PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XXXVIII

The Holy Spirit is more concerned about a person’s soul than the person him/herself. The reason is that the Holy Spirit is more outside the human heart than He is inside the heart. Men treat the Holy Spirit as if He were a guest or a physician needed for certain ailments or problems, rather than as a “Present Resident.” It was Jesus, the Lord’s wish and the Lord’s promise, to “live-in” with his disciples and not be on a “stand-by” when He is needed:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keep them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:12-24).

WHAT ARE SOME OF SIGNS THE HOLY SPIRIT LOOKS FOR BEFORE HE FEELS AT HOME IN MAN?

Jesus revealed and talked about things that visibly glorified God. Jesus was not pleased with members, who only believed in Him, and who did not do what He did. Jesus claimed that He did exactly what God would do! And that was the reason why Jesus’ work was the evidence that God was in Him and that He was in God (John 14:8-11). The same is true of Jesus’ disciples. The only way a disciple can convince others that the Holy Spirit is living in him is by doing what Jesus did and even more so by man’s deeds (John 14:12-17). The most profound evidence that the Holy Spirit is in the heart of the followers of Jesus is love (Agape). But, love, as Jesus wants men to understand, is not a belief — but love is the Commandment to be practiced. The word “keep” (teresete) means to make love. And the words and Commandments of God becomes part of a disciple’s life; and therefore, the disciples live by them. Love becomes the aim and the goal of the disciple’s life and work (I Corinthians 14:1). Love compels the disciple to honor God by what he does and not just by what he believes (Matthew 5:16).

Far too many believers pray for love to come down from heaven and to fill their lives. Of course, they end up in disappointments because love is a human characteristic and trait, which man must develop. In fact, love has to grow like the seed of a Palm tree or a Cedar of Lebanon, whose roots are deep into the ground and the tree becomes strong to withstand the forces of nature and to keep on producing its fruit (Psalm 1:3; 92:12-15). Love becomes a Commandment for a heart that is prepared to learn how to love, even the unlovable. God does not have to be told how to love! God has proven “His Love” by offering up His Son (John 3:16). Man has to learn and man has to take the courage to even love an enemy; and also halt, by the road, for a stranger in trouble (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:25-37). Love is not something a follower of Christ likes, but love is something that must be done that visibly honors God. Paul wrote these instructions to Titus:

But as for you, teach what befits sound doctrine. Bid the older men be temperate, serious, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited. Likewise, urge the younger men to control themselves. Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be construed, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passion and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you (Titus 2:1-15).

A CHURCH THAT DISAPPOINTED JESUS; YET, JESUS DID NOT GIVE UP ON THE CHURCH

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’” (Revelation 3:14-22).

Laodicea was a thriving and very busy Church. The Church was bustling and buzzing with people and programs. No doubt, Church was the envy of many pastors in the region. The Church had no need for manpower or for finances. Every position and every need was filled. In the eyes of many, God had showered His favor in overabundance on Laodicea. In a way, it was similar to the success of Solomon’s materialistic religion and reign. It is also similar to many of the “Mega Churches,” who thrive on material and social success as evidence that God is on their side. Take a closer look at Laodicea and try to find Jesus. Jesus was there! However, Jesus was outside the door of the Church. Jesus was not inside the Church, and neither was His influence or His teachings. It also meant that the eyewitnesses of Jesus, like the apostles John, Peter, and Paul, were no longer followed Jesus’ Gospel. The Laodicea Church was following preachers who had developed their own gospel, which granted them recognition and social standing in the community. The Spirit of the Lord directed His Message to the angel and pastor of the Church. It was the pastor, who had misled them away from a suffering Christ. The pastor preached a gospel of glorious successful life on earth. It was easy to base the social gospel on a saying of Paul out of context: “And my God will supply every need of your according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). After all, God has said, “For every beast of the forest is mine, (and) the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).

In a similar way, modern preachers and teachers are using God’s forbearance (grace) to excuse; and even exempt man from his responsibility to “bear fruit that befits repentance” (Luke 3:8). The only reason God is forbearing (gracious) is that man needs to partner with the Spirit of Christ to save himself and to assist others to do likewise. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk (live) in them (good deeds)” (Ephesians 2:10). Man does not have to prove to God that he loves Him! But man has to prove to man, in the world, that man too is in need of praising God (Matthew 5:16). Without partnering with the Holy Spirit, man’s fruit is not honoring Christ, God, or even oneself. Jesus offered this parable about being in Christ:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown in the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this, my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:1-11).

CHRIST DID NOT LEAVE LAODICEA, EVEN WHEN IT HAD REJECTED HIM

The Holy Spirit was forbearing with Laodicea, as He is with all men. The Holy Spirit kept standing at the door and knocked at the heart of man to be readmitted. To be readmitted, the delinquent members had to be disciplined. Genuine love calls for painful correction, for compensation, and for restitution! To restore love is costly and humiliating. The high and mighty in Laodicea did not admit that in the eyes of their Lord they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, and ready to be spewed out”. The prescription to remedy these ailments was and still is severe. It was not a matter of simple repentance. Two things the Laodiceans had to do to qualify for re-entrance into the Church or Body of Christ:

The first condition was “to buy gold refined by fire from Jesus.” In other words, everything the Laodiceans had was worthless and it had to go up in smoke. Refined gold is symbolic of a newborn or newly created life in Christ that no longer is hampered or held back physically and materially. According to the apostle Paul, every believer must build such a life and live it in the Spirit. Jesus, Himself, placed the responsibility on the man for building a godly life on faith in Christ.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder, I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any many has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s (I Corinthians 3:10-23).  

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known for its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like; he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:43-49).

The second demand for Laodicea was to buy from “Jesus White Garments” to hide human nakedness. The language is symbolic of laying off the desires and passions of the flesh and taking on the nature of Christ. How is one clothed in the garments and nature of Christ? Man must wrap himself in everything that is spiritual and decline everything that is carnal. Also, it is a gradual process and not an instant transformation. The human mind and body require time to adjust to holy living. A child that enters the world at birth does not become a man overnight. Saints are not born; saints are made by the errors and trials life throws at them. For instance, repentance is not a one-time act! Repentance is an endless repetition of correcting our endless mistakes. That was the reason why Peter had to forgive and be forgiven seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). Just to adopt the mind of Christ demands to be humble and forgiving. It is not an easy chore to shed the “old nature” and become “Christlike.”

Have this mind among yourselves, which (can be) is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed o him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 4:22-5:2).

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these, you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian slave, a free man, but Christ is all and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen one, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:5-17).