Tag Archives: sin

Junior Holy Spirit

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Hello, my name is Ashley Farmer, and I have a problem.

I’m a recovering legalist, but I sometimes revert back into the destructive habits of my old self. One of those habits: looking at where my neighbor is going wrong and trying to correct her (or just thinking about how she could be doing better). Yeah, it’s a pretty bad problem.

I’ll never forget the term a youth pastor threw at us one Wednesday night. “God doesn’t need any ‘junior Holy Spirits’ running around.” Junior Holy Spirit. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be called the TRInity if there were four members…or 4 kajillion depending on how many people have tried it out.

The point of the lesson, all kidding aside, was that we as Christians don’t need to try to “convict” others of their sins because frankly that’s what the Holy Spirit already does perfectly. Now there is a whole other discussion concerning the issue of confronting a believer caught in sin, and this is prescribed in God’s word (one reference is in Galatians 6:1). But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the person who thinks it’s her job to point out where another person is going wrong. In my case it often stems from my own tendency to be critical of myself (I need to follow the rules…be a good legalist).

There is definitely a difference in motives between the person who confronts a believer caught in sin and the person who tries to convince a believer or nonbeliever that he/she is sinning. The former does so out of love and obedience, and usually the confrontation takes place with another person to mediate or encourage repentance alongside the “confronter” (and this is not someone that the confronter gossips to about the “sinner”). The Junior Holy Spirit would try to confront alright, but it would be out of a spirit of pride or selfishness to make herself look better, more spiritual, or to belittle the other person (if it sounds ugly and looks ugly, it’s probably because it IS ugly).

I don’t believe a single person would say (or want to admit) that this is an area in which she struggles. Who is brave enough to walk up to a friend (or acquaintance) and say, “you know, you are so prideful and I can’t stand that about you”? Uhhh…chances are very few would do that. But I do believe there are times when we fall into the Junior Holy Spirit trap, only it looks a little less ugly, if you will.

I’m referring to the insidious, I’m-more-spiritual, comparison game that goes on in our minds. Here I am trucking along in my walk with Jesus, and though I know I’m far from perfect, I don’t do “really” bad things. Bad things like so-and-so does. I begin to dwell on that person’s issue. I get worked up over his behavior to the point that my focus is not so much on what I need God to work out in my life but what needs to happen in this person’s life. Why??! Why do I do this? I feel like Paul when he says, “I do the things I don’t want to do” (see Romans 7).

I think I can easily struggle with this problem because I’m recovering from legalism. If I follow all the rules, I will be rewarded, and everyone (especially God) will like me. When other people don’t follow the rules, it will bother me because that’s not the way you play the legalism game. So if someone isn’t playing by the rules, I should probably be upset about it and wonder why they’re getting away with it. I may even be brave enough to say something to them, although it will likely come across as judgmental. Red flags should go up all over the place if this is my thinking.

God throws up the time-out sign and says, “since when does your obedience depend on another person’s actions, My child?” Uh… *gulp* it. doesn’t. I’m sure God ever-so-gently speaks over me, “why are you wasting your time thinking about how so-and-so needs to change? That’s always been My department. You have no control over what other people do, and you need to let it go.”

Trying to be a Junior Holy Spirit is hard impossible work.

What’s a girl to do? My obedience does not depend on another person’s actions. If God tells me to serve someone who has trouble with pride, and I think to myself “gee, I really don’t want to serve her because she’s just expecting people to serve her…” then I have an obedience problem. The other person is not my problem. I am my problem. 

Will it be hard to obey when God calls me to serve a difficult person? You bet. Does this mean I’m off the hook? Not on your life. Should I try to make myself obey? Well, it’s not about trying harder to do better (remember this Just Try Harder?). It’s about abiding in the Vine, relying on Jesus to change your heart as you are in constant submission to His leading. The struggle of the flesh (I don’t really want to obey) will be strong against the spirit (I want to do what God calls me to do). But the good news is, the real Holy Spirit knows how to do His job (on me and on everyone else). He is at work in you, willing you to work for God’s purposes and pleasure. So let Him do His job. He doesn’t need our help.

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Theology Thursday: On God’s Wrath and Love

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fire

Today’s lesson brought to you by the letter W. Wrath. Sounds like just the topic for Sesame Street…or not.

My last post was about Christ transferring His righteousness to us through the work He did on the cross. I thought it only appropriate to dig into the issue of God’s wrath against sin. Exciting, I know.

Truly, it is a perplexing subject because we want to think of God as the loving Father, not capable of what seems like the antithesis of love. Wrath. Is it really the opposite of Love? I’d like to propose that it isn’t. Here’s why…

…the supreme object of that love is himself. And because he loves himself supremely he cannot suffer what belongs to the integrity of his character and glory to be compromised or curtailed. That is the reason for the propitiation. God appeases his own holy wrath in the cross of Christ in order that the purpose of his love to lost men may be accomplished in accordance with and to the vindication of all the perfections that constitute his glory. ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood to show his righteousness…that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus’ (Rom 3:25-26). [This comes from John Murray Redemption Accomplished and Applied]

Murray’s point is that propitiation (the “covering” of sin with the effect of “cleansing and forgiveness” before the Lord) does not “detract from the love and mercy of God.” He’s combating the complaint that many people make against God, namely that to offer Christ up as the propitiation for our sins is too wrathful and does not display His love or mercy. Murray says that is completely opposite of God’s reason for sending Christ. It was out of love for Himself (to defend His holiness against sin and be just in dealing with sin) from which the sacrifice of Jesus stems. He has wrath against sin because of His utter holiness, and if He did not deal justly with it, He would not be the God we know. “The wrath of God is the inevitable reaction of the divine holiness against sin.”

In summing it all up, yes, of course He sent Christ because He loves us, but it also remains to be said that He loved us so much that He remained true to His holiness by dealing justly with sin. Think about it, what kind of God would He be if He did not handle sin sinlessly? I know I wouldn’t want to serve a God who is flippant with sin because then what does that say about His character (among other things that we won’t even go into right now)?

Did you ever think that God’s wrath could have everything to do with His love for us? What a crazy concept.

Just some food for thought. Enjoy 🙂

Theology Thursday: Houston…We Have a Problem

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iSIN

Sometimes I wonder about things that I have a feeling I’ll never know this side of heaven (but really REALLY hope to find out when I get there). Things like, why don’t we get the full story in “x” story in the Bible? Or what was Jesus’ tone of voice in “y” story? Or what’s up with the dinosaurs? (seriously, where’d they go? and how?)

One of my favorite things to think about (in a kind of twisted sense) is what sin must have felt like to Jesus as He walked on the earth. And particularly, what did it feel like for this Holy God to experience the weight of sin as it was laid on Him at the cross?

We know sin all too well so it’s hard to wrap our minds around what it was like for Jesus. Sin is like that annoying friend that we really don’t want to be friends with, but she just won’t go away…ever…until we die. (P.S. I don’t think I actually have a friend like that just so no one wonders if you are “that” friend…) We know sin because we were born into it. This is what is known as “original sin” (as opposed to “actual sin” which is exactly what it sounds like…the sins we actually commit). Sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden when the serpent deceived Eve and Adam, and they ate of the forbidden fruit. Going back to our topic on the covenant (and here), God had made a covenant with Adam and Eve, and they broke it when they disobeyed His command (“do not eat…”). This sin brings them under condemnation (Romans 1:32, 2:12-14, James 2:9-10) . It brings guilt, which also involves punishment (Romans 3:19, 5:18, Ephesians 2:3). Sounds pretty rosey, eh? (Btw, you can study more on your own in any Systematic Theology book. I have Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology book and use a lot of material from it for my posts.)

Our problem is that we inherit this sin from Adam (and along with that – condemnation, guilt, punishment…death). This is known as the representative theory. Sin inherently corrupts our nature. Another way to look at it is that Adam and Eve were originally made in God’s image, but when they sinned, it corrupted their nature (that’s not to say that we aren’t still made in God’s image, because we are, but now we don’t naturally seek after God since we are corrupt). Adam is known as our “natural head” and was our representative before God in the covenant. When he sinned as our representative, he imputed his sin to us (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). TIME OUT.

Yes, I just said imputed. Here’s your big word lesson for the day. The dictionary defines this word as:

to attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to a person or persons vicariously; ascribe as derived from another.

It’s just really ugly. And there’s no way that we can get ourselves out of this mess. That’s why we need a Savior. We need someone who can be our new representative before God to undo what Adam did.

Let’s think about what Christ did (yes, I know, He did a lot of things, but I mean for salvific purposes!). Christ is the second person of the Trinity, and we know that He has always existed. What we also know is that we humans fail miserably at keeping our promises to God, because frankly, we’re not perfect. So we’re trucking along in the OT and God is making all kinds of promises (or covenants) with the Israelites, fully knowing that they really can’t keep up their end of the deal (and for the record, we wouldn’t have been able to do it either). Enter Jesus, stage right. God the Father, being perfectly faithful to Himself and to us, upholds His side of the covenant but then also made a way for humans to keep their end of the deal by sending Jesus. Jesus leaves heaven, while still retaining his deity, and becomes a man. Romans 8:2-4 says,

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

A.maz.ing! (Also if you’d like to know more about why Christ had to die you can view Heb 9:15-22.) Ok so that’s the first key for how this all works. We have right standing before the Father because of Christ. Now, the second key is how what Christ did transfers to us. The phrase “in Christ” is really the first clue. We are literally “in” Christ. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:5-6,

even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

We were dead, so Christ died to fix it. We couldn’t save ourselves, so God raised Him from the dead, making us alive just as Christ also became alive. He raised Christ up and now He is seated in heaven at the Father’s right hand, we are seated with Christ in heaven.

Come again? I don’t recall ever being in heaven, did you? No near death, extra supernatural experiences here last time I checked.

So how are we seated with Christ? Jesus became our representative to the Father. He goes before the Father on our behalf, making atonement for us, and interceding for us. Check out 2 Corinthians 5:21:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

This process is what theologians call the “imputation of righteousness”. There’s that big fancy word that you can toss around in casual conversation again! (I found a good source from John Piper on this if anyone wants to read more at desiringgod.org.) To explain this a little further, “impute” does not equal ”impart”. God imparts gifts or fruit to us, but He doesn’t impart righteousness. God imputes righteousness to us which means He credits us with HIS righteousness. You’ve all heard this before (i.e. God credited it to [Abraham] as righteousness), you just didn’t know it was called the “imputation of righteousness!” (or that there was such a fancy way of speaking about it) Paul says it this way in Romans 4:6, 11:

just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them

God credits us with everything that Christ is. Where it can be said of Christ that He is holy, it can be said of us that we are holy. I gain access to the Father because Christ satisfied the demands of the holy God through His death, and God the Father accepted His sacrifice as a pleasing aroma when Christ ascended to heaven like the smoke from a sacrifice. Christ has constant and unhindered access to His Father and lives to intercede on our behalf! I stand as a free woman without the glaring sentence of condemnation for all eternity because Jesus took my sentence (Colossians 2:14) and nailed it to the cross. He stood condemned so that I wouldn’t be. So when Paul writes about being “in Christ,” now you know he really, literally meant it.

Sin problem solved.

Jesus image with 2 Cor 5.21

You are Loved

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I stood there weeping as the song “How He Loves” by David Crowder played. I am pregnant, so I guess it’s okay to ball like a baby during a worship song at the church. Or maybe it was something else that day…

We had a very long weekend because my husband, Eric, was off on Friday and then we had a wedding to attend on Saturday (more than 250 miles away I might add). I was in an unusually poor mood all weekend which I suppose comes with the territory of having a melancholy personality (joy). So as I walked into this church we’ve been trying out for the last 3 weeks, I was ready for a thorough heart washing. After being in such a funk, I typically beat myself up and expect God also to be hard on me for some reason. Chastisement. Correction. All a part of the Sanctification process, right?

It’s a funny thing to expect a certain response (anger, chastisement, disappointment) and to get a response completely opposite of what you dreaded. This is what I heard instead:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.

Sometimes, you just need to be reminded. He loves you so.

And when you least expect to be treated with grace, He pours it out lavishly so that your heart is full of His love and cannot possibly hold a single drop of condemnation. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

He is jealous for me. He is not willing to leave me stuck in my sin, barely keeping afloat in a storm cloud of crazy emotions. Sometimes that jealousy looks like a fierce removal of anything not of Him and sometimes it just looks like love (and maybe sometimes a mixture of both).

I think this is what the woman felt like who was forgiven much. Instead of condemnation, she received forgiveness. She loved much because she’d been forgiven much. (You can find her story at the end of Luke 7.)

How He loves you so. Consider yourself reminded 😉

 

P.S. I’m okay now 🙂 I think…