when my understanding of who He is and how He loves overwhelms me through what I learn of Him. Others though, find that they are most satisfied in actually observing God work miraculously in the lives of others. For them, it was the point of conversion so they desire that for others as well.

The sermon I posted below, I have found to be the best teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit. Tim Keller delves into an explanation of Romans 8 that leads to an understanding that the work of the Holy Spirit is to assure us, then reassure us of our standing with God. He makes mention that the work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to the significance of the Cross and the sacrifice that Christ made in order that we may call God, "Abba, Father."

The Holy Spirit has three jobs: "first is to regenerate us by dwelling in us and making our spirit alive. The second is to sanctify us by putting to death our misdeeds and destroying our motivation for sin. The third job of the Spirit is to assure us that we are children of God and we belong to him."

One thing we must remember is that the fullness of the Father is in the Son, and the fullness of the Son is in the Holy Spirit. They are triune, not unipersonal or thi-theistic. All Three are One, yet they are very distinct at the same time. This makes the motivation of God love, not power or self-absorption.

What I hope, as I have been learning through my continuous interactions with those in Charismatic circles is that we can find an order of truth: that supremely, we can all rest in the love of God through our surrendering to His will, and how we experience that assurance is left to the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truths of the Gospel without us trying to force our own agenda.

In all of this, we must remember that God is still bigger than us and His wisdom extends much further than ours. This should allow us to experience both a peace and comfort in knowing that God will do what He knows is best and we should simply enjoy being His children to call Him Abba.

Tim Keller Sermon - Witness of The Spirit