a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 50
In this issue:
Perspective 1 - Friends for Life
Perspective 2 - Wisdom From on High
Perspective 3 - The True Life
When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
Joseph, Mary, and the young Jesus were in the temple to make the required sacrifices--for the purification of Mary and the presentation and redemption of Jesus as a first son. The child had already been given the name Jesus, and had been circumcised on the eighth day, according to Jewish law.
Somewhere in the cavernous confines of the great stone house of God a stranger approached.
What brought Simeon to this place and time? What powerful intention moved him to be in attendance this day in the temple?
For all his life Simeon had been waiting--not without hope, but with keen anticipation--for the promised Messiah. He didn't know what to expect, but he continued to wait in faith.
And what made this man so special? Scripture doesn't refer to him as a priest or rabbi; he may not have held any office. Was he a scholar, a teacher, a particularly learned man? The Bible only says that Simeon was "righteous and devout." Here was a man who not only believed in God, but who lived his life according to God's precepts. Simeon obeyed God. And he obeyed to such an extent that he trusted in every promise God had made to His people. He believed God when He had said through Isaiah
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope." Isaiah 42:1-4
Simeon had invested his hope in the Lord. But there was something even more powerful that brought him to the temple that day. Simeon had a companion.
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Luke 2:25b-27 (emphasis added)
Here was a man who conducted His life by the power of the Spirit. How else could he have been "righteous and devout"?
It's been made so much easier for us today. When we open our heart to Jesus, we automatically get the Holy Spirit at no extra charge. He is simply part of the bargain of God's grace. He comes in, makes Himself at home in our being; He reveals the deep wisdom of God's word to our feeble, temporal minds; He takes our whimperings and groanings and forms them into the pristine language of God. He counsels, He comforts, and He admonishes better than any conscience.
Yet in our Spiritual wealth we invest poorly. We move through our days wasting time wondering, questioning, trying to guess God's will--when living within is every answer in the person of the Spirit.
If most of us had found ourselves in the temple that day, we would have glanced about, possibly have seen the young couple and their small child. Maybe we would have studied the child and muttered a silent prayer: "Is this the one? Could this one be the promised Messiah?" We would have waited a few seconds for an answer, then, with a shrug, moved on--still searching.
Simeon didn't need to ask. The Spirit--his close and comfortable companion--informed him, without his asking, of Christ's identity.
In the days before the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit came upon the people of God individually, for a specific purpose. Whereas in the New Testament era the indwelling of the Spirit is corporate in scope, and permanent...
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having 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.
... before Christ's death and ascension it was specific and temporary. So we cannot dismiss casually the fact that "the Holy Spirit was upon" Simeon. God had control of his life. God had specifically empowered Simeon by the outpouring of the Spirit.
... the Holy Spirit was upon Him.
It's snowing today. It began snowing last night, continued through the early morning, and is still coming down. The world, which was only yesterday a dull, ugly brown, is now a beautiful winter wonderland. The north side of every oak and hickory tree is pasted with white frosting, the grass has been covered over, and the birds must now scratch through small drifts for their seed.
One might say that the snow is upon the ground.
It's not with a light touch; the snow is not hovering gently a few inches above the ground, dipping down only occasionally to brush the blades of brown grass. Nor is the covering of snow a rigid plane, knocking against only the taller weeds and bushes.
The snow is a blanket, folded and forming itself over and around every contour of the ground. In most areas it has completely eliminated everything else from sight. The world is white; it's all one can see.
When we accept Christ, the Spirit rushes into us like the north wind( that makes the snow blow parallel to the ground. He invades us, seeking out and filling every nook and cranny, molding Himself--without conforming--to fit our essential being.
He comes upon us, blanketing us with His comforting touch. We have no say in the matter, no vote. He comes with Christ, and there's no turning Him back.
We welcome His entrance. We count ourselves as privileged. But what then?
"The Holy Spirit is a living Person and should be treated as a person. We must never think of Him as a blind energy nor as an impersonal force. He hears and sees and feels as any person does. He speaks and hears us speak. We can please Him or grieve Him or silence Him as we can any other person. He will respond to our timid effort to know Him and will ever meet us over half the way."
Many think of the Holy Spirit as radiant energy, and thereby find it impossible to establish a relationship. We do not have a relationship with the electricity coursing through the walls of our house; we have relationships with the people who live in the house.
The Spirit is a person living within the four walls of our corporeal house. As He fits Himself into that house, making Himself comfortable, we are to make ourselves comfortable with His ways. We are to mold our lives to His shape and dimensions. We are to accept His presence as something familiar.
Into the Word
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."Isaiah 63:10-11 _______________________________ Luke 1:15 _______________________________ Luke 1:35 _______________________________ Luke 1:41 _______________________________ Luke 1:67 _______________________________ Luke 3:21-22 _______________________________ Acts 1:8 _______________________________ Acts 2:37-39 _______________________________ Acts 5:32 _______________________________ Acts 7:55 _______________________________ Acts 8:15-17 _______________________________ Acts 10:44-48 _______________________________ Acts 11:22-24 _______________________________ 1 Cor. 6:19-20 _______________________________ 2 Cor. 13:14 _______________________________ Ephes. 1:13-14 _______________________________ 2 Tim. 1:14 _______________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, vouchsafe within our souls to rest; Come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid, and fill the hearts which Thou has made.
To Thee, the Comforter, we cry; to Thee, the Gift of God most high; The Fount of life, the Fire of love, the soul's Anointing from above.
The sev'nfold gifts of grace are Thine, O Finger of the Hand Divine; True Promise of the Father Thou, who dost the tongue with speech endow.
Thy light to every sense impart, and shed Thy love in every heart; Thy own unfailing might supply to strengthen our infirmity.
"Spirituality is a slippery term but the phenomenon itself is not new. Christian spirituality is nothing other than life in Christ by the presence and power of the Spirit: being conformed to the person of Christ, and being united in communion with God and with others. Spirituality is not an aspect of Christian life, it is the Christian life."
"The most important rule for us is to concentrate on keeping our lives open to God. Let everything else including work, clothes, and food be set aside. The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God. We must maintain a position of beholding Him, keeping our lives completely spiritual through and through. Let other things come and go as they will; let other people criticize us as they will; but never allow anything to obscure the life that 'is hidden with Christ in God' (Colossians 3:3). Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it. The most difficult lesson of the Christian life is learning how to continue "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord ..."
Making it Personal
Is the Holy Spirit in you?
Do you feel--or sense--the Spirit in you? If yes, what is it you feel? How do you know this to be of the Spirit?If no, why do you think you can't feel the Spirit?
To what extent does the Spirit control your thoughts and activity during each day? What determines the amount of control exerted by the Spirit in your life?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Into the Word
Notice once again the role played by the Holy Spirit in this scene where the baby Jesus is taken to the temple. Then consider the Spirit's role in the birth of Jesus earlier in the gospel of Luke.
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."
Consider: The Spirit was upon Simeon, coming with him into the temple, as it were, to visit the Child He (the Spirit) begat with Mary. The Child's true Father was in attendance for the dedication of Jesus to the Lord.
1 Cor. 2:12-13
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
In speaking of the gospels, the late and respected historian Will Durant wrote:
"In summary, it is clear that there are many contradictions between one gospel and another, many dubious statements of history, many suspicious resemblances to the legends told of pagan gods, many incidents apparently designed to prove the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, many passages possibly aiming to establish a historical basis for some later doctrine or ritual of the church. The evangelists shared with Cicero, Sallust, and Tacitus the conception of history as a vehicle for moral ideas. And presumably the conversations and speeches reported in the Gospels were subject to the frailties of illiterate memories, and the errors or emendations of copyists."
Later he discounts the miracles of Jesus by writing that they were
"probably in most cases the result of suggestion--the influence of a strong and confident spirit upon impressionable souls. His presence was itself a tonic; at his optimistic touch the weak grew strong and the sick were made well. The fact that like stories have been told of other characters in legend and history does not prove that the miracles of Christ were myths. With a few exceptions they are not beyond belief; similar phenomena may be observed almost any day at Lourdes, and doubtless occurred in Jesus' time at Epidaurus and other centers of psychic healing in the ancient world; the apostles too would work such cures."
Finally, regarding the work and theology of the apostle Paul, Durant writes:
"Moved by his own somber spirit and remorse, and his transforming vision of Christ; influenced perhaps by Platonist and Stoic denunciations of matter and the body as evil; recalling, it may be, Jewish and pagan customs of sacrificing a "scapegoat" for the sins of the people, Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ: that every man born of woman inherits the guilt of Adam, and can be saved from eternal damnation only by the atoning death of the Son of God."
Durant's tone is balanced and not antagonistic. He does not ridicule, but treats with respect the persons and writings of the New Testament. The historian's analysis, however, is glaringly devoid of the Spirit--not the spirit of man, but the Spirit of God. Here is someone who has read Scripture, but for whom the word of God has not been revealed, or translated, by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB
For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Simeon knew that He would see the Christ before He died. It wasn't a hunch, it wasn't a guess or even a wish. He knew. How? He had heard it from the One having power over death and life--revealed by His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit reveals myriad things to us. To begin, He reveals the word of God and is our connection to the mind of God.
But the Spirit also interprets for us our everyday events. He is the one who translates tragedy into wisdom; He is the one who reveals the power and tenderness of God in the fresh carpet of wildflowers on a spring day, in the trees bowed under the North wind, in the energy of rolling thunderheads; He is the one who opens the mysteries of God's heart in our surroundings to instruct, counsel, and console.
1 Cor. 2:10b-11
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Into the Word
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.Luke 10:21 _______________________________ Luke 12:11-12 _______________________________ John 1:33 _______________________________ John 14:26 _______________________________ Acts 1:1-2 _______________________________ Acts 1:8 _______________________________ Acts 13:2 _______________________________ Acts 15:28-29 _______________________________ Acts 20:28 _______________________________ Acts 21:11 _______________________________ Acts 28:25-27 _______________________________ 1 Cor. 12:3 _______________________________ 1 Thes. 1:4-6 _______________________________ Hebrews 2:4 _______________________________ Hebrews 9:8 _______________________________ Hebrews 10:15-17 _______________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Come, gracious Spirit, heav'nly Dove, with light and comfort from above; Be Thou our Guardian, Thou our Guide; O'er every tho't and step preside.
The light of truth to us display, and make us know and choose Thy way; Plant holy fear in every heart, that we from God may ne'er depart.
Lead us to holiness, the road which we must take to dwell with God; Lead us to Christ, the living Way, nor let us from His presence stray.
Lead us to God, our final rest, to be with Him forever blest; Lead us to heav'n, that we may share fullness of joy forever there.
"'He will guide you into all the truth.' Truth may be compared to some cave or grotto, with wondrous stalactites reaching from the roof, a cavern glittering with spar and abounding in marvels. Before entering the cavern you enquire for a guide, who comes with his lighted torch. He conducts you down to a considerable depth, and you find yourself in the midst of the cave. He leads you through different chambers. Here he points you to a little stream rushing from amid the rocks. There he points to some peculiar rock and tells you its name. Truth is a grand series of caverns; it is our glory to have so great and wise a conductor as the Holy Spirit. He is a light shining in the midst of us to guide us. And by the light He shows us wonderful things. He teaches us by suggestion, direction, and illumination."
Heavenly Spirit, gentle Spirit, O descend on us, we pray; Come, console us, and control us, Christ, most fair, to us portray.
Hear us pleading, interceding, Thou interpreter of love; With Thy fire, us inspire,Holy flame from God above.
Making it Personal
The Holy Spirit is not the only spirit who counsels us. Can you identify competing spirits in your life?
How can you tell them apart? How can you know which spirit is giving you counsel at any time?
What happens in your life when you take counsel with the wrong spirit?
"The Spirit never loosens where the Word binds; the Spirit never justifies where the Word condemns; the Spirit never approves where the Word disapproves; the Spirit never blesses where the Word curses."
Into the Word
Read the story of Samson, found in the Book of Judges, Chapters 13 through 16. Note especially:Judges 13:25 Judges 14:6 Judges 14:19 Judges 15:14
From where did Samson get his powers?
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.
Just what does it mean to live "by the Spirit", or to do something "in the Spirit"?
Examples do not come easily, for we have devalued Spiritual living to the point that any illustration sounds like a vignette out of the Sixties, told to the accompaniment of finger cymbals and the wafting of incense. Spiritual living has become in our day synonymous with empty-headedness. To live by the Spirit denotes laziness, a lack of common sense and gumption--or it denotes Eastern mysticism lived under a crystal pyramid somewhere in the arid vastness of Arizona.
Quite to the contrary, the true Spirit-quickened life is one packed with vitality, intelligence, and supernatural wisdom.
The world in which we live is uncomfortable with things of the Spirit, because it is uncomfortable with the knowledge brought by the Spirit.
Jesus said to His disciples that
when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
In our world, the truth is multiple choice. Anything that declares any one truth--to the exclusion of all the rest--is either dismissed, at best, or ridiculed. We live in a society in which all the sharp edges have been rounded off. The Spirit has sharp edges, and that is why He is so unpopular. That is why a life lived in Him is so inconvenient.
So the main mark of a life conducted "in the Spirit" is that it will be conducted according to the truth of God's word. The Spirit wrote the words, and it is the Spirit who dispenses their truth to the one in whom He dwells.
The Holy Spirit is a remarkable agent. He has no agenda of His own; He speaks only the truth from the Father and Jesus Christ. Seeking no glory for Himself, He always points us toward the Father and the Son. So a life filled and motivated by the Spirit will always be a life that points to God. This is how we are able to "test the spirits." Any spirit that does not point us to God the Father and His Christ will not be the one, Holy Spirit.
Living a life that is moved by the Spirit of God is, essentially, a deep and powerful joining of our spirit to His. Tozer writes that
"the highest love of God is not intellectual, it is spiritual. God is spirit and only the spirit of man can know Him really. In the deep spirit of a man the fire must glow or his love is not the true love of God. The great of the kingdom have been those who loved God more than others did."
Living "by the Spirit" is not church activities; it is not showing up for mid-week prayer meeting because you've nothing else to do; it is not programs.
Spirit living is not doing--it is being. It is being who God wants you to be--whether you want to be or not. It is seeking the counsel of God over man.
Spirit living is obedience.
"A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting our response to His presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality."
Into the Word
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.Mark 13:11 _______________________________ Luke 4:1 _______________________________ Acts 2:4 _______________________________ Acts 4:8 _______________________________ Acts 9:31 _______________________________ Acts 10:37-38 _______________________________ Acts 13:4 _______________________________ Acts 16:6 _______________________________ Acts 20:22-23 _______________________________ Romans 15:13-16 _______________________________ 2 Peter 1:21 _______________________________ Jude 1:20 _______________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
O Breath of Life, come sweeping through us,
Revive Thy church with life and pow'r;
O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us,
And fit Thy church to meet this hour.
O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
Till humbly we confess our need;
Then in Thy tenderness remake us,
Revive, restore, for this we plead.
O Breath of Love, come breathe within us,
Renewing thought and will and heart;
Come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,
Revive Thy church in every part.
O Heart of Christ, once broken for us,'
Tis there we find our strength and rest;
Our broken contrite hearts now solace,
And let Thy waiting church be blest.
Revive us, Lord! Is zeal abating
While harvest fields are vast and white?
Revive us, Lord, the world is waiting,
Equip Thy church to spread the light. Amen.
"Here are three lessons from these great words [John 16:12-15] which I leave with you. One is: Believe a great deal more definitely in, and seek a great deal more consciously and earnestly, and use a great deal more diligently and honestly, that divine Spirit who is given to us all. Another lesson is: Use the book that He uses--else you will not grow, and He will have no means of contact with you.And the last is: Try the spirits. If anything calling itself Christian teaching comes to you and does not glorify Christ, it is self-condemned. For none can exalt Him highly enough, and no teaching can present Him too exclusively and urgently as the sole Salvation and Life of the whole earth."
Making it Personal
Spirit living is very personal; there is arrogance in one person defining it for another. So how can we know? Where do we begin?One place where we can begin is with an examination of our motives? Why do we do what we do? Where do you seek and acquire the wisdom for your life decisions?
Another place to check is our senses. Feelings can be tricky; we must be cautious when categorizing the emotions flowing through us. Nevertheless, when the Spirit of God is in control of a life, He will be felt.As you move through your days, do you sense the presence of God? Is there a relationship between your spirit and His? Do you feel Him working?
Into the Word
Use Scripture to describe how one depends on and is motivated by the Spirit. What are the inward and outward signs of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit?
Issue No. 50
[1.] Leviticus 12:1-8. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] Numbers 18:15. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] Romans 8:26-27. (return to footnote 3)
[4.] John 16:7. (return to footnote 4)
[5.] Spirit = pneuma, pnyoo'-mah, Greek Stg 4151; from Greek 4154 (pneo); a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figurative a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implicaiton) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, d'mon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit :- ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind. Compare Greek 5590 (psuche). (return to footnote 5)
[6.] A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest (Christian Publications, 1978), p126f. (return to footnote 6)
[7.] "Vouchsafe": to be gracious enough or condescend to give or grant. (return to footnote 7)
[8.] Latin, 9th Century. (return to footnote 8)
[9.] Michael Downey in America (April 2, 1994), as cited in Christianity Today (July 18, 1994, p45). (return to footnote 9)
[10.] Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest (Discovery House, 1992). (return to footnote 10)
[11.] Will Durant, Caesar and Christ: A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325 (Simon and Schuster, 1972), p557. (return to footnote 11)
[12.] Ibid, p562f. (return to footnote 12)
[13.] Ibid, p588. (return to footnote 13)
[14.] Simon Browne (1680-1732). (return to footnote 14)
[15.] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon (Shaw, 1990), p.22. (return to footnote 15)
[16.] Joel Blomquist; translated by Gerhard W. Palmgren. (return to footnote 16)
[17.] Thomas Brooks. (return to footnote 17)
[18.] 1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (return to footnote 18)
[19.] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications, 1982), p40 (return to footnote 19)
[20.] Ibid, p52. (return to footnote 20)
[21.] Bessie P. Head (1850-1936). (return to footnote 21)
[22.] Alexander Maclaren, in his Expositions of Holy Scripture (Baker, 1984), Vol 11, p.119f. (return to footnote 22)
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