The Mysteries Of God

“Relinquish your demand to understand; accept the fact that many things are simply beyond your comprehension. Because I am infinite and you are finite, the limitations of your mind make it impossible for you to understand much of what happens in your life—and in the world. So it’s vital to make room for mystery in your worldview.

“You are privileged to know many things that were formally mysteries—things that had been kept hidden for ages and generations. The New Testament is full of revelations that came through My incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. You are immeasurably blessed to have this priceless knowledge!

“Nonetheless, the ways I work in your world are often mysterious to you—beyond tracing out. This presents you with a choice: to resent My ways or to bow before Me and wonder and worship.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Always)

I hope you will choose wonder and worship—that’s what I’m trying to choose.

Don’t Stop At Salvation

The Holy Spirit is vital in everything concerning a Christian’s life. Dr. Donald Stamps emphatically said it this way: 

“It is essential that believers recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit in God’s redemptive purpose. Many Christians have no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in this world. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no creation, no universe, no human race (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible (2 Peter 1:21), no New Testament (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14), no power to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no faith, no new birth, no holiness, no Christians at all in the world.” 

Sometimes I think we have in our mind that the “old” in Old Testament somehow means outdated or no longer applicable to our lives, and the “new” in New Testament should be our sole focus. But Jesus affirmed again and again that all of the Scriptures—what we now refer to as the Old Testament—all point to Him. 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Sunday was not something new to the New Testament Christians. He was always a part of a believer’s life. Even 1000 years before Christ’s public ministry, David knew the importance of the Holy Spirit in both salvation, and in living a consistently holy lifestyle (Psalm 51:10-12, 143:10). 

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s public ministry was foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures and then fulfilled in the New Testament era (see Isaiah 11:1-2; Luke 3:21-22; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21). 

If Jesus needed the baptism in the Spirit to empower Him, direct Him, and give Him success, how much more do we need this?! That’s why Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to His followers at their moment of salvation, but then admonished them to eagerly expect the baptism in the Holy Spirit as well (John 20:22; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). 

Quite simply Jesus is sayingDON’T STOP AT SALVATION

Jesus didn’t, the apostles didn’t, Paul didn’t, Apollos didn’t, the Ephesian Christians didn’t, I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either! 

Keep on going…

  1. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins
  2. Eagerly desire the baptism in the Spirit 
  3. Ask God to baptize you in His Spirit
  4. Expect that He will answer that prayer (Acts 2:38; Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39; Luke 11:13; Mark 11:24)

Join me again this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means for Christians today to be Pentecostal. 

The Empowerment Of Pentecost

The Feast of Pentecost was an annual celebration for Jewish people for a long time, with nothing really noteworthy happening. Until…

…on the Day of Pentecost that took place just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven, a new breed of Christian was unleashed on the world. Those followers of Jesus who were baptized in the Holy Spirit on that day begin living a lifestyle that we now refer to as Pentecostal. 

Most people were familiar with water baptism is an outward sign of an inward commitment. It’s not something that was new to Christianity: Greek philosophy teachers and Jewish rabbis baptized their followers. So did John the baptizer (or the Baptist). 

But John, as the forerunner of Jesus, promised that there would be something more—a baptism in the Holy Spirit that Jesus would bring. Jesus Himself said this baptism was so important that He didn’t want His followers to even attempt to begin to evangelize the world until they received this baptism (Luke 3:3, 16; 24:44-49; Acts 1:4-8). 

What is important about this Holy Spirit baptism? What are its origins? To answer these questions, we have to go back to the very beginning of Time itself. When God created humans, the Holy Spirit was breathed into us, giving us a living soul (Genesis 1:26, 2:7). This Spirit-breath set us apart from all other living creatures (Job 33:4, 32:8; Proverbs 20:27).

We were created to be intimately connected with God, but our sin severed that. Our hearts became sin-calloused and selfish and stone-hard toward God. 

The Cross of Jesus allowed us to be reconciled to God. By placing our faith in what Jesus did for us on the Cross, we could receive forgiveness of our sins. We were now saved from the penalty of our sins, but Jesus wanted more for us—He wanted us also to be saved to a new life that was as intimately connected to God’s heart as His life was. 

So Jesus told His followers to wait and pray for the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

They prayed. And on that Day of Pentecost, they were indeed baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Actually, the word filled literally means “fulfilled”—the baptism in the Holy Spirit fulfilled what Jesus had promised. 

From that day forward, those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit are called Pentecostal people. I know there are some who would argue that was only for “back then,” but let me tell you from personal experience that there is no other way that I would try to live the Christian life than by being an unashamed Pentecostal! 

Jesus wants us to not only be water baptized to announce our faith in Him for forgiveness of sins, but also to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to empower us to live holy, extraordinary, fulfilling lives. If you haven’t been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can be simply by asking God (Luke 11:13).

Join me next Sunday as we continue to explore what it means to live the Pentecostal lifestyle.

Poetry Saturday—Our Sins The Cause Of Christ’s Death

Infinite grief! amazing woe!
Behold my bleeding Lord!
Hell and the Jews conspired His death,
And us’d the Roman sword.

O the sharp pangs of smarting pain
My dear Redeemer bore,
When knotty whips, and ragged thorns,
His sacred body tore!

But knotty whips, and ragged thorns
In vain do I accuse;
In vain I blame the Roman bands,
And the more spiteful Jews.

‘Twas you, my sins, my cruel sins,
His chief tormentors were;
Each of my crimes became a nail,
And unbelief the spear.

It was you that pulled the vengeance down
Upon His guiltless head;
Break, break, my heart! O burst mine eyes!
And let my sorrows bleed.

Strike, mighty grace, my flinty soul,
Till melting waters flow,
And deep repentance drown mine eyes
In undissembled woe. —Isaac Watts

Thursdays With Oswald—Hear And Do

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Hear And Do

     The emphasis in these verses [Matthew 7:24-29] is laid by our Lord on hearing and doing. … We hear only what we listen for. Have we listened to what Jesus has to say? Have we paid any attention to finding out what He did say? Most of us do not know what He said. If we have only a smattering of religion, we talk a lot about the devil; but what hinders us spiritually is not the devil nearly so much as inattention. We may hear the sayings of Jesus Christ, but our wills are left untouched, we never do them. … 

     Pay attention to His words, and give time to doing it. Try five minutes a day with your Bible. The thing that influences us most is not the thing that we give most time to, but the thing that springs from our own personal relationship, that is the prime motive that dominates us. … 

     “Build up your character bit by bit by attention to My words,” says Jesus, then when the supreme crisis comes, you will stand like a rock. … If a man has built himself up in private by listening to the words of Jesus and obeying them, when the crisis comes it is not his strength of will that keeps him, but the tremendous power of God. … All you build will end in disaster unless it is built on the sayings of Jesus Christ; but if you are doing what Jesus told you to do, nourishing your soul on His word, you need not fear the crisis whatever it is. … 

     There is a tendency in all of us to appreciate the sayings of Jesus Christ with our intellects while we refuse to do them. … 

     The Holy Spirit’s voice is as gentle as a zephyr, the merest check; when you hear it do you say, “But that is only a tiny detail, the Holy Spirit cannot mean that, it is much too trivial a thing”? The Holy Spirit does mean that, and at the risk of being thought fanatical you must obey. … What does it matter what anyone thinks of us as long as Jesus Christ thinks we are doing the right thing, as long as we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?” 

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Hear/read God’s Word → Listen to how the Holy Spirit tells me to apply it to my life → Then apply it to my life → Repeat this process again tomorrow… 

Studies In The Sermon On The Mount (book review)

Many people have called Christ’s Sermon on the Mount the most profound sermon ever preached. It would be hard to argue that conclusion! Reading the Sermon is one thing, but living it out is something entirely different. Oswald Chambers helps us live out these amazing words in his book Studies In The Sermon On The Mount. 

Not only did Chambers provide us with an excellent commentary on this Sermon, but his life showed his devotion to practicing what he preached. At a memorial service for Chambers in December 1917, a close friend described Oswald’s life as “the finest commentary on the Sermon on the Mount I know.” May that be said of all Christians! 

This is one of the finest commentaries I have read on this life-patterning sermon that Jesus gave us. It’s a great read, but it is also quite challenging at times. To be honest, Chambers’ thoughts are so deeply profound at points that it takes several readings to grasp the implications. But it is worth your effort! 

A colleague of Chambers—J.F. Knapp, who founded God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, OH, where Chambers taught for seven months in 1907—described it better than I could: 

“‘But,’ says some simple soul, ‘I don’t understand [Chambers].’ The more is the pity. Leave then the evening newspaper, the book of religious wonder-tales, the high-flown writing watered with adjectives, but empty of thought or power, and read these pages again and again until the truth soaks through to your innermost consciousness. … To heed the words of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount as interpreted by Oswald Chambers will transform holiness people into holy people, and faithless verbosity into Christian humility. Unto which glorious result God speed the day!”

To Knapp’s words I can only add “Amen!” If you want to understand the Sermon On The Mount better, you shouldn’t miss out on this premier Oswald Chambers book. 

Supernatural Interference

The foundational claim of Christianity is Jesus died AND rose to life again. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection didn’t happen, anyone who claims to be a Christian is in a world of hurt (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 14, 17-20).  

“But resurrected from the dead?! Really? I believe in facts. I believe in the laws of science.” Me too! But I also believe that the supernatural is not the opposite of belief in the natural. Just like Paul said, “Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). 

Noted astronomer Allan Rex Sandage said, “It is my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

And C.S. Lewis added, “How can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? … Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary. Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”  

Let me give you a simple example. Suppose I divide $5 evenly between two of my buddies. The laws of mathematics dictate that both of them will have $2.50. But what if one of my friends, through some sleight of hand, steals some of my other friend’s money? The fact that one of them now has more than half doesn’t change that mathematical law that $5 divided evenly is two sets of $2.50. 

The mathematician as a mathematician doesn’t know how likely one friend is to steal some of the other friend’s money. For that answer, he has to ask someone else. The changing of the outcome does not negate the laws. In fact, the more certain we are of the laws of mathematics the more clearly we know that something outside of them “interfered.” 

Concerning Jesus, there are three undeniable facts—

  1. Jesus died (John 19:28-34, 38-42; Mark 15:44-45; Matthew 27:62-66) 
  2. Death is irreversible
  3. Jesus is alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It appears the laws of biology have been interfered with, that a supernatural miracle has occurred. The supernatural fact that Jesus was resurrected does not change the biological fact that death is irreversible. We just didn’t expect the outside influence. Just like we didn’t expect one friend to steal money from another friend.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that you can trust God’s word. All of it! Jesus told us that He would die by crucifixion and that He would be resurrected three days later (John 10:18; Matthew 20:19). 

If that word came true, we can also trust this word: We can have our sins forgiven and receive God’s gift of eternal life—just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4). 

The law of sin says: All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard. The unbreakable law of sin is that the penalty for unforgiven sin is eternal death. That law cannot be broken, unless there is a Supernatural interference—a miracle!

Jesus interfered. He took our sins upon Himself. He supernaturally switched places with us and let the death penalty fall on Himself. And if we believe in that, we can have our sins forgiven and receive what we didn’t expect—eternal life with God! 

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have Him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 MSG & NLT)

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