THE FORGOTTEN DOCTRINE – Part II

Part 1 dealt with some basic definitions as well as “WHERE WE ARE” on the filling of the Holy Spirit. I continue with some concerns and challenges.

WHAT WE MISS!  The Holy Spirit filled life is not only a specific command and teaching of the Bible, but it may also serve as a summary phrase for some of the doctrine of sanctification by grace. God’s Spirit working in, with, to, and through us to grow us in holiness, love, and faith making us more like our Lord Jesus inside and out (Phil. 2:12,13) is the Spirit filled life.

When preachers and teachers reduce our faith to confessions and creeds (though they may be Biblically accurate and necessary) then instruct people how to live and behave (even using the Scriptures) but DO NOT teach the truth about the filling of the Spirit, we fail them and the Gospel. This practice produces pride, Pharisee-ism, frustration, and even false converts. When we as Christians  intimate that the experience of salvation is to try to do better in our strength and somehow to “hold out faithful to the end”, we are of all men most miserable. Because of lack of instruction, many think the Christian life doesn’t work when the truth is, for most church members, the real Christian life has not been tried! We MUST teach that: 1- We cannot do what the Bible commands in our own strength. Christ never intended this. 2-Through His Spirit, He desires to live in and through us by faith. We must believe Him to do what He has commanded to be done. 3- We MUST teach one another how to seek and receive and maintain the power that works in us by the domination of His Holy Spirit.

We deceive people when we merely instruct and inspire them for better behavior and obedience, allowing them to think that by law, works, or efforts of the flesh they may please the Lord. By teaching that we can live apart from the Spirit controlled life, we “fall from grace” in the area of sanctification by the Spirit. Jesus said in John 5:30, “I  can of Myself do nothing…” (an incredible statement for the Son of God). How could we not take Him seriously in His teaching on abiding in Him in John 15:5 when He said, “…without Me you can do nothing”?  This is more than just a generic truth but is specifically designed by God to be accomplished by the filling of His Spirit in the believer.

WHAT GOD GAVE! For the doctrinally diligent among us, consider this: The Holy Spirit’s fullness indeed does make us more like our Lord. To be godly and represent His name Elohim, (Gen. 1:1) meaning among other things, the God of fullness, we must ourselves be full of His Spirit. The song writer said, “His height exceeds the Heavens, His weight out-weighs the world, His reach reaches everywhere, His age is evermore.” No wonder the Scripture says, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16); and “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him…” (Col. 2:9,10).

What God gives is fullness, and Who He gives is His Holy Spirit! He indwells every believer at conversion. Then we continue to yield so the Spirit of Christ may be Who He is in who we are so we can be who we are supposed to be. This is the grace for living, and it is found in Jesus by His Spirit’s fullness in each believer. He is the very dynamic of His own demands. “Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).

Since early this year when God again visited me on this subject to revitalize these truths in me and my ministry, there have been attacks, struggles, failures, and victories. Oh how I thank Him for walking with me in all this! I still believe what our Lord Jesus shouted at the feast in John 7:37f, “…’If anyone thirsts, let him come unto Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive;…” A river is defined by its source, its course, its force, and its capacity. We must seek to define our faith not only by doctrine and duty but also by its dynamic!

Now some questions for us all: Is the teaching you give, seek, and receive FULL of the filling of His Spirit? Are you seeking Him and His fullness in your life? Are you asking God what hinders Him from filling you? Are you seeking through knowledge of the Word and obedience to increase the capacity of the river of your heart?

Your servant,

Glenn Rogers – July 2013

 

A FORGOTTEN DOCTRINE – Part 1

Yes, there is a doctrine, and therefore a family of truths, that is as Gospel based as can be but has fallen off the preaching and teaching landscape in our churches today. That truth is the filling of the Holy Spirit! Surely someone receiving this message will say, “Well, I just preached on it”, or “I teach that regularly”. Good, but you are the exception. I occasionally hear this truth expressed in prayer but rarely expounded in the pulpits.

Now, I don’t mean to convey we only need a sermon on this here and there. Much more than that, this whole group of  Gospel truths – dying to self and being risen with Christ – must be applied to our lives and woven into the very fabric of our messages. This is sanctification by the Spirit. More later on why this is vital.

In this writing I am not attempting to expound this great teaching. Yet for clarity’s sake, I am speaking of He, the Holy Spirit, being in control of the believer’s life. That same dominating, possessing, inherent control that Jesus walked in, we must have also. This is not emotion; it is empowerment.  It is not a feeling but a filling! In Eph. 5:18, “be filled” is in the imperative, meaning a command. More so, it is a present tense, indicating a consistent experience. Interestingly, it is in the passive voice, meaning we are acted upon – we cannot do this! Does this mean we are commanded to do something we cannot do? Precisely! This is the same pattern theologically as “you must be born again”, and we know we cannot save ourselves. God is the initiator, and we are the respondents. In Acts 4:8, Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit”. Again, it is in the passive voice but here in an aorist tense, telling us that at this particular point in time this filling was done to him. Yes, God’s Spirit just landed on him, a special touch for a specific task. So whether it is us seeking this powerful filling or God sending it for special times, WE NEED HIS FILLING POWER and are meant to serve Him with it! While this is obviously mystical, it is also objective since the Word of God is our guide for life in the Spirit (Col 3:16).

WHERE ARE WE? In the 70’s and 80’s, every itinerant evangelist I knew and all solid Bible-centered pastors preached on the filling of the Spirit. Some of this came in seeking to clear up some neo-pentecostal confusion, but thankfully it went way beyond that. Conferences abounded, tapes were heard and shared, and churches were alive and hungry to hear more. There was a genuine move of God in Baptist and Evangelical churches by the dear Holy Spirit teaching us how He works in and through us to empower us, exalting Jesus as we show and share the Gospel.

This teaching went by many names such as “the abundant life”, “the exchanged life”, “the deeper life” (the name of my seminary course), “the saving life of Christ”, “life in Christ” and more. It was often said, “Whatever you call it, get it!”

Today there is hardly a peep. I recently met a godly man who has a sound background in this area who told me that in eleven years in area churches he has not heard one sermon on this area of sanctification. This may be isolated, but I believe it is representative. I will not take time to expound all the reasons for the dearth of these truths; but let it be noted: the teaching has faded, and so have we!

1 Kings 14:26-28 tells about how Rehoboam replaced the gold shields Solomon made (which were stolen by Egypt) with bronze shields. These shields were used to honor the king. What does it take to make bronze look like gold? A lot of elbow grease, i.e. a lot of effort of the flesh. It was still a substitute. I’m afraid we have substituted the fleshly effort of the bronze shields of Church Growth techniques and tools from the Leadership movement for Holy Spirit power. My late father was a highly-skilled professional craftsman, and I inherited nearly all his tools. I may sharpen them and polish them and attempt to use them, but I still do not possess the skill and power with which he worked. We keep polishing our tools rather than seeking from God “gold refined in the fire” (Rev 3:18).

As I conclude this portion, I will add one thing that relates to a wider subject: Nothing will affect our prayer life like the seeking of the fullness of the Holy Spirit through His Word!

Resurrection Reductions

Having set out earlier to write on this, I had hoped to encourage the Pastors and teachers as they prepared for the ministry of the Word during Easter Services.  Alas, Good Friday is here, I still hope it is timely to offer to strengthen us with these comments.

It is great to celebrate the Resurrection or our Lord Jesus, not only by our regular day of worship but on a special day we have come to call Easter. In that context I have an admonition and two points of clarity.

The admonition is to avoid the simplistic victory cliches unless you will expound them well. I have heard too many Easter morning messages that amounted to “yeah God, our side wins”. I do not usually conclude that this is the pastor’s full understanding of the subject but why make reductions about such a great, deep, far reaching, and glorious subject. While the “we win” idea is true in the greater context of the Gospel, be wise. There are many, many who attend Easter services (even some regular church attenders) who are just happy to hear a message of triumph and victory. Everybody likes a winner and an over-comer, right? Their need is the have the Gospel applied not reduced, with the ramifications of the resurrection past, present, and future expounded with great joy and soberness! While the Easter message is our most automatic and taylor made positive subject it still must be presented so that life change can occur, not merely a temporary upsurge in encouragement.

In addition to the Gospel accounts, 1 Corinthians 15 best lays out key reasons for the imporance of Christ’s resurrection (and ours as well). Granted some of the early sermons in Acts (on which I wrote volumes in seminary) do seem to emphasize the impact of the event of Jesus being alive again without much theological elaboration. For most of those brethren to have seen Jesus crucified with all hope lost and then to see or hear that He is alive is powerful enough to turn lost hope into forever faith. Yet looking at the Epistles that follow the event it becomes obvious that God wants us to gain and proclaim the full ramifications of the resurrection. This gives God glory and is what people today need. Again, “yeah God, our side wins” may be correct but is so thin, that without context and consequences and content, it may be heard only as a “feel good” message that could end badly for too many!

That said, I offer two points of clarity that are vital to any redemptive presentation of the resurrection. Since the Gospel is essentially who Jesus and what He did (and why and how to respond etc.) here are some essentials.

Romans 1:4 tells us that He is “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It would take weeks at minimum to unpack that but it does give us a “short course’ on who He is as now confirmed by His bodily resurrection. When we say, “He is risen” it is great to be reminded who He is that is now alive forever more and that we will know Him as Savior or as Judge but we will know the risen Lord. Acts 17:22-34 gives further clarity and confirmation of how powerful the proclamation of the resurrection can be.

In Romans 4, after describing our sinful, condemned, and eternally hopeless condition God gives Paul the correlation of the man Abraham to illustrate a vital truth, and to begin to unfold our greatest need, i.e. to be made righteous in God’s sight. He concludes this section in speaking of our Lord Jesus with verse 25 saying, “who was delivered up because of our offenses, and raised because of our justification.” This points to what He did and why as well.

These two verses not only tell us a lot of truth about our risen Lord they also form the basis of the good news of the resurrection which, with clarity, must be proclaimed in order that people may experience salvation with understanding and to really believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead!

This is what we want for people and helps us to see what the Psalmist said, “His glory is great in thy salvation.” Let us not reduce the resurrection but rather reach deep into the Word and spread widely and wisely it’s truth.

Glenn Rogers, March 27, 2013