Forgotten God

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

This past Sunday we looked 1 Timothy 4:6-10 and the idea of sanctification… working hard at growing in personal holiness. As C.J. Mahaney explains in his book The Cross Centered Life:

Sanctification is a process – the process of becoming more like Christ, of growing in holiness. This process begins the instant you are converted and will not end until you meet Jesus face-to-face. Sanctification is about our own choices and behavior. It involves work.  Empowered by God’s Spirit, we strive. We fight sin. We study Scripture and pray, even when we don’t feel like it. We flee temptation. We press on; we run hard in the pursuit of holiness. And as we become more and more sanctified, the power of the gospel conforms us more and more closely, with ever-increasing clarity, to the image of Jesus Christ.

Again, it is hard work, but it is hard work that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. As Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV) This is why, as I said in my sermon, I am very excited about leading one of our adult Sunday school classes through Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s DVD study entitled Who is the Holy Spirit? this fall. In part because, as the back cover provocatively asks, have we forgotten the Holy Spirit?

Although the Holy Spirit is sometimes the forgotten Person of the Trinity, His presence and work is found throughout redemptive history. In this twelve-message series, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson traces the work of the third person of the Trinity through Scripture – from creation to the work of Christ to His dwelling in our hearts today. Along the way, he sheds light on the vital role the Holy Spirit serves. Dr. Ferguson’s goal is to help us know the Holy Spirit as a person, in addition to knowing of His power and work within us.

Recently Justin Taylor posted the following quote from Richard Lovelace’s The Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal:

This failure to recognize the Holy Spirit as personally present in our lives is widespread in the churches today… Even where Christians know about the Holy Spirit doctrinally, they have not necessarily made a deliberate point of getting to know him personally. They may have occasional experiences of his reality on a hit-and-run basis, but the fact that the pronoun “it” is so frequently used to refer to him is not accidental. It reflects the fact that he is perceived impersonally as an expression of God’s power and not experienced continually as a personal Guide and Counselor.

A normal relationship with the Holy Spirit should at least approximate the Old Testament experience described in Psalm 139 is a profound awareness that we are always face to face with God; that as we move through life the presence of his Spirit is the most real and powerful factor in our daily environment; that underneath the momentary static of events, conflicts, problems and even excursions into sin, he is always there like the continuously sounding note in a basso ostinato.

Lovelace provides a metaphor for what sadly seems often to be the case:

The typical relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit in today’s church is too often like that between the husband and wife in a bad marriage. They live under the same roof, and the husband makes constant use of the wife’s services, but he fails to communicate with her, recognize her presence and celebrate their relationship with her.

Lovelace asks, “What should be done to reverse this situation?” Here is his answer:

We should make a deliberate effort at the outset of every day to recognize the person of the Holy Spirit, to move into the light concerning his presence in our consciousness and to open our minds and to share all our thoughts and plans as we gaze by faith into the face of God.

We should continue to walk throughout the day in a relationship of communication and communion with the Spirit mediated through our knowledge of the Word, relying upon every office of the Holy Spirit’s role as counselor mentioned in Scripture.

We should acknowledge him as the illuminator of truth and of the glory of Christ.

We should look to him as teacher, guide, sanctifier, giver of assurance concerning our sonship and standing before God, helper in prayer, and as one who directs and empowers our witness.

We should particularly recognize that growth in holiness is not simply a matter of the lonely individual making claims of faith on the basis of Romans 6:1-14. It involves moving about in all areas of our life in dependent fellowship with a person: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16 NASB).

When this practice of the presence of God is maintained over a period of time, our experience of the Holy Spirit becomes less subjective and more clearly identifiable, as gradually we learn to distinguish the strivings of the Spirit from the motions of our flesh. (pp. 130-131)

As such, let me invite you, rather let me strongly encourage you to join us, starting Sunday September 23rd at 11:00AM, as we begin our study of “Who is the Holy Spirit?”.

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