When I look at the different people around my church, and talk to them about what they know about God or listen to discussions during our Sunday School classes, I realize that many people have an incomplete understanding of even the the basics of the Christian faith.  I think the our Christian education is like swiss cheese.  There are holes in what we know, or in how we have applied what we know, or even more so we don’t know enough it seems or lack the training necessary to help others learn.

WDA has spent years considering how we need to help people grow to maturity.  I would love to say that the process of discipling someone is a clean step by step process where we learn one thing and go on to the next.  The difficulty is that we tend to leap around without a clear idea of what we need to know and what we need to teach.  WDA has a progressive plan for helping people grow.  We begin with the basics and using tools such as the R-CAPS grid, we make a plan that allow people to grow in phases.

The challenge for any disciple building process is that people don’t always begin with one person at the beginning stages of faith in Christ and continue with them to maturity.  The disciples were with Jesus as he discipled them over a period of three years.  Not only were they with him, they left their jobs and followed him for the majority of that time.  This is not only impractical it’s seems impossible in our modern context.

My experience as a discipleship pastor has shown me that building disciples takes more time than I ever expected. Some contexts provide a more robust opportunity such as the college campus, however the week by week discipleship in the church means that we have to commit to stay with one another long enough to grow.  Having a plan enables your ministry to know not only where you are going but you can build out that plan, considering the time and commitment necessary to see people grow to maturity in your context.

RCAPS
With WDA’s R-CAPS Grid you can learn to see that discipleship is more than content alone, but is structured around relationships, focuses on application, involves praying with and for one another and builds situations where people can learn with others and do ministry.

WDA is working in a variety of ministry settings, with our 28/20 project, our Restorative Ministries, our International Leadership Training and Next Generation Ministry.  One thing that we have learned.  Discipleship requires a plan and takes time.

Take some time to learn more about our philosophy of ministry by reading Disciple Building a Biblical Framework.  Contact WDA to learn more about how you can develop a plan for your church and ministry which can help fill in the holes and develop leaders for years to come.

Eulogy for A Friend: Bill Watkins

April 1, 2014 • Mt. Carmel Presbyterian Church • 2048 Carmel Road, Charlotte, NC

Bill_w1

Bill Watkins and I have been friends for forty years. We met while he was on staff with Campus Crusade and then worked together with Worldwide Discipleship Association.  I was Best Man at his wedding.

We had a lot in common.  (Except he had an IQ of about 10,000, and I didn’t.)  We both collected stamps, baseball cards, and books.  We also rooted for the same SEC teams, except when they played each other. And we read (and re-read) the same English authors: Sayers, Tolkien, Stott, and Lewis (to mention a few).

There’s another thing that Bill and I have in common: We both love, and are loved by, wonderful women who will receive a star in heaven’s crown for hazardous duty on earth.

Bill never held public office, or ran a company, or made a lot of money, or did many of the things that many people think evidence greatness.  But he was an exceptionally great person: a loyal brother, a good son, a faithful friend.

He never wrote that book we all kept urging him to write.  But (as you may already realize) he did something far more significant: HE WROTE LETTERS, hundreds and hundreds of them.  And those letters, written by a man who loved God supremely, changed many lives.  Mine was one that was changed.

I suspect that many of his friends have a “Letters from Bill” file.  I want to remember him, and glorify God, by reading just a few snippets of his correspondence, samples of his trade and indicators of his heart.  Once he sent a letter just because he loved the stamp.

A stamp which looks this good deserves to be mailed, and on an envelope worth carrying it. (Now I have an empty page to fill up to justify the postage!)  I think we Christians ought to forget about trying to build an American culture that is seasoned with Christianity. It’s too late for that. We need to a build a distinctively Christian culture, proper to a holy nation and a royal priesthood, and let it shine against the darkening common culture, while we still have the freedom to be openly creative.

One of the last times I saw Bill, we went book-hunting together.  It was one of our favorite pastimes with one difference: I collected books, but Bill actually READ them.

Friday was a depressing day, so I went book-browsing.  (An alcoholic should not go into a bar.)  I bought a 1913 edition of Hilaire Belloc’s: “The Servile State”. It was worth buying for the binding, but the contents are excellent too!

A good browser never stops with just the item he came in for.  He looks around to see if there are any chance opportunities.  Two books were lying on a bench, either put there by a clerk for later re-shelving, or left there by a customer. One of the books had an appetizing look to it. Sniffing it, I began to drool over its savory aroma. But a scavenger must be careful. The customer who left it might be back to claim his own.  Just to make sure, I circled around, and the book was still lying there! I went back and looked it over again.  Still cautious – a hyena is always nervous about a lion returning to claim his kill – but I left with the prize in hand!

In addition to his love of books, Bill loved discipleship.  (I was not surprised to hear that he was launching a new men’s group at church this month.)

May our ministry produce knights and kings – men who know how to wield power and rule wisely. In paradise we were meant to be innocent kings, wielding authority and power incorruptibly. Now power corrupts. Can there be such a thing as an innocent king? Can a man conquer his enemies, subdue rebels, dispense justice, levy taxes, and command loyalty without so using force that he loses his purity? Do innocence and power go together? Of course they do in Jesus! He is the only innocent King – and we renounced His kingship and assassinated Him.  Jesus is our stories-come-true. Innocence does sit on the Throne!

And sometimes it wasn’t what he wrote but what he quoted that made an impact. In ministry I was often embroiled in petty religious infighting.  In response, Bill cited C.S. Lewis:

“Men who have gods, worship those gods; it is the spectators who describe this as religion! The moment a man seriously accepts a deity his interest in religion is at an end. He’s got something else to think about!”

It may be old news, but I hear you and WDA have been through another period of stress. When big celestial bodies change orbits, they emit a burst of gravity waves and space-time perturbations. You must have a Guardian Angel keeping you from colliding, crashing, or breaking apart into meteorites and moon dust. Astronomy and planets are not ready for ‘Comet Dukes’ just yet. WDA will not disintegrate until The Sovereign Lord speaks the word. God continues to polish your hide to a glowing sheen. He must have a special purpose for you. The way the times are going, righteousness and godliness will be rarer than ever. Keep sowing the seeds-of-revival, they’ll sprout someday!

Oddly enough, Bill and I rarely lived in the same city at the same time, but he loved to come for visits and we loved having him in our home. He told me once that “Ebenhearth”, our home in Fayetteville, reminded him of Tolkien’s Rivendell, calling it, “The Second to Last Homely House West of the Mountains”.  After one visit he wrote Linda:

Households full of grace and wisdom seem to be disappearing.  Without Ebenhearth Bob would have a lower platform, far less credibility, and a great deal less joy.  The “Lady of Ebenhearth” adds something irreplaceable to his work.

In flipping through “That Hideous Strength”, I saw a line which brought Ebenhearth to mind. Merlin has made his way out of the ground and to the Manor of St. Anne’s-on-the-Hill and reflects to Ransom: “In all the house there are warmth and softness and silence that might put a man in mind of paradise terrestrial.” 

I just reread the Descent of the Gods upon St. Anne’s in “That Hideous Strength”.  I like the idea that Jupiter follows Saturn: jovial majesty follows numbing antiquity. In the end we will be able to laugh, for it is as becoming to royalty as to children. There’s laughter in heaven, contrary to the notions of secular spoilsports.  It’s the atheist who’s a killjoy. 

Bill had a special connection with Elena our daughter with Down Syndrome.  I’d mentioned a baseball game where Elena executed a swinging-bunt and then ran to hug the pitcher.

What a dilemma Elena presented to the scorekeepers! Was the hugging-bunt a hit? fielders choice? error? That was a brilliant tactic – but she wasn’t thinking about tactics was she? She has a wonderful mind and it would be fascinating to know how she thought of baseball. Of course you hug the pitcher before you take your base!

Bill Watkins
Bill and Nate at WDA Staff Conference

Bill was brilliant, but he was also wise and a child-at-heart.  Once, after trading theological reading material he reminded me:  What you read to Elena is too important to give up for textbooks!

Knowing we read The Chronicles of Narnia to our children, Bill wrote:

In the magic before the dawn of time, the Father gave the Son incantations to sing to break the spell of sin and death over us. I hope the enchantments are bringing deeper holiness and life to you.  Once a King and Queen in Narnia, always a King and Queen!

Now I know why I love this job and why WDA staff are kinda’ weird: we’re teaching students to NOT fit into this world, to LAUGH at Caesar’s demands even as we give him what is his. God is making us into a race of kings and queens, and how CAN the world make sense of us?

But being made holy is not easy. Bill understood this. At times, he struggled with crippling clinical depression.

The ache is deep, but the depression is gradually lifting – the fog has burned off – thinning from a gray pea soup to a light veil. It feels like I’m coming out of a wilderness, heading for usefulness. Carrying the burden has been good training. I just hope I’ve learned the lessons well enough to graduate!

Unsettled times are an assignment from the Lord – by His grace, He does NOT let us get too comfortable in the desert between Eden and Heaven, does not let us mistake oases for the Promised Land. Fat, lazy pilgrims will have trouble making it home.

Sometimes endurance is hell-shattering victory. What can Satan say or do to a man who persists in clinging to Peter’s confession: “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.” Those who endure get to learn how to sing at midnight in prison. Is there a surer sign of heaven for the jailer to see?

When the veil did lift, Bill saw this world (and the next) with startling clarity:

Saturday night strolling on the midway, biting cotton candy, holding your sweetheart’s hand, watching the kids getting spun dizzy on the whirly rides. It really doesn’t get any better than that does it? (It sure beats what’s advertised by the world.) The secret is, and the good news is, that as good as such things are, it really does get a lot better!

Jesus said it’s what’s on the INSIDE that determines greatness.  Matters of the heart determine the real outcomes of life.

He said there’s no greater love, but that someone would be willing to lay down their life for others.  That was the pattern of Bill’s life.  He gave his life away for the people he loved.  Many fill their lives by pursuing fame, or riches.  But Bill chose love.

His ‘investment portfolio’ was his family and friends.  And we’re all the richer for it.

I’m absolutely confident, that if Bill were here today, he would be encouraging US, enriching US,  making US better people just by being with us and blessing US.

Bill had a chronic case of Homesickness. But it wasn’t Louisville he longed for: it was Heaven and the world to come. More specifically, it was God Himself that he wanted to see.

Sometimes this homesickness got on my nerves. I would be talking about ‘important stuff’ like “March Madness” brackets or The World Series, and he wouldn’t be paying attention.  And it wasn’t just the ADD, (though there WAS that).  He’d have this faraway look in these incredibly sad eyes but accompanied by this little grin that made me think I just missed a punch-line.  (Sometimes I think he heard angels.)  He realized there was much more to come.

After a grueling day of ministry we stopped to regroup and I launched into a bout of self-pity, lamenting about how little we got paid for the emotional buffeting we endured.  He politely indulged me, then quoted Jim Elliot: “A man is no fool to give up what he can’t keep, to gain what he can never lose.”

Bill laid aside everything else to follow Christ, because he knew that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ would lead him home.  He understood clearly that religion couldn’t save him, and that sometimes even training for ordination actually hindered what mattered most.

My seminary classes have not once taught me to adore the greatness of God’s loving heart, but His glory shines through the footnotes. The majesty of God cannot be eclipsed by anything man-made, and the Bible still lives after two centuries of dissection. And God’s salvation extends even to the proud intellectual.

There are two kinds of “Good-Byes”

  1. ‘Final goodbye’  (Don’t expect to ever see someone again.)
  2. ‘See-you-later goodbye’

On learning of the approaching death of a mutual friend Bill wrote:

Today’s news about Don was grim. The Lord knows what He’s doing, but calling Don Home now will leave us with a mighty big hole in our ranks. God did not mean for us to have to say “good-bye” did He?

Bill’s death has left “a mighty big hole in our ranks”.  But even in our sadness, we can be glad for Bill, because he’s glad to be with the Lord.  He’s found his way back home!

It gives me great joy, old friend, to know that you are now experiencing the fullness of His joy!  This is not a final goodbye, just ‘see you later’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Summary

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.

Application Suggestions:

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.

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

The phone call came late one night from a son in trouble. “Dad, I need some money!” After a brief discussion, I did what any Dad would do: I wire- transferred cash from my account to his. Later, he thanked me as we talked about the situation over a cup of coffee. We discussed how he got in the predicament (poor budgeting skills) and I helped him address those issues. He confessed that it was hard for him to admit that he needed help, but he was grateful nonetheless.

In a similar way it is hard for us to admit that we need God’s help. But we too have failed. We have all sinned, fallen short of God’s good, righteous requirements. What happened with my son and me illustrates in part what God has done for us. But instead of cash, He transfers righteousness to us. Then He comes alongside us in the Person of the Holy Spirit to help us continue to act righteously .

But what exactly is righteousness and how do we get it? Peter promised to follow Jesus to the death. Later he denied knowing Jesus and, when faced with the awful truth that he had abandoned Jesus in the time of testing, he wept bitterly. (Matthew 26: 31-35, 69-75)

It can be devastating to realize our weakness and inability to obey God. Words like “gratitude,” “righteousness” and “faithfulness” can seem like oppressive reminders of our sins. But despite our failures to love and obey God, we can relate confidently to God because he makes us righteous.

Like Peter, we also continue to struggle with sin even after we have committed ourselves to follow Christ. And just as Peter learned, it is vital we understand that God will never abandon us. God is committed to bringing about righteousness in our lives. He does this in several stages.

Initially, God Declares Us Righteous: Justification

Justification is a legal term that means we have been forgiven. In addition it means that we have been declared righteous—morally perfect. (Romans 4:6-8) It is a “once-for-all- time” act that God accomplishes on our behalf. This does not mean we are habitually righteous in every thing we do, but it describes our legal standing with God. You can think of it as being given a new citizenship in God’s Kingdom, a citizenship that cannot change no matter where you live. You may not have a passport to prove it, but God recognizes you as His and accepts you freely.

God is committed to bringing about righteousness in our lives.

Being justified means that Christ’s righteousness has been added to our “righteousness account” in the same way my money was transferred to my son’s account. The result is that God now sees us as righteous on the basis of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21) The Apostle Paul describes this as a “right standing” with God that “is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)

This legal status before God is really a completely new relationship with Him. We are no longer enemies of God; we are now at peace with Him. (Romans 5:1) In fact, we have immediate acceptance from God because sin is no longer a barrier between Him and His people. Romans 8:1 tells us “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No matter what the circumstances, God will not abandon us nor revoke our status as being righteous.

Progressively, God Makes Us Righteous: Sanctification

But what about our sins? What about the times when we, like Peter, turn away from God? Before Peter was tested, Jesus prayed that when Peter turned back to God, he would encourage his fellow believers. It is interesting to note that Jesus knew Peter would fall away, but He also expected Peter to return to Him and grow in righteousness.

Likewise, God has a plan for our lives that allows for the ups and downs in our lives and also includes our becoming holy or Christlike. (II Corinthians 3:18) This process, called sanctification, begins when we are justified by God through faith in Christ and continues throughout our lives as we experience and grow in faith.

The Apostle Paul describes this sanctification process in his letter to the Philippian church:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

The process of sanctification involves pressing on, persevering in the heavenward path God has set us upon. Notice that sanctification is not only dependent on God, but on us as well. Paul also tells the Philippian believers they are to continue to “work out their salvation” even as God works in them. (Philippians 2:12-13) Practically speaking, our sanctification involves our active participation with God, a lifelong perseverance to grow in Christlikeness.

Does this mean that by trying hard we can justify ourselves? By no means! Remember we are justified (declared “not-guilty”) by trusting Christ. Paul explains: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast”. But he goes on to state, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

(Ephesians 2:8-10) God is the one who declares us righteous and He is the one who is at work in our lives to help us produce good works of righteousness. He has declared us righteous, legally .

Then He helps us be righteous, actually. What an amazing God we follow!

Finally, God Makes Us Perfectly Righteous: Glorification

God’s work in our lives makes us citizens of His Kingdom and prepares us to be eternal residents of that Kingdom. One day, we will enter His Kingdom fully as citizens of heaven. To this end, we await the return of Christ, “who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

When Jesus returns, we will experience the resurrection and be completely transformed to be like Him, (except, of course, for His deity). In that day, God will glorify us, which is the completion of the good work of salvation that He began with our justification and continued with our sanctification. (Philippians 1:6)

As you can see, the word “salvation” actually covers an amazing experience. Our salvation is rooted in a single, irreversible act of justification. It continues with our actively growing to become more what God wants us to be. One day this relationship will reach its full maturity when we are changed into morally perfect worshippers of God, forever.

Because of God’s salvation, sin is no longer a barrier between God and us. We should not be discouraged when our growth in holiness is slow, because God is at work in us and will never abandon this good work He has begun. In confidence and security, we can always come to Him.

Summary

We can relate confidently to God because He makes us righteous.

  • God brings about righteousness in the believer’s life in several stages.
  • God declares us righteous, giving us immediate acceptance (justification).
  • Sanctification is the process of becoming holy or Christlike.
  • We must cooperate with God and persevere in our sanctification.
  • Christ will return and complete what God has begun in us (glorification).

God is at work in us and will never abandon this good work He has begun!

Application Suggestions:

  • List the things in your life that you feel create a barrier between you and God. Meditate on how this lesson addresses these barriers (Romans 8:1, 5:1)
  • How can the principles in this lesson be helpful when you are discouraged about your spiritual growth?
  • Based on this lesson, what are some of the reasons a Christian can have hope?

Sanctification_Chart

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

“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.

Summary

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.

Application Suggestions:

• Study the handout (pdf) entitled “The Personality of the Holy Spirit” and “The Deity of the Holy Spirit”.

• Meditate on the ministries of the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

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