God the Holy Spirit: H.C. Lord's Day 20

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 20

Q 53. What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
A 53. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.

Second, that the Spirit is given also to me, so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits through true faith, comforts me, and will remain with me forever.

*disclaimer: this post uses the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to the Holy Spirit.  I chose to use this word following the traditional translations of Scripture, specifically found in John 15 and 16, where Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, as “He.”  In doing so, I am not making the claim that the Holy Spirit is masculine, but rather seeking to honor Scripture’s traditional interpretation understanding that the Greek words used here as pronouns carry the interpretations of both masculine and feminine pronouns (He & She) as well as the gender neutral pronoun (it).

The Holy Spirit is by and large the most forgotten person of the Triune Godhead.  Even with the renewed awareness of His work in the lives of Christians throughout the world, the focus that the Church has taken throughout most of Christian history is a focus on Christ.

Interestingly, if we were to ask the Holy Spirit what He thought about that, He’d probably respond by saying “that’s great!”  And while the Holy Spirit is an important part of the Trinity, certainly co-equal with the Father and the Son and therefore worthy of our worship, the Spirit’s job and purpose is largely described in Scripture as testifying to Jesus in the hearts and minds of people.

As Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit being sent, recorded in John 14-16, He says multiple times that the “Advocate” or the “Spirit of Truth” will come.  His coming will herald a new and better understanding of Jesus; the Holy Spirit will complete the work that Christ has done in the world by revealing Christ and His love to all believers.  The Spirit does not seek glory for Himself but instead, comes to glorify the Father through the testimony of the Son.

This posture, taken by the Holy Spirit, may also serve to inform our own posture when it comes to how we interact around faith, church, and a number of other things that have to do with Christianity.  Both Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have experienced and demonstrated the sort of self-giving love and other-focused activity that Scripture calls for.  If the Spirit were selfish, we’d probably be getting a lot more prompting to worship the Holy Spirit and our focus would shift away from the central act of our salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.

But, it seems, at times we have shifted that focus in our churches and in our personal life.  When we want something different in our church, we often rally behind the cry of a more “spirit-driven” worship.  We want the Spirit to be “more active,” or suggest that we “leave room for the Spirit.”  All of this seems well and good; certainly not a request that would be heretical or out of bounds for Christians.  What we don’t realize, however, is that if the Spirit’s primary function is testify about Jesus, and if our worship is focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our worship is indeed Spirit-driven.

“Spirit-driven” worship does not depend on emotional highs and lows, or the manipulation of those emotions by music, lighting, well-crafted speeches, or technology.  Its focus is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “Spirit-led” worship is not about spontinaity, using a lack of planning as a reasoning or excuse for the “Spirit to do what it wants.”  God is a God of order and gives us the ability to plan and prepare, but also to not be rigid, allowing for the movements of the Spirit as they come.  Perhaps “Spirit-led” worship is more about being open to listening to that still small voice, and less about a chaotic worship service in which no on knows what will happen.

The Heidelberg Catechism points us to another benefit of the Holy Spirit, that being “comfort.”  This too is rooted in the Gospel message of hope in Jesus Christ, to which the Spirit testifies because our comfort comes from the fact that our salvation and hope are for things beyond this world and this life.  No matter what we are going through, no matter where life takes us, we are not alone.  The spirit dwells within our hearts and therefore God is always with us.  Scripture says that He never leaves us or forsakes us.



Higher Benefits: H.C. Question 49

How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?

Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

1 John 2:1 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

John 14:2 – My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

John 17:24 – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

John 14:16 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5 – Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Colossians 3:1-4 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.



Providing Help: H.C. Question 28

How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

Job 1:21-22 – …and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised.”  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

James 1:3 – because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Deuteronomy 8:10 – When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Job 1:12 – The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Job 2:6 – The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Proverbs 21:1 – In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him.

Acts 17:24-28 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’



My Only Comfort: H.C. Question 1

Heidelberg Catechism Question #1:

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Romans 14:7-9 – For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

1 Corinthians 3:23 – …and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Titus 2:14 – who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

1 Peter 1:18-19 – For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

1 John 1:7-9 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 2:2 – He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 8:34-36 – Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Hebrews 2:14-15 – Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

1 John 3:1-11 – See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

John 6:39-40 – And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 10:27-30 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3 – But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

1 Peter 1:5 – who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Matthew 10:29-31 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Luke 21:16-18 – You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13-14 – And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Romans 8 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.



Colossians 2 – What Fills You?

Read Colossians 2

When we find ourselves looking around in life for next best thing we don’t often take a moment to look back at the “last best thing” and examine why it didn’t live up to whatever we hoped it would live up to.  Instead, we tend to follow trends and fads, blown this way and that by the winds of culture and who knows what else.

In much the same way, the church in Colossae was facing down a number of different “new teachings” and such that offered them something more than “just the Gospel.”

One the surface, even as I write this, that doesn’t sound so bad.  We tend to do this a lot in the church of today.  We have the Gospel, but then we jazz it up with praise bands and new music, fancy worship venues and effects, hipster preachers and particular language.  All these are done to “meet a need” or to “reach a target group,” and sometimes it even works.

However, the problem often comes in the fact that, what was once a womb, far too often becomes a tomb.  What happens when music styles change or culture shifts?  Do we change with them?  Good intentions aside, the answers far too often is no.

Why?  Because we are comfortable with the familiar.  Because the familiar where all the good memories come from.  It is, after all, what got us here in the first place…

But should that thing, whatever it is, whether at church or personally, be what is filling you?  It may taste good at the moment, like spraying a can of Reddi-Wip in your mouth, but it will ultimately leave you hungry and wanting real food.

Jesus is the true spiritual food.  He is the Bread of Life; He is the Living Water.  Ultimtaely, it is He who satisfies and nothing else.  Human rules and traditions can be nice, they can even direct us toward deeper worship.  Be careful, however, that they do not become an end unto themselves for it is in that moment that what once led us to drink at the well of life, becomes nothing more than a path to a dry desert.

 



2 Corinthians 1 – Comfort and Joy

Read 2 Corinthians 1

As Paul begins this letter to the church in Corinth, he praises God for an abundance of comfort and joy in the midst of a number of trials and struggles that he has faced.  Given the context of this letter he could be referring to a difficult visit that he had with the church in Corinth or some other physical threat that Paul faced, and there were many.

What he faced, however, is not as important as how God has once again shown His faithfulness to Paul in bringing him through it.  In fact, Paul says, the trials he faced were there so that Paul would learn to trust more in God and less on himself.  This deliverance and provision is ongoing and Paul encourages the believers in Corinth to join him in this through prayer.

After saying this, Paul abruptly changes subjects for a moment, to talk about the change of plans that he has made.  Apparently, this has caused a bit of a stir in the community even so much as to cause them to question Paul’s truthfulness.

Yet Paul brings this all back together, speaking of God’s plans for him and for all believers and how they are much more important.  While we should certainly aim to be truthful and honest about how we speak, not committing to things and then dumping them when better offers come along, something that seems to happen in our culture today, we do need to always have a listening ear for the Spirit’s voice and direction.

God is certainly not out to do us harm but is always working to shape and mold us into the image of His Son.  For in Him, as Paul says, the answer is always “yes,” though not always in the way that we might think.  Paul’s change of plans, while sudden and abrupt, was God’s working for the benefit of both Paul and the church in Corinth.  We too much have this listening ear, allowing God to guide and grow us into mature faith.



1 Corinthians 9 – All Things to All People

Read 1 Corinthians 9

Over the last several chapters, as Paul has been addressing specific issues, whether we realized it or not, he has been maintaining the same two themes: appropriate use of Christian freedom, and not being a hindrance to the message of the Gospel.  Now, in chapter 9, he brings it full circle.

Paul points to his own position as one that would offer him a profound amount of freedom.  In fact, understanding the full scope of his freedom could have allowed Paul the excuse to act however he wanted, say whatever he wanted, and most of all, refuse the deplorable conditions that he faced whenever he wanted.

Instead, Paul models the attitude and actions of Christ, not using his freedom for self-indulgence but “becoming all things to all people” in order that the message of the Gospel may advance.  This doesn’t mean that Paul subjected himself to their rules, though he wasn’t under the law, but he respected them for the sake of the spread of the Gospel.

Now, this may sound simple on paper, but Paul points out that it isn’t.  This posture of service and self-denial is not one that comes naturally to anyone.  It takes training and self-discipline far beyond any normal or natural behavior that we may exhibit.

I often think of the mission trips that I have been on.  Places that we went to went to extraordinary lengths to make accommodations for us middle-class kids.  We were there, in a foreign place with a foreign culture, but we were never really there… we always had water, food, and air mattresses to sleep on.  I often wonder how our creature comforts may have impacted the message of love that we came to bring.

What about your neighbors?  Does the way you act / live impact your witness to them?  If we are called to use our freedom to serve one another in love, what does that mean for how we live at home?  At work?



Acts 13 – Missionary Journey

Read Acts 13

Paul was not only a prolific writing and preacher throughout his life, he was also the first “missionary” and church planter.  In fact, these missionary journeys became the source of his writings as all of the books following Acts are known as “Epistles,” or letters to the churches that he planted.

While the Holy Spirit was with him on these journeys, they were anything but a cakewalk.  Paul and his companions faced considerable resistance and persecution in the places that he went and preached.  Where the Gospel is expanding, so to will the enemy be pushing back against the work of God.

Again, I find it interesting how much similarity there is between the records of the book of Acts and how churches often operate in today’s world.  Paul, when he arrives at Antioch in Pisidia (which is different than the Antioch in Syria), begins preaching in the synagogue and many of the Jews there are amazed.  The are so enthralled with Paul and the message that he is preaching that they ask him to come back.

Word of this gets out and the whole city comes to hear Paul speak.  What an awesome response to the Gospel?  Yet, seeing all these people coming out, the Jews get nervous and change their tune and start to criticize Paul.

Isn’t this so typical of us too though?  Yes, of course we want to preach the Gospel and we want the Holy Spirit to work, but isn’t our greatest fear sometimes that it actually will “work?”  All these new people means change… I might not be able to sit in “my seat” on Sunday.

The Gospel of Jesus brings life but it seldom brings comfort, at least physical comfort.  But that isn’t want Jesus’ message is all about… is it?



Acts 8 – Scattered

Read Acts 8

Throughout history, the persecution of the church has almost always led to the expansion of the Gospel.  There are a lot of potential reasons why this is, one of which has to do with the physical scattering of believers to other areas.  Until this point, the Apostles and those who became believers were operating in Jerusalem and likely its surrounding towns.  But when persecution broke out, we read that people were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  This is the second move outward that Jesus spoke of before he ascended into heaven.

The reality of the identity of the people of God, though, is one of being a “sent people.”  Israel was always meant to be a light to the nations.  Jesus told His disciples that they are the salt of the earth.  Throughout His ministry even, Jesus would send out His followers ahead of Him, all the time declaring the “good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

So it isn’t much of a surprise that, when the people of God move outward, whether by choice or by force, that the Gospel of God spreads and lives are changed.

Sometimes believers actually need that push to move outside the places of comfort in their lives.  One of the problems plaguing the Church in North America is the lack of outward movement.  Churches invest vast sums of money into buildings for “ministry” purposes that really are simply creature comforts.  When we do find ourselves pushed out of our norms, we will often be found complaining about the lack of comfort, not spreading the Gospel to everyone we see.

In reality, we face little, if any persecution in the United States, something we are thankful for and celebrate, but ironically enough may also be the reason we find ourselves so complacent.