Seeing, Touching, Hearing, Reading, and Believing

March 17, 2020 at 10:23 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, John | 1 Comment
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Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

John 20:19

Jesus’s Resurrection happened on the first day of the week, which is why Christians meet for assembled worship services on Sunday rather than Saturday. Regardless of what you believe about the New Testament Lord’s Day replacing the Old Testament Sabbath, it is clear that Jesus fulfilled the work of God and instituted a new covenant/pattern/dispensation. God finished the initial work of creation after six days and commemorated it with a special holy day of “rest.” Jesus finished the work of redemption after six hours on the Cross, and commemorated it with a special holy day of new life.

A week later, despite having information strongly indicating that Jesus had risen, the Disciples were still in hiding, but also meeting together on Sunday. The resurrected, glorified body of Jesus had the power to appear suddenly inside a room with locked doors. Of course, as God, Jesus could do what He wanted with time and space and material objects, but this is often taken as a sign that our glorified, resurrected bodies will share this ability to move freely through space and objects.

The greeting of “peace” is important, as we remember Jesus’s promise in John 14. He did not condemn their fear; He comforted them with His presence.

And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

John 20:20-21

This is John’s version of the Great Commission.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

John 20:22

Some Bible scholars see this as a temporary filling for ministry until the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Others see it as an object lesson or illustrated sermon, indicating that they should go forth with the God-breathed “inspired” Word and with the Holy Spirit once they were indwelt.

Ten Disciples had seen and touched Jesus personally after the Resurrection. Judas and Thomas had not been present to this point, and obviously Judas was no longer part of the team. Thomas needed definite confirmation before he would be convinced.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.

John 20:25-28

This is seen by many commentators as the climax of the Gospel of John. Thomas’s confession seems obvious to us today, but, remember, John was writing primarily for an audience he was hoping to convince of Jesus’s Deity.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 20:29

When we read about those who have not seen Jesus personally with our physical eyes, yet believe the Truth about Him, we can rejoice and say, “That’s us!”

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

John 20:30-31

The somewhat limited scope of John’s Gospel is revealed and clarified. Its purpose is to invoke belief, yes, but not mere academic conviction. It is the kind of belief that is the means of eternal life.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Illumination (Part 2)

July 19, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 1 Comment
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In a previous post I showed that, Biblically:

I. Illumination Indicts Iniquity
II. Illumination Initiates Interest
III. Illumination Implements Instruction

Now we will see that:

IV. Illumination Imparts Insight

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

Psalm 36:9-10

The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible and He teaches the principles and the precepts of the Bible to whose whom He indwells.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.

Psalm 119:130

The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. He leads us out of error. He teaches and reinforces correct doctrine.

V. Illumination Inspires Intimacy

O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.

Psalm 43:3-4

We draw close to God and get to know Him better by various means, but the main way we get to know – not just things about Him – but actually intimately know Him – is through the illumination of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

Colossians 1:12-13

We experience intimate fellowship, through the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination, not only with God, but with other believers.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

I John 1:7

Now that I have discussed what Biblical illumination IS, I want to point out:

VI. What Illumination Is Not

A. Illumination is not inspiration.

Illumination does not give us private revelation apart from Scripture – and especially not contrary to Scripture. It is not a synonym for imagination: Beware of these commonly espoused idioms: “God told me;” “God spoke to my heart;” “God wouldn’t let me do what I had been preparing to do.” Let’s be careful about our language. There is a great danger in saying “thus saith the Lord” when He hasn’t really saith anything of the sort.

B. Illumination is not inner enlightenment.

Illumination is not transcendental meditation. It is not the emptying out of your mind. It is not the achievement of knowing the self or emotional peace. It is not mysticism – or chanting or channeling or tantric yoga. It is not “blind” (dark) faith; it cooperates with rational, intelligent, logical learning, application, and wisdom.

C. Illumination is not immense intelligence.

Jesus and the Apostles were accused of ignorance or illiteracy, or lack of education or formal learning.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I Corinthians 1:26-27

Paul acknowledged the simplicity of human wisdom and how the true wisdom of God was counted as foolishness in the world.

Illumination in not merely academic. It is a supernatural impartation of understanding specifically related to Bible study. Plenty of classically trained and tremendously educated scholars have made a lifelong study of certain Biblical subjects without ever being converted, and therefore without ever having experienced true illumination.

The Insidious Appeal to Superficial Excitement

June 14, 2019 at 10:17 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Back in the hey-day of the so-called “seeker sensitive movement,” churches tried all sorts of embarrassing promotional methods to “reach people where they are.” Programs (disguised under the name “outreach” in many cases), modeled on successful business-growth strategies, were instituted to try to make church services as innocuous and “un-church-like” as possible, so that lost people would feel entertained or a least comfortable enough to attend. Numbers went up, but true conversions and sanctification did not.

This strategy has now been denounced by some of its key founders, but it has not died completely, and it has been adopted in surprisingly subtle and devious (and patently unbiblical) ways. One area where it has recently seen a resurgence is in so-called “survivor” or “recovery” start-up ministries. These ministries are often led by a charismatic individual with some type of character-scandal in his past that would disqualify him from leading a sound Biblical church. A good example of this is a man named “Pastor” Greg Locke, whose rants I often see posted on the social media accounts of otherwise discerning Christians. I used the scare quotes around “pastor” because I don’t believe he’s qualified to be an actual pastor, having left his wife for his church secretary. Locke has hit on a successful formula, though. Using what appears to be his cell phone, he often makes vain “selfie videos,” with his face close-up in the screen, touching on hot-button political or cultural issues like gender-neutral bathrooms or millennial kids who badmouth their own parents. He is absolutely fanatical in his devotion to President Trump, and thereby appeals to a group of people who love conservative politics as much as or more than Jesus.

Whereas the original seeker-sensitive methods targeted the “unchurched,” this new variation goes after other churches’ members. They will try to lure away an existing church’s assistant or associate pastor, looking for someone who’s disgruntled, overly proud and stubborn, and resistant to the senior pastor’s authority, but still weaselly enough to make it seem like he’s getting a raw deal as he pouts off to adopt some sort of “co-pastor” title under the stronger, more manipulative leader of the new recovery ministry.

Once that has been done, the members of the assistant pastor’s former church will be systemically targeted and lured away into this new ministry. The method for convincing church members that the grass is greener is to make it seem like the new start-up ministry is more “exciting,” more “alive” than where they are. As I mentioned in a previous post, it helps if the leaders can claim special private revelations from God authorizing their behavior. Next, they will pull out the old “dead religion” card. “Is your church boring? We will really hoot and holler in our services! Does your preacher just preach from the Bible, trusting the Word of God, rather than raw emotionalism, to change people’s lives? Not us! Our preacher will run around, waving his arms, and even stand on a chair [ignoring the fact that he does it so predictably every time he preaches that it’s obviously staged for effect]. Look, we’ve dropped our former denomination’s name from our ministry title, because it carries ‘baggage‘ in the minds of wishy-washy non-serving Christians! We don’t even use the word church in our name!”

This new ministry targets supposedly “hurting people in the pew” of other churches, so it has to really play up to the squishy “church-is-about-my-feelings” crowd. Sure, the terminology is dressed up in cliched Christianese, but it’s fairly easy to spot for anyone with Biblical discernment. Here are some examples:

1. “At our services, God will touch your heart.”
Number of times “touched my heart” is the Bible: 0

2. “At our services, the Lord will speak to your spirit.”
Number of times the Bible says that the Lord spoke to someone’s spirit: 0

3. “At our services the Holy Spirit will wrap his arms around you.”
Number of times in the Bible that the Holy Spirit wrapped His arms around anyone: 0

4. “At our services, the Holy Spirit shows up in a special way.”
Number of times the Bible describes the Holy Spirit in a post-Pentecost New Testament worship service as showing up in a special way: 0

5. “At our services the preacher gets a hold of God.”
Number of times the Bible describes a preacher getting a hold of God: 0
[What this really means is that the preacher starts his sermon by telling the congregation to open their Bibles to a Bible verse, but then goes on a long tirade or series of personal anecdotes without ever actually exegeteing the verse. He will also, for dramatic effect, claim that, “I’ve been working on a message for several days, but the Holy Spirit just won’t let me preach it. He just now gave me this instead…”]

 

 

 

It’s a formula that sadly works on many weaker church members, inducing them to leave a church with a high view of Scripture and the real transforming work of the Holy Spirit, for a fake sideshow of manufactured enthusiasm, featuring a carnival barker masquerading as a preacher, serving up heavy doses of people-pleasing pablum to folks who would rather be entertained than equipped to serve.

Prayers Answered with Pranks

April 22, 2019 at 11:18 am | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Jesus continued teaching His disciples about the model for prayer with this concluding thought:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Luke 11:11-12

What do we make of this strange illustration which sounds so foreign to our modern ears? Can you imagine a child asking his father, “Dad, may I have some bread?” and the father responding with some sort of cruel practical joke? “Okay, Son, I have some bread for you right here… [reaches behind his back]… Ha! JK! It’s really a rock! Did you break your tooth?”

Or the son asking, “Dad, what do you have there? Is that a fish? I wanna see…” and the father responding, “Sure, Son, here you go… Whoa, it’s a snake – look out!”

It sounds ridiculous, and it just gets worse: “Dad, I’m hungry, how about an egg?” Dad: “Hmmm… I dunno – try this instead!” [hurls a scorpion at him].

Maybe I’m just obtuse, but this seems like a really tough passage of Scripture. The disciples were trying to make sense of the correct model for prayer and Jesus started going on about this crazy dad terrorizing his son. And I’ve read several commentaries which go to some length to assert that maybe a loaf of bread can look like a stone, and maybe a fish can sort of look like a snake. After all, neither have arms or legs, they say, so Jesus must have been teaching about deception, warning against being deceptive in prayer. And I’m certainly no scholar, so that might be the correct interpretation, but an egg being confused for a scorpion? Seriously?

I tend to think that Jesus was being humorous here (albeit with a serious point), and that we just don’t “get” the ancient Near-Eastern connotations with our Western modern mindset. I draw this conclusion because the next verse reveals what I believe to be Jesus’s point:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

God is “our Father,” but he is not like “A father.” In other words, earthly fathers are evil. (If you are a father who is reading this, that is probably not very affirming, but that’s what it says.) Jesus wants us to talk to God the way a child talks to his dad, and, while an earthly dad is not always competent, appropriate, or trustworthy, even a really sketchy earthly dad who loves his child wouldn’t give the kid a scorpion or a snake in response to a serious request for food. Based on this line of reasoning how much MORE will God (the perfect Father) give His Spirit to those who ask HIM?

It seems like Jesus was changing the subject when He brought up the Holy Spirit, but He really wasn’t. The Holy Spirit – to Old Covenant believers – was not a permanent indweller. Rather, He was given at specific times for specific ministries. When my kids ask for candy, I won’t give them a hand grenade, but I might give them an apple instead. I – despite being evil – WANT to give them good gifts, but I don’t always get it right when deciding what’s “good.” Our Heavenly Father, on the other hand, has given us the Holy Spirit, and He’s always good. The Bible says that He will guide us into all truth. We need to ask God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we can be confident that He will help us.

The Sending of the Holy Spirit

June 1, 2018 at 10:39 am | Posted in John, Q&A | 1 Comment
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Question: If the Holy Spirit was already in the world in Old Testament times, why did Jesus say that if He (Jesus) didn’t go, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come, in John 16:7?

Answer: The Holy Spirit (Who is also God) operated differently under the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, He would come upon specific individuals for specific reasons at specific times. You can see some examples in the lives of Moses, Samson, Saul, and David. That is what happened to John the Baptist and to Jesus, because they were still under the Old Covenant before Jesus’s Crucifixion. The Holy Spirit did not take up permanent residence inside human beings then. This changed when Jesus instituted the New Covenant. When He ascended into Heaven after His Resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to all who put their trust in Jesus and were regenerated (born again). If you believe the truth about Jesus and put all your trust in Him, the Holy Spirit will live in you, too.

How the Knows are Gifted

August 31, 2017 at 2:53 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 4 Comments
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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

I Corinthians 12:1

This, to me, is the unifying theme of I Corinthians: The Holy Spirit, through Paul, did not want the Corinthians Christians to be ignorant. He wanted them to be “Knows,” not “Know-Nots.” Their single most identifying negative mark, as a church, was their squabbling and factionalism. Their single most identifying positive mark was their richness in spiritual gifts.

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

I Corinthians 12:2

Here, “dumb” means unable to speak, rather than foolish. Formerly idol-worshipers – so deeply entrenched that they were still possibly weak in their consciences in this area – they had been miraculously delivered by divine revelation.

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I Corinthians 12:3

The Holy Spirit is identified as the Person of the Trinity that reveals to us that Jesus – despite His treatment as the vilest of criminals – is actually God incarnate.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:4

Among the Persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the One Who delivers the spiritual gifts and determines who gets which ones. There is diversity AND unity.

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

I Corinthians 12:5

The gifts are given with the intent that they will be used to minister to the Lord Jesus. Again there is diversity AND unity.

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

I Corinthians 12:6

God the Father empowers the gifts so that His power is working in us as we use the gifts. Once again, we see the principle of diversity AND unity. The gifts are given by the living God in the Person of the Holy Spirit because of the victory and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

Ephesians 4:3-8

Praying in Between

September 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Jesus told them to wait, but He also gave them a promise. Waiting on God’s promises to come to pass is not a waiting-to-see-IF; it’s a waiting-to-see-WHEN.

And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

Acts 1:4

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Acts 1:14

In Verse 4 they had “assembled together” physically, and now they were waiting together (“with one accord”) spiritually.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:4

During the interim period between the promise and the fulfillment, they spent their time in prayer and supplication. Why would we pray for God to bring to pass what He has already promised He will do? For one thing, God commands us to do it (Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18; Jeremiah 33:3). For another thing, God often uses prayer as the means of accomplishing His will (James 5:16).

Notice also that in Acts 1:14 and Acts 2:4 ALL of those to whom the promise was made were filled with the Holy Ghost. There were not some who were “Spirit-baptized” with some type of second-level anointing. All who were filled with the Spirit were filled with the same Spirit in the same way and at the same time.

Beware Faithless Freezing

March 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Posted in The Fives | 2 Comments
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Did you ever play the childhood game “freeze tag?” Picture a bunch of kids running around, some chasing and others being chased. When a chaser touches a “chasee,” the one who is “tagged” must “freeze” and not move from that spot until another chasee touches him, setting him free to run again.

freeze tag

It’s a fun game, but it’s also, sadly, an illustration of the spiritual life of many Christians. You know the cliched jokes about the “frozen chosen” and those who attend church only to “sit, soak, and sour.” These are believers who understand that they have been chosen by God unto salvation in Christ Jesus, but who then wrongly believe that this calling to new life is the end of the journey rather than the beginning. All that is left to do, they mistakenly think, is to wait for Jesus to bring them home.

Why is this such a popular notion? One reason is that there is some partial truth to it. Those who are born again are waiting for the fulfillment of the glorious promise of having our faith become sight, and being brought into the presence of Christ’s eternal sanctification, to be free once and for all from the cares, trials, and sin of this world and our mortal flesh. However, this “waiting” is not a sedentary killing of time, nor an inchoate longing for better days to come. It is waiting through the Holy Spirit.

For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Galatians 5:5

And it is a waiting that should be accompanied by a tireless pursuit to put into practice the positional righteousness we have received through faith. If the Holy Spirit chased you down and “tagged” you with the Lord’s salvation, don’t freeze in your babyish state of “just-born-again” Christianity. Instead, chase after the One Who chased after you. Follow the Spirit as He leads, reading His Word, doing what it says, magnifying your Savior, serving your neighbor, and glorifying your Father as He lovingly watches over you from your future home in Heaven.

Beware the Fiduciary Foundation

February 24, 2015 at 11:57 am | Posted in II Corinthians, The Fives | 2 Comments
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A fiduciary relationship is one of trust. It involves the giving over of something to someone else to keep safe and to manage well. When a person trusts Christ unto salvation, he receives, at the moment of his regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit functions in many different ways as He indwells the bodies of Christian believers, and one of those ways is that He acts as a sort of “earnest payment” which signifies the person’s eternal salvation and future ultimate redemption.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

II Corinthians 5:5

However, it is important to remember, as believers, that we do not control the Holy Spirit; He is supposed to be in control of us. When we are thinking correctly, and abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit is in charge of us; we are not in charge of Him.

In today’s climate of psuedo-spiritual religious promotion, it is easy to get mixed up in this regard. If we do not keep our minds saturated with Biblical truth, we will start to think that the Holy Spirit has been given to us “in trust,” and that we need to manage Him properly, but that, if we put Him “to work” (the way a smart financial manager will put your money to work to earn interest), then He can be used to makes us wealthy, healthy, influential, comfortable, charismatic, and well-known.

That is the wrong foundation for Holy Spirit-led living, and a Spirit-filled life. The Holy Spirit, and the assurance of His indwelling, is given to us to remind us that we belong to Christ. We have been purchased at the greatest cost, and our lives are themselves now held “in trust” and, if we are to be faithful stewards, they must be managed in such as way as to magnify Jesus and glorify God.

Don’t Love Yourself

July 31, 2014 at 11:43 am | Posted in Galatians, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 7 Comments
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For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galatians 5:14

Contrary to the inane “Christian” song I heard my daughter listening to the other day, this verse does NOT command us to love ourselves, nor does it tell us that we can’t love if we don’t love ourselves. Our natural default setting is to love ourselves, which is sinful. God made an extreme correction to that perverse way of thinking when He commanded us to love Him with everything we have, and to love our neighbors in the way we are accustomed to loving ourselves when we are in the flesh. That’s the summation of the moral law of God in all its specific expressions.

For example, how can I idolize anything while loving others? For, if I love them, I must want what’s good for them, and the only true good for them is to point them to the One True God. How can I steal from my neighbor, kill my neighbor, lie about my neighbor, take his belongings, sleep with his wife, if I love him “as myself?”

Look at how practical and realistic this is. Don’t say, “I can’t attain it. It just seems ‘right’ for me to love myself. What about my self-esteem?” Forget about your self-esteem. The last thing in the world you need is a boost to your self-esteem. When you “love yourself” you are stealing what God has entrusted you to give back to Him and others. If we surrender to the Spirit, He takes our self-love and redirects it off of self, and onto God and others. What freedom! No more “I’ve got to get mine;” “I’ve got to get at least as good as him or her;” “I’ve got to get ‘my’ share.”

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:15

When we believe the lie that we have to love ourselves before we can love anyone else, we will become like a pack of wild animals. We’ll bite each other to bits, and we won’t even see the destruction in it – just as long as we get our fair share of bites.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16

Almost all Christians say that walking in the Spirit is a good idea, but hardly anybody does it. I suspect that few of us even know how. First, admit that your flesh is not redeemed, and it is very, very strong – stronger than your will.

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Galatians 5:17

God is not going to share His glory with you – at least not in the battle against sin. If you’re going to fight your own battle, He knows you’re looking for a chance to boast, and He’s not going to come in and fight for you. So admit it. You don’t have anything in you that’s going to win the battle against the flesh. That’s a job for the Holy Spirit.

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Galatians 5:18

Two, let Him lead. Go where He goes. How do you know if you are going where the Spirit goes? He does not go into sin, and He does not lead you close to sin. If you were going to hire a delivery driver, would you hire the applicant who interviewed for the job by showing off his skill in skidding to a stop inches from the edge of a cliff? Or the the applicant who parked 500 yards away because he didn’t want to risk the owner’s property? God is not interested in how close we can get to temptation and avoid it. He has given us His Spirit to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil.


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