Saturday, September 30, 2017

Holy Phlebotomy!



The Distant Cousin

I know this isn’t news, but the members of the Trinity are pretty tight. Since before there was time, they've made it a habit of hanging around together and at the foundation of the world, came to a group decision saying, “Let us make man in OUR image.” They’re often found finishing each other’s sentences. 

Still, many believers find that, because of his supernatural disposition, the Holy Spirit seems somehow separate from the other two - more like a distant cousin, rather than the very life which flowed through Jesus.  


May the Force Be With You

To some extent, even Charismatic types sometimes think of the Holy Spirit more like the Force in Star Wars than as a personality belonging to the Godhead. Those on the other side of the theological aisle often have the same perspective, but within a tighter and more subdued context. Yet, the Spirit was as close to Jesus as the blood that flowed through his veins. The Spirit was not alien to Jesus nor were the two merely silent partners, even though he is subconsciously regarded that way in many circles today.


Drink Up

In John Chapter 6, things get really weird when Jesus starts talking about how life is found in eating his flesh and drinking his blood, He says, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:55) In the next chapter, he announces that, 

“…Anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:37-39 NIV) 

There is no way around it. His blood is real drink and so, to those who are thirsty, it is his blood that he offers. When we drink, a flow of that mysterious living water (the Sprit) begins to flow from us.


Blood=Spirit

“For there are three that testify. The Spirit, the water and the blood…the three are in agreement.” (I John 5:7,8 NIV) Some translations say that, “the three are one,” or that “the three agree as one.” Basically, this passage is telling us that all three bear witness or testimony together as to the identity and validity of Jesus as the Son of God. Beyond this, it also harkens back to the passages above, connecting the blood, the water, and the Spirit they represent. All three together are crucial in bearing witness to Jesus and are found doing so in many Scriptures. (Hebrews 9:14, 10:29, 1 Peter 1:2, Revelation 22:17, Nehemiah 9:20, etc.)


Blood and Water

Our bodies consist of over 50% water. The blood that flows through our bodies bring oxygen and nourishment to our cells and tissues on a consistent basis. Water and blood are not foreign concepts to us. We know them as the stuff of life. The same was true of Jesus. He had an intimate relationship with the blood within him. You could say that they were quite attached to each other. Although biblical manifestations of the Spirit such as healing and speaking in tongues can seem to reinforce the “otherness” aspect of the Spirit perceived by some believers, this was not true of Jesus. This was HIS blood and this was HIS life.


This is MY blood

“…After supper He took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:12 NIV) 

Think about it! Jesus said that this was HIS blood - not just some blood. “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood…” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) 

The Spirit was his life, for life is in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11). Jesus literally poured out his life for us. This is the same life we gain from eating his body, and drinking his blood.


Ownership

So much is said about the sacrifice of Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. Sometimes, however, we are so caught up in the legal aspects of what he accomplished we forget the reality of the cost. Jesus didn’t merely go to the store to pick up bread, using his father’s money. Jesus paid the price with his own blood - he gave up his Spirit. 

When we buy something with our own hard-earned money, not borrowed, stolen, or spent on someone else’s behalf, we have a unique connection to what we’ve purchased and feel the cost of that purchase personally. Jesus spent all that he had on us so that we could enter into his eternal life. 


Shed for Us

This is why his blood was shed - “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (John 6:54 NIV). Jesus wasn’t talking about life in the future in eternity, although it includes that. He was talking about how he would transform the nature of our lives now. His blood was not shed for the sake of ceremony; it was not dumped to the ground and wasted. His blood was poured out for us so that it could flow through and out of us.


An Outpouring

The water, the blood and the Spirit testify to the same things. Upon his death, the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side, along with his last breath (his Spirit), these were all expelled to testify to his sacrifice, and to our redemption (John 19:34). It was there that Jesus gave up his Spirit. Although all was accomplished there, those things began to be realized by believers until after the resurrection and at Pentecost. 

The Spirit he forfeited at the cross and took back up at the resurrection and ascension into heaven, he then poured out upon those who had been waiting to receive it. Acts 2:17, 33).


Drawing On Our Thirst

“I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.” (Acts 2:19,20 NIV) 

Words like this, spoken on the day of Pentecost, tend to reinforce the distance some people feel towards the Holy Spirit. These words, much like the parables of Jesus, are intended to draw those who have a thirst, to seek for more. Within this otherwise mysterious Scripture, it’s plain to see that Joel is speaking of the testimony of the water and the blood. Along with these emblems of the Spirit, he rightly cross-references other imagery used throughout Scripture to represent the Holy Spirit. These are: fire, billows (vapor or breath), and smoke (cloud).

It’s interesting to note that all three of these properties have the ability to dry the tongue and create thirst in those who are exposed to them. Unusual? Yes! Unlike God? No! 

Those who find the ways of the Spirit to be too unusual, forget not only the recorded signs and wonders Jesus performed by the power of the Spirit, but all those things he did which were not recorded (John 21:25). There is always more to thirst for!


Filled

From the flow of his Spirit, we are to be continually filled. At Cana, Jesus commanded that the stone pots be filled to the brim so that a full supply would be available. It is our choice whether or not to stay hydrated in order that we may freely give what we have freely received. Jesus wet the appetite of the disciples when he told them they would be empowered to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). This prophecy was fulfilled in the following chapters, and is continually being fulfilled today.

“…They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31 NIV) 

“He was...full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24 NIV) 

“‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus…has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’.” …He got up and was baptized, …began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”


No Other Way

The truth is that despite how uncomfortable any of us feel regarding the Holy Spirit, there is nothing we can accomplish as co-laborers of Jesus without the Spirit. Our success is dependent upon and can only happen within the confines of our level of comfort regarding the Holy Spirit - that is, upon our degree of thirst and upon our level of faith. If we don’t desire for Jesus to move by his Spirit and don’t believe that he can or should move past some level we determine, then that is as far as he will move. 

Paul tells us that no one can even say, “Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit,” (I Corinthians 12:3). He also tells us to desire (or thirst) for the Spirit to manifest (1 Corinthians 14:1). These expressions, declaring Jesus as Lord and overt outward expressions of the Holy Spirit occupy each end of the same spectrum. We choose where our lives will chart concerning our cooperation with the work of the Jesus through the Spirit.


Proper Hydration

In the natural, we are told to maintain a consistent, healthy level of hydration. It is no different in our spiritual lives. Jesus often withdrew in prayer so that he might maintain his intimate relationship with the Father, and with the Spirit. There is only one time in Scripture where we find Jesus separate from that fountain. It is when he gave up his Spirit. 

“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

To be properly hydrated, we should take the advice from that beer commercial which says, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”


Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Diet of Bread and Living Water


“…I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NIV)

Survival

It is interesting that in the natural, we must both eat and drink to sustain life. On average, we can go three weeks without food, but we cannot go more than eight to ten days without water before perishing. It is the same in our spiritual lives. Our diet is to consist of the bread of life and the living water.

It’s not a competition between the two. Jesus is the bread of life. When we come to eat of the bread of life, he says he’ll provide living water. We eat of him, so that we may drink of the Spirit.

The Stuff of Life

I think it’s important to note that solid food, and bread in particular, is not devoid of water. It takes water to make bread and although some of that water evaporates in the baking process, the bread itself remains hydrated and we take that in along with the grain and other ingredients. 

We cannot, however, draw enough water through solid food intake to survive and maintain good health. But if you think about it, how many bites of bread or a sandwich do you eat without taking a drink along with it? The two go hand in hand and as Paul points out, first the natural, then the spiritual (I Corinthians 15:46).

Living Water

I’m not exactly sure how one would define “living water,” but it is clear that it refers to the Holy Spirit in the same way other liquids including oil and wine represent the Spirit throughout Scripture. These all speak to both sustenance and the medicinal properties of the Spirit. Fire and wind, on the other hand, seem to represent the inspiration, influence, power, and enablement which comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Bread and Water

We must remember that Jesus, the Bread of Life, recalled the passage which says, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We are sustained by the daily bread of communion with Jesus, but also on every God-breathed word he speaks - fueled by the inspiration and illumination of the Spirit. This is the same Spirit that Jesus said will lead us into all truth and the same Spirit by which Jesus, Peter, and other New Testament believers performed signs, wonders, and miracles to testify to the Gospel of Christ. It is so fitting that Jesus referred to deliverance from spiritual bondage as “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:27) for it shows that the bread is not separate from the living water of both sustenance and of enablement.

Communion

The Church has spent way too much time and wasted far too much energy arguing over the stuff of life. It was at the last supper that Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples. Then, he took the cup and shared it with each of them. Scripture tells us that he longed to share this passover with them (Luke 22:15). It is my bet that he longs for it still.

I Am the Bread of Life, He Is The Helper


Jesus did exactly what he was sent to do and his job was not to be the Holy Spirit. Among other things, his job was to be the Bread of Life and the Lamb that was slain. Death and resurrection was the fulfillment of his earthly ministry. His heavenly ministry is to intercede for us and to baptize us in the Holy Spirit, while the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to continue Jesus’ earthly ministry through us.

As I was Saying….

When reading Paul’s writings, it is clear that Jesus left out a lot of details about being a believer. Minus some very concise instructions from Jesus, the task of revealing the will of God has fallen to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus proclaimed:

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the 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.” (John 16:12-13 NIV) So, to hear the voice of Jesus, we must be dependent upon the person of the Holy Spirit. 

Three-In-One Oil

The Spirit has an equal place alongside the Father and the Son. He was the Breath that moved the Word of the Father as they spoke, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26 NIV). In this partnership, the Spirit is the oil that keeps the parts moving together and the oil that soaks deep down and touches the heart of God.

“‘…The things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (I Corinthians 2:9-12 NIV)

He Speaketh Still

Reports of the Spirit’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The Reformation began a slow uptick towards a normalized Body of Christ after centuries of decline, but it wasn’t until about 100 years ago that God’s people rediscovered the Spirit’s voice in a vital way. Although some of the journey from there has been a bit rocky, we are again beginning to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Below are a few passages that remind us of the Spirit’s voice:

“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements…” (Acts 15:28 NIV)

“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did.” (Hebrews 3:7-9 NIV)

“The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it.” (Acts 8:29 NIV)

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith…” (I Timothy 4:1 NIV)

“I only know that in town after town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions await me.” (Acts 20:23 NIV)

“But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10 NIV)

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life…”


The helper is there to help us walk with Jesus. He speaks the Word and as the Scriptures above testify, he translates Jesus in amazingly specific ways. Jesus says that if we are thirsty, the Spirit will flow through us (John 7:38). Let us thirst so that we may be filled.

The Living Water


“…I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 6:35-37, 7:37-39 NIV)

Jesus calls us to come to him both thirsty and believing so that he can come to us with rivers of living water. Although that thirst might be activated or intensified by adverse circumstances, the thirst is actually generated by God himself (John 6:44). We come to Jesus, the one promised to immerse us in the rivers of living water that they may flow from within us (Acts 1:5).

Here, the object of our desire and goal of our faith is revealed. It is Jesus along with what he came to do for, in, and through us. We can’t generate true desire for Jesus on our own, nor is faith fully faith outside of those things we are invited to apply our faith towards.

His promise is that we will not remain thirsty, as long as we continue to come to him.