“That person is a Spirit-filled Christian! That’s a Spirit-filled church!” What does it mean? Dallas has the privilege of seeing the Body of Christ in its many expressions and in all of his travels and opportunities, there is a noticeable absence of the Holy Spirit. It leads to to hearing phrases like, “It’s a good church, but it’s not a Spirit-filled church,” or, “I was prayed for at this church, but then I went down to the Spirit-filled church to be prayed for.” Season 3, episode 1 is Dallas’ discussion on what it means to be Spirit-filled and what it means for believers.
I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
I’m running the race
I’m running the race to win
Sometimes I felt like giving up
And falling down within
But I’m still running the race
I’m running the race to win
(Dallas Holm/Signal 1983)
One of my favorite uncles sent me a birthday card years ago. On the front were cartoonish characters running in a race. Some were tall and thin, some more medium in stature, and some short and stocky. The caption on the front of the card read: “In the great race of life, there are long distance runners, middle distance runners and short distance runners.” Upon opening the card, you saw a picture of a rather nerdish bystander sitting on the curb by the roadside as all the runners ran by. The caption read: “And then there are those of us who sit along the sidelines and laugh at how funny the others look in those shorts!” It’s a somewhat funny, if not silly little card, and yet I believe it carries with it a truth that may apply to us all.
Recently, while watching the summer Olympics, I was struck with the level of training, discipline, and sacrifice it takes to perform at the top levels of track and field in particular. Two runners who especially caught my attention, not only for their strength, speed, and skill but for the beauty and grace by which they exhibited their athletic prowess, as well as their character, were sprinters Allyson Felix and Sydney McLaughlin. Allyson Felix is now the most decorated female sprinter in Olympic history at the age of 35, which in “sprinter years” is getting on up there. Sydney McLaughlin is a relative newcomer at the young age of 22 but recently set the new world record for the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.
Allyson and Sydney have enough gold, silver, bronze medals, and records to make any world-class athlete envious. Yet in every interview I witnessed with them, they, first of all, gave “All glory to God.” I know nothing of their personal relationships to the Lord, nor of their doctrinal positions (if any) on issues in scripture. I just know that in an environment of ever-increasing “me first” mindset, it was refreshing if not inspiring to see these young ladies reference God before themselves.
I’m sure even for the nerdy bystander sitting on the sideline, observing “how funny others may look in those shorts,” it surely made an impression on even them.
The apostle Paul must have been somewhat of a sports fan himself, especially in running, for he visits and revisits this theme in his writings.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he uses this race imagery to emphasize the need for discipline, self control, and focus so that the believer may win the race and receive an imperishable reward. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (I Corinthians 9:24-25)
Remember, Corinth in Paul’s day was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. The church that Paul founded in the midst of this pagan culture was uniquely stressed by its very environment and had grown into a very unbalanced spiritual community, especially regarding their understanding of spiritual gifts and the sacred nature of observing “The Lord’s Table”. Observance of this ordinance had degenerated into a self-indulgent love feast.
It is in the midst of this chaos that Paul steps forth to be the trainer of an undisciplined team who will surely lose if they are not properly instructed how to win. Through the years I’ve sometimes wondered at this portion of scripture because it seems to suggest that we’re all running in a race but only one can win. If that’s how it is, then there are surely going to be mostly disappointed Christian losers. Perhaps we’re not running against each other, and I think we’re not. Let’s look at another one of Paul’s sports analogies, change one word and I believe we will gain proper understanding. “For we wrestle (race) not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
Now we see the gravity of the situation; the intimidating power of our opponent and the absolute necessity to train, discipline, and sacrifice for this is surely not a race we can afford to lose!
“Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave (“Present your bodies a living sacrifice – Romans 12:1), lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (I Corinthians 9:26-27)
I have throughout the years heard this portion of scripture presented to suggest that even Paul was concerned after all he had done that he might not make it to the end, perhaps losing his very own salvation. This, of course, cannot possibly be the meaning of this verse. Do you think the greatest theologian who ever lived, who writes to us most prolifically in regard to God’s pre-ordained plans to save and keep His own, from before the foundations of the world, has any concern about faltering at the finish line? The issue here is not about the ultimate finish of the race but the disqualifications that can occur along the way.
Recently at the Tokyo Olympics, there was an American sprinter who eased up a little toward the finish of a qualifying heat, and for that one-millisecond miscalculation, he missed competing for a prize in the final. He’s still a sprinter and will probably race again, perhaps winning medals, but he was forever disqualified from arguably the biggest race of his life.
There are “prizes” to be won along the way of life’s race. For what purpose, you may ask? As we train, discipline, and sacrifice for Christ in life’s great race, we are awarded such “prizes” as sure faith, wisdom, peace, joy, love, and a list of the merciful gifts of His grace that stretch beyond the space herein to list.
We know that ultimately for those who finish the race for Him; “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
I don’t think we’ll have individual trophy rooms in Heaven. I think there perhaps will be one great trophy room to the honor and glory of God that will display all that was accomplished by Him, through Him and for Him.
The book of Revelation seems to indicate there will be an occasion to honor and worship our Lord and Savior in a most unique and humble way as we are afforded the opportunity to lay our crowns, given by Him to us, back at His feet.
Perhaps the “prizes” won along life’s race will be as jewels in the crown of righteousness which we will delight to give Him.
One final thought…I have a good friend who used to run track at the University of Oregon. Their program is widely known, especially for success in distance running. My friend once told me that in a long distance race there are ultimately two races within the race. First, there are those who have run hard, jostled, and strategized to the front of the race with hopes of winning. There is a second group, perhaps ill-trained, tentative, and devoid of a sound race strategy, who find themselves lagging behind with no hope now of competing for the prize. They are not running to win; they are running not to lose.
There’s a term for this that dates back to the early 1600s: “Devil take the hindmost”. It is a phrase that best describes a situation in which someone thinks only of himself and his own interests, leaving others to deal with their own fates. Hindmost is an adjective that describes the person who is farthest from the front or who is in the back of the line. The idea behind the meaning of the saying, “devil take the hindmost,” is of a group being pursued by the devil. It begs the question, “Are you running to win or just trying not to lose? Is your eye still on the prize? Can you say with Paul: ‘I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14) Or are you just trying to keep pace ahead of the devil?”
Train harder, discipline yourself, and sacrifice all for Him so you might win the prizes of His grace and glory along the way and the crown of righteousness upon crossing the finish line.
Keep on Running the Race to Win!
“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB)
This is a verse with which I assume we are all familiar. Many of the modern day “prosperity preachers” have wrongly leveraged this verse in a way to suggest that Christians should expect (dare I say, deserve) abundant wealth and material blessings.
This mishandling of the text defies any sense of context whatsoever. Here, Jesus is not promoting materialism in any sense or form, but rather emphasizing and re-emphasizing the fact that He is the door through whom the sheep must enter and if they do, they shall be saved, find pasture (every need met), protection and be valued so highly that the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep. Try to put a price on that!
To promote the idea that the “abundant life” means health, wealth, and no struggle, not only misrepresents the truth of scripture but also adds insult to injury, as the saying goes, to the saints of God who find themselves in the trials and tribulations of life.
Jesus, in scripture, clearly informs and prepares us for the realities of life on planet Earth when He said, “In this world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)
So can we experience “the abundant life” in the midst of difficulty and tribulation? Scripture says, “His mercies are new every morning”, “His grace is sufficient for every need” and “His love endures forever.”
Are these promises only good for the easy days or are they wholly applicable in the difficult days? For the child of God, scripture is clear throughout that all His promises are yes and amen!
“For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” (II Corinthians 1:20 NASB)
Once again, as we examine the context of this wonderful verse we must note that it is framed within Paul’s explanation of affliction, enduring and suffering (verse 6) and affliction, anguish and sorrow (Chapter 2 Verse 4).
Why do I write these things to you? I write them because I am increasingly aware of the struggles and sorrows with which some of you find yourselves.
As I consider the prayer requests that come to us by letter or email and as I hear the prayer needs within our own church body, I am deeply moved by the depths of difficulty that some experience; some for long periods of time.
I know the needs are as diverse as each individual, yet I observe that certain difficulties seem to dominate the landscape of our trials and tribulations.
It is my hope herein to offer some lyrics from past songs, born out of Linda’s and my own struggles in life, to bring some hope, encouragement and in a prayerful sense, intercessory fellowship in the areas of physical need for healing, deliverance from depression and comfort in the midst of the sorrow of loss.
In 1987 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer which was promptly addressed by aggressive surgery and intense chemotherapy. One evening as I was out in my studio, I wrote a song which expressed the cry of our hearts. I invited Linda to come out and give a listen to this new song. As I sat at the piano and placed a set of headphones on Linda’s beautiful bald head, I sang this prayer for us. I now offer these lyrics as a prayer for those of you who need a touch from the Great Physician.
I knew life had its valleys
Never thought that it would not be so,
But even if they’d told me
I never would’ve thought they’d be this low.
I’ve stood upon the mountain
Looked across to higher peaks and more,
But the only way to reach them
Is to journey through the lowly valley floor.
How long have I been travelin’
Days or years, sometimes I just don’t know.
How deep is this valley,
And how many more miles must I go?
My body’s growing weary
Seems my strength has all but slipped away.
Oh, God, You’ve got to help me;
Place Your healing hand on me today.
Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.
Oh, God, I know You’re faithful,
Leading me each step every day,
But sometimes in the valley
I just forget You’ve often passed this way.
The path is steep and narrow;
Seems this upward climb will never stop,
So I’m holding onto You Lord
And in Your strength I know I’ll make the top.
Heal me, touch me with your love
Heal me, send Your Spirit from above
(And) Hear me, help me Lord I pray,
Jesus come and make me whole today.
Linda has often shared that as difficult as the struggle has been against the breast cancer she has battled now for 34 years, it doesn’t compare to a greater battle she endured in a season of severe depression, prior to her cancer diagnosis. The following lyrics offer hope to any who presently share in the difficult depths of depression.
There’s a heaviness inside your heart
A weight you can’t describe
A feeling that you just can’t hide
There’s a weariness within your mind
The thoughts don’t come too clear
You feel as though I’m not so near to you
But remember I said I’d never leave
Trust in My Word and believe I am here
Forever, I’ll never let you go
This is all you really need to know
I’ve heard every prayer I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future, and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.
I know sometimes it’s hard for you to put your trust in Me
To place your faith in what you cannot see
I know sometimes you feel that I’m a million miles away
But listen to your heart and hear me say:
I’ve heard every prayer – I’ve seen every tear
When I seemed so distant, I’ve always been near
And I know the future and I know the past
So believe me when I say; believe me when I say
This too, this too shall pass.
Finally; it seems the older we get, the more family and friends there are who are passing on. Linda and I have temporarily said goodbye to our parents in recent years. Linda’s mom and sister both passed a couple years ago and she was not even able to attend any kind of funeral for them due to Covid and Linda’s own health issues. Yes, we grieve but… “Not as those who have no hope.”
I pray the lyrics to this final song bring hope to those who have said goodbye to a family member or friend who died, “In Christ”.
I just said goodbye to someone I loved
Never pass this way again
The time we had
Just wasn’t enough
And it hurts to reach the end.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.
But… next time it will be forever
Then our hearts will be renewed
There we’ll always be together
Next time it will be forever.
I don’t understand, but I still believe
There’s a purpose in Your plan
And though I may feel that I can’t go on
In Your strength I know I can.
A whole lifetime
Is really no time at all
Just a moment, then it’s gone.
And I know that just as sure as there’s a God above
We’ll be reunited once again someday
Then forever we will be together in His love
And together in His love we’ll always stay.
It is Linda’s and my desire and prayer that this letter will bring some encouragement, hope, and healing to you. Here’s a link to several of my songs which you can download for free.
Our sincere hope is that from these songs, some written many years ago, they will now be to you…Lyrics for Life.
As a child, I thought that was an odd saying… “food for thought.” When I thought of food I thought of my stomach, not my mind. I thought of being hungry, I thought of cheeseburgers. However, as I got older, I realized that my mind needed wholesome nourishment as well as and perhaps more than my body.
The fact is, the body, the mind and most importantly the spirit needs a good steady diet of healthy wholesome nourishment.
But what of this food for thought idea. Does it have a scriptural basis? Does the Bible use the imagery of food to equip the mind?
Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Proverbs 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
There are numerous other scriptural references that support the “food for thought” idea.
I’ve always loved great quotes, first from scripture but then from other great men and women of God, down through history. Quotes from Spurgeon, Chambers, Tozer, Madame Guyon, Calvin and Elizabeth Elliot (to name a few) have often provided just the necessary morsel of “food for thought” to strengthen and sustain me on my journey.
For many years now as I have walked with the Lord and studied His word, I have also greatly benefited from an accompanying devotional such as My Utmost For His Highest (Chambers), Morning and Evening (Spurgeon) and Streams in the Desert (Cowman). As I have gone through these and other devotionals year after year, I have committed numerous quotes to memory. They have often served as spiritual energy bars while “I’m pressing on the upward way.”
This year as I am once again going through Streams in the Desert, I have asked the Lord to prompt within me a daily quote that I may share with a fellow traveler.
At year’s end I hope to have 365 quotes that will be shared as a daily devotional thought online and also compiled in a devotional book tentatively titled: Mile Markers Through the Desert.
The following is a brief sampling of some of these morsels, I pray will be food for thought.
Be untethered to the remembrance of past attainments. Once they were the unknown future, now they are the unimportant past. “Today is the day of salvation.” Live in the opportunity of today and the hope of tomorrow’s potential.
Hold your hand far away from you and you can see almost all that is behind your hand. Hold your hand close before your eyes and you will see only your hand. It’s all a matter of perspective. When enemies arise and seem as though they will overwhelm you, hold Jesus close before you and you’ll see only Him.
In life as in nature, both the showers and the sunshine are necessary for growth. Let God control the seasons.
Success in prayer, much like success in music or sports, requires practice, repetition and discipline; not so much to develop the manner of prayer but rather to develop the qualities of persistence and perseverance which bolster faith and precede prayer’s answers.
An evidence of His nearness we may hold in our hand will never compare to the value of the evidence we may hold in our heart, by the truth of His Word.
How small are our largest needs and pressing concerns, compared to the vast storehouse of God’s limitless, eternal provisions.
What of those who never seem to experience a break in the storm; whose entire lives seem to languish in tribulation? Greater adversity – greater grace! Greater pain – greater mercy! The more one’s life is darkened, the more one’s eternity is brightened. Perhaps those who suffer life’s trials most will enjoy Heaven’s glories best!
Every promise of God is true. Every promise He has made He will fulfill. The “when” of His fulfilling is HIs business. Some promises will be fulfilled in this life…some in the next.
The front of a tapestry displays a uniform and intricate design. The back of a tapestry reveals tangled, frayed and knotted threads. The tangles, frays and knots of our lives give testimony to the fact that we are being carefully and lovingly woven into God’s beautiful and eternal design.
In life as well as ministry, the “final stretch” presents the greatest possibilities as well as the greatest perils. In any race, the start is important but the finish is what matters most.
One of the greatest assaults on our peace is emotional discontent. The surest way to guarantee enduring stability amidst life’s storms is to live by faith, not by feeling.
Those who suffer in silence in this life shall sing loudest in Heaven’s choir!
The perfect and whole Body of Christ is comprised of many crippled saints. He’s building a perfect kingdom with imperfect people. Hell’s loss will be Heaven’s gain. He enlists us by grace. He oversees us in mercy. He loves us unconditionally.
The most beautiful strains of music are born in the most difficult strains of life.
A bright overhead light on a stage can illuminate an actor in a cone of brilliance. However, one step to the side and the actor is lost in darkness. God has shone His light upon us. Stay in the light. Darkness is always just a step away.
A man with a still heart and mind possesses great power. A quieted soul is not easily disturbed.
He is in the sunny days. He is in the cloudy days. He is in the calm and He is in the midst of the tempest. When we learn to discern His presence in every circumstance, fear will flee and faith will flourish.
God does His best work in our worst times.
He has gone before. He pioneered the trail and has led many a weary, wounded pilgrim to safety. He knows every twist and turn, even through the valley of the shadow of death. Hold His hand, step in His steps; stay close. He WILL lead you through.
Virtues are taught by adversity. As wind smooths the mountains and waves dull sharp stones; so tribulation molds our lives.
“I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” (Isaiah 45:6-7) The sooner we accept the fact that God is in absolute control of everything, the sooner we shall find, “The peace that surpasses our comprehension.”
Be encouraged… God is in absolute control of absolutely everything. He hears every prayer. His deliverance is sure and He will never leave you nor forsake you.
I pray these brief and simple thoughts and words have given you some Food For Thought.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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’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!”