Don’t Put Out the Fire of the Spirit

Christians, beware! Although our relationship with God is secure, we can act in ways that seriously jeopardize our fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Today’s Reading

 Isaiah 62-64; 1 Thessalonians 5

Selected Verses

But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them. Isaiah 63:10

Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Reflections

Need we be concerned about our responses to the Holy Spirit? Is there a danger we will in some way offend, resist, grieve, or quench the Spirit of God? Are we not secure in our relationship to God through faith in Christ? Could we, although believers, act in ways that seriously jeopardize our fellowship with Him? Both Isaiah and Paul tell us the answer is “yes”!

Isaiah described the attitudes of Israel as those of rebellious children, laden with iniquity, and despisers of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 1:2-4). God’s people will go into captivity because they have turned the Lord against them through their rebellion and grieving of His Holy Spirit.

Paul commended the Thessalonians as those who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Certainly, they had been born again and delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). Nevertheless, Paul was concerned about their spiritual well-being and, now in his concluding words, he charges them not to quench the Spirit. He would not be warning them unless there were a danger that they could actually do it. He gives them several instructions as to their relationships with their leaders, their brothers who may be struggling, and their enemies. He tells them to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. Then he adds, “Do not quench the Spirit.” He warns them about two wrong responses to prophecies: despising them and believing them without testing them. He urges them to hold fast what is good and reject all evil.

Think about it

Yes, we are secure in our relationship to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) through faith in Jesus Christ.  But our fellowship with Him varies in quality as we work out our salvation in obedience (Philippians 2:12,13).  Where salvation through faith exists, there will be obedience and, as needed, prompt confession of sin and repentance for disobedience.

The Holy Spirit has been identified with fire (Luke 3:16; Acts 2:1-4). Paul is warning his readers about the danger of pouring water on that fire in their lives through ungodly attitudes toward others, selfish living, prayerlessness, and other evils. The Spirit of God is Holy and never leads us into such behaviors. Beware of quenching or grieving Him.

Sin–Why We Can’t See God

Sin is what blocks us from seeing and hearing God. He calls us to holiness, but we disobey especially in the area of sexual purity and love toward others.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 59-61; 1 Thessalonians 4

Selected Verses

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  Isaiah 59:1-2

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

Reflections

Sin has been the problem since our first parents listened to the serpent and ate of the forbidden fruit. What did they get? They got the knowledge of good and evil and with it death! We all find sin attractive, even irresistible. It may be as subtle as a snarky put-down or as grotesque as murderous rage, as imperceptible as a flirtatious glance or as devastating as serial adultery. Sin comes in many colors and shapes, all of them tempting and soul-killing but none of them truly satisfying. Worst of all, it results in our not seeing or hearing God. We tend to conclude He is not there.

Isaiah wrote to ancient Israel telling them that their sin was what was blocking their eyes and ears from seeing and hearing God. It was not God who was hiding from them. He is there in plain sight, seen and heard in His acts of Creation and Providence and in His revealed Word.

Paul admonished the church in Thessalonica with the words, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (vs. 3a). He then specifically mentions abstinence from sexual immorality for the next five verses, topped off with a paragraph about brotherly love.

In case they don’t see the urgency of this, he turns to the subject of the return of Christ, His descent from heaven, the cry of command, the sound of the trumpet, and the resurrection of the dead. When Christ returns, all eyes will see Him. There will be no vacillating. We will be exposed at last. The shouts of rejoicing will mix with the cries of remorse.

Think about it

Is there hope for sinners? Yes, indeed! For God has done what no human being could do. “His own arm brought him salvation” writes the prophet (Isaiah 59:16). In the end, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3). The dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are still alive and “so we will always be with the Lord.” But the time is now. Do not assume there is no God. Assume that it is your sin that blinds your eyes. But He may be found because “all who call upon the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:8-13). Call on Him, today.

Distress and Comfort

The Christian rests in his relationship to God through Christ and finds comfort when the spiritual state of those he loves distresses him.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 56-58; 1 Thessalonians 3

Selected Verses

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

Reflections

Paul was anxious about the Thessalonians. Twice he uses the phrase “[we or I] could bear it no longer” (3:1, 5). He wanted to know how those new believers were doing. He finally sent Timothy to them and learned that they were not only standing firm in the gospel but were impacting the whole region.

Isaiah describes how God who is high and lifted up also dwells with the one who is “of a contrite and lowly spirit.” If God is with us, assuming we qualify as having “a contrite and lowly spirit,” do we need anything more? No, not really. God is enough. The psalmist said, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).

Yet Paul could not bear the distress of not knowing if the young Thessalonian disciples were doing well, not reverting to idol worship. Did Paul lack faith? Did he focus too much on being successful? No. We can see that Paul had a tender heart toward those he taught. It was natural, not sinful. He made the sacrifice of sending Timothy to inquire about them. There was nothing wrong with doing that. We would not expect a sincere minister or missionary to be cold and uncaring about those he has served in the gospel.

Think about it

So we are right to be concerned, even worried, about those whose spiritual lives could be in jeopardy. We are right to do what we can to care for them and to keep up with their circumstances and progress. In the final analysis, however, our greatest comfort and joy will be that “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” dwells with us and revives our hearts. Don’t be unfeeling toward others, but let God’s presence be the bedrock of your spirit to comfort you in distress.

The Victory of the Gospel

Will the gospel win the victory? God’s word–though ignored, thwarted, ridiculed, and opposed–will always triumph.  He guarantees it.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 53-55; 1 Thessalonians 2

Selected Verses

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.  1 Thessalonians 2:1

Reflections

Isaiah gave Israel and the world the greatest message in all of history in chapter 53. The Servant of the Lord would bear the sins of His people and “make many to be accounted righteous” (53:11). This truth, that One who is holy and righteous has taken the just wrath of God for sinners, is at the heart of the gospel message. [See “The Messiah’s Anguish and Satisfaction”].

This is the best news ever told, but would this news get to the world? Would those who desperately need hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with God hear about this? The answer is “yes!”  Nothing can stop God’s word from going forth. Plenty of forces mounted up against it in Paul’s day and in ours. The Apostle suffered in Philippi.  They treated him shamefully (2:1).  Did he give up?  No! He went right on to Thessalonica. There he continued to preach the word and this letter shows that the message bore amazing fruit in the lives of the people. Then, those new believers preached it to the surrounding region.

Think about it

We live in an unprecedented time of global communication.  This is both a blessing and curse, since much of the communication is evil and deceptive.  But technology also effectively proclaims this gospel.  And despite all kinds of opposition, God’s word can never be defeated. Are you confident in the power of the gospel to change lives? Are you certain that God will open doors for His word–that He will use it to accomplish its every purpose? Fear not! God’s word will triumph. Proclaim it with confidence wherever you can.  God guarantees the victory.

The Extent of Salvation

How far does salvation extend? God saves people completely and He saves them everywhere–from every tribe and tongue and nation to the ends of the earth.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 1

Selected Verses

The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Reflections

There are two dimensions to God’s salvation: the geographical dimension and the spiritual dimension. We see this today in Isaiah’s prophecy and Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.

Isaiah records the intention of God to show His power to all the nations of the earth. He would show this by revealing His salvation–His ability to redeem men and women, boys and girls from every tribe, tongue, and nation. This was always His plan.  Isaiah passes on more information about the details of this plan, which we will see in tomorrow’s reading.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, that salvation was more fully revealed. The kingdom of God was near. The apostles proclaimed the good news. The church was scattered throughout the Roman Empire taking the gospel to Jews and Gentiles on its way to the ends of the earth. Paul brought the message to Thessalonica. The people heard and believed. They received the salvation that is in Christ. Here we see how completely God saves people. They “turned to God from idols.” Why? They turned “to serve the living and true God.” Not only that, they set their attention on waiting “for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Think about it

The gospel proclaims salvation everywhere. Those who believe experience the beginning of a complete transformation. They continue to be changed by it throughout their lives. This is the message which the world needs to hear in every generation until Jesus returns from heaven. Pray, send, give, and, if God wills, go that the blind may see and the deaf hear the truth.

Life Under Surveillance

Believers are under surveillance, and they are called to live so that neither their lifestyle nor their speech enable disbelief by others.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 48-49; Colossians 4

Selected Verses

Because I know that you are obstinate,
and your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead brass,
I declared them to you from of old,
before they came to pass I announced them to you,
lest you should say, “My idol did them,
my carved image and my metal image commanded them.” Isaiah 48:4-5

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6

Reflections

Paul concludes his letter to the church at Colossae with some final charges. They are to live wisely in their relationships with outsiders, that is, unbelievers. Two areas for concentration and care are the management of time and the quality of their speech. If a professing Christian is careless with his use of time, he enables unbelievers who observe him to discount either the genuineness of his profession or the veracity of his doctrine. More often than not, it is the latter option which prevails. By the same token, if the believer speaks in ways that are coarse, hurtful, lacking grace, or even corrupt (i.e. salt-less), he gives evidence that the gospel he professes is either not true or is powerless to change lives. Clearly, unbelievers are quick to grasp inconsistency in Christians to buttress their case against the call of the gospel.

God through Isaiah addressed another tendency of His disobedient, faithless people in Israel. The Lord tells them that His prophecies are designed to remove their claims that the deliverance which He planned for them was the work of their idols. It was a tendency in Isaiah’s day, and it continues to the present, for unbelievers to take credit for anything good that occurs, but to use problems and tragedies as an excuse to blame God or reject His existence.

Think about it

If you are identified with Christ, your life is under constant surveillance, not just by the Lord but, by your agnostic and pagan friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. Be sure your life shows consistency with your profession. They may not believe because of you, but avoid making it easier for them to disbelieve.

God Wins; Don’t Fight Him

At the end of this age, God wins. Each of us must decide today. Do we take Him as our God or substitute something else, something earthly?

Today’s Reading

 Isaiah 45-47; Colossians 3

Selected Verses

Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.”   Isaiah 45:22-23

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6

Reflections

Isaiah predicts with detail the deliverance of Judah by Cyrus, king of Persia, an event that remained some 150 years in the future. God will do what He wills with mighty Babylonia. Judah will be conquered and taken into captivity by that empire, but then Babylonia would succumb to Persia and Cyrus would become the deliverer of Judah. God, through the prophet, keeps telling them “besides me there is no God” (45:5, 22; 46:9). When are they going to get this?

Paul calls the Colossians to holiness of life, beginning with their mindset. In order to focus on things above where Christ is, they are certainly going to have to turn away from the things below, earthly things like “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness.” Sexual sin–for most of us men–is easy to spot. Guilt can be quickly detected and hard to ignore or suppress.

Covetousness, however, is more subtle. It is idolatry! We want things that others have because we love stuff. We rely on things to make us happy. Stuff seems to fill the emptiness in our hearts left by an earthly mindset. In reality, when we covet we replace the worship of God with material things. God’s wrath is going to be unleashed on those who practice that sin. It is not a harmless, little snake, all cute and cuddly. It is a deadly python whose venom can kill multiple humans. Put it to death, Paul tells them.

Think about it

The final victory of God over all evil and rebellion against Him is indisputable. He wins! What is not clear is whether we will bow before Him now, calling for His mercy and salvation, or later when we come kicking and screaming before His judgment. Don’t fight God. Seek to set your mind on Him, now and always.

Complete in Him

Do you feel incomplete in yourself?  We should, because God’s full deity is in Christ and only in Him are we complete having all we could ever need.

Today’s Reading

 Isaiah 43-44; Colossians 2

Selected Verses

But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:24b-25

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,  and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

Reflections

Isaiah describes the sorry spiritual state of Israel.  He expresses God’s weariness with their empty religiosity but also the Lord’s mercy towards them. Yes, He has had enough of their hypocrisy. They have demonstrated again and again that they only go through the motions of repentance as they offer sacrifices. Their best is worthless. But God will not let them go. He will do for them what they cannot do for themselves. He will not blot them out. No! Instead, He will blot out their sins, the sins which have burdened Him. This is the grace and mercy of God.

But how will He do that?  Later, Isaiah will explain how God will do this, without compromising His holiness and justice (Isaiah 53).

Fast forward to Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We find the Apostle laying out for his readers the glories that are found in Jesus Christ. All the deity of God is in Christ. God is fully and completely with us in Christ. Christ is God incarnate, Deity in human flesh. He is filled with wisdom so we need never seek other philosophies. He died and was raised from the dead so that in Him we are raised to life. In Him we are complete, filled, with nothing more to need or long for.

Think about it

This plan of God revealed partially and progressively in the Old Testament and fully and finally in the New brings God all glory and His believing people salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life.   Let nothing and no one delude you, says Paul. Keep walking with Him deeply rooted and built up in Him (2:6-7). Resist the attraction of anything that promises to fill you apart from Christ.  In Him alone we are complete.

Why Nothing is Going Wrong

Ultimately, nothing is going wrong, because Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of all things, including us who believe in Him. His will is being done perfectly.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 41-42; Colossians 1

Selected Verses

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  Colossians 1:19-20

Reflections

Yesterday I asked, “Why is everything going wrong?” I tried to summarize the cause. But there is more to the story. In truth, nothing is going wrong, because all things are under God’s control and all things will culminate according to His plan and will.

Isaiah wrote to Judah and Israel, the divided kingdoms, where it seemed that their existence was hanging by a thread. He has called Israel “His servant” (41:9), but what a flaky servant she is! She cannot be trusted to be faithful to the Lord. Israel is quick to worship idols. She is blind to her own calling and history (42:18-25). What does God do? He chooses a new servant. Well, He is not really new because we learn He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This Chosen Servant has the Spirit of God upon Him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not wear out or give up before accomplishing His work in the earth. How gracious of God to find Someone to do what Israel could not or would not do!

Paul writes much about Jesus, showing who He is and what He has done. [See also Ephesians 2-3].  Paul prays that the Colossians will grasp the truth about Jesus, because it is through His suffering on the cross that He has made peace and reconciled all things to Himself. Through Christ we “have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14).

Think about it

We need to recognize the trends and problems of our society today and do what we can to forestall corruption. Yet more than that, we need to recognize that nothing intimidates or frustrates God. Jesus will not grow faint or discouraged before accomplishing His work of redemption in the earth. Should we? Take heart. From God’s viewpoint, nothing is going wrong.

Why Everything is Going Wrong

Why does it seem everything is going wrong? We will never find the solution to our problems, until we find the cause of them.

Today’s reading

Isaiah 39-40; Philippians 4

Selected Verses

To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?  Isaiah 40:18

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.  Philippians 4:4-5

Reflections

Where did we go off track? Easy question, if you believe the Bible. God made man (male and female) in His likeness (Genesis 1:26-31), but sin entered into man’s experience when the woman succumbed to the temptation to be “like God, knowing good and evil.”  She then invited the man to join her, and he did.

Now Isaiah asks, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?”   The correct answer, before the fall, would have been, “Man is like God”, but fallen man responds, “God is like me.  I am God. No one is over me.”   All sin stems from this attitude of autonomy and rebellion.  It results in every evil which we now experience on a daily basis throughout the world: mass murder on campuses, terrified refugees fleeing war by the thousands, hostile legal battles over personal rights, etc.  Solutions elude us as a society because we fail to recognize the real problem.  We have made ourselves gods, rather than to recognize Him, our eternal Creator as the One whom we must fear, love, and worship.

Paul, in writing to the Philippians, urges them to rejoice in the Lord.  Perhaps their circumstances did not contribute to a joyful atmosphere.  Never mind.  Rejoice in the Lord.  He tells them to be reasonable, and then follows that with “The Lord is at hand.”  The petty divisions and quarrels they were having revealed a lack of conscious awareness of God’s presence (Philippians 2:1-5; 4:2-3).  Ignorance of God, who He is, and how near He is, results in gloom at best and great acts of presumptuous evil at worst.

Think about it

All our troubles stem from sin, and all our sin stems from failure to recognize that God is God. He is near, yet He is far above us, holy, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.   Peace, joy, and reasonableness will characterize those who heed Paul’s admonition to be conscious that “the Lord is at hand.”  The gospel tells us that God came in human flesh to save us from our sin, to reverse what our first parents did. Make that gospel of Jesus Christ your focus today.  Believe in Him.  Live in Him.