Jesus Christ was the ultimate Life Coach. In the Gospel of John, He offers this promise: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NAS) The Great Commission given to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 is both a command and invitation to join Him on one of the greatest adventures in life: building disciples. Spiritual Life Coaching involves “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”(NAS) There are two implications to this command that often escape our notice.
Teaching should be comprehensive.
The first is that the teaching should be comprehensive. We are to teach everything, not just the familiar principles or the introductory concepts. Spiritual Life Coaches must ask the question: “Is my coaching part of a larger, comprehensive plan to teach the whole curriculum of Christ?”
“We should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth.”
The second implication is that we should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth. I like to call this doing truth versus just knowing truth. There is a clear biblical priority to evangelize the nations and plant churches, but we must not forget that the Great Commission includes helping Christ’s followers become “conformed to the likeness of His Son [Christ].” Our spiritual Life Coaching must be intensive and intentional enough to transform lives.
But any parent can tell you this is easier said than done. Teaching others to ‘do’ truth is a complex process that involves the changing of motives, values, and worldview. It also hopes to develop a walk of faith, teaching people how to trust God. This type of training cannot be accomplished in a classroom alone. It must be worked out in the context of real life experiences. Some of the concepts, such as how to develop and demonstrate mature love, are not simple. This is why spiritual Life Coaches are critical to the process. It’s only in the context of a close relationship (where there is encouragement, accountability, prayer, and teaching) that this type of transformation can effectively occur.
The importance of the example and teaching of a spiritual Life Coach cannot be overstated. Paul admonished Timothy to follow him as he followed Christ. In another place the instruction was for Timothy to follow the “pattern of sound teaching” that Paul had taught. Timothy learned these truths from Paul in the context of close relationships. II Timothy 2:2 states, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NAS) Jesus, after washing His disciples feet as a model of Christian love and leadership, urged them, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (emphasis mine).
We who build disciples should be encouraged by the importance God places on the Life Coaching process. The Scriptures remind us that anyone who aspires to the office of overseer has an honorable, noble role in the Kingdom. But we should also be sobered by the responsible role God expects us to play. Paul warns the Corinthian church that “each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to explain that we can either build by using temporal materials or eternal materials, but there will be a Day when we must give an account for our work of building up others.
In order to be effective disciple builders, we must realize that God is the author and finisher of the process of sanctification. Paul states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NAS) In another place Paul asserts that “He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the Day of Christ Jesus.” (NAS) Spiritual Life Coaches can take heart that God will sovereignly oversee the process.
The role of spiritual Life Coaching is only one part of the disciple building process. For years there has been a debate in disciple building circles about what is the best forum for helping people grow spiritually. The advocates of small groups can list examples of people whose lives have been changed by the intimacy and accountability of this arrangement, while the proponents of one-to-one discipleship (Life Coaching) cite the advantages of this format. Others extol the merits of teaching and preaching, or the benefits of being well-read. Some point out the importance of putting disciples into ministry situations as the best way to facilitate growth and development. The spiritual disciplines such as fasting, solitude, or personal devotions are mentioned by many as being especially beneficial in spiritual formation.
All of these forms constitute healthy approaches to spiritual development. All should be included as part of a disciple building program. Each format has certain advantages and certain limitations. It is valuable to note that Jesus used all of these forms as part of His disciple building training. Because the local church has all of these structures (e.g. small groups, teaching, preaching, etc.), it is the best location for making and training disciples if the structures are utilized strategically. Within the church there is a unique role for a well-equipped Life Coach. This person is able to “meet people where they are, and help them take the next step®.”
If disciple building is the overall process in which more mature believers assist younger believers as they grow, then spiritual Life Coaching is the “one-to-one” part of the process. A Life Coach is able to help a disciple integrate and incorporate all the other growth processes into a unified whole. The Life Coach is responsible for tracking and overseeing the progress of the individual believers entrusted to his care. This individual encouragement and accountability is invaluable. As we will see later, this is best accomplished when the Life Coach works in concert with a team of others in a ministry context. One of the purposes of this manual is to offer assistance and coaching skills to help make the task of Life Coaching more manageable and successful.
Where have you seen a “one-on-one” or Life Coaching process have an impact on others? Have you ever considered learning how to be life coach?
WDA Life Coaching Manual will train leaders to coach others as Spiritual Life Coaches. If you are a Discipleship Professional or Leader, you can use the WDA Life Coaching Manual to train a team of Life Coaches for you church.
Good guys and bad guys. Heroes and villains. There is a reason that a large number of the stories we read and the movies we watch trace these themes. Everything from simple childhood tales like Little Red Riding Hood to sophisticated adult science fiction dramas like Star Wars portray the conflict. The truth is that these stories, perhaps often unknowingly, reflect a key spiritual reality! There really is an ongoing cosmic battle between the good guys and the bad guys, between the forces of good and evil.
The battle is played out between nations, between groups of people, between members of the same family and, at times, within the heart of a single person. It is not just your imagination when life seems difficult. You are in a spiritual battle. The battle is not just out there. It is cosmic, yet it is close. It is of vast proportions, yet it is intensely personal.
The Unrecognized Battle
If the battle we are in is so significant, why is it that we are often largely unaware of the conflict? The battle is difficult to recognize at times for several reasons:
• We acknowledge that life is difficult, but it is easy to attribute most of the pain, brokenness, and sorrow around us to living in a fallen world. Certainly, the events recorded in Genesis chapter three had devastating effects, but that is only one chapter in the story. If we see the Fall as the beginning and source of all that is wrong in this world, we fail to recognize the Fall as one battle (although admittedly a major one) in the larger ongoing war.
• It can also be difficult to recognize the battle because evil often presents itself as good. Satan is known as the angel of light, and he can easily make darkness seem as light. It is the subtle deceptions rather than the obvious lies that lull us into complacency .
• Lastly, it is difficult to recognize because part of the battle is in the seen world (the realm of our physical senses) and part of the battle is in the unseen world (the invisible spiritual realm). The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (the visible realm) but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (the invisible realm) (Ephesians 6:12).
In a story recorded in II Kings chapter six, Scripture allows us a glimpse behind the stage curtain into the reality of the unseen battle. The King of Aram, an enemy of Israel, had sent a great army with chariots and horses to capture the prophet Elisha. Elisha’s servant was very frightened when he looked out the door and saw these enemies surrounding the city, “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire (II Kings 6:16-17, New Living Translation). These servants of the Lord had been sent to preserve the life of Elisha. If, like Elisha, we were able to perceive the full range of events constantly at play about us, we would be amazed at the extent of activity in the unseen realm.
This spiritual battle is ongoing and will continue until
God chooses to end it at the return of Christ. Believers, as a
part of the army of God, need to learn all they can about their
enemy and how to fight effectively. As mentioned above,
Paul told his readers that their real battle is not against flesh
and blood but against evil supernatural forces of darkness
The following Pocket Principles® in this series will provide more information on how believers are to be engaged in this battle. At this point, we are simply trying to grasp the reality of it.
We see then that the world is the setting for a great spiritual battle between two powerful kingdoms. Let’s take a closer look at these two kingdoms so that we can better understand the conflict between them.
Satan and His Kingdom
Satan leads a powerful evil kingdom that opposes God and His people. But who is this adversary, and why is he set in opposition against God? Based on popular conceptions, most people have no idea who he really is. Contrary to comic book or television sitcom portrayals, Satan is not cute and he is not amusing. Light-hearted references such as, “The devil made me do it,” or “playing the devil’s advocate” only serve to underscore that we do not take him seriously.
While most of what Scripture tells us about Satan’s origin is written in figurative language, we still are able to understand certain things about him. In Ezekiel chapter 28 the prophet Ezekiel conveyed a message to the king of Tyre, but his message appears to also apply to Satan. In it we learn that Satan was a highly favored angelic being, with great power and privilege. However, he was not satisfied with his exalted position and his pride led him to rebel against God. The prophet Isaiah captured Satan’s intent in these words, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)
The battle is not just out there. It is cosmic, yet it is close. It is of vast proportions, yet it is intensely personal.
Satan paid a great price for his rebellion. In the Apostle John’s revelation, he records that there was a great battle in heaven between Satan and his angels and the archangel Michael and his angels, resulting in the expulsion of Satan and his followers from heaven (Revelation 12:1-9). The reference to one third of the stars in verse four may be a reference to one third of the angels, the number who fell with Satan.
Satan’s character is described by the following words and
phrases used in Scripture. As you read through the following
descriptions, note the stark contrast with God’s nature. God
and Satan are not simply two opponents with somewhat
different political orientations or points of view. Rather they
are bitter enemies!God is determined to thwart Satan’s evil
designs and to condemn him to everlasting punishment once
His purposes have been fulfilled, and Satan is equally determined to hurt God any way he can and overturn His verdict of condemnation.
• First, we consider his name. Revelation 9:11 tells us that Satan’s name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon—both of which translate to the Destroyer. Satan is intent on destruction; it is inherent in his nature. As Brent Curtis writes in The Sacred Romance, “The one purpose of his [Satan’s] heart is the destruction of all that God loves, particularly his beloved.” (1) By contrast, God is the creator of all that is good and beautiful.
• Satan is called the evil one in Matthew chapter 13, verses 19 and 38. He is thoroughly corrupt in his nature, his character, his intentions, and his actions. God is good and perfect in His character and in all His ways.
• Scripture teaches us that Satan is our enemy, our adversary (I Peter 5:8-9). Peter compares him to a roaring lion, looking for a victim to devour. Satan is always seeking to attack us; God is our defender and protector.
• In a conversation recorded in John 8:44, Jesus called Satan a liar and the father of lies. There is no truth in him. By contrast, God is truth. In fact, the writer of
We see then that the world is the setting for a great spiritual battle between two powerful kingdoms.
Hebrews tells us that it is impossible for God to lie. We cannot believe anything Satan tells us; we can always take God at His word.
• In the same passage, Jesus also said that Satan has been a murderer from the beginning. Satan seeks to extinguish life; he has no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of life. God, who created man in His image, is the giver and source of all life.
• Satan is also known as the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). In fact, he is said to accuse the children of God day and
night!relentlessly, unceasingly. By contrast, Christ is our advocate and our mediator. I John 2:1 reminds us that when we sin, “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense!Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
• Satan is known as the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9). He began his assault against God’s creation by deceiving Eve in the Garden of Eden, culminating in the fall of the human race. In II Corinthians 4:4 we read that, “Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them.” (New Living Translation) There is no deception with God. While it is true that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), He delights in making Himself known to us.
• Paul, writing to believers in Thessalonica, referred to Satan as the Tempter
(I Thessalonians 3:5). James tells us that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) Rather, He always provides a way of escape when we are faced with temptation (I Corinthians 10:13). Satan tempts us to do what is wrong; God guides us into right paths.
• In what is perhaps a surprising statement, Paul writes to the Corinthians that Satan is the god of this age or world. Satan is the ruler of what is temporal; God is the ruler of what is eternal. Satan has limited authority; God is sovereign over all creation.
The preceding descriptions demonstrate that Satan and God are diametrically opposed to one another. There is no point of similarity in their character. However, while their natures can only be contrasted, their abilities can be compared.
Satan is the ruler of what is temporal; God is the ruler of what is eternal.
• God is omniscient!He is all knowing. Satan does have vast knowledge (presumably accumulated through the centuries), but there are limits to what he knows.
• God is omnipresent!He is present everywhere at once. Satan is limited to one location in time and space.
• God is omnipotent!He is all-powerful. Satan has great power, but it is limited. He is a powerful beast, but on a leash, which God can yank at any time.
Satan’s kingdom is composed of Satan as its king, demons as his loyal servants, unbelievers as his unwitting servants, believers as his targets, and the world as his playground. Satan, who is not omnipresent, exercises his influence throughout the world through his hierarchy of subordinates (the rulers, authorities, powers, and forces mentioned in Ephesians 6:12). The Jews and early Christians understood these powers and authorities as representing a chain of command and authority of angels, both good and bad.
The self-centered ambitions of the nations, the deceptive practices of politics, the bitter rivalry of commerce, the false religions of the world, broken relationships, fractured families, and personal traumas all spring from and are fostered by Satanic influence. All that is evil finds its ultimate source in Satan; all that is good finds its ultimate source in God.
Christ and His Kingdom
God’s Kingdom is composed of Christ as King, angels as His loyal servants, and Christians as His subjects and partners in rule.
Christ’s Kingdom is invisible to the world in that it currently exists in the hearts of believers as the Holy Spirit indwells them. One day His Kingdom will be visible to all when He returns in power and glory. At this time, it is visible to the world in the godly conduct and character of believers and their influence on non-believers. This is why Jesus said in His Kingdom teaching, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Christ came to this world to rescue us from the clutches of Satan, to save us from our sins, and to establish His eternal Kingdom. Colossians 1:13 tells us that God “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.” The verb tense is important here. The rescue has already been accomplished; we have been delivered from Satan’s kingdom. However, we continue to live in occupied territory and remain vulnerable to Satan’s influence and attacks.
It is important to remember, as we struggle against the forces of evil, that God is not asking us to do anything that He has not done or does not continue to do Himself. He is no armchair quarterback or boardroom general. Rather, He leads us into and through the battle. This truth is vividly illustrated in the life of Christ while on earth. He was continually involved in spiritual battle, both direct and indirect. Following are a few scenes from the battlefield:
• The conflict began at the announcement of His birth as King Herod ordered the death of all Jewish children in Bethlehem under the age of two.
Herod hoped, in so doing, to exterminate the threat of this Messiah (Matthew 2:13-17).
• Satan himself appears on the scene when Jesus’ ministry began. Immediately after Christ’s baptism by John, He was led into the wilderness and tempted by Satan repeatedly over a period of forty days. None of us can truly appreciate the intensity of this battle (Luke 4:1-13).
• Throughout Jesus’ ministry He cast demons out of people, healing them of diseases and other problems (see Luke 4:40-41, for example). In each encounter, Christ was directly challenging and overcoming the power of Satan.
• The blindness of the Jewish leaders, in spite of the many miraculous signs that Jesus performed, their rejection of Him as the Messiah, and their plots to kill Him were all evidences of spiritual battle (II Corinthians 4:3-4).
• Satan entered Judas and influenced him to betray Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leaders (John 13:27).
• Jesus was engaged in intense spiritual warfare the night before His crucifixion. Face down on the ground in prayer, He had all the power and fury of hell arrayed against Him. In anguish, He overcame the forces of evil and submitted to the will of the Father (Luke 22:40-46).
All that is evil finds its ultimate source in Satan; all that is good finds its ultimate source in God.
• The Cross itself represents the climax of the battle between God and Satan, between the forces of good and evil. It was there, despite all appearances, that Christ achieved His greatest victory and Satan realized his greatest defeat (Colossians 2:15).
Because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, believers are transferred out of Satan’s domain and into Christ’s Kingdom at the time of their salvation. God has brought us into His Kingdom to deliver us from darkness and bond-age and also to equip us as warriors in His Kingdom (Ephesians 6:10-18). Satan views us as pawns! expendable objects of his wrath. However, God views us as persons of great worth and enlists us as trusted allies in His holy cause. What an awesome privilege to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
There is bad news and there is good news. Believers need to understand that the world is dangerous, and life is difficult because of the evil influences of Satan and his kingdom. However, the good news is that Christ has rescued us from Satan’s kingdom, and He is able to help us navigate through life’s difficulties and to impact this world for good.
Just a reminder! One of Satan’s favorite ploys is deception and getting people to believe lies. Even now, he would have you disbelieve the bad news (and minimize the reality) and disbelieve the good news (and minimize the opportunity). Stand firm in the truth of God’s Word and do not allow Satan to deceive you on these important points.
• Meditate on Colossians 1:13-14. Praise God for what He has done for us. • Write a list of some of the ways you see Satan’s influence in your world.
End Note: 1. BrentCurtis,TheSacredRomance(Nashville,Tennessee:ThomasNelsonPublishers,1997), 101.
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My daughter defines “friendship” as a relationship where “you can just be yourself”. We all need relationships with people who love us and accept us completely, a place where we feel safe and secure. Every relationship is unique, but healthy relationships have this in common: they are based on trust, loyalty, and commitment. They are places where “we can just be ourselves”.
An environment of honesty, good will, and unconditional love reassures us that we are relationally protected. When we are with people who love us in this way we are able to be transparent, which serves to deepen the relationship. We all need relationships with safe people who love us if we are to thrive and grow. This is also true in our relationship with God. If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence. Conversely, if we feel condemned by God, we will not have a healthy relationship with Him. Being secure in our relationship with God requires two commitments. The first involves His eternal commitment to us, the second involves our commitment to stay in the relationship with Him.
God is committed to keeping us as His children.
Jesus spoke of His love for His followers by comparing Himself to a shepherd who walks in front of his flock, guarding them, leading them to good places, and reassuring them with his voice. “I give them eternal life,” He said, “and they shall never perish: no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
This remarkable assertion is founded on God’s unswerving commitment to those whom He loves. Because of His unending love and unstoppable power, He is willing and able to guard us. (II Timothy 1:12) Even our own sins and lack of faith will not lessen His commitment to those who are committed to Him. Timothy writes that “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (II Timothy 2:11-13) His love for us is not grounded upon our performance, it is grounded upon His perfect love and character.
If we feel loved and accepted by God we will approach Him in faith and with confidence.
Make no mistake, God is holy and hates sin. But we still sin, even though we don’t want to. When we do, we need to remember that God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. We have Someone who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-2:2) Because Jesus Himself suffered temptations and yet did not sin, He is able to be the sacrifice for our sins and also to help us when we are tempted. Through Christ, God remains steadfast in His love to us.
We are committed to continue as His children.
Someone said that home is where they have to take you in when you knock on the door. Unfortunately, not all homes are so welcoming. But God always welcomes His children. And He wants us to be assured of our place in His family. Because we are His children, members of His family, we have a role also; our responsibility is to remain in His family.
John wrote his letter, the book of I John, so that people would know whether or not they were Christians. Central to his message was the confidence that Christians can have in their relationship with God. He writes: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (I John 5:13) The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
John says, “I write these things” so you can have this assurance; so you can know for sure you are a believer. What are “these things” that he writes? He is referring to three evidences laid out in his letter that show a person that he has become a believer. These evidences are our love (4:7), our obedience (2:3-6) and our faith in Christ (4:15, 5:1a). It is not that we will demonstrate perfect love, obedience and faith but that we will experience each of these in ways we cannot explain apart from the fact that Christ is changing us on the inside. In these ways, the true believer remains faithful to the end, “continuing in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (Colossians 1:23)
At times we all face doubts, accusations, and even suffering. When this happens, it is essential to remember that we are God’s children, committed to follow Him. The fact that we are God’s children does not mean we never sin or disobey God. Nor does it mean our salvation is dependent on our obedience. It does mean that we continually participate with God in our sanctification, working with Him by faith to grow in Christlikeness. As true believers we continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” because we love Him and trust Him, pressing on to fully gain the salvation that is already ours through Him. (Philippians 2:12) To those who recognize both the divine and the human aspects of following the Living God, this approach is both mysterious and practical at the same time!
The confidence that He will never leave us causes us in turn to remain connected to Him, even when life is difficult.
Put another way, God has given us everything we need to live a godly, holy life and be sure of our salvation. But we must make every effort to grow in righteousness, remembering that we have been cleansed from past sins and called to live as children of God. This way we confirm that God has brought us securely into His family.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.
Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. II Peter 1:3-11
There is a basis for us to be secure in our relationship with God and be certain of our salvation. The basis of this security is God’s eternal love coupled with His ability to keep us to the end. This is confirmed in our lives when we have a trusting dependence on Him and a maturing character.
We can be secure in our relationship with God.
A healthy relationship is based on trust, loyalty, and commitment.
God is committed to keep us as His children.
We can know we are God’s children and be committed to Him.
God has equipped us to live godly, holy lives assured of our salvation.
If you were God, what are some of the changes you would make in your own human character?
What are some of the signs in your life that God has begun that process of change?
Read and meditate on the book of I John.
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“May the force be with you!” This now-familiar “benediction” of the Star Wars series has emerged as one of our cultural icons, characterizing an accompanying (albeit impersonal) power that is able to provide strength and comfort for lifes challenges. Unfortunately, this is also how many Christians view the Holy Spirit. For them, the Holy Spirit is a mysterious “force” who somehow influences and impacts their lives. Admittedly, explaining the Person and work of the Holy Spirit can be daunting. But the rewards of understanding God through the Person of His Spirit far outweigh the difficulties.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this only another name for God? A force? An impersonal “it”? A separate personality? The Holy Spirit, like the idea of the Trinity, can be a difficult concept to understand. (In fact, almost all the cults stumble over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, denying the existence of the Holy Spirit as God.)
Fortunately, we have the light of Scripture to show us God’s will and reveal His truth. This is particularly valuable in our understanding of the Holy Spirit. At this point in history, God is invisible to our human perception. But though invisible, He is still there, and He is active in the affairs of our lives. Even though the wind is invisible we can describe it and see its effects. In a similar way we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see Him in the Bible and witness His effects in the lives of believers. (John 3: 5-8) By studying how the Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit, we can know God more fully .
The Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit
It is important to recognize that Scripture does not always give lengthy explanations or formal lessons about God and His Kingdom. The Bible is not an entire account or testimony of the acts of God toward His creation and His people. As such, we find that Scripture clearly teaches us about the Holy Spirit but does not set out to prove the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Bible writers assume and teach the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity
In many cultures, it is common when first meeting others to inquire about their family relations. By knowing someone’s family name, it is possible to gain insights into the community roles and context of the new acquaintance. In a similar way, knowing how the Holy Spirit relates to the other persons of the Trinity gives us a better understanding of who He is.
As we read through the Bible, we can observe that God the Father’s role is primarily that of planning and initiating. Jesus, God the Son, executes God the Father’s plans. His Messianic role as suffering servant and delivering king is central to who He is. Finally, the Holy Spirit’s role is to apply the plan to believers.
We can see these roles of the Trinity in the work of salvation. The Father plans and sends the Son. Jesus the Son executes the plan by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His dwelling in their lives.
The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
Sometimes the best way to relate to people is to learn what they do. Actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. The Holy Spirit takes many actions on behalf of believers, and it can help us understand God the Holy Spirit by considering these ministries.
The Holy Spirit automatically gives certain benefits to us when we first repent and believe in God’s salvation. Titus 3:5 tells us, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” John 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:4-5 also speak of this regenerative ministry. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Christ’s sacrifice and sets us apart for God’s purposes when we are first saved. (Hebrew 10:13-14). He indwells us, seals us, intercedes on our behalf and gives us spiritual gifts. (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:26-27; I Corinthians 12:7-11) The Holy Spirit accomplishes each of these acts on our behalf at the moment of our salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit, however, are applied to the believer only as we cooperate with Him. John tells us that the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and teach us truth as we yield to His influence and power. (John 16: 8- 11, 13-26) He guides us, empowers us and fills us, manifesting His grace in our lives as we seek God’s will. (Galatians 5:16-18; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 5:18) In essence, the Holy Spirit walks with us, affecting us throughout our lives by an ongoing process of making us holy. (Hebrews 10:13-14)
The Holy Spirit not only works in the lives of believers, but He also convicts “the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” making people ready to hear our Gospel message. (John 16:8-11). Finally, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, literally “breathing” God into the writers. He is the ultimate source and authority of the Bible. (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21).
Therefore, we should be humble and grateful because of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. He is a personal God who is at work in our lives, helping us as we strive to obey and follow Him. We must seek Him in the Scripture and in prayer, continuing a lifelong process of cooperating with Him.
We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself as God the Holy Spirit.
Scripture assumes and teaches the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
The role of the Holy Spirit is better understood in relation to the roles of the other persons of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His indwelling.
Some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit are automatically applied to the believer at salvation.
Other ministries of the Holy Spirit are applied only with the believer’s cooperation.
We should humbly and gratefully cooperate with the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.
Are we alone in the universe? For centuries people have wondered about the place of mankind in the vastness of space. Ancient astronomers calculated the movement of the constellations, wondering if there was some connection between the stars and people on earth. Now, with the development of long-range telescopes, the observable universe has expanded significantly. Some now believe there is a high probability that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. (Supermarket tabloids certainly agree: reportings of UFO sightings and alien abductions are on the rise.) But this curiosity is more than a fringe movement, the scientific community routinely explores the possibility of life beyond our planet.
But not everyone is certain we’ll make contact with other cosmic civilizations. Ever the cynic, the young protagonist of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” quips that the only compelling evidence that there might actually be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is that “no one has ever tried to contact US!” But despite the various points-of-view, the question remains.
In 2003, Australian astronomers tried to calculate how many stars exist in the universe. (Every star could be the center of a system of potentially life-supporting planets.) Using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes, these scientists observed 10,000 visible galaxies. By extrapolating this data to the limits of the known universe, they estimated the existence of an astonishing 70 sextillion stars! (For the mathematically challenged among us, that’s a “7” followed by twenty-two zeroes!) (1) To begin to understand the immensity of this number, try to visualize all the grains of sand along every single beach, and in every single desert on the planet Earth. (2) Then multiply that amount by ten! This certainly suggests the possibility that, by comparison, we solar-system earth-dwellers are pretty insignificant.
But the Scriptures maintain another perspective. Instead of the myriad of stars pointing to humanity’s insignificance in the universe, the Bible says that the vast number of stars actually affirms mankind’s great worth and value. The psalmist considers the question: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, (I ask), ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ “ The passage goes on to explain that God has placed man (not the rest of the cosmos!) at the apex of His creation, and “crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)
These verses (and others) remind us that God gave man great worth amid all He created. In addition to placing man at the pinnacle of His created order, He did two other important things to underscore our value to Him: He created man in His own image; and He honored man by sending Jesus, God’s own Son, to earth as a man. We are not alone in the universe! God has chosen to live among us as one of us, not exactly like us, but significantly like us as a friend and brother! This ‘living among us’ has three encouraging implications.
God Initiates Toward Us.
God came to earth as Jesus to reconnect with us, initiating the restoration of a relationship that had been broken by sin (John 1:14). He searched for those who were willing to receive His love. (And though He returned to heaven, He continues to search through His Holy Spirit!) The Bible describes this search as like a man who has lost something of great value and who leaves everything to find what was lost (Parable of the Lost Sheep: Luke 15:1-7). The parable affirms that once the man finds what he lost, he experiences great joy (vv. 3-7)!
We are not alone. Though we have been separated from our Creator, He has not forgotten us! On the contrary, He is actively, diligently, looking for and seeking to rescue us, His lost sheep. We are the people He created in His image, for His glory. And once the relationship with any of us is restored, God rejoices and the angels join Him!
This longing for a restored relationship has always been God’s agenda, even when the relational distance seemed impossible to span. When God dwelt among His people in the Old Testament (Exodus 40:34-38) many of His words and actions made Him seem unapproachable (e.g. Exodus 19:1-25, 20:15-21). He often appeared to people in His awesome power, reminding Israel of His holy nature with repeated warnings that sinful men were forbidden to come near to Him. To further underscore this separation, there was an immense veil installed in the Hebrew Temple as a reminder that God could not be approached without an acceptable sacrifice.
But here’s the Good News: Jesus WAS God’s acceptable sacrifice! After His death on the Cross, the veil-barrier was removed! Anticipating this reconciliation, Jesus initiated toward people while He was on earth, embodying the love and grace of God the Father (John 1:16-18). Jesus put people at ease. Even the worst sinners felt that they could come to Him and He would befriend them. God’s nature didn’t change, He was still holy; but the relationship was restored at His initiative. Jesus was the embodiment of God the Father, showing God’s love, grace, and approachability.
God Identifies With Us.
Not only does God initiate toward us, He identifies with us completely. Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was like us in his humanity (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3). It’s incredible, but true: God was fully human in the person of Jesus, The Son! He functioned just like we do: He got hungry and ate, got tired and slept, worked, moved around, thought and had ideas, made decisions, experienced frustration, was limited by time and space, etc. But one way in which He was NOT like us, is that He never sinned. He was tempted, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). (This sinlessness allowed Him to be the acceptable sacrifice we mentioned earlier and which we’ll talk more about later.)
Because He was so much like us, we can know and have confidence that He understands us. He is totally empathetic. Jesus experienced the ups and downs of life just as we do. He experienced the joys and challenges of childhood, the teen years, and adulthood. He experienced good times and disappointments. He was wronged, suffering unjust persecution at the hands of people with selfish agendas. He was even betrayed by a friend. Because Jesus is able to empathize with us and our weaknesses, (without sinning), Scripture encourages us to approach His throne of grace in our times of need with hope, courage, boldness, and confidence (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16). He’s like a best friend.
We all know what friendship is like, because we’ve all had a friend. I’ll never forget my best friend from high school. We did everything together. We played sports (and rooted for the same teams), we went on double-dates, we took the same classes, we liked the same music, we ate the same fast-food; we could even finish each other’s sentences. There were few secrets we didn’t share, and he never betrayed a confidence. Don was more than a friend, he was like my own brother, (but without sibling rivalry).
It’s hard to imagine Jesus being someone like that; but He is! In fact, He’s better than any friend or brother we’ve ever had, or could ever imagine having. Because He was like us during His time on earth, we can call on Jesus as our brother and friend (Hebrews 2:11-12; John 15:13-15), and He will be there for us.
Because He was like us, we can also look to Him as a model for living the Christian life. But He’s not some insufferable bore who’s always correcting us or pointing out our mistakes. He’s like the buddy who’s always ‘got our back,’ the friend who can teach us how to throw a curve-ball, but who’ll also fight for us and keep us out-of-trouble (if we’ll let him) because He loves us. We can look to Jesus as this kind of friend, as we seek to emulate His righteous life because it’s the best life, observing how He dealt with rejection and suffering, seeing how He related to God the Father, etc. And, as we follow His example, we find encouragement and camaraderie.
God Substitutes For Us.
But He’s more than a good companion. He’s a friend who’ll die for us. Here’s the Bad News: because all people have sinned, all of us are awaiting God’s judgment and wrath (Romans 3:23, 2:5). There is nothing anyone of us can do to work our way back into God’s good graces. All of mankind’s religious systems (attempts to placate God) ultimately fail. We spoke earlier of God’s holiness and justice. We can’t approach Him on the basis of our very best merits and deeds, because He is holy, totally unlike us. Apart from God’s initiative and intervention, mankind has no hope, only the frightful prospect of God’s judgment.
But don’t forget the Good News! God intervened by sending His Son as a sacrifice and payment. (John the Baptist referred to Jesus as God’s sacrificial lamb.) Because Jesus willingly became a man and lived a sinless life, He was an acceptable substitute for us (I Peter 3:18). When Jesus died a humiliating death on the cross, God poured out His wrath against our sins on His Son, rather than on us (Isaiah 53:6; I John 2:2).
The magnitude of this sacrifice shows the value God places on mankind (Mark 10:45). (The value of something is seen in the price a wise buyer is willing to pay for it.) God, who appointed us as the apex of His creation and made us in His Image, also died for us. God has done everything He could do to acknowledge the high worth of mankind and to make it possible for man to come back into a relationship with Him. Since this was not deserved in any way, all men ought to be humbled and in awe of what He has done in the Atonement.
Though humbled by the majesty and mercy of God, we are not alone in His vast universe, but comforted by His Presence! He has a cosmic plan and purpose for each of us that spans time and even creation itself. But at the heart of His plan is a relationship with Jesus, our friend and brother. It’s impossible for us to fully comprehend all of this, but we aren’t asked to completely comprehend it; God simply asks us to believe it and trust Him. But it’s a belief that invites action: the decision to follow Jesus!
• Choose a passage from a Gospel and read it, paying particular attention to how Jesus relates to people. Suggested passages: Luke 7:36-50; John 4:7-30; John 11:1- 44; John 20:19-29
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