Friday, January 27, 2017

Ask the Pastor: Does the Holy Spirit Talk to My Wife?

Q: Does the Holy Spirit talk to my wife? She claims that the Holy Spirit tells her things like to turn left instead of right and so forth.

A: This "ask the Pastor" began to be answered in person, with reference to how God speaks clearly when He speaks (Deut 29:29), and that the "speaking" ministry of the Holy Spirit was a completion of the speaking ministry of Jesus Christ to the apostles (John 16:12-15). I also recommended that he listen to the "Strange Fire" conference talks, put on by Grace to You a few years ago...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Spirit-Powered Men and Women

"I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." 1Timothy 2:8-10

As we often do, when we are rebelling, recent reference to this passage has focused upon attempts to reject that which is forbidden. vv11-12 receive the bulk of the attention.

What is missed is that the lead-in from the beginning of the chapter is the astoundingly gracious plan of God, the only Savior, to redeem people from all walks of life through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator.

And although God is the alone Savior through Christ the alone Mediator, we learn here what will be those means, humanly speaking, through which He does this. Do we wish to see the nations saved? Do we wish to see our nation come to the knowledge of the truth? Do we wish to see our community transformed by Christ? Let us pay attention to the role that God has assigned to us in this.

Men of Prayer. This isn't optional. It's not a program that one church might have and another not. Everywhere there are Christians, the men should be praying. The men should be leaders in prayer. Wives should have the familiar experience of being led in prayer by their husbands. Children should also, by their fathers. The church should be accustomed to seasons of hearing the deeper voices of the congregation calling upon the Lord for the government, for the nations, for the church, for the second-coming.

Men of Holy Hands. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. He who wishes to be great must be a servant of all. Holy hands is much more than "be careful little hands what you do." It is the identifying of hands as sacrifices--no longer possessed by him at the end of whose arms the hands reside, but now having been handed over unto God.

Work done with diligence as an act of worship. Devotion to service rather than leisure or entertainment. Recreation that is an enjoyment of God, and a refreshment for the purpose of more worship and service. The hands of a husband, of a father, of the men in the congregation should be hands that have been offered once and for all, and continuously, as living sacrifices.

Not only will such hands refuse to be wasted in self-service, but they will not be found idle. Idle? Hands that have been devoted to the Lord and His service? May it never be!

If we desire to see another generation of the church follow in this--and we do!--then let us first see the men of this generation with holy hands.

Men Without Wrath. Wrath is not strength, and the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. The fruit of the Spirit is... joy, peace, patience... gentleness, and self-control. Too often, passivity and self-service have gone hand-in-hand with fury at being inconvenienced by others.

There is little real interaction until the issue is forced by some crisis or unpleasantness, and then comes an explosion, followed by the fearful scurrying of those around, and then a return to the "peace" of non-action and non-interaction.

This is not strength. This is an over-sized, over-aged temper tantrum. And, in the church, it often masquerades as self-righteousness. But there is nothing further from true righteousness than a man who is given to wrath.

Joyful, peaceful, gentle, self-controlled men are an appointed means by which God our Savior brings men to the knowledge of the truth through the only Mediator, the Man, Christ Jesus.

Men Without Doubting. This, of course, goes hand in hand with being a gentle-man: unshakeable certainty that God, who is full of saving mercy, is working all things according to the counsel of His will. That God is working all things together for the good of His people. That God, who did not spare His own Son, is also together with Him, giving us all things.

How it would change the face of our homes if they are led with a perpetually cheerful, sure confidence in the love, wisdom, and power of God our Savior! How it would change the face of our churches. Of our communities.

It would undoubtedly diminish the revenue of news channels and conspiracy theory websites, but there is really only one conspiracy that ultimately matters: the conspiracy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the salvation of the elect, and the bending of literally everything that occurs, everywhere, at every moment, to that end.

Beautiful Women. What about the women? Their primary command is to be adorned. How odd that the negative "not with..." gets so much attention, when the command is primarily positive.

Adorned with modest apparel.

Adorned with good works.

The modest apparel here indicates a condition of the heart: propriety and moderation. These are women who (like the hands of their men) know what they are about: they have been devoted to the Lord. They are living sacrifices. They are not scurrying after attention or admiration. They have been loved with everlasting love, bought at infinite price, and appointed to work of infinite value. There is no reason for the pleading, panicked dress or drama of worldly women.

No, these are women who profess godliness. They have declared with their mouths that Christ is Savior, that Jesus is Master. And now they are declaring it with their actions, with good works. They are not making gaudy displays of themselves, but rather they are always ready for another one of those good works that their Redeemer has prepared beforehand for them to walk in.

Such a woman is beautiful beyond comparison. A thousand seductively (un)dressed, glaringly painted, attention-seeking starlets of the world don't begin to have the beauty of a single woman whose heart has rested in Christ, and whose hands therefore are full of diligence in His service.

Yes, there is more in the passage about what are "not" the good works of a godly woman, just as there was some about what are "not" the adornments of a godly woman. And there is a particular commendation for the good work of persevering motherhood. But here remains the main point: a life of service to others for the sake of Christ makes a lady stunningly beautiful.

And this beauty is appointed of God as a characteristic of His plan to save all kinds of people through the only Mediator, the Man, Christ Jesus.

Again, this comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is... love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

We must see this: that a godly woman is made truly lovely (just as a godly man is made truly manly) only by the life of Jesus Christ in her, worked out by the Holy Spirit, until in due season the fruit appears and demonstrates that she is abiding in the Vine.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And the work of the Spirit, who produces this fruit in godly men and women, is to bring the salvation of God through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Run to Him Who Hurts You

"Lord, all my desire is before You;
    And my sighing is not hidden from You."
Psa 38:9

How precious to know that the Lord sees and the Lord cares--especially when we are spending our days in sighing!

But some will argue: this comfort is not for me! If you only knew how I had sinned against Him, and how much of this mess was my own making!

Well, it is true that David's trouble was, humanly speaking, those who had "raised themselves up against him" (v16) and were opposed to him precisely because he was "following what is good" (v20).

But on his knees before God, that wasn't how David saw it. Whatever other people were doing to him in his situation, David was much more concerned with what God was doing. He knew that God "works all things according to the counsel of His own will" (Eph 1:11) and that God "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3). So, whatever Saul, or the Philistines, or the Amalekites, or Absalom, or Shimei, or anyone else were doing to him, David knew that it was being done by the plan and action of God as well.

"Your wrath... Your displeasure... Your arrows... Your hand..." (v1-2) and so on. You wouldn't even know that there were other humans involved until v11!

It is not faith to think that others are doing this while God sits idly by. It is faith to know that God is right there in the midst, ordaining whatever happens, and overruling everyone else's purposes in it with His own. By itself, that doesn't make things easier, but it does make us honest about them. We know that in at least some sense, it is God who hurts us.

For, now, even worse, David's greatest burden was not some earthly circumstance that his enemies had brought about. It was his own iniquity, his own sin, that he himself had committed.

"There is no... health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a burden, they are too heavy for me." (v4)

What a great mercy of God to us--David saw himself as he really is: such a great sinner (even when compared to others he "follows good") that he deserves far worse from the hand of God than he has received.

David knows what he deserves from God for his sin, but he also knows what God is like toward sinners. God sees. God cares. God may be hurting him, but for his good rather than for his harm. "Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is nothidden from you."

David knew that God, who was hurting David just now, is also God who would help and heal him. David knew that, although his sin was so great, God's grace is greater, and that God was doing this for good.

And, dear reader, if you come to God through Christ, this is for you too. I don't need to know how great is your sin to say that. I am familiar with Christ, who is greater. I don't need to know how much of your mess is your own making. I see, in Psalm 38, the God who sees and cares and helps and heals those whose iniquity is over their heads, a burden that they could never lift.

So, silence your "but I"
I will always answer "but Christ"

Only come to Him in Christ. There is none of this without Him.

Children of God, Who Desires All Men to Be Saved

God desires all men to be saved (1Ti 2:3).

This doesn't mean that God's plan is to save every individual man. In fact, God has planned to show His wrath in vessels [people] that are prepared for wrath (Rom 9:22).

But God's "desire" to save all men is a reflection of the fact that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze 18:23, 32). And, the Holy Spirit has just followed "all men" in v1 by explaining that this includes "kings and all who are in authority." There is no kind of person that God has written off; He delights to save all kinds.

What, then, should His children do?

This is the real question that drives prayer. Some, foolishly, approach the idea of prayer from the question, "What difference does it make?"

They reason that it doesn't make sense to pray, if God has already planned what He will do. But such reasoning completely paralyzes, because God "works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11), so if you only do what will change the future, then you would do nothing at all, let alone pray.

No, the right question is how to live as children of God (Php 2:15). How do we shine like stars (Php 2:15; Mat 5:14; Mat 13:43)? How do we, more and more, display the character of Christ, the Firstborn in our new family (Rom 8:29).

Well, Father's desire becomes our desire. And Father's attitude becomes our attitude. So, if we love our enemies, we will bear the family resemblance.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Mat 5:44-45a)

What we see in 1Tim 2:1-3 is this: that we are to make all kinds of prayer, for all kinds of men, especially those in high position, and particularly those who are not yet saved. When we love and bless and do good to the wicked, we are growing up into the shape of Christ. We are displaying the family resemblance of our Father.

When was the last time that you or I did this? Pray with a sincere heart for those wicked who are hindering and harming us? Particularly for those in authority over us?

Let us do so, not because "it will make a difference." But because "it is what children of God do."

This God of unimaginable love has adopted us as His own dear sons and daughters (1Jo 3:1-3). Let us think, speak, and act like the children of God that we are!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Don't Hand Yourself over to Satan

In 1Cor 5:5 and 1Tim 2:20, the Holy Spirit gives us language for Christians who absent themselves from the worship and fellowship of the church: "handed over to Satan."

Within the church is the ministry of the elders that God has given us to build us up in Christ (Eph 4:11-16). The church is the method of Christ's caring for us, to protect us from the roaring and devouring lion (1Pet 5:1-11).

Sure, churches are full of sinners. There is no other kind of person to fill them with, this side of glory. But they are also the primary place of sanctification and saving protection of the Savior.

If you hope in and trust Jesus, let alone love Him, you will be an active member of His church. You will neither give into the fancy that you can have your arms open to Christ but not the church; nor, will you easily indulge excuses for being absent from worship or fellowship.