Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sanctification: the Process of Perfection - The Holy Spirit: What He Does 2

Our previous installment in this study of the doctrine of sanctification dealt with a question that is extremely important to the day to day success of each and every Christian. This question is primary because it involves the basic, fundamental ministry of the Holy Spirit. The question is:
What does He do?
Most Christians can give a handful of answers that may or may not be an appropriate response. Some such answers might be:
·         He heals us when we are sick
·         He protects us from the enemy
·         He teaches us the Bible
·         He guides us in the path of right vs. wrong
·         He causes us to speak in tongues
·         He grows the fruit of the Spirit
·         He convicts us of sin

While all of these could be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit…as they are all scripturally based answers…this is not what we are referring to with the question; what does He do? For the purpose of this study, we are attempting to boil down the ministry of the Holy Spirit to its lowest common denominator. We desire to build a basic definition that will outline the true ministry of the Holy Spirit.  In regards to the bulleted list above, I contend that these answers are not examples of the ministry of the Holy Spirit at all. Instead, they are obvious effects of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit is free to perform His “good work” in our lives, many of the items in the list above will be realized on a regular basis. In themselves, they are not His ministry…they are the results of His ministry.

In the last post, we looked at the inner workings of a verse from the great book of Galatians. One of the sweeping themes from Paul’s epistle is the idea that the way in which we position our lives in regards to the Holy Spirit determines how much liberty He can take in our lives. The activity of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is that of sanctification. In other words, He is the Sanctifier. What most Christians don’t understand is that we can drastically alter the Holy Spirit’s ability to function in our lives. This is recognized in the Bible as “grieving or quenching the Spirit” (1Th 5:19, Eph 4:30). This can also be seen in the idea of “frustrating grace” (Gal 2:21). Or, in my opinion, in the concept of “falling from Grace” (Gal 5:4).

The verse we reviewed in the last post, Galatians 4:19, allows us a look under the hood of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We determined from Greek word study that one of the aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work is in “outwardly expressing Christ through you”. When the Spirit is free to perform His sanctifying work in the life of a believer, the characteristics, attitudes, and power of Jesus Christ are beamed out of that Christian into a dark world. However, as Paul points out, the inverse is also true. If the Spirit’s ministry is quenched in a believer’s life, then Christ cannot be expressed from that person. In this case, as it was with the Galatian believers, the on looking world sees a professing child of God that is exhibiting a greater likeness to the world than to the family of God.

All of us have seen this played out in the lives of people around us. We can all recall people that have claimed to be a Christian, but lived a life that portrayed just the opposite. Or perhaps you can remember the family member or friend that gave their life to Christ and then lived for the Lord for a period of time…even years…only to find themselves drawn back into the life they use to know.

 Even now, I think of a certain Christian brother that did many great things for the cause of Christ. He even pastored a church for years.  Recently, as I began to inquire about him, I’ve been told by multiple sources that he has gone back to a life of drugs and hard living. In a case like this dear brother’s, many well meaning church members would say, “He was never really saved to begin with.” I suppose this is a possible scenario, but it’s not the only plausible scenario. There is also the great possibility that my friend, through a series of life struggles and bad decisions, found himself in the position of “quenching the Spirit and frustrating grace”. If this is true, Jesus is no longer being expressed out of Him…and to those looking at his life; he portrays the appearance of a non-believer.

Paul gives two well known lists in the book of Galatians. One list is called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5: 22-23). This list includes: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. When the Holy Spirit is uninhibited in the life of a Christian, these characteristics are projected. After all, these are the characteristics of Jesus, and part of the Holy Spirits job is “to outwardly express Christ through you.”

 The other list is called “the works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21). This list includes: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and the like. When the Holy Spirit is handcuffed in the life of a believer, these are the kinds of works that are projected. In these cases, the person in question looks anything but holy or Christ like.

The last point I want to make is this….both lists are attributed to BELIEVERS…not the unsaved!!
Here’s the bottom line, if the Holy Spirit is not projecting Christ from you and me, then it is just a matter of time before our flesh begins projecting the works of sin. THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS!!! There’s no THIRD choice. It’s SPIRIT or FLESH…period!

I realize this is a rarely described ideal in today’s church. Very few preachers/teachers understand the truth, and fewer still are actually speaking the truth. Very good then, one of the basic aspects of the Spirit’s ministry is to “outwardly express Christ through you.” Now, let’s take another step in forming our basic definition of the truth ministry of the Holy Spirit. What else does He do?

To answer this, I want to turn your attention to the words of Jesus, himself. In the 14th-16th chapters of the Gospel of John, we have, in effect, the farewell address of Jesus to His disciples. A great part of this speech centered on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the followers of Christ. Personally, I do not believe the disciples understood this “Holy Spirit talk” very well at all, at this point. The reason is simple, they had not yet experienced what Jesus was teaching, and therefore the concept was foreign to them. However, in a little more than 40 days, His simple words would take on a complex reality when the Spirit fell on Pentecost.  But for now, the disciples listened in wonder as their Master described the One that would soon come to take His place.

I want to turn your attention to John 16:14. For in this short verse, Jesus gives us another great clue as to the basic ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:14 – He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and show it unto you.

First, I want to point out the obvious. The word “He” is a demonstrative pronoun that is better translated “that one”. Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit, with no doubt. In essence, Jesus is saying “the Holy Spirit will glorify me”.

Now let me point out something that may not be as obvious, but is no doubt implied. Jesus has just declared an absolutely exclusive statement. An absolutely exclusive statement is one that includes the point being made, and at the same time, excludes absolutely all other options. Allow me to say it another way. In John 16:14, Jesus states that the Holy Spirit will glorify me. At the same time He is also stating that NO BODY ELSE WILL GLORIFY ME APART FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. That includes you, me, and every other person on earth. At the same time, it also includes Jesus, himself. Yes, not even Jesus will glorify Jesus. I can prove this from another place in the Bible. Just before Jesus died on Calvary, he cried out “it is finished”. He was declaring that His mission was accomplished and His work was done. When He ascended, the Book of Hebrews tells us that “He sat down at the right hand of the Father”. Again this signified that the work of Jesus was finished. This is why Jesus told the disciples “I will not glorify myself”? Because His work is done! The glorification of God the Son is the job of the Holy Spirit.

Now then, the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus…very good…but how? Let us examine the remainder of verse 14 for the answer…”for He shall receive of mine, and show it unto you”. The word “receive” is very telling. A Greek study lets us know that this word is describing an ACTIVE acceptance…not a PASSIVE acceptance. When an object is received PASSIVELY, it is more or less delivered into the hands of the receiver. On the other hand, when an object is received ACTIVELY, the receiver takes it out of the hands of the giver. If you are the parent of children, you have seen this played out many times...when one child snatches something from the other. And we all know what follows such a snatching….hollering, lots of hollering!

Thankfully, there is no sibling rivalry between the Spirit and the Son. In fact, Jesus is glad to have His “stuff” taken by the Holy Spirit. You see Jesus knows that the Spirit is taking His “stuff” and giving it to YOU…in the very moment that you need it. Please allow me to paint a hypothetical situation to illustrate my point.

Imagine that you are on the job, working diligently, when you are unexpectedly called into the boss’s office. After hearing what he has to say, you become aware that some jealous coworker is trumping up false charges against you. An anonymous letter has been sent to the higher ups pinning you as unsafe, negligent, and a hot head. The claims are strong and pointed. You know that you are innocent of all charges, but you have no evidence to the contrary…apart from your word. The boss is staring at you, letter in hand, waiting for an explanation.  What do you do? How do you react?

If you are a child of God, but you are walking in the flesh, you probably become defensive and angry. You begin talking…defending your honor, standing up for your rights. The more you talk, the more enraged you become. Soon four-letter words are mingling into your rant. Then names begin to come to mind and you start pointing fingers at potential accusers. A bad situation is now boiling over and you have begun substantiating the claims in the trumped up letter. The boss is beginning to believe that the charges in the letter may be true. You are ruining your reputation and your Christian integrity. Your boss tells you that an investigation will uncover the truth. You are told to take the rest of the day off. Beginning tomorrow, you will be working under direct supervision. You are not allowed to speak to the other employees you have accused. You storm out of the office and head home. On second thought, you may just head to the bar.

However, if you are a child of God, walking in the Spirit, a very different situation unfolds. Before your boss even begins reading the false charges, the Holy Spirit has already made a bee line for the throne room. There sits Jesus Christ, and in His possession are amazing things like: peace, patience, discernment, and wisdom. The Spirit rushes to His side, takes the characteristics of Christ, and beams down into the difficult situation you are standing in. Then, with amazing effectiveness He applies those things to your heart. Suddenly, you are overcome with peace even though you are sitting on the hot seat. Then, patience that you can’t explain overwhelms your mind. Surprisingly, you are able to sit quietly as your boss reads the letter to the end. As you consider what he is saying, Godly discernment allows you to see through the emotions and realize the truth of the situation. Finally, divine wisdom is expressed through words as you answer the charges in such a way that all naysayers are effectively quieted. As you leave the office and return to your work space, you are reminded of the many times the Pharisees brought false charges against Jesus. You recall the way he responded with peace, patience, discernment, and wisdom. It’s almost as if Jesus was living through you in your boss’s office. You say a prayer of thanks, and go back to work.

No doubt, you can relate to both scenarios. We all can. There have been times we have left a situation full of regret. Other times we walk away from a situation full of gratefulness. What’s the difference? How do we determine the end result? It’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In one circumstance we are left to the works of the flesh, in the other the work of the Spirit.

Through the lesson of John 16:14, we find the second half of our definition of the ministry of the Holy Spirit…to inwardly express Christ to you. Now, without belaboring the point, I want to restate something that I brought out earlier. If we are walking in the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit is able to perform this work uninhibited. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to miss out on one thing that the Holy Spirit desires to bring me from the hands of Jesus Christ. I need every bit of Jesus that I can get. But the truth remains, if we are walking in the flesh, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is hampered…and we are forced to operate on the abilities, skills, and talents we were born with. And Brother, if those things were good enough, Jesus has died in vain…we wouldn’t need a Savior.

Now, let’s conclude. I want to return to our original question. WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO? Over the last 2 posts, we have built a very workable definition; one that outlines the basic truth concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Ready, here goes…


Sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s specialty. In the previous posts we have discussed WHO HE IS. Most recently we have dealt with WHAT HE DOES. With that accomplished, the last question to tackle remains….HOW DOES HE DO IT?