Thursday, June 30, 2016

Strange Fire and Holy Fire, Part 2

The Lord said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:49-50, NASBU) I have come to understand this “fire” to be identical to John the Baptizer’s prophesy that the Lord would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16, NASBU). This is the work of spiritual cleansing and transformation of the character, disposition and behavior of the redeemed person. Only the Lord can affect this kind of change in a human being and he can only do so with the full cooperation of that person! 

God’s purpose remains to make his people holy (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 1:13-16). This is a process requiring the perpetual offering up of ourselves, as we become more self-aware; this process is both of learning to say “NO” to evil things and to be open to God’s blessed Spirit. Grace is given again and again as I renew my faith again and again at each new stage of self-understanding (in the light of God’s truth).

“Just as each poison has an antidote, every sin has its opposite grace. And the Christian who wants to walk in the power of holiness must not only work to avoid sin but to possess this contrary grace. In Scripture we read of a house which stood empty because the Holy Spirit did not come in after the evil spirit had been driven out. A merely negative Christian, then, will leave the sin he once walked in but still will not move toward holiness.” (William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, Vol. 2 [Banner of Truth], p.175)

God knows us completely. Thus he knows our potential and the damage our choices to sin (and the impact of others offenses against us) have had on our souls and bodies. If we resist the Holy Spirit’s conviction and guidance to either avoid sinning (old patterns especially) or to embrace practicing his new way of living rooted in the “new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24, NASBU) what does this demonstrate about us? We have not yet come to believe (to be convinced of) the grace of God. For if we did we would not hesitate to gladly give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit and to fully cooperate, so far as we are aware of how to do this, with God in our own spiritual transformation. 

God is quite serious about combating sin and evil in human beings and the world. The test of true worship and true service to God is the degree to which you and I are actively participating with God in this warfare. God will not accept anything less than our whole persons offered up wholeheartedly in faith. In this perpetual offering of oneself is the blessedness of eternal life begun to be experienced on earth now. 

The Psalmist expressed well this dynamic relationship with the living God:

“Remember your word to your servant, in which you had made me hope. This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life. The arrogant utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O LORD. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, those who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs wherever I make my home. I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law. This blessing has fallen to me, for I have kept your precepts.” (Psalm 119:49-56, NRSV)


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