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The Holy Spirit

Billy Graham writes in his book, “The Holy Spirit”[1] the story about an Indian who came down the mountains and saw the ocean for the first time. In awe he took a jar and filled it, with the intention to take it back to his people who had never seen the ocean before.

Narrow viewIn the same way this article is like the jar, only instead of being made of glass, its limitations are through its words. For words can never hope to capture the fullness of the glory of the Holy Spirit, for in the same way the ocean must be experienced to gain a full appreciation of its immensity, we too must experience the Holy Spirit to fully appreciate and understand His Immensity, Glory and Mission. Many today limit the Holy Spirit within the confines of the written word of God, trying to understand Him through the limits of those words. There they constrain their understanding of Him to a narrow scope, where he is no longer to be experienced today as he was recorded in the Scriptures as working. Instead they teach and believe that his work has changed to making us rationally understand and believe the propositions of Scripture. Here they become guilty of the sin of Bibliolatry, changing the Trinity to Father, Son and Bible.The full view

In doing this they actually deny the truth of Scripture in that the Holy Spirit is the same God yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. Scripture is not meant to be read that way, it is to be read as a pointer towards the living God, recording for us the ways and means to which we are to experience the Holy Spirit ourselves. Scripture clearly shows us that the Apostles took this experience for all very seriously. Peter tells his audience when asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, be baptised and then you will receive the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 and indeed we see this happening with the Christians in Samaria, repenting and accepting Christ for themselves, being baptised and then the Apostles went and ensured that they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This then is the norm of what should happen in the Christians life. Many in Christendom today though have reversed the order Biblical order in that we receive the Holy Spirit before accepting Christ, for it is God who makes us alive while we are dead in sin and therefore he does this by granting us the Holy Spirit in making us alive. This is a distortion of the Biblical recording of both Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit and the recording of the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are distinctly two workings of the Holy Spirit.

1.) The external working of the Holy Spirit in drawing a unbeliever to accepting Christ.

2.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the initial first experience of repeated infillings of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself taught that there would be an external working of the Holy Spirit Jn16:13 Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord except through the work of the Holy Spirit 1Cor 12:3. He also goes to great pains to show us that faith comes through hearing the word of God, in the attempt to motivate us to share the Word of God through evangelism. Rom 10:17. . We see this external working of the Holy Spirit at work in Samaria, convicting the Samaritans to the truth of Christ, cutting them deep to the heart. We see the Holy Spirit at work in Peter’s first sermon to the Jews and God fearers who are cut to the heart asking what must we do, to be saved. And again we see this happening to Paul who has an encounter with Jesus, is convicted of his sin and that Jesus is Lord and yet has to wait for the laying on of hands by Ananias to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 It may appear to the casual observer that there is a episode in the Scriptures where some receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit before being convicted by the external working of the Holy Spirit, and that is the case of Cornelius and his family. Yet if we look closely at the story we notice that his encounter with Christ is similar to the one Paul had, as both encountered the Angel of the Lord, before meeting with a Christian whom the Lord sent. Acts 10:33 the only difference was that they were yet to be baptised in water which Peter soon rectified. Again in Acts 16:25 we read of the Jailer being convicted through the external working of the Holy Spirit, this time through the earthquake – and their subsequent acceptance of the word of God.

Finally we read of some disciples whom Paul met on the road to Ephesus, there he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. This is an important Scripture because it shows us an insight into his ministry that like the Apostles did with the Samaritans, Ananias did with himself, he also ensured that other believers also did not remain content with just believing, but they also received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if you like the initial experiential experience of being filled with the Spirit. There they showed that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was experiential for they also started prophesying and speaking in tongues. Acts 19:6 We also read of Apollos being like those disciples Paul met, only knowing the baptism of John and that Pricilla and Aquila explained the way to him, but that he taught about Jesus accurately.

nnwzz018.jpgThe reception of the Holy Spirit is a experiential reception, one that though we read about within the pages of Gods word, we experience it our selves outside of our rational understanding.  This experience brings life to the believer, it brings about gifting and draws us close to the heart of God


[1] Graham, Billy The Holy Spirit (Word Books, Texas, 1978) p.1

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I first wrote this and blogged it July 13, 2005. And this is the revised version.

Being sifted like wheat

Since October 17th 2008 I have been thinking and reflecting about the difficulties we have in life and that we face as Christians. It seems that there are times we are constantly under spiritual attack and no matter what we do; our courage fails us right at the time it is crucial that it does not. How often does it seem that we hear the voice of God in what ever way it is that he is talking to us, and yet we don’t do as he has told us; instead we do exactly the opposite?

  • Peter the Apostle knew all about this, Luke records the warning, exhortation and encouragement of the exchange between both Jesus and Peter.

Luk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you[1] as wheat.
Luk 22:32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Luk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Luk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Here we read that Satan has asked God permission to sift Peter and that he has been given permission to do so. There is another story in the OT about a man called Job who also was sifted by Satan with Gods permission.

Have you ever watched wheat being sifted? With todays society and the readily availability of instant food, I would say probably not. A normal sieve was round about 30 – 40 cm across with sides about 100 mm – 150mm high, and a fine mesh type bottom, some sieves were bigger made of a mesh type material, about the size of a blanket and took two people to operate.

What happens is that you put the harvested wheat with the stalk etc into it and throw it up and down, shaking it, tossing it, so that the wheat is separated from the rest of the plant, and ready for use, either for storage, sowing or grinding into flour. The sifting process is a much-needed process for the grain to be any use.

So we see here that Jesus is telling Peter and though he is talking specifically to Peter, I believe he is also talking talking to the rest of the disciples; that he and they are going to be sifted, to be thrown about, that they will be going through some tough times, but not to worry, he has prayed for Peter / them that they will not fail. John 21:15-17.

Jesus tells us that he has prayed their faith will not fail them, that they will turn back, and in doing so strengthen many. Peter now argues with Jesus, protesting that it would not be so. Jesus declares, it will be so, and this is how it will pan out! And as the story progresses we know that indeed all the disciples bar John deserted Jesus and after the resurrection Jesus also reinstates them all, especially Peter.

How often have we been in the shoes of Peter and the other disciples, our boldness and confidence fleeing from us? Our faith becomes shaken, we get tossed and turned. Perhaps we don’t quite reach the stage Peter and the others did in denying our Lord. Yet for what ever reason we find we are going through a dark night or season of the soul, where we know our walk with the Lord is perhaps not OK. We find the going tough. We lack the wisdom, boldness and even passion to witness to others. Our prayer life lacks the dynamic it once had and we wonder in the deeper recesses of our inner being if we will ever recover that dynamic again? We intend to pray and instead get easily distracted. Or we go through the motions of being a Christian, not enjoying our reading of the word – that is if we do read it. We go through the motions of praying, while deep within we can’t wait for the prayer time to be over. Legalism creeps in, duty replaces joy and intimacy.

Perhaps you don’t know what it is I’m talking about? Praise God for it. Perhaps the time will come for you to experience it, perhaps not. Perhaps you have gone through that and come out the other side wiser for the experience. Or perhaps you are in the middle of such an experience right at this very moment.

If this is you then we have joined company, and we need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote.

1Co 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Just as Peter was sifted by satan, we to are liable to being sifted by satan in all his subtle and not so subtle ways. Just as Peter was told by Jesus that he would fail, he was also told that his faith would not totally fail him, that he would bounce back and strengthen others.

What ever it is we are facing right now at this very moment, God will not allow us to face more than what we bear and he will also provide a way out, under the shadow of his wings.

Father God, I lift us all up to you, individuals families and friends. Lord I ask that we who are going through the trials of being sifted that you will strengthen us, help us to both know and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that you are providing a way out. That you will deliver us from the shaking of the evil one.

For those who have come out of such an experience I ask that you will continue to help them to walk with you in joy, in peace, in strength, in the fullness of your spirit, and for those who have not yet been through the sifting process that indeed you will prepare them for such an event if it is to be your will for them to do so. I ask that none of us will ever fall away, to deny you Lord, that we will all grow from strength to strength, faith to faith, in the power of your spirit I ask that you will do this Jesus, shielding us from the power of the evil one.

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This is a copy of the word that came to me on Friday night, 18th April during Easter 2003,

To set the mood,
We had gone to church and then went land hunting with my wife and two of my children. I have always been a man of the land, though rover the last few years I have been of it. The ties to the land runs in my blood, and tonight I was reflecting on how you can take the boy from the bush but can’t take the bush from the boy.

Then I felt the Lord had this to say, which I am sharing with you now.
Malachi 4:6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.

To our men of the land.

Tonight I felt the lord had me say this. Men you are in relationship with the land, sometimes you hate it, sometimes you love it and sometimes you wish you could pretend it’s no longer even there. You wrestle with it, to draw the best it can give, you nurture it, you till it, you fertilise it, you seed it, you cull and weed and burn and spray, you even water it when there is water to give, and then you harvest it.


The harvest depends on the amount of nurturing you give it, and on the amount of water it receives.

Guys you can work hard from sun up till sundown working the soil hard to give it its best and it will give you its best it can give you with all the hard work you put into it, but the true harvest depends on the water, the life giving, thirst quenching water, the water that brings healing, the water that brings life, the water that sustains life and even produces new life.


Men of the Land listen to what the Lord would have you hear him say, you work hard for your families, you work hard for yourself, and the words you speak to your family, the words you speak to your self can be like words of water or poison. They can either build up or burn down, they can encourage your wives and sons and daughters to bloom and to blossom and to bear much fruit or they can spray over them like toxin and cause them to wither and die.
Words have the power of life and death, men of the land listen up, many of you feel that you are like wells run dry that you are like dams with a little muddy water left in them that you are like the garden tank hose with no pressure, that you are like a cloud with no water, that you are running dry with nothing else to give.
Men of the land listen up; it is when you are this dry you need to turn to the source of water, the source of living water which is there only for the asking, every one who drinks of the water of the Lord will never thirst again, indeed it will become like a well in you, a spring that flows up to eternal life.
Who is this source of living water? It is none other than our lord and savoir Jesus Christ. Who beckons and calls, “Come to me all who are heavily burdened, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

I ask you, over this Easter will you allow Jesus to refill your tanks?

Craig

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Predestination and the Elect – What the New Testament says.

Over the years I have had many discussions with Christians over the doctrine of Predestination. It can be a heated topic, one that can get Christians hot under the collar, and seeking the Lord regarding the truth of the matter. So the purpose of this essay is to look at what the New Testament says about Predestination.

There are four verses in the NT that translates the Greek into Predestined,
1. Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
2. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
3. Eph 1:5 he[3] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
4. Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen,[5] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

There are two other verses that translate it as determined and destined,
1. Act 4:28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
2. 1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

As Christ centred theologians, it is important that we look at the context surrounding these scriptures to find what it is they are really saying. Starting with Acts; the background is that Peter and John were jailed for preaching Christ Act 4:1 after they healed a man from his lameness. In the course of his sermon, Peter clearly speaks of the death and resurrection of Christ. Then speaks of what it was that God predestined, and that was that Christ would die through the hands of mankind, and would raise to life again.

Turning to Romans

Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Rom 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.


The key verse to understanding God having predestined us is in the word Foreknew . Paul says that it is those he foreknew who he predestined, and who was it that he foreknew? So a faithful translation of the text would be,

Those he glorified, he had justified, those he justified he had called, those he called he had called he had predestined; those he predestined were those he knew would accept his Son Jesus Christ and what he done for them.

Is important to have the understanding of Gods foreknowledge in mind when we think about the elect. Who are the elect?

Another important word in determining what Scripture is truly saying is the word Foreknowledge. It is used twice in the NT.

1. Act 2:23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[4] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

2. 1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

In Acts Peter speaks of Christ being handed over, that God knew it would happen. Indeed Jesus often spoke of his impending death, explaining the Scriptures to his disciples. In the 1 Peter passage, Peter is telling the Christians that they are Gods elect according to His foreknowledge, and from the Romans passage we have the explanation as to what elect means. Peter is encouraging those who suffered through the dispersion, knowing that their suffering has been a result of their obedience to Christ. Then he tells them that the Spirit has sanctified them, Christs shed blood, reminding them of Christs own sacrifice.

Moving onto the Ephesians passage we need to look at the whole passage and what it is that Paul is truly saying.

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Eph 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us
in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Eph 1:4 For he chose us
in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
Eph1:5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in
accordance with his pleasure and will–Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Eph 1:7 In him we have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s
grace Eph 1:8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.Eph 1:9 And
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he
purposed in Christ, Eph 1:10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached
their fulfilment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head,
even Christ. Eph 1:11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

In verse 5, he is saying that God had predetermined that there would be an adoption through Christ before the creation of the world, and indeed we read a reference to this in Genesis when God tells Eve that her seed would crush the serpents head. God had determined that there would be salvation of mankind and it is in this context that Paul is speaking of Predestination – or that God had already determined that Christ would come, Christ would die, and Christ would live again.
In verse 11 the context is in that Paul is speaking of the Jews being the first born to receive the hope of Christ. God had determined that it was the Jews whom Christ would come. God determined before the creation of the world that indeed Christ would come. God determined that Christ would come through Abraham and that through him a great nation would grow.

Finally we need to look at 1Co 2:7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

The word destined is the same word translated Predestined, and here it speaks of Christ being Gods wisdom for the sinfulness of mankind. Again Paul is consistent in saying that God had determined Christ would be our savior before time began.

Therefore we can confidently say that the NT does not speak of predestination in that God chooses some to be saved and not others, rather it says that God knows who will be saved and accept his message and that it was Christ who he predestined, 1Ti 2:6 to give himself as a ransom for all.

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