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The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit (Chapter 6)

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.

Study Questions:
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?

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Posted by on November 7, 2019 in The Holy Spirit


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Please pray for My Saturday Seminar — October 5!!!


Posted by on October 5, 2019 in ministry


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Time for a Great Quote from Corrie Ten Boom — On Prayer!

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Posted by on October 2, 2019 in prayer


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Time for a Great Quote: Philip Yancey on PRAYER

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Posted by on September 30, 2019 in prayer


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Pray for My Upcoming Ministry! (September through November)

Friends: It’s so good to be in the battle, right? Would you pray for the following opportunities for ministry for me and Linda?

September 23-24 – Heritage Retreat, Camp Elim, Woodland Park, Colorado. I’ll be speaking to the supporters of the Camp on 2 Corinthians 12 and the theme will be “Living NOW in Light of the FUTURE.”

September 28-October 7 – Linda and I will be in the pagan land of New Jersey. I will speak to the believers at Cedarcroft Bible Chapel on September 29 and October 6. In Sunday School I will discuss I Timothy 3 on those two Sundays. I will also conduct a Saturday seminar on October 5 on my book Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World. We will stay with Linda’s 93-year-old mom and catch up on missed episodes of “Little House on the Prairie.”

October 18-November 11 – I will travel to Ethiopia and Zambia to teach in two schools there. Please pray for my preparations for that trip — and for safety!

November 16-17 – Cedar Valley Bible Church’s “Second Coming Conference” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My theme will be “What Difference Does the Future Make? The Practical Application of Prophecy” and I will be preaching on three passages: I Thessalonians 4, 2 Peter 3, and I John 3.

I really want to dedicate this next year to seeking to influence churches in the area of friendship evangelism. Please pray for opportunities to have my “Unlike Jesus” seminar in many places!

Thanks for your prayers, my friends!

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Posted by on September 7, 2019 in ministry


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Living Now in Light of the Future (A Series of Messages on 2 Corinthians 12) Part 7

Linda and I are looking forward to September 23-24 when we will be speaking to the supporters of Camp Elim in Colorado. These posts give me the opportunity to work on my messages (from 2 Corinthians 12) for the Heritage Retreat.

Let’s look at our text one more time:

Paul’s experience of heaven was dramatically different from the often silly and unbiblical reports of people who say they have toured heaven.

We don’t need their testimonies — we have the Word of God to guide us.

We saw that the first challenge in Living Now in Light of the Future is that we have a biblical view of boasting (vv. 1-6).

Our second challenge from this text is that we have a clear focus on the future (vv. 2 & 4 & 7). Having a clear focus on the future does not mean that we try to explain all the sights and sounds of heaven — but we allow its superlative nature to silence us into awe and wonder!

Let’s notice a third challenge from our text that will help us live now in light of the future. Because of the reality of our future we are given —

III. A Practical Primer on Prayer (vv. 8-9)

“Primer” is an old word meaning either (1) an elementary book for teaching children to read; or, (2) any book of elementary principles. Well, we don’t have a book here, but we are given — through Paul’s example — a model of prayer which we ought to follow.

There are, of course, various kinds of prayer in the Scriptures. I find it helpful to use the ACTS formula (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). Here in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul’s prayer is of the supplication kind, don’t you think? He has a desperate need — and he brings it to the Lord for resolution.

What is Paul’s need? He is talking about an incredible, superior experience of getting a glimpse (both auditory and visual) of heaven! What possible needs could he now have?! Ah, he receives a “gift” for his experience. He says in verse 7 – “in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” What?!?!?!

God gave Paul a “thorn in the flesh” which Paul describes as “a messenger of Satan”! Scholars have long debated what Paul’s “thorn” was (malaria, Judaizers plaguing him, etc.). My suggestion is that it was a vision problem, for he says in the book of Galatians things like “See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (6:11) and “if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (4:15). He does refer to this thorn as his “weakness” (vv. 5, 9ff), a Greek term which normally refers to a physical problem.

[One can’t help but think of another “Saul” who had a similar experience. Of King Saul we read — “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.” (I Sam. 16:14)].

What do we learn about PRAYER from Paul here?
1. We learn that it is never wrong to pray for something more than once. Paul “pleaded with the Lord” three times for the thorn to be taken away.
2. We learn that we are to submit to God’s will and not become disillusioned when God doesn’t answer our prayers as we think He should.
3. We learn about His sufficient grace — that it becomes most real to us in our “weaknesses.”
4. We learn that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

You may have heard the story of Bill’s meeting with his pastor. “Pastor,” he said, “I have the worst temper! I fly off the handle at my wife and my kids. It’s terrible! I guess it’s just my ‘thorn in the flesh.'” “Bill,” the pastor said, “your temper is not your ‘thorn in the flesh.’ It’s your wife’s thorn in the flesh! But it’s your SIN!”












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Posted by on August 15, 2019 in 2 Corinthians 12


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The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit — PRAYING IN the Holy Spirit!

Some Christians tend to overemphasize the Holy Spirit, while others of us tend to overlook Him. Because we need a balanced, biblical view of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we are writing these posts, asking how are we to relate to Him? Because He is personal, we can pray to Him — and, because He is God, we can worship Him. Neither of these two actions ought to be understood as taking the place of our primary calling of worshiping the Lord Jesus. The Spirit’s major role is to glorify the Lord Jesus!

Apart from the many ministries that the Holy Spirit has in the believer’s life, we need to consider how we respond to Him. Scripture tells us not to grieve Him in Ephesians 4:30 (“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.“).

But we have a fascinating command in the one-chapter epistle of Jude where he writes, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit . . .”

What in the world does it mean to “pray in the Holy Spirit”? This expression is used only one other time in Scripture and that is in Ephesians 6:18 where we read, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Does “praying in the Spirit” refer to the use of some supernatural, unlearned language? Some in the charismatic movement refer to “heavenly babbling,” the speaking “in other tongues.” However, when we examine the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples spoke in known dialects so that the gospel could be understood by people from various backgrounds.

There is  nothing in the context of Jude 1 or of Ephesians 6 that would indicate that other-worldly languages are being referred to by the expression “praying in the Holy Spirit” or “pray in the Spirit.” May I suggest a rather mundane, but hopefully accurate view of this practice and that would be — We should pray in accordance with the Spirit’s ministries. In other words, in Jude the challenge is to stand strong for the gospel. To build ourselves up in our most holy faith involves praying that the Holy Spirit would have His way in our lives, that we would listen to His promptings, that we would obey His teaching of God’s truth. In Ephesians our praying in the Spirit concerns others — We are to pray “in the Spirit” on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. This involves being alert and consistent in praying for all the Lord’s people.

Conclusion: We pray in the Spirit when we are aware of His works in our lives and we ask His help in doing our work for God. The self-work we do is to strengthen ourselves in God’s truth. The others-work we do is to intercede for God’s people.

The Challenge: Are you praying in the Holy Spirit? Take one of His ministries to you and ask Him to help you co-operate with His work in your life!


















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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in The Holy Spirit


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