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Jesu, Juva

Posts Tagged ‘Holy-Spirit

Pentecost

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Tomorrow is Pentecost. Once, God espoused himself to his people through the letter at the first Pentecost. Now he has espoused himself to his people through his Spirit at the latter Pentecost.

Be filled with the Spirit. — Ephesians 5:18

How can we obey this command?

  • We pray for the Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12)
  • The Spirit is the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). Our sin quenches the Spirit and our receptivity to his work: so we are more filled with the Spirit when we pursue holiness and flee sin. Of course, it is only by the Spirit that we pursue holiness, but this is not a cruel irony because God is at work in our working. In other words, we are filled with the Spirit when we submit to him and to his will.
  • The Spirit is the Spirit of the body (1 Cor 12:13, Eph 4:4), and the purpose of the Spirit is to build up the body (1 Cor 12:7). The Spirit is about interpersonal life and ministry. This is an extension of what theologians call the “procession” of the Spirit — the Spirit proceeds between the Father and the Son (Augustine and Edwards describe the Spirit as a sort of personified love), and proceeds to us from the Father and from the Son. But in a lesser way the Spirit also proceeds from us to one another. Because of this activity of procession and ministry in the body, the Spirit is particularly associated with corporate worship. The Spirit kindled the fire on God’s altar and now kindles a fire on us as living sacrifices. The Spirit is particularly active when we gather together before the Lord’s throne on the Lord’s day for corporate worship (Rev 1:10). Putting this together, an additional way that we can be filled with the Spirit is to persevere in being joined to the body, to allow ourselves to be ministered to by one another, and in particular to participate in corporate worship so that we are ministered to by Jesus. We go up to God’s house to meet with our husband, king and commander, and are commissioned by him to go out into the world again, freshly equipped with his Spirit.

Thanks to Anthony and John for prompting some of these thoughts. Picture from Uri Brito.

Written by Scott Moonen

May 26, 2012 at 11:47 am

Posted in Biblical Theology

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Far as the curse is found

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In his chapter in The Glory of Kings, “Holy War Fulfilled and Transformed,” Rich Lusk deals with the unique way in which God led Israel to prosecute war in the conquest of Canaan. Lusk contrasts Israel’s conquest of Canaan against the much more restrictive demands God placed on their ordinary warfare. He goes on to establish how the conquest is typological for Jesus’s conquest of the world through the cross and the church. The church engages in battle and wrestling through our worship, prayer, sacrifice, evangelism, discipleship and ministries of mercy.

There is a kind of double meaning in the idea of something being devoted to God: it may entail either punishment or acceptance, judgment or justification. While cities were sent up in smoke as a mark of God’s judgment, the system of offerings shows a positive meaning of ascension in smoke. The penalty and judgment for sin came into play when the animal was put to death. After its death, the animal’s ascension in smoke was a positive figure of its entering into God’s presence on behalf of the worshipper. The underlying Hebrew for “whole burnt offering,” in fact, literally means “ascension offering.” Likewise, Jesus, our offering for sin, in his ascension brings us to the Father in union with him as our representative. So, today, the church wields the sword of the Spirit, the word (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12), waging a campaign of devoting the world to God by spreading the fire of the Holy Spirit, life born out of repentance. Since Pentecost, we are living sacrifices.

What struck me in thinking about this was Israel’s refusal to enter into Canaan, and how this may serve as a caution for the church. Consider Numbers 13:25-14:38. Clearly God promised to give them the land, and they saw firsthand his power to fight for them. And yet they still did not believe. Ultimately, God forgave their sin, but they had to endure the consequence of their unbelief through forty years of wandering and death. In a way, they were given only as much as they believed God for: they did not believe God could or would fight for them, so they do not enjoy the victory that God had promised.

What does this mean for the church? Jesus is the high priest whose death brings about an atoning transition from judgment to grace (Numbers 20, 35), and immediately opens the way to the gospel’s conquest of the world (Numbers 20:29-21:3). Jesus’s ascension is his coronation; the Father has now put everything in subjection under his feet (Ps. 8, Heb. 2). Here are a few ways we can work at walking in faith in Jesus’s lordship:

  • Jesus is lord of nations, kings and magistrates, so our responsibility as citizens does not stop at voting and prayer: we call them to account to Jesus and seek to disciple them
  • Our children belong to Jesus and his Spirit is at work in them, so our parenting owes as much to the pattern of discipleship as to evangelism
  • Jesus is lord of our work, so we can work in any lawful vocation “as for the Lord,” knowing that he is beginning a new work of subduing the earth regardless of the seeming futility we see on our own time horizons
  • Jesus is lord of all, so we can confidently appeal to unbelievers on the basis that they live under his rule in his realm, that everything they enjoy is a blessing from him, and that true joy and blessing is to be found in welcoming him and his lordship rather than despising him.

And belt out some Christmas songs this holiday season. Joy to the world!

Written by Scott Moonen

December 5, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Quench

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Some more thoughts on the unpardonable sin in Matthew 12.

First, the Holy Spirit can variously be seen as the personified love of God, the life of God, as life-giving water and breath and fire. The Spirit proceeds between the Father and Son, from the Father and Son to Christians, and from Christian to Christian. All of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit have a one-another focus to them: the Spirit is the unity-giving glue between Christians that ties the church together and strengthens our life.

So, in a sense, to blaspheme the Spirit, to quench the Spirit, is to cut yourself off from the waters of life and from the body of Christ.

Second, there is a corporate reading of this passage that complements the individual reading. Jesus is speaking here to the shepherds of Israel. Later in this chapter Jesus establishes a direct parallel between his miracle of deliverance and the nation of Israel: Jesus would set Israel free, but the demon will return, find the house empty of the Holy Spirit, and fill the house with more evil spirits. “So also will it be with this evil generation.” This is not unusual; many of Jesus’s parables are warnings spoken to Israel and her leaders as a nation, assembly, church.

Reading the passage in this light, blasphemy against the Spirit is the rejection of the Spirit by God’s people. Jesus is warning Israel that the Spirit will depart from them, a direct fulfillment of the Spirit’s leaving the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. The unpardonable sin is thus not only a warning to individuals, but also a warning to churches: if you reject the Spirit, the Spirit will depart from you.

Written by Scott Moonen

October 22, 2011 at 9:12 am

Posted in Biblical Theology

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Pentecost

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Tomorrow is Pentecost.

Then, God gave us his law. He put it in a chest and wrote it on our hearts. Now, he also fills us with himself, his own spirit.

Then, God taught us to build him a tent-house so that he could live among us. He walked with us for a time in the flesh. Now, he dwells with us through his spirit and one another.

Then, God’s fire engulfed the bush, as a token that the God who keeps his promises would not consume us. Instead, his fire consumed the sacrifice on the altar and rose up as a pleasing memorial to him. Now, God’s fire rests continually upon us, and we consume his body and blood as a pleasing memorial to him.

Some Pentecost reading:

Written by Scott Moonen

June 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Conviction and the cure

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My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.

Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:

Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?

[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.

We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.

How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:

  1. Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  2. Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
  3. Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
  4. Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
    1. God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
    2. True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
    3. God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
    4. God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
    5. Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
    6. The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
  5. Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).

Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch

Lauterbach on censoriousness

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Mark Lauterbach has just finished an excellent series on censoriousness, which he defines (from Jonathan Edwards) as “a disposition to think evil of others.” Lauterbach shares thoughts from Edwards and himself on this sinful tendency.

Isn’t God holy? Yes, but then I reflect on how my Lord critiques me
and I think of Ps 130 — if the Lord numbered our sins, who could stand?
But he does not — he is patient and selective and gentle with us.

This series has six posts:

  1. Censorious thoughts, 1, introduction;
  2. Censorious thoughts, 2, on pride;
  3. Censorious thoughts, 3, also on pride;
  4. Censorious thoughts, 4, on receiving criticism;
  5. Censorious thoughts, 5, on love; and
  6. Censorious thoughts, final, on encouraging and supporting the work of the Spirit.

Gregory Nazianzen on the Trinity

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This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unity, and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite ones, each God when considered in himself; as the Father, so the Son; as the Son, so the Holy Spirit; the three one God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial; one God because of the monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendour of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of any one of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light. — Gregory Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism

As quoted by Robert Letham in The Holy Trinity.

Written by Scott Moonen

November 25, 2006 at 5:25 am