Chapter 6- His Ministries to the Believer (Part 3)
“I believe God is leading me to marry Alice,” my German friend said. “But, is she a believer in Jesus?”, I asked. “Well, no, not yet. But I can sense the Spirit’s directing me to marry her.” “Oh,” I said, “you might not want to hear my opinion.” “Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t.”
(1) The Convicting of the Believer by the Holy Spirit What in the world convinces Christians that the Holy Spirit only convicts THE WORLD of their sin? What about US? What about the many areas in which we need His divine finger to show us our bad thinking, poor choices, and misguided priorities?
We are studying God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. The reason for our study is the conviction that some Christians often either overemphasize Him or overlook Him. We need a biblical balance in understanding His ministries in the world . . . and in us!
But how does God the Holy Spirit bring about conviction of sin in the believer’s life? Again, if His primary tool is the Word of God, then the Word properly preached (or shared) is the vehicle by which the Holy Spirit brings biblical guilt into the heart of the Christian. There is, of course, unbiblical guilt which the world (and even other Christians) tries to inflict upon us. But biblical guilt occurs when the Holy Spirit gets real specific with us about something that needs to change — and we submit to His leading.
I mentioned at the beginning of this short book that I did my doctoral dissertation on John Nelson Darby’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I read most of Darby’s 55 volumes of tough theological prose and was so glad when I was done and my dissertation was approved! But one thing Darby said that stuck out to me had to do with conviction of sin. He said that conviction of sin occurs when I stop defending myself and go and stand with the Holy Spirit in condemning the sin in my life. I thought that was helpful.
Where has the Holy Spirit brought a kind of biblical guilt to your soul? Are you standing with Him and asking God to help you abandon that sin, change that habit, repent of that attitude?
The Challenge: We should be bold enough to admit sin and tell a selection of others how the Spirit led you to change.
(2) The Holy Spirit’s Help in Our Prayer Life
Romans 8 is a primary passage on God the Holy Spirit. Let’s look carefully at what Paul says there —
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Just a few notes on this incredible text:
1. There’s a lot of groaning going on! Creation has been groaning (because of its fallen condition, v. 22).
2. Believers themselves also groan inwardly as they await their adoption as sons and the redemption of their bodies (v. 23).
3. The Holy Spirit also groans! In our weakness we often don’t know what we ought to pray for. But we have the interceding ministry of the Spirit “through wordless groans” (v. 26). And His intercession for us is “in accordance with the will of God” (v. 27). How often we pray not in accordance with the will of God. But, thank God, the Spirit knows — and prays — better!
(3) The Leading of the Holy Spirit We Christians often make one of two errors about God the Holy Spirit: we either overemphasize Him or we overlook Him. We are studying what some have called the “Shy Member of the Trinity” and we have already shown that as a Person we can have a relationship with Him. And as God, we can and should worship Him.
The next ministry of God the Holy Spirit that we want to consider is His leading. If He is indeed personal, He can lead the people of God. But, we must ask, what saith the Scriptures?
Matthew 4:1 [ Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness ] Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Acts 13 1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.
Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
How does God the Holy Spirit lead His people? God has certainly used dreams and visions in the Word of God to move His children in certain directions (one thinks of the Apostle Peter in Acts 10). Should we strive for and long for dreams and visions today? If we do, it seems we are minimizing the Word of God and the Spirit’s leading the people of God through the people of God! What I mean is, isn’t it the case that most of what the Spirit does today He does mediately? By “mediately” we mean through human instruments. He does not appear to perform His ministries today primarily immediately (not as to time, but as to solitary directness).
The idea of “finding the will of God,” by the way, is not a magical quest that only a few Christians are able to successfully complete. In fact, Dr. Bruce Waltke rightly suggests that some forms of “seeking God’s will” smack more of divination than devotion. His excellent book Finding the Will of God is subtitled A Pagan Notion?
How does God lead you? Isn’t it through a face-to-face encounter with God’s truth in God’s Word? Isn’t it through a believer who loves you enough to tell you the truth about something hard? Isn’t it in the quietness of your soul when you pray and ask God to move your heart to seek Him more deeply?
A Challenge: How has God the Holy Spirit led you? Sometimes we must simply step out in faith and trust God as He leads us. We are, afterall, to walk by faith and not by sight.
(4) The Assurance of the Holy Spirit
We want to consider the internal ministry of assurance which the Spirit of God gives the believer. We read again in Romans 8 —
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
What we see in these incredible verses from Romans 8 ought to bring encouragement to the believer’s heart. It is by the Spirit that we cry, “Abba, Father” (v. 15).
What about when you’ve really blown it as a believer and you think, “There’s no way that God loves me right now or calls me His child!”? We read in verse 16- “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we re God’s children.”
God the Holy Spirit assures us that we are His children. And not only that, but we are heirs — “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (v. 17). The biblical doctrine of assurance is one ministry of the Spirit of God to our hearts — and it ought to calm our hearts and steady our minds in living for Him!
The Challenge: Are you listening to the Spirit’s internal words to you, assuring you of your place in God’s family? As you read the Word, be aware of his voice of encouragement and assurance.
1. What is the Spirit’s primary tool in bringing conviction to the believer’s heart?
2. How exactly does the Spirit help us in our prayer lives?
3. What are some dangers in our asking the Spirit of God to “lead” us?
4. How does the Spirit’s ministry of assurance differ from the sin of presumption?