The work of the Spirit that anticipates the future

Michael Horton: Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7) “It is to your advantage that I go away.” What a strange thing to say. Right at the verge of Jordan in this new covenant conquest, how does Christ’s leaving benefit the disciples—or you and me? First of all, we need to exercise empathy here. When we read about how the disciples had not yet experienced the Holy Spirit’s illumination of their hearts so they could understand what was happening, we have to imagine how they would have heard this. In this light, it makes perfect sense that they were stunned. Here is the true and great Joshua—Jesus—standing on the verge of the Jordan, on the verge of the conquest, ready to lead the armies of God into

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Why Church History?

Stephen Nichols: The bombing of Britain during World War II leveled most of the area known as “Elephant & Castle” in the city of London. A row of pillars stood defiantly among the piles of rubble. These pillars belonged to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, the church that housed the larger-than-life preacher of the nineteenth century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Those pillars well represent Spurgeon. He was solid. He stood tall in his own day, and like the pillars, his legacy still stands. Spurgeon has friends across many pews. Baptists like Spurgeon because he was a Baptist. Presbyterians like Spurgeon because he was so Reformed. Even Lutherans like Spurgeon because he was very nearly a nineteenth-century version of Martin Luther. While Spurgeon held forth at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Londoners would flock to hear him preach. In fact, people even traveled the Atlantic to hear him preach. He wrote many sermons, of course, while he was at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. And Spurgeon also wrote many books. In one of his many

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Seven Ways to Quench the Spirit

Sam Storms: If the apostle Paul himself had not warned us about quenching the Spirit, who among us would have thought it was possible (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22)? To suggest that the omnipotent Spirit of God could ever be quenched, and thus restricted in what he might do otherwise in our lives, and in the life of the local church, is to tread on thin theological ice. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5 that God has granted to Christians the ability either to restrict or release what the Spirit does in the life of the local church. The Spirit comes to us as a fire, either to be fanned into full flame and given the freedom to accomplish his will, or to be doused and extinguished by the water of human fear, control, and flawed theology. How many of us pause to consider the ways in which we inadvertently quench the Spirit’s work in our lives individually and in our churches corporately?

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How the Reformers Rediscovered the Holy Spirit and True Conversion

Sinclair Ferguson: Luther’s story is well known; Calvin’s less so. Luther was wrestling with the concept of the righteousness of God, and had come to hate it; Calvin had an immense thirst for a secure knowledge of God, but had not found it. While not the whole truth, there is something in the notion that Luther was looking for a gracious God while Calvin was seeking for a true and assured knowledge of him. In Luther’s case, the ordinances of late medieval Catholicism could not “give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.” In Calvin’s case, neither the Church nor the immense intellectual discipline he had displayed in his teens and early twenties, and certainly not all his acquisition of the skills of a post-medieval humanist scholar, could bring him to an assured knowledge of God.   ROMANS 1:16 For all the differences in their backgrounds, educations, dispositions, and personalities, a good case can be made for thinking

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How Not to Walk by the Spirit

Adam Mabry: “I feel like the Lord is leading me to do it.” Those were my friend’s parting words to me. I told him not to follow this leading, but he’d had an experience he “really felt was from the Lord.” I tried to explain what the Bible had to say about his choice. In fact, many had. But, he had an experience, and he wasn’t budging. So off he went—into his error, out of the church, and away from Jesus. This situation it so common in churches across the spectrum that you could probably fill in details from similarly painful conversations. Add to that our culture’s commitment to an expressive individualism that exalts actualizing our desires above conforming to God’s, and we’ve set the stage for rough times when trying to convince someone that what they “feel led to do” may not be the Holy Spirit at all. No wonder some respond to this problem by simply denying God’s Spirit speaks to us today. My

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How Does the Holy Spirit Actually Produce Change in Us?

A rich and wise answer from Abraham Kuyper: Dwelling in the elect, the Spirit does not slumber, nor does He keep an eternal Sabbath, in idleness shutting Himself up in their hearts; but as divine Worker He seeks from within to fill their individual persons, pouring the stream of His divine brightness through every space. But we should not imagine that every believer is instantly filled and permeated. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit finds him filled with all manner of evil and treachery. . . . His method of procedure is not with divine power to force a man as though he were a stock or block, but by the power of love and compassion so to influence and energize the impulses of the feeble will that it feels the effect, is inclined, and finally consents to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. . . . This operation is different in each person. In one it proceeds with

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Who is the Holy Spirit?

Sam Storms: From Sam’s contribution to The New City Catechism: Rarely does a Christian struggle to think of God as Father. And to envision God as Son is not a problem for many. These personal names come easily to us because our lives and relationships are inescapably intertwined with fathers and sons here on earth. But God as Holy Spirit is often a different matter. Gordon Fee tells of one of his students who remarked, “God the Father makes perfectly good sense to me, and God the Son I can quite understand; but the Holy Spirit is a gray, oblong blur.” How different this is from what we actually read in Scripture. There we see that the Spirit is not third in rank in the Godhead but is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Son, sharing with them all the glory and honor due unto our Triune God. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal power or an ethereal,

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Lord, Fill Me with Your Spirit

John Bloom: “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). If we are not disillusioned with how much we have allowed our talk to pass for our walk, discontented with the sparse amount of spiritual fruit we are truly bearing, and disappointed by the impotence of our own efforts, we will never be distressed enough to really plead with God to fill us with the Holy Spirit. If we’re not disturbed by how little we can do in our own power, we’ll never be desperate enough to ask God for his. What Is the Filling of the Holy Spirit? But when we pray for this, what are we asking God for? In the words of Wayne Grudem, we are asking God for “an event subsequent to conversion in which a believer experiences a fresh infilling with the Holy Spirit that may result in a variety of consequences, including greater love for God, greater

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10 Things You Should Know about Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

Sam Storms: In an earlier installment of the “10 Things You Should Know” series, we looked at Ephesians 5:18 and what it says about being filled with the Spirit. But here I want to look more closely at the issue as it is found in other portions of God’s Word. I’ve found that the best way to help people understand what it means to be “filled” with the Spirit is to compare and contrast that experience with being “baptized” in the Spirit. (1) Spirit-baptism is a metaphor that describes our reception of the Holy Spirit at the moment of our conversion to Jesus in faith and repentance. When we believe and are justified, we are, as it were, deluged and engulfed by the Spirit; we are, as it were, immersed in and saturated by the Spirit. (2) The result of being baptized in the Spirit is that (a) we are made members of the body of Christ, or incorporated into

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We Experience the Spirit Through Faith

John Piper: If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) The Spirit came to you the first time when you believed in the blood-bought promises of God. And the Spirit keeps on coming, and keeps on working, by this same means. So Paul asks, rhetorically, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Answer: “By hearing with faith.” Therefore, the Spirit came the first time, and the Spirit keeps on being supplied, through the channel of faith. What he accomplishes in us is through faith. If you are like me, you may have strong longings from time to time for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps you cry out to God for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life or in your family or church or

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Having Jesus

Having Jesus, what has the believer more? He possesses a righteousness in which God views him complete and accepted, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Is not this a comfort? To stand “complete in Him”—in the midst of many and conscious imperfections, infirmities, flaws, and proneness to wander, yet for the sorrowing and trembling heart to turn and take up its rest in this truth, “that he that believes is justified from all things,” and stands accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace, what a comfort! That God beholds him in Jesus without a spot, because He beholds His Son, in whom He is well pleased, and viewing the believing soul in Him can say, “You are all fair, my love; there is no spot in you”! The blessed Comforter conveys this truth to the troubled soul, brings it to take up its rest in it; and, as

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How can we tell when God is really at work?

  Ray Ortlund: In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own imperfections and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  The light of God does not stream in unfiltered by us.  To some extent, we even block it out.  We are sorry for that.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The real work of God is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways: One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work. Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work. Three, when we are believing,

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How Does the Holy Spirit Actually Produce Change in Us?

  A rich and wise answer from Abraham Kuyper: Dwelling in the elect, the Spirit does not slumber, nor does He keep an eternal Sabbath, in idleness shutting Himself up in their hearts; but as divine Worker He seeks from within to fill their individual persons, pouring the stream of His divine brightness through every space. But we should not imagine that every believer is instantly filled and permeated. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit finds him filled with all manner of evil and treachery. . . . His method of procedure is not with divine power to force a man as though he were a stock or block, but by the power of love and compassion so to influence and energize the impulses of the feeble will that it feels the effect, is inclined, and finally consents to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. . . . This operation is different in each person. In one it proceeds

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The necessity of a right gospel order

  Mark well the great advantages you have for the attainment of holiness by seeking it in a right gospel order. You will have the advantage of the love God manifested towards you, in forgiving your sins, receiving you into favor, and giving you the spirit of adoption, and the hope of His glory freely through Christ, to persuade and constrain you by sweet allurements to love God again, who has so dearly loved you, and to love others for His sake, and to give up yourselves to the obedience of all His commands out of hearty love to Him. You will also enjoy the help of the Spirit of God to incline you powerfully to obedience, and to strengthen you for the performance of it against all your corruptions and the temptations of Satan, so that you will have both wind and tide to forward your voyage in the practice of holiness. — Walter Marshall The Gospel Mystery of

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A richer degree of the Holy Spirit

“All that we spiritually know of ourselves, all that we know of God and of Jesus and his Word, we owe to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And all the real light, sanctification, strength and comfort we are made to possess on our way to glory we must ascribe to him. To be richly anointed with the Spirit is to be led into all truth, and to be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with love to God and man. . . . God has never revoked this gift. He has never removed his Spirit from the church. He is still her divine, personal and abiding Resident. . . . But for a larger degree of his reviving, anointing and sanctifying influences we do most earnestly plead. The Spirit, though the ever-blessed and abiding occupant of the church of Christ and of the individual believer, may not always be manifestly present. The prayerless, unholy and trifling walk

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It Multiplied

Ray Ortlund: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 I’m not against strategic plans. I’m for them. They have their place, as a matter of wise stewardship. But they cannot generate the astonishing outcomes described in the book of Acts. I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one. What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. In the fear of the Lord, they were teachable, they were humble, they were listening to the gospel, they were open and grateful and easily bendable. They did

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That’s how you got saved

John Piper: Christianity is not the conclusion at the end of a syllogism. It is a meeting with God. It is a living supernatural power, called the Holy Spirit, moving into our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God experientially… So Christianity, While not being merely the conclusion at the end of an argument is neither an experience at the end of a needle… Christianity is a supernatural experience of the Holy Spirit mediating the love of God to you through a historical person who did a historical act, namely, dying and rising to bear your sin… To become a Christian is not to draw a conclusion at the end of a syllogism and sign a card that you think it is good logic. That makes nobody a Christian. To be a Christian is as the syllogism unfolds the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the heart so that in the truth of the gospel being presented… as the gospel

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Believer, Become What You Are

John Piper: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2) Believer, you died and the new you is alive, and you are God’s. The whole of our Christian life is learning to become — by God’s Spirit — what we already are in Christ. These verses show us how this newness in us comes to life in our everyday choices. In this four-minute video, John Piper explains how the Spirit within and the word of God without work together to make us new.

The Spirit-Formed Community

Trevin Wax: The power of Pentecost makes for a fantastic story. Rushing wind, flaming tongues, and the proclamation of a fisherman turned evangelist calling people to repent and be baptized. But don’t miss how Acts 2 ends. The power of the Spirit that flowed through the apostles’ proclamation is the power that gathers people into a new community. So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They

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John Owen on the Four Main Functions of the Holy Spirit

John Owen: The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:—(1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies: — (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. (HT: The

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