Drawing Near to the Lord

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" (John 6:44-45)

Location: Charlotttesville, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do You Know the Holy Spirit?


Do you really know the Holy Spirit? As much as the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit, it is a wonder then why so little thought or consideration is given to Him. In our understanding of who God is, we must not forget about the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, many people do not think of the Holy Spirit as a Person and therefore their disrespect of Him shows. Many talk about the Holy Spirit as if He equaled a powerful emotion to be experienced. Many define Him as some kind of unexplainable, mysterious energy force of the cosmos. They will speak of Him as an influence or a power of God, but rarely if ever as a Person, one of the three persons that comprise Deity.

The apostle Paul by the Spirit said to his Corinthian brethren: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14, NASB)We should know the Holy Spirit with whom we have fellowship! Taking the time to study the Scriptures will clear up any misunderstandings we have and enrich the relationship we are meant to have with the Holy Spirit as Christians.

The Holy Spirit is Holy!

The word spirit in the New Testament comes from the Greek word PNEUMA. There are several different uses of the word in Scripture (e.g., wind – Jn 3:8; breath – 2 Thes 2:8; unclean spirits – Mt 10:1). What sets the Holy Spirit apart is that He is holy! (Jn 14:26)

The Holy Spirit is holy (from HAGIOS). This means that He is worthy to be revered as an object of awe or veneration, He is set apart and sacred, and that He is pure and sinless (cf. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Holiness is one of the characteristics of God. To be designated as holy, identifies the Spirit with God Himself! “And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." (Isa. 6:3; cf. Ps. 103:1; 111:9; Isa. 57:15; Mat. 6:9b; Rev. 4:8)

The Holy Spirit Has a Spiritual Nature.

Being a Spirit, He is spiritual, not physical. To rightly understand the Holy Spirit, we must view Him differently than a physical man, for He is a Spirit as God is (John 14:26; cf. 4:24). His existence is not verified by the physical or our emotions! Since the Holy Spirit is a spirit or spiritual, He cannot be perceived by our physical senses (i.e., sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste). The raised Jesus said to His apostles: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39). The Holy Spirit exists in an invisible realm, a non-physical world (cf. Eph. 6:12).

Beware of Human Reasoning in Religion That Defines the Holy Spirit in Physical, Fleshly, or Earthly Ways. Many mistakenly base the Holy Spirit’s presence on their emotions: “It feels so right, it must be the Spirit.” Sadly, many validate sinful behaviors this way! Similarly, others determine that the Holy Spirit is communicating to them by the physical sensations they experience (e.g., energetic, shaky, tingling, dizzy, calm, hot/ cold, restless, tense, burning, feeling light or heavy, pain, shiver, etc.). This is far too subjective – How is a person to know this is from the Spirit or from a meal they ate!?! Others claim to receive visions from the Spirit, yet once again such experiences stem from the physical such as drug or alcohol use, sleep depravation, or an intense emotion. Sadly, there are televangelists today that will preach about “supernatural success” defining the Spirit’s presence in your life by your success in a career or economic fortune. Finally, there are those who fraudulently make claims of miraculous healings that are unverifiable, lacking in supporting evidence.

Like Ancient Times, Many Religious Groups Today Attempt to Bring the Holy Spirit (a Spiritual Being) Down to the Level of Physical Man! For example, many today claim to have the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues. Yet, not a one of these speak from the Holy Spirit. These occurrences are nothing more than ecstatic utterances – unintelligible speech that is caused by overpowering emotions such as joy, fear, or anger, not by the Holy Spirit. Instead of speaking actual languages fluently without study (cf. Acts 2:4-11), the claim of speaking in tongues is eerily similar to the ancient practices of the pagans. Just like the pagans, people suppose that by making a lot of noise through their babblings they can get the attention of God!

Another example of this is the people’s request for a “Spirit-filled” worship service. Often, what they really want is not a worship that follows the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures, but a worship that physically heightens the senses and makes them “feel good.” Thus, many religious groups are more than willing to accommodate if it will bring in the numbers. By majoring in the psychology of “sensation and perception,” modern day worship services aim to stimulate the emotions through physical means (e.g., music, chanting, incense, candles, drama plays, dancing, the powers of human persuasion, etc.).

All we know with certainty about the Holy Spirit comes from the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 10:17), not from our traditions, superstitions, feelings, or by physical measurements. If we truly want to know the Holy Spirit, we need to learn from His word.

The Holy Spirit is a Person with Whom We Can Have a Relationship.

The Holy Spirit Possess the Qualities and Attributes of a Person. Every person has life, thoughts, character, the ability to choose and take action, etc. and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit has! For example, the Holy Spirit has a mind (Rom. 8:27), knowledge (1 Cor. 2:11; 14:11), a will (1 Cor. 12:11; Acts 16:6-7; 21:11-14), goodness (Neh. 9:20; Ps. 143:10), and the power to love and comfort others (Rom. 15:30; 5:5; Phil. 2:1) (John 14:16-17; Acts 9:31).

The Holy Spirit Performed Good Works That Demonstrated That He is a Person. The Holy Spirit speaks (e.g., Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2; 1 Tim. 4:1). He testifies or bears witness (John 15:26; Acts 20:23; Rom. 8:16). He also teaches, guides, and leads or directs (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 16:6-7; Rom. 8:14).

The Holy Spirit has emotions as a person would and can be offended. The Holy Spirit can be grieved or saddened (Eph. 4:30; Isa. 63:10). The Holy Spirit can be resisted or opposed (Acts 7:51). He can also be insulted (Heb. 10:29), even blasphemed (Mat. 12:31).

How then should we speak of the Holy Spirit? Clearly, He is not an “it,” a feeling, thing, impersonal force, or a mere divine influence. Nor is the Holy Spirit just a manifestation of God the Father or the word of God. The Holy Spirit is a Person and thus we should always speak of Him as a person. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26; cf. John 15:26; 16:13-14; cf. Rom. 8:16).

The Holy Spirit: One of Three of the Divine Nature (Deity).

The Holy Spirit is God! “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.’” (Acts 5:3-4) He is Eternal (Heb. 9:14), all-knowing (1 Cor. 2:11), all-powerful (Job 33:4), and present in all places at the same time (Ps. 139:7ff).

The Holy Spirit is not God by Himself, but One of Three Persons That Comprise the One True God (the Godhead or Divine Nature - Acts 17:29; Rom 1:20; Col 2:9). God has a unified or compound oneness to His nature. The Hebrew word ECHAD is often translated “one” to denote a unified oneness (Deut 6:4; cf. Gen. 2:24). We also find plural nouns and verbs to refer to God; the most common one is the Hebrew word ELOHIYM (Gen. 1:1; cf. Josh. 24:16). God at times spoke in the first person plural (Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:7). While all three Persons comprise who God is, each is distinguishable from the other, coexisting simultaneously. “And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”(Mat 3:16-17; cf. Mat. 28:19; Rom. 15:30). Each person is equally God, yet each is of a different rank by the Divine order. The Father has first rank, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-15), yet each are equally God (Jn 6:27; Col. 2:9; Acts 5:3-4).

There Are Many Names of the Holy Spirit

There are many names of the Holy Spirit found in the Scriptures such as: The Spirit of God (This emphasizes His divine nature) (Rom. 8:9, 14; Phil. 3:3) or the Spirit of Christ (He comes from the Father through the Son) (Rom. 8:9). Therefore, a complete study of the Holy Spirit will require our consideration of every passage where the Spirit is found: There are over seventeen different names of the Holy Spirit! (e.g., Isa 11:2; 61:1; Mat 3:16; 10:20; Jn 3:5; 14:17, 26; 16:13; Rom 8:2, 15; 1 Cor 6:11; 2 Cor 3:3; Eph 1:13; 4:30; Heb 10:29; 1 Jn 4:13; Rev 1:4; etc.).

Clearly, Knowing Who the Holy Spirit is, is Essential to Living Life as a Christian!
“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14). Do you know the Holy Spirit?

How Good is "Good Enough"?


Do we understand what it means to be saved by grace? Though many claim to depend on the grace of God for their salvation, many continue to live life as if they must earn their way to Heaven. “Am I good enough?” “Have I done enough?” “Have I pleased God enough that I may enter Heaven?” Out of concern for your eternal salvation, have you ever asked yourself these kinds of questions? If so, you may not understand salvation which is by grace - a favor bestowed freely by God, a gift we did not deserve.

“The Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24)

The gospel teaches that salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:5). Therefore, to leave grace out of the gospel is to teach a perverted or contrary gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). Yet, that is exactly what we do when we ask the question: “Am I good enough to be saved?” Such a question does not put trust in God’s grace, but “confidence in the flesh” or our own good works for our salvation (Phil. 3:2-3). Just as “salvation by grace only” or “salvation by faith only” are falsehoods, so is “salvation by works only” a false doctrine which can cause us to be lost.
Our understanding of the gospel of grace is absolutely essential. For the attitude we bring in our service to God has the power to justify or condemn us eternally (Luke 18:9-13).

Must Our Good Deeds Outweigh Our Bad Deeds?

There are many New Testament passages that teach that we will be judged according to our deeds (Mat. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:6-10; Col. 3:23-25; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12; etc.). Does it therefore follow that our good deeds must outweigh our bad deeds on Judgment Day? Muhammad thought so as taught in the Koran: “Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, will be in a life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light will have his home in a (bottomless) pit.” (SURAH 101:6-9, The Holy Quran). Is this what the New Testament also teaches? If so, by what standard or measurement do we use to determine if our good deeds are “heavy” enough to merit our eternal reward?

The Gospel is Not a Meritorious Law System.

According to Romans 2:5-11, our obedience is of great importance to God, yet God will in no way “strike a balance” by rewarding Christians whose goods deeds outweigh their bad deeds on Judgment Day. Further in the text, the apostle explains how a person could be right with God (justified) if it was only through our keeping the law (any law; Rom. 2:12-16): “For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified (v. 13). How good is “good enough” to be right with God? Only perfect law-keeping would be “enough”! Yet, no one has been able to do this (Rom. 3:10, 23).

God’s Justice is satisfied only by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) how can God’s justice be satisfied? Only through the blood of Jesus! “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…” (Rom. 3:24-25ff.). “The law of faith” declares that we are “justified by faith apart from works of [the] law” (v. 28) – any law-keeping in attempt to merit our salvation. No one can achieve righteousness (a right standing w/ God) by their own efforts of good works (Phil. 3:9). All need the blood of Jesus to be right with God.

Justification by Faith vs. Justification by Meritorious Works

“Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Unable to boast by his “works” (i.e., unable to meet the “full quota” of good works), Abraham was justified by faith! (Rom. 4:1-5). Abraham’s faith in God was not faith alone, but an obedient faith which trusted in God for salvation (James 2:20-24).

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Rom. 4:4).
The person who “works,” who does not put his faith in the Lord for salvation, is one who labors to earn his reward (i.e., righteousness before God). His reward is not a favor, but a debt owed to him based on personal merit. The serious problem in this approach is that a person would have to obey the law flawlessly to gain his reward! There can be no other kind of worker that God owes a reward! Yet, there is no such worker among men (3:23).

The Blood of Jesus is the Source of Our Righteousness.

Since we sin or fail to perform good works perfectly, we cannot be right with God unless we are forgiven of our sins. And forgiveness is found only through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). Our sins will be charged to our account unless we go to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of our sins. Only then will we be righteous: “Just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." (Rom. 4:6-8). To whom does the Lord credit righteousness to his account? To the person whose sins are forgiven! When a person responds in obedient faith to the gospel of Christ, their sins are covered the debt of sin is cancelled! (Acts 2:38). Only in Christ can we be righteous before God (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ, not our works, is the source of our salvation (Heb. 5:9).

In What Sense will we be judged According to our Works?

God does the saving, not us (Tit. 3:5), but we must come to Christ to be saved. Sins we committed in life and did not repent of and receive forgiveness for will remain in the “record books” and be held against us at the Judgment (Rev. 20:12), unless we obey the gospel to have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16; cf. 2 Thes. 1:8). Once in Christ, we must demonstrate our faith by our works of obedience (Jas. 2:14-26). Our deeds in life demonstrate our faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God (2 Cor. 5:6-10). God is faithful to forgive Christians, but we must confess our sins with a penitent heart to be forgiven (1 Jn 1:9; Acts 8:22). This is a requirement of continued fellowship with God (1 Jn 1:5-10).

How good is “good enough”? No one is good enough without the grace of the Savior!

Heroes Wanted


There is a short supply of heroes these days. It’s no wonder then why so many young people are uninspired and unmotivated to become Christians. There are few good role models for them to look to for the encouragement they need. As a result, they look to super-hero characters produced by Hollywood and rock star idols who will fill the void.

If you are thinking that you cannot be a hero, think again! To be a hero, one does not have to achieve extraordinary works or perform amazing acts that will impress and dazzle. If you have a big heart, if you truly care about others, then you can be a hero by committing yourself to do what is right no matter what the cost may be. As Christians, we should be able to point to our own lives as examples worthy of imitation (1 Cor. 11:1).

Every Christian is meant to be a hero! Christians must rise to the challenge to do God’s will each day. There will be trials, temptations, and tribulations involved in living the Christian life (1 Pet. 1:7; Eph. 6:13; Acts 14:22). Therefore, to be Christians we need faith and courage and the resolve to never give up. We are all called to be heroes!

Heroes Are Brave

Heroism is not limited to great feats or incredible acts of courage, contrary to popular belief. Heroism goes far beyond that occasional act of bravery, like saving someone from a burning building or rescuing a child from drowning. Heroism is seen also in everyday life. Children love to listen to the Bible stories of the heroic acts of people such as David who slew Goliath or Daniel who faced the lion’s den. Yet, do they remember what kind of lives these people lived? Do they remember that David was a man after God’s own heart? Do they remember the devotion of Daniel to pray to God three times a day?

Heroes are those who gather the courage to serve the Lord everyday, no matter how challenging it may be. True heroes are not heroes occasionally, but are constantly doing their best to be brave when enduring the trials of life (e.g., 2 Cor. 4:7-10). Instead of turning your back on your troubles, you bravely face them by your faith in God. You, for example, commit yourself to resolve your marital conflicts, dedicate yourself to helping your troubled teenage son or daughter, and determine to work extra hard to provide for your family in times of financial hardship. When confronted with temptations at every corner, you muster the courage, in God, to stand for what is right in a world of sin. Like heroes, all Christians are to be brave without exception (1 Cor. 16:13; Phil. 1:27-28).

Heroes Seek Justice.

How many times have you seen a movie advertised that portrays the action hero as an avenger seeking “payback” for all the injustices committed against him? Far too often, those who exact revenge upon the guilty are elevated as “heroes” for us to admire. Yet, true heroes seek justice, not revenge (Rom. 12:17-19; 13:4).

Heroes are those who pursue justice in a proactive way. A hero works hard for the rights of others, especially for those who are weak, destitute, and afflicted (Jas. 1:27; cf. Isa. 1:17; Prov. 31:9). There is nothing noble about well wishing: “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled” which is unaccompanied by action (Jas. 2:14-17). To be a hero, one must be willing to put himself “on the line” for the rights of others. When a brother is unfairly accused, when the blabbermouth attempts to spread his gossip, or when a bully is preying upon the weak at school, you may have an opportunity to be a hero! Compassion for others will motivate you to be a hero, to pursue justice for those in need (Mat. 23:23).

Heroes Are Persistent.

Many people are quitters and pessimists, who give up easily at the first sign of conflict or challenge, much like the people of Israel who lacked faith when before an obstacle (Ex. 14:10-12; Num. 13:31-33). Many make lofty goals, like to “build a tower,” only to quit when the going gets tough (Lk. 14:28-30). Indeed, one amazing act of courage does not make a person a true hero when he does not follow through with what he started.

A hero refuses to quit until “mission accomplished.” The apostles of Christ were true heroes for their persistence to teach the gospel in a world that persecuted them greatly (Acts 5:40-42). Parents are heroes too when they refuse to give up on their children, doing their best to train them in the way of the Lord. Every Christian can be a hero by his persistence in the battle against sin, by refusing to surrender to the devil and his ways (1 Pet. 5:8-9). We can be heroes everyday by continuing to do good unto others no matter what response they give or result may come from it (Lk. 6:27-31; Gal. 6:7-10).

Heroes Have Integrity.

Many people will compromise their own beliefs in order “to survive,” to get by or get ahead in life. Many will do foolish things like King Saul, who violated the command of God in hope to “gain the victory” (1 Sam. 13:8-13). People lie, cheat, and steal, or set aside their moral values and convictions so they may “succeed” in life and gain the approval of men. The world is constantly enticing us to give in to sensual pleasures at the cost of what is most important and valuable (1 Jn. 2:16; cf. Mt. 16:26).

In contrast, heroes are committed to what they believe in no matter what. “For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Cor. 13:8). Those that have real integrity not only believe in the truth, but live by the truth (3 Jn. 2-4). By putting our trust in God, we will have the courage and strength we need to maintain our integrity for the Lord (1 Pet. 4:19): To go against friends or family, if necessary, in order to do what is right (Mat 10:37); To refuse to give in to the pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:24-26); To not yield to pressures of the world to conform to its standard (Rom 12:2); To never trade what we believe in for the approval of others! (Jn. 12:42-43; cf. Gal. 1:10).

Heroes Selflessly Serve Others.

Many refuse to help without first asking the question: “What’s in it for me?” Unfortunately, “heroism” these days are often motivated by less than noble purposes: Fortune, fame, recognition, praises of men, politics, and other selfish causes (Mt. 6:2).

True heroes will selflessly make personal sacrifices. A hero does not ask if it is convenient or what he can personally gain by helping others. A sacrificial love compels him to act (Jn. 15:13). All Christians will have to give up something in order to do what is right to help others in need (1 Jn. 3:16-18). It may be your time, money, a career, maybe even the dreams you had for your life. Most of all, it will demand that you give up your sins that stand in the way of fulfilling your duty to act on behalf of others.

If being a hero sounds too costly then consider Jesus who selflessly gave far more than we will ever have to give. Jesus denied Himself to become a man and allowed Himself to be put to death on the cross for our sins. There is no greater hero that will inspire us more to be heroes than Jesus Christ! “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:3-8, NKJV).

Heroes are most desperately wanted. Will you step up to be the “hero” that the Lord has called you to be?