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Entries in The Holy Spirit (2)


Let the Spirit Descend

Today we are going to continue discovering the True Jesus as we look at His water baptism and the signs from God following it.  In Luke 3:21-22 we are given a very brief account of the baptism of Jesus.  Luke focuses on the signs that were given at the baptism.  However, in the other gospels we are able to pick up other important details of this event.

We Resist The Holy Spirit

In Matthew 3:14 we are told that when Jesus came to John in order to be baptized, John tried to prevent him.  Now it is obvious that the wicked will resist the Spirit of God and His leading.  And, we can see how even those who claim to know Him can resist where He is leading (i.e. Pharisees, and Sadducees).  Yet, here we see that even those who are closest to the Lord can let their own thoughts and flesh get in the way of where God is leading.  Yes, John means well.  And, yes, what He says is true.  Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized as a means of repentance.  And John is the one who needs baptized by Jesus.  However, his mistake is in his conclusion.  We often make the mistake of good intentions.  We use human reasoning that begins with biblical truths, but then we err in our conclusions.  If Jesus truly is the Messiah, and the one who is so intimately involved with God’s Spirit that He would baptize people in the Spirit, then we should listen to him and not vice versa.

Good intentions and biblical reasoning does not always choose best.  We see this with Peter as Jesus was approaching the cross.  Peter’s reasoning cannot accept that Jesus should be killed and so he tries to prevent Jesus from believing such a fate.  However, Jesus rebukes him and points out that he is concerned with selfish reasons and not concerned about what God wants.  The sooner we can discover that we simply need to follow Jesus rather than instructing Jesus the better we will be.  In fact immediately after telling Peter he was wrong, Jesus then told his disciples that if they wanted to follow Him they would have to pick up their own cross and follow him (i.e. not only am I going to die, but you need to also). 

John is falling into this same trap.  In fact it might even send the wrong message to have Jesus baptized.  Some may think he needs repentance.  Yet, the Father and Son had worked this out in eternity past.  Let’s look at the response to John Jesus gave in Matthew 3:15, “Permit it to be so now.  For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”    Jesus didn’t rebuke John, but he did correct him.  This was not a theological debate, it was the plan of God. Pause and think about that for a moment.  Don’t we often have theological debates with God when we don’t things are headed in the right direction?  But the issue is not really about theology, but rather what is God doing.  In fact our theology should have room for this: He is God and I am not.  Therefore He will do the planning and I will do the following.

Jesus used the term “fitting.”  The best illustration I can use of this is the difference between a schematic blue print and a painting of a cathedral.  God always has a blueprint that is exact and follows certain realities and Truth.  However, He is also an artist.  And, art is not so much about rules as it is about the character and imagination of the one doing it.  Jesus being baptized was not theologically necessary, but it was an artistic flourish that was “fitting” or perfect!  It was an act of beauty in which the Father determines to reveal the messiah in an act of humility.  It also is fitting for the one who would later say pick up your cross to lead his disciples.  So here Jesus walks the path that actually leads to himself and it begins with public humility and surrender to God’s way of salvation.  Jesus was less concerned with his reputation and more concerned with our need for him.

Thus as it is fitting for Jesus to embrace the Father’s plan of revealing who He was during a water baptism, so it is fitting for us to submit to Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit in our life.  We have to be careful of an attitude and mentality that only does what is necessary or fits the blueprint that we think God should be following.  It is a signature trait of God’s that he doesn’t just do what is right.  He often blows on past what is right and does what is jaw-dropping, amazingly, beautiful, fitting, and perfect!

John didn’t understand the why, but he did understand the who, and so he relents.  If we too will relent and trust God, He will reveal the beautiful things that He is doing in our lives as well.

Confirmed With Heavenly Signs

Now let’s look at what John the Disciple had to say about this event.  In John 1:33-34, we are given a look behind the curtain from John the Baptist.  John says that initially he didn’t know who the Messiah was for sure.  But God had told him to go forth baptizing and when he saw the Spirit descend on a man and remain with him that would be the Anointed One.  So Jesus is not just the Messiah who would save Israel, but He is also the One on whom the Spirit rests.  John was actually baptizing for two reasons.  First, he baptized to prepare people for the messiah.  Second, he baptized so that God could reveal who the Messiah was. 

John testifies that he saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove come down and land upon Jesus.  But then he recognized that the Spirit stayed upon Jesus.  Just in case John would miss this, God confirms the sign by a voice from heaven.  “You are My beloved Son.  In You I am well pleased.”  These two heavenly signs were enough for John to declare that Jesus was the messiah.  They are powerful signs by themselves.  But remember John was told in advance what he would see.  John was convinced and gave himself to convincing his followers that Jesus was the messiah. 

Yet, notice how John refers to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God.”  John knew the Scriptures and recognized that Jesus didn’t just come to deliver Israel from the Romans.  Rather He came to deal with their greater enemy: sin.  He was the lamb that God provided as prophesied by Abraham on the mount with Isaac.  He was here to take away the sins of the world.

The Spirit Rests On Jesus

Let’s end by focusing on the Spirit remaining or resting upon Jesus.  Isaiah spoke of the Messiah in these terms in Isaiah 11:2 when he said that the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon Him.  Now we have several images operating here that symbolize something powerful.  So I will do my best to tie it all together.

First, notice the dove.  The dove is given as the symbol of the Holy Spirit coming down upon Jesus.  Later Jesus connects the dove with innocence or purity.  “Be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”  The dove is also connected with the Great Flood and Noah.  After God had poured out His judgment upon the earth, the dove was sent out to see if there was any life, any place it could rest itself.  This image of a pure innocent dove flapping all over the earth looking for any sign of life on which it may rest is anchored in this account for a reason.  It demonstrates the heart of God.  Even in judgment His heart and hope is to find those upon whom he can land, and rest, and with whom He can commune and have relationship.  Just as the devil goes to and fro throughout the earth like a lion seeking whom he may devour, so the Holy Spirit goes to and fro throughout the earth like a dove seeking on whom He may rest.  This helps us to understand Jesus and His role.  He is that lone olive branch that was finally found by the Holy Spirit.  And, because Jesus has been given the Spirit without measure, He in turn immerses those who believe in Him within that same Spirit.  We can become a resting place of the Spirit, not because we had life in and of ourselves, but because we have come to Jesus and received life through Him.  In fact, the Spirit is life.  Let the Spirit descend in your life.  As poetic as it may sound, you will find the Life that created the universe residing in your soul and leading you in ways that won’t always make sense, but they will end in beauty.

Spirit Descend Audio


The True Jesus: Our Preparation

During this Autumn we will be looking at the character and work of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is easy to let the stories become just that, stories with a sort of unreal sense to them.  However, we want to not just have a general sense of who Jesus is, but rather truly let God’s Word challenge us through the words and actions of this man we call the Christ, the Anointed One of God who would come to save mankind.  It may look to you today that he failed.  But that is how you feel about the statement.  We must let God’s Word challenge those suppositions and feelings that we have built up over time and see that God is calling us to Him in Trust, Faith, and Love.

The Apostle Paul spoke to this problem in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 when he wrote, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you” have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!”  With all the conspiracy theories swirling around these days regarding this man Jesus, it is imperative that we return to the simplicity of what the Gospel tells us about Jesus and ourselves.  There are many who have a vested interest in co-opting the message of Christ for their own ends and have invested much time in effort in doing just that.  Some of them are “Christian” people, some of them are merely religious, and some of them are secular.  But all of them twist the person of Jesus and His message to their own purposes.

Mainly I will be using the Gospel of Luke as our path this Fall and we will skip over the birth narratives for now and revisit them later in December.  So let’ begin in Luke 3:3-4.

The Need For Repentance

The book of Malachi ends with a reference to the prophet Elijah coming before the messiah to turn the hearts of people back to each other.  So we are going to start with the ministry of John the Baptist.  Jesus himself said that John ministered in the power and the spirit of Elijah.  In verses 3-4 of Luke 3, John is pictured as a man out in the desert crying out for people to repent.  Now in the natural there were large crowds listening to John and many people responding, but the spiritual truth of the matter is that he was in a desert place and precious few had enough spiritual life within them to even hear him.  They were as dead as the desert sand in many cases.   Why would a ministry, which was telling people the Messiah was coming, fall on deaf ears?  It wasn’t just because they no longer believed the prophecy.  It was because John defined preparation as repentance.

Now the word “remission” in verse 3 is not just our sins going into a silent period only to break out later.  But, rather it points to the removing of our sins from us.  Apparently this was something that could not be done without us first repenting.  You see, our sins are so intricately linked with our fleshly desires that even when we like the message of the coming messiah, we are not really ready for Him.  First we need the desire to be set free from our sins and then we can receive the messiah into our lives.

There is a sort of inner coalition that happens between our hearts and our minds.  The heart desires certain sinful things and then the mind employs its powers to justify, and acquire those pleasures.  This stronghold of sin within our mind is challenged by the Word of the prophet.  John warned the people that Messiah was coming.  He was coming to clean house and rescue his faithful.  Most were not being faithful.  Thus our need for repentance is the need to change how the messiah sees us when he comes.  Is it possible for a change of mind and a change of heart to happen?  Typically when people see the hold that sin has on them and the destructive paths it has led them down, they are open for change.  John comes after a long silent period from God’s prophets.  People were at the end of themselves and looking for hope.  John comes to them saying, “Repent!  The Messiah is coming!”  This starts in the mind.  The mind is able to see the captivity of the heart and see the need to turn to something better.  The heart will not like it, but it is possible to turn from a path of destruction and walk a different way, even as our heart begs to go back.  However, there is a side of this that we must note.  Without the help of God’s Spirit we would neither hear the Message of Repentance nor see the Truth to its warning.  Thus we can repent but only with the Spirit’s help.

Lastly, John challenged those following him on what real repentance was.  In Luke 3:7-14, he lists out the ways in which we demonstrate true repentance.  He uses the picture of a fruit tree and says that if we are truly repentant inside (i.e. we are a Repentance Tree) then we will grow repentance fruit, which are actions that show repentance.  The first example of repentance “fruit” is for everyone in general: If you have extra share it with those who have none.  For tax collectors, collect only what you have been appointed to collect.  For soldiers, do not abuse your power and be content with your wages.  Is John preaching salvation by works?  No.  He is talking about the preparation of our heart to receive Jesus, i.e. repentance.  If repentance is real within us then it will be demonstrated in our actions.  If we really believe that Jesus is coming then our lives will begin to reflect that belief.  If we really see that our sins are separating us from God then we will truly begin to hate the hold they have on us and begin turning from them.  Yet, without Jesus actually coming into our lives and freeing us from our sins, even repentance would end in futility.  Even when we are saved by Jesus we will still need repentance as 1 John 1:9 reminds us.  If we are faithful to confess our sins then Jesus will be faithful to cleanse us from all our sins, internally and externally.

The Need For The Holy Spirit

In verse 16 John tells them that his water baptism is lesser than the baptism Jesus will bring: a baptism of the Holy Spirit.  John’s ministry had impressed the people and they felt that he must be the messiah.  This verse speaks to the greater work of Christ.  He not only helps us repent and clean our lives, but he also places the Spirit of God within us in order to empower us in it.  Thus our preparation is in order to receive the Spirit of God from Jesus.  John’s water baptism was a symbol of the cleansing of repentance.  But it also was a symbol of what Jesus was coming to do.  He would immerse them in the Spirit of God.  This was something that even John the Baptist himself would have needed.  He definitely was moved upon by the Spirit, but immersion within the Spirit was an unthinkable thought, till now.

Now God’s Word tells us that those who believe on Jesus are given the right to be called the Sons of God and that the Spirit of God takes up residence within them so that they might cry out to God as His children.  Like the temple in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would move into them and make a totally different atmosphere in the place.  Yet, as we open ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Bible speaks of a further need of being filled with the Spirit.  This is a continual process of us surrendering and the Spirit filling.  We are to keep being filled with the Spirit.  Don’t be content to just believe Jesus can deal with your sins.  Move on to surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s direction through the Word and counsel, that He might fill your life with power to be a witness of His loving salvation.

 John had said that the Messiah would baptize in the Holy Spirit and Fire.  Now some refer to this as a feeling of fire within our heart when we are baptized.  However, the context rather points to a choice we have.  God Himself is a consuming fire.  If we are not repentant that fire is a fire of judgment.  If we are repentant then it is a fire of cleansing.  So this is more a warning of judgment than anything else.

The Need For Perseverance

Lastly, I would point us to Luke 3:20.  Here we see that John’s message of repentance was not received well by those who had great earthly power.  Jesus promised his disciples in John 16:33 that they would experience tribulation in this world.  He clearly expected this to continue throughout the Church Age.  Because we live in the West, it is easy for us to believe that persecution is rare or that it is a sign that we don’t have enough faith.  John the Baptist clearly didn’t expect to die in prison.  The Messiah was coming!  Yet, we see him later in prison asking his disciples to double check with Jesus and see if he truly was the Messiah (i.e. was I wrong?). 

No one likes to be told their actions are sinful.  Thus if we are going to be faithful to Jesus and warn the world to repent because the Messiah is coming, then we had better expect some flak coming back at us.  Herod the Tetrarch had basically seduced his half-brother’s wife, and divorced his own wife so that he could marry her.  He eventually has John beheaded for daring to call him to repentance.  How tragic for Herod and how hard for John this was.  Yet John was soon comforted and Herod continued down to destruction.  We also need perseverance if we are the one who needs to repent.  Our heart and mind will revolt against such treasonous ideas.  If we are not truly in need of help then the “Good News” of Jesus ceases to be good news.  Somewhere somehow, no matter where you live, if you tell people that they actually NEED Jesus because of a sin problem you will face negative responses.

Perseverance or patience is actually the choice to remain under the heavy load that we want to drop.  Perseverance doesn’t demand anything of God.  It only says, “I won’t quit, even if it crushes me.”  Perhaps John felt like he was being crushed.  But He went on to His reward.  If we demand anything of God before obedience then we will eventually throw in the towel and quit.  And in our minds will be the words, He asks too much, He abandoned me, He doesn’t care.  Which, of course, we know these things are not true.

The True Jesus audio