the Spirit is not a ‘thing’

Help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ, 

more in that fullness which is in Him, the fountain of His glory.

Let me not think to receive the Spirit from him as a ‘thing’

apart from finding, drinking, being filled with him.

-from The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions

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Comfort: What the Word Does

Wasn't there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

Wasn’t there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

What does the Word of God do?  What happens when we read it or hear it proclaimed?

God’s Word does challenge us.  Have you read/heard what He says and demands of us?  Have you really seen Jesus?  Who is this Man?  His example and commands are incredible and seemingly unattainable.  We must see that what God/Christ requires of us is good and that it is challenging.

God’s Word also convicts us.  Not only is it challenging, it is revealing.  When we see a good command, then look into ourselves, we often find no desire to obey.  Like looking into a mirror, we see ourselves as we really are not as we’d like ourselves to be.  We see our sins and our nature as sinners.  That’s the surgery of conviction.

But God’s Word, when believed and trusted, comforts us.  There is harshness at times but also such tremendous softness.  When we hear what we are (sinners), we are also told we are friends and children.  We are told that we are sinful but also forgiven and made righteous.  We are weighted down by commands one moment, and then empowered to live them  the next.  We told how great the Father’s love is for us.  We’re told what Christ did for us and how He loves us.  We’re told He’s still praying for us.

There could be inferred some logical order to Challenge, Convict, and Comfort.  Something like how the Word challenges us, then when we find we can’t live up to it we’re convicted, and then the comfort swoops in to save the day.  Truth is that it can do all those things concurrently – maybe even in the same passage during the same reading.  When you have faith in the whole of God’s counsel, there is always comfort.  But I hope that I never stop being convicted of my sin (that drives me to more comfort!).  And I hope that I will never blunt the challenge to live as God commands and be like my Lord.

Be Challenged!  Be Convicted!  Be Comforted!     …not necessarily in that order…

Convict: What the Word Does

Wasn't there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

Wasn’t there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

What does the Word of God do?  What happens when we read it or hear it proclaimed?

Not only does it challenge but when read/heard God’s Word also brings conviction.  It’s as though we can look into a mirror and see ourselves for what we really are.  God’s commands are a challenge for us but so is a marathon.  Take it from me, marathons are gruelling but they are completely doable.  The Word does more than just challenge.

Instead, the commands of Scripture bring about a knowledge of self that is deeply unflattering.  It is a surgical work – one that makes us aware of not just our deeds but also our thoughts/desires/motivations.  We find ourselves accountable to a Holy God who, in the end, we will give an answer to.  We don’t read the Word so much as the Word reads us.

Jesus promised that when His Spirit came, He would bring conviction.  He does this, by and large, through knowledge of God’s Word.  If you have not felt the convicting power of God’s Word then listen to Jesus for a minute:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

Ouch!

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  Matthew 5:27-28 ESV

How about this?

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.  Mark 7:20-23 ESV

God’s commands don’t just call us to something very challenging (although they do that).  When we take in the full weight of what’s there, we begin to see ourselves as we are.  It is humbling but it’s glorious.  How exactly can this type of surgery be glorious?  Well, because after the challenge and conviction comes something else …a comfort (that’s tomorrow!).

Challenge: What the Word Does

Wasn't there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

Wasn’t there a song that came out a few years ago about a Neon Bible?

What does the Word of God do?  What happens when we read it or hear it proclaimed?

Several things at once can happen when we expose ourselves to God’s Word.  The first of which is that it challenges us.  I always get amazed when I speak to people and they tell how they see Jesus as a good example to follow.  Of course, He is a great example but usually they mean something with a lower standard.  Jesus, and the commands of the Bible, become a pretty low bar to pass.  ‘Be kind’ or ‘don’t judge’.  But to do even those is an immense challenge.

I mean, have you even read Jesus?  Have you listened to the voices of His apostles?  They are not trite dispensers of platitudes and good intentioned advice.  The call that is issued is so high…

.

Have you tried to go a second mile?

Have you really loved your enemy?

Could you leave everything behind to follow Him?

Are you a husband like this?

Are you a wife like this?

Could you give your body to God like this?

Do you believe this commission is for you?

If you have encountered God’s words and not been challenged, doubt whether you have had an encounter at all.  Have you been challenged lately?

Am I a Pharisee? Are you? Who is? Let’s give it a rethink.

Are you a Pharisee?  Am I?

This guy is a real Pharisee.  With the beard and everything.

This guy is a real Pharisee. With the beard and everything.

The Pharisees – a strict sect of Judaism which stressed Torah observance – were often Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel.  Because if this Christians (and others) often invoke the charge of ‘Pharisee’ to label any religious hypocrite.  Because I’ve had hypocrisy on the brain ( here, here, and here) I’ve of course reflected on some passages where they show up.  Of course, religious hypocrisy is terrible but that’s not my point today.  My point is that throwing around the label ‘Pharisee’ is neither accurate nor kind.  Many Pharisees were hypocrites.  But some of them put their faith in Christ.  Because of recent study comparing Christians to Pharisees*, that label needs to be rethought.

Problems with calling others Pharisees are:

1)  Just because someone is more conservative religiously does not mean they’re a hypocrite.

2)  Just because someone is more conservative religiously does not mean they’re a legalist.

3)  Pharisees were a real sect.  That means, although one could conceivably be ‘Pharisee-like’, you’d actually have to be a Pharisee to ‘be’ a Pharisee.  Kind of like how ‘fascist’ is thrown around these days.  To be a fascist you have to actually adhere to fascism.

4)  The descendants of the Pharisees are still with us today – Observant Jews.  The Jews focused on ‘Temple’ fizzled out after the first century, but those focused on ‘Torah’ remained.  Throwing around the pejorative ‘Pharisee’ runs the risk of anti-semitism.

So who were the real Pharisees?  Read this article from Scot McKnight to get a better picture.

The Pharisees, my response to the new Barna study. – Scot Mcknight.

*  For a good response to that study, read these thoughts over at Christ and Pop Culture by Derek Rishmawy.