Respond

Put on the helmet of salvation
Put on the breastplate of righteousness
Clothe your whole being in holy armor
Worthy to stand the test

We’re in the battle of the ages
In the Lord’s army there’s no retreat
Fighting against the powers of darkness
For us there is no defeat

(It’s War/Change The World, 1985 Words and Music by Dallas Holm)

In the last Praiseletter we discussed how to prepare for the present situation we find ourselves in regarding increased persecution against Christianity by the government and any and all opposed to biblical truth.

We identified the fact that the real battle is: “…Against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

We are clearly at war with the enemy of our souls and with those authorities and systems who ascribe to his rule and not God’s.

It’s war we’re fighting
It’s war we’re going to win
It’s war we’re fighting
And we’re fighting this war to win

So the question arises, “How do we as Christians respond to authorities and rulers when they mandate that which opposes the precepts of scripture and the laws of God?”

To arrive at a biblically based understanding, we must first examine what the role of government should be according to scripture.

Without going through every scripture dealing with this topic, starting perhaps with God’s instructions to Noah way back in Genesis 9:5-6, where God institutes a reckoning for the taking of a man’s life, to all subsequent instruction to the Israelites and their interactions with other cultures and governments, some who brought them into captivity; all the way down to New Testament times where Jesus, Peter and Paul (to name a few) taught “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”,“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities” and “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”, let us just draw a conclusion pertaining to government, from a biblical perspective: According to scripture, the role of government is to protect, punish and promote.

Protect: Government must initiate some form of restraint and rule to protect citizens from themselves.
Punish: Government must impose punishment upon criminals. Peter tells us that governors are “Sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers.” (I Peter 2:14)
Promote: Government should promote the general welfare of the community where its laws are in effect.

In one sense this is a “short list” and yet the role of government in all its detailed nuances are, from a biblical perspective, addressed in this brief description.

Complications arise in the minds of many a Christian when they read verses such as Romans 13:1-2 and I Peter 2:13-14.

Romans 13:1-2 states: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

I Peter 2:13-14 states: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as one in authority, or to governors as sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

So does God institute all governments, authorities, kings and presidents and ours is but to obey…end of story?!

This, of course, is where the complication arises in our thinking. Is there a difference between submitting and obeying?

I believe the answer is yes.

The Greek word used in both these verses (and others) meaning to submit or be in subjection to, is the word, hupotasso. It literally means to arrange things respectfully, in an orderly manner underneath.

It is important to note that there is a vast difference between subjection and subjugation!

The Greek word for obey is hupokouo. This word is used in verses that speak of obedience; however, it is not the word used in these scriptures regarding submitting and being in subjection. The original meaning of social orderliness denoted in the word hupotasso would have been understood in its proper context by the original readers.

Scripture does not instruct us to acquiesce to a person or system that demands obedience, by brute force if necessary, nor can the laws of man or governments ever take precedence over the laws of God.

Dr. Wayne Grudem in his book, Christian Ethics, addresses this issue in a timely and biblically based manner. He writes:
God does not hold people responsible to obey the civil government when obedience would mean directly disobeying a command of God himself. This principle is indicated by a number of passages in the narrative sections of the Bible.

One clear example comes from the early days of the Christian church. After Jesus had commanded the apostles to preach the gospel (see Matt. 28:19-20), the Jewish governing authority, the Sanhedrin, arrested some of them and ordered them “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). But the apostles Peter and John answered, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (v.20), and later Peter proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men” (5:29).

This is a clear affirmation of the principle that God requires his people to disobey the civil government if obedience would mean directly disobeying God.

Other passages also establish this. In Daniel 3:13-20, King Nebuchadnezzar commanded three Jewish men-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-to bow down and worship a golden statue that he had erected. But they refused and said, “We will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v.18). God showed his approval of their actions by rescuing them from the burning fiery furnace (vv.19-30).

Daniel likewise disobeyed a law that prohibited him from praying to God (see Dan. 6:10). In addition, when King Herod commanded the wise men to return and tell him where the newborn King of the Jews was to be found, they were warned by an angel not to heed this command, so they disobeyed Herod and “departed to their own country by another way” (see Matt. 2:8, 12).

John Calvin put it this way:
But in that obedience which we have shown to be due to the authority of rulers, we are always to make this exception…that such obedience is never to lead us away from obedience to Him, to whose will the desires of all kings ought to be subject…And how absurd would it be that in satisfying man you should incur the displeasure of Him for whose sake you obey men themselves! The Lord, therefore is the King of Kings…If they command anything against Him, let it go unesteemed.

Flesh and blood is not what we’re fighting
We fight against what we cannot see
The prince of power of the air
Accuser of you and me

It’s so important to remember this lest we develop bitterness and even hatred towards those we disagree with, even those in positions of governmental leadership.

We are called as Christians to pray for our governing authorities.

“First of all then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” (I Timothy 2:1-3)

Simple question: Do we pray for our governmental leaders as much as we complain about them?

I strongly disagree with and am quite frankly shocked by some of the policies being put in play even as I write this letter. But as a Christian, I am called to grumble less and pray more!

I am committed to obey God’s laws first and foremost no matter the cost, and there may be an increasing cost in the days ahead for those of unwavering commitment to Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it, “The Cost of Discipleship.”

James Renwick, the last leader of the Scottish “Covenanters” in the 1600s, after enduring torture and imprisonment (he was ultimately beheaded) for his unwavering faith in Christ, stated at the young age of twenty-seven, “I have oft counted the cost of serving Christ but never thought it would be so easy.”

Easy! Yes, according to young James, God’s grace was there in ample supply in his time of great need.

That same sufficient grace will always be there for us too when needed. I fear we sometimes lose perspective in the muddle of political chaos and end times pressures.

Truth has defeated the deceiver
Hell has no power to wound the Son
So why do we fight like we’re losing the battle
When the victory’s already won

Battles come and go, leaders rise and fall, elections are won and lost, but the outcome of the “battle of the ages” is already established! “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)

This is how we Respond!

Prepare

I have watched the storm clouds gather on the horizon
I have listened to the distant thunder roll
I have felt a stronger current in the ocean
I have felt a stronger current in my soul

I have felt the earth tremble beneath my feet
I have heard the breakers crash upon the shore
I have seen a stronger wind begin to gather
I have heard the raindrops pounding on my door
Be my shelter, be my sanctuary
Spread your mighty loving wings and cover me

Be my Savior from the adversary
Be my ever present help in time of need
All the earth is groaning

Waiting for The Day
Find me to be faithful
Lead me in the Way
(Be My Shelter/Through The Flame 1990 Words and Music by Dallas Holm)

Although the lyrics to this song were penned over twenty years ago, the sense of an impending “storm” and need for shelter seems more urgent and real now than ever before. 2020 seemed to be a “perfect storm” of sorts that has left many if not all of us with a sense that things may never be quite the same.

Covid-19 has done great damage to the physical health of many, to the economic health of our nation and due to the political leveraging of this pandemic, on both sides of the aisle and even within the scientific community, it has affected the very integrity of this “One Nation Under God” constitutional republic.

Free and fair elections now take place in a fog of suspicion and beneath a cloud of cynicism. Violence, in ways that would have once been denounced, is now applauded by some as heroic. Censorship, once thought to be only relegated to communist regimes and third world countries, has now reared its ugly head from “sea to shining sea” and in our own backyard.

I could go on and list all the challenges and changes that have occurred in just recent months but I’m sure you’re fully aware and have yourselves been personally impacted by our present plight.

My greatest concern herein is the church, the body of Christ, every true believer and how we discern, prepare and respond.

I believe every true born again follower of Christ discerns that “The Times They are a Changin” as Dylan so poignantly penned decades ago. It is essential that we understand what we are dealing with amidst these present tensions and assaults.

I believe the Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly instructed the church at Ephesus and clearly instructs us today as to what (or who) we’re up against. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

If this is true, and it most certainly is, then our discerning, preparation and response must be rooted in the spiritual.

I love what Chuck Colson said some years ago: “The kingdom of God will never arrive on Air Force One!” This does not suggest that we shouldn’t exercise our constitutional rights to seek, by vote and involvement in our political structure, to establish men and women in significant places of leadership who will uphold the very rights and freedoms that have been clearly put forth in our nation’s founding documents.

However, if we put our hope and trust in even the best ideas of men and most noble attainments of their offerings, we will still miss the mark if we don’t discern, prepare and respond in light of the spiritual realities that represent the true issues in all of this.

I have, in this letter, referred to discerning, preparing and responding. I really don’t think much needs to be said about discerning, because I believe every true Christian who is filled with the Spirit of God, grounded in the Word and walking close to Jesus, with eyes wide open, sees and senses the situation we find ourselves in.

In the future, perhaps the next Praiseletter, I’ll talk more about how we respond in the midst of this present environment. For now however, I would like to talk about preparation.

I know there are many “preppers”, Christian and otherwise, who are storing up food and water, gasoline and generators, guns and ammo and much more, preparing for the seemingly likely impending storm.

I think wise and reasonable preparation is always a good plan. My Norwegian grandmother used to say, “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow…plan like you’re going to live forever!”

Wise instruction from a woman who came to America as a teenage girl, not knowing the language or what lay ahead. Thankfully, she came to know Jesus and learned the joy of living for His plans and purposes.

I believe you sense, as I do, an increase in persecution towards Christians and the Church in our country. It’s not new, it’s just becoming more obvious and aggressive, as scripture predicted it would.

Billy Graham wrote in 1957: “The Bible says that all who ‘desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said that as the time of His return draws nigh, ‘They will lay their hands on you and persecute you’ (Luke 21:12). We have no scriptural foundation for believing that we can forever escape being persecuted for Christ’s sake. The normal condition for Christians is that we should suffer persecution.”

Though we don’t know exactly what persecution might look like for us here in America, we are beginning to feel its effects and find ourselves wondering more about what lies ahead. I know this has caused concern, angst and yes, even fear in many.

If all we see happening presently and anticipate “down the road” is spiritual in essence, then shouldn’t our preparation be spiritual in essence?

I believe the answer is a resounding YES!

Paul identifies the rulers, powers and forces in his letter to the church in Ephesus. He then goes on to present a strategy or lay out a “game plan” as we might say.

‘Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:13-17)

In that portion of scripture Paul urges us to “take up, resist, stand firm, gird, put on, shod and extinguish”. All these are purposed and disciplined actions of preparation.

We prepare for a sport, we prepare for a vacation, we prepare our taxes, we prepare a meal and on and on it goes. In so many areas of life we understand clearly the importance and necessity of preparation. We wouldn’t expect to excel or succeed at a sport for which we have not systematically and diligently prepared.

We would not be too excited to eat a meal thrown together at the last minute without thoughtful preparation. Failure to keep track, organize and prepare our taxes properly can have severe consequences.

Failure to prepare day by day, moment by moment and step by step for the coming persecution can and will have severe consequences as well.

I am here reminded of a wonderful (and I believe appropriate) quote I read and committed to memory some thirty years ago, which I believe now serves us well.

“We fancy we could be heroic on some great occasion. We could die for Christ, we think, if called upon to lay down our life for Him. It is questionable, however, if we could, unless we have cultivated the martyr spirit hour by hour, for if our strength and desire to please God have failed in the trifles of our life, how can we be sure of them in the great testing? It is far harder to live for Christ moment by moment than it is to die once for Him; and if we wait for great occasions in which to display our fidelity, we shall find that our life has slipped away, and with it the opportunities which each hour has brought of proving our love to our Lord by being faithful in that which is least.”
(J. Gregory Mantle – Beyond Humiliation)

Therein is the key! Step by step, moment by moment and day by day being faithful in the least, thus assuring the strength, desire and ability to stand for Him when it matters most.

I can almost hear the host of Heaven singing
I can almost feel the power around the throne
While I wait to make that final distant journey
And until I finally make that place my home

Prepare!

In Times Like These

As I sit down to write this letter, it is approaching the middle of November. I just finished my morning walk amidst the cool breeze of autumn’s breath. Leaves are falling everywhere which only adds to the joy of this season I have been anticipating greatly through the heat of summer.

We’ve still got some leaves on the trees and there remains a faint reminder of the annual miracle of season change accompanied by the wondrous transformation of green into golds, reds, and oranges.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I love the Thanksgiving celebration because first of all, I have so much to be thankful for. Of course there’s also the four days of food, family, friends and fellowship. Oh, one more…football!

I was saddened to hear just yesterday that the Greenberg Smoked Turkey business, located right here in Tyler, Texas, suffered an explosion due to some mechanical failure. This 82 year old business ships some 200,000 turkeys all around the world each holiday season. (They’re really good!)

When I heard this sad news I thought, “Boy, if this isn’t representative of this whole past year.”

Between Covid19, civil unrest and a controversial presidential election, it seemed everything was just spinning out of control on a daily basis.

Then the turkey plant blows! Really?!

Apparently, Thanksgiving in California is going to be policed by some sort of “Poultry Patrol” who are going to make sure that Thanksgiving gatherings have a three family limit with appropriate social distancing and bites of the Thanksgiving meal must be taken only upon lifting your mask to receive the portion of food, whereupon the mask must be promptly re-affixed over your face. There will also be no loud talking or singing!

As I sit here now and write, none of this has yet happened.

As you read this, Thanksgiving is past and I can’t help but wonder how it all worked out.

How many citations were issued for turkey transgressions? Were these crimes misdemeanors or felonies? How many are in the “slammer” right now for violating “dressing dictates” or singing songs of the season?

Ever hear the term “Upside Down World”?

Sometimes I feel that’s the world we’re now living in. Up is down, good is bad and right is wrong…or so it seems at times. But, then as Solomon so wisely stated, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”

In the year 1943, Ruth Caye Jones, a pastor’s wife in Pennsylvania and the mother of five, was distressed by the headlines of her Pittsburgh newspaper. She saw the World War II casualty lists and she knew the Allies were making slow progress through the boot of Italy. Supplies were rationed at home and everyone was living under incredible strain.

Opening her Bible to 2 Timothy 3, Ruth read the scripture: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.”

A song began to be composed in her mind. She jotted down some lyrics on a small pad in her apron pocket. A series of notes also played in her mind. Only later did she realize they came from the old clock on the mantle with its iconic Westminster Chimes. Soon the notes and music congealed to become one of the most beloved gospel songs of the 1940s and 1950s… In Times Like These (Story by: Robert J. Morgan).

In times like these you need a savior
In times like these you need an anchor
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock
This Rock is Jesus yes He’s the One This Rock is Jesus the only One
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

It must have seemed to Ruth Caye Jones as it does to us now, that the world was coming apart, or turning “Upside Down”. (Ironically, I am writing this Praiseletter on Veterans Day, November 11.)

I know many of you have endured personal challenges, hardships, frustrations and perhaps fears over this last year.

Many in our country have lost jobs, lost loved ones and most tragically have lost or almost lost hope. Now we enter the Christmas season with all its celebration, expressed in gifts given and received, beautiful songs of the Savior’s birth sung and heard. Lights, trees and winter wonderland scapes seem to almost highlight the tension that exists between Christmas and the chaos of our times, between hope and despair, between darkness and light.

I have good news!

Actually, HE has good news!

Christ triumphs over chaos! Hope defeats despair! Light eliminates darkness!

Remember: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were terrified. (Chaos)

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. (The Hope of Ages) This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly, a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel (Light), praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace to these on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

Amidst the chaos of the times and the shepherds nighttime encounter, hope is proclaimed and assured by God Himself, and all this in the midst of eye blinding, dark defeating, glory of God penetrating light!

Remember this Christmas; His glory has not faded!

Linda and I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

We pray this for you and yours with the confidence and assurance that He is able to do abundantly, even more than we dare ask. And this He is able to accomplish even…

In Times Like These.


P.S. Thank you once again for your friendship, your prayers and support. It has been a challenging year for us and our ministry as well. I had planned to take some ministry dates this year, but with Covid, those opportunities almost entirely went away.

We continue to minister effectively through our writings, Here We Are Podcasts and other unique outlets.

Linda’s health has been improving, for which we are so thankful. I had a stent put in an artery that was 90% blocked. Who knew? God did, and I’m so thankful it was discovered and addressed. I’m doing great! Just wanted you to know in case you heard otherwise.

We continue on ministering the Good News of the Gospel when and where we can. That will never change!

As I usually do at the end of the year, (and only then) I ask you to prayerfully consider a gift to Praise Ministries to help us continue to serve our Lord in ministry and fulfill His call on our lives.

Thank you, we love you and may God bless you richly.

The Spirit Within

It has been a most exciting and beneficial season for me as I have in recent months studied, pondered and written about the Holy Spirit and His relationship to our Christian lives. I hope it has been beneficial, encouraging and challenging to you as well.

As I stated at the onset, it has not been my endeavor to present a particular doctrinal position regarding the Holy Spirit and then attempt to persuade you to embrace that view. Rather, it has been my desire to explore, examine and articulate different reasonable doctrinal views and glean from those views some constants and/or similarities that might guide us to a more clear understanding of the Spirit’s role in our lives.

By way of a brief review, we have established that the Holy Spirit is regarded in scripture as a person and that person being a member of the triune Godhead and therefore fully God in essence.

Though He is oft referenced with imagery such as dove, wind, fire, water and oil, He is also titled with agencies related to personhood such as teacher, comforter, interceder and empowerer. He is also the personal agent who searches all things (I Corinthians 2:10), knows the mind of God (I Corinthians 2:11), teaches the gospel to believers (I Corinthians 2:13), dwells among believers (I Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:11; 2 Timothy 1:14), accomplishes all things (I Corinthians 12:11), gives life to those who believe (2 Corinthians 3:6), and many more such designations found throughout the scriptures.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, He is the member of the Godhead who now not only dwells among us, but literally lives within us so that we might be who God intends and has purposed for us to be “in Christ.”

We’ve established that the Holy Spirit is the one who draws us, convicts us, transforms and indwells us fully, not partially. Being fully indwelt by His Spirit we are still instructed to grow and desire more of a constant flow of the Spirit in and through our lives by being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

Especially in the last Praiseletter we examined terminology such as indwelt, filled and baptized in, by or with the Holy Spirit. We concluded that though there are varying opinions on the definition and application of these terms in our lives, we also agree they all have biblical precedent and assure us that the Holy Spirit works in us initially (at conversion), continually (through sanctification), and subsequently (through various giftings and empowering).

I use the word “we” in the sense that we have gone on this journey together and in an agreeable temperament have considered carefully all that has been presented. “We” is not used with a presumption that we all hold the same opinion on these matters. Most likely “we” don’t, however I don’t think it can ever be problematic to explore and discuss all we can about the precious Holy Spirit.

What is problematic and detrimental to spiritual growth and understanding is when we avoid the subject either in large part or altogether. This was my original concern and reason for diving into this topic. I fear the Holy Spirit has been greatly marginalized if not avoided altogether in many of our churches and thus in our personal lives.

This brings me to the final topic of consideration in this series of letters on the Holy Spirit. This last consideration is possibly the most complex, highly debated and doctrinally dividing issue. It is the issue of whether or not those spiritual gifts referenced, evidenced and experienced in the New Testament church are still available to the church today.

I’ll give you my simple answer up front; which is yes. Then I’ll give you my simplest explanation as to why I believe that, knowing at the same time I have greatly loved and respected brothers and sisters in Christ who hold a differing view and opinion.

If you’re not familiar with the term Cessationist, it refers to those who hold to a view that either some or all of the miraculous (sometimes called manifestation) gifts referenced most often in the Pauline epistles, have ceased. Thus, the word cessationist. Of course, there are varying opinions that have led to a cessationist viewpoint, but for our purposes here we’ll look at just the more prominent one.

Paul seems to almost interrupt his discussion of spiritual gifts with chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. In short, he intends to illustrate the superiority of love in relation to the power and practice of the gifts.

“Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

The particular and I believe most popular cessationist view hinges on the term, “the perfect.” In short, they define the term, “the perfect” as referring to scripture or more specifically the completion of the canon of scripture. Thus, now that we have the complete and “perfect” revelation through the canon of scripture, there is therefore no more need for the imperfect gifts.

Personally, I see (as do many others) some problems with this view that I will attempt to highlight in as simple a way as possible.

First of all, Paul addressed his letter to the church at Corinth around 55 or 56 A.D. The Apostle John wrote Revelation somewhere between 90-95 A.D.

Therefore, one must conclude that the miraculous giftings of the Holy Spirit, introduced by arguably one of the most significant steps taken by God in the history of mankind as He now literally dwells within a human temple, are to be utilized for a period of only 35-40 years.

In the context of 1 Corinthians 13 it would be like saying, “We can be sure that love will never end for we know that it will last for more than thirty-five or forty years.”

The real context is to contrast this age with the age to come: the return of Christ.

Secondly, I’m not aware of any place in scripture where the term, “the perfect” refers to parchments, manuscripts or written texts. Scripture however repeatedly points to Christ as perfect. (see Hebrews 2:10, 5:9, 7:28)

The perfection of Christ is a principle in Christology which asserts that Christ’s human attributes exemplified perfection in every possible sense.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Sinless = Perfection!!

I believe more sound biblical scholarship supports the idea that “the perfect” referenced in 1 Corinthians 13 refers to Christ, the Perfect One.

I believe there are numerous reasons to believe that 1 Corinthians 13 is referencing Christ and His return but for simplicity sake let’s take a look at just one more.

Thirdly, I would like to quote Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones to best articulate this position. He observes that the view that makes “when the perfect comes” equal the time of completion of the New Testament encounters another difficulty:

“It means you and I, who have the Scriptures open before us, know much more than the Apostle Paul of God’s truth…It means that we are altogether superior…even to the apostles themselves, including the Apostle Paul! It means that we are now in a position in which…’we know, even as also we are known’ by God…indeed, there is only one word to describe such a view, it is nonsense.”

I would recommend not using the word nonsense to address your cessationist brothers and sisters. Dr. Jones was a feisty soul! It seemed to fit him well, but it might not as much, you and me.

He does make a sound point however.

The “then” in verse 12 of 1 Corinthians refers to “when” in verse 10. If “when the perfect comes” is referring to the completion of scripture, we must now be realizing the “then” of verse 12 and therefore now are “face to face” and “know fully”, etc…

The verse in it’s simplest form would read, “When scripture is completed, then we will be face to face and know as we are known.” I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’m there yet, but I will be when Christ returns.

John Calvin said, referring to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:

“It is stupid of people to make the whole of this discussion apply to the intervening time.”

I think Calvin here encourages us to not get caught up in the choosing of sides but to step back and see the larger context of God’s enduring eternal love contrasted against the temporal and imperfect.

Dr. Gordon Fee so wonderfully points out that Paul certainly did not see the gifts as neatly framed categories of ministerial, motivational or miraculous gifts as we sometimes observe in our “spiritual gifts” workshops.

Paul addressed certain gifts to the church at Rome because those were needed by them. He addressed certain gifts to the church at Ephesus because those particular gifts were pertinent to their situation. The church at Corinth was struggling with misuse if not abuse of certain gifts so Paul addressed that situation with instruction on gifts pertaining to their dilemma.

Though I am not quoting directly, I am confident and comfortable with the fact that I am properly representing Dr. Fee’s thoughts on this subject when I say that Paul would not have seen these neat little categories of gifts as we so often do.

He would, it would seem throughout his epistles, deem all these gifts and more as not only beneficial but essential to the growth, life and spiritual health of the church until Jesus returned.

There is so much more to explore and say regarding this present topic as well as all that we have discussed over the previous months. I hope and pray you will dig deep in the Word, read good books on the subject, “study to show yourself approved” so that you might know what you believe, why you believe it and be able to defend it soundly and fairly.

I feel I must say a deep and sincere thank you to Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Dr. Wayne Grudem and Dr. Gordon Fee. Their writings have greatly helped, influenced and enriched my understanding of the Holy Spirit and things related. When I have quoted them directly I have endeavored to always emphasize and indicate that by reference and quotation marks.

I must say however that many of the things I wrote from my own heart and mind (hopefully with the Spirit’s help) still resonated the voices of these great men and others from within my own being. All of this has been a quest to explore, understand, grow and experience the reality, power and presence of The Spirit Within.

Spirit of the Living God

We know from Romans 8:9 that, “If you don’t have the Spirit of Christ, you don’t belong to Him.” Notice it doesn’t say a touch of the Holy Spirit or some partial impartation of the Holy Spirit. No, the context both from the scriptural framing of that verse and the context of how the early readers of this letter would have understood it is, the person of the Holy Spirit, completely and fully must abide within every true believer. So, is this then the same as being filled with the Holy Spirit? The best answer I can give is yes and no, depending on particular definitions and terminology that certain groups, denominations or individuals employ.

Is a Christian indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit at conversion? The answer is yes. Is that Spirit filling which occurs at conversion the same as the filling of the Spirit referenced in Ephesians 5:18? The answer is no. The initial indwelling or filling by the Spirit at conversion is an introductory, non-repeatable (if you will) transactional event. I don’t believe in getting saved and re-saved because I don’t believe scripture teaches this. I do however believe in being filled (initially) with the Holy Spirit and being filled (subsequently) repeatedly and continually with the Holy Spirit. This is the picture that Ephesians 5:18 paints for us.

Remember, Paul is writing to, “…the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1) Therefore, he is certainly not encouraging some first time event to transpire in their lives. It is assumed that these believers have already been fully indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s encouragement and exhortation to them is, as Dr. Wayne Grudem’s translation from the Greek so clearly and wonderfully articulates, “Be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Grudem’s Systematic Theology)

This then begs the question, can a person be indwelt by the Holy Spirit but not filled with the Holy Spirit? Depending on how you understand and use the terminology the answer is yes. This is an area where I received a couple concerned opinions from some pastor friends who felt there needed to be a little clearer understanding of the terminology regarding indwelt and/or filled. I agree, greatly appreciated their input and thus am attempting to give further understanding which I hope will be helpful to us all. I realize a lot of what we’re discussing is to a large extent a review of what we’ve already discussed. However, I feel this topic centered on the Holy Spirit is so important that it needs further and fuller discussion. My prayer is that this will all be most helpful to us in our growth in Christ. Thus, back to our question as to whether or not a Christian can be indwelt but not filled with the Holy Spirit. Let’s keep in mind that when a person is converted, they are indwelt in full by the Holy Spirit. However, in the same way that a person can be fully saved but not continue in spiritual growth, is it not possible for a Christian to be indwelt fully by the Spirit but not be living a Spirit filled life as defined in Ephesians 5:18?

I believe the answer is yes. Paul addresses all his letters to the churches, the saints, the faithful, the brethren, to spiritual children and the beloved of God. Yet, much of Paul’s writing in all his letters is to correct sinful behavior, promote unity among the brethren, encourage spiritual growth and maturity and instruct clearly in regards to obedience and righteousness. He doesn’t discount their salvation or standing in Christ, but he clearly encourages, challenges and exhorts them to grow and mature in Christ.

There is therefore an initial point of conversion and also a subsequent living out or demonstration of the reality of that conversion experience through growth, obedience and holiness. These terms (and there are others) define and express the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I believe sanctification is both an initial setting apart unto Christ and an ongoing conforming to the image of Christ. I like what Oswald Chambers says: “We must work out that which He has worked in.” The same can be said of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He has come to indwell us (initially) but also to continually fill us (subsequently) from day to day throughout our lives. Unfortunately, some groups, denominations and individuals have hijacked terms like “Spirit filled” and have explained them only within the context of their denominationally oriented doctrinal distinctives. I don’t say this with any malice or antagonism necessarily toward the aforementioned, but I do believe it’s helpful if not necessary to make sure our terminology clearly and consistently aligns with scripture. To some, “Spirit filled” means a person has experienced an event or a moment whereby the Holy Spirit has suddenly filled a Christian with His presence and this is validated or confirmed by an accompanying manifestation of speaking in tongues. To another, “Spirit filled” means that a person, group or denomination believes that all the “manifestation gifts” mentioned in I Corinthians are still in operation today. Let me say here, I agree that that which was available to the early church is still available to us today but I think it’s inaccurate to say or believe that’s all that “Spirit filled” means. I don’t discount that many Christians have had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that may or may not have been accompanied by a spiritual gift or gifts. To say that such an experience was a Holy Spirit infilling would be accurate, but I think it would be inaccurate to suggest that that’s all “Spirit filled” means.

I hope you see how terminology, even right terminology has often been misrepresented, misappropriated and thus misunderstood. I believe the Bible’s idea of Spirit filled living is allowing the indwelling Spirit of God to continually fill, control, guide, empower and evidence the reality of a risen Christ within us. It seems obvious to me and clear from scripture that His gifts will be necessary and most helpful in accomplishing this. And then there’s “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” I know we discussed this in the last Praiseletter but I believe we may briefly revisit it again for further understanding and clarity in our next letter. Indwelt, filled and baptized are all clearly valid and intentional descriptives of truth regarding the Holy Spirit. However, there is sometimes a kind of cross-pollination of these words that causes confusion if not trepidation. It is my hope and prayer that as we further explore these things from a biblical perspective, we will thus gain knowledge, diminish divisiveness and promote true spiritual hunger for all that the Holy Spirit would desire to accomplish in and through us. In the next Praiseletter I believe we’ll also discuss this aspect of whether or not those spiritual giftings, common to the New Testament age are to be expected and embraced presently. I think consideration of what is termed “The Apostolic Age” will be helpful to us in our understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Please contact us by Facebook, email or letter and let us know if these teachings are helpful. As I was writing this letter I kept thinking of and singing a song from long ago entitled “Spirit of the Living God”.

Spirit of the Living God fall fresh on me

Spirit of the Living God fall fresh on me

Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me

Spirit of the Living God fall fresh on me.

Holy Spirit Baptism

The mere title of this letter conjures up doctrinal differences, emotional reactions and dogmatic opinions. Some people and/or denominations are so anxious to jump into the fray to support their definition of this particular area of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, that other equally, if not more important doctrinal considerations are largely overlooked or perhaps neglected altogether.

On the other hand there are those, who out of a fear often fostered by observing the misrepresentations and excesses of some in the “spirit filled” camp, have decided to maintain a somewhat safe distance from the “mysterious” Holy Spirit. This, coupled with a lack of sincere effort to diligently study scripture for a biblically based view of the Holy Spirit and all things related, has left many with little or no desire to explore the depths of true biblical spirit filled living.

In either of these two “camps” (and there are others) the ministry of the Holy Spirit is not properly understood or appreciated. Hence, the Spirit is grieved if not quenched, the Christian is ill equipped and the devil is all smiles!

I will not attempt to answer all questions related to Spirit baptism, nor even necessarily offer and support a particular doctrinal stance, encouraging you to do the same. What I will do is present a couple different opinions regarding Holy Spirit baptism from two slightly different doctrinal positions. In the end, I think we’ll find that in spite of slight differences we will draw a single important conclusion.

I will be oft referencing Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, (deceased) reformed, protestant minister at Westminster Chapel in London for almost thirty years. I will also refer to the writings of Dr. Wayne Grudem (Grudem’s Systematic Theology) who is presently serving as Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona.

I chose these two godly men because of the tremendous influence they have had in shaping sound theological and doctrinal thought through their writings, their lectures and most importantly their lives.Though they are just two men, they represent an extremely broad audience in the realm of theology and doctrine.

So, let’s get started. We have previously established in the last two Praiseletters that every Christian is spirit filled.

“But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

We’ve established that the Holy Spirit is fully God. (see: God the Holy Spirit, last PL)

The Holy Spirit is the regenerating force which draws us, convicts us, transforms us and indwells us.

Dr. Grudem states in his preface to systematic theology that: “I hold that baptism in the Holy Spirit is a phrase best applied to conversion and subsequent experiences are better called “being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Lloyd Jones, in his book “Joy Unspeakable” presents just the opposite. He believes at conversion we are filled with the Holy Spirit, but the Baptism in (by or with) the Holy Spirit is a subsequent work. Though it may on occasion occur at the time of our salvation it is still to be distinguished from being filled or indwelt initially by the Holy Spirit.

You may wonder why I am attempting to put a fine point on these issues. It is because there has been such debate and differing opinions in this area that disunity has often prevailed, dysfunction has sometimes arisen and even divisiveness has crept in and wounded some in the flock.

How can two godly, brilliant bible scholars differ on this issue? It’s a matter of interpretation on each other’s part, but keep in mind, I think we will all draw a similar and encouraging conclusion even amidst differing opinions.

Dr. Grudem points out that, “there are only seven passages in the New Testament where we read of someone being baptized in (or with) the Holy Spirit.” They are as follows: Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16, and 1 Corinthians 12:13. (I encourage you to look up and read each of these.)

The 1 Corinthians 12:13 verse, which reads: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” is one area where differing opinions come into play. Does this verse carry the same meaning of Spirit baptism as the other six?

Without getting “too deep in the weeds” let me just say it depends largely on whether you accept the phrase “by one Spirit” or “in one Spirit.” Some English translations use “by one Spirit” suggesting that this verse differs from the other six.

Dr. Grudem explains, “Those who support the Pentecostal view of baptism in the Holy Spirit after conversion are quite eager to see this verse as referring to something other than baptism in the Holy Spirit… In all the other six verses, Jesus is the one who baptizes people and the Holy Spirit is the “element” in which or with which Jesus baptizes people. Here in 1 Corinthians 12:13 (so the Pentecostal explanation goes) we have something quite different – here the person doing the baptizing is not Jesus but the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they say, 1 Corinthians 12:13 should not be taken into account when we ask what the New Testament means by “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

Remember, this is but one opinion and explanation of this point in scripture.

Now, let’s look at another. Dr. Lloyd Jones believed in a subsequent work or baptism in (or with) the Holy Spirit after conversion. Here’s how he handles 1 Corinthians 12:13:

“I want to demonstrate that this verse… (1 Cor. 12:13) does not deal at all with the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.” Jones agrees with Grudem that the Greek word en is the word herein used in this verse but goes on to point out that this word is often used in Greek in a casual sense. For example: Matthew 24:52 says, “All they that take the sword shall perish with (or by) the sword.” Jones says, “And there is the little word en and it means, of course, perish by the sword. You could not possibly translate that…perish in the sword.” He goes on to give several other examples of the Greek word en to mean, by as well as, in.

Jones then goes on to use a quote by Dr. Wuest (The Untranslatable Riches from the New Testament Greek) to bring clarity to 1 Corinthians 12:13.

“The personal agent in this case who does the baptizing is the Holy Spirit. He places the believing sinner into the body of which the Lord Jesus is the living Head. We could translate therefore, by means of the personal agency of one Spirit we all were placed in one body.

It is not the baptism with the Spirit, or of the Spirit, in the sense that the Holy Spirit is the element that is applied to us; it is the baptism by the Spirit.”

Confused? It’s ok, I don’t understand all the nuances and applications of a two letter Greek word either. I’m no scholar and don’t claim to be.

What I do begin to see however, and I hope you do as well, is that there is a work that the Holy Spirit does in us at conversion and there is also an ongoing work that He does in sanctification and equipping for power to boldly witness.

Another verse we should look at where Grudem and Jones (as well as others) disagree, though not harshly, is John 20:22, where it reads as follows:

“…He breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit.”

The question is, did the disciples actually receive the Holy Spirit before the day of Pentecost? This is significant.

Dr. Grudem writes, “When Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; it probably was an acted out prophecy of what would happen to them at Pentecost.”

I’ve heard this explanation often through the years and do not reject it, but I also find Dr. Lloyd Jones’ explanation quite enlightening and challenging.

“There is nothing in the text of John 20 that suggests this was a prophetic enactment. Take the words as they are and this is what you find: ‘Jesus said to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and he saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’

Surely if our Lord was merely telling them that this was going to happen to them, he would have done what he is reported as having done in Acts 1 where he tells them ‘Tarry ye in Jerusalem until…’ There he is telling them that something is going to happen and he puts it quite plainly and quite clearly. But there is no suggestion at all of that in John 20. He says, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’

Let me be still more specific. If you consult the learned authorities on the whole question of Greek grammar and the meaning of the words, you will find that they are unanimous in saying that in the Greek the word ‘receive’ in verse 22, is the aorist imperative. And the authorities are also unanimous in saying that the Greek aorist imperative never has a future meaning.

This is a purely technical point, but a very important one. So many of our friends, who hold to the other teaching, do so in terms of the Greek and the original. So let us meet them on their own ground. Here – and again I defy you to find a single exception – the authorities are all agreed in saying that the Greek aorist imperative never has a future meaning – and I would emphasize the word ‘never’. So you see, the very word that is used is a word that wants us to see that what we are told happened then, did happen then; that when our Lord said to them, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ they did receive the Holy Ghost. But there is still more. When we are told that our Lord ‘breathed’ on them and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost’, this same word ‘breathed’, here in the Greek, is the word that was used in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament in two most important instances. The first is Genesis 2:7 which reads: ‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ The other striking example of this is to be found in the book of the prophet Ezekiel in a very well known passage in chapter 37:5-9 – the vision of the ‘valley of dead bones’.

‘Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live…Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’

The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word breathe used there, is exactly the same word as is used here in our passage, and surely this is a most significant fact.”

Again…disagreement, differing opinions but ultimately not highly problematic. The significance of Jones’ explanation of that verse is if the disciples did in fact receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, then what happened at Pentecost had to be a subsequent work!

Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well Dallas, what do you think? Dallas, what about speaking in tongues?”

What I think is not all that important, but I will tell you.

But first, what did Jesus say the Pentecost outpouring was about?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Some of you perhaps want to know my opinion on speaking in tongues and how it relates to this matter.

A traditional “doctrinal distinctive” of many pentecostal believers is, “The initial physical evidence of the baptism of (or in) the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues.”

I personally don’t think scripture makes this case in a dogmatic doctrinal sense. I believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and I believe they are still available to the church today for the edification of the church.

However, to single out one gift or others and say that if you haven’t experienced that gift or gifts, you have not experienced a Holy Spirit baptism, is not biblically accurate, in my opinion.

We know that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples spoke in other tongues, unlearned languages, so that all in attendance heard the gospel, each in their own language and 3,000 souls were added to the Kingdom. On two subsequent occasions (and a third implied), we know that people were filled with or received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.

However, there are numerous other mentions of individuals being filled with the Holy Spirit such as Elizabeth, Zacharias, Stephen and other references that say nothing of speaking in tongues.

I believe some people have in fact received a Holy Spirit baptism attended by speaking in tongues as well as other giftings, but I think to suggest that in the absence of a gift or gifts, a Spirit baptism did not occur, would be unfortunate.

This is the most challenging and difficult Praiseletter I’ve ever written out of the almost 300 I’ve penned.

There’s so much debate and division over this issue of Holy Spirit Baptism that it’s impossible to cover every area, address every idea and please every reader.

In the Spirit, with the Spirit, by the Spirit. Baptized, filled or received all seem to be terms that cause us to choose sides; at least in the way in which they are often used and explained.

So what can we gain from all this? What can we agree upon?

Again, we can look at Dr. Grudem and Dr. Jones and see that they both agree on an initial full entrance of the Holy Spirit into every true believer’s life. In reading their works, I can tell you they both agree on the ongoing sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in every Christian. They both agree that the Ephesians 5:18 command, “Be filled with the Spirit” refers to a constant and ongoing filling of God’s spirit. They both proclaim clearly that all the gifts of the Spirit are still working today and they both clearly and strongly encourage every believer to seek for more from the Holy Spirit. Call it a baptism, call it an in-filling, or call it as a “coming down” of His Spirit upon us: both would encourage us to seek for all the Spirit has and might delight to do in and through us.

I agree!

I’d like to add one more thing, though I know this has surely been my most lengthy letter to date.

I feel sure that some of this talk of the Holy Spirit Baptism, gifts, tongues, etc… has caused some of you to think I lean a little too far to “that” side of things and I need to embrace a more staunch reformed position in such matters. Actually, I do!

In my studies it’s been enlightening if not surprising that many, and I mean many, of the great old patriarchs of the faith such as Luther, Calvin, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Edwards, the Wesleys, Finney, Moody and many others, testify to a profound experience or experiences in their lives of the Holy Spirit impacting, transforming and flooding them with joy unspeakable, often years into their lives and ministries.

A baptism, an infilling, a fresh receiving of Holy Spirit power, would well define and describe what they experienced!

Let me close with a wonderful quote from that most staunch Calvinist, Reformed Baptist minister:

“O my soul! Thou art ready to burst within me. Oh my heart! Thou art swelled with grief. The hot tide of my emotion would well-nigh overflood the channels of my veins. I long to speak, but the very desire chains my tongue. I wish to pray, but the fervency of my feelings curbs my language. There is a groaning within that cannot be uttered. Do you know who can utter that groaning? Who can understand it, and who can put it into heavenly language, and utter it in a celestial tongue, so that Christ can hear it? Oh yes, it is God the Holy Spirit; He advocates our cause with Christ, and then Christ advocates it with His Father. He is the advocate who makes the intercession for us, with groanings that cannot be uttered.” Charles Hadden Spurgeon

Kinda sounds like he leans a little to “that side” too!

Friends…there’s more! The Spirit of God is limitless, eternal and present within us. Maybe we should worry less about what He doesn’t do and desire more what He might like to do in and through us.

I don’t know about you, but I have no hesitancy to say, “God, I want and need a Holy Spirit Baptism!”

God the Holy Spirit

The response from the last Praiseletter, Be Filled With the Spirit, has been most encouraging and has confirmed the notion that we should dig deeper and continue discussing biblical truth regarding the precious Holy Spirit.

I began writing a song some years ago that I am recently revisiting. It’s chorus reads as follows:

Take me farther and deeper in You
Show me all that You want me to do
Lord, please teach me to worship in spirit and truth
Take me farther and deeper in You

In view of the point where we stand in history and in the journey of our own Christian experience, we should all share this desire to go farther and deeper in the things of God. I believe a recognition of, a dependence on and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit will be essential to fulfilling this “farther and deeper” quest.

Even as I share that, some may feel a concern that may be expressed as follows: “But what about the Word; shouldn’t that be our guide in all things?”

The answer to that question is a resounding Yes! I love what A.W. Tozer says in regard to these considerations: “We will never understand the Holy Spirit so long as we terminate our thought upon Him. The scriptures always lead us on beyond every subjective experience to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (A.W. Tozer)

That is an extremely rich statement. Read it again! The person of, the ministry of and the proper functioning of the Holy Spirit will be to us, confused, if we define Him based on subjective personal experience. We must know and understand the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the scriptures.

However, we know that one of the chief functions of the Holy Spirit is to teach or illuminate the scriptures to us; “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:3)

And what is all truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6)

Certainly there are a great many truths, but the essential, dominant one is that of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Do you see the synchronicity and cooperative genius, if you will, as to the plans and purposes of God regarding the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Word, as that which gives insight and understanding in all these areas?

No one comes to the Father except through Jesus and one cannot know who Jesus is apart from the truth of the gospel as revealed in the Word and illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

Thus Tozer goes on to say: “The Word without the Spirit is dry and dead, but the Spirit without the Word is incomplete.”

As I write these words in this letter, I realize that these and the words that will now follow are merely introductory preparations for our considerations of the Holy Spirit.

God the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin there. Is God the Holy Spirit and is the Holy Spirit God?

For some, that will seem a most elementary and easily answerable question. However, we must for our purposes of study herein acknowledge that there have been many historically and still to this day who denounce the very idea of a triune Godhead.

Now, before you “throw in the towel” (or throw away this letter) in fear that I’m going to embark on some mystical and complicated endeavor to explain the Trinity, let me assure you I am not.

I am going to assume that we are all “on the same page” when it comes to the triune character and nature of the Godhead.

Let’s agree with Tozer when he writes: “There is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal. And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together: and co-equal. So that in all things: the Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.”

Now that’s a quite colorful and poetic way to put it, but I think, quite accurate and helpful.

I have at times throughout the years, tried to have discourse with those of a “oneness” or non-trinitarian point of view, but have found it frustrating if not exhausting! I’ve often said, “You can’t reason with the unreasonable.”

When in the very beginning God said, “Let Us make man in Our image…” (Genesis 1:26) it clearly speaks in the plural.

When Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord say, “Who will go for Us…” (Isaiah 6:8) it speaks of multiple persons.

Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father do. He prayed to the Father and taught His disciples to do likewise. He said He would send another, referring to the Holy Spirit, who was to come.

Scripture clearly indicates and articulates God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

As Luther so beautifully wrote and we so often sing, “God in three persons, Blessed Trinity!”

So, for our purposes herein and hereafter, let us agree that the Holy Spirit is God and the statement, “God the Holy Spirit” is biblically sound.

What are the personal implications of that for us? The words privilege and responsibility come to mind.

As we have already previously established, every true born again Christian has received and been indwelt by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9)

If the Holy Spirit is fully God, which He is, then “fully God” has come to dwell within us in a way that was in Old Testament times, not known.

Neither was it known or experienced as abiding within, in New Testament times until the risen Christ breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 21:22)

Now some of you may be thinking, “Wasn’t it on the day of Pentecost that the Spirit was given?”

Hold that thought…

More on that in the next Praiseletter. (Very Exciting!)

Let us right now consider that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, has taken up residence within us.

Truly this is one of the most significant spiritual realities in all of biblical history! No longer in a tabernacle or a temple built by human hands, but God has come to dwell within the temple of our body that He Himself has fashioned after His own image. What a privilege!

But oh, what a responsibility!

We are to define and display the reality of a risen Christ within our bodies and our behavior by the presence and power of that same Holy Spirit.

This is why we must better understand who He is and how He wants to dwell within us, guide us and use us for His eternal purposes.

Fully God has come to dwell
Within my heart once bound for Hell
Grace bestowed and mercy shown
Have made for me a Heavenly home
His Holy Word I love to hear it
Breathed by God the Holy Spirit

In Christ,

Dallas Holm

Be Filled With the Spirit

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

  Ephesians 5:18

In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he reminds believers, especially in chapter five, to be imitators of God. He goes on to point out very specifically, areas of immorality, impurity and “deeds of darkness” to avoid at all costs.

He then encourages them to…”Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.” Then he uses the imagery of wine as that which is poured out and poured into.

Many have used this verse to say God is using Paul to teach against wine consumption. This verse cannot be used to promote that idea. This portion of the verse, similar to other verses in the Bible, speaks against drunkenness.  In using this imagery, Paul is actually saying don’t be so filled with wine that you become drunk, but be so filled with the Spirit that you become transformed in essence, even in your behavior.

In the same way that wine can alter your essence and behavior shamefully, the filling of the Spirit can alter and transform richly and wonderfully. 

Paul then immediately goes on to discuss specific behavioral issues such as how to encourage one another, how to be thankful and how to be subject to one another. He continues on instructing in issues of marriage and our understanding of our position to the body of Christ, the Church.

Let me pause here for a moment and respond to some who may be thinking I’m in some way defending wine consumption. Neither my wife nor I consume any manner of alcohol. It’s simply a position we have taken and a personal conviction we hold. Scripture doesn’t speak against wine, but it’s quite clear on drunkenness and strong drink. To get hung up on the wine aspect of this verse is to miss the whole point.

The point is, “Be filled with the Spirit!” 

The actual Greek rendering of this would be, “Be being filled with the Spirit.” In other words it stresses the sense of continuation of filling and refilling.

Many have wrongly used this verse (along with some others) to suggest to a new Christian (or even mature Christians) that they may be lacking in some ongoing, subsequent work of the Spirit.

They would suggest that you are a Christian but perhaps have not yet received or been filled with the Holy Spirit. 

This is the point I want to discuss in this letter. I’ve addressed it previously at times in both my writing and teaching, but I believe it’s so important to get a proper biblical understanding of this that I am once again revisiting the topic.

Recently, on several occasions, I’ve had someone say something like this: “He (or she) is a Spirit filled Christian.” Or someone said, “I had some Christians pray for me but then I asked a Spirit filled Christian to pray.”

This kind of terminology begs the question, can a Christian not be Spirit filled? The answer is a resounding NO!

Sometimes when I’m teaching on this subject I like to ask my audience this question:  “Where is Jesus?” The answers range generally from, “In my heart, Heaven and everywhere” to an occasional finger pointed upward, I’m sure denoting Heaven (or perhaps on the roof).

All of these answers are to some degree or another correct (with the exception of the roof) but not quite specifically accurate. 

Specifically, according to scripture, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. Look up Acts 2:32-33, Acts 7:56 and Hebrews 8:1.

It isn’t altogether incorrect to say we received Christ into our heart, but it is really His Spirit that drew us, convicted us and took up residence within us when we trusted by faith in the finished work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, believing in the reality of His resurrection and receiving the precious gift of salvation by grace through faith.

You may say, “Well, that’s just another way to say the same thing,” but it’s important to remember that Christ said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

What hope could we possibly have, especially as new Christians, if we did not have His Spirit to help, comfort and guide?

But does scripture clearly indicate that every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? The answer is a resounding YES!

“But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Romans 8:9

This verse is crystal clear. If you don’t have His Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ. But if you do belong to Christ, you therefore have His Spirit. 

I am especially emphasizing the importance of knowing that as a Christian you are indwelt by His Spirit as we enter this new year. 

2020 is here! We must possess 20/20 spiritual vision as we go forward in life’s journey amidst ever increasing evil, apathy and distraction.

In the future I hope to discuss further aspects of the Holy Spirit such as, are the infilling and baptism of the Holy Spirit the same thing? What are spiritual gifts all about? Can we have a partial infilling of His Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit fully God?

These and other questions are worthy considerations for us to explore, but first and foremost it is absolutely essential that we understand that every true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God.

I recently read a quote by A.W. Tozer that challenged my thinking in this area and encouraged and directed me to write to you about these things.

“In most Christian churches the Spirit is quite entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the doxology and the benediction. Further than that He might as well not exist…

Our neglect of the doctrine of the blessed Third Person has had and is having serious consequences. For doctrine is dynamite. It must have emphasis sufficiently sharp to detonate it before its power is released…

The doctrine of the Spirit is buried dynamite. Its power awaits discovery and use by the Church. The power of the Spirit will not be given to any mincing assent to pneumatological truth. The Holy Spirit cares not at all whether we write Him into our creeds in the back of our hymnals; He awaits our emphasis.”

A.W. Tozer

I believe it can be argued that we as Christians today, live with the greatest privilege in the entire history of God’s people.  Since the day of Pentecost, the only true and living God has chosen to literally take up residence within us completely and continually. We must consider this great privilege fully and heed His specific command diligently. Be Filled With the Spirit!

Tis The Season

Yes, once again the holiday season is upon us and it seems to have arrived on a swifter schedule than last year and all previous years.

Like a line from a song I wrote years ago:

The years they come and go
Like clouds on a windy day
The moments pass so swiftly
Our lives just slip away

I stopped by our local hardware store just the other day and already, in the early part of November, Christmas decorations, trees, lights and all related items were up and ready for purchase.

It really does all come too quickly!

At the risk of having this letter read like one of those blow by blow, diary/travelogue volumes occasionally received at year’s end from some distant relative or friend (who you’re not totally sure you even know), I felt I should update you as to where we are and how we’re doing as a family. Also, I want to share some insight as to our future ministry plans. I do this because we’ve had so many friends email or write us asking about Linda’s health and the health of our daughter and son.

This year has been a tough and challenging one for our family. You may remember that at the first of the year our daughter was diagnosed with a rare cancer. At the same time, my wife, Linda, had a severe reaction to a new immunotherapy trial she was on. It put her in bed and eventually in the hospital. The total “down time” for her was almost six weeks. Then, in the midst of all this, our son began having severe anxiety attacks.

A friend of ours said, “You’re going through a cluster bomb attack!” That’s exactly what it felt like.

I’m pleased to report our son, Jeffrey, is doing much better. He still has occasional bouts with anxiety, but nothing like when it began.

Our daughter, Jennifer, is doing very well. The cancer was completely removed surgically. There were some lingering complications from the surgery that persisted for months, but these issues have been almost totally resolved.

Linda continues to wage war against her thirty-two year nemesis of breast cancer. It’s taken a lot from her through the years, most recently the craniotomy of almost three years ago now. Because of the effects of the craniotomy and subsequent radiation, her mobility and balance have been compromised. This has prohibited her from traveling with me most of this year.

Let me pause here a moment and assure you that God’s grace has indeed been sufficient throughout this “bumpy” part of the road on life’s journey.

I mentioned that much has been taken from Linda through the years of her struggle with cancer. However, I must testify that way more has been given to us because of God’s grace and faithfulness in the midst of the struggle.

A song Linda often sang says it best:

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase
To added affliction He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace

Annie Flint Johnson

Linda and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on the 27th of this month. We have been abundantly blessed with a wonderful marriage, two wonderful children and five amazing grandchildren.

He has given us the marvelous privilege of being “co-laborers together with Christ Jesus” throughout the years of ministry, particularly through Praise Ministries. Many souls have been won to Christ, lives rescued, and families healed because of God’s faithfulness to use us in ministry.

We will continue to minister. People often ask me, “How long are you going to keep ministering?” I always reply by saying, “As long as I have breath and opportunity.”

Someone asked me the other day if I was retired. I responded by saying, “I don’t think so.”

We’ve had to cut back our traveling dates and will probably continue to do so because of health issues and age. (I turned 71 in November.) Not old, but I can tell you, I can’t do it all as easily as I used to.

Fortunately we live at a time when we can continue to minister very effectively without always having to travel somewhere to do so.

Many have commented how much they love and appreciate our online ministry through our website, Facebook and YouTube.

The newsletter, the daily posts, the “Stories Behind the Songs” have been such a blessing to so many, hopefully to you.

We plan to expand our ministry opportunities online in the coming year. I think you’re going to really like and appreciate that.

Stay tuned!

I’ll continue to take a limited number of concert dates and speaking engagements, but we’re at a point in our lives where we have to make some changes. Tis the Season of our lives!

I believe we’ll be even more effective in ministering to those God brings into our care, as we steward our time, talents and treasures of God’s grace.

Please continue to pray for us as we seek God for direction, for strength to run the race and for His Spirit’s anointing on all we do in the name of ministry.

I recently read a marvelous verse and comment by Charles Spurgeon that was a great encouragement and blessing to me. I share it here in hopes it will similarly encourage and bless you.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.

Isaiah 49:16

“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of His hands. “I have graven thee.” It does not say, “Thy name.” Thy name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven thee.” See the fulness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works: I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there.

Charles H. Spurgeon

As you celebrate the Christmas season, whether at a family feast, exchanging of gifts around a Christmas tree or just in simple solitude, remember the greatest gift; that of our Savior.

Remember, God’s great gift in a wooden manger and His great sacrifice on a wooden cross.

Remember the tiny Christ child’s hands that reached up to touch His mother’s face, but also remember these same nail pierced hands that reached out to save sinners like you and me.

And lastly, remember that we are graven in these same hands.

Reflect, Rejoice, Respond.

Tis the Season!

Christ and Him Crucified

Why do I do the things I do
Why do I say the things I say
Sing the songs I sing
Pray the prayers I pray
Why do I push myself so hard
To go the second mile
Knowing my reward
May only be a smile
Well there’s a picture in my mind
That time can’t erase
And there’s a memory from days gone by
That helps me keep my place

It’s in the front of my mind
In the back of my mind
To the left and to the right
There’s an image of a man on a cross

Image of a Man | Dallas Holm

A number of years ago I was making my way to the back of an auditorium where I had just completed ministering in concert and in word.

About halfway back a young man stepped in front of me and asked, “After all these years, what keeps you going?” Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “The image of a man on a cross!”

In that moment, my answer seemed to satisfy the young man’s question. It also caused me to consider that it might be a good idea for a song, which as it turned out, it was.

The apostle Paul, in writing his first letter to the church at Corinth, prioritizes the essence of his ministry and the central issue of true Christianity when he writes:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:1-2)

It has been suggested that by the time Paul (previously Saul) was 21 years of age, he had the equivalent of two Ph.D.s in theology. It is not likely that Paul is saying, nothing else is important to discuss or that the only topic henceforth will be the crucifixion of Christ.      

He is not promoting the idea that any further discussions regarding such significant events as the resurrection, the return of Christ or any vast array of other important topics like grace, obedience and conforming to the image of Christ need not be articulated and considered. What he is doing, for the purpose of highlighting and emphasizing the central issue of the atonement through the shedding of blood, is using hyperbole.

R.C. Sproul puts it this way:  “When the apostle made that statement (I Cor. 1:1-2) he obviously was engaged in the literary art of hyperbole. The Greek prefix hyper is the source of our word super, and it indicates a degree of emphasis. Hyper takes a root word and makes it emphatic. In this case, the root word comes from the Greek verb “to throw”. So, hyperbole is literally a “super throwing”; it is a form of emphasis that uses intentional exaggeration.

Sproul goes on to illustrate how we might say to a child, “I’ve told you a thousand times not to do that!” Everyone, including the child, knows that statement hasn’t been offered a thousand times, but the exaggeration is born, not out of deceitfulness, but out of an intent to bring emphasis.

We know Paul wanted to teach the Corinthians about the character and nature of God the Father. He would instruct them about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He would teach them Christian ethics, and about many other things that go beyond the immediate scope of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sproul puts it this way, “Paul was saying that in all of his teaching, in all of his preaching, in all of his missionary activity, the central point of importance was the cross. In effect, this teacher was saying to his students, “You might forget other things that I teach you, but don’t ever forget the cross because it was on the cross, through the cross and by the cross that our Savior performed His work of redemption and gathered His people for eternity.’”

Does the reality of the cross and what transpired through the substitutionary atoning work on Calvary’s mount, truly arrest our thinking and motivate our living?

Has the cross become just an emblem over the baptistry, an ornament around our neck, or do we remember, as Oswald Chambers states, “The most significant words ever uttered in a startled universe are the words, It Is Finished!”

Do we only consider the cross and Christ’s suffering in an historical context or do we actually consider ourselves “crucified with Christ”? Is it personal? Does it cost us?

Why should I care what others think
What do I care what others say
When He has won my heart
And I have found my way
What do I care what it may cost
Though it may cost my all
To walk the narrow path
And hear His silent call

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

I’m constrained by the love of Christ
I’m compelled to express His life

Cause in the front of my mind
In the back of my mind
To the left and to the right
There’s an image of a man on a cross

I remember one day years ago my dear friend, Leonard Ravenhill, said to me, “Dallas, there are lots of Christians who like to hang around the cross. Not many of them want to get on it!”

I think perhaps, better than any other way I can imagine, that statement demonstrates exactly Paul’s understanding and perspective of the cross, both for himself and for these who he would teach, which includes us.

May we not be as those who just hang around the cross, but may we reckon ourselves crucified with Christ.

In all our learning, our experience and in the great adventure of life’s journey, may we each stay forever focused on the central bedrock and eternal fact of “Christ and Him Crucified.”