Dare To Discern – The Holy Spirit (Part 1)

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,
If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of his.” – Romans 8:9b

       In this Dare to Discern series I have touched on different subjects such as discerning spirits, fruit, error, cults, heresy, false prophets, angels, and demons. But did you know that Christians also need to know how to discern whether the Holy Spirit is in us, in our lives, and in our churches, when He is manifest (present, moving, working and speaking)?

      Even though born again believers confess that they believe in the Godhead (triune God) as “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost” many have a very limited knowledge of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and fewer still have an intimate relationship with Him. Yet consider that the Holy Spirit can be found throughout the entire Bible from the beginning to the end (Genesis 1:2 to Revelation 22:17). Romans 8:16 tells believers, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” The question is do you have that witness in your spirit?

      It must be understood what the Holy Spirit is, and what He is not. The Holy Spirit is a Person. To define a person: A person must have a mind—he or she is able to think and act upon his or her thinking; a person has his or her own will; a person possesses self-identity and emotions and is able to react cognitively. (For further study, see Let Us Reason Ministries for a comprehensive list of Scriptural references on the Person of the Holy Spirit: http://www.letusreason.org/Trin4.htm and http://www.dtl.org/trinity/study/person.htm for an extensive list of proof texts. For a list of names of the Holy Spirit, see: http://godonthe.net/HolySpirit/snames.htm ).

          What the Holy Spirit is not: He is not “the force” of eastern mysticism as presented in Star Wars. (Note: The Anti-Christ “in his estate shall…honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour…” Daniel 11:38. [Emphasis added.] He is not “Divine Science” as the cult of so-called “Christian Science” teaches. He is not the “spirit of some holy person who has once lived in the flesh which is what spiritualists believe. The Holy Spirit is not “the invisible active force of Almighty God that moves his servants to do his will” nor is He “God’s Active Force, but not a person” as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Scientology ignores the Holy Spirit and followers are urged to “follow their inner spirit.” In Mormonism the Holy Spirit is explained this way: “The Holy Ghost is a ‘personage of Spirit.’ He does not have a body of flesh and bones, like the Father and the Son. He is ‘the influence of deity, the light of Christ, or of Truth’ and He ‘can only be in one place at one time’ although he emanates from Deity like electricity or the universal ether…which fills the earth and the air, and is everywhere present.’” In the Unification Church the “Holy Spirit is a female Spirit. She also cleanses the sins of the people in order to restore them, thus indemnifying the sin committed by Eve…the Holy Spirit, being female (negativity) in working on earth. There must be a True Mother with the True Father, in order to give rebirth to fallen children as children of goodness. She is the Holy Spirit.” As for Unity, they believe that “the Father is Principle, the Son is that Principle revealed in the creative plan, and the Holy Spirit is the executive power of both the Father and the Son, carrying out the plan.” In addition they believe “Spirit is substance…that invisible, intangible but real something which as its indestructible core and cause stands under, or at the center of, every visible thing in existence.” In Wicca (which, by the way, is gaining in popularity) they say “It really matters little whether we associate with the divine as the ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ or “The One, Goddess and God.’” In their rituals “divine forces or nature spirits are invoked.” Wiccans believe in “multiple spirits rather than adherence to one Holy Spirit” (Of course these “spirits” are demons.) Basically, the New Age Movement (which embraces many esoteric beliefs and practices, mysticism, Eastern religions, mind-science religions, and a whole host of Satanic deceptions far too numerous to mention here) declares that the Holy Spirit “reveals itself through progressive revelation.”  Those who practice the mysteries of ancient paganism, or magic, refer to Lucifer as the “Light Bearer” and call him the “Holy Spirit.”

          Is your head spinning yet? Never forget the warning, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” 2 John 9. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20.

      Here are a few facts about the Person of the Holy Spirit in a nutshell: Romans 8:27, the Holy Spirit has a mind (proving he is personal). Romans 15:30, He has love which only those with intelligence and personality express. Ephesians 4:30, He can be grieved. Hebrews 10:29, He can be insulted. He can also be blasphemed. Matthew 12:32 tells us all sins committed against the Son will be forgiven but the sin against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This certainly affirms that He is neither a force nor a mere creature. Only an eternal sin cannot be forgiven, which means it is against the eternal God.

      God desires that His children grow to maturity in Christ, leaving behind their spiritual life on the “low lands” of immaturity, compromise, tolerance, assumptions, superstition, and willful ignorance of the Person and power of the Holy Spirit. If we are to grow and mature as Christians we simply cannot afford to ignore the high calling of God to not only learn of Christ through His Word as revealed by the Holy Spirit, but to worship Him in “Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24.)  It is up to each individual to consecrate him or herself (set self apart for God) in order to answer the high calling of God to individually and personally “know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” Philippians 3:10. We learn of Him (through the Word), and we know Him (by personal experience) as we walk with Him, obey Him, and discern the voice, and work of the Holy Spirit. “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” 1 John 2:27.

      Does this, then, mean that we have no need of man to teach us anything? No, it does not. In the current February issue of The Berean Call, Tom McMahon answers this question: “Peter tells us that the Bible did not have its origin in the thoughts or will of men; rather, holy men of God spoke and wrote what the Holy Spirit communicated to them (2 Pt 1:21). Not only did the Scriptures come by the Holy Spirit, but we’re told that to truly understand God’s Word, we must have the Holy Spirit to teach us (1 Cor: 2:11-14). So no one can deny the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit regarding both scriptural inspiration and illumination. However, by taking the position that you plan to exclude everyone but the Holy Spirit in learning what the Word of God says, you’ve already missed part of the Holy Spirit’s instruction.

      “Teaching is a function of believers in Christ. The Great Commission includes the command to teach all nations to observe all things that Christ taught His disciples (Mt 28:19-20). One of the principal ministries in the body of Christ is that of teacher (1 Cor: 12:28); the selection of elders includes as a criterion the ability to teach (1 Tm 3:2); and Galatians: 6:6 tells the person who is taught to share in all good things with him who teaches. God has gifted the church with these individuals who have the ability to teach ‘for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,’ and this process is to continue until ‘we all come in the unity of the faith’ as well as maturity in Christ (Eph: 4:11-13). If you read on in Ephesians you will find that teachers are also given to help us grow in discernment (v. 14), even to recognizing false teachers. At best, to deny the value of those whom God has gifted as teachers is to miss His grace and ministry to His own, through His own.

      “We can appreciate the frustration you have with teachers who miss the mark, either in part or for the most part. The Scriptures are not naïve with regard to the problem of false teachers. Paul warns about them with tears (Acts: 20:30-31); Peter and John also raise strong concerns (2 Pt 2:1; 2 Jn 7). When the full counsel of Scripture is considered, you can see that avoiding all teachers doesn’t solve the problem of false teachers. A godly teacher (who can instruct in discernment) is merely a vessel of the Holy Spirit; for anything to be truly worthwhile from such an individual, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit within him. However, when a teacher relies upon his own wisdom or flesh rather than the Holy Spirit, he has, at the very least, polluted the truth. Granted, human vessels are not the most trustworthy instruments, but God has chosen them for service and has given safeguards: His Word and His Spirit.

      “When John wrote ‘ye need not that any man teach you (1 Jn: 2:27) he wasn’t contradicting those Scriptures previously mentioned. He was referring to false teachers (v. 26) and stating that the anointing of the Holy Spirit (v. 20) would enable the believer to discern what was true and what was false. Being like the Bereans (Acts: 17:10-1) is the biblical solution to recognizing whether or not a teacher is in line with the truth. Remember, it says they received ‘with all readiness of mind’ Paul’s teaching and searched the Scriptures daily to see if what he had to say was true to God’s Word. Paul taught under the power of the Holy Spirit, and it was the same Spirit who enabled those Berean Jews to recognize scriptural truth. That’s the way it has to be for godly teachers and those who want to learn and grow in the faith, no matter how confusing and deceptive the days become.”

      God’s will is that we become “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10; 4:12) but this cannot be accomplished if we, like spoiled children at a dinner party insist on picking and choosing what we will “accept” and what we will “reject” in our lives, homes, and churches when it comes to the Word, the Spirit, and the truth. Our God is One God, the Godhead is Three in One, and the universal Church (the Body of Christ) is one Body. Therefore, any attempts by man to fragment, separate or divide this Oneness will meet with judgment. Knowing this, then, why is the third Person of the Godhead “separated” by being ignored, shunned, vexed, grieved, and quenched by most churches, while in some religious circles and movements He is grossly  misrepresented and outright blasphemed? You cannot divide Christ. You cannot divide the Godhead. You cannot have God without Christ, and you cannot have Christ without the Holy Spirit. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” 1 John 5:7, 8. What this verse means is that the Spirit puts His identifying mark on a matter, the water (God’s Word) confirms a matter, and the blood reminds and ties each believer into an everlasting covenant. In the end, these three will serve as witnesses against those who reject the Holy Spirit, disobey His Word, and show contempt towards the covenant that was established by the blood of Jesus.

      There may be no singularly simply answer to the question of why there is such a profound difference between the power of the Spirit-filled pilgrim Church and the post-modern Church (which is largely man-centered, not Christ centered.) However, one thing is certain and that is church history offers a broad perspective that cannot be dismissed concerning the powerless state of contemporary churches, which, sadly, also reveals a systematic failure to disciple people in the whole Word of God as Jesus commanded. While there may be a fair supply of regurgitated milk, most of what is being served up to the Body of Christ in our era (in addition to people-pleasing, ear-tickling “sermonettes” from cheer leaders for Jesus) comes through “Christian” TV, “best-selling” books, movies, and other media, and is nothing more than flesh-pleasing “cotton candy” for the soul. The Holy Spirit is not in it, nor did He inspire it. Consider the reason Jesus sent the Comforter to us—to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” John 16:8b. When was the last time you were convicted of sin to the innermost part of your being in light of the holiness and righteousness of God, and repented in fear of the judgment to come?

      Without the manifest presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches we are facing a serious and sobering reality—only a remnant will have enough oil to keep their light burning through the long, dark night that is coming. Jesus asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” Luke 18:8b? If you are not born again of the Spirit, you are not saved. Period. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water [the Word] and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” John 3:5-8. (Addition mine.)

      The Holy Spirit is indispensable to the Body of Christ. After His resurrection Jesus surprised his gathered disciples by appearing among them even though the doors were locked. This is when He commissioned them for service and said, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” John 20:21, 22. To quote from Ken Butcher’s book, The Church – What On Earth Is It? “Jesus imparted the breath of new life to the embryonic spiritual “body of Christ” just as when Jehovah Elohim first gave life to Adam’s physical body He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’” (Genesis 2:7). Ken explains, “At that moment that small ekklesia received the Holy Spirit and was joined to Christ in the Spirit: ‘he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him’” 1 Corinthians 6:17. He reminds us, “James says of the natural body: ‘the body without the spirit is dead James 2:26.’ Is the spiritual ‘body of Christ’ any less dead without the Spirit of Christ? Can she be any more than a lifeless shell?”

      Before His ascension into Heaven, Jesus told His followers, “…behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” Luke 24:49. [Emphasis added]. Then they returned to Jerusalem and went into an upper room where the disciples, including the women and Jesus’ mother, Mary, and His brethren “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” (Acts 1:13,14). Try to imagine that you lived in Jerusalem at this time, and you were a follower of Jesus. Try to see yourself in one accord with the disciples in prayer and supplication, waiting for the “promise from on high.” Imagine you are part of what happened as recorded in Acts 2:1-4 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost….”

      If the Body of Christ is to experience revival, it is clear that whenever we gather together with other believers to seek the Lord, pray, and worship Him, we need to all be in “one accord.” This means agreement in the Spirit, and in truth. In the Lord’s Prayer for His disciples, He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth…And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” John 17:17, 19-23. [Emphasis added.] Without this oneness in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in our assemblies, there can be no true revival because the Holy Spirit will not descend on that which is defiled with “mixed spirits” such as outlined in the fourth paragraph of this article. To be in one accord also means that brokenness and repentance for sin has taken place.

      Ken Butcher explains, “The corporate unity of the disciples provided a holy and welcoming receptacle for the Holy Spirit. He empowered the union between Christ and His body and between the members of the body. His indwelling presence released supernatural power and gifting to ‘the body of Christ’ and many acts of power took place through the Holy Spirit. He came to dwell in the church. He came to stay. God no longer dwelt in a ‘temple made with hands’ but in the living temple made up of the many members of ‘the body of Christ’. Each member was a temple of the Holy Spirit and was joined by the Holy Spirit into one corporate unity that comprised the greater temple of ‘the body of Christ’. Not long after the day of Pentecost those assembled were filled with the Spirit again: ‘when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 4:31).

      In the early church one way the presence of the Holy Spirit was manifest was through the operation of spiritual gifts. Paul referred to the gifts of the Spirit functioning in “the body of Christ”. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” Ephesians 4:3, 4. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bound or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:13. Ken Butcher explains, “If someone had not been baptized by Him into the one body, that person had no part in that body. This baptism is not water baptism or necessarily the same experience as receiving Holy Spirit power and gifting for service and witness (these things may be experienced concurrently but often it is not so). This baptism is about the individual being bonded, incorporated and subsumed, into the one ‘body of Christ’ by the regenerative action of the Holy Spirit. Participation in the one Spirit’ is the essence of ‘the unity of the Spirit’. This is an organic unity through the common interconnecting life flow of each member of ‘the body of Christ’ by the Spirit of Christ.

      “The more ‘the body of Christ’ experiences the reality of an ungrieved Holy Spirit the greater the experiential awareness of the spiritually organic unity between the members and their Head and between each of the members. But if the Holy Spirit is so intrinsic to ‘the body of Christ’ why is there such little awareness of His presence now? Why is Pentecost a distant historic memory in many churches rather than an ongoing reality? Has the Holy Spirit been offended?”

      My answer to Ken’s question is an unequivocal “Yes!” Next month we will continue this study of the Person of the Holy Spirit.