Filled with the Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. However, according to the people’s testimony of John 10:41, he never performed any signs. Not only that, he would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah multiplied the flour and oil for the widow of Zarephath, raised the widow’s son from the dead, called fire from heaven. Yet, John never performed any signs. He didn’t speak in tongues, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, foretell a drought, pray the rain back, call down fire from heaven. We might claim he prophesied in that he spoke from God about the the identity of Jesus. Even with that, there were never any accompanying miraculous signs to testify that his teaching was from God. There was even a time when he wasn’t sure about Jesus’s identity (see Luke 7:18-19). Yet, he was constantly filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, even from the womb. This is different from his parents’ experiences. They were also filled with the Holy Spirit, but only for short periods of time (see Luke 1:41-45, 67-79). This is important to note because when we talk about any aspect of the Holy Spirit, we sometimes commit a Bible study fallacy. We think particular phrases, like “filled with the Holy Spirit,” are technical terms that always refer to the exact same experience or manifestation.* The fact is seen in this very chapter: John being filled with the Holy Spirit was a manifestly different experience from Elizabeth and Zechariah. By the way, the text doesn’t at all say Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, but she experiences the exact same manifestation as Elizabeth and Zechariah (see Luke 1:46-55). What a fantastic rule of Bible study we should learn here. Certainly, whether we are studying the Holy Spirit or some other issue, we examine all the uses of similar phrases. We will learn a great deal from that exercise. However, never forget immediate context is our biggest help in understanding what is meant with a given word or phrase at a given point. Don’t assume every time you see a word or phrase it means the exact same thing as every other time you read it. Further, don’t assign technical meanings that you then try to force into the words or phrases every time you see them. Stick with the context.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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Inspiration, Revelation, & Research

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

I fear I too often oversimplify things. I usually do this to keep from causing difficulties or doubts. However, I’m learning that while it avoids difficulty in the short run, sometimes it causes problems for people in the long run who discover how complex things are and then believe we Christians don’t know the complexities. For instance, sometimes I gloss over the true nature of inspiration of Scripture. The recorded Word is very much like the incarnate Word. It is a coming together of deity and humanity. Inspiration does not mean God Himself wrote the Scriptures using men’s hands as the tools. It means God got His message to people. He got what He wanted in there. However, how did He do it? He used men. Certainly, there were times when God told men through miraculous revelation what to write. However, there were other times when men experienced and researched and then recorded what they knew from very natural means. Luke makes this case at the beginning of His book. He doesn’t claim to have sat down in his office and simply allowed God to guide his hand in the writing. Nor does he claim God dictated this book to him. Rather, he researched, studied, interviewed. That is, he acted like an ancient Greek or Roman historian. Through those means, God got what He wanted in this book. Therefore, when we refer to passages in Luke we can say at the same time, “Luke said,” and also, “The Holy Spirit said.” Just as incarnate deity in Jesus Christ poses difficulties at times, inspiration through human authors does as well. It is complex. That, however, is the beauty. God working in man, working with man, working through man. Isn’t that just like our own lives as we walk with God? Sometimes it is messy, but the end result will be glorious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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God’s Glory Matters; God’s Authority Matters

Today’s reading is John 7.

Why does the issue of authority matter? Is it because we have to prove we are better at keeping rules? Is it because if we don’t cross all the Ts and dot all the Is we’ll go to hell? Is it because we have to earn our way into heaven by following the pattern? No. None of these things is the reason. The reason authority matters is because God’s glory matters. When I act on my own authority, I’m seeking my own glory. When I’m seeking God’s glory, I act on His authority. It’s just that simple. Whose glory are you seeking? How can you tell?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 8.¬†

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When Did That Get in There?

Today’s reading is Matthew 12.

I’m not going to share something with you from today’s reading so much as from my own experience with today’s reading. How many times have I read Matthew? I can’t even count. For the first time that I can remember, I noticed a statement. At the end of Matthew 12:43-45, when Jesus spoke about the vanquished unclean spirit coming back with seven friends to take over and making the latter state worse than the first, He actually ends the paragraph by saying, “So also will it be with this evil generation.” I have read right through that before and never even noticed that phrase. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Is He simply saying things are going to be bad in the judgment for “this evil generation” (see the previous paragraph)? Is He saying that “this evil generation” initially responds but ultimately will be in a bad state? After all, quite a few start to follow Him but end up shouting “Crucify Him” in the end. Is He saying that He is here to clean up this evil generation and initially it will seem to work, but they will ultimately end up worse off because of their rejection? Or is He saying that just like that whole demon-possessed situation leaves a person worse off in the end, the evil generation will be worse off because before Jesus came they had less of an excuse but after He is done, they will have no excuse? I’m not exactly sure what this phrase is saying. I’m going to have to spend some serious time digging into this. But this is another one of those reminders. We think we have read and we know, but there is always more. We often think certain topics and texts are beneath us because we’ve figured them out so they aren’t really for us any more. But that just isn’t so. With every topic and text we are missing so much. We need to keep reading. Keep studying. Keep teaching. Then go back and do it all over again.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 13.

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On Preachers and Preaching

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 2.

It appears Paul’s detractors in Corinth were complaining about his presentation style. Perhaps it was because he didn’t measure up to the eloquent style of Apollos or maybe it was just because his “stage presence” didn’t measure up to the orators of the day. And, of course, it may be that Paul was amazing in the pulpit and these guys just didn’t like him. In any event, I have to ask what do I look for in a preacher? Oratory? Rhetoric? Stage presence? Excitement? Dynamic ability? Or personal weakness? Reliance upon God? Truth? The power of God? Would I have been willing to sit at Paul’s feet and listen, or would I have wanted to listen to someone more polished and exciting? Am I listening so I can be entertained and feel good about myself or so I can be brought into God’s presence and grow? Tough questions. But I need to be honest with myself. How about you?

Monday’s reading is 1 Corinthians 3.

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Stay Awake!

Today’s reading is Mark 13.

While I personally believe this entire chapter refers to a judgment that is already past, I am also aware this is typical judgment language. That is, almost everything said in this chapter can be said about every judgment God has brought and will bring upon men, nations, and the world. Thus, I need to stay awake. Of course, I don’t mean literally I must never sleep. But I need to be alert in life. The tempter is everywhere, taking every opportunity he can to slip into my heart and mind unnoticed. Sometimes, I don’t even realize he is there until some ungodly notion has taken hold and come to fruition. I need to be alert to his schemes, to nip them in the bud before they have an opportunity to grow. When God judges, I want Him to find faith in me. I need to stay awake.

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 14.

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Read it For Yourself

Today’s reading is Mark 2.

You couldn’t get what I want to share with you from today’s reading yourself, but it is something I think of every time I read this chapter. Years ago, while still in college, I was studying with members of a false teaching cult who knocked on my door. In the conversation, they claimed that people only got sick because they sinned. If their sins were taken away, they wouldn’t get sick anymore. They mentioned the miracle in this chapter as proof. Jesus forgave the man and he was healed. Honestly, I was stumped. I knew this account was in the Bible and I didn’t know how to respond to their point. To buy some time to think (and I’m sure by the grace of God), I asked them, “Can you show me that one in the Bible?” We turned to the passage. I read it for myself instead of just listening to what they claimed about the passage, and I noticed something. Jesus did forgive the man’s sins, but that didn’t heal him. He wasn’t healed until a few moments later when Jesus wanted to prove that He actually had the power to forgive sins. This is why the daily habit we are developing with this blog is so important. Sure, I hope you get something nice out of what I say. But more importantly, I hope you read God’s Word for yourself. If you haven’t actually read¬†Mark 2 yet, I encourage you to get after it.

Monday’s reading is Mark 3.

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