Exploring the gift of the Holy Spirit

This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday, the day where Christians across the world celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all believers. We read about this event in Acts 2:

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

While we usually (and rightfully!) give high praise to the forgiveness of sins, our adoption into the family of God, and the gift of eternal life, we often don’t think about or praise the great gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When you start exploring just how much the Spirit does for you — and to you — it’s hard not to praise Him! Having the Spirit in you means all of the following and more besides:

  • He is God who is always with you and will never forsake you (1 Cor 6:19)
  • He teaches you the truths of Scripture and helps you remember them (John 14:26)
  • He prays for you and helps you especially when you’re weak in your life and in faith (Rom 8:28)
  • He gives you wisdom, understanding, advice, power, knowledge of God, and respect for God (Isa 11:2)
  • He is a helper to be with you forever (John 14:15)
  • He gives us gifts from the Father (Luke 11:13)
  • He frees us from guilt and legalism (2 Cor 3:17)
  • He declares Christ to you and glorifies the Son (John 16)
  • He gives you joy, peace, and hope in your salvation (Rom 15:13)
  • He convicts us of sin against God (John 16)
  • He helps you walk according to God’s laws (Ezek 36)
  • He brings God’s love right to our hearts (Rom 5:5)
  • He seals and guarantees your salvation (Eph 1:13)
  • He continually sanctifies you to take out your sin and build fruits of the Spirit (2 Thess 2:13)

Praise be to the Spirit for the great work He does!

A song of your salvation

I’ve been thinking a lot about the assurance of salvation lately. How do you know that you are, indeed, truly saved and not merely deceiving yourself? There are a lot of comforting answers to this, but just one is how much sacred scripture resonates in your soul. It’s the difference between reading words and having the Holy Spirit bring those words alive inside of you — to make you zealous and passionate about the truth that you’re absorbing.

I couldn’t help but feel that when I read Isaiah 12, a relatively short chapter that comes on the heels of Isaiah’s 11 amazing prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 12, the prophet writes a song of salvation that should echo and resonate in the hearts of any who are called to Christ.

It’s also an illustrated history of our salvation journey:

  • Our sinful state and subsequent forgiveness through grace in verse 1: “For though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.”
  • A declaration of the one who saves  in verse 2: “Behold, God is my salvation”
  • A statement of faith and assurance in verse 2: “I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song”
  • A picture of daily life in the state of grace in verse 3: “With joy [I] will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
  • A call of faithful living and evangelism in verse 4: ““Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.”
  • A reminder of where God is in your life in verse 6: “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

We don’t wait to find out if we are saved at the end of our life; we daily draw from the well of our salvation, to experience the grace, the sanctification, and the love of our Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!

Two impossible choices for life

What do you want said about you at your funeral? If I have the sobering opportunity to ask someone who is dying that question, I’m genuinely curious to know what they want to share with those who come to mourn. I’ll tell you that very few people ever think about this, and those who are asked are usually without an answer.

Perhaps because I’ve asked this question to others so often, I have figured out what I want said about me when God takes me home. I want whoever does my funeral to say, “It is far better for him to be with his Lord than to stay here, even though it causes sadness to those he’s left behind.”

This is my answer because Paul’s letter to the Philippians resonates strongly with me. In his first chapter, this imprisoned apostle writes about two impossible directions for his existence. He says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

To live is Christ, to die is gain. He is pulled in two directions, and both are noble and good. He eagerly desires to “depart” from this temporary, sinful, painful existence to go be at home with the Lord who lives him and perfects his nature. In that day, he gained everything — a home, a family, a future, a purpose, and a lasting love. Why wouldn’t he want to go as soon as possible?

Because the other force pulling on Paul was the work of the gospel in this world. “To live is Christ,” meaning that every day he spent doing ministry, he was bringing glory to his Lord and being used as a vessel for God’s grace to flow to the people. Paul knows that there are many people that he’s been called to help and minister to, and so in selfless love, he’s content to stay alive as long as God needs him for this mission. It wouldn’t be easy, nor painless. But it would bear fruit.

And, I should mention, that Paul’s willingness to continue to live for God continues to bless us today. The epistles of Colossians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus were all written at or after the time that he wrote to the Philippians. If he had departed for heaven early, we would be deprived of these precious scriptures.

You have a purpose and a mission in this world, and if you love and honor God, you’ll want to stay here to get the job done before you are called home.

How to pray the Lord’s Prayer

As we’ve finished up our series on The Lord’s Prayer, I thought it would be useful to recap how we use the format of this prayer to shape our own conversations with God. Let’s see how flexible and wonderful this template is:

“Our Father who is in heaven”

  • Begin by addressing the Father — YOUR dearest Father who knows and cares for you — with reverence and love

“Hallowed be your name”

  • Bless the name of God, that name upon which salvation is found and nowhere else
  • Bless the holiness of God, his austere perfection and purity
  • Desire his name to be revered and honored in your life — and in the lives of those around you as well

“Your kingdom come”

  • Look forward to the future where heaven comes fully to earth
  • Anticipate the coronation of Jesus in the presence of his saints
  • Bow to the king of heaven and pledge your loyalty to his cause

“Your will be done”

  • Pray that you would be able to obey God’s will in your life
  • Pray for the will of God to be extended across a lawless world
  • Ask for help to grow through his commands

“Give us this day our daily bread”

  • Bring your physical, emotional, financial, and mental needs to God, being content with the answer
  • Also bring your spiritual needs, leaving it up to God how He will answer you
  • Pray on behalf of others’ needs

“Forgive us our debts”

  • Confess your sins and contemplate your great debt that Jesus has forgiven
  • Desire to sin less in your walk with Jesus
  • Ask for help to forgive others in the spirit of Jesus’ forgiveness to you

“Protect us from evil”

  • Raise your concerns to God that sin inside of you and temptation outside will pull you away from him
  • Ask for his protection to safeguard and restrain you from sin
  • Throw yourself on his grace to guard you from Satan

The legacy of faith

The church today is undergoing a serious crisis of family leadership. Namely, fathers and husbands are failing to spearhead worship with their family at both home and church. Over the past few decades, I’ve observed time and again how few men come to church compared to women — and how often the women pick up the slack and are the ones who bring their children and grandchildren.

While this should shame fathers and husbands into accepting the responsibility for their family’s spiritual development, it also is a high mark of praise and honor for women throughout the centuries who have been a tremendous influence in the lives of their progeny. I once knew a grandma who regularly and faithfully brought her two grandkids to church — their parents would never set foot inside one, not even on Easter — and witnessed a faith starting to grow in those kids’ hearts because of it.

We also saw this in the life of the apostle Paul’s protegee, Timothy. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul mentions how Timothy’s mother and grandmother were instrumental in the development of his faith. These women poured teaching and prayer into that young man’s life, and God used that to raise up a mighty minister for the gospel.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well,” Paul said.

Faith is infectious, especially in family settings! Kids and grandkids are blessed beyond imagination by the vocal and evident faith of their loved ones, and we have a responsibility to transmit that to them. Don’t give up on your family — and encourage those Loises and Eunices who are struggling on their own to make sure that the next generation knows the Lord.