October 25, 2014

The importance of a biblical focus

We have a dear friend who loves God and loves God’s people. However, when she speaks of spiritual life, her emphasis is always on receiving the Holy Spirit and that this happens in a special way after salvation. In her thinking, this has not happened to every Christian, but it should.

I’ve heard the reasoning behind this teaching, and studied all the responses to it. According to Scripture, every Christian receives the Holy Spirit upon salvation. We are to remain filled with the Spirit, which means being yielded to God so the Spirit can motivate all that we do and say.

However, one sin, even in thought, can ‘tip us over’ making us no longer full of Him but of ourselves. To be upright again, that sin needs to be confessed and we need to again trust God. Being Spirit-filled does not mean that a Christian is sinless, but it does mean that while we are filled the Spirit, He is in charge and producing His fruit in us. We are also filled with trust in God instead of trusting our own ideas.

This is not what troubles me the most about this ‘second blessing’ teaching as it is sometimes called. What bothers me is that the focus on the Spirit. While the Bible clearly gives the Spirit full equality as a member of the Godhead, it also defines His role. Among other things, Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14)

The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus Christ. He teaches us, but in the teaching He always points away from Himself, not to Himself.

In imagining this, I think of a child that does not want to be in the center of attention, but the child is shy, not self-effacing or centered on another. Perhaps a better illustration is a large diamond in a gold setting. The setting is incredible, but its task is to show off the diamond. If anyone raved about the setting and never mentioned the gem, we would think how strange. It would be the same if someone looked at a painting and focused on the frame. As necessary as it is, its task is to highlight the artwork, not be the artwork.

Today’s devotional says this focus on the Spirit is a spiritual danger in the church. It was written in 1991 and while the charismatic craze of that time seems less of an issue, my friend mentioned above gives far too much attention to the Spirit and leaves out Jesus. In her enthusiasm to press this on everyone, she has replaced the gospel message with this teaching.  

This makes me sad, but I need to look at my own life. What is my focus and message? Am I pointing others to what Jesus has done by his sacrifice for sin? Or am I making Him sound more like a genie in a bottle who answers my prayers? Or a doctor who keeps me well? Or a supplier of all my material needs? Or do I even listen to the Holy Spirit and point to Jesus at all?

Putting the emphasis on a pet doctrine or on some aspect of what God has done for ME, instead of what He has done in Christ for the whole world is a spiritual danger, certainly not as much danger for me as for those who hear me. Instead, they need to hear these words that are inspired by the Holy Spirit but about Jesus who “died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)

And John, also through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives the reason why Jesus did it. John 3:16-18 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”


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