Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

How do I know that I REALLY believe?

11 Jan

“Assurance of my position IN the family of God or OUT of the family sometimes FEELS tenuous.   What if I’m deceiving myself?  What if I THINK I believe what Jesus taught, what the Bible says? But what if I don’t really believe but I THINK I do?  How do I know if I’m sincere?”

Do you know someone who shares those kinds of thoughts?  Do you sometimes go around and around yourself, wondering if you really are saved?

Yesterday for ‘some’ reason that discouraging scenario popped into my mind while driving home.  I turned off what I was listening to and set my mind to figuring out how I would respond to an imaginary friend. Here’s the conversation I had in my head:

Me: You’re not sure if you REALLY believe you are saved, is that it?

Friend: Yes.

Me:  And you would like some assurance so you can put this issue to rest, once and for all?

Friend: PLEASE!

Me: Okay, let’s imagine that you came to me and shared that you were uncertain if you REALLY believed in gravity.  Do you know what I would have you do?

Friend: (a bit puzzled) Ah, no….what?

Me:  I’d say:  Test it out!  Let’s get some evidence for the reality of gravity.  Here, get up on this chair and step out into the air, off the chair and see what happens.

(Friend follows my instructions and lands on his/her feet)

Me:  You now have evidence that gravity is REAL.  Do you believe it is real?

Friend:  Of course!

Me:  Are you sure? Why do you now think that your belief is sincere?

Friend:  Because I have evidence that gravity is real.

Me:  Exactly! So let’s apply the same principle to belief IN God, that is, faith in Jesus’ work done in his life and on the cross, which is SAVING faith.  What evidence do you think would prove that you have been born from above, that you belong to the family of God?

Friend:  Hmmm, maybe if I prayed and received answers to prayer?  Maybe a miracle?

Me:  Possibly, but you might just rationalize them to be a coincidence.

Me:  Here is what I find to be irrefutable evidence:  the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Me: Before I became a ‘new creation in Christ’ I had NO experience of this kind of conviction or heart remorse and prompting.  I might have felt GUILT or SHAME at being CALLED OUT for doing something wrong, but never did I feel GRIEF at hurting a person.

Friend: I know what you mean!  A couple of months ago, I said something offhand, unnecessary, AND self-aggrandizing to a colleague at school. As soon as I was in the car driving home, ‘it’ hit me:  my judgmental tone, facial expression, and remark.  With genuine remorse, I immediately confessed to the Father.  And I could hardly wait for the next day to seek out my co-worker and ask forgiveness for my unkind, unfair and self-righteous comment.  Although not a believer, she graciously received my apology.  I was both relieved and grateful.

Me:  Right!  and before, when you KNOW for sure that you were NOT a believer, did you experience that kind of prompting by the Holy Spirit?

Friend: No!

Me:  There you have it! I think Holy Spirit conviction IS evidence of His permanent presence in your heart.  You cannot deceive yourself about that.  Besides……do you think Satan planted that thought in your head to confess?  or has it always been part of your nature to feel bad about every self-righteous comment you’ve made?

Friend: Fat chance that Satan wants me to humble myself and seek reconciliation.  And I never used to pay attention to my comments to others, the way I do now.

Me:  Okay, then. That settles it.  If you start to doubt again whether you truly are saved, just remember the evidence of God’s Spirit IN you!  His convicting work is called sanctification!

 

 

What to do with your mind

6 Jul

I never understood, until now, how important the mind is in the Christian life.  Yes, I know, that sounds STUPID.  But have you ever read any of John Owen’s books?  I’m on book 2 in an Owen trilogy, this one named, The Power and Efficacy of Indwelling Sin.

John Owen book cover

Owen’s main point is that our minds, once we are believers, have the crucial role of guarding our souls.  That is their job. They stand sentinel, keeping watch over potential influencers.  The battle against temptation and sin starts in the arena of the mind.  If Satan can deceive our minds into thinking OTHERWISE about reality, then he can get the mind to draw a false (and dangerous) conclusion.

And here is the scary thought.  Whatever the mind believes and settles on, the soul (our will plus our affections) follow.  The battle is in the mind.  I should know this, having read Joyce Meyer’s book years ago.   Joyce Meyer

Given the life and death nature of our mind’s assignment, to keep out lies and deceit that lead to sin, training in logic and clear thinking is crucial!

Here are some thoughts gleaned from Owen’s book (quote marks to indicate taken from his writing verbatim) that have sobered me into thinking about thinking:

  • Our minds can only default to one reality – earthly or heavenly.
  • Where the mind goes, what we set our minds on, the entire soul (our will + our affections) will follow automatically.  The mind opens the gate and the soul rushes in.
  • We CAN retrain our minds to default to things above (for we have the Spirit of God permanently ingrafted in us.) The FACT in 2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – Holman Christian Standard Bible) reminds us of God’s gift.
  • “The principal care and charge of the soul lies on the mind.”

By the way, and this nugget was WAY helpful to me, John Owen explains that ‘spirit’ is often used interchangeably with ‘mind or thoughts’  For example, Paul refers to God, “…whom I serve with my spirit.”  Romans 1:9, meaning he serves God with his mind.  How cool is that!  We are to walk with God, fueled and motivated by means of our thoughts, our mind!!!!

With that idea of how to understand the human spirit, look at this Pauline prayer:  I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.  1 Thess 5:23  (Contemporary English Version)

Here is an example of how the mind can easily fail to do its appointed duty.   Owen explains that our minds can be so deceived by the ‘law of sin’ or Satan’s influence, that we can reason falsely and arrive at a conclusion that does not correspond to reality.  He writes: The deceived mind imposes on the will to obtain its consent unto sin by proposing unto it the advantages that may accrue and arise thereby.  It renders that which is absolutely evil a present appearing good. (page 338).

Owen uses Eve as an example.  Her mind did not hold fast to God’s law, nor to the consequences of disobeying Him. She stopped contemplating/thinking about the sweetness of fellowship with her Creator and how good He was.  Instead, she shifted her mind to consider the benefits of such pretty, delicious and ‘beneficial’ (per that serpent) fruit.

Why did she start contemplating this dangerous tree?  Because she shifted her thoughts from God’s truth to the statements coming out of the serpent’s mouth.  And she concluded they were more true.  And once her mind shifted its weight to this dangerous reasoning that she would benefit MORE from eating the forbidden fruit, her will and affections followed with nary a peep.  Imagine her thinking looking like this:

Thought 1: This fruit does look attractive, tasty and full of good consequences

Thought 2: This garden creature assures me that no harm will come to me, unlike what God has said.

Thought 3:  These potential benefits outweight what I can get from God.

By turning her back on God’s truth and listening to another source, Eve opened the door for her will and affections to side with her mind and almost ‘compel’ her to disobey God.

So what are we to do to strengthen our mind, since so much rides on it?  Much.  But that’s another post.  So I’ll leave you with this starting point.  Observe your thoughts.  And evaluate them through the grid of God’s Word.  Are most about God or about circumstances? Do you tend to say, “I feel that….” rather than “I think that…”?  That might be a clue that your mind is flabby.

And what would I advise if you wake up a weak state of mind?  Read a good book, one that makes you think. Read with pen and paper in hand.  That will slow you down.  The good news is we CAN retrain our minds.  With God’s help.

 

 

The logic of receiving God’s power

25 Apr

Do you feel weak as a believer?  I know I do, every day.  I throw myself on God each and every morning as well as throughout my school day?  Why?  It’s how I tame/master/subdue those negative feelings, my fears that pop up while driving to school.  It’s knowing that I have to ‘do it again’, teach one more day. Even after 26 years, I feel inadequate, like there won’t be enough time to complete planning and grading and teaching AND engage the students so they both acquire AND enjoy French!  It’s THAT pressure that I don’t like and that I fear.

So when I read about God’s power this week, my ears perked up.

Listening to a John Piper classic sermon of the day got me to thinking about how we actually RECEIVE supernatural strength to fight those fears.

Piper explained that Paul’s epistle greetings and even his closures contained power phrases like ‘grace and peace be to you’.  Here’s an example:

2 Tim 4:22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

My mind started backtracking by wondering:

  • Okay, how do I actually GET this grace?  And what specifically IS it, this grace?

I think the Holy Spirit led me logically to see the simple but effective way to receive God’s power.  Hear me out.

If you are a Christian, you’ve heard and read it many times over that:

…..faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

So…IF faith comes from hearing or reading God’s Word (and faith means BELIEVING, TRUSTING, RELYING ON, RESTING IN, COUNTING ON), then God’s word is a source of supernatural effectual power that tramples our natural unbelief and causes us to take as true what the Word says.

....AND if Paul is writing what Christians accept as God’s intended words, then God means to transmit the gift (what grace is) of actual power to hearers/readers through the words themselves.  How is that?  by hearing with faith, hearing words that we believe, trust, will rely on, rest in and count on.

Grace covers LOTS of types of gift.  What supernatural gift might one need?  I can think of several:

  • strength
  • patience
  • wisdom
  • clarity
  • understanding
  • peace
  • joy
  • new desires to exercise kindness and compassion toward others
  • control over one’s ‘natural’ expression of feelings
  • releasing of grudges and leaving revenge to God

So here’s the string of logical propositional truths that my mind locked onto:

  • If believing God’s Word to be true comes by hearing with understanding…

…and

  • If God, in His Word, promises spirit and power-filled divine gifts (grace) to His children

Then

  • Grace comes to us from hearing God’s Word.

What’s the implication?

Nothing, that is NO THING, should hinder us from filling up on this grace from the Bible, each and every day.

 

 

Listening in action

8 Mar

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  James 1:19

My mind has been pondering several blog posts I’ve recently read lamenting the state of public discourse and what each of us should do to ameliorate the atmosphere.

Usually when the Holy Spirit wants to drive home a necessary change, He causes me to NOTICE and READ/HEAR the same message 3 times.

True to His practice, the art and gift of healthy communications was ‘front and center’ in my mind last week.  I had even articulated to my husband:

  • We should not even jump into a discussion with someone until we have taken the time and made the effort to understand and sufficiently verbalize back to the speaker his/her point of view.  And that summary, in a way, that satisfies the owner of the viewpoint.

That wise strategy bore fruit at church last Sunday.  A small conflict ruffling certain members’ feathers arose.  Communicating the complaint to others bordered on ‘talking behind the back’ of the brother in Christ whose decision about an upcoming church activity had miffed several.  The ‘miffed’ ones belonged to a certain church committee.  The ‘miff-er’ did not.

Thankful for the Holy Spirit’s recent focus on my heart, I volunteered to go to the ‘miff-er’ and ask directly why he had made the decision he did.

Here’s what I noticed:

  • I experienced NO pressure
  • my goal was simply to understand his reasoning
  • it was easy
  • he seemed pleased to be given the time to explain his thinking
  • I was able to go back and report to others what he said and recommend we allow his decision to stand
  • a leadership weakness in the church committee was revealed through this ‘conflict’
  • a procedure to avert future conflict was set in place to handle any abrupt suggestions from church members that startle us into acquiescing and making a decision without thinking and consulting the entire committee

Satan seems to enjoy stirring up dissension, especially in families, whether biological or in the Church.

A deep breath, a pause and some clear thinking combined with courtesy go a long way.  For the effort, the payoffs are out of proportion!

 

How logic rescues us from false guilt

29 Jun

John 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments

At first reading, I feel convicted.  I must not really love God, for I don’t obey his every commandment.

But that is a reverse and false reading of this hypothetical conditional premise.

Jesus, who instructed his disciples right up until Roman guards arrested him on the eve of his crucifixion, did NOT teach:

If you keep all my rules, then it’ll be true that you love me.

Well, then what was it that he taught?  Here’s both the bad news and the good news (Gospel) of our love for God.

  • No one naturally is capable of loving God, for everyone is born with a birth defect called hatred or indifference toward God
  • If we feel ANY affection for or interest in the biblical God (as described in the Bible), then that is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in our stony hearts.  Only God can swap out a stiff and impenetrable heart and replace it with a softness and inclination for him.

So what about the ….”then you’ll obey me” clause?

Think of it like this.  When someone loves you and you feel love for him or her, you naturally want to please him or her.  You want to know what they think, what interests them, what they consider important.  So it is with God.  Because he loves us first and then follows that electing and intentional love by implanting in us a reciprocal love for him, we receive new desires and delights.

If it is THAT easy to twist the meaning of a Bible truth through faulty logic, what other realities might we have equally misconstrued?

 

Logical Gal asks: Why are you a liberal? Why are you a Christian?

8 Jul

“You’re just a Christian because you were brought up in a Christian family!”

What are you going to say to THAT marginalization of your belief?

As always, the logical gal or guy takes a deep breath, then formulates questions that soften the smug accuser.

  • So, let me get this straight, you vote the same political party your parents do/did?
  • And you parent your own children they way you were raised? (or you share a love for the same hobbies as your mom and dad?)

You can see the many possibilities this line of questioning offers!

I can almost certainly hear your interlocutor start to backpedal…..

“Well, no….but that’s not the same thing!”

You can then ask:

  • How so? How is it different?

Or, you could gently probe THEIR spiritual background and ask how THEY were brought up and if THOSE experiences have had any influence on their views today.

Likely their responses will be either:

  1. “Yes, my parents were agnostic and so am I!”

(to which you calmly remark:

  • So you have just followed the path they laid out?)
  1. “No! I think for myself!”

(to which you calmly remark:

  • So only agnostics look at evidence and see the most reasonable conclusion?)

Other possible questions:

  • Based on your premise, then all Muslims are followers of their religion solely due to their family and cultural milieu?
  • Why do recent polls in America show an increasing rise in those claiming NO religious affiliation?  Likely some of these ‘nones’ were brought up in Christian homes!
  • What do you think accounts for the striking growth of Christianity in Communist China? Or in Africa?

Genetic Fallacy

But the best response to a Genetic Fallacy (you only believe X because of the origin or genesis of the belief) is:

  • You know, you could be right that I’m a Christian because I was brought up in a Christian home.
  • But the MORE important question to consider is this: Does God exist or does He not? For if God does NOT exist, then it really doesn’t matter why I believe what I do. And we are wasting each other’s time discussing it!
  • But if God DOES exist, then Who He is and What He says and What He has done and WILL do are relevant to your life and mine, don’t you think?

Now, more than recently, we must be able to ask discerning questions that gently challenge.  Speaking the Truth while showing compassion toward the other person is the mark of a Christ-follower.  With the Holy Spirit both guiding and restraining us we profess what is True to those whom God has made in His image.  The results are up to Him.

Logical Gal and a win-win wager

22 Oct

True Confessions!

I struggle with worry.  Not only is this stupid, but it’s a sin since God commands Christians: Do not be anxious (Phil 4:6)

I was battling this unbelief Sunday night and Monday morning, when I realized that the possible outcomes revolving around my worrysome circumstance could be organized in a similar fashion to Pascal’s Wager.

Pensées - Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a French philosopher and mathematician.  One of the ways you might be acquainted with him is through his Pensées .  This collection of thoughts were gathered by his man-servant and assembled after his death.  He had written each pithy reflection about God on pieces of parchment and then sewn them into his coat’s lining.

Pascal meditated on how one should live this life here on earth in view of what might happen beyond the grave.  His reasoning as a logician led him  in view of  after death options to sort out the possible outcomes of a decision for or against relying on God.

The 4 possibilities look like this:

1. God exists and I give up management and submit to Him – I get a joy-filled/punishment-free eternal life with God. The cost? Very little –  some temporary experiences that might have satisfied me if indulged in.

2. God exists and I refuse to acknowledge Him and control my own life – I get a scary and painful eternal life away from God. The cost? A LOT! – an eternity of pain that lasts a lot longer than the temporary earthly pleasures I indulged in

3. God does not exist and I give up my control and desires and live according to what I think He wants – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave.  Nothing bad or good awaits me forever. The cost? Very little some temporary experiences I held back from.

4. God does not exist and I live my life following my own desires – I get nothing, because there is nothing beyond the grave. Nothing bad or good awaits me forever.  The cost? Nothing

So if you evaluate what you stand to gain or lose, rationally it makes sense to bet on God existing. (of course what one thinks of God and what God thinks of us is not up to odds, but this is just a way of using reason)

Back to worry.  How does this idea of a wager apply?

I think we can set up a similar decision wager paradigm that clearly shows the folly of worry.

First of all, here is my pre-supposition:  Worry is a joy and happiness stealer.  The formula looks like this:

Worry Inequaltiy Math Symbol Joy

And our choice of belief boils down to this:

1. Believe God when He says He is taking care of us = no need to worry.

2. Don’t believe God when He says He is taking care of us =  need to worry.

  • If we believe God and He is who He says He is and therefore IS taking care of us – we didn’t worry and we have peace and get proof that God provided for that need/situation/problem.
  • If we believe God and He doesn’t exist or isn’t like what we think – we didn’t  worry and we have to deal with the outcome of the need/situation/problem but we didn’t experience the joyless pain of worry leading up to the situation.
  • If we don’t believe God, whether He exists or not, we end up worrying and lose our joy and peace.

It makes sense as Christians to opt for the first situation.

Happiness

If God IS God by definition, then in His essence He is honest and everything He says about Himself IS true.  Afterall, his character and reputation are at stake.  We yield to emotions so often and don’t cling to truth.  And all along God is present and willing and able to handle our situations.

I have to remind myself daily that God knows about my day and has provisioned me with exactly what I need for each moment.  I am to make use of these provisions by divine faith which He has given me.

Christianity is a calling to use the evidence that God through the Holy Spirit has given us.  May we each be empowered to believe the Truth!

…the Spirit is Truth.  1 John 5:6b 

Question:  What helps you with anxiety?