The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: God the Holy Spirit (page 2 of 3)

Spirit-Walking

O PreacherSounds like a low-budget horror movie.  Or a TV preacher’s new “blessing”.  Spirit-Walking.  Actually it’s the way the apostle Paul directs the Galatian church (and us) to live the Christian life.  (Note:  Haven’t read “The Summit:  The Spirit”?  Good to read now— http://theoldpreacher.com/the-summit-spirit/.)

Paul continues with a “But”, contrast.  What’s Paul “but-ing”?   Submitting again to a yoke of slavery (5:1) by accepting circumcision (5:2) and so obligating oneself to keep all God’s Law (5:3).  Also, using Christ-given freedom from Law (5:1) as an opportunity for the “flesh” (5:13) . . .

But I say, walk by the Spirit,
and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit,
and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,
for these are opposed to each other
to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
(Galatians 5:16-18, ESV).

” . . . walk by the Spirit” . . . “Walk” literally translates the Greek, perapatayte.   Figuratively perapataye is translated “behave, conduct oneself, live”.   Under sunny skies and rainy, along a woodsy path, down a plunging, stony trail into a dark valley, up and up a mountain side to a spectacular panaroma.  Perapatayte pictures the Christian way of life as an ongoing walk.

” . . . walk by the Spirit”By” implies means, mode, method.  Yesterday morning I went  to my chiropractor’s office (don’t ask) by truck (sitting in the seat, not dumped in the bed).  Paul directs the Galatian church (and us)  to walk through the Christian life, not by means of personal effort to scrupulously keep God’s Law, but by means of the Spirit.  “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts . . . ” (4:6).  The Spirit doesn’t hover way up in heaven but indwells us who believe in Christ.  By means of the now-indwelling Spirit, we are to walk.  Paul couples his command with a promise . . .

” . . . and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  “Flesh” here doesn’t refer to our physical body or (what this word often brings to mind) sexual sin.  Usually, as here, it refers to our human nature.  Us apart from Christ.  And that “us”, our nature, sinfully seeks opportunities to gratify its desires.  That’s what lies behind Paul’s earlier warning:   ” . . . do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh” (5:13a).

See Law’s weakness?  “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).  “You shall not covet . . . your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).  The Commandments may give us pause, but are powerless to push away our sin-nature’s desires.  ” . . . if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law” (3:21).  God’s Law is ” . . . holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12), but is “weakened by the flesh” (Romans 8:3).  So “God has done what the law . . . could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3,4).  God the Actor.  God the Giver.

Why, though, does “Spirit-walking” work? . . .

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  Our human nature is wired to gratify its sinful desires.  The Spirit of God’s Son sent into us opposes sinful desires with Holy Spirit desires.  Think magnets.  Point two north-seeking magnet poles toward each other and they repel.  So the Spirit’s presence in our fallen human nature creates resistance.  The opposition “keeps you from the doing the things you (that is, your fallen, sinful human nature) want to do.”

Two important points.  One, though justified (in right-standing with God) and Spirit-filled, we have to contend with our sin-nature’s desires as long as we’re in this body.  ” . . . we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). 

Two, we must “walk by the Spirit.”  In other words, the against-the-flesh activity of the Spirit in us is not without action on our part.  Take a young man with natural-born baseball-pitching ability.  It’s there in his arm—the strength, the finesse, the feel, the touch.  But he has to develop it, work out, practice, pitch in crucial games.  We have to “walk by the Spirit.”

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”  If we are “Spirit-walkers” we are not “under law” (don’t have to post-note the Ten Commandments to our refrigerator and grim- faced sweat to obey them today), because we are being “led by the Spirit.” Hint:  here’show to “walk by the Spirit”.  Be led by the Spirit.  More on this next time.

Let’s finish now by allowing God’s Word to strengthen our faith.  We are not doomed to sweaty, desperate efforts to be a better Christian.  We are not imprisoned by God’s good Law we can’t hope to keep.  We are not sentenced to create our own more-workable system of religion to sooth guilt-feelings.  WE ARE NOT LEFT ON OUR OWN.

But when the fullness of time had come,
God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under law,
to redeem those who were under law,
so that we might receive adoptions as sons.
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,    
crying, “Abba!  Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son,
and if a son, then an heir through God.
(Galatians 4:4-7).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:

What Counts? Only Faith Working through Love

O PreacherDon’t misread this title.  It doesn’t mean what it seems.  It comes from the apostle Paul’s declaration in Galatians 5:6 . . .

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but faith working through love.

Paul doesn’t suggest nothing else matters, but faith working through love.  He means rather in the context of being in right standing with God, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything.  The only thing that counts in  being right with God is faith in Jesus Christ—faith that shows itself through acts of love.

I wrote about this in a previous blog (http://theoldpreacher.com/christ-set-free/).  But I’ve since realized how important this text is for what follows (5:16-26).  I’ve come across three important observations by Dr. Gordon Fee in his book, God’s Powerful Presence.  Before passing them along, just a word about circumcision.

A non-issue for us.  However, in our context it represents both our futile attempts to be right with God by trying to keep his Law (centered in the Ten Commandments) and our attempts to be right with God by constructing our own rules and regulations.  “Real Christians don’t drink, smoke or chew or hang around with girls who do!”  Not sure I got that old slogan right.  But you know what I mean, right?  Legalism.  Extra-biblical rules and regulations we make necessary for being righteous before God.

It’s in that context that Paul writes, “In union with Christ Jesus keeping God’s laws or your self-created rules counts for nothing.  The only thing that counts for being right with God is faith in Christ Jesus that shows itself in acts of love” (my paraphrase).

Here, now, is Galatians 5:13-15 from which Fee identifies three important points we should note before moving on . . .

You, my brothers, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature;
rather, serve one another in love. 
The entire law is summed up in a single command:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” 
If you keep on biting and devouring each other,
watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

One:  “Freedom from enslavement to Torah (Law) paradoxically means to take on a new form of “slavery”—that of loving servanthood to one another.”

In Paul’s allegory (4:21-31) he refers to Jews under the law as the daughter of Abraham’s wife’s maid servant (Hagar) who “bears children who are to be slaves [to Law] (4:25).  Earlier he wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law . . . ” (3:13).  And later, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1).

Then he warns, “But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love” (5:13).  A reminder, as someone wisely noted, Christ freed us not so we can do what we want, but what we should.

Also a reminder that God designed the Christian life to be lived in community with one another.  Therefore, we don’t speak of attending church, but being the church.  Therefore, Jesus gave us a new commandment:  “Love one another . . . By this all people will know you are my disciples” (John 13:34,35).

Two:  “Love of this kind is the way the whole of Torah (Law) is ‘fulfilled’.”

“The entire law is summed up in a single command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”  Fee explains:  “The aim of Torah . . . was to create a loving community in which God’s own character and purposes are fulfilled . . . as God’s people love one another as he loves them.”  The Law, of course, is powerless to do this.  But the Spirit is, in the title of Fee’s book, God’s Powerful Presence”.  Thus he empowers believers to live toward fulfilling the Law, which is the Law of love.

Here, too, we find the focus for the Christian life:  as part of the Christian community, the church.  As we, empowered by the Spirit, love one another as members of the church, the whole of Law is fulfilled in our relationships with one another.

Three:  “Freedom from Torah (Law) does not mean ‘lawlessness’.”

This was the Jews greatest objection to the absence of Torah.  If we don’t let it fence us in any longer, do we have license to gratify ourselves however we wish?  As we’ll see in the coming paragraphs, the Gospel provides a new fence.

As long as we’re in these bodies, sin is in our nature.  And typically, we view sins as personal, not as relational.  That is, wrong before God and hurtful to us, but not to the church.  I would suggest that every personal sin “bad marks” the whole Christian community.  And some, of course, like gossip, directly harms the Body.  Such “lawlessness” corrupts us all.

But the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel Paul preached, is not lawlessness.  It is Spirit-saturated.

With this preface in mind, next time we’ll finally reach the summit of Paul’s letter:  the exciting, transforming, powerful presence of God the Holy Spirit.

Image result for photos of the holy spirit

 

 

Please like & share:

Holy Spirit, You Are Welcome Here

O PreacherWhat a fitting, beautiful, God-present way to begin Sunday Worship!

For if we don’t humbly and hungrily pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit, what have we in our gatherings?  Yes, we have the written Word of God.  But it is the Spirit who enlivens the Word to our hearts.  And, yes, we have each other.  But it is the Spirit who kindles love and binds hearts.  If we don’t meet with the presence of the living God—our Father through our risen Lord—our meeting becomes little more than a memorial or a classroom.  Yes, we sing songs that proclaim the gospel of our faith.  But if we are merely making a proclamation without the presence of the One we proclaim, we are speaking into the wind.

How beautiful, how sanctifying, the “holy hush” after all the music and singing has stopped!  How we need to stand like that on holy ground in his holy presence and be filled with the Holy Spirit!  How precious those quiet moments when the world fades and all we sense is him!

If your church lacks his presence  like this, perhaps the video and these words have created a thirst . . . and somehow the Spirit will come for his glory and the joy of his reborn people.  I pray it might be so . . .

Please like & share:

The West Coast Rumble: Final Thoughts

O Preacher“It pleased God…to display his free and sovereign mercy in the conversion of a great multitude of souls in a short space of time, turning them from a formal, cold, and careless profession of Christianity, to the lively exercise of every Christian grace, and the powerful practice of our holy religion” (Jonathan Edwards, “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions,” Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, first published in 1736, p. 2).”

“We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it.’ … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps”  (Darren Stott, 34, pastor of the Seattle Revival Center).

Contrasts.

The contrast between these two descriptions couldn’t be more striking.  Is it just a language-change from the 18th century to the 21st?  Or is it a change in revival aims?   The First Great Awakening seems aimed at conversion and holy living.  Today’s seems aimed more at ecstatic spiritual experiences.  It’s as if today we see these revival experiences as the high point of spiritual life.

Patrick Morley, Christian author and speaker, describes what a revival is:  “During a revival, God supernaturally transforms believers and non-believers in a church, locale, region, nation, or the world through sudden, intense enthusiasm for Christianity.  People sense the presence of God powerfully; conviction, despair, contrition, repentance, and prayer come easily; people thirst for God’s word; many authentic conversions occur and backsliders are renewed.”  Even that enthusiastic explanation implies that God sends a revival because people have become spiritually lethargic and weak.  A revival isn’t like a doctor advising a healthy patient how to have optimum physical health; it’s more emergency room doctor using defibrillation paddles to re-start a patient’s heart with a dose of electrical current.  The ultimate goal isn’t a heart restart; it’s optimum physical health.  So, while God certainly uses revivals his ultimate goal is Christ-likeness.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . ”
(Romans 8:29a)

Need.

Having said that, I’ll repeat what I wrote in an earlier blog:  I think the church in the U.S. needs a revival.  Despite mega-churches and high-production worship services and creative sermons and “portable” Christian music on smartphones, I get the impression that Christianity in America is, as they say about Tampa Bay’s waters, a mile wide and an inch deep.  The church needs renewing.  Whether what’s happening on the West Coast is part of that renewing  remains to be seen.

Skepticism.

I have to admit I get skeptical about “prophetic words” from leaders associated with “the Rumble”:   “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘This whole thing is going harvest . . . The angel of the Lord is going to be connected with you now,.  You will not leave Seattle until the angel tells you to go'” . . .  and the already-cited, “We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it.’ … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps.” Prophecy as forth-telling I can abide; prophecy as foretelling makes me uneasy.

In the 1970s or 80s (I can’t remember which) the charismatic movement got caught up in extreme discipleship.  Every Christian was to have a discipler to oversee his/her life.  I heard some horror stories.  Leaders of “The West Coast Rumble”. according to author Holly Piver,  “share a common belief that the church is to be governed by apostles and prophets,.  Churches come voluntarily under an apostle and pastors are supposed to submit to them. ‘Spiritual covering’ is what they call it, and if they are not under this covering, they are outside of God’s blessing.”  I don’t see allowance for that in the New Testament and am concerned these folks are repeating the same error as their predecessors 30 years ago.

Confusion.

Revivals tend to feature confusion.   Here’s what Edwards wisely wrote about that:  ” . . . if God is pleased to convince the consciences of persons, so that they cannot avoid great outward manifestations, even to interrupting and breaking off those public means (meetings) they were attending, I do not think this is confusion, or an unhappy interruption, any more than if a company should meet on the field to pray for rain, and should be broken off from their exercise by a plentiful shower. Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this the next sabbath day!  We need not be sorry for breaking the order of means, by obtaining the end to which that order is directed. He who is going to fetch a treasure, need not be sorry that he is stopped, by meeting the treasure in the midst of his journey.”

Warning.

Whatever we think of revivals, I warn myself and others not to be found opposing God.  At the end of my writing about revivals, I haven’t discovered any hard, fast rules for discernment, except this:  Jesus must be exalted as Lord and Savior.  If he is not (because, say, ecstatic spiritual experiences are), then either the revival is not from the Holy Spirit or the Spirit is speaking as if through Balaam’s dumb donkey (Numbers 22:21-30).

Pray.

Lastly, I think we should be praying fora genuine revival/awakening/renewal (whatever the okay word is for us) in our churches.  How quickly our routines become ruts!  How low our expectation that God is really going to act in our services!  How little our influence in the community for Jesus’ sake!  When the world can take us or leave us, and when the government fearlessly dares to still our Bible-talk as homophobic or hate speech, the church needs renewed power to effectively proclaim God’s truth in Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:

Is the West Coast Rumble for Real (2)?

O PreacherI’m offering Jonathan Edwards’ “signs” to evaluate revivals like the West Coast Rumble—an evaluation, I believe, it’s incumbent on us to make.  “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

By the way, if you haven’t, you should read my last two posts before reading this one http://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/ and http://theoldpreacher.com/?p=4913&preview=true.

Eighteenth century revivals raised questions and moved Edwards to write “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God”.  In it he identified nine “negative signs” (last post) and five “positive” signs (below).  Again, my goal:  to help us (in John’s words) to “test the spirit to see whether they are from God”.

Positive Signs

Edwards introduces this section:  “I now proceed in the second place, as was proposed, to show positively what are the sure, distinguishing Scripture evidences and marks of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see among a people, without danger of being misled.”
I.  The work exalts Jesus and establishes in people’s minds the truth of the gospel of the Son of God and our Savior. “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world . . .Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:2,3).  Edwards explains:  “And it is to be observed that the word ‘confess’, as it is often used in the New Testament, signifies . . . an establishing and confirming of a thing by testimony, and declaring it with manifestation of esteem and affection.”  In other words, to confess is more than mimicking a doctrine; it is an admission that the confessor stands in worshipful awe of Jesus and his saving sacrifice.  Any spirit that fails to exalt Jesus is of the devil, who abhors Jesus and hates his redemptive work.
To put this sign in question form:   “Does this work exalt Jesus and establish in people’s minds, not only that Jesus powerfully heals and delivers,  but that Jesus is the Son of God and the sinner’s Savior?”

II. The work operates against Satan’s interests. Satan entices us with “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”  Such seduction “is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).   Therefore, the Spirit that lessens our value of the world’s pleasures, profits and honor and pulls our hearts away from pursuing these things and compels our hearts toward the eternal kingdom of God and convinces us of the sinfulness of sin has to be the Spirit of God.

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work make people easier prey for Satan or stronger opponents of him?”

III.  The work causes people to have a greater regard for God’s written word. We are from God.  Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us.  By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).  Remembering that the only other spirit is of the devil, Edwards comments:   “The devil never would attempt to beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule for the direction of his church . . .The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light; and to draw men off from it: he knows it to be that light by which his kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown.  He has had for many ages experience of its power to defeat his purposes, and baffle his designs: it is his constant plague . . .  It is the sword of the Spirit, that pierces him and conquers him.”

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work create in people a hunger for God’s written word or distract them from it?”

IV. The spirit at work “operates as a spirit of truth, [leads] persons to truth, [and convinces] them of those things that are true.” Edwards takes this from the end of 1 John 4:6, “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error”.    He writes, “For instance, if we observe that the spirit at work makes men more sensible than they used to be, [that is] that there is a God, and that he is a great and sin-hating God; that life is short, and very uncertain; and that there is another world; that they have immortal souls, and must give account of themselves to God, that they are exceeding sinful by nature and practice; that they are helpless in themselves; and confirms them in other things that are agreeable to some sound doctrine; the spirit that works thus operates as a spirit of truth; he represents things as they truly are.” 

To put this sign in question form:  “Does the spirit of this work make people love the truth and want to seek it or fascinate them merely with a power that ‘works’?”

V.  The work produces love to God and love to others“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another . . . No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us . . .  If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:11.12,20).  Love is a distinctive mark by which we know who has the Spirit of God.  “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).   Love is the first and primary fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).  “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Edwards writes:  “Therefore, when the spirit that is at work amongst the people . . . brings many of them to high and exalting thoughts of the Divine Being, and his glorious perfections; and works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ; representing him as the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and makes him precious to the soul; winning and drawing the heart with those motives and incitements to love, of which the apostle speaks in that passage of Scripture we are upon, that is:  The wonderful, free love of God in giving his only-begotten Son to die for us, and the wonderful dying love of Christ to us, who had no love to him, but were his enemies; must needs be the Spirit of God, as ver. 9, 10. “In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And ver. 16. “And we have known, and believed, the love that God hath to us.” And ver. 19. “We love him because he first loved us.” The spirit that excites to love on these motives, and makes the attributes of God as revealed in the gospel, and manifested in Christ, delightful objects of contemplation; and makes the soul to long after God and Christ—after their presence and communion, acquaintance with them, and conformity to them—and to live so as to please and honour them; the spirit that quells contentions among men, and gives a spirit of peace and good will, excites to acts of outward kindness, and earnest desires of the salvation of souls-and causes a delight in those that appear as the children God, and followers of Christ; I say, when a spirit operates after this manner among a people, there is the highest kind of evidence of the influence of a true and divine spirit . . . What kind of love that is, we may see best in what appeared in Christ’s example. The love that appeared in that Lamb of God, was not only a love to friends, but to enemies, and a love attended with a meek and humble spirit.”

To put this sign in question form:  “Does this work move people to love God and others more fully or encourage people to focus more on themselves?”

* * * * *

I’ll have a few final thoughts next post.  Meanwhile, may the Lord give us wisdom to discern what is from him and what is not that we might glorify him and enjoy his saving work in the world!
Please like & share:

Is the West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

Please like & share:

Is The West Coast Rumble for Real?

O PreacherWhat are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the lasthttp://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/).  Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin?  I’m not sitting in judgment.  I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.

Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian.  He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards),  He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards). 

 The First Great Awakening  was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies the middle of the 18th century.  It brought  doctrinal changes, influenced social and political thought, and created not a small measure of theological controversy.  Edwards’ wrote The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God  “to show what are the true, certain, and distinguishing evidences of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves, or see in others. And here I would observe, that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases.”  I’ll use The Distinguishing Marks to evaluate the “Rumble” and other such revivals.
Edwards divided his treatise into two sections, the first  . . .

Negative Signs

By this he means,  “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.”  In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival”  is not from God’s Spirit.

Edwards gives nine negative signs.  Since grammar and writing styles have changed significantly since the 18th century, I’ll summarize in my own words.  Quotes are his.  And all of his are available at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/edwards/edwards_distinguishingmarks.html.

I.  Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things.  If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture).  We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”

II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.

III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind”  doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work.  It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful.   So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.

IV.  Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit.  “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . .  It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”

V.  Means are used in producing it.   This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit.   “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.”  God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us.  God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him.  God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.

VI.  Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. 
These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work.  “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?”  The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example.  The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.

VII.  Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work.  Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth.  “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”

VIII.  Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior.  This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit.  Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true.  “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”.  The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example.  The classic biblical example is Judas.

IX.  It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law.  This  doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]?  The reverse is also true.  If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.

What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”?  Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not?  We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away.  What difference does it make to me here?”  We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online.  Discernment, then, is important for us all.

Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs.  These come next time.

Please like & share:

The West Coast Rumble

O PreacherFollowing is a current report from Religion News Service of a West Coast revival.   Some will immediately brand this the devil’s work.  Some will claim the leaders are deceivers.  Others will say, “Bring it on here!”  While others won’t know what to think.

Need for Revival.

One comment before the report.  I think the church in the U.S. needs a revival.  (What that should look like isn’t for me to say.) Despite mega-churches and high-production worship services and sermons and music galore on smartphones, I get the impression that Christianity in America is, as they say about Tampa Bay’s waters, a mile wide and an inch deep.  The church needs renewing.  Whether what’s happening on the West Coast is part of that renewing  remains to be seen.

But the question before us now is this:  What are we to make of this West Coast revival?

Distinguishing Marks of the Spirit’s Work.

In my next post, I’ll apply Jonathan Edwards’ “The Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God” to “The West Coast Rumble” (let’s not pre-judge because of that name!) and similar events, so we might wisely discern the true from the counterfeit.

* * * * *

Pentecostal Revival Sweeps Parts of West Coast

 

(RNS) They call it the West Coast Rumble: a set of multiweek revivals in Seattle and San Diego, plus a large Christian rally in Los Angeles two weekends ago.

The main players are 30-something Pentecostals who are just as apt to broadcast their messages via Periscope, Skype and Twitter, as well as on their ministry’s Facebook pages.

Can’t make it to their meetings? They’ll pray for you over their cellphones.

They belong to a loose network of roving preachers who have adopted some techniques from past Pentecostal revivals but with a digitized spin. They hope to bring faith to a region that has some of the country’s lowest church attendance.

“I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” said Darren Stott, 34, pastor of the Seattle Revival Center, a 170-member nondenominational church where the revival is now in its eighth week. “For me, to be a pastor in Seattle is easy. To be a revivalist and contend for miracles is difficult.”

The center has hired several part-time workers to oversee the revival, stream online video and schedule and pay for a succession of visiting worship bands and speakers. The church has posted a list of hotels on its site for visitors who have flown in from around the Pacific Northwest and Australia. While an average of 210 people attend nightly services, an additional 225 people will watch the entire four-hour service online, with up to 1,000 people logging in and out on any given night.

Meanwhile, in the San Diego suburb of Rancho Bernardo, a series of meetings that was supposed to end Jan. 25 has morphed into what is now a 12-week revival. The meetings were sponsored by an Albany, Ore., group called The Elijah List and headed up by two evangelistic couples: Jerame and Miranda Nelson and Joshua and Janet Mills.

“We began to notice an unusual manifest presence of God invading the meetings,” Jerame Nelson, 35, wrote on elijahlist.com. “Miracles were happening quite easily and people were really getting touched by God during the worship times.”

Just the week before, Nelson continued, a Franklin, Tenn., evangelist named James Goll, 63, had prophesied that a “West Coast rumble” would break open in port cities along the West Coast from Tijuana, Mexico, to Vancouver, B.C.

San Diego, Goll had told Nelson, would be the first spark in this spiritual line of fire. So when Joshua Mills asked Nelson if they should continue the meetings, “I immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’” Nelson wrote on the site.

The San Diego meetings are part of a tapestry of events connected to Azusa Now, a large evangelistic meeting held April 9 at the Los Angeles Coliseum that attracted 56,586 worshippers.

Perhaps the most unusual occurrence during the rally was when Catholic charismatic leader Matteo Calisi knelt and kissed the feet of Azusa Now organizer Lou Engle in the name of Catholic-Protestant reconciliation. (Engle then returned the favor.)

The event marked the 110th anniversary of the legendary Azusa Street Revival, which birthed the Pentecostal movement in the U.S.  Led by William Seymour, a pastor whose prayer meetings lasted for some four years, the 1906 revival sparked a massive spiritual awakening that today numbers some 279 million adherents worldwide. Known for having received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostals often speak in tongues and dance during worship services and report healings and other miracles.

Seymour is said to have prophesied that an even greater revival would happen a century later.

Charlie Shamp, 34, a Nashville preacher who helped jump-start the Seattle meetings, said he doesn’t like calling the West Coast Rumble a revival.

“They only last a year or two,” he said. “I really believe this is the Third Great Awakening. So many people are feeling it across denominational lines.”

In late February, Shamp appeared for what was supposed to be one weekend at the Seattle Revival Center in Newcastle, a well-to-do Seattle suburb. He ended up staying for five.

The church established a Twitter handle, #westcoastrumble, and began live-streaming the nightly services. Viewers from around the world could log in, chat, leave comments and register prayer requests.

Now the 350-seat church is full most weekends. Explaining this to his congregation on March 6, Stott said: “The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘This whole thing is going harvest.’”

During a typical meeting in both venues, the preacher will get what charismatics call a “word of knowledge,” usually an interior sense that God is healing certain people of a particular ailment.

Those who are physically at the church will walk up to the front to be prayed for, although online viewers can also identify themselves as having that ailment. One of the pastors — usually Stott — monitors the viewer feed and will announce to the congregation the names of people claiming to be healed or asking for prayer.

Chelsie Carbonell, 36, an artist from Bonney Lake, Wash., attended a session a few weeks ago, just as visiting evangelist Munday Martin, 38, of Nashville, Tenn., announced that someone who’d been in multiple car accidents would be healed.

Carbonnell had been in a series of accidents in the 1990s and felt she was out of alignment.

She went forward and Martin told her to sit down, as he wanted to pray for her legs to be the same length.

“I don’t think the problem is my legs,” Carbonell told him.

“Will you let a crazy evangelist try?” Martin asked her.

“My left leg grew out right then,” Carbonell said later. “I felt it. It was a strange, quick sensation. It took me four days to walk normally but now I’ve been able to jog for the first time in years.”

The congregation has no doctor-verified healings, although on March 11, it posted on its Facebook page a PET scan of what appeared to be a person’s spine and identified as “before and after photos of Stage 4 cancer.”

“I want to assemble a team to pursue these people,” Stott said. “Once we get X-rays, that kind of stuff, I will take that and publicize that on bulletin boards in Seattle. I’ve seen so many people from our immediate congregation healed. That has boosted my faith.”

In San Diego, Nelson wrote, “glaucoma healed, metal plates and pins that had been surgically inserted into people’s bodies have dissolved, deaf ears are hearing, deformities from birth are being healed, and many are getting saved, reconciled to God, and filled with the Holy Ghost.” He did not respond to requests for an interview.

Shamp, who eventually left Seattle Revival Center to fulfill other speaking engagements, said he’s seeing similar meetings around the country.

“I just got back from Columbus, Miss., and it exploded there as well,” he said.

Shamp said he was inspired by members of a 1980s movement known as the Kansas City Prophets, a loose network of Christian leaders who considered themselves apostles and prophets to the church. He called one of those leaders, Paul Cain, a week before going to Seattle in February, to ask for prayer.

“He said, ‘The angel of the Lord is going to be connected with you now,’” Shamp recalled. “‘You will not leave Seattle until the angel tells you to go.’”

Shamp, Nelson and other revivalist leaders are part of an informal network of two dozen Pentecostal and charismatic ministers, mostly under age 40, who like to push the envelope on spiritual healing.

They’ve integrated controversial parts of past U.S. revivals: reports of feathers mysteriously floating through the air during services, gold fillings appearing in the mouths of attendees, hands covered with oil or gold dust and people being overcome with fits of so-called holy laughter.

Holly Pivec, who co-authored a 2014 book with Biola University philosophy professor Doug Geivett on the movement, said these revivalists are part of the New Apostolic Reformation within the wider charismatic movement.

“They share a common belief that the church is to be governed by apostles and prophets,” she said. Churches come voluntarily under an apostle and pastors are supposed to submit to them. “Spiritual covering” is what they call it, and if they are not under this covering, they are outside of God’s blessing.

“Whole generations of young people have grown up under these NAR teachings. It’s the only version of Christianity they’ve ever known. Some 3 million people in the United States attend churches that embrace these teachings.”

Stott, whose church broke with the Assemblies of God a year ago, has been sending members out into nearby neighborhoods to do street evangelism.

He told his congregation April 6: “We are about to enter a zone where no man has ever gone before. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I’m going to freak you right out with the things that I’m going to be doing because you’re going to have no grid for it. … The Lord’s about to take us on some roads that don’t exist on human maps.”

 

 

Please like & share:

You Fools!

O PreacherWant “conversational” preaching?  No raised voice, no intensity, no felt-passion?  Rip this page of Galatians from your Bible.  If Paul was dictating to a scribe, he probably shouted.  If he was writing himself, he probably wrote in bold-face type.  He was angry.  Itinerant Jewish teachers were making Christ’s crucifixion good for nothing among the Galatian churches.  And they were robbing these new Gentile believers of power for living the Christian life.

Irrelevant to us?  Here’s a question.  You believe Jesus died to forgive your past sins, but what does your future right-standing with God depend on?  Not sure?  Read on . . .

Starting with the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-5).

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing– if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Paul’s angry.  The Galatian believers are “turning to a different gospel” (1:6).  Irrational!  Ridiculous!  “Bewitched” (Greek baskino) in this context means something like, “Who put you in this mental coma?”  So, as I said twice already, Paul’s angry.  But I suspect  it was a sad kind of anger, a lamenting that these believers had been duped into thinking that faith alone in Jesus Christ is insufficient to get right with God.  Faith needed Jewish circumcision and law-keeping for justification!  How could these Galatians act like blind fools after Paul had painted a graphic word-picture of Christ crucified for them?

Actually the heresy is more insidious than it appears.  The false teachers might have preached something like this:  “Now that you’ve started this life of faith in Christ, how will you make it all the way to the end?  For that, you need circumcision and law-keeping like God’s people have always needed.”  That’s why Paul asks the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? “

Paul designed his questions to wise-up the Galatians.  How did they start the Christian life?  By observing Jewish law or believing the gospel they heard?  Well, by believing.  But how could they be confident they’d be right with God to the end?  Because when they started they received the Spirit.  Becoming a Christian isn’t just a legal transaction where the Judge declares us not guilty for our sin because we trust Christ “did the time” for our crime.  Nor is it just a love transaction where God gave his Son for us out of affection for us.  It is also a dynamic transaction in which we receive the Spirit . . .


“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

“After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you
because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

 

Here’s Paul’s argument.  At the start, you believed the gospel you heard, and thereby you received the Spirit.  You will continue on and reach your goal by the power of the Spirit.  And the miracles God gives you now by his Spirit, come because you believe what you heard.  How can you possibly think working at keeping Jewish law will keep you going in this new life and get you to the heavenly goal?

Receiving the Blessing of Abraham (3:6-14).

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:6-14).

A strange example Abraham, until you realize he was the father of all who believe (not just Jews).  And “the gospel in advance to Abraham” was, All nations shall be blessed through you.”  Abraham is “the man of faith.”  The people God is saving, you see, is a people from among all nations who are, like Abraham, a people of faith.

Let’s say I rely on keeping the Ten Commandments to maintain my life with God and reach the heavenly goal.  What have I done?  Put myself under a curse, because I have to “do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Everything.  But, ” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us . . . “ 

And for what purpose did Christ redeem us from the law’s curse?  “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus . . . ”  What is “the blessing given to Abraham”?  Righteousness/justification/right-standing with God by believing.   When God made that promise to Abraham, he did it so that the promised blessing might come to Gentiles too—people from among all nations.

But that blessing isn’t the final purpose.  Christ redeemed us so the blessing to Abraham might come to Gentiles so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit,”  Thus, God’s purpose from the start, wasn’t just to put believers in right-standing with himself by faith,  but to transform them progressively into people who ARE RIGHTEOUS IN CHARACTER AND BEHAVIOR by faith.

Being No Fool.

Our sinful nature still whispers, “You can do it.  Just try harder to be better.”  The world idolizes the man or the woman who made something of him/herself.  The devil mocks, “Your faith?  It doesn’t amount to even half a grain of mustard seed.  You better get busy doing good stuff if you wanna make it with God!”

Let’s not be fools.  Christ provides right-standing with God through our faith (our faith) in Christ.  And with justification comes the Spirit who works miracles in us.  Only fools opt for “human effort”. 

DON’T BE A FOOL!
BE FAITH-FULL!

 

 

 

Please like & share:

Search and Rescue

O PreacherJesus was no Dalai Lama enthroned on a high Tibet mountain waiting for seekers.  Nor did he hold to the philosophy, “If you build it, they will come.”  Jesus gave us his strategy:  ” . . . the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In the Book of Acts, author Luke reports how the Holy Spirit carried on Jesus’ mission through the church.  We see it again in the newly-planted church at Antioch . . .

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3).

Probably the Holy Spirit spoke through the gift of prophecy while these leaders were open and sensitive to him during worship and fasting.  His message was clear.  Barnabas and Saul were to be set apart for a specially-called mission—as we’ll see, a search and rescue mission similar to Jesus’.  The other leaders designated them as church representatives and sent them off.  This mission would eventually reach Rome itself, the heart of the Empire—and perhaps even Spain on the eastern Atlantic.

Barnabas and Saul left from Antioch’s port city, Seleucia, headed for Cyprus.  The island, the Mediterranean’s third largest, lay 275 miles to the west.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.  They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos (Acts 13:4-6a).

Their search and rescue mission took them from the port of Salamis on the east to the western-most city of Paphos.  As was to become Paul’s practice, they preached Jesus as Messiah in the Jewish synagogues along the way.  John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, accompanied them.  It’s been speculated that his “help” was perhaps to pass along his eyewitness report of Jesus’ suffering and death.  When they arrived at Paphos, things got a bit exciting.

There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,  who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.  But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.  Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,  “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?  Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.  When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord (Acts 13:6b-12).

Both Salamis and Paphos were flourishing centers for commerce and the worship of the pagan goddess called “the Paphian”.  For more than 50 years, Rome had ruled Cyprus through the administration of a proconsul, the current being Sergius Paulus.

That he calls for Barnabas and Saul “to hear the word of God” is quite extraordinary.  He’s “an intelligent man” wielding significant power.  Barnabas and Saul are nobodies without authority or political prestige.  If one didn’t know better, he might think the Holy Spirit had already been at work!

But so is the devil.  Elymas the magician, a member of the proconsul’s court,  sees Sergius Paulus starting to accept the missionaries’ message and tries to divert him.  Paul will not allow it.  Led by the Holy Spirit, he confronts the magician, calls him some non-politically correct names and curses him with temporary blindness.  While poor Elymas fumbles around for someone to take his hand and get him out of there, the proconsul believes the amazing teaching about the Lord.

We’re not told anything about the results of the missionaries preaching anywhere on Cyprus, except at Paphos.  As far as Luke’s account shows, no one believed, though seeds may have been planted.  But as far as I can tell, there was one Gentile proconsul on the far western end of Cyprus, 275 miles away from Antioch, the Holy Spirit apparently had searched out and begun working in.  When he hears two “nobody” Jewish preachers are in town telling about Jesus, he calls them in.  And the Holy Spirit uses a Jewish spiritual con-man’s opposition attempts to confirm the Gospel and the proconsul believes.  If I’m getting this right, this was a Spirit-directed search and rescue mission for one man.

If you are a Jesus faith-follower like me, that means at some point in our lives the Holy Spirit went on a search and rescue mission for you and for me.  In our case, we’re the “nobodies.”  Yet the eternal God of the universe, not only sent his Son to the cross, he sent someone with the Gospel through whom he searched for and rescued us.

We would do well to sit quietly and ponder that wonder, then worship him—not only singing praise to him with our words but serving him with our lives.

 

 

 

 

Please like & share:
Older posts Newer posts

© 2018 The Old Preacher

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)