VIDEO The Substance of Faith

By John MacArthur Oct 18, 2009

I want you to turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter 11. And as we look through this chapter, I – I want us to not get caught up in a lot of difficult details. I think this is a chapter that is – is going to be foundational for us. There’s so many new people in our church, so many new Christians in our church, so many who – who need to understand the foundations of our faith. I don’t want to make this complicated, I don’t want to make it difficult. I’m not going to try to take you in to some kind of minute nuances of theology, but I – I want to embrace this chapter and I want you to embrace it in your thinking and in your – in your spiritual experience because it is so foundational to our life as believers.

We understand that we are saved by faith. We all understand that. “The just shall live by faith,” which is essentially foundational teaching in Scripture. It is quoted back in chapter 10 verse 38, that’s how the tenth chapter really ends. That is not the only place that that passage is quoted. That passage is taken out of Habakkuk chapter 2 in verse 4 but is repeated by the New Testament writers several other places as well because it’s so very, very foundational. So when we talk about salvation, we talk about the gospel, we’re always talking about faith and that raises the question, “What is faith? What is the essence of faith? How are we to understand faith?”

And that’s why we want to look at this chapter. This chapter has been called “The Hall of Fame.” It has been called “The Heroes of the Faith.” It has been called “The Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints,” “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture.” It’s been called, “The Faith Chapter,” and perhaps other things as well. What it presents to us is the power of faith, the power of faith, the excellency of faith.

And I think that needs some clarification in the climate in which we exist today because there is a faith movement within the framework, large framework of evangelical Christianity. It is part of the Charismatic Movement, it’s called The Faith Movement. And these people talk about the power of faith. They talk about the power of faith a lot. But when they’re talking about the power of faith, they are creating a faith that doesn’t exist. They’re taking an impotent faith and trying to empower it. When people in the Faith Movement talk about the power of faith, they’re talking about faith as if it were a personal power that we possess to create our own future, a personal power that we possess to create our own reality, to change the world, to literally define and manufacture our own future.

When they talk about the power of faith they mean that we can use our faith as a power to write our own future history. We can literally believe things into being. We have the power of faith that can create a healing. We have the power of faith that can bring about a salvation. We have the power of faith that can change how people can treat us. We have the power of faith that can change our economic situation, that can take us from poverty to wealth, that can take us from having little to having much, from being deprived to being prosperous, from being a failure to being successful, from being a nobody to being a somebody, from having only ambitions and hopes and dreams to experiencing fulfillment.

The – the notion that exists in this Faith Movement, as it’s called – and they have largely tried to commandeer the concept of faith – is that faith is a power that you possess to create your own future. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is a lie, it is a deception. Faith is not a power which you possess to create your own future. Faith is a God-given ability to trust the future that God has promised you. Huge difference, huge difference.

I don’t want to write my own future, do you? I really don’t want to be responsible for laying out my future. I don’t want to be responsible for determining what my future is going to be. I’m more than happy to leave that in the hands of One who loves me perfectly and has ordained for me a future that is purposeful, fulfilling, satisfying, God-glorifying and eternally blessed. We’re talking about faith, not the false kind of faith that supposedly can create your own future, but the true kind of faith that can produce in you confident trust in the future that God has promised you. That future is laid out in Scripture.

So when we’re talking about faith, we’re talking about trusting in which God has said. Not trusting that you can create something as yet unsaid, a future unwritten, unspoken, unrevealed, but rather to believe in that promise which is laid out in Scripture in all its glory and all its detail that has been given to every true believer. In fact, from a human viewpoint, all they hear is a faith that are recorded in the eleventh chapter, and there are many of them as we will see when we go through the chapter. If from the human perspective they had perhaps the option, they might have written their story differently, differently. Because all their stories are filled with difficulties.

Certainly Abraham’s was, and certainly Moses’ was. We can start where the chapter starts with the first, “By faith, Abel.” You wouldn’t say that if Abel had a choice to write his future he would have written that he would be murdered by his brother. No, these are – these are people who died. These are people who struggled. These are people whose lives were marked with horrendous suffering and it crescendos toward the end of the chapter. So from the human perspective, if they somehow had the power to write their own future, they perhaps would have written it differently than God wrote it. But the kind of faith that we’re talking about, the faith that God gives a believer is the faith to trust the future that God has written because inherent in what God has written for us is His promise of ultimate blessing and eternal joy.

Now the readers of this book needed to understand about faith. They needed to understand it desperately. Obviously, the bulk of those who would read this epistle written to Hebrews were believers. This was written, we don’t know by whom, can’t be certain of that, but it was written by one of the apostles or an associate of the apostles to a community of Jews who had come to faith in Christ. They understood faith. They understood that they needed now to continue to live by faith and that faith would be placed in the gospel, in the person who is at the heart of the gospel, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.

This would be a new kind of life for the Jews. As I said, these are Hebrew believers and, really, for the first time in their life through the gospel and salvation, they have come to understand that their relationship with God is not dependent on works but it’s dependent on faith. That’s new and it needs to be reinforced. And that’s part and parcel of why this eleventh chapter is here so they don’t grow, to borrow Paul’s words, weary in well doing, that they hold on to a life of faith by looking at the models and the examples of all these people in the past who lived by faith and received their glorious reward.

But it’s more than just a chapter designed to encourage believers to continue to walk by faith. You will remember that through the first ten chapters the writer has been laboring to make one major point and it is this; that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant, right, that Christ is superior to everything else. Jesus and His sacrifice is superior, completely superior to the sacrifices and the animals in the old system. He is a better sacrifice who made a better offering. Jesus is better than angels, the writer tells us in these chapters. He is better than the prophets. He is better than Moses, better than Aaron, better than Joshua. He is a better priest than all other priests. And he is from a better priesthood, a superior priesthood, He is the mediator of a better covenant and He is a better sacrifice.

The message of the first ten chapters is, “Put your faith in Jesus Christ, He is in every sense superior.” Now this reinforces for the believers who are receiving this letter, the superiority of Christ to which they have already asserted their will by the power of God. They already know that. They have trusted in that reality. But at periodic points through the opening ten chapters, familiar to anyone who studies the book of Hebrews, there are warnings. There are at least four of them by the time you get to this chapter and this chapter constitutes, if you will, another warning. And these warnings are given to non-Christian Jews who are attending this fellowship. They’re sitting on the fringe, if you will.

They’re apparently intellectually convinced of the gospel, they understand the truth of the gospel in their minds, they understand the power of the proof of that truth by the miracles and signs and wonders which were wrought by Christ. So we could say they’re intellectually convinced. They are hanging on the fringes of this fellowship of Christian Jews but they never really have come all the way to Christ. And there are these periodic warnings not to fall back, not to go back into Judaism. There’s one in – one of them in chapter 2, there are more in chapter 3 and 4, another in chapter 6, another in chapter 10. Don’t go on sinning willfully after you have the knowledge of the truth, says chapter 10, or you will bring upon yourself a far more severe eternal judgment.

So the warning is, “Come all the way to the New Covenant. Come all the way to Christ. Come all the way to faith.” This is a big change, a big change because we know that the Judaism that existed in the time of our Lord and thus in the time of the New Testament was a system of salvation by what? By works, by merit. The Jew attempted to earn salvation. This is all the Jews knew. This is what they had been told. This is what they had been taught. This had been ingrained into them from generations by their parents and their religious leaders. And a simple study of the four gospels reveals the fact that the Judaism of the first century was not the supernatural system given by God whereby the sinner knew that he couldn’t keep the Law of God and thus was penitent and prayed to God, like David did in Psalm 51, pleading for mercy and grace by faith in a God who was willing to forgive and thus receive salvation as a gift of grace, not earned by works.

The system had long forgotten that salvation was by grace, that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, that Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness, and they had created a religious cult built on ethics, built on morality, built on religious ceremony. Salvation came to those who observed all those ethical standards, all those moral oughts and all those ceremonies.

It was necessary then to teach these people the reality of salvation by faith. They had a lot of other things that they could look at in terms of New Testament literature to be taught that. Jesus said that salvation was by faith – that was clear – and not by works. The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear, Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace are you saved through faith.” Romans chapter 3, chapter 4, and all the way through indicates that salvation comes by faith alone. Scripture is replete with that emphasis. But the Jews are having a hard time being deprogrammed. Can we put it that way? They’re having a hard time being deprogrammed. So you’re going to have to show them something other than the New Testament.

They would like to be able to accept this reality of salvation by faith – rather than what, by works – coming from Christ, coming from the apostles, coming from Paul, coming from the New Testament writers. But isn’t it possible that there could be some other illustrations of salvation by faith from the Old Testament? This might get them across that barrier that seems to be so formidable for them and that is why the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is written. It is written because it is a necessity to prove to the Jews who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, that salvation is by faith and that people not only after Jesus but even before Jesus were saved by faith, by faith.

So in verse 38 of chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews states the key. “My righteous ones shall live by faith. My righteous ones shall live by faith.” That is a direct quote from Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 4, “The just, or the righteous one shall live by faith.” And Habakkuk is an Old Covenant prophet and you can’t shrink back from that. If he shrinks back, “My soul has no pleasure in him,” says the prophet. Verse 39, “But we are not of those who shrink back.” We don’t shrink back from this salvation by faith in Christ.

To shrink back is to end up in “destruction, but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul.” The plea all the way along in these warning sections is don’t come all the way to Christ, sit on the edge and then reject salvation by faith and fall back into your old works/righteousness system. If you fall back, God has no pleasure in that and you will fall back into eternal destruction. Come all the way to faith in Christ for the eternal preserving of your soul.

Now how is he going to get this case across? How is he going to penetrate their sort of Old Testament thinking? The answer in chapter 11, by giving us a list of Old Testament saints whose lives were marked by faith. The true people of God through all the ages have become the true people of God by faith. Chapter 11 is loaded with illustrations. Just looking at verse 4, “By faith, Abel.” At verse 5, “By faith, Enoch.” At verse 7, “By faith, Noah.” Verse 8, “By faith Abraham.” And again in verse 17, “By faith Abraham.”

And in verse 20, “By faith, Isaac.” In verse 21, “By faith, Jacob.” Verse 22, “By faith, Joseph.” Twenty-three, “By faith, Moses,” and again in verse 24. Going down further, in verse 31, “By faith, Rahab.” And then in verse 32, “There’s Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, who by faith did all these amazing things.” Verse 39 sums it up, “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

They didn’t receive what was promised, they trusted that it would come as it had been promised. And that’s exactly what I said is the definition of faith you want to work with. Faith is confident trust in the future God has promised. Faith is not some kind of power by which you create your future. It is the power of God given to you to trust in the promises God has made in Scripture. These people hadn’t received the promise and they trusted in the promise and thus they live by faith. It’s a great, great, monumental, powerful, powerful lesson.

Now we’re just going to kind of look at the opening three verses and then we’ll – we’ll do some character studies over the next Sunday evenings. But let’s just consider a few things. First is the nature of faith, and this is good because the writer gives us a sort of starting point, a kind of basic definition. It’s not really a formal definition of – of faith rather than a – rather it is a description of faith, kind of the basic elements or features that describe faith. And it’s very, very simple, look at verse 1. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

So the first thing we learn about faith is that it is trusting in what isn’t visible. It is trusting in what isn’t received. It is trusting in what isn’t experienced. It is trusting in something not yet manifest. Faith, belief, that’s a noun, the Greek word pistis. It is a noun, it means belief, trust, confidence, faith. And I love the fact that he uses a noun because it emphasizes the settled reality of this. It is a commodity that is possessed.

Certainly believing can be a verb, but we’re talking here not about some act of faith but we’re talking about the reality of a settled faith. It exists as a commodity. It is a gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 says, “not of works.” It comes from God. And when God gives this commodity of faith, it is the assurance of things hoped for. That’s what it means to live by faith. It doesn’t mean that – that we see something we want and bring it into existence. It means that we put our confidence in something not seen, convictions of things not seen.

Some of your translations will say, “Faith is the substance of things not seen.” That’s a great translation, I love that translation. Faith is the substance of things not seen. Substance is a word that has substance, doesn’t it? It does. It’s a word that you can take to the bank. It’s a word that you can sort of cash in on. It’s a word that basically can be legitimately translated substance, essence. That gives it reality. Faith is substantial confidence in the reality of something not realized. Faith gives present substance to something that is future.

As this chapter will show us, when it unfolds, in Old Testament times there were – well, all the saints, men and women who had nothing but the promises of God., nothing but the promises of God to rest on, nothing but the promises of God to hope for. No visible evidence that messianic promise would come true, no visible evidence that kingdom promise will come true. Yet the promises were so real and the revelation of those promises in Scripture so reliable that people built their entire hope on them. All the Old Testament promises related to the future.

That’s what it says at the end, at the end of the chapter. Those people who exercised this faith, exercised faith in what was promised that they did not receive. What would that be? Eternal life, heaven, everlasting bliss, reward, joy, reunion which is promised in the Old Testament of the saints in the presence of God? The very presence of God? The very likeness of God? I will – David says, “I look for the day when I will awake in Thy likeness.” The glories of eternal bliss…they didn’t see any of it here. They never even saw the ultimate sacrifice. They never knew who the Messiah was. They were people of faith but their faith was anchored in a reliable revelation from a God who cannot lie and so their faith gave substance to the future hope.

Now we’re on this side of the cross. But, folks, we understand this, don’t we? None of you has seen heaven and you don’t know anyone who’s been there and back except the Lord Himself. And yet, you have basically put your entire eternal destiny on the foundation, on the fact that the Scripture is reliable and what God has promised you can trust, right? And what that has done is created substance in the present tense for a future promise.

This is better than the best retirement plan you have ever heard of and we’ve lived long enough to know that they don’t provide what they promise, right? Faith is so strong, it is a gift of God, it is the gift of God that allows us to – listen – trust the Scripture. And in trusting the Scripture, to trust the gospel in the Scripture and thus trust Christ as Savior. That’s a package. I think we – we need to understand that. It wouldn’t do any good to trust in Christ as your savior unless you could trust the Scripture for everything that Him being your Savior means. Do you understand that?

You say, “Oh, I need to put my faith in Jesus as my Savior. What’s that going to bring me? What’s that going to deliver to me?” It’s going to deliver to you everything that the Bible promises it will deliver to you. And the Scripture is reliable and you believe it and I believe it because we have been given the faith to believe it. It is a gift from God. “Yeah, well that,” you say, “doesn’t –does that mean that Scripture can’t be proven to be true?” No, the Scripture can be proven to be true, which just strengthens our assurance, doesn’t it? But we know this to be a reliable Scripture and the promises of God are reliable, and so we put our trust in Christ because the things that come with trusting Christ can be trusted.

Faith then is that assurance, or that substance in the present tense of things hoped for. So, literally, what we hope for by way of revealed promise has substance right now and that substance is strong, I want you to know it’s strong. You – you stood there along with me tonight and you sang all those songs, right? You sang from the heart and you loved everything you were singing and you believed it, didn’t you? And it’s all about what is yet in the future. It’s all about your future.

But it has substance now. It has weight now. It provides assurance now so that you sing and you pray and you praise and you act and you live and you obey and you minister and you witness because this hoped for reality gives present weight to your life, substance. And frankly, this is against the grain of all the things that work in a fallen world, is it not? First of all, it’s against the grain of your own flesh. Is that not true?

So now that you believe these things and have put your trust in Christ and are now living a life based upon promises for the future that you haven’t seen that have so much weight that they control your life, what do you do? You live your life as a Christian battling against the flesh that is your natural expression. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just say, “Forget it, I’m just going to go with whatever I feel.” It would be a lot easier, right? It’s the way you used to live, like the godless Gentiles live, in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, what happened, whatever happens.

But you don’t live that way. You restrain the flesh. You restrict the flesh. You limit the pleasures. You fight against your fallenness. You resist sin, you run from it, you flee it. Why? Because you understand that there is a future reward and a future desire to come before the Lord and bring honor to His name by the life you’ve lived. So you, literally, have brought substance into your life by the things you hoped for in the future. Why do you have this kind of hope that’s so strong that it can change the way you live your life and that you live your life against the grain of your own fallen flesh? Because you believe in the truth of God’s revelation.

Why do you believe that? Because God has given you the faith to believe in that revealed Word and everything you ever study in that Word and all the evidences that come around that Word indicate that it, in fact, is true. You not only have such substance to this hope, that you live against the grain of your flesh, you live against the grain of the world. Everybody in the world is living a certain way and what are you trying to do? You’re trying to live in a completely opposite way.

You know, you’re like a – you’re – you’re like a – a person trying to fight your way through a massive crowd of millions of people who are all going in one direction and you’re going the other way. And yet – I mean, you’re getting trampled in the process. You may be trampled by your family, you may be trampled by the people at your school, at your work, you may be mistreated here and there. You’re going in to collision after collision after collision and to just make it more complicated, you have a responsibility in the process of trying to work your way through this mass of humanity going in the opposite direction of grabbing them here and there and trying to turn them around, bring them to the knowledge of Christ and get them on your side. What power this faith has. Wow!

This faith is so powerful, it gives such substance to your life that you live against the grain of your own fallenness and you live against the grain against the world of which you are a part. There’s a real sense in which you live against the grain of your own senses, your own senses because you can’t do what your natural senses tell you to do. If left to your own natural senses, you’d be out of control in every aspect of your life, would you not? Because those senses are never satisfied. You never have enough of anything cause if you see something else you want it, right? You want it.

This is what it means to have substance in the present based upon promises for the future. This is how we live our lives as Christians. This is what it means to live by faith. Faith furnishes the heart with firm support in the revealed promises of God. Faith believes God. It believes God as revealed in Scripture and that faith, Scripture says, is an anchor. Here we see it as an anchor, laid out in the experience of believers. Real faith gives us a confident substance in the present.

But I want to go beyond that. It is not just the assurance of the substance, or you could even translate it the evidence, elegchos, but it is also the conviction. That’s the word “evidence.” It’s the conviction, elegchos, of things not seen. This takes it a step further. It is the substance that becomes conviction. Maybe I should have picked that up a little bit earlier because it’s conviction that can – that basically defines how you live, okay? You can know something to be true, but until it becomes a conviction, you don’t put it really into action. So we have substance that has led to conviction.

What would make you live against the grain of your fallenness? What would make you live against the grain of the world? What would make you live against the grain of your own senses? What would – what would cause you to abandon everything for something you can’t see, for promises that have never been fulfilled? What would cause you to live this kind of life? A conviction, conviction. And implied in that conviction is a strong, strong commitment.

For example, borrowing from the chapter, what would make you build a boat in a desert because you were told it was going to rain when it had never rained in the history of the world? A conviction? Well, it would have to be more than just some kind of hope because you would have to spend 120 years building the boat. Can you imagine building a boat as Noah did for 120 years in the desert and dealing with the mockery of his neighbors? Some of you being mocked by your neighbors for a few days perhaps is more than you can handle.

What put his faith into action? There was such substance to what he had been told, he was so confident in the revelation of God to him that it became a conviction that he could literally live his life on. That’s what puts faith into action. He acted on it. And we’re going to see that’s really the story of the chapter, how all these people acted on faith. Because of revelation came action, because of substance came conviction.

Now we understand that in the human realm and we talk about this a lot. You know, we understand that we all live by faith. We drink water. We eat in restaurants. We go to the pharmacy and we drink whatever the pharmacist gives us, we are clueless what is in the bottle. We fly along the freeway at a furious pace and we expect that when the arrow goes this way, there’s an off ramp there and not a precipice. We trust the sign. We trust the people who put the signs up. Some parts of the world they don’t, for good reason. We trust the surgeon. That’s natural faith.

But that’s faith in things seen, isn’t it? Because we have, we have evidence, we have past history. All this has already been proven to be trustworthy. But when we’re talking about eternity, we’re talking about the unseen. When we talk about the future and heaven and all that is there for us in the promises of God, we’re talking about something that no one has experienced. There isn’t one person on the planet today that you can go to and say, “You’ve been to heaven and back, tell me about it.” Not one. But there are lots of folks who have been to the doctor and been to the pharmacy.

This is a supernatural gift. This is another kind of faith altogether, altogether. This is the way we live. We live on the promise given to us in the Scripture because we believe the Scripture is reliable. We believe it’s reliable because the evidence tells us it’s reliable and because the Spirit of God has planted in us a faith to believe in its trustworthiness. So that’s the nature of faith. A word about the testimony of faith, verse 2, and here the writer sort of introduces us to what is going to be the emphasis of the chapter. “For by it, the men of old gained approval.” Literally some translations, I think the King James says, “The elders,” meaning the Old Testament saints.

And this is where he sort of tips his approach here. He’s going to help these Jews who maybe are struggling a little bit with this idea of salvation by faith because they’ve come out of a works system, by pointing to the fact that this is in fact how the saints of old gained approval. The approval means praise, approbation. Why would we identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did the Jews identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did they look at Abel as nobler than Cain? Why did they look at Enoch as noble? Why did they look at Abraham as noble? Why did they look at Sarah as noble? Why did they look at the others, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Joseph and all the rest? Because of their faith and that’s what he’s going to show throughout this chapter.

This is not a new concept. The great heroes of the faith, the saints of old lived by faith. Abel believed God regarding sacrifice, acted on faith that what God said was true and what God expected was the path of blessing. He did what God told him because God told him this is what to do and I’ll bless you. And he did it and was, of course, received and approved. Enoch believed God so much so that he didn’t die. God was so pleased with him that one day he took a walk and walked right into the presence of God and skipped the dying part. Noah believed God and because of it God granted to him righteousness and God vindicated him, brought about what God had promised but spared him and his family. Abraham and

Sarah believed God for a child and God fulfilled the promise. We’ll learn about Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and everybody else, all who believed God and were approved by all who knew them. The record of the Old Testament stands as testimony to their faith. They trusted in what they couldn’t see. They lived their lives based upon promises God made to them, and certainly God approved of that and they were rightfully honored by the people of the past and even remained the heroes of the faith. God’s Word made their hope real. And based upon what God had told them, they lived obediently by faith and are rightly honored as heroes.

In Acts chapter 7 in verse 54, it says, “When they heard this, they were cut to the quick,” – this is the preaching of Stephen – “they began gnashing their teeth at him. Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;” – that’s the first glimpse of heaven by a saint – “and he said, ‘I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” I’m glad he saw that, aren’t you? I’m glad he recorded that in his sermon and I’m glad the Spirit of God let Luke put it down in holy Scripture because that’s eyewitness evidence of who is standing and waiting for us when it’s our time to enter into heaven. But this is new. This is a whole new experience.

“They cried out with a loud voice,” – the people did – “covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” – later known as Paul – “went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”

Every one of the saints of old who lived in hope perhaps would love to have had that moment experience and maybe some of them did. It’s not recorded. But I’m so glad for the testimony of Stephen that what he anticipated to be true was in fact true. Heaven was reality. The glory of God was there and Jesus was waiting for the faithful to come into His presence. Every one of us, every saint of old who has ever lived by faith would find great comfort in the testimony of Stephen.

So, the nature of faith. It is confident trust in the future promised by God in Scripture. The testimony of faith, it has always been the testimony of the saints, Old Testament and beyond. It was by faith that the men of old gained approval, not only from God but they became the heroes of the faith because of their faith, believing in what they had not yet seen or experienced.

And then there is, finally, an illustration of faith, the first one that he gives. And he gathers us all into the illustration in verse 3. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Now this is a wonderful little illustration. We could spend an awful lot of time on this. And by the way, the whole creation conference on the weekend really will draw from the reality of this verse.

But understand this, the point being made here is something critical to us. We live in faith that looks forward to what God has promised, okay? This illustration takes us back and gives us a foundation for faith looking forward. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. That looks back at creation. Creation is things seen in the universe, made out of things unseen. That’s creation. Creation is ex nihilo, God made the whole universe out of what? Nothing. What is seen was not made out of anything that was visible. So out of the invisible came the visible, out of nothing came everything. We understand that by faith.

You say, “Why – why do we understand that by faith?” Because we weren’t there, right? You say, “Well I can’t live by faith. I can’t – I can’t conduct my life by faith.” Well try this on. The world exists, the universe exists. By faith we understand that God created it by His Word. Now where do we place our faith? In the revelation of God written in Genesis chapter 1 and 2 which tells us that God created the universe by His Word, right? “Let there be light, and there was light.” He spoke everything into existence and the record is in Genesis 1.

So we have an opportunity to place our faith in something in the past as a foundation to place our faith in something in the future. We can look at the effect which is he universe; we understand that it exists. Anybody with half a brain has to understand that it had to have been created out of nothing, there – there had to be a starting point, there had to be a time when there was nothing. That time then ended when God created the universe. By faith we understand how that happened. Our faith is in the revelation of Scripture. By faith you understand that it happened, anybody, any – really, any person who doesn’t just hate God and hate Christianity has to say somebody did this. You say that when you look at a watch, don’t you? Why not a universe? I mean, how obvious.

But the person who just understands that it happened doesn’t know how. Only the person who puts his faith in the Scripture understands how. By the Word of God. So by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God. Why? Because that’s what the Scripture says and that’s a reality, isn’t it? Scripture says – now follow the thought. Scripture says God created it, we live in it and we can see the evidences of His creation. So the fact that we can look back and see that God described His creation, told us how He made it and has left His imprint on it and we are now living in that creation gives us the opportunity to have a foundation for believing in the future.

What God said in Genesis brought about the universe and we now live in it and experience it and know its reality. And we can trust that the same God who spoke this into existence by His Word has said that He has spoken another world into existence which awaits us and that we will one day experience that world. We experience this world which God spoke into existence, we will experience the world which He has spoken into existence in the glory of the supernatural realm.

We can trust Him for that as He is the source of that in the same way He’s the source of this. It’s not really a stretch. There’s really no other way to explain the universe than to say that God created it. No other way. And here we live in a world created by the Word of God, described in detail in Genesis 1 and 2. All true science confirms the creative hand of God in the complexity of this universe.

So we live now in a universe created by the Word of God, we see His imprint on it and that is the foundation by which we trust that God will, in the future, have waiting for us another universe in the glory of His presence, also promised by His creative power. Well there’s more that could be said about verse 3 but maybe that’s enough to get us there. We all live by faith. All of us who are believers, we trust God. We trust God as Creator of this world and we trust Him as the Creator of the world to come for those who know Him and love Him.

Father, we thank You that as we think about beginning to look at the concept of faith, the essence of faith, the power of faith, it all really begins with You and we don’t need to wonder and grasp and hope for some illustration that Your Word can be trusted. Rather we have the revelation of Scripture, a revelation that is true, trustworthy, tested for centuries and centuries and centuries.

We have the great evidence of Your power revealed in this temporal physical creation as evidence of your power to create that eternal spiritual creation in the glory of the heaven that is to come. Grant us, Lord, ever – ever-growing faith, ever-strengthened faith and may we not doubt but grow strong in faith. Giving glory to You, we pray. Amen.

VIDEO The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

By John MacArthur Oct 23, 2011

Well, now that I don’t have to preach on anything but what I want to preach on, since I finished the New Testament, I find myself all over the place, trying to decide what to preach on in sequence.  It’s a new kind of experience for me and I’m working on some kind of sequence that makes sense over the future.  But I am sort of at the liberty point of my life where whatever is on my heart is where I can go, and this is a wonderful opportunity for me.  And there is a subject that has concerned me for a long time, and I have wanted to address this subject, but it hasn’t been a part of the preaching through the gospels in the way that it can be now and that is the subject of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit. 

After all the emphasis of so many years, 25 years of preaching through the four gospels, and much emphasis, of course, on the person of Christ, as it should be, much emphasis on the character of God and the nature of God as manifest in Christ and is seen elsewhere in Scripture, it is time now to give honor to the third member of the Trinity; namely, the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the most forgotten, the most misrepresented, the most dishonored, the most grieved, the most abused, and I might even say the most blasphemed of the members of the Trinity.  That’s a sad thing. 

When our Lord cleansed the temple in John 2, He said that He was, in a sense, fulfilling the attitude of David from Psalm 69:  “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up, the reproaches that fall on you are fallen on Me.”  And what our Lord was saying was, “When God is dishonored, I feel the pain.”  “You have taken My Father’s house, which is to be a house of prayer, and turned it into a den of robbers.  You’ve corrupted My Father’s house.  You’ve blasphemed My Father’s name.  You’ve dishonored My Father.”  And I can say that I have long felt that same thing with regard to the Holy Spirit.  Yes, I grieve when God is dishonored.  It is a constant grief to me.  I grieve when Christ is dishonored. 

But in this contemporary sort of Christian evangelical church world, people are a little less reluctant to bring dishonor on the name of God and the name of Christ, but they think they have a free run at dishonoring and abusing the Holy Spirit, apparently, because so much of that goes on.  I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit; He can defend Himself.  But I am here to say that reproaches that are falling on His holy name are falling on me as well, and mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name – and they do it constantly. 

How do they do it?  By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit.  Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences, and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit.  Visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles – all false, all lies, all deceptions – attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit. 

You know enough to know that God does not want to be worshiped in illegitimate ways.  God wants to be worshiped for who He is, for what He has done in the way He has declared.  It is open season on abusing the Holy Spirit, outrageous dishonor of the Holy Spirit, claiming He is saying things and doing things and generating things that have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all.  It is a reckless kind of movement.  It is a shameful and dangerous sin to heap such abuse on the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the idea of bringing dishonor on the Holy Spirit ought to make any thinking person tremble.  People seem less interested, I think, in claiming that God is doing certain things or saying certain things or that Christ is doing things or saying certain things than they are at saying the Holy Spirit did this, the Holy Spirit said this, the Holy Spirit is producing and generating this, that there just seems to be no restraint on the things that are blamed on the Holy Spirit. 

A way to perceive this would be to see it as a contrast to what we see in Matthew chapter 12, for example.  The leaders of Israel committed the unpardonable sin, and what was that unpardonable sin?  It was attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit.  Remember that?  It was attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 12:31-32.  What’s going on today is the opposite.  Attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  That’s what’s going on.  Attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  Satan is alive and at work in deception, false miracles, bad theology, lying visions, lying dreams, lying revelations, deceptive teachers who are in it for the money and power and influence.  Satan is alive and well, and the work of Satan is being attributed to the Holy Spirit.  That is a serious blasphemy, just as attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit is a serious blasphemy. 

I couldn’t even begin to give you all the illustrations.  You have enough of them in your own mind.  You can turn on your television and see any litany of them that you would choose.  And in order to give credibility to all these things, all these lies, they attach them to the Holy Spirit as if it’s a freebie, as if there’s no price to pay for that kind of blasphemy. 

The latest wave of this – I’ll just give you one illustration.  The latest wave of this that is gaining traction and has entered into sort of national news is a new form of Charismania, bringing reproach on the Holy Spirit called the New Apostolic Reformation, NAR, the New Apostolic Reformation.  It is not new, it is not apostolic, and it is not a reformation, by the way.  It is like Grape Nuts – it’s not grapes and it’s not nuts.  It’s like Christian Science – it’s not Christian and it’s not scientific.  Well, the New Apostolic Reformation isn’t new, it isn’t apostolic, and it isn’t a reformation.  But it is a rapidly expanding movement being generated by some of the same old troubling false teachers and false leaders that have been around in Charismania for decades, always dishonoring the Holy Spirit, always dishonoring the Scripture, always claiming miracle signs, wonders, visions, dreams.  Peter Wagner, the Kansas City “Prophets,” Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle, and on and on and on it goes. 

In fact, this is exploding so fast that they have a 50-state network that are now involved in this.  This is a new kind of Charismania, it’s sort of on steroids.  One writer said it’s Charismania with shots of adrenalin.  And here’s what their basic claim is:  that the Holy Spirit has revealed to them that in the year 2001, we entered into the second apostolic age – in the year 2001 we entered into the second apostolic age.  What does that mean?  It means that the long-lost offices of New Testament prophet and New Testament apostle have been restored, the Holy Spirit has given the power of prophecy and the power and authority of an apostle to certain people in this generation of the church since 2001.  It seems very odd to me that the Holy Spirit would give that to people whose theology is unbiblical and totally aberrant.  I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit wouldn’t authenticate false teachers, so we know it’s not the Holy Spirit, but that’s what they claim.  But the Holy Spirit gets blamed for everything; this is just the newest one. 

For example, they have authority equal to the apostles, they have the same power the apostles had through the Holy Spirit to do miracles and to exercise that power, and they’ve had it since 2001.  Some of them fall into the prophet category, some of them fall into the apostle category.  They speak what the Holy Spirit reveals to them with the same authority the apostles have.  This authority and this power has been demonstrated in the world because one of the apostles stopped mad cow disease in Germany – so he claims.  The movement is marked by super-excess ecstatic, bizarre behavior.  Emotionalism ran amok, all kinds of crazy revelations, behaviors.  Peter Wagner is the father of this, as he has been involved in all kinds of other aberrations through the years, including starting the Church Growth Movement, which gave life to the Pragmatism movement, which, as we know, is so ubiquitous.  Their influence has been growing and recently jumped into the political realm, and I’ll tell you how. 

There was a couple of weeks ago, a few weeks ago now, a prayer breakfast in the city of Houston that you may have read about.  It was an event sponsored by the New Apostolic Reformation and their leaders and the guests, and the main speaker there was Rick Perry, who is a candidate for the Republican Party for President.  At this event, sponsored by the New Apostolic Reformation, two pastors were leading in this event.  They are apostles.  They have been given apostleship by the Holy Spirit.  They called Rick Perry’s office, as governor of the state of Texas, and told him that the Lord had revealed to them through the Holy Spirit that Texas is the state that God has chosen to lead the United States into revival and godly government and Rick Perry is to play a key role.  And at that event, these two apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation Movement laid hands on Rick Perry and prayed over him.  They claim that God speaks directly to them specific instruction – specific instruction.  And if people fail to listen to this divine revelation that comes through them, there will be more earthquakes, more terrorist attacks, and worse economic conditions. 

However, if we listen, good things will happen because they gave us an illustration of that because they were the ones who gave a little bit of rain to Texas after the draught.  I mean if you didn’t know better, you’d think somebody opened the back door of the nut house.  One of these apostles says the Democratic Party is controlled by Jezebel and three lesser demons.  They see demons in public places.  They engage in confrontation of these demons and they do it with elaborate rituals, branding irons, stakes, and plumb lines.  They’ve gone all over the state of Texas pounding stakes into the ground, branding certain things and claiming every county in Texas for God.  One of them says, and I quote, “We are called to world dominion.”  They have gone to every Masonic Lodge in Texas to cast out the demon Baal because the demon Baal controls Free M asonry. 

They had a meeting in 2009 in Houston.  Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Jezebel was visible.  They saw Jezebel.  Actually, a woman named Alice Patterson, one of these apostles who has written a book called Bridging The Racial and Political Divide, which sounds like a political book, published in 2010, she said that she saw Jezebel, and Jezebel lifted up her skirt, and when Jezebel lifted up her skirt – this is a quote – “She exposed little Baal, Asherah, and a few other demons who were small, cowering, trembling little spirits only ankle high on Jezebel’s skinny legs,” end quote.  This is in a book called Bridging the Racial and Political Divide, and this is all attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit who is revealing all these things. 

Now, you know where this all comes from.  This is again attributing to the Holy Spirit the work of Satan.  I don’t know what Rick Perry knows or doesn’t know about all of this.  You know, in a campaign year, you take prayers from anybody, especially if you’re not sure what this is all about.  But this is just one illustration of the aberrations that continue to be placed on the back of the Holy Spirit as if these are things that He is doing.  It is such a frightening, frightening form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  There are other forms of it, but that’s just the latest one that’s in the media. 

I remember in the early years of ministry when I came out of seminary, for many years I traveled around when I graduated, even when I was in seminary.  Graduated from college and during my seminary years and for a number of years afterwards, I traveled around and I spoke to young people’s groups and college groups and all kinds of different groups and student ministries and ministries in churches, and inevitably, one of the themes that everybody wanted me to talk about was the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It was constant.  I was constantly talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Everybody was asking about sanctification.  How do I get rid of sin in my life?  How do I progress spiritually?  How do I grow more to be like Jesus Christ?  How do I separate from the world?  How do I gain victory over temptation?  What is the path?  How can I manifest the fruit of the Spirit?  How can I walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh?  I mean they were – that’s just plain old New Testament sanctification, and young people were asking those questions.  It was constant. 

I would be in conference after conference on campuses and in various places, talking to students, and inevitably the subject would be:  How can I be sanctified?  How can I become more like Christ?  How can I beat sin in my life?  How can I grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ?  What does it mean to be Spirit-filled?  What does it mean to be baptized by the Spirit?  Sealed by the Spirit?  Indwelt by the Spirit?  What is the role the Spirit plays in my life? 

I’m not asked to do that anymore.  That doesn’t seem to ever be a topic of conversation.  That doesn’t seem to be a subject anybody cares about.  The Charismatic movement has stolen the Holy Spirit and created a golden calf, and they’re dancing around the golden calf as if it were the Holy Spirit.  It is a false form of the Holy Spirit.  They’ve exploited the Holy Spirit and demanded to be able to do that in an uncriticized manner.  Nobody can say anything against them.  That’s divisive, unloving, cantankerous.  That’s why Benny Hinn said about me, “If I had my way, I’d take my Holy Ghost machine gun and blow his brains out.”  You’re not allowed to question anything they say about the Holy Spirit.  They have coopted the Holy Spirit and demanded to do that without being criticized, without being confronted, and they go on with their exploitation and so proved testimony concerning the Holy Spirit is pushed and repressed underground because it’s going to be divisive, they’re not going to like it, it’ll offend somebody. 

So the Charismatic version of the Holy Spirit is that golden calf who is not God.  Not God, the Holy Spirit, but a false creation, an idol around which they dance in their dishonoring exercises.  And here we are in this, you know, interest in Reformed theology, in this kind of new evangelical wave that’s going, and there’s very little talk about the Holy Spirit, very little discussion about the Holy Spirit.  No strong doctrine of sanctification, no consuming desire for holiness, separation from the world.  In fact, it seems to me that much of this new evangelical movement looks more worldly all the time.  It seems to be indifferent to the work of the Holy Spirit.  You know, if you get the gospel right, you get a free pass on everything else.  Very little interest in talking about what is the baptism of the Spirit, what is the filling of the Spirit, the sealing of the Spirit?  What does it mean to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh?  What does biblical separation mean?  Personal holiness?  Sanctification?  There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in that. 

Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there’s humility.  Wherever you see the exaltation of a man, that’s not the work of the Holy Spirit.  When you can look at a movement that claims to be evangelical, and you can see the exploitation, the exaltation of men, that is not the work of the Holy Spirit.  Where there is the work of the Holy Spirit, there’s the exaltation of Jesus Christ and everybody else fades.  Of all the ages in the history of the church, this is the one most capable of feeding pride.  Why?  Because there are so many ways to stick yourself in front of people’s faces across the planet.  This is an easy time for proud people to make the most of themselves.  There just doesn’t seem to be interest in the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

There is even a toleration of a view of the Holy Spirit that’s downright heretical and that is what I guess you could call modalism.  I know that’s a technical term but that’s simply to say that there’s only one God, He’s not three persons, He’s one God who appears in three modes, not at the same time but separately.  Sometimes He’s the Father, sometimes He’s the Son, sometimes He’s the Spirit, He’s never three in one.  That’s the view, for example, of T.D. Jakes.  Sabellianism, Modalism.  Doesn’t seem to bother lots of folks that he has a God who’s not the God of the Bible, that his view of the Holy Spirit is a heresy, his view of the Son and the Father equally heretical.  We have to get the Trinity right, and we have to give due worship to the Holy Spirit, equal to the Son, equal to the Father. 

So these things have been on my mind and a lot of things in addition, but I think you get the picture.  And we haven’t really looked down hard at the ministry of the Holy Spirit to see what it is that we need to worship Him for and what we need to be focused on in terms of giving Him the praise and the honor that He is due. 

The disinterest in the Holy Spirit is what gives rise to Pragmatism.  We have replaced supernaturalism, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, with Pragmatism.  We’ve committed the sin of the Galatians.  Galatians 3, Paul says, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you made perfect by the flesh?”  In other words, there’s no way to get saved except by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Now that you’re saved, are you now taken over with the flesh?  You’re going to accomplish everything through the flesh.  Pride has defeated humility, and that’s always an affront to the Holy Spirit.  Where are the meek and where are the humble and where are the lowly?  Where the Holy Spirit is, Christ will be exalted.  It will be Christ and it will be Christ and it will be Christ again who receives all the praise and all the honor and all the glory.  The Holy Spirit is grieved if Christ is not exalted.  His work is quenched when the flesh is elevated. 

So we could have done this, perhaps, through the years and we have touched on, of course, all the New Testament teaches about the Holy Spirit.  Eventually we would have covered it all over the last 40 years or so.  But I want to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the next few weeks.  I don’t know how long it’s going to take me.  I have no idea.  And that’s okay.  But we’re going to go to one chapter instead of running all over the place because I don’t want to lead you everywhere.  We’re going to look at Romans 8, so you can just kind of keep that in your mind.  If you turn there now, you’re going to be a little frustrated.  But go ahead – it’ll make you feel more comfortable to have your Bible open.  I’m not going to get there, but just have your Bible open, it’s good, it’s good.  And I’ll make a couple of references to Romans 8.  But that’s going to be our chapter. 

And why don’t we look at it for just a second?  And let me just point out why I’m picking this chapter to learn about the Holy Spirit – pretty obvious.  Verse 2 talks about the Spirit, you see it there, Romans 8:2, referring to the Spirit.  And you come down, verse 4 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 5 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 6 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 9 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 11 refers to the Spirit.  Verse 13 – and so it goes.  Verse 14, verse 16 – this is the Spirit’s chapter, all the way down into verse 26, the Spirit helps our weakness, He’s mentioned again, interceding for us.  So the Holy Spirit is the main player in this 8th chapter of Romans, and so it gives us the opportunity to sort of build a sound theology of the ministry and the work of the Holy Spirit.  We could call this chapter “Life in the Spirit.”  Life in the Spirit. 

We’re going to have a great time working through this chapter, as you will see.  But before we do that, I just want to kind of give you an overview.  Before we go down to the worm’s-eye view, give you kind of a bird’s-eye view.  The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, not an “it.”  The Holy Spirit is not an influence.  The Holy Spirit is not some kind of energy emanating from God.  The Holy Spirit is God, a member of the Trinity, a person completely the essence of God with an entity and a personality of His own.  Scripture is clear about this.  He is equal in nature and attributes – let me say that again – He’s equal in nature and attributes to the Father and the Son.  He is not diminished in any sense, is fully God in the same way the Father and the Son are. 

He has personality.  Sometimes people refer to “it,” the Holy Spirit.  That is inaccurate.  He possesses intellect, emotion, and will.  And evidences of that in the Scriptures are ample everywhere in Scripture.  For instance, He knows the deep things of God, 1 Corinthians 2.  In other words, He’s plumbed the full depth of divine knowledge.  He has knowledge equal to that of the Father, equal to that of the Son.  That’s 1 Corinthians 2.  He loves the saints, and His love is equal to that love which is characteristic of Christ and God, Romans 5:5.  He makes choices, divine choices, sovereign choices.  First Corinthians 12:11, He decides what He will give to what believer with regard to spiritual capacities and spiritual gifts.  He speaks – He speaks.  He speaks the truth always.  He prays for us – Romans 8 – as we’ll find out in verse 26.  He teaches us all things.  He is the anointing that comes from God – John 14, 1 John 2 – so that we don’t need a human teacher because He teaches us everything.  John 16:13 says He guides us.  Here in Romans 8, it says He leads us, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they’re the sons of God. 

He commands.  His commands are given, for example, in Acts 16:6-7.  He fellowships with us.  Second Corinthians chapter 13 verse 14 talks about the fellowship of the Spirit.  Ephesians 4:30 says He can be grieved.  All these indicate He’s a person.  He can be grieved.  Acts 5:3, He can be lied to, as Ananias and Sapphira did, “Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?”  He can be tested.  That’s the same passage.  “Why are you testing the Holy Spirit?”  He can be vexed, angered, you might say, according to Isaiah 63:10.  He can be resisted.  Acts 7:51, “Why do you resist the Holy Spirit?”  And in Mark 3 as in Matthew 12, He can be blasphemed.  First Thessalonians 5:19, He can be quenched; that is, His efforts thwarted, hindered.  All of these are evidences that this is a person, one who thinks and feels and acts and makes decisions in every capacity, as a person does. 

There also is no doubt about His deity, that He is absolutely God.  And I’ll show you just one illustration of that, though there are many.  Turn for a minute to Acts chapter 5, and let’s go back to that fascinating account of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit saying, you know, that they gave everything they got from the sale of the property when the truth is they kept back some of the money for themselves.  So in chapter 5 verse 3, Peter confronts them on the Lord’s Day at the church.  “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  Now, just pick that right up there, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?”  Now go down to verse 4, end of the verse.  “You have not lied to men, but to God.”  God is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is God.  There you have it, the deity of the Holy Spirit, absolutely, clearly indicated. 

You have Trinitarian formulas in Matthew 28:19, “Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” all equal members of the Holy Trinity.  They cannot be separate members.  Modalism is a ridiculous idea, the idea that God is sometimes the Father and then He puts on His Son hat, and then He puts on His Holy Spirit hat.  How do you explain the baptism of Christ where Christ is being baptized, the Father is saying, “He’s My beloved Son,” and the Spirit’s descending like a dove?  A little problem for the Modalists there because all three show up at the same time. 

He is God.  How do we know that?  He has attributes of God.  In Hebrews 9:14, it says He is the eternal Spirit – the eternal Spirit.  He is as eternal as God is because He is eternally God.  He is omniscient.  And again, that goes back to John 15-16, also John 14, He’s the source of all truth, He leads you into all truth, reveals all truth.  First Corinthians 2:  He knows the deep things of God that are known only to God and only to the Spirit of God.  So He is eternal, He is omniscient.  And He’s omnipotent – He is omnipotent.  How powerful is the Holy Spirit?  He’s equally powerful to God.  How do we know that?  He’s the creator of everything that exists.  That’s Genesis, right?  In the beginning, the creation was without form and it was void, it was tohu and bohu, it was emptiness and nothingness, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters and creation began. 

Even more astounding to see the power of His creation is in the first chapter of Luke and verse 35 when the Angel came to Mary and said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” – “the Holy Spirit will come upon you” – listen to this – “and with Him the power of the Most High.”  In other words, the power of the Most High God, El Elyon, the supreme sovereign God of the universe, the power of the supreme God resides fully in the Holy Spirit.  That’s the power of the Most High God dispensed through the Holy Spirit.  He created everything that is created in the same way that God created it and the Son created it.  Omnipotence, omnipresence.  Psalm 139 verse 7, “Where will I go from Your Spirit?”  Remember when the psalmist said that?  Where am I going to go from Your Spirit?  How can I find a place anywhere in the universe that’s away from Your Spirit?  There is no such place.  He is everywhere all the time. 

In Romans 1:4, He’s called the Spirit of holiness.  God is holy, holy, holy.  Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit, that’s the trihagion of Isaiah 6.  He is the Spirit of holiness.  First Peter 4:14, He’s called the Spirit of glory.  He’s like the God of glory, like the glory of God shining gloriously in the face of Jesus Christ, He is the Spirit of glory.  Second Corinthians 3:6, He’s called the life-giving Spirit.  He’s the source of life.  These are all attributes that belong to God, and the Holy Spirit has them, and therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.  As God, He is to be worshiped as God, He is to be honored as God, He is to be revered as God, He is to be treated as God.  In the same way you would treat God the Father and God the Son, you would treat the Holy Spirit.  As I said, people seem to be a little more reluctant to blaspheme the Father and the Son.  They don’t seem to have any problem making a joke and a mockery out of the name of the Holy Spirit. 

If you talk about the titles which the Holy Spirit bears, that kind of adds to your understanding a little bit.  Many times He is called God.  I just read you that in Acts chapter 5 verse 4.  Many times He is called Lord.  For example, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, one of my favorite verses – those of you who know me, know that – it says, “That as we gaze into the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit” – “the Lord the Spirit.”  The Spirit is the Lord.  He is called God and He is called Lord, titles of deity. 

There are other titles that He bears.  He is called the Spirit of God, Genesis 1:2.  “The Spirit of God moves upon the waters,” Matthew 3:16.  He’s called the Spirit of the Lord in Luke 4.  He’s called His Spirit, that is, God’s Spirit, Numbers 11:29.  He’s called the Spirit of Yahweh in Judges 3:10.  He’s called the Spirit of the Lord God in Isaiah 61, the Spirit of your Father in Matthew 10:20, and the Spirit of the Living God in 2 Corinthians 3:3.  He is given all the titles that belong to deity.  That’s the point here.  He’s called the Spirit of Jesus in Acts 16:7; the Spirit of Christ right here in Romans 8 verse 9, and in Galatians 4:6, the Spirit of His Son.  Philippians 1:19, the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  This is clearly indication that He is fully God. 

Now, the more I think about this and go over this as I was doing the last few days, the more my heart aches over the way that the Holy Spirit is being mistreated.  And again I say, look, I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit, He can defend Himself.  But I am here to tell you that you do not want to be sucked up into this mockery of the blessed Holy Spirit.  You want to worship Him for who He is. 

People sometimes say to me, “Can we pray to the Holy Spirit?”  Of course – of course, He’s God.  “Don’t we have to pray to the Father only?”  No, pray to the Father, pray to the Spirit, pray to the Son, pray to all three, pray to any two.  “Can we worship the Holy Spirit?”  Absolutely, fall down and worship the Holy Spirit, the same way you would Christ and the Father.  You wouldn’t say a word against the Father, you wouldn’t say a word against the Son, don’t say a word against the Holy Spirit.  Don’t attribute anything to God that isn’t true of Him, don’t attribute anything to Christ that isn’t true of Him, and don’t attribute anything to the Holy Spirit that isn’t true of Him.  Boy, if we just got rid of that, it would change the face of the church. 

When you think about the works of the Holy Spirit, you have to start with creation.  And then in the Old Testament, you see Him convicting people.  Remember in Genesis 6, “My Spirit will not always strive with man”?  He’s striving to bring conviction in the same way that I read from John 16:8:  When the Spirit comes, He’ll convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. 

In the Old Testament you see Him indwelling certain people for certain service.  He regenerated people in the Old Testament because you couldn’t be regenerated unless it was a divine miracle, and He’s the Spirit that gives life, the life-giving Spirit.  He is that Spirit.  So in the Old Testament, He’s seen as the Creator, He’s seen as the regenerator of those who believe.  He is seen as the one who convicts men of sin.  He is seen as the one who enables men to serve.  Read Exodus 31, Judges 3, Judges 6, “And the Spirit of God comes to enable people to serve.”  That’s why David in his Psalm 51 about his sin said, “Take not Your Spirit from me.”  He wasn’t talking about the fact that all of a sudden the Holy Spirit who had regenerated him and empowering him for his spiritual life would be gone; he was speaking in the language of that special work of the Holy Spirit in which He came on people for certain ministry, enabling men to do certain things. 

But the one thing that stands out in His ministry in the Old Testament, of course, from a New Testament perspective is that He’s the author of Scripture.  No scripture is the result of any private interpretation, Peter says, right?  Second Peter 1:21, no private interpretation but holy men of God were moved by the Spirit of God.  That’s how the Old Testament was written.  The Spirit of God is the author through human instrumentation.  That’s how the New Testament is written as well.  It’s God-breathed, the word breath is pneuma.  It’s God’s Spirit that writes holy Scripture.  And you can find places throughout the Scripture that speak about the Holy Spirit saying this and the Holy Spirit saying that.  He is the author of Scripture.  Scripture is God-breathed.  It is the revelation of God through the Holy Spirit. 

One illustration, Acts 1:16, “The Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit foretold.”  Whenever the Scripture said something, it was the Holy Spirit saying it.  And by the way, we read in John 15-16 that the primary task of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, right?  He’s the Spirit of truth but He points to Me, He glorifies Me, and when you read the Scripture, that’s what all Scripture does.  Even the Old Testament.  That’s why Luke 24 is so important, beginning at Moses, the prophets, and all the holy writings, He spoke to them of the things concerning Himself written in the Old Testament.  All through the Old Testament, as well as the New, the Holy Spirit, who is the author, is pointing to Christ – Christ, Christ.  So wherever you see a work that is really the ministry of the Holy Spirit, you will see men humbled and Christ exalted – men humbled and Christ exalted. 

And then in the life of Christ, you see the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He’s there giving Him life.  He’s there at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descending like a dove upon Him.  He’s there to launch His ministry.  The Holy Spirit comes upon Him and He launches His public ministry at the age of 30.  The Holy Spirit is there in His temptation.  You remember that the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness and through that temptation and out the other side.  He is the anointing in Acts 10:38.  They were preaching about Him and they said He was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came upon Him.  That’s why He said, “If you deny the works that I do as being of God, you blaspheme the Holy Spirit because it’s the Holy Spirit working through Me.” 

Do you know, actually, that was the Holy Spirit teaching through Christ?  That’s how much of a self-emptying there was.  He yielded up even His teaching to that which the Spirit did through Him.  John 3:34, “He whom the Father has sent speaks the words of God for He gives the Spirit without measure.”  He speaks the words of God because He has the Spirit working through Him.  The miracles Christ did and the message that He preached was the ministry of the Spirit through Him.  He was in perfect agreement with it but it was the message from the Father through the Spirit.  It was the Spirit that was the power behind His miracles; that’s why it was a blasphemous thing to say they were from Satan. 

Do you know that even His death, even the death of Jesus Christ that we talk about so often, was a work of the Holy Spirit?  I don’t know if you ever thought about that but you will now.  Hebrews 9 verse 14:  “How much more will the blood of Christ” – listen to this – “the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God?”  Every miracle He did was through the power of the Spirit.  And even His death was through the power of the Spirit.  His birth was through the power of the Spirit.  His life was through the power of the Spirit.  His miracles were through the power of the Spirit.  His teaching was through the power of the Spirit.  And His death was through the power of the Holy Spirit.  And what about His resurrection?  You’re in Romans 8 still?  Look at verse 11:  “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead.” 

When you start to get your arms around the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it’s so incredible, staggering, far-reaching, and we haven’t even gotten to the part about us.  So let’s get to that.  What does He do in the world?  What does the Holy Spirit do in the world?  Well, He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  Genesis 6:3:  “He strives with sinners,” so He’s the convicting power.  According to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, He calls sinners – that’s an effectual call – He actually calls them.  Furthermore, He regenerates – John 3 – “You must be born of the Spirit.”  So in the world He convicts, He calls, He gives regenerating life and also witnesses to the truth of Christ, Acts chapter 5 verses 30-32.  So it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that comes to the sinner, convicts the sinner, calls the sinner when the sinner understands the glories of Christ and then He regenerates the sinner. 

Now, what does He do in the believer?  Glorifies Christ, exalts Christ through the Word, but beyond that, He indwells the believer.  Verse 9 of Romans 8:  “The Spirit of God dwells in you.”  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, “You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  He indwells us.  Now we’re getting personal here.  Ephesians 5:18 says, “Be being kept filled with the Spirit.”  He fills us, which is a power statement, like the wind filling the sails and moving the ship.  That’s that analogy.  He seals us, He secures us, Ephesians 1 says, for eternity.  He imparts fruit to us, the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control.  Gives us love, Romans 5:5

He gives us gifts of the Spirit—Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12.  Several gifts divided equally among His people.  He teaches us.  He leads us into all truth, guides us into the understanding of Scripture, anointing that we have from God, so that we know all things.  Romans 8:26, He prays for us.  Galatians 5:17, He makes war against our flesh and against sin on our behalf.  John 14:16, “He comforts us.”  Romans 8:14, I mentioned it earlier, “He leads and guides us.”  Galatians 3, He sanctifies us.  Acts 1:8, He empowers us for witness and evangelism.  All these things, the Holy Spirit does. 

We need to understand all these marvelous, rich things.  There was a time when this was a very important part of Christian ministry, Christian thinking.  Try to write a book on the definitive ministry of the Holy Spirit today and find a place for it in a Christian bookstore.  Might be a losing proposition if you really took on all the error that was there.  I don’t expect, except among us and whoever we can influence, to stem the tide of this terrible abuse of the Holy Spirit, but I think we as a church and we as believers need to give honor to the Holy Spirit in the way that He is worthy to be honored and to replace this frivolous, superficial, abusive approach and more than that, to get Him out of the shadows so that He’s not the forgotten member of the Trinity who never receives the worship that He is due. 

The whole matter of you living your Christian life is a work of the Holy Spirit.  All the ministry of spiritual gifts, everything I do – everything I do, everything you do, everything anybody does in the kingdom in the body of Christ that has any effect or any impact or any purpose or any goal or any success is the work of the Holy Spirit.  How can we ignore that and replace that with such crazy things that dishonor Him?  Well, that’ll get us to Romans 8, and next week we’ll go back to that chapter.

Our Father, we thank You for the time this morning to worship You.  It’s been so refreshing.  Thank You for this blessed church, these precious people, love for You and Your Word. 

Thank You, O Holy Spirit, for just this incomprehensible work that You’ve done, not just in creation but in regeneration.  You gave us life.  You gave us salvation, forgiveness, and You empowered us, now You sanctify us and You’ll bring us to glory.  We’ll be glorified by Your power.  We’ll be changed by Your power.  We’ll be fit for heaven by Your power.  In the meantime, You’re there producing fruit and energizing our gifts and empowering our witness and fighting against our flesh and praying for us and making everything work together for good, securing us and sealing us to the day of redemption. 

We love You, we honor You, we worship You, we exalt You.  And we are deeply grieved, as You must be, at the way You are misrepresented.  Help us, Lord, to be all that we should be as we worship You, our Trinitarian God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  May we worship You in truth as You truly are and with all our might, both in praise itself and in obedience.  What can we say, O Holy Spirit, for all that You’ve done for us and You are doing even as we speak and will do until we see Jesus face-to-face and by Your power are made perfect into His image? 

We give You our worship today and we ask that You would be honored, not only in our lives and in our midst but in Your church, the church which You regenerated, to which You have given life, the church through which You work, the church in which You can do exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us, even that power that raised Jesus from the dead, even the power of You, O blessed Holy Spirit.  Show Your power in Your church and be honored and glorified, we pray.  Amen.

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

National policy of religious tolerance facing headwinds

A decision to prevent citizens of Indonesia from being able to access a Bible application for cell phones and mobile devices is sparking arguments amid that nation’s openly tolerant campaign to allow people to choose their own faith and practice it.

The worldwide Christian ministry Barnabas Fund is reporting that the Bible application for the Minangkabau people was removed from the Google Play Store for residents of Indonesia following a demand from Irwan Prayitno, the governor of West Sumatra.

He claimed it was causing discomfort in the Minangkabau people who are living in his province, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Only about 1.43% of the people there, about 69,000, are Christian.

The Indonesian Ulema Council supported the censorship by the nation’s Communication and Information Ministry, with a statement of secretary general Anwar Abbas that said, “The guidance of the Minangkabau people is not the Bible. Hopefully there will not be a Bible [published] in the Minangkabau language.”

“The decision to ban the Minangkabau Bible App failed to take into account the rights of Minangkabau Christians,” the Barnabas Fund reported.

And the decision was criticized by the chief of the nation’s longtime Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education, which advocates for tolerance.

That agency’s opinion is that holy books could be translated into any language as long as they were not misinterpreted.

The chief of the agency said, “Every individual is given the freedom to observe their beliefs as long as they do not cause disruption in the public. And, of course, some of the residents of West Sumatra are also Christian, and the governor himself is governor to everyone, not a certain ethnicity or religious belief.”

Pancasila is a formal doctrine instituted in Indonesia to encourage tolerance for religions – and discourage extremism. It prevailed for many years, with Christians and Muslims living as equals. That started changing only a few years ago.

Then, Barnabas Fund reported, the nation saw “a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with Pancasila.”

“In 2019, the government took several steps to counter the spread of fundamentalism by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.”

That battle against “hard-line Islamist ideology” includes requests to the public to “report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material,” Barnabas Fund said.

Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate said the intention was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.”

Indonesia has the world’s biggest population of Muslims, and reports suggest that 19% of civil servants and 3% of military personnel favor an Indonesia under Islamic rule. About 18% of private employees and 23% of students share the view.

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

VIDEO Groanings Too Deep for Words

John MacArthur Jan 8, 2012

We open the Word of God now to the 8th chapter of Romans to continue our look at life in the Holy Spirit.  We have been endeavoring to bring the wonderful, blessed Holy Spirit into a clearer picture in our understanding.  Given the fact that much today in the evangelical church is said about the Holy Spirit, I’m afraid that most of it is a misrepresentation of His person and His work.  I said at the very beginning a bold statement, and I will repeat it, that our Lord Jesus condemned the leaders of Israel for attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and in the modern Pentecostal movement of today, the reverse is occurring where works of the devil are being attributed to the Holy Spirit.  It’s a very sad, sad insult, a grief to the Holy Spirit and in some cases even a blasphemy of the blessed Holy Spirit. 

When we worship God, we worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Somehow, the Holy Spirit has been trailing behind in terms of emphasis when in reality, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity most personally, intimately involved in the life of a believer. 

We’ve been learning that in this 8th chapter of Romans.  We find ourselves now down in the middle of the chapter, and I want to read for you verses 24 through 30 – verses 24 through 30.  We’ve already looked at verses 24 and 25 but we need to read them for context, and we won’t go into verses 29 and 30 but, again, they give us the full picture of this section. 

Romans 8:24:  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” 

In earlier studies of this chapter, we have learned the marvelous height and breadth and length and depth of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to a believer in whom He dwells.  We found in verses 2 and 3 that He frees us from sin and death.  In verse 4, we are taught that He enables us to fulfill God’s holy law.  In verses 5 through 11, we are told that He changes our nature.  In verses 12 and 13, He empowers us for righteous living.  In verses 14 to 16, we learn that He confirms our adoption as sons of God, and that brought us to verse 17, and the lengthy section from verses 17 to 30 emphasizes the work of the Spirit in securing our eternal glory, securing our eternal glory.  And we have just read, essentially, the means by which the Spirit works to secure that glory, and we’ll look into it more deeply when we get to verse 26 in a moment. 

But let me give you the foundation for today’s thinking.  The greatest blessing God has given to believers is the secure promise of eternal life in heavenly glory.  We already know from the opening of the chapter that we are in a no condemnation status before God.  That is reiterated to us in verse 34 when the rhetorical question is asked, “Who condemns?”  Is there some higher court than Christ or God?  Again we are told nothing can separate us from that love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So the theme of this chapter from the beginning to the end is that we exist in a situation before God that is unalterable and unchangeable.  It is a permanent no condemnation status.  That is to say, those of us who belong to Christ will be glorified.  We saw it essentially summed up in verse 29.  We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  That means we go from being predestined to being called to being justified to being glorified, and nobody falls through the cracks. 

I can tell you, beloved, no doctrine of Scripture is more comforting than that, more strengthening than that, more encouraging than that, and that is why we live with hope.  We live with hope.  Not a wish but a hope that is a fixed certainty, based on the promises of God. 

A comparative passage to this is very instructive for us.  The words of Peter in his first epistle, chapter 1 and verse 3, are a kind of benediction, a kind of doxology, in contemplation of this reality of our secure glory.  Where Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God.”  No wonder he burst into a doxology.  We have the promise of future glory, we are protected by the power of God through faith to that glory.  That is to say we have been given by God sovereignly a faith that will not fail, a faith that will not die.  That faith that is secured to us by the power of God, and the power of God is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. 

In John 6, Jesus essentially said the same thing when He said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I will not turn away.”  “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” and “I will lose none of them, but raise them at the last day.”  He said, “This is the will of the Father.”  The New Testament calls this, for example, in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, the sealing of the Spirit, sealing us safely to future glory.  Paul speaks of it in this way:  “He who began a good work in you will perfect it to the day of Jesus Christ.”  But perhaps there’s no greater or stronger text on this great doctrine than the one that is before us.  We groan for the reality of our glorification, we’ve been learning that, haven’t we?  We live in a cursed world. 

We ourselves, though regenerate on the inside, are still incarcerated in unredeemed flesh, and we groan in our humanity.  The things we want to do, we don’t do.  The things we do, we don’t want to do.  We have a body of death attached to us, as Paul says in Romans.  We still, as He says in 1 Corinthians 15, have a corruptible body, a perishable body that we long to get rid of.  We want the perishable to put on that which is imperishable, the mortal to put on that which is immortal, the corrupt to put on that which is incorruptible.  We long for glory. 

And so starting in verse 19, running down all the way to verse 23, Paul talks about the groaning of creation, how the world itself, both the created world, animate and inanimate but impersonal, groans under the burden of the curse of the fall of Adam and Eve.  Not only does the creation groan, but we groan, verse 23 says, we ourselves groan within ourselves, longing to be all that we have been promised to be in full glory.  We feel the weight of our sin, we feel the curse of God, we feel the power of corruption within us.  We understand the decay and the inevitability of death that stalks us all.  We groan; creation groans.  As I told you last week, the whole creation is groaning, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, the revealing of the sons of God, all of that that’s going to happen when there is the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and all the curse will fade away in some kind of an uncreation, kind of an atomic implosion, the elements melt with fervent heat.  Everything in this universe created by God goes out of existence, and in its place a new heaven and a new earth and no curse. 

Creation is personified as feeling the pain, waiting, longing for that day, and we genuinely long for that day.  As I look at heaven, it’s not about golden streets – although I’m happy to live there – it’s about the absence of sin; it’s about the absence of temptation; it’s the absence of ignorance that is appealing about heaven.  We all groan for glory. 

But there’s a third groaning in this passage that is quite remarkable, and it is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  It is the groaning of the Holy Spirit.  The blessed Holy Spirit in whom we enjoy – with whom we enjoy fellowship, called the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – is also groaning, groaning, waiting for our glorification.  Creation is pained by the curse.  We are pained by the curse.  And even the Holy Spirit suffers the unfulfillment of the believers in whom He dwells until the curse is removed. 

As we’ve gone through this chapter, we are essentially learning this, that the Holy Spirit is responsible for three marvelous ministries in our lives.  First of all, the ministry of regeneration.  He gave us life.  We are born of the Spirit, born of the Spirit.  He gave us life when we were dead – regeneration. 

Secondly, the ministry of sanctification.  It is He who increasingly conforms us to the image of Christ.  Second Corinthians 3:18 puts it from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next, as we gaze on Christ as revealed in Scripture, who is the perfect model of Spirit-filled humanity.  As we see Him as the example, as we gaze at Him in His full expression of deity and humanity, the Spirit changes us increasingly into His image from one level of glory to the next.  That’s His work of sanctification. 

And along with that work of sanctification, the third ministry that He has in this era of grace is the ministry of security.  He secures us until that final ministry, the ministry of glorification when as the Spirit raised Christ from the dead, He will also raise us to be in His very likeness. 

I think about the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, regenerating, sanctifying and securing me to future glory.  What a blessed ministry.  And all the while I’m thinking about that, I’m grieved over the amazing irony – amazing irony – that it is these very ministries of the Holy Spirit, which are so precious to us and so clearly revealed in Scripture, that are denied by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.  They claim to be the movement of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have some kind of corner on the Holy Spirit.  They claim to have an experience with the Spirit that we don’t have.  And yet they deny the very work that the Spirit does in the life of the believer. 

First of all, they deny the work of regeneration.  The Bible teaches us that we are all dead in trespasses and sin, we are unable to give ourselves life.  We must be born from above, born of the Spirit, and that is totally a work of God, not of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God.  The Holy Spirit blows where He will, like the wind; does what He will with whom He will.  This is a sovereign, mighty, divine work.  Charismatics would want us to believe that it is a synergistic work, that the Spirit must be involved in it but that the sinner has the power in himself to make the necessary steps to bring life to himself in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  They also deny His mighty work in sanctification.  They are little interested in the internal work of the Holy Spirit, little interested in His perfecting us into the likeness of Christ, little interested in His cultivating the love of holiness, the love of righteousness, the love of purity.  They’re much more interested in the externals. 

It’s called the holiness movement, but it’s really not about holiness.  It’s called the Holy Spirit movement, and it’s really not about the Holy Spirit.  Very little interest in internal holiness and purity that is the Spirit’s true work and almost exclusive interest in the external phenomena that they attach to the Holy Spirit, which in reality have nothing to do with Him, such as supposed miracles, tongues, falling down, hearing voices, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, material prosperity, worldly success.  And because that is not a paradigm for sanctification, the movement is loaded with scandal, sex, greed, corruption, and perversion. 

You know, doing a little bit of reading on the history of this movement is a very interesting thing.  If I asked you, “What is the fastest-growing form of religion in the world?” you probably wouldn’t give me the right answer.  The right answer is Pentecostalism.  That is the fastest-growing religion in the world.  It didn’t exist in 1900.  Just a handful of people launched something in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, followed up by something in 1906 here in Los Angeles.  And by this time now, the estimate is there are a half a billion people that would identify with this movement – from nobody in 1900 to half a billion people.  Falls into three forms.  There’s traditional Pentecostalism, there is Neo-Pentecostalism, and there is the Charismatic movement from 1960 on, but it all kind of blends together. 

What happened in this movement is the center of interest was shifted from the gospel to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The center then was shifted from the Bible to experience, to a false experience with a false theology.  Worship, then, was radically recast away from what was worship in spirit and in truth to what was simply an inducing of emotional highs.  People became bored with the Bible, bored with preaching, and so preaching began to fade away.  Sound doctrine had to be eliminated because the movement couldn’t survive under the scrutiny of sound doctrine.  And so in the place of preaching the Bible and sound doctrine was wild, emotionally charged music and manipulated feelings.  The truth was replaced with lies, and it is its own judgment.  It is its own judgment. 

The work of the Holy Spirit has been so totally misrepresented.  There are essentially three forces in Christianity. This is called the third force: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Pentecostalism.  And we have said much through the years, the church has, about the errors of Roman Catholicism.  We have said a whole lot less about the errors of Pentecostalism because they threaten us with accusations of being divisive, and that causes some people to be silent. 

I’m not defending the truth for the sake of my own church or the sake of my own opinion.  I’m eager to defend the truth for the sake of the Holy Spirit, not that He needs me as a defender, but He needs me to not grieve Him and not quench Him and not insult Him and certainly to recognize what dishonors Him.  I feel like the psalmist who said, “The reproaches that fall on you have fallen on me.”  When the Holy Spirit is dishonored, I feel the pain, and it seems to be a very popular sport to do that. 

So let’s look at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit with regard to His groaning related to our security.  It’s an amazing section of Scripture, particularly in verse 26.  “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness for we don’t know to pray as we should.  But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  This text has to be one of the great biblical treasures.  It describes the means by which the Holy Spirit supports and secures us in our grace journey to final glory.  This is one of the most abused texts in the New Testament by the Charismatics.  I always expect my Bible to bleed here because it’s been wounded so many times.  They want us to believe that this is an advocacy for – advocacy text for speaking in tongues, this “groanings too deep for words.”  They want us to believe that what this verse is saying is that when you don’t know how to pray in words that you do understand, launch off into glossolalia in words that you don’t understand and this is the Holy Spirit doing what you can’t do.  That is not what this verse means, as you will see in a moment.  It’s utterly foreign to the reality of the meaning of this text to impose that on it. 

Let’s pick up the context:  “In the same way the Spirit” – “in the same way.” What do you mean “in the same way”?  In the same way that creation groans, waiting for the glorious manifestation of the sons of God, in the same way that we ourselves groan, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body, so the Holy Spirit groans.  We saw the groaning of creation, the groaning of the believer, now the groaning of the Holy Spirit – and all of this groaning in the direction of our future glory.  It would be one thing for the creation to want to be glorified, one thing for the believer to want to be glorified, but those two in themselves wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that glory, but here comes the most important groaning of all, the groaning of the Holy Spirit for our future glory.  In the same way, the Spirit groans “with groanings too deep for words.”  It’s an amazing thought. 

The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the agonizing reality of the burden and the weight of sin in the lives of those in whom He lives.  He unites with our desire to be free from the flesh, our unredeemed humanity, and to receive full salvation; full sonship; full, righteous perfection.  Our eternal glory is secured, then, by this groaning intercession of the Holy Spirit.  This is necessary.  Go back to verse 26. It says that the Spirit “helps our weakness.”  We’ve already identified our weakness.  We groan within ourselves, back in verse 23.  We have the down payment on our future glory, the firstfruits, but we groan under the debilitating weakness of our remaining sin.  The Holy Spirit helps our weakness. 

This doesn’t mean weak prayers; doesn’t mean weak prayer life. It doesn’t mean a kind of a weak understanding of what’s going on.  It’s the whole debilitating power of our fallenness that remains in us.  It’s our general weakness as fallen beings.  It’s a comprehensive word.  The whole scope of our sinfulness is a weight to us, and it is such a burden, such an overwhelming burden that we don’t even know how to pray as we should.  We don’t even have a strategy to cope with it.  We are so helpless in our sin and so helpless in our suffering, we don’t know how to overcome the power of our fallenness.  We don’t have what it takes to guard our own souls. 

I was reading one popular Charismatic theologian who said this:  “I believe the Spirit is very strong, but His seal can be broken if a person with his own free will has chosen to live life on the darker side.  Sins can keep Christians out of heaven.  If you can’t stay loyal to your spouse, you can’t stay loyal to your Lord, and will not be able to stay loyal to Him even after you enter heaven.  Like Satan and the angels, you may be thrown out.”  Really?  Just how insecure is insecure?  I can’t be loyal on my own here, and I can’t be loyal on my own in heaven, and I might get thrown out?  That is to completely, completely ignore the Holy Scripture that describes the securing ministry of the Spirit. 

Let me say it simply:  If you could lose your salvation, you would.  If I could, I would.  In fact, if I had to do anything to keep it, I couldn’t keep it at all.  I don’t have the power.  I don’t even know how to arm myself.  I’m way too weak.  I’m not kept by my own power.  I’m not kept by my own prayers.  Yes, “watch and pray lest you enter into temptation,” but on my own, unaided by the power of God, that’s not going to do it. 

This is illustrated to us in the 22nd chapter of Luke where Peter is on the brink of his classic failure around the fires at the trial of our Lord, and Jesus gives him warning.  Jesus tells him in verse 31 of Luke 22:  “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.”  “Satan’s coming after you,” and he certainly did.  But verse 32 says, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  What was Peter’s attitude going into this temptation?  He said it this way:  “If everybody fails You, I won’t.”  Self-confidence.  He didn’t know how to pray for himself.  He didn’t understand the profound nature of his own weakness.  He had no ability to understand the forces that he was going to encounter.  He was secured not by his own faith. He was secured not by his own will power. He was secured because the Lord Jesus prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  That’s the intercessory work of the Lord Jesus Christ that secured Peter, and that’s a model of His high priestly work.  He ever lives to make intercession for us. 

The reason that you’re going to make it to glory, the reason that you stay saved, that you are secure, is because you have a high priest in heaven continuing to intercede for you.  And you also have a second intercessory priest living in you; namely, the Holy Spirit.  Just how much power does it take?  How much divine power does it take to get a believer from grace to glory?  It involves the continual, unending, relentless intercession of the Son and the Spirit. 

Do you think that you can hang on by yourself?  We could never attain to the resurrection of glory by the strength of our own flesh.  We could never overcome our own sinfulness.  We could never protect ourselves from failure unless we had been given by God a faith that would not fail, and it is sustained by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.  That is why, as Grace was singing a little while ago, it doesn’t matter what comes at us, our faith doesn’t fail.  Illustration: Job.  Our faith doesn’t fail. 

In this case, verse 26, how does the Holy Spirit help our weakness and the fact that we don’t know how to defend ourselves, even through prayer, even tapping into the divine power?  “The Spirit Himself intercedes,” “the Spirit Himself intercedes.”  Huperentunchano, a strong compound word, means to rescue someone in very great danger with no resources on his own, like somebody floating down the stream headed for Niagara.  That’s the extremity of this verb.  We need somebody beyond us and above us with far greater insight, far greater power than we have, and it is the Spirit Himself.  I love that pronoun, auto, which points back to the Spirit Himself, not someone delegated by the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit Himself.  It’s His work.  This is His work.  It was He who gave us life.  It is He who conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ.  It is He who secures us. 

How does He do it?  “With groanings too deep for words.”  “With groanings too deep for words.”  Please – this is not speaking in grunts and gibberish and tongues; this is not ecstatic speech; this isn’t anybody saying anything that can be heard.  This is the Holy Spirit saying things that can’t be heard.  It says it, “too deep for words.”  Groanings, not of men, but groanings of the Spirit.  The magnificent beauty of this is that the heart of the Holy Spirit aches for the glorification of every believer.  And that aching, compassionate longing for the glorious manifestation of the children of God causes the Holy Spirit to speak silently to the Father in inter-Trinitarian conversation about the well-being of believers.  We are not secure because God said it. We are secure because God said it, and God makes sure through the work of His Son and His Spirit that it happens. 

The Holy Spirit understands our flesh, understands our weakness, understands temptation.  Would never, ever lead us into some situation we couldn’t handle, right?  “No temptation is taken you but such is as common to man.”  God will always make a way of escape.  John 18 is an illustration of that.  When they came to arrest Jesus, He wouldn’t let them arrest the disciples because the Scripture needed to be fulfilled that none of them would defect, and so they were never going to be in a position where defection would happen.  It’s a securing that is not simply a stated fact. It is a securing that is a constant work by the intercession of the Son and the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit yearns for our final glory. 

This is the heart of God, really.  I was reading Hosea chapter 11 and I came across verse 8 where God says, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I surrender you, O Israel?…. My heart is turned over within Me.  All My compassions are kindled.”  And, you know, in the true sense, God never does give up Israel, does He?  He’s going to bring Israel back.  That’s the heart of God.  How can I give you up? 

These groanings have content.  They have meaning.  They have purpose.  They are individually expressed, inter-Trinitarian, wordless communications that transcend language, that secure your place in heaven.  And who is the Holy Spirit speaking to?  Go back to verse 27:  “He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is.” 

Who is that?  Who’s He who searches the hearts?  Well, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  First Kings 8:39 says, “You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.”  First Chronicles 28:9 says, “The Lord searches every heart, understands every motive.”  Psalm 139: “Lord, You have searched me and known Me.  You know when I sit down; You know when I rise up.”  The entire psalm lays that out.  Proverbs 15:11: “Even Sheol and Abaddon are open before the Lord.”  Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, exceedingly corrupt.  Who can know it?”  The answer:  “I, the Lord search the mind.”  Acts 1:24: “Lord, You know every man’s heart.”  There’s no creature, says the writer of Hebrews, hidden from God’s sight.  “All things are open and laid bare to Him with whom we have to do.”  So the Holy Spirit is interceding for us in this wordless communication from His own eternal, holy mind to the Father and His mind.  The One who searches the hearts, God, knows the mind of the Spirit, perfect communion, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

What is the will of God for the saints?  What is God’s Will for us?  That we be glorified?  Is that His will?  Was His will that whomever He predestined He would call?  Whoever He called He would justify?  Whoever He justified He would glorify?  Is it His will to bring to heaven a redeemed humanity?  Is that His will?  Is that His purpose?  Is that the plan?  Absolutely the plan.  The Father planned it.  The Son provided for it.  And the Holy Spirit preserves it, protects it.  So the Spirit is praying for our glory in consistency with the Father’s will.  The Father planned our glory, the Son provided our glory, and the Spirit protects our glory.  This is just an astonishing verse. 

As you go through your life, you think about a lot of things around you and outside of you.  Do you ever think about anything inside of you?  Do you ever think about the ongoing, intercessory work of the Spirit of God who never slumbers or sleeps because God never slumbers or sleeps?  Do you think about the fact that in all the vicissitudes and struggles and issues of life, the Spirit of God is relentlessly interceding on your behalf, silently, in perfect communion with the mind of God to effect the purposes of God?  And that you even have an advocate against every accusation brought against you, namely Jesus Christ, who stands at the Father’s right hand in your defense as the One who paid in full the price for all your sins?  That’s why you get to glory.  That’s why no one can ever condemn you. 

Now, all of that produces the truth of verse 28.  All of that gets us to verse 28.  And I know that verse 28 is a popular verse, everybody knows it that’s been in the church any length of time.  And it sort of gets isolated a little bit, but the context gives the rich meaning of this verse, and you must see it in the context.  “And we know” – this is sequential, this is subsequent, this is connected. It is because of the groaning, intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit in perfect harmony with the purposes of God to bring us to eternal glory.  It is because of the Spirit’s intercessory work and because of God’s divine purpose that God Himself, in answer to the Spirit’s pleas, “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

This doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  And let me just say – because we can’t go into all of this – I’ve done that in years past about verse 28. You can go on and on about it because it’s one of those expandable verses – very expandable verses.  But let’s just say for the moment that the “good” being referred to here is eternal glory.  The “good” being referred to here is eternal glory because it is eternal glory that is the goal of everything, as verse 30 indicates, “glorified”; verse 19, “the revealing of the sons of God”; verse 21, “the glory of the children of God,” that’s the theme; verses 24 and 25, our “hope.”  The good being spoken of here is our eternal glory. 

The point is this:  Because of the plan of God and the provision of Christ and the protection of the Holy Spirit through His intercessory ministry, God is causing all things to work together for our final, eternal, ultimate good.  Not everything in this life works out for good – far from it.  Oh, you might draw a good lesson from it.  You might draw a good outcome from it.  You might be drawn to the Lord. It might increase your prayer life. It might strengthen you. It might give you patience. It might perfect you, mature you.  It might make you able to counsel other people and strengthen them because you can comfort those with whom you’ve been comforted by God in the same struggles. 

All of those are wonderful realities, but that’s not the good that’s being spoken of here.  The good that dominates this passage is that ultimate, final good that is the glorification of true believers.  We are secured to that final good, that which is the best.  “God causes all things” – in response to the intercessory work of the blessed Holy Spirit – “to work together for good.”  The extent of security.  There it is, the extent of security – “all things” – “all things” – “all things.”  What does that mean?  Nothing can change the ultimate good – nothing.  That’s the positive way of saying we’re in a no condemnation status.  There are no limits on that.  “All things,” pantos, whatever the nature, whatever the number, whatever the extent, whatever the character of whatever may come in a fallen, corrupt world to people who still bear the weight of the curse in their unredeemed humanness – all of it.  Everything that comes – everything – is woven together by God for our final good. 

“Works together” is sunergei, from which we get synergy.  God is the great synergizer.  We could say that’s what providence is, God’s providence.  All things are not necessarily good in themselves, all things don’t necessarily combine to produce good in this life.  Some of you are living with that.  Life’s not being good – illness, loss of jobs, loss of houses, loss of lots of things, friends.  But in the end, there is a good, the ultimate good, eternal glory, that will come to pass.  That’s the good that is the theme here, and it’s attached to the hope mentioned in verses 24 and 25, our eternal hope. 

And this is good in the moral sense, not kalos, which is kind of good in the appeal to the eye.  This is agathos, good in the moral sense; the true goodness, the real goodness, the ultimate goodness so that we can say good things – and life is full of many good things, obviously; we’re blessed.  Good things work together for our good.  But so do bad things.  Bad things work together for our good – suffering, struggling with temptation, even sin.  God gets a hold of all of these things and works them, in response to the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit, to our final good. 

So that’s the extent of our security.  How could we ever lose our salvation if everything that happens to us works together for our eternal good?  There’s no other option. 

So that’s the extent of security.  Who are the recipients of this?  The recipients of this security, this promise – just quickly.  Verse 27 tells us that the Spirit is interceding “for the saints” – “for the saints,” the holy ones who have been covered with the righteousness of Christ, and thus before God are holy.  But then in verse 28, it further defines them this way: “to those who love God.”  “To those who love God.”  They’re the recipients of this. 

You ever kind of ask yourself the question, “How do you know if somebody is a Christian?  How do I know if somebody – you know, they prayed a prayer, they go to church.”  How do you know if someone’s a Christian?  Here’s the answer:  They love God.  They love God.  They love God.  Why do they love God?  Because they’re the called.  That’s an effectual call.  That’s an effectual call. That’s not an invitation like in Matthew 22 when the Lord invites people to come.  That’s an effectual call.  That is an absolute call.  Verse 30:  “Whom He called, He justified.”  This is the call to life from spiritual death.  This is the effectual call, as theologians have called it.  All those who have been called in that way, called into life, called into salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit are then described as those who love God. 

How can you tell a true Christian?  They love God.  They love God.  Basic – they love God; they love Christ.  “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned,” 1 Corinthians 16:22 says.  Being Christian is about loving Christ, loving Christ.  We’re like that woman in Luke 7 who loved much because we’d been forgiven much.  The great command of the Old Testament is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We desire to do that.  We don’t do that, but we do love God.  All through Scripture, true believers are described as those who love God.  “We love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.”  We love God.  We love Jesus Christ. 

It is a love that meditates on His majestic glory.  It is a love that longs to worship, to sing His praises.  It is a love that seeks the fellowship of others who love Him.  It is a love that loves those who love Him and are loved by Him.  It is a love that seeks communion with God, intimate communion.  It is a love that seeks the knowledge of God in the Word of God, to know Him more.  It is a love that is sensitive to God’s honor and God’s dishonor.  It is a love that hates what God hates and loves what God loves.  It is a love that grieves over sin and rejoices over righteousness.  It is a love that rejects the world.  It is a love that longs for the coming of Jesus Christ.  But mostly, it is a love that obeys the Scripture.  “If you love Me” – Do what? – “keep My commandments.”  “Whoever keeps My Word, he it is that loves Me.” 

For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise.  The Holy Spirit is interceding in perfect harmony with the will of God so that God is causing everything that happens in the life of those who love Him to come together in the end for their eternal good and eternal glory because that was His purpose from the very beginning.  Predestined to that purpose.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name. 

We do a lot about worshiping God.  We say a lot about worshiping God.  We seem particularly in this current era to celebrate, and could neither be over-celebrated, neither the Father or the Son; to celebrate the cross and the work of Christ, and you could never do that too much.  But in the midst of all of this, seems to me the Holy Spirit has been left behind.  And He is equally God and equally to be honored and adored. 

These are things that are confidences that we have.  Verse 28 says, “We know.”  “We know.”  This isn’t a maybe; we know this.  This is the certainty of our security.  “We know.”  How do we know?  Because we know the purpose of God to predestine, call, justify, and glorify a redeemed people.  This is the plan.  Christ provided the necessary sacrifice, and the Spirit makes the plan work all the way to the end. 

Now, verses 29 and 30 are two profound verses for next time.  But I want you to listen to me right now.  Usually,  when I finish going through the Word of God with you, I have prayer and then you all just jump up and run.  I don’t know where you’re going.  I don’t know what’s so urgent.  I just assume it’s deep conviction, and whoever gets up first is the most convicted.  So we’re going to ask you, because when you teach the Word of God, the Spirit of God is working, don’t you believe that?  And sometimes it just ends, and so what we’re going to do is I’m going to have a final prayer with you at the end of our service and let you know the prayer room is available and open for any help you need spiritually, anything you need there.  The member center is open for membership, baptism information, you know all that. 

But I’m going to ask you after this closing prayer to sit quietly and meditatively and think about what you heard while Steve plays for about 30 seconds or so, just some quiet background. And let’s just try to capture some moments of personal examination, okay?  And then when he hits the foot pedals with both feet, that’s the signal that you can begin to move.  Can we do that?  And just kind of close in that meditative way after this prayer? 

Father, thank You for – thank You for this.  What can we say?  What can we say?  What can we even comprehend of this magnificence of this generous grace, of this overwhelming mercy that You have given to us?  We thank You for not only giving us Christ as our heavenly defender, but giving us the Holy Spirit as our earthly intercessor who cries out for our glory. And You hear and You answer, and we’re secure by a supernatural protector.  We give glory to You, O Son of God, for the mighty work on the cross, for the purchase price of our redemption.  We give You glory, O blessed Holy Spirit, for regenerating us, sanctifying us, securing us, and one day glorifying us.  We want to honor You, the triune God, in every way and live lives that adorn all that is true about You, as much as is possible for weak humans such as we are.  Thank You that You’ve made us Your children, adopted us as sons, and we, too, groan until the day of our glory when we can fall at Your feet and worship You, O God, in full righteousness.  That’s our prayer.  In anticipation of that, we offer You the rest of this grace journey in obedience to You, that Christ may be honored and lifted up and draw others to Himself.  We pray in His name.

Jesus Didn’t Say ‘Admire Me’; He Said ‘Follow Me’

by Greg Laurie on May 28, 2021

All of my life I admired Jesus Christ. I had seen all His movies. And I always thought very highly of Him. I thought at the very least that Jesus was a great man, a prophet, and maybe even the Son of God. I wasn’t really sure, but I had great admiration for Him.

That is the way a lot of people feel toward Jesus Christ today. There are many people who have high regard for Him. In fact, many of them fill churches every weekend.

However, Jesus didn’t say, “Admire Me.” He said, “Follow Me.” Nor did He say, “Follow My people.” No, he said, “Follow Me.”

We have all met people who claim to be Christians but turned out to be hypocrites. And probably the No. 1 excuse people give for not going to church is there are too many hypocrites. To them I would say, “There’s always room for one more, so come on in.”

Just because someone claims to be a Christian and messes up, falls short, or does something wrong, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a hypocrite. It means they’re human. I’m not making excuses for anyone. I’m simply saying that even followers of Christ will have moments when they do or say things they wish they hadn’t done or said.

When Jesus used the term “hypocrite” to describe the self-righteous people of His day, He used a word in the original language that meant “actor.” A hypocrite is a person who’s putting on a performance. It’s someone who’s pretending to be something they really are not.

You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time. But you can’t fool God any of the time. He knows what is going on.

So let’s acknowledge the fact there are hypocrites in the church. This doesn’t mean that Jesus Christ isn’t real or that His words aren’t true. In fact, if you see a market flooded with cheap knockoffs, it confirms the fact there’s a genuine article out there.

Jesus Christ never will let you down. He never will fail you. I know this because Jesus said it, but I also know it from personal experience. I’ve gone through my times of tragedy. And when I hear people say they’ve lost their faith because of a crisis they’ve been through, my response is this: The faith that cannot be tested is the faith that cannot be trusted. If they lost their faith, so to speak, when they went through a crisis, then I’d have to question whether they ever had real faith to begin with.

The Bible tells the story of a man named Matthew, who left everything to follow Jesus. He left his career, his wealth and his position and power. And you know what? Jesus had only two words for him.

Now, there are a lot of conversations that Jesus had with various people. In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, we read of a prolonged conversation that He had with Nicodemus. Then in the next chapter, we read that He had a conversation with an immoral woman.

So what did Jesus say to Matthew? He simply told him, “Follow me.”

Right then and there, Matthew stood up from the table where he was sitting and followed Jesus. Then the Bible tells us, “Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’

“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do’” (Matthew 9:10–12 NLT).

That is so true. In fact, there are two places I don’t like to go: the doctor’s office and the dentist’s office. Why? It’s because I don’t want to hear bad news. I remember on one particular visit, my doctor told me that my blood pressure was high.

“Do you know why my blood pressure is high?” I said. “Every time I see you, my blood pressure goes up because I know you’re going to tell me that my blood pressure is too high. You have to sneak up on me sometime and then check it. I guarantee that I’ll be fine.”

We don’t like to go to those places, because we don’t like to hear bad news.

Matthew, like all of us, was sick spiritually. But there was no treatment. There was no pill for his condition. It was a condition Matthew inherited, and ultimately it was fatal. It’s a condition called sin, and we are all born with it. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It comes naturally.

I never had to sit my two boys down and tell them, “Boys, today I want to teach you how to sin.”

They knew how to do it entirely on their own, just like I did. Just like you do. The Bible says, “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23 NLT).

Matthew was a tax collector, which meant that he effectively worked for the enemy. Rome was the occupying force in Israel at the time, and the tax collectors collected taxes for Rome, added more and pocketed the surplus.

We don’t know whether Matthew did this in particular, but I can tell you one thing: Tax collectors were not popular people. They were barely above plankton on the food chain. As a result, Matthew had no friends—just a lot of people who wanted nothing to do with him.

I don’t know what drove Matthew to that lifestyle, but he no doubt was watching Jesus. A tax collector knew what was happening in town. He knew of any business transactions that took place. He would have watched Jesus talking to people. He would have heard His teachings. And Matthew really knew the Scriptures. In his own Gospel, he made more than 99 references to the Old Testament.

Jesus knew who Matthew was, too, and He ultimately called him, saying, “Follow me.”

Maybe you know the Bible, but maybe you’ve never had a relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. I’m not talking about religion. I have no interest in religion, and I don’t want to become a religious person. On the other hand, I am very interested in a relationship with God. And that is what knowing Jesus Christ is all about.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

This article was originally published at

VIDEO Guaranteed Glory

John MacArthur  Jan 22, 2012

Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of Romans and we’re going to look – essentially, we’re going to look at just two verses – just two verses.  But in order to set it in your mind, I want to read three verses, verses 28, 29, and 30.  They really do go together.  We’ve pretty much covered verse 28 already and at least the second half of verse 29, but I want to read them for you. 

Romans 8:28:  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.  And these whom He predestined, He also called.  And these whom He called, He also justified.  And these whom He justified, He also glorified.” 

Now, as we have been learning, just to give you the broad picture again, I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is an urgent point to make.  As we have been learning, the gracious, mighty, wondrous work of the Holy Spirit on behalf of every Christian is sufficient to motivate full-hearted, joyous, grateful worship, and worship is the priority for the believer.  We are first and foremost worshipers.  The Father is seeking true worshipers, and we are those who worship in the Spirit, according to the apostle Paul.  We are first and foremost worshipers.  The object of our worship is the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

And basically speaking, we are well-informed in the worship of God the Father.  We understand His attributes, we understand His mighty works, and we celebrate them in our expressions of worship, both individually and corporately.  We’re well-informed on the worship of the Son of God.  We understand His life and ministry.  We understand His death and His resurrection, ascension, His intercessory work, His return.  We do well to worship the Son.  But we don’t understand fully, at least in the evangelical church, the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  And consequently, we do not worship the Spirit as we should and, therefore, we do not worship the triune God in the fullest measure that He is worthy to receive. 

Our worship of the Holy Spirit, like our worship of the Father and our worship of the Son, is only as true, only as pure, and only as accurate and only as extensive as our knowledge of the Spirit’s person and work.  And since that is a very glaring problem in the evangelical world today, we’ve been endeavoring to take a good look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit for which He is to be worshiped.  And I want to say at the very outset that the Holy Spirit is no less the sovereign than the Son or the Father.  He is no less sovereign, He is no less in authority, than any other member of the Trinity.  He is to be obeyed as are the Son and the Father.  He is to be honored and submitted to as are the Son and the Father. 

But the general, evangelical church in our time has been cheated of the understanding of the Holy Spirit as to His person and His work, His ministry.  And consequently, our worship of the Holy Spirit is convoluted – or functions in ignorance.  The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, which starts at the beginning of the 20th century, has produced endless misconceptions about the Holy Spirit, endless misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit, much abuse and blasphemy of His holy name.  And in the name of unity and in the name of love and in the name of acceptance, the evangelical church has decided not to correct this vast realm of propagated error.  That is a serious thing to avoid.  This needs correction; it needs exposure. 

The Holy Spirit is perceived in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, no matter what might be said.  The Holy Spirit is nonetheless perceived not as the sovereign God, not as the sovereign Spirit ruling, commanding the believer, not as the one to whom we submit, whose word we obey, but rather the Holy Spirit is presented almost in an impersonal way as a kind of a force, a kind of metaphysical force that serves the believer and submits to the will of the believer, the wish of the believer, the desire of the believer, the words of the believer and even, I suppose, the commands of the believer.  Personal desires, personal wants, personal wishes, personal ambitions, desires for health, wealth, prosperity, a longing for mystical experiences, esoteric feelings are supposed to be the actions of the Spirit which are basically activated by the believer’s demands, by the believer’s words. 

For example, perhaps as influential as any in the Charismatic movement is Benny Hinn.  Here are a few quotes from Benny.  “No, no, never ever go to the Lord and say, ‘If it be Your will.’”  Here’s another one:  “The activity of the Holy Spirit is dependent on my words.  He will not move until I say it.”  So he is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is a metaphysical force that functions in response to his words.  You will see that all the way through to all the word-faith positive confession preachers, all the way through to Joel Osteen, all the way – this all goes back to the – sort of the launch point of Kenneth Hagin, who stole these ideas from E. W. Kenyon, who twisted them out of Christian Science metaphysics.  But that’s the attitude.  The Spirit is barely personal, a kind of force. 

Benny Hinn actually says that this anointing of the Holy Spirit comes on him, particularly when he visits the grave of two dead women, heretical preachers, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Kathryn Kuhlman, that when he gets by their graves, the Holy Spirit anointing comes on him.  He says this anointing is so strong on him that he can take his coat off, rub his coat on himself, the anointing goes into the coat, flail the coat in the air and say “Bam, bam, bam,” and people in massive audiences all fall down because he’s wielding this power called the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to be slain in the Spirit.  People fall over individually; they fall over in groups under the wielding of this power.  In fact, these evangelists like him are so in control of the Holy Spirit that they can demand that the Holy Spirit show up in a certain theater at 7:30 on a Wednesday night and they can throw Him around at their will. 

This is a false system.  Again, it’s metaphysics.  It’s the idea that the Holy Spirit is a mystical force and that there are certain laws that operate in the universe metaphysically and if you engage those laws, then the Holy Spirit moves in power.  The Holy Spirit’s name is used to give legitimacy to a false teacher.  There may be spirits there, but they’re not the Holy Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit’s name is used because that makes the preacher seem legitimate.  It also makes him famous and then it makes him rich.  And he is honored and the Holy Spirit is dishonored. 

How serious is this?  In Exodus chapter 20 verse 7, where the ten commandments are laid out, one of them says this:  “Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.”  That’s a very dangerous thing to do, but that’s precisely what this kind of metaphysical treatment of the Holy Spirit is.  It is taking His name in vain.  It says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain.”  I’m not the final court on what happens to these people but God is, and they will not go unpunished.  One could only wish that the punishment would come sooner rather than later for the sake of the people who are deceived. 

Scripture ascribes to the Holy Spirit every attribute that is ascribed to the Son and the Father.  Fully God, sovereign over all believers.  He does not obey us, He does not fulfill our will.  He does not act in response to certain metaphysical laws that we set into motion.  He does not move according to our verbal confessions.  He is not some kind of neutral force waiting for us to get Him going.  The Holy Spirit is sovereign over the believer.  We are to obey His words, submit to His authority.  We are to walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, obey the Spirit, and be filled constantly with the Spirit.  He is the authority of God in us and over us. 

And we have been looking at the true ministry of the Holy Spirit in Romans chapter 8, so let’s go there at this point.  Here, we’re learning the elements of His gracious work in believers.  We could sum it up and say it this way – and I think, you know, giving you these sort of big pictures is important.  The Father initiated the salvation plan in eternity past.  The Father initiated the salvation plan, the Son validated it on the cross and demonstrated it in His life.  He demonstrated what perfect humanity looks like.  He demonstrated what a saved and fully sanctified and even glorified person looks like. 

So the Father initiates this salvation plan.  The Son both validates it at the cross and demonstrates it in His life, but it is the Holy Spirit who activates it.  We don’t activate the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit activates the work of God in us and that is inclusive.  It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to repentance.  He convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment.  It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us, gives us life and understanding so that we can believe.  Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who both convicts us of sin and regenerates us.  It is then the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us.  It is also the Holy Spirit who secures us; that is, guarantees our future glory, and then it is the Holy Spirit who glorifies us.  He will raise us by the power of the Spirit as He raised Jesus. 

So the whole work, the whole activation of the work of salvation, initiated by God, validated and demonstrated by Christ is then activated by the Holy Spirit.  Another way to say it is the Father purposed to save an elect people, the Son provided the sacrifice to make that salvation possible, and the Spirit produces that salvation.  He brings us to conviction, regeneration, sanctification and will one day glorify us.  The Holy Spirit then regenerates, sanctifies, secures, and glorifies the believer.  That’s His true work. 

Now, we’ve been looking at the work of the Holy Spirit in the chapter that’s before us, all the way down now to this section in verses 28-30.  And since we hit verse 17, we’ve been looking at one particular work of the Holy Spirit and that is this:  the work of securing us.  We talked about His work of regenerating us.  We talked about His work of sanctifying us, separating us from sin and death, enabling us to fulfill the law, changing our nature, causing us to behave in a righteous fashion, adopting us into the family of God and making us sons, all of these elements of sanctification and identity and union with Christ. 

We’re now looking at the final work that is laid out for us, and that is the Holy Spirit’s work of guaranteeing or securing our eternal glory.  This is from verse 17 all the way down to verse 30.  We look at this ministry of the Spirit of God by which He secures your eternal salvation, your place in heaven.  And I read you from 1 Peter purposely because I wanted to remind you that you have been secured to your future inheritance which is reserved for you.  It is protected by the power of God, namely the Holy Spirit.  It’s there waiting, imperishable, cannot be defiled, cannot fade away, reserved for you, and you’re protected so that one day you’re going to be there.  That is the securing work of the Holy Spirit.  He is, therefore, called the Spirit of promise.  He is the guarantee, the down payment, the engagement ring, the seal of God that will bring you to final glory. 

So starting in verse 17, the theme then moves from regeneration and sanctification to glory.  In verse 17, we begin to talk about being glorified with Him.  In verse 18, the glory that is to be revealed in us.  Verse 21, the glory of the children of God.  We all begin to look to the future.  We come into the hope for that glory in verse 24.  Again, hope in verse 25, and all the way down to verse 30 where we see the word “glorified.”  So the theme of 17 to 30 is our future glory and the emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit who secures us to that future glory. 

Now, it is demonstrated here that He does that in a most remarkable way in verses 26 and 27.  He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  He is our intercessor.  He goes before the Father continually in an unspoken language, an inner Trinitarian communion without words.  It is the Spirit speaking to the Father without words – too profound for human language.  Human language would limit this communion, and the Spirit is speaking without words, communing with the Father in perfect harmony with the Father’s will.  Verse 27, He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God and He who searches the hearts – that is God – knows the mind of the Spirit.  So you have the plan of the Father, known by the Spirit, the Spirit interceding within the framework of that plan according to the will of God, and thus in that marvelous intercessory ministry of the Spirit, we are secured to glory. 

The Spirit is groaning for us to gain glory.  The creation groans in verses 19 to 22.  Believers groan in verse 23 to 25.  But neither of those groanings are efficacious.  But the groaning of the Holy Spirit is an efficacious groaning, it is a powerful groaning that secures us to final glory.  This is what the Holy Spirit does for us.  And because of this intercessory ministry of the Spirit of God, the Father Himself – verse 28 – works all things for our eternal good because this was His purpose and because He called us to Himself to love Him forever. 

So we are seeing that the picture shifts to future glory, the glorious revealing of the sons of God, which is what God planned at the beginning, right?  Now, that takes us to verses 29 and 30, just that brief summary.  And we looked already at the purpose of salvation in verse 29.  Let me touch it lightly.  The purpose is to conform us.  This is the secondary purpose, the penultimate, to conform us to the image of His Son.  His secondary purpose, God’s secondary purpose in saving people through all of redemptive history, His secondary purpose was to conform them to the image of His Son. 

It is maybe best to be understood in this way:  The whole of redemptive history is about the Father seeking a bride for His Son.  The Father loves the Son, He loves the Son perfectly, He wants to give to the Son a gift of love.  That gift will be a redeemed humanity that constitute a loving bride – a loving, submissive, joyous bride.  And so all through redemptive history, the Father is drawing the bride – drawing the bride.  Even when we get to heaven, the New Jerusalem is called the Bridal City, it comes down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.  The church is seen to be the bride, the redeemed are the bride.  Even the believing in Israel of old were the wife of Jehovah, to be the wife of the Son. 

So the Father is seeking a bride.  There’s a price for the Son to pay, as there was in ancient times.  When you took a bride, you paid a price for that bride and the price the Son was to pay was his own life.  Not silver and gold, as Peter says, but the precious blood that flowed in His own veins as He gave up His life to pay the purchase price for the bride that the Father had desired to give Him.  And so what is going to be heaven is going to be the collection of the bride brought to the bridal city.  When the bride is complete, redemptive history will end, and all the bride will gather around the Son.  They will love Him, adore Him, serve Him, worship Him, and with another element, they will reflect His glory.  They will be in His image.  We looked at that in detail, so we won’t cover it any more.  That’s the secondary purpose.  Then the primary purpose, the ultimate, in verse 29, so that He, the Lord Jesus, would be the preeminent one among many brethren.  The ultimate goal is the preeminence of Christ.  In the end, God will give Him a name above every name.  And at His name, every knee will bow. 

What is the purpose of redemptive history?  The Father loves the Son, determines to give a bride as a gift of love to the Son that will serve Him and adore Him and worship Him and love Him and reflect His glory.  And in some way, the reflection of that glory is greater than it would be without the redemption of that bride – if for no other reason than the fact that they will demonstrate something that without them would never be demonstrated and that is the grace of God.  In order for God to put all the panoply of attributes on display that are part of His grace and mercy, He has to redeem unworthy sinners.  And that’s the purpose of salvation.  In the end, we’ll give all glory to Christ.  We’ll cast our crowns, as they did in Revelation, at His feet, will confess Him as Lord, preeminent one.  That’s the purpose of salvation.  In the end, Christ will be all in all.  And then you know how the story really ends.  After the bride has been presented to Christ for His glory and His honor, Christ will take Himself and the bride and return them all to the Father in an act of reciprocal love.  It’s a staggering thing to be caught up in this. 

Now, what about the progress to this end?  That is the purpose of salvation.  The secondary purpose is that we might be made into the image of Christ, the primary purpose is that He then might become the preeminent one, the exalted one.  But the process to get to that is laid out for us in these two verses, 29 and 30.  Now, just to kind of help you, sometimes you hear about Reformed theology, you hear that phrase, or the Doctrines of Grace, or Calvinism, and you wonder just exactly what that is.  Okay, in a nutshell, it’s what it says here – it’s right here.  This is the best summary of the Doctrines of Grace, of the essence of Reformed Soteriology, of the essentials of Calvinism, this is it.  This is it in the saving side of it, and it’s all bound up in a sequence, in a process. 

It goes like this:  Verse 29:  “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined.”  Then go to verse 30:  “These whom He predestined, He also called.  These whom He called, He also justified.  And these whom He justified, He also glorified.”  Foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.  Those are five cardinal realities that make up the great redemptive purpose of God in salvation, these five things. 

By the way, again we are amazed at the economy of words which the Holy Spirit uses to bring these five things together in those few sentences.  I might add that millions and millions of pages have been written on these five things.  But let’s take a look at them.  Let’s try to understand the process, if we can call it a process, because nothing’s a process in God’s mind because He sees everything in its fullness and completion.  But for us, it’s a sequence and that’s the way it’s presented to us here in the language. 

Where does salvation begin?  What’s the primitive point at which it all launches?  Verse 29:  “For those whom He foreknew – For those whom He foreknew.”  Now, for some people, this is a meltdown point for accepting the sovereignty of God in salvation.  They say, “Oh, that’s the key.  He foreknew.”  He, because He knows everything that’s going to happen, looked ahead and He saw what people were going to do of their own free will, and since He knew what they were going to do, He chose them to be His own. 

Is that what foreknowledge is saying?  He saw what was going to happen – now let me tell you, He does know the future.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He knows everything that’s going to happen before it’s going to happen – that is true.  He does have prescience, if you want to call it that.  He does have knowledge of what hasn’t happened, full knowledge of it.  But is that what this is talking about?  Did God just look ahead at these fully independent people and say, “Well, they’re going to believe and they’re not going to believe, so since I know who is going to believe, those are the ones I’m going to elect.” 

Well, there’s several responses I have.  First of all, that would make the word “elect” nonsense because He didn’t choose anything.  So forget the doctrine of election because He didn’t choose anything.  It would be the doctrine of a reaction.  I don’t know if you want to try to preach the doctrine of divine reaction.  Or perhaps you’d like to preach the doctrine of human sovereignty.  Then you have to ask the question:  By what power did they overcome their fallenness?  By what power did these people that He looked at in the future, who had free will, overcome their depravity, their fallenness, their deadness, their blindness, their darkness?  And then you’d have to ask this:  If God looked ahead and saw that people would not choose the gospel and would not choose to believe and would therefore go to hell, why did He go ahead and create them?  Because, you see, the only reason people come up with this idea that God simply reacted to what He knew would happen is to get Him off the hook for what happens.  They’re trying to save God from a bad reputation, like being responsible for people who go to hell.  So they want to say we can’t do that to God, so He’s just reacting to what people do.  But then if nobody’s been created, why did He go ahead and create the people He knew would do that?  Or you could even ask a tougher question:  Why did He create people who had the potential to do that unless He had a purpose for that happening?  You don’t get God off the hook in the end any way you try.  What’s happening is within His purpose. 

Well, then what do you mean by foreknowledge?  What do we mean by that?  Well, we all understand that it doesn’t mean that God just knew what would happen and then He just reacted.  We get that.  Why?  Because in John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above.”  You must be born from above.  In John chapter 6, Jesus says, “No man comes unto Me except the Father draw Him.”  At the end of the chapter, verse 65, He said, “The only people who come to Me are the people the Father draws to Me.”  We understand that.  Listen to Matthew 11 and verse 27:  “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” 

Wow.  The only way you can ever know God is if the Son reveals Him to you, and the only way you can ever know the Son is if the Father draws you to Him.  And by the way, did you notice the word “know” there?  This is the first key.  No one knows the Son except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.  You say, “Well, whoa, whoa, whoa.  We know about the Son.  We have information about the Son.  Holy angels have information about the Son.  Demons have information about the Father and the Son.  What do you mean no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son?”  The word “know” must be different than having information.  Okay?  It must mean something different than having information because holy angels, fallen angels, and even people have information about the Father and information about the Son but it’s not knowing.  What do you mean knowing? 

How about John 10?  This is a passage that speaks using the same word.  Verse 14, John 10, “I’m the Good Shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me and the Father knows Me and I know the Father.”  What kind of knowing is this?  You mean when Jesus says, “I know My own,” is He saying, “I have information about them” as if He has no information about anybody else?  In Amos 3:2, God says, “Israel only have I known.”  Israel only have I known.  What do you mean?  You know everything.  Israel only have I known.  This is something different.  In John 10:26, “You don’t believe because you’re not My sheep.”  Wow.  “My sheep hear My voice and I know them.”  I know them.  What kind of knowing?  What are we talking about here?  John 17, verse 25, “O righteous Father, the world hasn’t known You.  I have known You and these have known that You sent Me.  I have made Your name known to them.”  What kind of knowing are we talking about? 

Let me give you a helpful analogy.  Genesis 4 – don’t turn to it.  Genesis 4 in the original language says this:  “Cain knew his wife and she bore a son.”  Cain knew his wife.  In the beautiful, veiled, euphemistic language of Scripture, that’s a carnal knowledge.  That’s an intimate love relationship.  And the shocking thing for Mary when Gabriel showed up and told her she was going to have a baby was that she had never known Joseph.  She had never known him.  This is the knowledge that we’re talking about here.  We’re talking about a knowledge of intimacy.  Hosea 13:5:  “I knew you in the wilderness.”  What do you mean?  I set My love on you.  I established a love relationship with you in the wilderness. 

This is seen in so many places in New Testament.  “Many will say unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this, we did that, we did the other.’”  Matthew 7.  “And Jesus says, ‘Depart from Me I never” – what?  “Never knew you.”  Didn’t know who you were?  Of course He knew who they were.  He knows who they are.  I never had an intimate love relationship with you, that’s the kind of knowing we’re talking about. 

Let me show you a couple of verses – you might want to write these down because this question comes up a lot about foreknowledge, and I’m trying to help you to be able to answer it in your own mind and the minds of those that you can help.  But listen to 1 Corinthians 8:3.  It’s very simple.  It says it all.  “If anyone loves God, he’s known by Him.”  Got it?  That’s it.  Put an asterisk by that.  If anyone loves God, He’s known by Him. 

Let me ask you a question.  We love Him because what?  He first loved us.  He first loved us, we love Him back, that means He knows us.  When the Bible says that you are known by God, the Son says, “I know the Father, the Father knows Me” – intimate love.  In John 17, Jesus says, “The believers are known by the Father and known by Me.”  Intimate love.  I mean that’s what this knowledge is about.  Why is it fore knowledge?  Because before that love could ever happen, before anyone was ever born, it was ordained.  That’s why it’s fore knowledge.  That’s foreordination.  That’s established before it ever happened. 

Galatians 4:9 speaks of salvation this way:  “Now you have come to know God, or rather” – I love this – “to be known by God.”  What does it mean to be saved?  It means to be known by God.  What does it mean to be known by God?  That He knows you exist?  That He has information about you?  No, that He has established a love relationship with you.  Even in Romans chapter 11, that really significant chapter on the whole issue of sovereign election, at the very beginning of the chapter – verse 2 – “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.”  God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.  What does that mean?  Whom He predetermined to love. 

Go back to the writing of Moses.  The question comes up, Why Israel?  Why Israel?  As Richard Wolffe once said, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.”  Why Israel?  He says, “I set My love upon you not because you were greater than any other people but because I chose to love you.”  That’s a predetermined act of sovereign, uninfluenced love.  That’s foreknowledge.  And we read about it in 1 Peter.  “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, we have been sanctified by the Spirit, sprinkled with His blood.”  The primitive truth and reality in the scheme of salvation, it starts with a sovereign determination to love certain people.  And as John 13 says, to love them to the max, that’s foreknowledge.  It is a predetermined, foreordained, and, of course, foreseen determination to love. 

I just read from 1 Peter but I didn’t read the whole chapter, so let me read you again 1 Peter 1:2:  “We have been saved according to the foreknowledge of God.”  Listen to this.  Over in verse 19 and 20, same chapter, same writer, it says this:  “We were saved, redeemed with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.”  What does foreknown mean regarding Christ?  Did God just look ahead and say, “Oh, wow, look at that.  He’s going to end up on a cross.  I’ve got to do something with that.”  To say Christ was foreknown before the foundation of the world, to be offered as a lamb unblemished and spotless is to say that God determined it, established it, fixed it.  And He has appeared in these last times for your sake.  That’s how foreknowledge works.  God determines it in eternity past and it occurs in time. 

One other illustration of the use of this term that helps us in Acts 2:23, Peter’s preaching concerning Christ on the Day of Pentecost, and he talks about Christ’s death and the people nailing Him to a cross, but he says that Christ was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, delivered over to you to be crucified by the predetermined plan of God.  Now, mark it.  Peter is the one who wrote what I just read and Peter’s the one who preached this.  Peter understood the meaning of foreknowledge.  He, this Christ, was nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put to death by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.  The word plan is boul.  It’s used in classical Greek for a decision, a prescribed course of action coming from a decision.  Predetermined is horiz, from which we get horizon, a line of demarcation.  Something predetermined means to mark out the boundaries or the limits.  God established by His own counsel the boundaries.  He made the determination. 

Another way to translate predetermined would be destined.  By the destined purpose, plan, decision of God, marked out, pre-decided.  And then he adds, “And foreknowledge of God.”  That’s prognosis in English, prognosis.  It is God’s foreordained decision marked out to save, to establish a love relationship with certain people.  Set His love on them as He did Israel, before the foundation of the world.  That’s foreknowledge.  It’s a fact, it’s an established fact. 

Now go back to Romans 8.  In Romans 8 – and I just wanted you to get that foreknowledge because the others we can kind of draw out of our resource.  We’ve talked about them in the past.  “Whom He foreknew” – verse 29 – “He also predestined.”  What is predestined?  Well, that speaks of the end, the destiny.  By the way, predestined is prooriz.  It’s an intensified form of marking out the boundaries.  This is the final purpose.  He predestined, tells us, to become conformed to the image of His Son so that He would be the preeminent one among many.  So by a decision marked out, foreordained, and established in eternity past, God predetermined an intimate love relationship with certain people.  He established it by His decree, and based on that decision in the past, He predestined the future, the end, the final purpose.  He marked out from the beginning the very end.  Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world.  Revelation 13:8Revelation 17:8 says that.  All that God intended to do was determined at the very beginning and predestined to its very end.  That’s the big picture right there.  In fact, it was in Acts 4:28 that we read that God does whatever His hand and His purpose predestines to occur.  Acts 4:28.  Whatever He predestines to occur will occur. 

So foreknowledge speaks of His choice.  You might say that’s election.  Predestination speaks of the result of that choice, the end.  So whoever He foreknew, He predestined.  Therefore, drop down to verse 30, “These whom He predestined He also called.”  Now we move into time.  Now we move into human history.  Those whom He called.  What do you mean called?  Well, we don’t mean like an invitation.  We don’t mean like it says in the gospels many are called, go out and call them to come in.  No, this is not that kind of a call.  This is a different kind of call.  We know from verse 28 in the same context that this is a calling connected, it says in verse 28, to His purpose.  God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now we’re talking about what theologians call an effectual call or an effective call or a powerful call or – I love these historic words – an irresistible call.  It’s a gracious call.  But it is nonetheless an effectual call.  It is not an external call.  It is not a call that comes to the ears to be rejected or accepted; it is an internal call, and that’s what sets it apart. 

It is really the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in the full scope of regeneration.  It is God’s saving call.  And that’s how we are referred to so often – Romans 1:7 – “To all who are beloved of God, called” to be holy, called saints.  “To all who are beloved of God, called.”  That puts it together.  Since God predetermined a love relationship with you, He called you internally, regenerated you, saving, redeeming, regenerating call. 

Listen, every time you see the idea of call in the epistles and the writings post-gospel, wherever you see that, it always refers to this saving act of the Spirit of God in regeneration.  And it follows all the way through that we are called.  Romans 8:28 being as good as any:  “To those who are called according to His purpose.”  It is a call connected to His purpose.  His purpose is to save and He calls to fulfill that purpose.  In fact, in the New Testament and even now, of course, we follow that up, we’re called the church.  You know what church is?  It comes from a Greek word ekklesia, which is a noun that draws from the verb ekkaleo.  Kaleo is call, ek is out of.  Ekkaleo, we are the church because we’re called out, out of the world, out of death, out of darkness, out of ignorance.  We’re the called.  This is the grace of God to us, to fulfill His eternal purpose. 

Listen to – you can’t really improve on 2 Timothy, I don’t think, in chapter 1, I think it’s verse 9 – yes – “who saved us.”  The power of God, that would be the Holy Spirit, who is the power of God, “who saved us and called us with a holy calling.”  That means it’s a calling to holiness.  It’s a real transformation.  It’s a true regeneration, calling to holiness.  Calling to ultimate holiness.  Calling to final perfection.  Calling to eternal glory.  And it comes by the gospel.  It doesn’t happen apart from the gospel.  Isn’t it – you know this, right?  Faith comes by what?  Hearing the Word concerning Christ, so they have to hear, they have to have a preacher, the preacher has to be sent.  So the calling comes by the gospel. 

Listen to 2 Thessalonians 2:13:  “We should always give thanks to God for you, beloved by the Lord.”  I just enjoy that phrase, “beloved by the Lord.”  That’s a phrase that ties into His election.  He set His love upon us before we were ever born, before anything was ever created.  But we now are beloved by the Lord because God has chosen you from the beginning.  He has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.  Then he says this, “It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  It’s all there.  He chose you.  Then He called you by the gospel in order that He might glorify you.  Again, this is a sovereign call.  This is an effectual call.  This is the call that we know as salvation.  “Whom He called” – back to verse 30 – “He also justified.” 

And now we come to the fourth of these great realities, the great truth of justification.  What is that?  That we have been declared righteous before God.  It’s a legal term that God is satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ for all our sins, and since God is satisfied with that sacrifice, the penalty paid in full, justice is satisfied, divine justice.  Our sins have been paid for in full, imputed to Christ in His death.  By grace, God imputes His righteousness to us.  And that’s what causes us to be declared righteous.  Not that we are then righteous in ourselves, not that we have any inherent righteousness, but we are granted righteousness in an act by which God declares us just based upon the sacrifice of Christ which covers the punishment that we are due and based upon the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.  He covers us with the very righteousness of God in Christ.  We know a lot about that.  He became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:21

So God foreknows in the sense that He predetermines a love relationship in an intimate, eternal relationship with a certain group of people, He predestines that that relationship will end up in eternal glory, all of that before time began.  In time, He calls those whom He has chosen and He justifies those whom He calls.  And then the final – verse 30 – “These whom He justified, He also” – what? – “glorified.”  We all get to glory, folks.  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me and I will lose none of them,” Jesus said.  He intercedes for us against all accusations.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us from within us and secures us to eternal glory. 

Would you just notice something?  All the verbs in that verse are past tense.  That works for foreknowledge.  He foreknew, that’s a past tense verb.  Works for predestination because those happened in the past.  But what about called?  Shouldn’t it say He “will” call?  What about justified?  Shouldn’t it say He “will” justify?  I mean He’s not done.  And by the way, what about glorified?  Why are these all in a past tense?  That is another little nuance of the Greek.  One writer calls it a proleptic aorist, and that is a wonderful reality that you see in Scripture, the use of the past tense to speak of something so secure that you can talk of it as if it had already happened.  Your glory is as secure as predestination.  Predestination happened in the past.  Foreknowing happened in the past.  And as far as God is concerned, both your calling and your justification will produce your final glory, and He can speak of it as if it has already happened. 

I hope you’re feeling secure.  The work of the Holy Spirit – what is the work of the Holy Spirit?  To secure us, to intercede for us, to witness that we’re the children of God, to enable us to fulfill the law of God, to live righteously, to cry “Abba, Father,” enjoying our sonship, our intimacy with God, to sustain us supernaturally. 

What do you think about when you think about the comfort of the Spirit?  After all, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, isn’t He?  Jesus said, “When I go away, I’ll send another Comforter.”  Where does the comfort of the Holy Spirit come from?  Are you looking for a buzz?  Are you looking for that like something doesn’t go right in your life and you’re saying, “Where’s the Comforter?”  Look, I do think the Holy Spirit ministers grace to us in times like that, but your comfort by the Holy Spirit comes from the knowledge of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your life to secure your future glory.  Is that comforting enough for you?  Is there anything more precious than that, than to know that your eternity is secure in the care of the Comforter?  That’s your greatest comfort.  There is no comfort equal to that. 

Any other comfort is a temporary comfort, and I believe the Spirit of God dispenses those kinds of things.  I think casting all your care on Him because He cares for you is a real experience that believers have.  I think the Spirit of God ministers comfort, but I think that comfort doesn’t sort of come, you know, just out of nowhere.  That’s why we read the comfort of the Scriptures.  It’s when we know the work of the Holy Spirit, connected to the work of the Son, connected to the will of the Father, that our comfort is secured.  He is our Comforter.  He comforts by the assurance that His gracious power will bring us to eternal glory.  Now, I don’t know how you respond to that, but if you think that’s pretty good, wait until we get to verse 31 and the rest of this chapter next time. 

Now, as we’ve been saying the last couple of weeks, I’m going to pray and then we’re going to have you just kind of wait meditatively and quietly while the organ plays for a few moments, and let these things sink in.  But I do want to say that our prayer room is open to my right.  We would love to minister to you there.  The visitors center is out there.  The members center, for those of you interested in baptism or church membership, any spiritual need, salvation, anybody to pray with you, you need someone to do that, you need some counsel, some help, please, we’re here to serve you in that way but particularly if you’re not sure that you have the Holy Spirit, that you’re on your way to heaven, we would love to talk to you about salvation.  So let’s pray and then you can meditate a while and let these things settle in your heart.

Father, we thank You for all that overwhelms us, floods us in the great glories of this sweeping redemptive purpose.  And what is so staggering about it is how we have been brought into it, due to nothing of our own, no choice of our own, no accomplishment of our own, no merit of our own.  You have determined to set Your love on us and to love us forever and give us the privilege of knowing You in the intimate sense and loving You forever and being loved by You and by Your Son.  And we are now loved by the Holy Spirit who loves us and loves You enough to secure us forever.  Thank You for the power of the Word of God to deliver these truths that become our comfort, and may we rejoice in that comfort and do all we can to demonstrate that joy in this life, even in the midst of trials, even though various trials, as we read from Peter, shall strike us here.  And help us to love these truths enough to share them with those who don’t yet know the truth of the comfort of eternal glory that can be found in faith in Christ.  Use us to that end, we pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

VIDEO Learning from Bad Examples

By John MacArthur Jan 15, 2012

There are so many ways in which we can prepare our hearts for a time around the Lord’s Table. The cross is the focal point of the whole of Scripture, and therefore there are a lot of places you can go to choose for that heart preparation that looks at the provision of Christ.

One that you might not consider, however, is the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. And so, I want you to turn to that, the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. I really had prepared something else, but this afternoon I think the Lord gave me a little bit of clarity on what might be most helpful to you as we enter into a brand-new year.

Of all churches, we are the most blessed in many ways. We are so highly privileged. We have been given such immense blessing. So many gifted people, so much ministry, so much provision to feed our souls and to build us up in the knowledge of Christ, so many opportunities for service, we stand as a highly privileged congregation of people. And I know you know that very well.

And on the one hand, we have been celebrating that privilege all through last year. I feel last year was, from my standpoint, the greatest year in the history of this church. And I don’t expect that next year will be any less than that, but I will always look back on  2011 as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in my own assessment, in my own experience in the life of this church, since I came here in 1969, for many, many reasons. And I think, as we look at the future, we have no reason to assume that God is going to bless us any less as we remain faithful.

But the more highly privileged we are, the more careful we need to be, because I think the Lord is – the Lord is gracious, and the Lord is merciful, and the Lord is kind, and the Lord is good, but He is selective about whom He blesses.

And what you have in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 is a kind of a warning to a very blessed people – a warning to a very blessed people. The Corinthians were such a church. They had the privilege of being founded by the great apostle Paul, who spent an immense amount of time with them, building the foundations of that church, and then even after he left, continuing to shepherd and nurture that church with several visits there and quite a number of letters of correspondence back. He kept a rather direct hand on that church. In that sense, they were a highly privileged church, a church born in the midst of paganism at its apex. To think about Corinth was to think about the ultimate kind of idolatry, the ultimate forms of false religion, and the very ultimate life of sexual immorality.

And right in the midst of that paganism came the apostle Paul, and the Lord planted a church there. It became a remarkable church and a powerful church, and yet a church that, in the midst of its privilege, was living on the edge of danger and had to receive exhortation after exhortation lest they’d have to forfeit its privileges. That does happen.

You know the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. We’re warned by our Lord to change, to deal with the sin in their midst or He would remove their candlestick, or He would fight against them, or He would spew them out of His mouth. I suppose this would be the greatest fear of a pastor, the greatest fear of people in a church that they would be the unblessed who had once been the highly favored and the highly blessed. And that is why chapter 10 is in the New Testament, to give us fair warning about the possibility of falling from a place of blessing.

Let me read the first half of this chapter – less than the first half – down through verse 13. “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.

“Now, these things happened as examples for us so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try” – or test – “the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble” – or complain – “as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore” – and here’s the key verse – “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also so that you will be able to endure it.”

That is a very dramatic portion of Scripture, and it refers back to an entire nation, the nation of Israel, privileged with the blessing of God, that fell under divine judgment. And it can happen to the most privileged. It happened to the people of Israel. Paul knew that he lived, in a sense, in the imminent reality that that could happen to him. If you back up one verse, into chapter 9 and verse 27, you read Paul’s testimony that “I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” – adokimos, tested and found inadequate, unacceptable.

Paul didn’t overestimate his spiritual powers. He knew that he needed to discipline his body, to bring it into subjection so that he didn’t forfeit his ministry by falling into sin. And that is essentially the key to the passage before us that I read, and it’s verse 12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

The danger of being so blessed that you become overconfident, so blessed that you feel the privileges will never end, so blessed that you feel there’s something about you that is impervious or invulnerable. You cannot flaunt your privileges without living in serious danger.

The apostle Paul has many warnings to the church in his writings. This is a very general one, but it is a very, very important one. Apparently the Corinthian church ignored self-denial. They ignored self-control. They were beginning to exercise undisciplined liberties. They were living on the edge of disaster and the forfeiture of divine favor and divine blessing.

And so, the apostle Paul draws the illustration from Israel to warn churches – all churches, including ours – of the danger of being greatly blessed and greatly privileged, and taking that for granted. Pastored by the apostle Paul, familiar with the ministry of Peter, familiar with the ministry of Apollos. They give testimony to that as you read in 1 Corinthians. Recipients of divine revelation, recipients of the gifts of an apostle, and yet they were in danger of serious judgment.

In fact, back in the fourth chapter, verses 18 to 21, Paul was already warning them, at the beginning of this first letter, that if necessary, he would come with a rod, and he would deal with them. So, the message here is a very, very important message.

Verses 6 and 11 tell us that what happened to Israel was an example to the Corinthians, but not only an example to the Corinthians, but for all of us. Verse 6, “These things happened as examples for us.” Verse 11, “These thing happened to them as an example for our instruction.” Whose? All of us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. All of us living in the messianic era, the time after the Messiah has come.

So, what Paul draws out of the Old Testament experience of Israel is not only for the Corinthians but for all of us to learn the lessons of warning about thinking you stand when you may fall.

Now, I want to break this up just briefly as we prepare for the Lord’s Table, by talking first of all about the blessings or the assets in verses 1 through 5. Let’s just get a little idea of what he’s talking about here. “I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea.” “All” is the key term. It is repeated five times in the opening verses, stressing the fact that the whole nation of Israel received the privileges of divine blessing. They “all” were a part of it. “All” who belonged to that nation were under the cloud. “All” who belonged to that nation passed through the sea. “All” were immersed into Moses. “All” ate the same spiritual food. “All” drank the same spiritual drink, drinking from the spiritual rock which followed them.

Now, what is he talking about here? Well, he’s simply talking about the tremendous privileges that came on the people of Israel when they were led out of Egypt and they were led to the land of Canaan. All the fathers of Israel experienced great spiritual privilege in being led out of Egypt. All were under the cloud. What is the cloud? Exodus 13:21, “The Lord went before them by day, in a pillar of cloud, to lead them, and by night, of course, it was a pillar of fire.” The whole nation was under that divine, miraculous leading by God. The whole nation passed through the sea – the Red Sea – the basic touchstone of deliverance from Egypt. They all experienced that. So, they were all called out by mighty power; they were all delivered through the sea; they were all led by God daily and even nightly.

Verse 2 says they were all baptized into Moses. That is a simple concept. They were immersed into his leadership. They were identified with him. It was Moses’ people; it was Moses’ crowd. They were one with their leader. That’s what that is saying. They were united, as a community, with one leader. So, there was not a division of leaders, and Moses was God’s chosen man. They all had, then, this divinely-appointed and divinely-prepared and divinely-gifted leader, and they were led as a united community. They all enjoyed that union with that great leader.

Now, these are all analogous to the experience of salvation. We have all been delivered from the domain of darkness, which is like our Egypt. We have all been led through the waters of escape. We have all been brought to a place where we’re under the direction of God. We have all been baptized into identification with our great leader, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the imagery here; that’s the picture here. We are all together as one people in Christ.

And the Israelites, verse 33, “They all ate the same spiritual food; they all drank the same spiritual drink.” In other words, God provided water for them in the wilderness; God provided food for them in the wilderness. You remember the manna from heaven and the birds that would hover off the ground and provide nourishment for them for the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness. They were privileged, then, to be rescued, to be delivered, to be guided, to be united, and to be fed and nourished. And that’s analogous to the salvation experience of the Corinthians and us as well. We have all been delivered, entered into guidance under the direction of our Lord, united with Him as one, and our souls are constantly fed.

And then a most interesting statement in verse 4, “They were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” The spiritual petra, cliff, rocky mass. What was this? This is Christ, the rock was Christ. You know we’re going to start a series on finding Christ in the Old Testament; well, here’s one of the places, Exodus chapter 17. Christ was the rock.

In the leadership that we find that Christ extended to them, in their wilderness wanderings in the Old Testament, He is often appearing as the Angel of the Lord. That is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. He never allowed them to thirst; He never allowed them to hunger. He was there, assessing their needs and meeting their needs. In a way, we could say the manna and the water were evidence of the presence of Christ who followed them. He was the rock that followed them. He had not yet been incarnated into this world, but the eternal Son, the second member of the Trinity, was the caretaker of the people of Israel. All the redeemed are His, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

So, what are we talking about here? I’m just giving you an overview. “Being led through the sea,” that’s emancipation. “Under the cloud,” that’s guidance. “Baptism into Moses,” that’s identification with a new assembly and one leader. “Manna and water,” sustenance. And all of this provided for them and for us by Christ Himself. This is to talk about how blessed they were and how blessed we are.

Then the shocker comes in verse 5. “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased” – with most of them, God was not well-pleased. Most of them? Yes – everybody but two: Joshua and Caleb. And they all died in the wilderness except those two.

Numbers 14:16 says, “Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to give it them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness.” And verse 5 says they were laid low, strewn – strewn in the wilderness, like corpses in the desert. They were what Paul feared being: disqualified. How tragic. Paul had a sensible fear that he, too, could lose his approved status for service – not is salvation, but his usefulness – if he didn’t practice self-denial and self-control. And I look at our church, and I say we are blessed – we are profoundly blessed; we are blessed more than any people that I know. No church has been more graciously treated by the loving Lord than this church.

And yet, I am sure there are many in our church congregation with whom the Lord is not well-pleased. In fact, there are many whose life and whose choices breaks His heart. We always stand on the brink of losing that blessing and that divine favor, if the Lord determines that that is so widespread as to remove us from the place of blessing.

What went wrong? What happened to the people in Israel that could happen to us? Let’s look from the assets or the blessings in verses 1 to 5, to the abuses in verses 6 to 10. This is very basic. “These things happened as examples for us so that we could not crave evil things as they also craved.” There it is in one statement. The loss of privilege is related to the craving of evil things. It’s basically the result of desiring sin, craving evil things.

What kind of things? What kind of craving? Well, he lays it out. Number one, you can look at it in verse 6, “Craving evil things” – and let’s just say that’s worldliness in a very general sense. Worldliness. The idea of the verb here is to be longing after evil things. And, of course, those are the things that define the world in which we live.

I’m not going to take you back to Numbers 11 and Psalm 78 where we have the record of the people of Israel longing after evil things. But there was perpetual warning against the indulgence of the lust that rises up in the fallen heart for the things of the world. And we are warned in the New Testament, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” 1 John 2. And somebody said long ago they were sleeping too close to where they got in. They had been freed. They had been led. They had been fed. They had been united with their leader. They had been blessed and sustained by God, but they became disqualified to go into the Promised Land because they failed to bring their hearts into full devotion to Christ. They were lusting after the things of the world.

You will notice in verse 7, “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were.” Idolatry. That hits the big button in Corinth. The Christians there were saying, “We can go back to our idolatry festivals; we can go back to the celebrations, the social events.”

Paul addresses this in the letter, doesn’t he? He says, “You can’t come to the Lord’s Table and the table of demons. You can’t do both of those things. Please, that’s verse 20. The Gentiles sacrifice to demons and not to God, and you can’t be a sharer in demons, and you can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You can’t partake in the Table of the Lord and table of demons. Are you going to provoke the Lord to jealousy?” They were going back to the social events and participating in the kinds of things that belong to the kingdom of darkness.

And we see that with Israel, don’t they? Barely out of Egypt and already they have defected in their worship of God and created a ridiculous golden calf and are bowing down to that golden calf – not only bowing down to it, but committing all kinds of horrendous sins in front of that golden calf. And so, that is the warning here – idolatry. They fell into idolatry; the Corinthians lapsed into the kind of activities that belonged to idolatry.

And further, verse 7 says, “The people sat down to eat and drink and stood up to play.” That’s taken out of Exodus 32. And what it’s referring to is that they literally engaged themselves in an idol kind of orgy, horrible kinds of behavior. I’m talking about sexual immorality. And that is further explained in verse 8, “Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.”

I mean it was an ugly scene at the foot of the golden calf. Exodus tells us that the people were actually naked; it was a horrible experience. God killed 3,000 of them in that one moment, and in all, 23,000 perished. That would have been a good indication that God was removing favor. In fact, you can read about that in numbers chapter 25. He killed 23,000. The next day, God even did away with a thousand more of them, disqualified from usefulness and blessing.

The next verse tells us that they tested the Lord. It says they tried the Lord and were destroyed by the serpents. That’s Numbers 21. They pushed to see how far they could go before the judgment of God fell. They went all the way to living on the edge. How much could they do and get away with it? How much would God tolerate? And as they went to the edge and stayed on the edge and God didn’t seem to react to it, they pushed it further and further and further and further.

Matthew 4:7 says, “You shall not put God to the test.” Those words come out of the mouth of Jesus at His temptation when Satan came after Him. You don’t test God even by diving off the corner of the temple to fulfill a prediction given in the Old Testament. How much can we get away with? That’s the wrong question. How much can we be like the Savior? How holy can we be? That’s the right question.

So, if we are to engage in the midst of our privileges, in those kinds of things, craving evil things, making idols in our hearts of all kinds of things in the world, and they don’t have to be actual deities. They become deities to us when we bow down to them. If we engage in immorality, and if we test the Lord by pushing the edges of what is allowable, we’re going to experience the same kinds of things that the people of Israel experienced. And you remember what happened in Numbers chapter 21 when they tested God; the Lord sent snakes. And, of course, you remember that amazing story of that judgment.

There’s another sin here that is indicated in verse 10, and that seems like an one to put in this category because these all seem so severe. How about this? Complaining. “Nor grumbling” – or complaining – “as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” How did that get in here?

The term in the original language means to give expression to unwarranted dissatisfaction. It’s complaining, being dissatisfied and verbalizing it. Exodus 16:2 says, “The whole congregation grumbled” – murmured, complained. Complained against God. They were sitting in judgment on God on the way things were. You have it in Numbers 16, and almost 15,000 people died because they complained. And it says in Numbers 16 they were killed by the destroyer, the judgment angel. The rabbis called him Mashit. He is the one who slew the first-born in Egypt. He was the one ready to slay in the plagues, 2 Samuel 24; he destroyed the Assyrians in 2 Chronicles 32. The death angel. And here, the death angel executes complainers. Complainers, grumblers, murmurers complaining against God.

So, there are the abuses that came to be the experience of the children of Israel: worldliness, idolatry, morality, presumption, living on the edge, and complaining. And they are results of lack of self-denial, lack of self-control, lack of godly pursuits. They are abuses of freedom and abuses of privilege, flirting with the world in its idles, flirting with the world and its morals, pushing the patience of God to the limits, complaining when you don’t get what you want when you want it will result in tragedy – tragedy.

So, the admonition comes to us, then, in verses 11 and 12. “Now, these things happened to them as an example, and they are written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

The ends of the ages, as I said earlier, the messianic period. The last age is before the kingdom. The Lord has come, and the ages of the – the age, I should say – of the Messiah, the last day began when Messiah arrived. Again and again, there are warnings in the Scripture, but none is more poignant and powerful to me than this one.

A number of times, in the book of Revelation, as I mentioned earlier, there are warnings given to the church. And one of them that comes to mind is to the church at Sardis in chapter 3, where it says in verse 3, “Remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. And if you don’t wake up, I’ll come like a thief, and you’ll not know at what hour I will come.” Watch, be alert. You can’t live any way you want to live and continue to enjoy the pleasure of God and the blessing of God.

Again and again, a fortress is stormed successfully because its enemies thought it was safe. And by the way, the Acropolis in Sardis was built on a jutting spur of rock, believed by the people who lived there to be impregnable. When Cyrus came to besiege Sardis, he offered a reward to any soldier who could find a way to get up this parapet and destroy the city. The soldier, according to the history, says – his name was Hyeroedes – was watching one day, and he was trying to figure out if he could get this reward by figuring out a strategy. He saw a soldier of Sardis drop his helmet accidentally over the edge of the cliff. He watched how that soldier came down to get his helmet, and he marked the path how he went back. That night, he led a band up the cliff by that path, went in unhindered, and took the entire city.

There is a necessity to be watchful in our lives and watchful as a church. We are concerned about sin in the church, and that’s why the Lord’s Table is so very, very important to us. Not only are we concerned about sin in the church for the sake of the sinner in the church, the person who will suffer the consequences in his or her own life, but we are concerned about sin in the church for the sake of the church, for the sake of the testimony of Christ. I can’t think of anything worse than to have the candlestick removed and to have the Lord fight against Grace Community Church; to have the Lord spew us out of His mouth because we have become complacent, and we’ve indulged our fleshly desires.

We have been so profoundly blessed that we could think we stand in an impregnable way, like verse 12 says, but we need to take heed that we do not fall. And that means personal vigilance in every life.

I understand the implications in my life of any kind of a fall. I think the leaders of this church understand the implications in their lives of any kind of a fall, any kind of lapse into any form of evil craving, immorality, any kind of idolatry, any worshiping of anything other than our God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. We understands that, and we understand the dangers of pushing the liberties in this culture. And there are lots of ways that you can push your liberties in this culture and expose yourself to things that are evil and that do not build you up. We understand all of that. We know the danger of that at every level. The Lord has been gracious to protect us as we submit ourselves to the standards of the Word of God, as we do what Paul said, beating our body into submission so that we don’t become disqualified.

We also understand – and you need to understand – that it can happen at the level of the people, and it can be equally devastating to the life of the church. To be highly blessed is to be put on notice to make sure you watch carefully your own life. And I say that to every individual here.

One of the reasons we come to the Lord’s Table is to examine our hearts and make sure everything is where it should be – all our priorities – so that we would never be the reason why God would bring disfavor on our beloved church.

Then in verse 13, the passage kind of wraps up. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also so that you will be able to endure it.”

That’s a very, very important, encouraging, final word because after you go through the first 12 verses, especially when you’ve read verse 12, and you say to yourself, “Wow, I don’t want to be the cause of God’s disfavor on this church. I don’t want to be the reason that He turns away from this church. I don’t want to be the reason that He fights against it. I don’t want to be the evil influence. I don’t want to be the leaven that leavens the lump. I don’t want to be the one whose sin becomes the point of divine judgment.”

But how in the world can I survive in this world? How can I overcome the world? How can I deal with the temptations that the Devil has placed into the system in which I live? And we are living in a wholesale evil system at a level that has never been known in human experience in the history of the world because of what media can produce. How do I survive?

You don’t need to live in total fear. You don’t need to live in panic. You need to live warned and thoughtful and careful, but not as if the system around you and the enemy of your souls and your flesh is more powerful than you, or than He who is in you. Because verse 13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” What does that mean? Anthrōpinos – bearable for a human being; that’s what it means. In other words, you’re never going to be able to say, “I got into immorality, I got into idolatry, I began to crave evil things because it was too much for me. The Devil is more powerful than I am. It was way too potent a temptation. It was a supernatural temptation. It was a demonic temptation. It was a multiply demonic temptation. I had no defense. I was overpowered.” You know the old Flip Wilson line, “The Devil made me do it”? And what kind of a match am I for him?

And this is saying to you, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. That is to say it is humanly bearable, it is normal; it is not superhuman, it is not supernatural; you cannot claim to be overpowered by anything. We all face the same things, and we can deal with them. We can’t blame God; we can’t blame the Devil. Further, he says, and this is even more wonderful, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you’re able.” Not only is any temptation you ever have normal, human, and bearable, but even among the temptations that are normal and human and bearable, the Lord knows what you can tolerate. Particularly you, individually you, and “He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able.”

For some of us, that’s the reason we don’t have more money than we do, or more fame than we do, or more of whatever we don’t have. The Lord knows nothing is superhuman. Everything is resistible. And furthermore, God knows us as individuals, and He knows what we fall easily prey to and will not allow such things to happen.

So, in temptation, we are at an advantage because we will never be tempted in any way that is beyond what is humanly bearable. In the midst of that temptation, God is controlling those temptations so that none comes to us for which we will not be able to win or to triumph. Furthermore – this is the next step in this wonderful promise – with the temptation, we’ll also be provided by God the way of escape so that you may be able to endure. Nothing superhuman, nothing more than you can handle. And God knows what you can handle. And always a way of escape – ekbasis, the way out. The way out. That is God’s promise. There is always going to be a way out.

We pray that, don’t we? “Lead us not into temptation, but” – what? – “deliver us from evil.” Those are the two things the Lord – “Do not lead us into temptation which we cannot bear and, with every temptation, show us the way out.” And He promises us here to do that.

So, having warned the church, on the one hand, to be careful because we are so immensely blessed and privileged, I also want to encourage you, as a church, that nothing that’s going to come your way is superhuman – nothing. Not Satan and all his demons collectively together. Furthermore, God knows what you can handle and will make sure that you never have a temptation you cannot handle, and in every one of those temptations that does come, there will always be a way of escape so that you can endure the temptation and come out triumphant.

Bottom line, you’re not going to have any excuses. I know you desire for this church what you desire for your own life, and that is to continue to enjoy the blessings of God. And we can do that; we don’t have to fall. We can learn from the example of the people of Israel. We can learn from the example of the disobedient Corinthians. We can learn even more from the testimony of Holy Scripture, that the Lord is there in the midst of all of our temptations to show us the way out.

Thinking back to Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Hopeful wandered off the path, you remember, of the King’s Highway to the Celestial City. And they fell asleep in a field called Doubting Castle. Remember that part of the story? And it was guarded by the giant Despair. And the giant catches them, and he drags them into a dungeon, and he puts them in the dungeon, and then he locks them in the dungeon, having beaten them brutally just short of death. In fact, they are so beaten and battered that they want to die, and they would have chosen, perhaps, to kill themselves. They languished in that place for days and days, until they realized what they really possessed. And then John Bunyan writes that Pilgrim says, “What a fool I am to lie in a stinking dungeon when I may be free. I have a key in my shirt called Promise that will unlock any door in Doubting Castle.

What is Bunyan saying? When the believer reaches total despair, despair for his life, despair for whether God loves him and cares for him, despair in the battle of sin, he turns to the promise of God. And the promise is that in every temptation there is a way of escape, and God will provide that way. Let’s bow together in prayer as we come to the Lord’s Table together.

Father, the Word is so powerful, so clear, so compelling, so true, so encouraging – never lowering the standard, but never generating hopelessness. The standard is so high of holiness and virtue and obedience, and it could crush us under the weight of our own inadequacy, and yet You minister mercy to us in that final verse and say, “Fear not, it’ll never be more than you can handle.” The Lord knows what you can take, and there’ll always be a way out. That puts the responsibility clearly with us to remain in the place of blessing, to learn from the warnings of the past, and the defections of the past, and the tragedies of the past.

Lord, we pray that You would keep us faithful. May we do what Paul did; may we beat our bodies into submission so that in preaching to others we don’t become disqualified ourselves. May we discipline our bodies. Give us self-control based on loving You with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength, wanting to honor You and glorify You and enjoy Your blessing.

As Jude put it, may we keep ourselves in the love of God, in the place where love showers us. And that’s the place of obedience.

As we come to this Table, we know that we face a time of the confession of the sins that are in our lives, and those little sins that maybe haven’t reached an epic proportion where they would cause serious damage to our own lives, our own families, our own relationships, and our own church. But those little sins can become epic if they’re not dealt with – those sins of thought, in particular, where the heart conceives and brings forth sin.

So, help us, Lord, to deal with sin at its first appearance in the mind, in the heart, in the attitudes, in the thought life; to deal with it there so that lust never conceives to bring forth sin and we never put ourselves in a place of disqualification and the forfeiture of blessing and privilege.

We thank You for the centrality that the Lord’s Table has always had in our church and how our people have always come and focused on this because they understand the call to holiness. Thank You that you’ve given us clarity in the matter of disciplining sinners in the midst who will not repent, and You’ve used that to provide warning and purging through the years.

And so, we’ve been continuing to enjoy Your blessing. We don’t want that to change ever till Jesus comes. So, now we examine our own hearts, and we want You to show us anything that’s there that displeases You, and may we deal with it immediately. Purify us and open up to us a clear understanding of what displeases You, even in these moments, and may we confess it and turn from it.

We are reminded in Scripture to come to this Table, having examined ourselves – examined ourselves – so that we don’t make things worse by eating and drinking judgment to ourselves, by coming to this celebration of the provision of Christ for our sin while holding onto sin at the same time. That hypocrisy will bring about serious disciplining in our lives. So, we ask, Lord, that You would lead us and guide us even now, as we meditate, as we pray, and as we offer our praise to You around Your table, in Christ’s name, Amen.

5 Reasons Why Satan Hates You

The truth behind why satan hates you should make you want to blush!

Anyone who’s ever read the Bible knows that satan hates people, vehemently. But why? Why does satan hate you and me so passionately?

Many years ago, before my revelation of the dark side of horror movies, I wanted my husband to watch a scary film I once saw when I was younger. It was hugely popular in its day for how frightening it was. I warned him that the movie would be very scary, especially the bad guy.

Once the movie was over, I asked him, “Wasn’t that scary?!”

He chuckled with a, “No.”

Baffled, I questioned, “Well, you don’t think the bad guy was scary? Everyone I know who’s watched it said the bad guy was terrifying!”

I Saw God Last Night: Whoever Said He's Dead, Flat Out Lied!

Then, my husband broke it down to me like this, “Jenny, that man wasn’t scary! All he did was convince some lady to do his dirty work for him, and she did it. She shouldn’t have listened to him. It was stupid! And no, it wasn’t scary.”

He was on to something and didn’t even know it! By the time he got done speaking, my little invisible antennas started popping up on my head. I asked myself, “Well, gee, that sounds a whole lot like how the devil does things!”

The devil uses us, but not in a good way–not like God does. The enemy uses us to do his dirty work if he sees us as being “useable”. A part of our job is to never appear useable to satan, ever!

If satan uses us to do his bad deeds, why does he still hate us? There are many reasons why satan hates you, but I will list for you only five:

1. Satan Hates You Because You Look Like God

“And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Did you know that you look like God? Not only do you resemble Him, but you were made in His image.

You may say, “But what about the angels, they look like humans, too. Wouldn’t that mean they’re in God’s image also?” Nope! God has a body (Jesus), spirit, and soul (great discussion for the Holy Trinity) just like humans. Angels lack one thing: a body.

So, every time satan looks at you, He sees God, and he can’t stand it. This is why he tries to make us believe that we’re worthless, ugly, stupid, no good, etc. Because he knows that we aren’t that. He knows that we’re God’s finest creation, but the lie is to make us believe that we’re something we’re not, so we’d never know our fullest potential. This is why satan hates you.

2. You Can Have Authority

Jesus tells us to speak to a mountain without doubting, and it will move (Mark 11:23). He also spoke to the winds and the seas and they obeyed Him (Mark 4:41). The same Spirit and power that is in Jesus Christ lives inside of us; therefore, He commands us to do the same works, and greater (John 14: 12-14).

Over the years, I developed a fear of tornados. In 2019, the Lord called my family and I to move out west to Colorado from Connecticut. So, on June 26, 2020, we had only been in our new place for a few months when the sky grew dark in the afternoon, and bolts of lightning flooded the sky, shaking the ground.

Our family watched nature’s show from windows all over the house in amazement, until an emergency alert began beeping from the television. “Tornado Warning in the Colorado Springs area. Seek lower shelter!”

By this time, I’m on the backyard deck checking out the sky and see nothing. Then, my husband yells to me from the front of the house to come to the front door and check out the sky.

What’s that?“, my husband asked as he pointed to a weird-shaped cloud in the sky.

“It’s a tornado trying to form!“, I shouted.

Remember, I was terrified of tornados, but like the Bible says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8).

All fear completely left my body (fear and faith can’t work together)! I darted out the door, stretched my hand out, and began to speak to that supercell, rebuking its existence in the name of Jesus! I didn’t care which neighbors were watching or what they’d say. Our youngest daughter heard me praying and rebuking, so she ran outside alongside me, stretched her hand out, and gave it divine orders.

As she and I shouted at that cloud, blasting Jesus’ name through the atmosphere, miraculously, the supercell, would-be tornado slowly began to curl up and recede! It was a four-minute battle.

God has given us authority over the earth and satan knows this, but his job is to keep us from knowing it. He wants us out of his way, but once we learn our authority in Christ Jesus over him and things on earth, we are absolutely capable of foiling satan’s plans. This is why satan hates you.

3. You Are A Threat

That’s right, satan hates you because you are a threat or potential threat to him and his kingdom, and he knows this. A child of God (one who is born-again) is a threat to the enemy because a child of God has access to the power of God. When I say access, I mean the power of God literally lives inside of them. The devil was stripped from having God’s power when the Lord gave him “the boot” from heaven.

Those who are not born-again believers are potential threats because anyone can accept Jesus Christ at anytime, no matter how messy their life may seem.

One of the devil’s strategies against a born-again believer is to never allow him or her to know the power they have in Jesus’ name to cast satan down, dismantling him and his little minions.

Jesus Per Day Keeps the devil away

People must understand that satan is extremely clever, and again, will use whoever he can to get the job done. He will often use those high ranking in the religious field. Starting from the top, trickling down. Ie. The devil will whisper to a minister disinformation about God or the Bible to their congregation, the congregation spreads it to their family and children, and their family and children then spread it to their friends, and so on and so forth. And the lie that’s spread is for the enemy’s benefits and our dismantling. It should be the other way around.

I once heard a story shared by a very respectable evangelist about a man he met on the street. This evangelist was ministering on the street when he approached a satanist in about his 20s or 30s. He asked the young man if he could pray for him and the satanist agreed. During this same conversation, the evangelist prayed against an illness that the young man was suffering from and he was healed that very instant.

Then the evangelist asked the young satanist what made him lean to witchcraft. The man then began to explain how he was raised in a Christian household and went to church every Sunday. But in his teenage years, he was having a very difficult time with certain aspects of life, so he went to his pastor for help. He asked his pastor one question, “Does God still perform miracles?” When his pastor answered, “No”, the young man said that was all he needed to hear. So he went to witchcraft where he knew supernatural things (evil ones) were taking place.

That young man has since left the occult and now pastors his own church, but as you can see, it was the devil’s cunning deception that dismantled the ex-satanist. This is why satan hates you.

By the way, God has NEVER left the miracle-working business! The power of Holy Spirit Who lives inside of us is far more powerful than that of the power within the occult. The devil knows this also.

4. You Have His Old Job

Before satan was kicked out of Heaven, his name was Lucifer, and was the lead worshipper of Heaven. The Bible describes him as being an instrument of praise, some believe he even had musical instruments all inside of him (Ezekiel 28:11-19). But when he tried to overthrow the Lord Almighty, Jesus describes satan’s exile in Luke 10:18 saying, “I beheld satan as lightning falling from heaven!”

Once he was taken care of, it was as if God said, “I’m going to make Me those who will worship Me, and I’ll make a lot of them!” So He created mankind. He created us to sing praises, dance, and make music to His holy name. (Did your mind just go to King David, just now? Mine did.)

If you haven’t realized it yet, the devil is a very jealous being, as well as a sore loser, which is why we see so much repulsion in music today. He tries all that he can to infiltrate the music world so it’s perverted and directed away from God. Music was created in Heaven to worship God, but satan has hijacked it.

This is the same reason why there is often so much “behind-the-scenes” strife and competition on praise and worship teams and church choirs because he wants to disrupt God’s praise. But praise the Lord that they always seem to pull it together in the end.

When the Bible says “Jealousy is as cruel as the grave” (Song of Solomon 8:6), that originated with satan’s jealousy for us taking on his old position as worshipper and being made in God’s image.

Also, since satan wanted to be worshipped so much, he uses people to accomplish his ghastly goal. He tempts mankind to crave fame, popularity and notoriety, knowing that this will, in return, will lead to the worship of self and man, as opposed to the one, true God. Remember, satan was the worshipper, now that’s our job. This is why satan hates you.

5. Satan Hates You Because God Loves You

Last, but certainly not least, satan hates you because God loves you (John 3:16). He hates you because you’re the apple of God’s eye (Deut. 32:10) and he can’t stand it. The reason why satan wants to hurt mankind is that he knows that in hurting us, it painfully hurts God.

Have you ever had anyone tell you that they’d die for you? If so, think about how that made you feel. Jesus actually did that for you.

Have you known anyone so desperate for something that they’d do whatever it took to get it? Well, God the Father was so desperate for us that He gave up Someone Who was dearest to Him…His only Son, Jesus. All of which was to save your soul from an eternal hell and for you to become a part of His family, forever.

Do you see why satan hates us so much? But, who cares how he feels, we’ve got better things to do. We’ve got souls to save!

VIDEO The Spirit of Adoption

By John MacArthur Dec 4, 2011

Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, that beloved, wonderful treatise of the apostle Paul on the gospel and all the aspects of it.  And we’re looking at Romans 8 because that’s the chapter on the Holy Spirit, and this would be Part 6, or message number six, in the study of the life of the Holy Spirit, life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer – in the believer.  What the Holy Spirit does in us.  And I began this series because of all the misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit that abound in the contemporary Christian world.  It is so terribly misrepresented, so insulted, so grieved, so quenched – to borrow biblical language – and so blasphemed.  If you watch the current Charismatic lineup of Holy Spirit anointed people, you would have absolutely no idea what the Holy Spirit does.  It seems as if they are the victims of an unholy spirit rather than a holy spirit, the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t make people worldly, carnal, boastful, slick, unaccountable, outrageous, et ceteraet cetera.  The Holy Spirit has one objective, and that is to make people holy – holy.  So if somebody says that he is or she is anointed by the Holy Spirit, what should be manifest in that person is evident holiness.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He’s called the Holy Spirit. 

In Isaiah’s famous trihagion, he hears the angels in antiphonal worship and they’re saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.”  And that can be trinitarian.  Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit.  That’s why there are three of them.  This is angelic recognition that the Trinity is essentially holy, and the work of the Holy Spirit is essentially to produce that holiness in human beings, in us. 

To better understand that, I want us to look at verses 14 to 16 of Romans 8.  I’m going to read them and we’ll come back to them in a while.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.”  Several references there to the Holy Spirit as there have been in the previous 13 verses because, as we’ve been saying, this, in Paul’s great letter to the Romans, is the chapter that deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. 

But let’s go back to the starting point that we were talking about.  God the Father is holy, God the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy.  With regard to the Father, Leviticus 19 says, “I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  And that, by the way, is repeated dozens of times in the Old Testament, God testifying to His own holiness.  The Son of God is deemed to be holy in Luke chapter 1, He is called the holy child.  And in the book of Hebrews, He is called holy and undefiled.  And in looking at the third member of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, we read in Romans 1:4 that one of His names is the Spirit of holiness.  So it is true, holy, holy, holy is a trinitarian confession.  They’re all holy; all members of the holy Trinity are by nature and essence and substance holy. 

But there is a particular work of God the Spirit with regard to reproducing holiness in believers.  That’s His work.  He works in what we call sanctification, which is separation from sin, to transform believers into holiness or, if you will, into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not body work.  It can’t be visibly seen in the way you wiggle or move or sway or fall over backwards or mumble or put your hands in the air.  It is soul work, it is heart work.  In the Old Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit was to produce godliness.  In the New Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce Christlikeness.  The message of the Old Testament is be like God.  The message of the New Testament is be like Christ.  The agent of that is the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps the single-most clarifying verse on this is 2 Corinthians 3:18, a verse upon which I wrote a book once when I was asked, “Could you write a small book on the most important verse for Christians in the New Testament?”  And I said, “Well, I don’t know if I can know that but there’s one I could pick,” and I picked this one, 2 Corinthians 3:18:  “We all with unveiled face, we have no obstructions, nothing blocking our view, behold as in a clear glass the glory of the Lord.”  As we look at the Lord, as we look at the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, and it’s being done by the Lord who is the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness as we gaze at the Lord Himself, moving us from one degree to another, one level of glory to another, to another, to another.  That is His work.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He is called the Holy Spirit uniquely, or the Spirit of holiness, to produce holiness in us.  As I said, in the Old Testament, the term was godliness.  In the New Testament, it is Christlikeness.  It’s the sanctification.  The Holy Spirit is – the theologians would say it this way:  The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause – the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause; Scripture is the instrumental means that the Holy Spirit uses. 

Let’s back up a little bit and talk about this.  I want you to get the big picture, okay?  Because you need to understand that this work of the Holy Spirit is the purpose of God in redemption.  This is not part of, this is not a sub-category, this is the purpose of God in redemption, to make a people who are holy, godly, Christlike.  That’s the prize of the upward call.  That’s the goal of redemption.  The goal is not accomplished at justification; it is only accomplished at glorification when we all become perfect in holiness.  And the work of the Spirit in the meantime is to make us more and more holy in this life until we reach that perfect holiness in the life to come.  But let’s back up a little bit and understand from the very beginning what God is doing. 

Man created in God’s image is the message of Genesis 1 and 2, is it not?  Genesis 1:26 and 27:  “God made man in His own image,” in His own likeness, for one purpose, to reveal God, to reflect God’s glory, to express God’s character, to put His glory on display.  Chapter 3, man falls – man falls, and that purpose is lost because now you have mankind sinful, incapable of reflecting or expressing the glory of God.  That is why Romans tells us that we have all come short of what?  The glory of God.  That is universally true of fallen humanity.  We can’t do what we were created to do.  Made in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting, expressing the glory of God; fallen into sin, corrupted, marred, distorted, perverted.  We can’t do it.  And if you look at ancient history, after Adam, you see a few people who were rescued out of that condition and who truly became people who could reflect the glory of God.  Enoch who walked with God one day and just kept walking right into heaven and didn’t die.  The sons of Seth who were a godly line, but there were so few people in that marred, perverted, corrupted humanity – listen to this – that a few generations later, God drowned the entire human race because there were only eight people who could reflect His glory.  Only eight out of millions.  He wiped them out, started all over again.  That’s how profound fallen corruption is. 

God the Father then determined from that eight people to restore the terribly distorted, the terribly marred image of God in humanity by sovereignly and supernaturally and graciously transforming those sinners.  It wasn’t a superficial job.  It wasn’t a paint job.  It wasn’t something on the outside.  Had to be something on the inside.  He had to re-create them to be capable of manifesting His glory.  Peter describes it in words that are very, very important, and very clear.  Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4:  “You have escaped the corruption.”  You have escaped being marred.  You have escaped being in that perverse condition, you have escaped that by becoming – listen to this – partakers of the divine nature.  Wow – partakers of the divine nature.  The very nature that is God’s has been given to you in a rebirth. 

That is the purpose of salvation.  The purpose of God’s redemptive plan is to recover humanity from its inability to give Him glory.  The purpose of salvation is to overturn the Fall and make men capable of glorifying Him.  And for that, God has to re-create them.  They have to be born all over again, spiritually.  They have to have a new nature.  They have to become new men.  All that’s biblical language.  They have to have a new birth.  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us.  That whole work of doing that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate the cross, and rightly we should.  We celebrate the love of God, the greatness of God, we sing hymns of praise to God.  We sing about the cross and rightly we should, but in the middle of all of this, we forget that the real efficient cause, the divine source of everything that we are as Christians is in fact the Holy Spirit. 

The plan of God is to take corrupt sinners who cannot glorify Him, who have no capacity, who come short of being able to do that, in whom the divine image is marred.  It is marred to such a degree – here’s how much it’s marred – that apart from regeneration, all those marred people are so useless to God for the purpose for which He made man that He throws them into the trash heap of the universe, which is an everlasting burning pit called Gehenna which was the name of the trash heap in Jerusalem, where they burn forever because they are useless, without the possibility of any escape.  How severe is the marring?  Severe enough to throw humanity on the dump as absolutely useless.  Let it be everlastingly consumed.  The plan of redemption is to rescue some of those people, redo them, give them new life, regenerate them, re-create them, restore them, transform them, put them through a spiritual metamorphosis and make them partakers of the divine nature.  That’s such a great statement.  That’s God’s plan.  He initiated it. 

Now, when God does that, what does a truly regenerated person who becomes a full partaker of the divine nature look like?  I’ll give you the answer in one word:  Jesus.  God initiated it and Jesus demonstrated it.  When you look at Jesus, you see the perfect image of God in human form.  Could He glorify God?  John 1:14 says:  “We beheld His glory.”  And what glory was it?  “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  He put God on display like God had never been put on display before.  If you want to see the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, look at Jesus Christ.  Remember what Jesus said.  Everything He did was the work of the Holy Spirit in Him, right?  Everything. 

In His condescension, He yielded up all those prerogatives of His own and yielded Himself to the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit so that everything He did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even offering self in death and even rising from the dead was the work of the Holy Spirit.  Because He becomes then the perfect model of the work of the Holy Spirit and the end result of that is a perfect humanity.  And what will it look like?  It will look like Jesus Christ.  That’s why it says when you go to heaven, you’re going to have a body like unto His glorious body, and you’re going to be like Him because you’ll see Him as He is, and the day you see Him as He is, you’ll be made like Him.  That’s the goal.  So what is the purpose of redemption?  To create a humanity that is like Christ.  Not that we are God, we will always be a glorified humanity, but we will be as much like Jesus Christ as glorified humanity can be.  We will be perfect in the image of God in human form.  So God initiated it, Jesus demonstrated it, and the Holy Spirit effects it.  In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  We already saw that in this chapter. 

It is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  Verse 11 tells us that.  So He will raise us to glory.  We’ll see more about that in future verses here.  It is the Holy Spirit who raises us to glory and makes us, in the end, like Christ.  We will then be that fully restored, glorious, perfect, righteous, holy humanity forever.  But in the meantime, the Holy Spirit leaves us here so that we can do the work of evangelism, right?  Because we are the source that God has determined to do the work of evangelism, but as long as He leaves us here, He has to get us into the sanctifying process.  That’s 2 Corinthians 3:18, from one level of glory to the next by degree, by degree, by degree.  When you go to heaven, it’s instant, you’re immediately perfect.  In the meantime, it’s a progress done by the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit starts it by giving us birth – we’re born of the Spirit.  He regenerates us.  He is the one who gives us that new life.  He’s the one who rescues us from our corruption and our perversity and our wickedness.  And He’s the one who rescues us from being so hopelessly marred that we should end up on the trash heap of hell forever.  He rescues us, gives us new life, re-creates us.  He is the efficient cause of that, and the instrumental means that He uses is the Scripture.  We are begotten again by the truth.  We are sanctified by the truth.  This is His work, and He will glorify us.  So He regenerates us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us.  He’s the one, in a sense, who delivers to God this perfected, redeemed humanity. 

Now, that’s kind of the big picture.  The Spirit’s work, then, is the restoration of the image of God in man, ultimately in the glory of perfection in heaven when we’re made like Christ.  But in the meantime, in this life, He is committed to moving us by degree from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next.  Now, there’s another component in this that I want you to understand as I expand on that idea a little bit.  I’m going to go back through that idea and extend it just a bit. 

If you were to look at the Old Testament and ask the question:  “What does it say about sanctification?” you wouldn’t find anything in the Old Testament that says the goal of sanctification is to make you like Christ because they hadn’t seen Christ, right?  So the word that you need to use when you talk about Old Testament sanctification is godliness – godliness.  The objective of the Old Testament was to have a people who were like God.  In Leviticus, for example – and that’s kind of the key place for this – starting in chapter 11 or even earlier and running all the way through to chapter 20 or so – ten or so chapters – you hear this:  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  This is repeated and repeated and repeated.  Godliness, be like God, be holy like God is holy.  How does that happen?  Well, Leviticus gives us a critical insight into that in a number of places, but I’ll just use two of them, or one to start with.  Leviticus 20 and verse 8.  In verse 7, there’s that familiar statement:  “Be holy for I am the Lord your God and I’m holy.”  But in verse 8 it says this:  “You shall keep My statutes and practice them.  I’m the Lord who sanctifies you.”

Do you understand what that’s saying?  Sanctification is done by the Lord in a context of obedience.  “You have to know My statutes and practice them.”  So again, the Scripture is the instrumental means by which the Lord sanctified His people, even in the Old Testament.  He gave them His Word, they were to obey His Word, they were to practice what He said, and that is the means by which the Lord sanctified His people. 

In chapter 21 verse 8, he talks about the same thing.  “You shall be holy for I, the Lord who sanctifies you, am holy.”  Again, “I want you holy because I’m holy.”  And “I will sanctify you insofar as you believe and obey My Word.”  The instrumental means of sanctification is the Word. 

Now, let me take it even a step further.  To understand sanctification in the Old Testament, you have to understand one basic truth, and that is this:  God was endeavoring in the process of sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a family resemblance in His people, a people who are like God.  In the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, He said this – chapter 5 of Matthew, verse 45:  “Be like your Father who is in heaven.”  If you forgive your enemy, those who harm you, you will be like your Father who is in heaven.  That’s an Old Testament perspective on sanctification.  Be like God.  Be like God. 

Another one in the same sermon – chapter 5 – is this:  “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  If you belong to God, if you are a child of God, there should be a family resemblance, right?  That’s the essence of understanding Old Testament sanctification.  Sanctification in the Old Testament is seen as part of a true covenant relationship to God, and that covenant relationship is a family relationship.  You’ve come into the family of God, and the process of sanctification is designed to make you more and more like your Father.  That’s sanctification in the Old Testament, godlike.  That’s what godliness is.  The goal is the restoration of the divine image. 

Now, what happens in the New Testament is very important but easy to understand.  In the New Testament, the emphasis is not so much be like God, but what?  Be like Christ.  Why?  Is that different?  No.  It is this, that Christ is the perfect representation of what a human being who is totally godlike looks like, right?  This is a human being, fully human and godlike.  John 1:14 again:  “We beheld His glory,” He was like God, He was full of grace and truth.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  He makes godly people Christlike people.  Sanctification equals godliness equals Christlikeness.  That’s what holiness is, separating from sin unto godliness, unto Christlikeness. 

So the wondrous reality of a life of Christ lived here on earth is you get to see what godliness looks like, what perfect godliness in a human being looks like.  And that’s the model, and that’s why the apostle Paul said, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.”  Or Christ says, “Follow Me, I’m the pattern.”  God spoke in time past, revealing Himself through the writers of the Old Testament, but in these last days, Hebrews 1 says, “He’s spoken to us in His Son who is the exact representation of His person.”  So when somebody says to me, “I want to be godly.  What does that look like?”  I say, “It looks exactly like Jesus Christ.”  You want to see godliness in a human form?  Christ.  That’s why we’re told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to look at the glory of the Lord because that is the standard of holiness and sanctification.  And the Holy Spirit, as that vision becomes clear to us and dominates our minds, will move us from one degree to the next, to the next, to the next, even in this life.  The divine miracle of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit.  The divine miracle of glorification is done by the Holy Spirit.  And the divine miracle in the middle of sanctification is also done by the Holy Spirit and it is no less miraculous. 

What the Holy Spirit does is He shows us the things of Christ.  Remember Jesus said that in the Upper Room?  He will show you the things of Christ.  Why?  Because it’s only as you look at Christ that you see the full representation of God.  It’s only as you look at Christ you understand what godliness, holiness, sanctification is, and as you gaze on that all-absorbing perfection in human form, that becomes the model and the standard to which the Spirit of God forms you. 

So when somebody says, “I’m anointed by the Holy Spirit,” they ought to look a lot like Christ.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in every believer.  The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce sons of God who have a family resemblance who are like their Father and like their Brother, Jesus Christ, who is not ashamed to call them brother.  That’s the goal of the death of Christ and the resurrection.  The goal of the death of Christ, the goal of the resurrection, was to go back to heaven having provided sufficient atonement and send the Holy Spirit.  The goal of the death of Christ, the resurrection, was to send the Holy Spirit for the purpose of regenerating, sanctifying, and glorifying those who believe. 

It’s about family and it’s about family resemblance that we’re talking here, and if you go back with me to Romans 8 – we finally got there – you will see that the main theme here is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work of adoption.  You have the reference to sons of God in verse 14.  You have the reference to adoption as sons in verse 15.  And then you have the reference to sons of God or children of God again in 16.  This is about being in the family, about this covenant relation to God that makes you a member of the family.  And the work of the Holy Spirit is to make you look like the rest of the family, like your Father and like your perfect Brother.  It’s about family likeness. 

It was no less than John Calvin, who had a pretty good grip on theology, who said, “This gift of sonship is the highest privilege of redemption and the primary work of the Holy Spirit.”  John Calvin said this is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.  It is.  Can I be so bold as to say even His work of inspiring the Scripture was a means to accomplishing His work of sanctifying and glorifying a people?  The Scripture is a means to an end and not an end.  This is the end.  It is the highest privilege of redemption to become a son of God, and it is the primary work of the Holy Spirit to make sons of God by regenerating them, glorifying them, and in the middle, sanctifying them so that their testimony is believable.  That’s why we’re here. 

Well, this is powerful and foundational truth.  We should know this.  It’s not only here in Paul’s writing to the Romans, but he makes a similar reference to the urgency and the importance of understanding this at the end of chapter 6 in 2 Corinthians when he says, “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord” and He’s borrowing that, of course, from Isaiah.  “‘And don’t touch what is unclean and I’ll welcome you and I’ll be a Father to you and you’ll be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord almighty.”  God is making a family.  God is redeeming a family.  God is regenerating a family – listen – who will be able to demonstrate His glory by the image of God that is in them.  In order to restore the image of God, we have to be re-created.  We have to be reborn.  And that’s what regeneration and new birth is all about. 

It will help you, I think, to understand the nature of adoption because you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, adoption, you know, it talks about that in verse 15, adoption, but adoption is kind of a second-class deal.”  You know, we read in the newspapers about the people who adopt kids and then put them on a plane and ship them back because they don’t want them.  Wow.  And people say this all the time.  You never know what you’re going to get, you know, you can go through the legal deal and you can adopt a child but you can’t change a child’s heart.  So you get what you get.  And it may not work out very well and adopted children may turn out to be a disaster and a terror in the home, et ceteraet ceteraet cetera, because you can’t really control what they are in the inside.  You can do all the legal work on the outside. 

You need to understand that the way the Bible talks about adoption is so complete and so comprehensive that it shuts out all those criticisms, and I’ll explain that to you.  In the 1st century, if you were adopted, that didn’t make you a second-class child, that made you a first-class child.  And this is basic, okay?  In all honesty, when you have babies in your family, you get what you get.  Right?  You might look at one kid and say, “Wow, we could use a little more brain power there.  We could use a little less rebellion there.  We could use a little patience there.  But we got what we got.”  And I talk to enough parents to know that if they had been given a list of what they wanted, they might have been happy to put it in if they knew it would get the results they could expect.  And that’s why, actually, today people who go to those banks and buy sperm want sort of a genetic profile because they want to orchestrate the kind of kid they’re going to have, they want to sort of manage that.  But I mean reality is you get what you get.  And that’s okay because you understand that, you love those children.  But in the ancient world, if you adopted somebody, you were adopting a son, in most cases.  It wasn’t rescuing kids from the street, they didn’t adopt kids off the street as a rescue operation.  You adopted a son because you found somebody who exceeded in capability the ones that you had.  This is first-class stuff.  An adopted son was deliberately chosen by an adopting father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate. 

This might be how you dealt with a delinquent.  You just adopted a noble young man to become your son.  No way was that adopted son inferior.  On occasions it might have been a daughter, but for the most part it was a son because they were the ones to whom the estate and responsibility passed.  This would be typical.  You chose this son because of his superior ability to represent the family, to manage the family’s future, and to inherit the family’s estate.  This adopted son may well have been the apple of his father’s eye, the joy of his father’s heart.  He may have received the best of his father’s affection and education more so than a born son and may have even demonstrated his father’s virtue and his father’s training more perfectly than the others. 

The whole point of the picture is to say this:  You’ve been adopted.  That’s a divine choice.  Not because before you were adopted you were so noble that God couldn’t continue to keep His kingdom in motion without you.  By sovereign, divine choice, God preferred you and He preferred me.  Free, voluntary election.  It’s an amazing thing. 

Let me tell you how it worked.  A Roman adoption was a very formal event.  It was difficult because in the Roman law, there was this rule called patria potestas, the father’s power.  That’s Latin.  And the father’s power meant that he had absolute power over the family.  He had absolute right to dispose of his children in the early stages of the Roman Empire, kill his children if he wanted, absolute control over them.  In regard to a Roman son, he never came of age in the sense that he ever had any independence from his father’s power.  No matter how old he was, no matter if he was married, he was always under the absolute power of his father.  If you were a son or a daughter, you were under absolute possession, absolute control by your father. 

This made adoption very difficult because if you found a son that you wanted, you wanted because you could use him in your business, in your estate, in your family, for the well-being of your family’s future, how you going to get the other father to let him go?  If he’s a noble enough son for you to want him so much, how is that going to happen?  Well, some negotiations were involved in that.  He had to formally pass out of the patria potestas of the man to whom he was born and pass into the patria potestas of the adoptive father.  Two steps.  Interesting.  Step number one was called mancipatio, from which we get emancipation. 

Mancipatio was carried out by a symbolic sale.  A symbolic sale, actually, in which scales and pieces of copper were used, and three times a little ceremony went on.  Three times there was a symbolic sale.  Here’s the boy, and the money was placed on the scale.  First time, the father would then take him back and say, “No, no.”  And then he would do it again, and the money would be put on the scale, and he would take him back again.  And this was to demonstrate reluctance and to communicate that he wasn’t just throwing this child away – this son away.  Third time, however, he didn’t take him back, and he was emancipated from the patria potestas of his birth father. 

Then there followed a ceremony called vindicatio.  The adopting father would go the praetor, who would be the Roman official or magistrate, present a legal case for the transference of the son from one family to the next.  When it was all complete, adoption was complete.  Very formal. 

Now, here’s what happened.  This is important.  Four very important things took place.  One, the adopted person lost all rights in his former family.  Had no rights, had no existence in that former family, and he gained all the rights of his new family.  Couldn’t go back and try to get something from his former family.  All was completely cut off from the past, and he had all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family. 

Secondly, he became heir to his new father’s estate.  He became heir to his new father’s estate.  That’s why this was done.  And when he became an heir to his new father’s estate, even afterward, if other sons were born, they could make no claim against it because they were natural-born sons.  It didn’t affect the adopted son’s rights. 

Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person – listen to this – was completely obliterated.  It was as if he never lived.  All his debts were cancelled on the spot.  All his records were obliterated.  It was as if he was born the day he was adopted.  Everything else went out of existence.  He was like a new person who just started his life. 

And fourthly, in the eyes of the law, the adopted person was permanently and absolutely the son of his new father.  Does that sound like salvation to you?  That’s exactly what it is depicting, this concept of adoption.  All our rights to our former family and our former father, the devil, are cancelled.  We gain all the rights, fully legitimate sons in our new family, heirs of Christ, joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father possesses.  We are the inheritors of His estate.  Everything from our old life is wiped out, right?  Isn’t the debt that was against us cancelled at the cross?  And aren’t we the true sons, everlastingly the true sons of our new Father?

This is amazingly beautiful.  And if you’re still bothered a little bit by the fact that this seems still to be somewhat superficial, let me help you with that.  You can adopt a child, but you have to realize that when you adopt a child, you can’t change their nature, that child’s nature.  And we see that kind of problem all the time.  “Well, we adopted this child thinking the best and this kid is incorrigible, this kid is rebellious, this kid is angry, this kid is” – you make up the letters, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, psychotic – whatever.  And, you know, you went through all the deal to figure out the legal aspect of this thing, but you couldn’t change the heart.  That’s where the biblical work of the Spirit of God is so different from adoption.  Listen, we become sons by adoption but we also become sons by regeneration.  Adoption gives us the name and the title and the rights, regeneration gives us the nature of our new family, the spiritual genetics of our new family. 

The emphasis on adoption is to show that we were chosen.  And it’s the analogy that all the past is cancelled.  It’s as if we were born again and just started to live.  That’s why adoption is such an important thing because it speaks of selection, election, choice.  And then it speaks of cancelling everything in the past and a new family but not to the exclusion of regeneration.  Adoption confers the name and the title; regeneration confers the nature.  In other words, we now have become not just adoptive children but partakers of the divine nature.  It’s a staggering thing.  And the Holy Spirit is doing all of this – all of this. 

Now, let’s look at these three verses.  You know where we’re going to go with it. so that’s fine.  How does the Holy Spirit demonstrate this adoption?  One, by leading us, all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  Or flip it over, whoever is a son of God is being led by the Holy Spirit.  The first mark of adoptive sons is they’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re directed by the Holy Spirit.  Their lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We are introduced to this marvelous reality that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our lives and internally, He is directing us.  He doesn’t lead by violence – listen – He doesn’t lead by violence, He leads by inclination.  He generates in us inclination, bending, changing our will, changing our desires, changing our longings, changing our affections, shifting our interests.  This is miraculous and this is part of what it is to be a partaker of the divine nature.  We love what the divine nature loves, all of a sudden.  We love the law of God, Paul says in Romans 7; we delight in the law of God, Psalm 119 – 175 times, David says it.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

How does He lead us?  Two ways.  Externally, by the Scripture – externally, by the Scripture, Psalm 119:18:  “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”  Show me the truth of Scripture.  Externally by Scripture, internally by sanctification.  Those two ways.  Externally, Scripture; internally, sanctification. 

What do you mean, the Spirit stirs the heart?  I don’t know – that’s a miracle category, right?  That’s the miraculous.  You’re a living miracle.  It wasn’t just a miracle that you’re saved, it’s a miracle that you’re being sanctified, and it’s a miracle when you’re glorified.  You know the miracle of glorification.  You know when you leave here and go to heaven and you receive a glorified body and you’re in the presence of the Lord, that miracle nobody would argue about.  And we understand the miracle of regeneration.  But the miracle of sanctification is equally miraculous because you’re being moved from one degree of glory to the next, to the next by the Holy Spirit.  Externally, His instrumental means is the Scripture, and internally, He works to sanctify you. 

That’s why David prays in Psalm 143:10:  “Teach me to do Your will.”  “Teach me to do Your will.  Be my internal teacher.”  Or Psalm 119:35:  “Make me to go in the path of Your commandments.”  “Make me go that way,” and that’s what the Holy Spirit does.  Or Psalm 119:  “Order my steps in Your Word.”  “Shove me that way.”  That internal work of the Holy Spirit whose temple we are.  Verb tenses, we are being led, it’s all the time, all the time, all the time, constant.  Being led by the Spirit is not a moment of ecstasy, it’s not some kind of moment of emotional elation.  It’s a way of life – invisible miracle, conforming you more and more to Christlikeness by bending your will and your desires in that direction. 

Second thing the Holy Spirit does is give you intimate access to God.  Verse 15:  “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.”  When you were an unregenerate person, when the image of God was so marred that you were doomed for the trash heap of the universe, the trash heap of eternity in hell, you lived in fear.  You lived in dread.  You lived in the anticipation of judgment.  You were in bondage to sin; therefore, you were in bondage to guilt, anxiety, fear, trepidation, judgment.  That’s how you lived. 

What happened when you were regenerated and the Spirit began a work of sanctification is this:  You received a spirit of adoption or perhaps better, the Spirit of adoption, which some theologians say is the supreme name for the Holy Spirit.  If you wanted to take the name of all names to give the Holy Spirit, He should be called the Spirit of adoption because it is His work of bringing us into the family and conforming us to the family resemblance that dominates what God has given Him to do, what the Father has given Him to do.  We have in – by the Holy Spirit, you can’t decide whether it’s speaking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, it can be either one, but I like to think it’s both.  It is the Spirit of adoption who gives us a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father.”  You didn’t just rush into the presence of an infinitely holy God and say, “Papa.”  That’s what Abba means, Papa.  That kind of intimacy with God?  That would shake the Jews to their sandals.  “What?  God is distant and holy and here comes this person rushing in, ‘Papa, Papa, Abba Father.’”  There’s no fear, right?  There’s no fear.  You have intimate access. 

One of the great joys, the great joy, I guess, in some ways of being a grandfather is that amazing, unhindered, unrestrained affection that comes from grandchildren.  Some people think I’m an important person; they don’t.  Some people think I’m hard to get to know; they don’t.  Some people think you should kind of keep your distance; they don’t.  Is there anything more precious than little children running up and throwing their arms around you as a parent or a grandparent in those times of basically unlimited, unhindered, unquestioning affection?  “Papa.”  They come flying at me from every direction.  And that’s exactly what we have here.  There’s a sense in which we just rush in without fear to the presence of God because the Holy Spirit has made us sons by birth and sons by adoption with all full access to the Father. 

There’s a third ministry of the Holy Spirit in this work of sonship and that is not only is He leading us and giving us intimate access but He’s assuring us.  He gives us assurance.  Verse 16:  “The Holy Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”  He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.  The Holy Spirit comes to us, takes up residence in us, and confirms to our hearts that we belong to God. 

Let me tell you where this comes from.  In the adoption process in ancient Rome, seven witnesses had to be there.  Seven witnesses.  Seven eyewitnesses of the transaction in its fullness.  Why?  Well, what happens when the father dies and all the born children resent the adopted son who is the heir?  There’s going to be a battle.  And so the children who are born to the father are going to say, “He’s not legitimate, he’s making an illegitimate claim,” and somewhere there will be seven people who were eyewitnesses to this very legal transaction who can affirm the truthfulness and legitimacy of that. 

We don’t need seven.  We just need one, the Holy Spirit who has sealed us to the day of redemption, which means we are protected until the day of redemption.  No one can ever take our inheritance, it’s reserved and set apart for us, as Peter says, right?  Undefiled and laid up in heaven for you.  The Holy Spirit is the seal, the Holy Spirit is the arrabon, the engagement ring, the guarantee, and the Holy Spirit is the first fruits.  In other words, the guarantee of the full inheritance.  That is what verse 16 is saying.  He testifies with us that we are the children of God.  He bears witness along with our spirit.  There is an internal confidence that all is well.  This, in a word, is called hope.  We have a strong hope, don’t we?  And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to give us that strong hope. 

I don’t live daily fearing I might not make it to heaven.  Never enters my mind.  Why?  Because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives me hope – gives me hope.  If you were a child out in the streets or in a very difficult, abusive, perishing family, what you would want would be someone who would lead you and guide you in the right way, someone who would take all the fear out of your life, all the anxiety out of your life, and have all the resources that you could ever hope for, ever need, and far more, and somebody who would assure you of a future.  If you could find somebody like that, that would make an adoptive child happy. 

Well, you have that and more because that is what God promises you, and not only does He take you in by adoption, but He changes your nature, and then He begins to make you look like the Father and the Brother, Christ Himself.  This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing less gives Him the honor He is due than to understand this.

Father we have been blessed this morning in so many ways, to know each other and fellowship with each other and sing together and listen to the beauty of such glorious, rapturous music, and now to be put in touch with these profound and wonderful truths that speak to us about us.  How blessed are we.  How unimaginably blessed are we and it’s all by grace.  We thank You, we bless Your name, and we pray, teach me, O Lord, to do Your will, along with David.  Bend me that way, O Holy Spirit, incline my heart that way.  Control my affections, my desires, my longings.  Move me from one level of glory to the next, to the next, so that I might reflect the glory of God in an image of God, restored through the work of regeneration until the day of glorification.  Thank You for such a high calling and such an amazing gift.  You’ve not only given us Christ, Father, but You’ve given us the Spirit, to make us a living and growing, progressing miracle.  May we ever be thankful to you, O blessed Holy Spirit, for this work.  Thank You for living in us and effecting this.  We are unworthy, we acknowledge that, but we are profoundly grateful.  And may it be that the work that You are doing will be manifest to those around us so that they can look at us and see Christ.  And we pray in His name.  Amen.

VIDEO Memorial Day: A Day to Honor Life

Beth Patch – Senior Producer

Memorial Day – to some it’s merely the beginning of summer and to others it’s a solemn day to remember those who have passed from this life. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts.

When we look into the eyes of those who still mourn these once vibrant men and women, we often sense their loneliness and pain. We hear them choke back tears as they simply say the ranks and names of their military brothers and sisters at a Memorial Day service. White gloves, dress uniforms, rigid posture, and perfectly precisioned salutes represent the reverence and respect flowing from within. Those who have been personally affected by war understand and appreciate this day of remembrance.

What should we say to those who sincerely honor this day? “Happy Memorial Day” doesn’t seem fitting. “I’m sorry for your loss” may be closer to appropriate. What would the fallen soldier want from their comrades and the rest of the country on this day?

In an often quoted Memorial Day speech given in 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the speaker ended his address with these words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

The American soldier who gave his or her life for U.S. citizens to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness won’t be telling us how to observe the holiday. But I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” would honor the fallen soldier. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus Christ laying down His life for our freedom. It’s selfless love for others – not so others can mourn forever, but live!

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16

Notice that in scripture and in military service, the willingness to give up one’s life is not dependent on the worthiness of the people who benefit from the honorable act. In a perfect world, all who receive freedom and grace would be worthy of such a sacrifice and full of gratitude. But that’s not the way it is anywhere on Earth or in Heaven.

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

We are blessed to be living in a free society. May we honor our American soldiers for the liberty we have in this country. May we also give thanks to Almighty God for the freedom we have to spend eternity with Him because of His gift of forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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Memorial Day 2021 – Armed Forces Memorial Day Videos Collection One