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Archive for June 2nd, 2018

About Coming into the Fullness of the Spirit

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

My dear fellow pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

Just recently we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the Church, that is, the day when those who first believed in Christ came together as an anointed community to form the Body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to act as His witnesses to the world. Today, we continue in community through the anointing that is imparted to us through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation bringing us to life in Christ so that we, His Body, may continue to be His witnesses to the world until He comes to reign as King of Kings and Lord of lords.

However, for some of us, our celebration of Pentecost tends to be that of half-hearted traditional routines that honors the tradition and spirit of the historical event of Pentecost but not a celebration of something that should be an integral part of our lives in that it is something we have personally experienced – that is, the personal outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. It is in this sense that the “fullness” of Pentecost has not yet “fully come” for many of us today.

Yes, we all, in faith, have come to a new birth in Christ and have received the Holy Spirit in the inward man”, but for many of us Pentecost remains merely a historic event because we have not fully come to a realization of what that “fullness” really means. We have not fully yielded ourselves to the Holy Spirit and His Gifts so that He may truly take His place in our lives and thus have not released Him to complete the work in us for which He was sent, that is, to bring us into full conformity to the image of Christ – both through an inward transformation and an outward empowerment to preach and live the Gospel with His power working in us and through us. Instead we have taken our consecration as merely being a signal for us to use our own self-willed energies to attempt to please God with our own works and ambitions.

Yes, we are taught and believe that we are recipients of the seven sanctifying gifts that the Spirit of God uses to form the Character of Christ in us. We likewise expect the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in our lives through the indwelling Spirit of Love that has been poured in us by the Holy Spirit. But, in many of our lives the fruit of the Spirit is unable to come to maturity, mainly because, through ignorance and the gut-wrenching circumstances of our daily lives, our thinking and our behavior is being conformed to the world rather than to Christ. This conformance includes an attitude of pride and self-sufficiency that thinks we can do everything on our own, not understanding that the desire of the Father is that He wants to work through us and in us by the Spirit of His Grace which he so generously places in us. This attitude of conformance to the world also looks to the world for acceptance rather than to the Gracious God who created us.

You can sense this even in how we moderns define the graces received at Pentecost. Note that only the “socially acceptable” gifts of the Spirit (cf., Is. 11, Gal. 6;22) are mentioned in our churches. Whereas, the nine foundational or empowerment Gifts of the Spirit (cf.,1 Cor. 12) which were referred to by Jesus as the “Promise of the Father” and  which were actually the gifts manifested at Pentecost, are hardly ever mentioned in polite religious society. Why do you think this is? I suspect that the main reason is that we don’t want to look or be different from the world. We want to be accepted in the world and so we compromise the Word of God to match the world’s expectations.

This attitude weakens our faith and without faith we cannot please God – thereby hindering us from activating the actual release of the Holy Spirit into our lives and into the lives of those around us.

In this post it is my desire to discuss three of the most common problems (aside from plain ignorance) facing us Christians in exercising the spiritual gifts in the modern world – problems that hinder us in realizing the fullness of the Spirit in our lives. These three problems being: 1) grieving the Spirit, 2) quenching the Spirit, and 3) unbelief or “hardening of our hearts”. It is my hope that by bringing the awareness of these problems to the surface we may take action to repent and ask the Holy Spirit to renew us and restore us to the place in our walk with Christ so that we may truly be fruitful workers in the Kingdom of God! Praised be His Holy Name!

Grieving the Spirit

Grieving the Spirit of God

The Holy Spirit is “grieved” or “saddened” when we turn aside from His leadings in our lives and we instead begin to form attachment to the world and its lifestyles. He is grieved with us just as Jesus was grieved over Jerusalem because their unwillingness to receive Him at the time of His visitation (Matt. 23:37-39).  Let us then not grieve the Spirit by distancing ourselves from the world and welcoming Him and His Gifts into our lives.

Perhaps no one other than other St. Paul is better able to express the need for the Christian community to align itself with Christ and detach itself from the world. Listen to what he says to the church in Ephesus:

“Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:17-32; 5:1-2)

You may be sure my brethren that, because God is Love, He, in His compassion for us, will lovingly intervene in our lives to confront us with our sin in this regard, because it is a sin. Indeed, a sin that Paul refers to as “grieving the Spirit of God”. A sin that usually leads to another sin, that of “Quenching of the Holy Spirit”.

Quenching the Spirit

Quenching the Spirit

Scripture commands us not to “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To “quench” is to extinguish something, like throwing water on a campfire as you are preparing to break camp. The sin of quenching the Holy Spirit is when God’s Spirit is prompting us to say or do a certain thing and we refuse. Quenching the Spirit could also be failing to discover and use the gifts that God has given us.

The reason this is important is because we are ignoring or not using the charismatic gifts mentioned by St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (cf.,1 Cor. 12). It is through these nine foundational or empowerment gifts that the members of the church are empowered to carry out the church’s ministry of taking the Good News to the world, making disciples, and manifesting the power of Father’s Kingdom to the world. The Sanctifying Gifts (cf., Is.11) permit the Spirit to bring us in conformity to the character and spirit of Christ but it is the endowment with the charismatic gifts, however, that permits us to share in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that was on Christ so that His ministry of manifesting or enforcing the Kingdom of God in this world may continue through us, His Body!

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Because this ministry dethrones the power of the Evil One and the dominance he holds over the world and fallen humanity, he will do everything in his power to extinguish the Holy Fire of the Holy Spirit that has been placed in us, the Body of Christ. He does this on three main battle-fronts: the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We have already spoken of how the world conforms us to its thinking and behavior. This conformity to the world also acts in us to extinguish the fire or leadings of the Holy Spirit in carrying out His purposes for us in this world.

Remember the warning of preparation that Jesus gave His disciples:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. “This I command you, that you love one another.  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:16-19)

Thus, you should not be surprised that the world will not accept you if you deviate from what it expects and demands of you. This, of course, includes the “politically correct” suppression of the spiritual gifts that have been distributed to us by the Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes in us and through us.

In attempting to hinder us, the Ruler of this world takes advantage of our fallacious human reasoning, our weaknesses and our lustful desires (the flesh) so that we might succumb to the lures and demands of this world. And, to our dismay, he sometimes even uses the voice of misguided religious authority to attempt to shut the door to our exercise of the gifts by telling us that they are not needed today or that they (ironically enough) are of the “devil”.

The devil also tempts us by presenting us with counterfeit “gifts” that are really witchcraft under his control rather than from God. He also hinders the use of the actual gifts by presenting skepticism or doubts as to our worthiness or the appropriateness of our exercise of the gifts.

All of the above briefly summarize the means by which we may fall into the sin of quenching the Spirit. For this reason, brethren, it is very important in walking the walk of exercising the spiritual gifts that you keep in mind St. Paul’s exhortation and admonition to the church of Thessalonica:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Th. 5:16-22)

Hardening of the Heart

Regarding hardness of heart I refer you again brethren to St. Paul’s admonition to the church at Ephesus:

The Hardened Heart

“…. you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness [blindness] of heart. (Eph. 4:17-18)

In this citation Paul makes it clear that the condition he terms “hardness of the heart” (the term “blindness” is used in some translations) alienates us from the life of God. This alienation comes because the “hardness of heart” condition blinds our spiritual understanding, making us ignorant of God, His Grace, and His purposes for us in this world.  In other words it is an attitude of heart that leads to unbelief.

What we sometimes miss in Paul’s exhortation is that he is directing it to baptized Christians with the implication that these Christians, although converted are still living within their un-renewed worldly mindset – that Paul terms the “futility of their minds”. The reason we miss this point is that we modern Christians don’t realize that we are pretty much subject to the same condition, that is, we too are affected by a “hardening of the heart” or “unbelief”, the cure for which involves the “renewing of our minds”.

The main reason we miss this point that Paul makes is, because we consider ourselves faithful Christians, supposedly operating in faith, we find it difficult to understand how there could be unbelief in our lives.

This failure to understand is, in itself a sign of a certain level of unbelief. You see brethren what we don’t understand is that we, as fallible human beings can harbor both faith and unbelief within us at the same time.  The vestiges of our fallen self, although crucified with Christ are still with us, even though we are in the process of transformation into the image of Christ. But we are not there yet and never will we be completely there until we are united with Him in the life to come.

These vestiges of the flesh still mould our thinking into the ways of the world and place a veil over our minds when it comes to understanding the Spirit of God and walking in the Spirit.  Although we may see our spiritual path clearly in some areas of our lives there are some areas where the old way of thinking still holds sway.

For instance, supposing that upon your yearly medical checkup you doctor discovers some shadows in your x-rays and, upon more testing, informs you that you have a variant form, of lymphatic cancer.  The first anxious thoughts and fears you encounter within yourself are those of your old nature. Yes, you believe in healing and Jesus’ promises regarding healing, but you find your heart placed in a test between your faith and your anxieties and fears. If you place more value on your anxieties based on what the doctor said than your faith in what the word of God says, then you have entered the realm of “hardening of your heart” and this places a veil over your faith in the promises of God.

The more our mind is “renewed” in Christ the less influence the world and our “old man” will have on our thinking and judgments because Jesus and His Word will be the center of our focus in life. When our focus is on Him and His Word our faith will overcome the world just as He overcame the world (John 16:33).

There are many instances in the New Testament where Jesus admonishes his disciples for their “weak (or ‘little’) faith” caused by their hardness of heart. This is not because they did not have faith in Jesus it is because their own faith was still linked to what they observed in the world and was thus diluted by the circumstances they were facing, as in the multiplication of the loaves (Matt.14:13-20 and the healing of the demon possessed boy (Cf., Matt. 17). In this latter case, when the father came to Jesus saying that he had taken the child to His disciples and they could not heal the boy, Jesus said, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.” ( Matt. 17:17)

After delivering and healing the boy, the disciples asked, “why could we not heal him?”  Jesus answered them saying, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

So clearly, if we are to exercise our spiritual gifts fruitfully, as Jesus tells us from the citation above, we cannot afford to have this veil of unbelief or “hardness of heart” be a hindrance to us. That is why it is so urgent that we cooperate with God’s grace not only in discerning and exercising the gifts that have been allocated to us, but also in continuing to grow in the Spirit through the renewal of our minds, so as to minimize the hindrances that so easily disable us from carrying out God’s purposes for us in this world. Praised be His Holy Name!

In conclusion, brothers and sisters in Christ, I urge you to take everything I have relayed to you here, that has touched your heart, and present it sincerely, in prayer, to the Holy Spirit for confirmation and impartation so that you may be fully enabled by Him to enforce the Father’s will here on earth as it is in Heaven!

Baruch ha Shem!

Your Brother In Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2018])

Links to Related Articles

<>  Sweet Yoke of Love

<>  Releasing the Spirit

<>  Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

<> The Renewal of Our Minds

<>  Hearing His Voice…. and Obeying it!
<> Praying In the Spirit
<>  Responding To the Spirit’s Call
<>  The Kingdom of God Our Spiritual Inheritance

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