Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Graeme Goldsworthy on asking Jesus into your heart

“Many evangelicals use the evangelistic appeal to ‘ask Jesus into your heart’. The positive aspect of this is that the New Testament speak of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col. 1:27); of Christ dwelling ‘in your hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:17), and the like. It speaks of the Christian as having ‘received Christ Jesus the Lord’ (Col. 2:6). But it also makes clear that Christ dwells among his people by his Spirit, for the bodily risen Jesus is in heaven. Furthermore, there are no examples in the New Testament involving the asking of Jesus into one’s heart. In many cases, this practice represents a loss of confidence in faith alone

“…The gospel is seen more as what God is doing in me now, rather than what God did for me then. The focus is on Jesus living his life in and through me now, rather than the past historic event of Jesus of Nazareth living his life for me and dying for me. When the legitimate subjective dimension of our salvation begins to eclipse the historically and spiritually prior objective dimension, we are in trouble. The New Testament calls on the repenting sinner to believe in Christ, to trust him for salvation. To ask Jesus into one’s heart is simply not a New Testament way of speaking. It is superfluous to call on Christ to dwell in us, for to be a believer is to have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us. In the same way, it is not the New Testament perspective that we should call on Christ to give us the gift of new birth.”

Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006), 176-177.

Romans 8: Bridging the Gap Between My Failures and God’s Grace

Romans 8

Before we get started, here are four things you need to know…

  • I attend Colossae, where I currently serve as an intern.
  • We are preaching our way through Romans. We focus on the ‘big thoughts’ of the letter instead of diving into the subtle nuances of each verse or phrase.
  • The pastors and interns gather weekly for a sermon prep meeting (my pastor has written about on his blog here, here, and here).
  • At Home Depot, I usually spend about 2 hours alone stocking the shelves before the store opens at 6. During this time, I’ve started listening to the Romans section that we’ll discuss in our next sermon prep meeting. For example, if we’re meeting to discuss chapter 6, I’ll listen to 5-7 to get the feel for what the letter said before the passage, what the passage says, and what the next passage says. I feel like this helps me think about the passage in the larger context of the entire letter of Romans. Also, I’ll listen to it mostly in the English Standard Version, but will listen to the New American Standard Bible, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, and sometimes the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I feel like this helps me see it from multiple perspectives and forces me to actively listen because each one is subtly different.

Okay, now that we’re all caught up…

For the last few weeks I’ve been obsessing a little bit about Romans 6-8. I used to think I loved Romans 8, but not compared to how much I love it now. You see, in Romans 6, we’re taught that we who have died to sin (Rom. 6:6) are now alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Furthermore, we are now slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:18) and follow a path and process that leads to eternal life (Rom. 6:22). In the same way that a woman is no longer legally married to a man after he dies but can freely remarry, we are remarried to Christ so we can bring glory to God (Rom. 7:4).

The only problem is our death to sin is a spiritual reality that has not yet been physically manifested; that doesn’t happen until after our physical death and resurrection (Rom. 8:23). We’re stuck in an in-between state; the check has been written but it hasn’t been cashed yet. This is why we still sin (Rom. 7:14-15); because there is a tension that exists within us (Rom. 7:25).

But!!! Even though we make mistakes, there is no condemnation for Christians (Rom. 8:1) because Jesus condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). We may be influenced by the flesh (Rom. 7:20), but we are not dominated by the flesh (Rom. 6:6; 8:11). This means we battle the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 7:13) because we have been adopted (Rom. 8:16). We have a new identity that isn’t determined by our actions or even our failures but who God says we are. The fact that we are part of God’s family means that we are heirs with Christ and will be glorified with Christ, but we will also suffer with Him (Rom. 8:17).

However!!! The suffering we endure in this life pales in comparison to the glory awaiting us (Rom. 8:18) and we wait patiently to meet the Father who has adopted us because we understand that it will be worth the wait (Rom. 8:25). This is the check that has been written but is not yet cashed. In fact, the Holy Spirit helps us (Rom. 8:26) as we continue to be transformed to look more and more like Christ so that, when we ‘go home,’ we’ll fit in the family of God (Rom. 8:29).

In fact!!! Because Christ is on our side, no one and nothing in all creation (Rom. 8:38-39) can stand against us (Rom. 8:33). We have been irrevocably adopted by God; He chose us before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1:4-5).

So here’s what I’m realizing. Chapter 7 spends about 17 verses talking about our failures and our inability to be perfect. But this is bookended by Romans 6 & 8 where God spends almost 70 verses assuring us that we are free from sin (Rom. 6:7), and are now slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18); that we have a new identity and belong to Christ (Rom. 7:4); that we face no condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 33-34); that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26) and that even Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34)! Romans 9 continues this line of thought by explaining that God’s choice cannot be revoked by any mortal (Rom. 9:16).

So, my question for Christians is this: why do you let your failures haunt you and condemn you if God does not? The whole ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ idea applies to you, too! If God is for you, how can you be against yourself?

Who will condemn you? You? Christ Jesus is interceding for us. Will you condemn yourself? Do you really think your guilt outweighs the power of both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf? Do we think our failures revoke God’s choice to adopt us? Who do we think we are? God? If God is for us, who can be against us? Our failures don’t define us in God’s eyes; Christ’s finished work and resurrection define us. God doesn’t look at our failures; He looks at our new identity as His slaves/children (seems weird to us, but that’s what the text says; think of us as adopted slaves).

During Christmas time, all these thoughts swimming around in my head help me appreciate the lengths to which Christ was willing to go to make sure that I could be adopted into God’s family. I praise God that, despite my failures, He chose to adopt me. I praise Christ because He chose to come and bridge the gap between sinfulness and God’s mercy. I praise the Spirit for helping me as I await the redemption of my body. God was willing to bridge the gap so that I could be adopted into His family; for that I am eternally grateful.

Jesus’ Presence

“The reality is that we assume it would be best for Jesus to be physically beside us because we are focused on ourselves.”

 

Chuck Bomar, Better Off Without Jesus (Venture: Regal, 2012), 19.

Why we selfishly want Jesus’ presence

“Any individual can think it’s better for Jesus to be by his or her side. But that’s losing sight of the fact that others need His help too.”

Chuck Bomar, Better Off Without Jesus (Venture: Regal, 2012), 20.

Kill Sin. Grow in Grace.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… (Romans 8:28-29a)

All those whom God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. That’s a mighty big undertaking: from sinner to saint; from wretched to righteous; from villainous to virtuous. It almost seems impossible! No wonder it takes a lifetime. But if you’re like me, you probably know the ultimate destination—to be conformed to the image of Christ—but aren’t sure what the path looks like. Well I think Colossians 3:5-14 provides some highly practical advice.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

There are two simple–simple, not easy–tasks in this passage!

  1. Putting off.
  2. Putting on.

While incredibly simple, this is a challenging process that, by the Grace of God and with the power of the Holy Spirit, will take you the rest of your life. In Christ Formed in You, Brian Hedges calls this two-step process ‘mortification’ and ‘vivification.’ Hedges devotes an entire chapter to the concept of mortification, and he defines it by saying, “Simply put, mortification is killing sin. This includes putting to death both sinful actions (deeds) and the sinful motivations (passions and desires) which produce them” (Pg. 135). He also devotes an entire chapter to vivification, but he very simply defines it as “a lifelong, active, imitation of Jesus” (150).

Thus, the idea is that we mortify—or put to death—everything that has to do with the flesh and we vivify—or bring to life—everything that is of the Spirit. With those two categories in mind, look at this list from Colossians 3:5-14:

  • Mortify or put off:
    • Sexual immorality
    • Impurity
    • Passion
    • Evil desire
    • Covetousness/Idolatry
    • Anger
    • Wrath
    • Malice
    • Slander
    • Obscene talk
    • Lying
  • Vivify or put on:
    • Knowledge of God
    • Compassionate hearts
    • Kindness
    • Humility
    • Meekness
    • Patience
    • Forbearance
    • Forgiveness
    • Love

Now, here’s where the idea of putting off/putting on actually gets practical. It starts with a simple realization: For every vice, there is an equal and opposite virtue. Here are a couple examples: lust vs. purity; greed vs. generosity; selfishness vs. serving others; gossip vs. discretion; anger vs. patience, etc.

A common problem is that many Christians only focus on their vices. We try over and over to ‘put off’ those vices only to find ourselves discouraged and backslidden. They become frustrated because they seldom (if ever) focus on the corresponding virtues, which is why they fail to see progress and become discouraged.

It’s as though their goal is to “not be fat.” They focus their complete attention on “not being fat” all the while forgetting that they should instead focus on proper diet and exercise. Jesus told a parable about this that used to really confuse me. Both Luke 11:24-26 and Matthew 12:43-45 record this parable and essentially Jesus tells the story of an unclean spirit that a person kicks out of their house. The spirit later returns to find the house has undergone some home improvement projects but is still empty. So he settles back in and the house is in a worse state than it was in the first place. This is how it is when we try to just kick out a vice without filling our house with the corresponding virtue.

So here’s a two-part challenge:

  1. Instead of only focusing on putting off impatience, also focus on putting on patience. Instead of focusing only on putting off lust, also focus on purity. Instead of focusing only on putting off being greedy, focus also on putting on generosity. Take the time to write down the name of a specific vice you’re struggling to put off, and then write down the specific virtue you hope to put on to replace it.
  2. Confess that struggle to a fellow Christian and seek their accountability. You have nothing to be ashamed of because we all struggle with our own sins. If you believe you’re the only one struggling, you are believing a lie. Destroy the power of the flesh by bringing it out into the light.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Col. 3:15).

What is the purpose of Spiritual Gifts?

I think there are two purposes that Scripture reveals for Spiritual Gifts. In fact, these two reasons complement one another because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have one without the other for very long. They are:

  1. Building
  2. Uniting

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11, 12)

Building up the Body is listed as the reason that Christ has empowered some people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Another way you could translate this verse would be to say that he equipped them “for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.” In other words, we weren’t given spiritual gifts to use them on ourselves. In fact, that idea is completely out of the question. For example, imagine a soldier whose been trained, conditioned, equipped with all his gear. The times comes for him to deploy, but instead of going to war he takes all his training and equipment and goes on a hunting trip. It’s the same way for anyone who has been granted a spiritual gift and merely uses it for their own benefit. Not only are they being selfish, they are squandering their gift on themselves when it should be used for building up the entire Church. Instead of benefitting ourselves, our spiritual gifts should be benefitting dozens–if not hundreds–of people. I should add here that when I say “building up the body” I mean both outward and upward. We should be building out–which is why there are apostles, prophets, and evangelists–and we should be building up–which is why there are shepherds and teachers. But, beware of creating an atmosphere of competition to see who has the superior spiritual gifts. This leads to division, which is antithetical to the second purpose of spiritual gifts.

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:13)

When each part is working properly, per Ephesians 4:16, the body will “build itself up in love.” The spiritual gifts are meant to build the body up, and part of being built up is being unified. Jesus said that no group which is divided against itself can stand (Mark 3:24, Matthew 12:25). This applies to the Church. If spiritual gifts are not being used properly–for example, if they are being used out of pride, selfishness, etc.–then they will inevitably be used by the Destroyer to slowly and subtly dissolve unity. Think about it, when Paul wrote that “when each part is working properly [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16)” he must have surely known the opposite was true. When each part is not working properly it prevents the body from growing, which means that it will destroy itself in hatred.

So what does this mean? First, it means we are called to use our spiritual gifts. Part of “working properly” is working; in other words, if you’re not serving you are not properly using your spiritual gifts, period. Second, everyone has spiritual gifts. Not all spiritual gifts are equally flashy, but all people are given spiritual gifts which means that all people are necessary if we are to reach full maturity. Finally, as we use our spiritual gifts, we must constantly check our hearts and our motives. If we are using our spiritual gifts for anything beyond building and uniting the body, we must do the hard work of checking our hearts and repenting where necessary. So I encourage you to examine where God has given you both gifts and passion. Be open to serving in several different capacities before you decide you’ve found out exactly where you fit in the Body. And remember to do all things in a manner that builds and unites the Church.

Accept Jesus into your heart


I can’t tell you how many times—especially growing up in the Bible Belt—I heard that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart. Over the last few years, and especially lately, I’ve been convicted of a couple problems with that phrase.

  1. We don’t “accept” Jesus, He redeems and then accepts us.
  2. Jesus doesn’t enter our heart, the Holy Spirit does.
  3. I don’t invited Jesus into my life, He invites me into His.

First, there is nothing more arrogant than for us to assume that Jesus must earn or receive our “acceptance.” The truth is, “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7). In fact, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” Romans 8:8). The truth is, you are either in the flesh or in the Spirit (Romans 8:5). There’s a direct contrast between the two, so to tell someone—anyone—that they have the capability to accept something to which they are hostile is foolish. It would be like telling the darkness to accept the light or a decaying corpse to accept life. It cannot. The miraculous truth is that God accepts us because of the finished work of Christ. The only option we have is to bow down in humble worship and gratitude because we have been accepted (Colossians 1:13-14).

Second, Jesus doesn’t enter your heart. I have two big, big problems with this claim. Of greatest concern is that it doesn’t say this anywhere in the Bible. Sure, Jesus is “with us always (Matthew 28:20),” but no where in the Bible does it say that Jesus lives “in our heart.” Actually, the Scriptures tell us that after resurrecting, Jesus physically ascended up to heaven (Acts 1:9) and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2; Revelation 4:2, 9-10, 5:1, 7, etc.). Jesus is not in your heart, Jesus is seated on a throne. Why is this important? Because it shows that Jesus’ work is finished (John 19:30). The other reason I dislike this phrase is because it doesn’t make any sense. As Christians, don’t we believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? How, then, does He fit in our hearts? Sounds absurd right? That’s because it is. Once again, Jesus is seated on a throne. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, not Jesus (Romans 8:9-11—now, I realize that in vs. 10 of that passage it says “if Christ is in you” but vs. 11 clarifies this by describing the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead.” The idea here is that, because of the 3-in-1 nature of the Trinity, there is some overlap with regards to who is your heart, but the specific role of dwelling within believers falls to the Holy Spirit. See John 16:4-15 for further clarification.).

Finally, something my pastor has been saying recently that has really resounded with me is this: “When I became a Christian I didn’t invite Jesus into my life, He invited me into His.” Jesus doesn’t join your life, your plans, and your purposes. You join Jesus’ life, plans, and purposes. The point is simply that you do not attach Jesus to what you already have going on as though He’s a simple accessory to be added to your wardrobe. Instead, we reorient our entire lives around Him. Jesus becomes our True North. Instead of living for ourselves, we lay down our old lives and live for Christ.

Podfasting

Podfasting |pód-fãs-ting| Noun – Abstaining from mega-church podcasts so as to hear more clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit

I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions, but the first day of this month I decided to try an experiment. I stopped listening to podcasts. I felt like I was hearing too many voices; I was subscribed to 4 podcasts, would look at 5 others to see if I was interested in what they were preaching on that week, and had Wayne Grudem’s entire Systematic Theology podcast series completely un-listened to. All told, I had over 500 unplayed podcasts and they were piling up way faster than I could listen to them.

I had been getting so much teaching so rapidly for so long that for several months I felt as though I needed to start digesting all that I was eating. I started to feel like a theological-chipmonk who was stuffing his cheeks without ever actually digesting anything.

Add to that an ongoing seminary education and I was getting more than enough head knowledge. Knowledge wasn’t the problem; obedience was. I felt like I was focusing on all head with no heart; all information with no transformation; all data with no devotion. So I stopped listening to podcasts for (at least the first month of) 2012.

I feel like it’s been very, very helpful. I hear God’s voice more clearly and feel closer to Him as a result of narrowing my input to just His Word–the Bible–and whatever else my coursework brings my way. For my Greek class, I’m translating substantial (or at least substantial to me) passages and really mediating on them as much as I can. I feel like I’ve been able to focus on the voice of the Holy Spirit instead trying to hear Him in the midst of a cacaphony of mega-church pastors. Instead of filling “empty time” (i.e. my drive to work or the time I walk the dog) with a podcast, I’m now using it to think about the Bible verses I translated that day, how to apply a passage of Scripture I read, and catching a quick prayer. It’s been good and I think it’s becoming more and more necessary in our day of celebrity pastors.

So here’s the challenge: for the next 30 days, stop listening to whatever it is that you use to fill your “empty time.” Maybe it’s music, maybe you call people on the phone, or maybe you’re like me and you listen to podcasts, but stop! Instead, try to focus more specifically on the Bible and use that “empty time” as an opportunity to meditate on God’s Word and pray to your Father. You won’t regret it.