Posts Tagged ‘Promise of God’

Instructions to Believers: Part One

Instructions to Believers: Part One

© C. O. Bishop 1/10/2018 THCF 1/14/2018

Hebrews 13:1-6

Introduction:

We have been studying through the Epistle to the Hebrews for many months, now: there have been seven comparisons made, comparing Jesus to all of the important facets of Judaism, with the constant conclusion that “Jesus is better”, because He is the fulfillment of all the promises, the real sacrifice, the real temple, the real Sabbath. Indeed, the central theme of the whole book has been that “Jesus is better.”

There have also been seven warnings, in increasingly stark terms of judgment to come, for those who have pretended faith, but never have made Jesus their Savior on a personal basis. Those who have “gone along for the ride”, giving lip-service to belief, but who have never seen themselves as guilty sinners, needing a Savior, and who have never claimed Jesus’s blood as the full payment for their own sins, are facing eternal loss. We are warned to examine ourselves to be sure that our faith is personal: that we have seen ourselves as guilty sinners before a Holy God, and that we have placed our dependence on Jesus as our only hope for redemption.

The writer (Paul, we think) addresses several seemingly unrelated issues, in closing. He raises no more points demonstrating the superiority of Christ, now, nor any further warnings against false or partial faith. He simply addresses the believers and the need for practical holiness in their lives, as well as the practical outworking of the Love of Christ.

Love is the Foundation

 1Let brotherly love continue.

The phrase “brotherly love” in this verse is actually the Greek word “philadelphia”. Contrary to popular wisdom, the word “Philadelphia” does not mean “The city of brotherly love.” It just means the “love of the brethren”. The city in Pennsylvania is simply named “brotherly love”, though the reality, there, as is true in most cities, pretty much makes a travesty of the concept.

The believers are to love one another as family. This is one of the only two places where “love” is used as a command, and it is not the Agape love in question. Every other place where love is commanded, it is the fully committed, altruistic Agape Love that God demonstrated at the Cross. When John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world…” it does not mean “God loved the world SO MUCH…”, but “In this manner God loved the World: that He gave His only Begotten Son.”

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

It is interesting to me that the very next idea mentioned is the strangers…the word usually translated “hospitality” is “philoxenia”, meaning the “love of the stranger”. It means taking care of the needs of those with whom you have no natural bond of friendship, doing so simply because of your relationship with Christ. Here the word for hospitality has been spelled out, as a phrase: “entertain strangers”—love those, care for those to whom no such favor is due from a natural viewpoint, as there is no relationship. They are a stranger to you.

The only two examples I can think of when humans actually fed or cared for angels were Abraham and Lot. And in those cases, it was the same two angels. (Abraham had three, but one was the “Angel of the LORD”—actually the pre-incarnate Christ. The other two left Abraham and went to find Lot.) It’s possible that there are other examples, but those two stand out in Biblical history. Sampson’s parents could be another, I suppose, but that was a little different.

Quite honestly, I have never practiced hospitality with this in mind; I have never “hoped to see an angel.” I have simply met the need because there was a need to be met. As far as I know they were all bona fide humans. I do not think, either, that there is any doctrine here that “angels are all around us, masquerading as humans,” though many popular Christian books hint at that idea. Is it possible? Certainly…but, in general, what would be the point?

The word for “angels” (Greek “aggelous”) just means “messengers.” In Hebrews chapter one, they are described as spirits, specifically ministering (serving) spirits, sent out “…to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” I do not think I understand much about angelic beings, mainly because the Scripture does not tell us very much. I also do not trust extra-biblical sources about such subjects, simply because there has been so much folklore about angels and the spirit world, from the beginning of time, which is virtually all false. I prefer to take God’s Word alone on such subjects, and leave the speculation to others. God tells us to cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. (2nd Corinthians 10:4, 5)

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

The Writer brings up some specific needs, here. Persecution had already begun against the Church. The believers were already being arrested and imprisoned for their faith. God reminds the Hebrew believers that the Body of Christ is one Body. (Compare 1st Corinthians 12:12, 20-22) We need to see one another’s needs as being our own needs. We should be as fervent in prayer for another brother or sister as if we ourselves were the one experiencing the adversity.

What about Marriage?

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

God has always rejected Promiscuity. Marriage, although it has been the center of much debate in recent years, was the only relational gift God gave to the human race before sin entered into the world. It was, and is, literally, undefiled. It is not a human invention or tradition, though it has been overlaid with thousands of years of human traditions, differing wildly from culture to culture. It was not inaugurated by humans at all, but only continued in one form or another, sometimes quite corrupted, sometimes not. We are to preserve it in an uncorrupted form.

I have had people tell me that if a man and woman cohabitate, then “they are married, in God’s eyes.” That is not true: remember what Jesus told the Woman at the Well: “Thou hast well said, ‘I have no husband:’ for thou hast had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that thou saidst truly.” (John 4:17, 18) There are several things we can get from that comment, beside the obvious fact of His supernatural knowledge (which in itself is not surprising when one considers that He is God, in the flesh.)

The first thing I can see is that Jesus recognized both divorce and remarriage: though he hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and considers the whole practice of divorce and remarriage adulterous, he recognizes it. He did not say, “You have had one husband and have been committing adultery with five men since then.” He said “you have had five husbands.” Those were legitimate marriages. Jesus himself said so, though he did not approve of the divorces.

But the other side of that fact is that He definitely does not recognize “living together” as marriage. He said “…he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” So cohabitation is definitely not marriage. Then what is marriage?

Marriage is a social contract between one man and one woman. (Yes, God recognizes polygamy, too, but does not approve it as a practice. He said it was intended as one spouse, and is to be a lifelong commitment.) Marriage is that state in any given culture (not just a fringe sub-culture) within which a man and a woman can, because of that social contract, live together with the full approval of the whole culture.

In some cultures it is pretty simple. In others it is quite a complex problem. In Mexico, (I am told by friends who are Mexican citizens) the state does not recognize a marriage by the church, and the Church does not recognize a marriage by the state. You have to have both authorizations, in order to be recognized by both. (Something wrong with that picture, I think, but that is how it is.)

In at least some (of the many) tribes in New Guinea, if a woman leaves with a man, for the purpose of becoming his wife, she is married to him. For example, I was told of a situation where a young man crept out of the jungle near the sweet-potato field where his sweetheart was working with her mother. He managed to attract her attention, and persuaded her, through gestures, to run away with him. She left the field, and headed off with him. The mother realized what had happened, and chased after them with her digging stick, caught them, and beat them both quite savagely…but eventually she went back to her field alone. They were married. She absolutely did not approve, but she recognized that the commitment had been made.

In our culture (USA), one needs a “marriage license” in order to have a marriage that is recognized by (for example) the IRS, but I have never heard of a church not recognizing a civil wedding as being valid, though, as a culture, we may prefer church weddings.

In some cultures, a dowry is paid by the bride’s family to the groom. In other cultures that is reversed, and a bride-price is paid by the groom to the family of the bride. In our culture neither is practiced, but there are cultural norms as to “who pays for what.” (Weddings, Receptions, etc.)

The Results of the Promise of God

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

#1 – No Fear of Loss

There are some words in Old English which have pretty dramatically changed meaning: “Conversation” is one of them. The Old English word “conversation” invariably meant “way of life”, “lifestyle”, and “behavior”, or some related idea. In one instance it comes from a word meaning citizenship—where we live—but in all the others it means “how we live”. In this particular instance, alone, the Greek word is “tropos,” meaning “way, or manner, or lifestyle.” Several of the other occurrences are related words.

So the Writer warns, here, against avarice, or greed—specifically the “love of money.” The word for “covetousness”, here, is the Greek word “philargurion”; (literally, “the love of silver”). And on what basis does he say that we are to abandon our fixation on money? The fact that we have the promise of God that he will never abandon us, but will continually sustain and uphold us.

The love of (or obsession with) money is not limited to misers, greedy capitalists, or whomever: It is not limited to the wealthy. Once, early in our marriage, I was out of work because of huge layoffs, and my wife was newly pregnant with our first child. I was absolutely consumed with the fear of failing to provide for my little family. During that time, my very first waking thought, each morning, and my last waking thought at night was “What can I do to make some money?” I was not trusting God at all! When it comes to fixating on money, it does not have to be riches: it could only be the rent. The one, we condemn; but the other we commend as “being responsible as a Man,” etc. But when that passion for earning, saving or possessing is all-consuming, and it has turned your heart away from a steadfast faith in a faithful Creator, then it is sin, whether great or small. The amount of money is not the issue; the heart response is. The root is unbelief.

#2 — No Fear of Abandonment

“…for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

There is a very interesting translation “glitch” here in this passage. There is nothing at all wrong with the translation: just with the language. In English, if we use a “double negative,” technically speaking, it renders a positive. For example, if I said, I will not never leave you, and will not never no-how forsake you”, in English, it would be simply laughably poor grammar, and there would be real question as to whether I was promising not to leave, or promising to leave!

But in Greek, you can strengthen a negative by compounding negative prefixes…and that is what is done here, in Greek. The Writer does not employ separate words of negation, but rather he uses multiple prefixes which each further negate the verb, so that the literal translation would be something similar to, “Let your life be free from the love of money, for he himself has said (and it stands on record) ‘I will not, I will not ever leave you! I will not, I will not, I will NOT ever forsake you!” It is an emphatically strong statement of commitment!

#3 — No Self-Dependency

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Because I had turned my heart away from God’s supply, and I saw my sustenance as being only my responsibility, and so I was far more concerned with earning money than pursuing the imperative of my dependence on the Grace of God, I could not confidently say, “The Lord is my helper”, and I very definitely feared the possibility of losing our little home (a single-wide mobile home.) Yes, there were extended family members who, undoubtedly, would have stepped in and rescued us (and in fact, did, at various times and to various degrees, during that year,) but I saw it as being entirely my responsibility, and I bitterly desired to carry that load myself.

But sometime during that time of near-poverty, I recognized the meaning and practical application of 1st Timothy 6:9, 10 “But they that will be (desire to be) rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which drown man in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all [kinds of] evil, which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” I saw myself as being in danger of doing just that. I saw other related verses, such as the passage here in Hebrews 13, and I recognized that, while I had always thought of “covetousness” as being primarily a “rich man’s disease,” it is, in truth, a human failing. I am guilty, simply because I do not trust God for my financial and physical well-being, nor for the well-being of my family. I want a “do-it-yourself” security. I have to confess it as sin.

The roots of this sin go deeper than just our human frailties: Isaiah 14:12-14 tells of Lucifer’s fall into sin, completely rooted in self-will, self-importance, self-expression, and self-sufficiency. Ultimately, we attempt to dethrone God, and declare ourselves to be the fountain of all we are and have. People boast of being a “self-made man”, and the like. There is even a poem, Invictus, whose closing lines declare “I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul!” (What arrogant folly!) But am I not doing essentially the same thing when I turn away from an active dependence on the living God, and attempt to be self-sufficient? Yes, I am!

There is nothing wrong with working: we are commanded to do so. There is nothing wrong with seeking to care for our families: we are commanded to do so. But we are constantly warned to remember the True Source of all things. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and He shall direct thy paths.” We glibly quote that passage, but don’t we consider the real implications.

This is something for us to think about! So, ponder it! Meditate upon this passage, and consider how it may apply to your own experience. Next time, we will expand further on this passage.

Lord Jesus, Free us from self-will, from self-sufficiency, and from self-reliance. Teach us to walk with you in faith, trusting you for all things.

 


The Behavior of Faith

The Behavior of Faith

© C. O. Bishop 10/12/17; THCF 10/15/17

Hebrews 11:11-16

Introduction:

Last time we talked about “what Faith is”, (and what it is not): The eleventh chapter of Hebrews goes on to speak more about what Faith does, than what Faith is. Faith is believing; that’s all. But Godly Faith is “believing God more than I believe Me.” It means taking God’s Word as being infinitely more dependable than my own thoughts, feelings, and reasoning. I am actually commanded to think, to reason, and to respond with my heart. But I am warned that my old sin nature is so devious as to be the single most likely source of my downfall. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. So, I need to learn to believe God first, and then to reason within that framework.

I am not told to come up with my own ideas, stamp “God’s Will” on my own presumption, and then expect God to honor it. There have been a few (very few) cases in Biblical history where it seems as though something like that may have happened: places where a passionate servant of God called out some impossible thing, and God pulled it off for him. Now—did God inspire that prayer, or declaration, or prophecy—whatever it was? I don’t know for sure in every case. But I also do not know that He didn’t. The times when God clearly did NOT authorize such a prophecy or whatever the statement was, then it simply didn’t happen. I have known people, personally, who said they “believed God” that they were sent to accomplish some special thing, but when it didn’t materialize, they either made excuses or blamed God, or blamed those around them. That is not faith; it is presumption. So, how does faith behave? What does it look like?

The Response of Faith

11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Sara judged God to be faithful. That is a good response. I would not have seen that from the exchange in Genesis 18, but I have God’s Word, here in Hebrews Eleven, to inform me of what Sara’s inner thoughts were. She believed God because she considered His character to be reliable: she judged Him to be faithful. Abraham had already decided the same thing, and now the two of them were in agreement that this unsolicited promise of God (a promised child—an heir to the promise of the land and the eternal blessing) was before them, and they believed His spoken Word. Notice that this was not a “feeling,” nor a vision. In this particular case (Genesis 18—read it!) God showed up in person, in the form of a man, and only later in the conversation revealed His identity. He spoke with them both, in person, and He made a verbal, solid promise. There was no presumption on their part. Consider, too, the fact that earlier, when Abram had changed his name to Abraham (meaning “Father of many nations”), it was because God told him to do so. It was an obedient response to a revealed truth: in other words, faith; not presumption. And what was the result of this sort of response?

The Result of Faith

12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

The Birth of Isaac was by Promise. It was a miraculous event, even by God’s reckoning. We tend to yell “miracle” when anything unusual happens; but God does not. This was not a case of a “surprise baby” of which we have all seen examples. This was a case of a miraculous rejuvenation of two very elderly human bodies, resulting in an otherwise normal conception, pregnancy and birth. And God says that it was supernatural, not just unusual. Bear in mind that God made the promise first; Abraham and Sara simply believed the promise. They did not conceive the idea on their own and then try to stamp “God’s Will” on it. It was God’s plan and God’s Promise. All they did is believe it.

By the way, consider the contrast regarding the birth of Ishmael: A few years earlier, they had come up with their own idea as to how to bring about the promise of God that had been given years before, and Ishmael, the son of Hagar, was the result. The entire Arab world calls Ishmael their forefather today. This was not the result of faith, but a result of unbelief (a lack of faith) and presumption. And the warfare and hatred that has resulted will haunt Israel until the day the Lord returns.

We see all these events through the eyes of Moses, as an accomplished feat, but Abraham saw it through the eyes of faith, and had believed the promise for years, even changing his name in accord with God’s command, as an outward statement of faith. We can read about it as a historical fact, but Abraham had to face it as a present reality. So did Sara. I can’t even imagine how that must have felt, emotionally, to watch their own bodies being restored to functionality, and a normal pregnancy and birth resulting.

And yet, God says in the following verses, “these died in faith, not having received the promises!” What promises was he talking about, then? I thought they just received the promise! Isaac was the promised Son, wasn’t he?

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

This word “persuaded”, here, is important: The Greek root peitho means “to be persuaded”…and it is from this root that both the Greek words “pisteuo” (to believe) and “pistis” (faith) arise. We need to become persuaded in our own hearts that God is good: that He is faithful. That His character is, beyond question, excellent and Gracious. From that foundation, we can believe that His Word is trustworthy and true…and that we can trust in it, implicitly. We are not to be crippled by unbelief, unable to respond in faith, through obedience; nor are we to run ahead of the Great Shepherd with our own presumptuous plans. We need to open the eyes of faith, and, day by day, look to Him for guidance. Look to His written Word for principles by which to live, and pray for direction by His Holy Spirit, for the particulars of life.

When we begin to walk with God in obedience, regarding His Word as true, we find ourselves estranged from the World around us. We no longer fit in. Eventually, we accept the fact that we truly have changed citizenship, and that we now belong to God’s kingdom. With that realization, and having embraced that truth, we begin to release our grip on this World, and we begin to look beyond it.  The Old Testament believers were also looking beyond this world with the eyes of faith: Evidently the promised Son (Isaac) was not where they had their hopes set. (Abraham and Sara did receive him.) Nor, even, was the physical land of Israel their real hope. They were looking to an eternal fulfillment, through a supernatural relationship with the supernatural, eternal, invisible, omnipresent God who created the universe. They looked with the eyes of faith.

The Eyes of Faith

14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

These folks were looking beyond this world, just as we are! But in their case, they had a physical place to which they could have returned…their hometown, in most cases, was still there, and their extended families, in some cases, were all there, as well. But when they had abandoned their old life to follow the God who had called them, they had also abandoned the gods of their old lives, and the values they once held dear…and their extended families and friends had not followed their example. So a huge barrier was there, against a return. They really couldn’t go back comfortably, even though the physical places still existed. So that is not what they did: they kept looking forward, and did not go back.

Remember, in the previous chapters, that the writer had cited some who “fell away because of unbelief.” We can read in the book of Exodus that the people of Israel were frequently guilty of “wanting to return to Egypt.” I have to shake my head over that one, and wonder what in the world they were thinking: they could not go back!  Even had God permitted it, they seem to have forgotten that Egypt had been literally destroyed on their account, and the Pharaoh and his entire army had died in the Red Sea because of them. What kind of welcome would they have found, if they had returned? It was simply an impossibility, even for those who wanted to return.

But God commends those who did not want to return, who wanted to press on to receive the promise. Abraham was one of those, over 400 years before the Exodus. Even in his later life, when he sent his servant back to Haran, to find a wife for Isaac, he warned him that he was absolutely not to take Isaac back there. He stayed committed to the promise. God commended people throughout the Bible, who clung to Him against all odds, and chose Him over all else.

16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

I have no idea what the eternal state will be like beyond the tiny amount of information we are given in scripture. And, beyond that, He clearly says that none of us have seen it, none of us have even heard a reliable account of it, except the little bit God has told us, and He further says that none of us have correctly imagined it. (“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what the Father has in store for them that love Him.”) But I believe in His character, and I trust that what He has prepared will turn out to be something unimaginably good, and that He will change my heart from what I now consider good so that I will see it through His eyes, and recognize that Eternal Goodness and Blessing. 

I really don’t spend a lot of time “daydreaming about heaven:” I know that I have no idea what it will be like. So I have abandoned the fruitless behavior of imagination, and am embracing the stance of faith…waiting on God for that unseen future, and confessing that I have no real idea what it will be. That is a choice I make. I choose Faith. I choose to believe God.

The Choices of Faith

In the meantime, Faith has some things for me to do…to choose to do:

  • Trust the Lord!
  • Obey God’s Word!
  • Love my neighbor!
  • Love my wife!
  • Study the scriptures,
  • Feed on the Word,
  • Feed the Flock!
  • Serve with Joy!
  • Rejoice always!
  • Pray without ceasing!
  • In everything, give thanks!

Do any of these sound familiar to you? They ought to! They are all general commands given to all believers. And what Jesus said about that, in John 14:21, is that the one who has those commandments and keeps them, is demonstrating love for Jesus, personally. And those who fall into that category will find that God is loving them back! Jesus went on to say that he would “manifest himself”, or “make himself known” to that sort of individual.

If you want to see Jesus at work in your life, try walking in obedience, by faith. This is not a way to “earn God’s Favor.” If you have placed your trust in Him as your savior, then you already have His favor, in Christ. You are already His Child. If you have not placed your trust in His blood at the Cross for your salvation, then all the works in the world will do no good. Only the blood of Jesus will suffice.

This message is an invitation to believers to join with Jesus in the Service of God, and be blessed with supernatural Joy. The invitation to all others remains the same: “Look, and Live! Turn to Jesus personally for eternal life, and receive it from Him as a free gift!” In both cases, however, the choice is personal. An unbeliever can choose to reject God’s offer. And a believer can choose to stay on the fringes of God’s blessing, and not serve with Jesus. But, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me….” We are invited to join Him in the work.

All of the behaviors of Faith are a matter of choice. Faith is a choice! Either choose to believe God and do as He asks, or choose not to do so. The choice is yours!

Lord Jesus, awaken our hearts to serve you and to obey by faith the rudimentary things of the Christian life, so that you can draw us along into deeper things as we draw close to you. Help us to see life as you see it, and to make our choices as you direct us to choose.

 

 

 

 


The Promise of the Spirit

The Promise of the Spirit

© C. O. Bishop 2/14/15 THCF 2/15/15

Galatians 3:14, 5:16, 22, 23; Ephesians 1:13, 14; John 14:16; Hebrews 5:11-14

Introduction:

Last week I had intended to explore the Promise of the Spirit more thoroughly, but we ran out of time; so today we will go on with that same topic, as it is introduced here in Galatians, by the Apostle Paul.

Paul introduced the Promise of the Spirit as a contrast to the Curse of the Law, here in Galatians; primarily because these believers were being harassed and seduced by false teachers who were persuading them to turn away from the pure Grace of the Gospel and depend upon their own ability to keep the Mosaic Law. He showed from the Old Testament that the Law had always been a curse to those who could not or would not keep it. He reminded them that the Jews had never been able to keep it, and that, as we saw elsewhere, the only thing that had ever saved them from the inherent curse in the Law was the Grace of God extended through the sacrifices.

The whole concept of Grace, and how it is intertwined through all the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is a pretty amazing study. We somehow have gotten the idea that Grace was a new thing at the Cross. There is a reason why, in Revelation 13:8, Jesus is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth”. He is the Lamb!  He was the Lamb, pre-figured in the Garden when God clothed Adam and Eve in the blood-stained skins of the first animal sacrifice. He was the Lamb, when Abel came by faith, bringing a blood sacrifice for his own sins. He was all the lambs at that first Passover, when all Israel huddled under the Blood of the Cross, still wet on the lintels and doorposts of their homes. When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World”, he was pulling together all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and showing how they were concluded in Christ. Those old sacrifices could only cover sin, not take it away; the Blood of Jesus finished the job, and took away Sin. That is why He is also the Lamb in the account in Revelation 5:8-10.

He provided clean vessels into which he could pour His Holy Spirit. And we embrace that promise by faith, today. Whether the new believer knows it or not, he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes the Gospel, placing his or her trust in Jesus’ finished work at the Cross. This, again, is pure Grace. By the way, this aspect of God’s Grace is new! The Old Testament believer had no such privilege. Only some of the prophets seem to have had the indwelling Spirit, and even for them it seems to have been a temporary arrangement…or, it could have been at least. David prayed and asked that God not take away the Holy Spirit, in his prayer of confession (Psalm 51:11). But, to you, and to me, the Promise is secure: Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “…will be with you forever” (John 14:16.)

There are certain things that are definite results of the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit, and will be true of every believer at all times, regardless of circumstance or behavior. There are other things which simply should be the result of His presence. Let’s look at both.

What Is the Result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

  1. He is the Seal of my position in Christ until I get my new body. (Ephesians 1:13)
  2. He is the Earnest of our inheritance—the “down-payment” if you like. He, Himself, is the promise, and yet He is also is God’s guarantee of the eternal promise of redemption. (Ephesians 1:14)
  3. He is my Advocate before the throne, praying for me when I don’t know how to pray. (Romans 8:26)
  4. He (along with the study of His Word) is my Defense against bad teaching, and the traps of Satan, set for unwary believers. (1st John 2:20-28; Galatians 5:16-23)
  5. He is my Guide: the one who leads me into all the truth of God’s Word. (John 16:13)
  6. He is my Comforter: the one who encourages my heart in times of trouble. (John 14:16)
  7. He is my Bodyguard and Commander: he makes the Word of God the “Sword of the Spirit”; He is the one who makes the Written Word function as the Living Word: alive, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12)

A person with the seal of the Holy, Living, Spirit of God dwelling in him, is permanently free from the guilt of sin before God. He or she need never again fear condemnation from God. But: that believer is also constantly convicted of sin, and reminded of the need for forgiveness and obedience every time he or she falters. We are drawn to confess and renounce our sins, and so to have our fellowship restored, because the Holy Spirit does not abandon us when we sin: He loves us and draws us back to God. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be with us forever. That is a pretty precious promise all by itself! We need not worry that God will forget his promise and take back His gift.

In Psalm 51:11, when David prayed “…take not thy Holy Spirit from me”, he was speaking from the perspective of one not living in the Church Age. He did not have a permanent promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit (as we have), and, because of the sins he had committed as God’s servant, he feared losing that special, spiritual privilege he treasured as a prophet of God.

fear the loss of fellowship, because of sin. I fear displeasing the God who saved me. I fear displeasing the God who has become my true Father, through re-birth. But I know by His promises that I do not need to fear abandonment. His promise stands on record: (Hebrews 13:5), “I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.” That’s the promise of God, through the Spirit.

All the things listed above are simply facts: they are true of every believer whether or not he or she is in fellowship with God, whether or not there is unconfessed sin in his or her life. They are positional truths, true about you because you are in Christ. But there is so much more available on a moment-by-moment basis, which is not just positional—it is also conditional. It is conditional upon being in fellowship with God, obedient to his Word and His leading. It requires confessing and turning away from sin. These are things that should be the direct result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but which are tragically lacking, much of the time, in most believers’ lives.

What Should be the Result of the Gift of the Holy Spirit?

In 1st Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul told the church at Corinth that they were carnal Christians—not spiritual people— and babies, though no longer mere natural men, either. In Hebrews 5:11-14, he told the recipients that they had become babes, needing again to be fed milk—baby-food— instead of adult fare. Why? What had happened, there, that left those believers in such a shameful state? Were they not indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Certainly they were! But, as he succinctly pointed out to the Hebrews readers, “…strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use (practice), have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) So, there is a matter of practice, exercise and experience, here…A person who is indwelt, but not filled with the Spirit of God, is behaving (and thinking) exactly as if he were not saved at all. And even when we are walking with Him, it still requires practice—exercise, as Paul called it—to gain strength and maturity in one’s walk with God.

The Holy Spirit can only guide someone who is actively walking with Him. And, over a period of months and years of daily choosing to walk with God, applying the Word of God to your life, and being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, one can actually grow stronger. It gets easier to walk. Is that a surprise? It shouldn’t be.

Walking, for an infant, is nearly impossible, but within a few months, crawling has begun, and a few months later, walking is not only possible but expected. There comes a time, very soon, when, if a child is not walking, then the parents will be very worried, and will consult a physician. Paul is reminding the Hebrew Christians that they are long past the time when learning to walk should be an issue…he says that they should have mastered walking a long time ago and be teaching others. Instead, he says, they have again become babes, and have to have someone spoon-feed them the scriptures. They are not able to feed themselves, let alone feed others. That is a very sad statement …and still completely applicable today.

Led by the Spirit

In Romans 8 we see that if we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, then we are expected to be led by Him. That is the normal Christian life. We are not supposed to be wallowing in sin and self-pity, amidst all the usual baggage that seems to follow us today. We are supposed to be led by the Spirit.

Give some thought to how a baby human learns to walk: he or she does so primarily by instinct, but also by encouragement from those around him or her. Each one is different. Some learn quickly, some more slowly. But each learns by doing, and success only means getting up and walking again, each and every time we fall. How different that is, from the life of a baby antelope, for example: In the case of the antelope kid, it only has a few minutes to a few hours, at most, to gain enough strength and coordination to not only walk, but to move quickly enough to keep up with the herd. It learns to walk instinctively, and likewise learns to feed instinctively. Predators follow the herds, hoping for an exposed or weak baby. Survival is entirely dependent upon the individual’s ability to become strong and fast, in the shortest time possible.

In the case of a human baby, most parents will continue to support a weak or developmentally disabled child regardless of cost, and will not abandon that child to predators of any kind. In the case of the baby Christian, Jesus will never abandon you; but you are in danger of harassment and damage from enemies, so long as you neglect to walk with the shepherd. If you hope to have a happy, fruitful walk with your Savior, you need to be doing just that: walking with Him!

What Happens if We Do Walk with Him?

I don’t like to jump ahead, but in this case it seems right: the answer, spelled out by Paul in Galatians 5:16, is that “If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

Let’s take a sample problem:

Let’s say I am out of fellowship with God because of sin, and I know it: Let’s say that anger is the issue, because of how someone at work is treating me. So, eventually, I come to the realization that my anger is not helping the matter, and, in fact, is feeding on itself, and I am getting worse; I am beginning to curse under my breath, and am hating my tormentors. What solution is there? I am not being led by the Spirit, and am not walking with God. I am not being obedient (Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for them that despitefully use you…”), so I am not experiencing His Grace and blessing. How can I change?

The first step has already happened: I am recognizing that there is a problem in me, not just in those who are mistreating me. But the next thing is to do what God said to do: confess my sin. (“What? I’m not sinning, they are!”) Until I confess that I am sinning, and see it the way God sees it, there is no cure. God has a solution for sin, not “problems”. What was God’s solution for sin for the whole human race? It was Jesus’ blood at the Cross. And all I had to do to appropriate that Grace to my own life was to confess my need for a savior and place my trust in his finished work, at Calvary.

But now, though I have already been washed clean at Calvary, I am again looking at a pair of very dirty feet attached to my own already-washed self. They need to be cleansed, through confession. What sin am I confessing? First, I am confessing the anger. God commands that I put aside anger. He calls it by several different names, but all with the same root cause. In the Old Testament, in Psalm 37:8, He commands “Cease from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.” My anger had already begun to fester into a desire to return evil for evil, even if only in words. So the anger is beginning to bear the fruit of evil. In the New Testament, Ephesians 4:31, he says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice”. Notice how he uses a whole nest of ideas, all in the family of anger, to point out a weakness in my character. I can’t say, “Well, that wasn’t anger, it was frustration.” Sorry…that is just a euphemism for anger. Things aren’t going my way, so I am frustrated…angry and distressed, perhaps, but still angry. Irritated? Annoyed? Miffed?  Hey, how about this one: Righteously indignant! Really? In this condition I want to call myself righteous? No, I need to see that the anger itself is sin, and that it has already resulted in evil thoughts and hurtful words.

So, I confess my sins, placing my trust in his promise to forgive, and God is faithful (just as he promised) to forgive my sins, and cleanse me…again.

Then I set out to walk with him. I obey Him by praying for those who I think are mistreating me, and asking for God’s mercy in their lives. I focus my attention on His blessing and his command to bless them. I look for ways to be a blessing to them. So there is a practical outworking of His Love and Grace toward them. If there are people I have hurt with my words, then I go to them and confess as well… “I said things I had no right to say. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Will I stumble again? You can count on it! But perhaps next time I will get up a little more quickly and toddle on, rather than wallowing for so long in self-pity. Meanwhile, there is much to be done.

Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” I can seek to do that. He says we are to serve our employers as if we were serving him (which we are.) I can seek to do that as well. He commands, “Husbands, love your wives….” so I can give attention to that. He gives many commands in the New Testament that contribute to a walk with Him, and none that cause me to fear his rejection. “Love one another…Let not your heart be troubled…Be anxious for nothing….” Etc. We are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve, as well as to give us the will to serve.

Although we will spend more time on it at some later date, it would be well to examine the Fruit of the Spirit while we are talking about the Promise of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22,23 is stating a contrast to the works (plural) of the Flesh. Paul states that “the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance; against such there is no law.”

I would only point out two things, here, in closing:

  1. The contrast, here, is between “works” (things we do by choice) and “fruit” (things borne out by virtue of character). An apple tree does not bear apples because it tries to do so, but because it is its nature to do so. We would be astonished if it bore any other fruit. So the fruit of the Spirit is what normally results when a believer is in fellowship with God.
  2. The other is that the works are plural, while the fruit is singular. Though all the works of the flesh came from the same corrupt source, the list is interminable—in fact, the list ends with a catch-all phrase to indicate there are many more: it says, “and such like”. If you think your pet sin is not mentioned in the Bible, think again. That is where it is listed. All unrighteousness is sin, whether it is specifically named or not. There are things we may reject as a culture, that God does not condemn, but there are principles by which we can recognize a specific practice as falling within the wider scope of sin, and a work of the flesh.

Meanwhile, the Fruit is singular, though nine aspects are listed. Each of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit is only a part of the whole. The whole fruit is either there or it is not. This is not a “fruit smorgasbord” from which we are to take our pick. We are to walk in the Spirit and the result should be the fruit of the Spirit, not the works of the flesh.

Lord God, help us to recognize our sins, and confess them. Fill us with your Spirit, and rule in our hearts. Make us the Men and Women of God you have chosen us to be. We ask these things in order that we my honor your Son, Jesus. It is for His sake and His glory we ask these things in His Name. Amen