Don’t Put Out the Fire

Beware, Christians, we can act in ways that seriously jeopardize our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 62-64; 1 Thessalonians 5

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

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

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, Christians, act in ways that seriously jeopardize that relationship? Both Isaiah and Paul tell us the answer is “yes”!

Isaiah described the attitudes of Israel as those of rebellious children, laden with iniquity, 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 saying this 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.

Yes, we are secure in our relationship to God through faith in Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit is God, the third member of the Trinity.  Our relationship to God is no different from our relationship to the Son and the Spirit.  Salvation is worked out in obedience (Philippians 2:12,13).  Where salvation through faith exists, there will be obedience and, as needed, prompt confession 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 the fire of the Holy Spirit 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. Today, be led by the Spirit. Beware of quenching or grieving Him.

 

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, although not exclusively, in the area of sexual purity and love toward others.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 59-61; 1 Thessalonians 4

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2 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

7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.                                                                            1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

The problem is sin. It 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 we got it, too, along with death! We all find evil 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. Seen and heard 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 5 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.

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

While the Christian rests in his relationship to God through Christ, he is not unaffected by the circumstances of everyday life, including the spiritual state of those he loves.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 56-58; 1 Thessalonians 3

15 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

6 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— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.                                                                                        1 Thessalonians 3:6-8

Paul was not a little 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 reports 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 anxiety of not knowing if the young disciples in Thessalonica were doing well, not reverting to idol worship. Did Paul lack faith? Was he too dependent on being successful in his work? 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.

So we are right to be concerned 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

God’s word, though ignored, thwarted, ridiculed, and opposed, will always triumph.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 53-55; 1 Thessalonians 2

10 “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,
11 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

Isaiah gave Israel and the world the greatest message in all of history in chapter 53, that 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. There were plenty of forces mounted against it, in Paul’s day and in ours. The apostle had “suffered and been shamefully treated in Philippi” (2:1), but he went 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, through those new believers, it was preached to the surrounding region.

Despite all kinds of opposition, God’s word delivered by His messengers can never be defeated. Are you confident in the power of the gospel to change lives? Are you convinced that God will open doors for His word and then use it as He wills to accomplish its every purpose? Fear not! God’s word will triumph. Proclaim it with confidence wherever you can.

The Extent of Salvation

God is fulfilling His purpose to save people completely and to save them to the ends of the earth.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 1

10 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. 9 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, 10 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

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, but now Isaiah passes on more information about the details, which we see in tomorrow’s reading.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, that salvation was 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 fully 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.”

The gospel proclaims salvation everywhere and those who believe are deeply changed by it. 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.

Escape from Delusion

Today’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Thessalonians 3:18

My selection:  2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

My reflections: I once heard Pastor Joe Novensen ask, “If you were deceived, would you know it?”  The answer is, of course, “No.”  The nature of deception is that the one deceived is unaware of his state.

In this passage we can see that there are several factors working to create a deceived person: Satan, God, and the person himself or herself.

What are the characteristics of the person who is deceived?  They refuse to love the truth or believe what would bring them to salvation.  Often this takes the form of complacency, that is, they see no need to be “saved.”  They are not buying this idea that they are sinners, justly deserving the wrath of God.  They are not buying that there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself the sins of His people.  The deluded are characterized by taking pleasure in unrighteousness.  They break God’s law and find pleasure in it.

The function of Satan is to make this deluded position seem totally reasonable by offering power, false signs, and wonders.  He appeals to the person who is easily impressed with success, prestige, wealth, and apparent miraculous signs.  Once Satan establishes his position, he can tell any lie and it becomes believable.

God confirms the state of the deluded by strengthening the delusion.  God can save the most deluded, if He chooses to do so.  He is free.  But when He chooses not to save, the deluded one is further confirmed in his state and senses no urgency or danger. He is quite content to remain deluded.

My challenge:  How can you tell you are deluded?  If you thought you were deluded, you would, presumably, turn away from your erroneous beliefs and seek the truth.  But you would be in a “Catch 22.”  You don’t believe because you can’t believe.  You can’t believe because you don’t believe.

Is there no way out?  Yes, the first step is to recognize your delusion.  But how?

The hint is found in the observable characteristics of the deluded:  they refuse to love the truth and they have pleasure in unrighteousness.  The only possible way out for the deluded is to begin to seek to know the truth and to know what God calls unrighteousness.  Listen to the preaching of the gospel.  Read the Word of God and ask for grace to repent and believe.  As my friend, Steve Slater, prayed in his youth before he believed: “God, show me the truth, and give me the courage to follow it.” God answered that prayer for Steve.  May He answer it for you, too.

Tomorrow’s reading:  1 Timothy 1:1-6:2

A Quick Guide on How to Do Everything

Today’s reading: Colossians 3:1-1 Thessalonians 3:13

My selection:  Colossians 3:17

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My reflections: All of life is to be lived in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  This implies that all of life is service to the Lord.  Nothing we do that is good and true falls outside of our Christian life.  This obviously includes our worship, but no less it includes our health, our eating, our work, our play, our relationships, our finances, everything.  All of life is lived before Him.  All of life is important.  Many tasks are routine and commonplace, but nothing is meaningless or useless.  “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:18) .

My challenge: I once heard Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic, express longing to be able to plant vegetables or wash her own hair.  It is easy for me to complain about tasks that she might find exhilarating if she could do them even once.

How about you? Do you consciously live before the Lord, giving thanks to God for the every day, repetitive activities of your life?  Live life fully as an act of perpetual worship and thanksgiving to God.  That is your privilege if you are a Christian.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 Thessalonians 3:15

Jesus Christ: His Person and Work in a Nutshell

Today’s reading: Philippians 3:1-Colossians 2:23

My selection: Colossians 1:19-20

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

My reflections: Here in a few words is a concise statement of the Biblical teaching on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

  • Who is He? He is the God-Man in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. There is nothing lacking in His person that is in God the Father. “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father,” said Jesus to Philip (John 14:8-11). Through Christ we know fully and accurately God the Father.
  • What was His work? In a word, it was reconciliation. He came to reconcile fallen, sinful Man to God, but, not only that, His reconciliation includes all things as well. The creation was delivered from its bondage to corruption through Him. This reconciliation brought peace between the fallen world, including humanity, and God.
  • How did He do this work? All this was accomplished by the blood of his cross. By Jesus’ death God’s wrath was satisfied against sinners. Believers in Him, trust His work as the basis for their peace with God.

My challenge: Do you glory in Christ Jesus? Is all your confidence in Him? Do you resist the temptation to look for new or novel ways of knowing God apart from Christ? If you believe in Him, give Him praise for His faithful submission to death on your behalf. Trust Him alone, not in any worthiness in you or your works, for your reconciliation and peace with God.

Tomorrow’s reading:Colossians 3:1-I Thessalonians 3:13