Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Responding to the Growing Spiritual Darkness.

Our nation and the world have witnessed an overwhelming amount of change the past couple months following the death of George Floyd. Many voices for change have been positive, such as the efforts by peaceful protestors to secure racial equality and justice for the African American community. Other voices, however, have adopted violence as their primary tool for change, evidenced by the devastating riots sweeping through many of our cities – creating chaos, social upheaval, and a trail of destruction. These agitators seem intent on hijacking the peaceful effort to end racism, and using the moment instead to create anarchy and fuel revolution. Many in the movement are especially hostile to the Church and God’s people.

Using social media and intimidation to eradicate dissent, these militants demand allegiance to their radical worldview. They are intolerant of those who disagree, insisting such people be fired from their jobs, suspended from their colleges, removed from their communities, and canceled from the culture. Their aggressive and threatening tactics have had a disturbing effect on people across the country.

Many now live in fear that something they say could cost them their career, their reputation, their safety, or their freedom. As a result, many have resorted to silence, self-censorship, or an outward embrace of an ideology they inwardly loathe. These acts of timidity and compromise are understandable when you consider the stakes.

Sadly, these feelings of fear and trembling have infected those inside the church as well. Feelings compounded by the growing effort by many elected officials to place restrictions on church attendance, Christian worship, home-based Bible studies, and obedience to our Lord. Afraid of the power wielded by these civic authorities and angry agitators, and intimidated by their threats and belligerent postures, many Christians have silently submitted to the state. Others have reluctantly conformed the expression of their faith to the rigid restrictions of elected officials, unelected militants, and self-appointed social media bullies.

As I considered this changing cultural landscape and reflected on what God would have His people do, a very relevant verse of Scripture came to mind.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT).

This verse, which no doubt many readers will be familiar with, is both encouraging and challenging. It draws a clear distinction between the spirit at work in the world and the Spirit that rests on God’s people, offering us a reminder that “He who is in us (the Holy Spirit) is greater than he who is in the world (the spirit of antichrist)” (1 John 4:4). The Spirit of God strengthens us to confront and respond to those who sow chaos, hate, and deceit; to those who seek to weaken and dismantle the church.

We must remember that we do not operate in a spirit of fear, cowardice, or timidity. The world, however, does because it is not empowered by the Holy Spirit and does not have the love of God in its heart. But God’s love does abide in us, and that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

Some may disagree and say, “Look at the disciples who trembled in fear when a storm jeopardized their safety on the water. And what about, Peter? His fear of an angry mob caused him to lie about his relationship with Jesus the night before Christ’s death on the cross.”

It is true that Peter and the other disciples displayed fear and timidity during their time with Jesus. But all that happened before the Holy Spirit descended on them in Jerusalem. Post-Pentecost Peter, in contrast, boldly proclaims Christ wherever he goes, even when Jewish religious leaders threaten him and subject him to flogging.

Instead of being saddled by a spirit of fear and timidity, then, we are emboldened by the Holy Spirit. This is not the generic power of influential and mighty people. It is power infused by the Holy Spirit. “’Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). We are supernaturally empowered to behave with boldness.

That supernatural boldness, in turn, is to be used for supernatural purposes. We are not empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our worldly dreams, achieve worldly success, or satisfy our selfish ambitions. Instead, we use it to advance God’s agenda, do the Lord’s will, and proclaim the Good News of Christ to a dying world.

Holy Spirit power confronts evil, protects the oppressed, cares for the exploited, speaks for the voiceless, intervenes on behalf of the marginalized, defends the helpless, comforts the downtrodden, encourages the discouraged, opposes the wicked, extends hope to the hopeless, and stands for righteousness.

Perhaps most of all, Holy Spirit power speaks truth to a world engulfed by lies and deceit. When society lies, misrepresents, fabricates, distorts, and deceives, we must counter with truth. Truth grounded in Scripture: unvarnished, hope-restoring, soul-nourishing, sin-exposing, outlook-encouraging, purpose-giving, God-glorifying, biblical truth.

Truth points people back to God. Truth reveals the sin in our lives. Truth makes known the Creator. Truth unveils God’s love for us. Truth discloses our need for repentance. Truth communicates God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Truth speaks to our need for regeneration, redemption, justification, and sanctification. Truth informs us of God’s holiness and His desire that we pursue godliness, righteousness, and obedience. Truth shifts our focus away from ourselves and our circumstances, and reorients it towards God and His magnificence.

Truth exposes and refutes the relentless litany of lies the god of this age tells us: God is not real; God does not care; God did not create the heavens and the earth; God is not omnipotent; God is not worthy of our worship; Jesus was just a man; Jesus is one of many ways to God; Jesus did not live a perfect life; Jesus was not resurrected; Jesus is not coming back; We are good enough; We can earn our way to heaven; We can say the sinner’s prayer and keep living the same lives; We are the centrality of the gospel; We can ignore Scripture when it doesn’t appeal to us or it makes us uncomfortable; We control our own destinies; Absolute truth does not exist; Sin is a silly invention of man; Faith is foolish; Hell is a myth.

We could spend days listing the lies that Satan sells and tells. After all, he is the father of lies and there is no truth in him. And deception is one of the defining features of the end times and the antichrist who “through his cunning will cause deceit to prosper under his rule” (Daniel 8:25). The antichrist’s reign is built on lies crafted so cunningly that they deceive everyone in the world except those sealed by the Spirit of God. Billions of people will embrace and peddle his deceptions in the end, including the powerful, wealthy, intellectual, and elite – from politicians and business titans to cultural icons and celebrities.

Sadly, millions of churchgoers will renounce their faith and leave the church after falling for his falsehoods. These are those who claim Jesus as Lord with their lips but whose hearts are far from him. They pledge their fidelity to Christ as long as He makes them the center of His universe, gives them the worldly desires of their hearts, bequeaths them lives of comfort, leisure, success, and happiness, and makes no substantive demands of them. They proclaim Christ as long as it benefits them materially, socially, financially, and professionally. But as soon as their (faux) faith jeopardizes their career, their status, their safety, their prosperity, their reputation, their freedom, and their lives, then they repudiate Jesus and disown their faith. These are those prophesied by Hosea, God’s people who are destroyed for lack of knowledge (truth).

In addition to a Spirit of power to speak the truth boldly, the Lord gives us a Spirit of love. Love bestowed on us by the Spirit is supernatural, allowing us to love not as the world does but as Jesus loves. Unconditionally. Sacrificially. Selflessly. And not just love those who love us in return, but the stranger and enemy as well.

Love should also compel us to speak truth to those who have yet to surrender their lives to Jesus: friends, strangers, colleagues, neighbors, associates, and family alike. Refusing to share the Good News of Christ with those around us is the ultimate act of selfishness and reveals an absence of genuine love for those in our lives.

Keep in mind that a considerable cost exists for boldly proclaiming Christ, speaking truth, and sharing the Gospel. Jesus warned His followers: “You will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are My disciples. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other” (Matthew 24:9-10, NLT).

It seems that truth has never been as much a reality in America as it is now. Fortunately, God gives us a spirit of self-discipline (as Paul reminds us above in 2 Timothy 1:7). And as with Holy Spirit power and love, Holy Spirit self-discipline is supernatural. By the Spirit we will remain steadfast, faithful, and unshakeable in our faith irrespective of the hate, violence, and bullying that confronts us. When faced with incarceration, fines, criminal prosecution, and state-sponsored discrimination we will not compromise, soften, betray, or renounce our commitment to Christ.

Friends, the speed with which our society is devolving into a land of unbridled immorality is breathtaking. It appears we are hurtling towards the end of the age at an ever-increasing velocity. Witness the escalating violence, greed, idolatry, pride, perversion, and selfishness that define our nation and compare that with these words from the apostle Paul:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NKJV).

Regardless of how close we are to end times, though, we are definitely entering a season of deep spiritual darkness in this country. God appears to be withdrawing that which restrains sin (2 Thessalonians 2:7), allowing our nation to pursue its lusts and desires unfettered.

Which means things will get worse. Society will celebrate sin more unabashedly and condemn morality more harshly. Rebellion against God will increase in intensity. We will witness horrifying acts of wickedness on an almost daily basis. And rampant depravity will saturate society.

Brothers and sisters, we have a biblical mandate to confront this growing evil in society. But we must awake from our spiritual slumber. We must steadfastly stand in the gap, speak truth, and show love. And encourage others to do the same (encouragement is oh so important in these troubling times).

We must not fear the forces of evil. We cannot remain silent as the enemy attacks our faith. We must resist the temptation to timidly withdraw from the battle before us.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Guilt – Conviction – Grace

An increasingly popular view among Christians is that God does not want us to feel bad about ourselves. Since by God’s grace no condemnation awaits the believer, we often conclude that any feelings of guilt or remorse are an attempt by Satan to diminish our joy and spoil our delight in the Lord. Since God builds His people up and such emotions run counter to that objective, they cannot come from Him.

But we need to be careful. While the devil indeed uses guilt to demoralize us, a danger exists when we assume that feelings of remorse and shame never have a place in a Christian’s life; that they are contrary to a healthy faith. In fact, we do ourselves a spiritual disservice when we categorically dismiss such emotions as an attempt by Satan to render us spiritually ineffective. Scripture actually informs us those feelings play a critical role in our spiritual growth and maturation.

The apostle Paul wrote the following words to the church at Corinth, after learning of their sorrow over his first epistle to them: “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it” (2 Corinthians 7:8, NKJV). His first message had made the church uncomfortable and led to feelings of grief, yet Paul doesn’t apologize for or regret his words. How could so prominent a church leader be so insensitive to the feelings of believers? Listen to his reasoning.

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (vs. 9-11, emphasis mine).

Paul informs us there are instances when sorrow and remorse are appropriate. Indeed, he clearly asserts they represent a godly response to sin. Consequently, when he learned of the Corinthian church’s sorrow he rejoiced, because that sorrow led to repentance from the sins that had ensnared them. Whenever feelings of regret or guilt lead to repentance and the accompanying forgiveness, we too ought to rejoice.

Therein lies the distinction determining whether such emotions are healthy or unhealthy. When guilt surfaces for past sin from which we have already repented and received God’s forgiveness, we know Satan lies behind the attack and hopes to discourage and neutralize us. He loves to remind Christians of our past in a futile attempt to forget about his future. In such situations we should ignore our feelings of guilt and shame and instead rejoice over God’s mercy and forgiveness.

On the other hand, if such feelings are a product of unaddressed sin we’ve allowed to flourish in our lives – and from which we’ve never repented – then we know the Holy Spirit lies behind those pricks to our conscience. One of the critical roles the Holy Spirit plays in every believer’s life is bringing to bear conviction when we sin or toy with temptation. In such instances we need to confess our iniquity and ask God’s forgiveness. If we don’t, we risk becoming desensitized to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and suffering a slow spiritual decay.

Avoiding that outcome is one reason Paul tells us not to regret godly sorrow. It leads to salvation and a healthy relationship with Christ. In contrast, the world’s sorrow always produces death because it never recognizes the spiritual component of regret and guilt, and therefore can never properly address their root cause.

Take some time to examine the source of any guilt or shame you feel. Do not allow Satan to use those emotions to steal your joy and peace in Christ. But also resist the temptation to ignore them if they reveal the existence of ongoing sin. Remember, whenever we repent God extends His forgiveness.

Understanding the Bible: You Needn’t Be a Scholar to Comprehend God’s Truth.

Many people in the world today want to understand the Bible but feel entirely unqualified to unlock its truths. They believe only pastors or those with a seminary degree possess the requisite qualifications to fully understand God’s Word and the truths it contains. As a result, they spend little time reading and studying Scripture. Instead, they embrace as truth whatever message they hear on Sunday, at a Bible study, or on Christian radio. Perhaps some readers share that perspective.

If that’s you, I’ve got great news. Irrespective of your educational background, lack of training, or absence of credentials, you can understand the Bible without having to rely on others to tell you what a particular passage means, what insight God wants you to glean, or how to apply a specific verse to your life. How is that possible?

First, we need to understand that God reveals His truth through His Spirit. At the end of His ministry Jesus told the disciples, “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13, NKJV). Paul reinforces that truth in his epistle to the church at Corinth, saying: “God has revealed [His mysteries] to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10, NKJV).

Scripture leaves no ambiguity on this point. It is the Holy Spirit that guides our understanding of the Bible and equips us with the wisdom to discern the mysteries of God. God’s truths are not manifested to the carnal man, no matter how much study he dedicates to them, because they are fathomed under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Jesus reinforces this point when he chastises those who refuse to repent despite hearing His teaching and observing His miracles. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, NKJV). Men and women with considerable intellectual heft failed to understand God’s simple truths but young children comprehended them with no difficulty.

This disparity confounds the world but makes perfect sense when filtered through Christ’s words. Jesus tells us that God reveals His truths and mysteries to whom He will and withholds them from whom He will. In this instance, God revealed them to young children and withheld them from those the world considered brilliant.

So do we sit back and do nothing to learn more about God and Scripture? Absolutely not. To ensure God opens the eyes of our heart to His Word, we must surrender our lives to Christ. Only then will the Holy Spirit come upon us and reveal God’s thoughts and truths. One of the reasons so few professors, scientists, and intellectuals understand God’s Word in any substantive way is that they refuse to embrace Christ and submit to Him as Lord. Pride prevents them from committing their lives to Him and accepting the simplicity of the Gospel; as a result God withholds spiritual understanding from them.

Additionally, we should read the Bible on a regular basis. That is critically important. Jesus told His disciples, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:24-25, NLT). The same principle applies to reading God’s Word. The more we read, the more understanding God gives us. And as we understand more, we will want to read more, and God will reveal more. And a virtuous cycle begins.

In contrast, if we rarely read the Bible or study its content, then God will remove from our hearts and minds what little understanding we have. Either we are building on our foundation of biblical knowledge or it is being dismantled. The status quo never remains.

As you head into this weekend, reflect on whether you are establishing a sound foundation in the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If not, commit to reading your Bible on a regular basis and build it into your schedule so it becomes a habit. If you live in a part of the world where you do not have access to a church or Christian teaching, rejoice that God reveals Himself and His ways to those who read and study His Word, the Bible. You need only ask His Spirit to open your eyes and your heart to the truth.