Walk ‘in the Spirit’ or Cling to My Bible? Part 2 of 2: The Bible – How We know God

word-and-spirit

Have you ever heard a church person or preacher say, “If someone says, ‘The Lord told them, or anything similar, I run”?    Unfortunately, man’s abuse of the communication of God has pushed many Christians in this direction.  Because of their fear of the evil in men’s heart and the chance of false doctrine, they shut out the power of God to speak to men today.  This stance, that God only speaks through the written word, is much safer right?   The problem is that it is not biblical, nor for any that hear the Lord’s voice (directly or through the Holy Spirit) regularly, is it plausible or comprehensible.  But, as men, we don’t know what we don’t know.  And the devil loves it if there is confusion, especially if it limits the power of God’s men.  In Part 1, we posed the issue of whether we need to be ‘in the Bible’ or ‘in the Spirit’ and we discussed the role of the Holy Spirit in modern day man’s life.  Today, let’s also put the Bible’s purpose in perspective some.

Between Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul, we can pretty quickly get a solid picture of the Bible’s purpose, and without the Bible itself, we would have trouble understanding its purpose.  This sounds kind of circular, right?  It is and it is meant to be.  The Bible is how we know God and our place in Him.  It is how we know His plan, and where we are on His timeline.  It is God’s written word to us of these things.

One major purpose of the Bible is that the written word is important so that we do not forget the great miraculous things God has done.   We are to write them down because we are forgetful.  We are to write them down on paper and on our hearts — to never forget, to always have them before us.  Deuteronomy 18:11 says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”   Collectively, the authors of the New and Old Testament did an amazing job of recording the history of God’s people and the early church.

Another major purpose of the Bible is to show us the way.  King David says it so well in Psalms 119.  The whole chapter basically tells the value of God’s ‘precepts’ and truths and writings to keep us out of trouble and living a worthwhile life for him.  Verse 105 summarizes well, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path”.  This is one of the main purposes for the Bible in our lives.  With the written word in our possession, we can stay ‘in His written word’ daily if we choose.  If we stay in his word, we can understand the proper paths for righteousness and service and avoid so much pain, fear, and worry.

Jesus’s use, reference to, and adherence to the Scriptures may be the best living example of the purpose of the Scripture.   In John 10:35, Jesus acknowledges the significance of the Scripture when He says, “…the Scripture cannot be set aside…”  Through the Gospels, Jesus undergirds the purpose of the Scriptures when He again and again reveals the working out of the prophecy in it.  In fact, He himself is the fulfillment of the written prophesy (Luke 4:18-20).  In fact Jesus is the fulfillment of all the written promises of God in the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Jesus also showed us how to use the Scriptures.  He used them as truth, and He also used them as a sword.  He constantly referred to the Scripture in His dealings with the Pharisees and in His dealings with Satan (Matthew 4:1-11).  The Scriptures are the written truths of God and as truth, they cannot be countered by anyone.

Paul extends the purpose of the Scripture to that of purposeful discipleship in his second letter to Timothy, in Chapter 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  So regarding the Bible, in summary it is God written word to us, to be written on our heart and passed down to our children so we will not forget God’s ways.  David acknowledged its value in helping to keep his life focused.  Jesus cemented it as a standard and He fulfilled it, basically becoming the New Testament.  Paul explained its value and use in our lives and our ministries.  The written word provides the Beginning, the prophesy, the fulfillment and the end.  It is God’s story and our collective story, from beginning to eternity.

And the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit delivered the scriptures initially and it brings them to life in our lives currently.  The Holy Spirit uses the scriptures and the continued mind of God (unchanging and thus unconflicting) to develop us through conviction, constructive criticism, continued personal revelation of God and of the Bible, and direct instruction today.   The Bible is a great gift of God delivered through the Holy Spirit.  No doubt about its purpose or power.  But don’t miss that the Holy Spirit is a great gift of Jesus for our personal development!  The Bible provides the story and vision of God.  The Holy Spirit provides the conviction and the life IN God! The Bible describes God and his plan and the place of men in his plan.  The Spirit provides YOUR place in God; God’s specific plan for YOUR life and the specifics of God at this specific point in time, and on His timeline! Without the Holy Spirit you will not be saved (God’s Spirit produces conviction and reveals His Truth to you).  Without the Holy Spirit, you will not grow spiritually (the Spirit provides instruction and revelation).  Without the Holy Spirit, you will not truly Live (the Spirit provides God’s direction for you and the church) the life ‘in Christ’ you are to live at this point in time!

The Scripture and the Spirit are not meant to be separated, as the Spirit brings the Scripture to life in our hearts!  The Scripture and the Holy Spirit will never conflict (cannot; they are both based in an unchanging Holy God).  The Scripture is used by the Holy Spirit to instruct you and you are to use the Scripture to instruct and convince others.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)!  The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God!  So, be ‘in the word’ often.  Write the Word on the walls of your heart.  But do NOT despise or quench the Holy Spirit with ‘in the box’ thinking  that God does not still speak or provide direction other than the Bible direct; that ‘box’ is the devil’s work and the result is to remove the power in your service.  Walking and being ‘in the Spirit’ is your great calling ‘in Christ’!

Derek Dougherty

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Walk ‘in the Spirit’ or Cling to My Bible? Part 1 of 2: The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Life of Today’s Christian Man

word-and-spiritSimilar to how we have replaced being ‘in Christ’ with being ‘in church’, collectively the modern era community of believers (the Church) has replaced being ‘in the Spirit’ with being ‘in the written word’ or ‘in the Bible’.    This is not meant to be.  Reading the Scriptures (the Bible) is not a substitute for ‘walking in’ or ‘living in’ the Spirit.  This Truth is beyond denominational name, beyond denominational interpretation, and beyond personal conviction.  This Truth is God’s design:  Living in the Spirit is God’s design (Old Testament and New) in that it is His plan for us (for our development and for our true life with God today).  It is also His personal (God’s) design (literally) in that it is His character, even His state of being (God is spirit; John 4:24).

Made in God’s image, we also have a spirit.  Salvation (of our spirit) initiates where our spirit accepts (believes; Romans 10:9) the Truth (His existence, His sovereignty, His plan, His Word Jesus, our spiritual state and need, and Jesus’s sacrifice; John 14:6) of God.   Salvation is the initiation of a ‘new creature’ in us (2 Corinthians 5:17).  One that has life from the Father through Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-5).  Our personal spirit, or new life, is to be instructed by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit for this purpose.

The Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament Gospel and Letters and Revelations (collectively the Holy Bible) are invaluable, but they are not a replacement for the Holy Spirit.  Can the book replace the Author?  Or at least, is something not lost without the Author?  The Holy Bible is the collective writings of men that were DIRECTLY inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  These writings are literally the words penned by men as given by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which literally searches the mind of God the Father.  Thus the source of these writings is the literal mind of the God Jehovah who is holy, unblemished, sovereign and eternal.   This should be an incredible thought to you and the existence of the undeniable written word (the Bible) should be one of the greatest physical evidences of the eternal God to the unsaved world.  The Bible is incredible.  Penned over so many years with such precision and cohesion that it could only occur through inspiration of an eternal Spirit.  Wow!  There must be a God right?

And, if so, there must be a Holy Spirit that is undeniable as well.  Yet, many have replaced living in the Spirit with living in the Spirit’s product.  Attempting to live the Christian life denying the Holy Spirit’s existence and power today would be like trying to sit on a three legged stool with one leg removed.  This would be an impossible balancing act! Yet, much of the Christian community attempts it today, and yes, they utterly fall flat in their faith because of it.  The Christian life is not meant to be lived with God and Jesus, but without the Holy Spirit (the third leg!).

To understand the contrast and the problem of substituting the Bible for the Holy Spirit, we need to understand the role of both the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Let’s start with the Holy Spirit.  Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit is huge.  We must live ‘in Christ’ but we must walk through that surrendered life ‘in the Spirit’.  In the Spirit here (and in the Bible) means hearing and receiving (the conviction, the knowledge, the prompts, the calls for action) from the Holy Spirit.  Both of these things lead to a supernatural spiritual healing first; a renewing of our minds to bring spiritual life versus spiritual death (John 6:63).  Secondly, the instruction and development of us by the Holy Spirit also brings gifts (Isiah 11); a long list of potential gifts that can be assigned by the Spirit to us personally.  The ‘walking in’ and the ‘gifting of’ the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) produces fruit(s) that are listed out by Paul (Galatians 5:22-23). The resulting fruit becomes the proof of our being ‘in Christ’ and walking ‘in the Spirit’.  Walking or living in the Holy Spirit means allowing Him to lead our life, our decisions and our actions (Ezekiel 36:27).  Just like being ‘in Christ’ is a literal submission of our identity and pride (basically full surrender of ‘self’), being or living ‘in the Spirit’ is a submission of our thoughts and actions to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Doing the latter allows the Holy Spirit to impact our personal spirit (the spiritual creation in our physical body) through the renewing of our mind and our path through current direction.  The Holy Spirit may also come ‘on us’ or manifest ‘in us’ in power.  These occasions can include supernatural miracles that He does through us.  Simply reading the Bible without the Spirit, does not do any of these things (the Pharisees, of old and modern day, knew and now know the Scriptures well).  Rather the Bible is a special tool of the Spirit (called the sword of the Spirit) to empower our development and functioning and that of the Kingdom of God.

In Part 2, we will discuss the Bible’s role in our lives.  In the meantime, let’s personally consider whether our spiritual life is teetering on a 2-legged stool, or firmly undergirded by an amazing triune God.  If the prior is the case, what do we need to do, commit or pursue to better understand the power we are missing in the active Holy Spirit?

Derek Dougherty

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God’s Plan, Jesus’ Contribution, and Our Place Part 3 of 3: Our Part ‘in Christ’

In Christ

Our assigned part of God’s plan is to be ‘in Christ’.  Our priority is not to be ‘in Church’.  In the last 50 years in America we have replaced ‘in Christ’ with ‘in church’. Have we traded Exodus 20:3 (‘no other gods before me’) for Hebrew 10:25 (‘forsake not the gathering’)?  When was the last time you heard someone say, “we missed you in church today?’ In contrast, when was the last time you heard someone say, ‘Are you living ‘in Christ’ today? When someone is not living right, we say, “they need to be in church” or “I’m trying to get them back into church” when in reality showing up on Sunday morning alone may not solve the problem or fill the need that only Christ can fill.  The promises of God are NOT true and “Yes” in the physical church, rather they ARE all “Yes” in Jesus Christ.

Has America’s modern-day church traded attendance or participation in a community of ‘believers’ for living ‘in Christ’?  The latter pursuit and position, ‘in Christ’, is finding your surrendered identity in Jesus and living in God’s kingdom today (see Part II regarding kingdom differences). The prior, participating in church, is a good joint venture for sharing life with and supporting like-minded believers. Wake up church! The kingdom doesn’t exist for the local church — rather, the local church is to be for the building of the kingdom.  Similar to personal placement of ‘God first, me second’, at the scale of the church, it needs to be ‘kingdom first, local church second’.  And when it is done well, ‘church’ is kingdom empowering.  When an individual Christian fully surrenders to Christ and serves in obedience, he or she becomes the living will of Christ, i.e. ‘not my will but thine’.  This is beautiful, fruitful, and kingdom supporting.  Similarly, when a group of believers in a local church collectively surrenders, putting church goals subject to Christ, the promises of God are witnessed at a great level.

Don’t wait ‘til the judgement to discover the mystery of Matthew 7:21-23. It is not your church membership or local church growth that includes you in the kingdom of God, i.e. not your physical gathering and attendance and church numbers that get you included. Rather it is your true knowledge of Christ (through relationship) and service (faith with works) of his Father that include you. You see, if you are not ‘in Christ’, you are not in the eternal Church, i.e. Jesus Christ is the Way.  There is no physical church in this direct equation.

Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’   Surely, members of the physical American church will not be turned away from heaven?  Wake up!  The truth is that many, many church members, pastors, song leaders, Sunday school teachers, elders and deacons will not make the cut. Jesus Christ is the only Way. There is no substitute and there is no participation trophy. God sees the heart of a man, not just his physical appearance and empty words and posturing.  If you are hiding behind your Bible, your attendance record, or your service record and thinking that saves your soul or impacts the life of others with a great return, wake up, repent and seek Him today.

What about your denomination?  Will it save you? Will it distract you or others? Is there a verse in the bible that says, “Blessed are the Baptists (or Methodists, or Pentecostals, etc.), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? For fear of false doctrines, have we really disunified God’s kingdom?  Is there more than one Word and more than one Holy Spirit? And do we really defend kingdom disunity under ‘different styles of worship’ and different interpretations of secondary scriptures?  Who benefits from disunity? Maybe the author of confusion?  And how does this bring clarity to the potential new believer? We can create lots of groups, i.e. family, church, denominations, but Jesus distinguished like this in Matthew 12:48-50, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers.  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

God’s plan is a redeemed man living in God’s presence.  His method for making this so is Jesus Christ.  Jesus extends the plan and includes His disciples when He says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”   As we follow Jesus in our personal life, and serve with others in our corporate worship life, remember, there is but one Lord, and if we serve Him, we cannot be first.  Similarly, there is but one kingdom of God.  If we are a subject of it, we cannot be first.  So, whose kingdom are we building? And is our church working to increase membership in God’s kingdom, or its own?  And is our denomination adding to the unified kingdom of God, or running its own venture?  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.

Derek Dougherty

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God’s Plan, Jesus’s Contribution, and Our Place – Part 2 of 3: Christ’s Contribution

contribution

Three words, “God with Man”, describe God’s desired end game well; a Holy loving God living with His redeemed people.  If only given one word for God’s plan, it would be “Immanuel” meaning God with us.  Jesus, as we more commonly refer to Immanuel, was God’s Word (John 1:1) to us.  In His modeled, surrendered state, He is God the Father’s will and He is literally God the Father’s work (viewed in His part at creation; in the ‘works of God’ on earth; in interceding for us even now; in preparing a place for us; and on and on). He is the Word, the Will, the Work, the Way, the Truth, the Resurrection and the Life.  In a word, ‘Jesus’ is the plan for a righteous, free-willed people to be with God in a restored order (Revelations 21-22).

This was revealed in great depth to the Apostle Paul who worded it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ”. God spoke many promises to men, and all of them are proved true, or are “Yes”, in Jesus.  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? God’s word is solid, unchanging, and carried out – through Christ and through Christ obedient followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

If space were not an issue (the Bible couldn’t hold all there was to say of Him and this devotional sure won’t) we could consider Christ’s contributions of teaching of truth, performing of miracles, one sacrifice for all sin, defeat of death and the grave, afterlife place preparation, intercession, and then the pending promises of return, justice, and reign.  But with space being limited, let’s tackle one that although it was so high on Jesus’s teaching topics, it is rarely described much in churches today in the way Jesus described it. Let’s consider His establishment of the kingdom.

In Matthew 3:2, we see John the Baptist speaking of Jesus saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”   In Matthew 4:17, Jesus repeats the very same saying personally. Both the forerunner John and the messiah Jesus, are fulfilling prophesy (Isaiah 40:3; Isiah 9:7) in their actions and statements. The kingdom has come into men’s presence.  A kingdom of which it says in Isaiah 9:7 whose ruler’s “greatness of His government and peace there will be no end.”

When asked by the Pharisees in Luke 17:20-21 when the kingdom would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Rather than something to be observed it is something to be found.  Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added until you.” And when truly found, all material and worldly things will be forfeit before it.  In Matthew 44-46, Jesus shows us, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

While the spiritual kingdom is not physically observed, there is a great Kingdom Difference that can be realized; one worth a full change of life’s focus.  Consider the difference of kingdom salvation (John 3:16-18) versus eternal damnation.  Consider abundant kingdom life versus eternal death (John 10:10).  A worldly burden of guilt versus the kingdom’s religious liberty (Romans 8:1-2). Faith in God versus fear of man or circumstance (Hebrews 13:6). Trust versus anxiety or worry (Matthew 6:25-34).  Purposefulness versus aimlessness (Jeremiah 29:11).  Passion versus depression (Lamentations 3:22-24).  Assurance versus doubt (1 John 5:13).  Full knowledge versus ignorance (Colossians 2:2).  Peace versus turmoil (Isaiah 26:3).  Can you ‘see’ this kingdom worth trading all for?  ‘In Christ’ the kingdom is in your midst and present and a different lifestyle is possible.   Seek Him and His righteousness today.

Derek Dougherty

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