Tag Archives: The Holy Spirit

The Whole Counsel of God: What is it?

 

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Acts 20:27  (NKJ)

One of the things this nation is not short on is advice.  If you turn on the television, every station has its personal brand of advice—The Real, The Talk, The View.  And let’s not forget social media.

Life and spiritual coaches have been added to the deluge of resources ready to “create a better life for you”.  Online counseling by Chat, Video or Phone.  Get Help and Get Happy.  Therapy Anytime, Anywhere.   Each of these resources and programs are targeting different groups of viewers—boomers, millennials, Xers to influence their thoughts and actions.  And the real question is influence for what?

If ever there was a need for reliable counsel, it is now!

Definition of Counsel

The noun “counsel” means advice, especially that given formally.  Counsel is synonymous with guidance, direction and instruction.  The Hebrew word that best communicates the concept of counsel is ‘esah, which adds purpose or plan to the definition.   It is both used of God’s counsel and of human counsel.

Counsel Given—Counsel Received  

The Old Testament portrays counsel as that which is usually given to kings (1 Chron. 13:1).  Counsel may have come from trusted advisors but more frequently through God’s prophets (Deut. 18:14-21).

Proverbs suggests that one should seek counsel from many with the thought that human beings are limited and need contributors to be sure all alternatives are considered (Prov. 11:14;  Prov. 20:18).

In the New Testament, especially in the church, though they were a close-knit fellowship, involved in one another’s lives, there is almost nothing about counsel or acting on the advice of others.  The closest thing to “counsel” would have been that given to the early churches via apostolic letters.

Regardless of the counsel received, no advice or counsel frees the person’s responsibility for making his or her own choice. Such was the case in our text as Paul gives instructions to the Ephesian elders.

What constitutes “the whole” ?

What is the “whole counsel of God”?  If you search different Bible versions for clarity, you may still be left asking, “What is it?”  In our text, the different Bible versions read, “the whole counsel of God” (ESV) or “the whole will of God” (NIV) or “the whole purpose of God” (NASB).

The phrase the whole counsel of God was introduced by Paul in Acts 20:27 in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church.  In this context, the whole counsel of God refers to the “gospel message”.

Paul spoke the complete gospel—the whole truth about God’s salvation including the “mystery” of God extending His plan of salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews (Ep. 3:9).  Paul’s declaration of the “whole counsel of God” made him “innocent” of anyone’s decision to reject God’s truth as revealed, at that time.

The whole counsel of God, in summary, is God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will.  God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

Paul witnessed to the fact that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, NRS).   The Bible is the “play book” which helps believers live in alignment with God’s will and in right relationship with one another.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers relate God’s truth to present situations—guiding them in actions they are to take.   Although the Spirit may use any number of avenues to help believers sense His direction, He ultimately guides us to decisions that are in harmony with what God purposes for us (Jer. 10:23).

Living in 21st century, postmodern America, it is critical that we have access to good counsel.  We need counsel that is sure and dependable; trustworthy and timeless.  We need counsel to help us live out of the heart God created for us.  We need the whole counsel of God.

We will continue next week with this series, “The Whole Counsel of God.”

Things Revealed

The secret things belong to the LORD our God,

but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever,

that we may follow all the words of this law. Deut. 29:29 (NIV)

It is the nature of man to be curious about “secret things”—things that are yet to be revealed; things that remain hidden from immediate view. This curiosity has led to man’s fascination with astrology, fortune telling and other “future gazing” activities. Secret things have contributed to the bizarre growth in social media followings, gossip tabloids and entertainment shows that uncover the latest exposés of the rich and the famous. As the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, they were more than curious as to what secret things God had planned for their lives. Moses addressed their curiosity with a clever statement of fact about the revelations of God that still holds true today—“the secret things belong to the LORD but the things revealed belong to us.”

The secret things are those things known only to God. The prophet Isaiah best captures this truth in the difference between human and divine knowledge: “His (God’s) thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. As the heavens are higher than earth, so are His ways and thoughts higher than ours” (Isa. 55:8-9). While man may feel that he has the right to be aware of all plans pertaining to his future, it is sovereign God who ultimately determines what needs to be known and what must be accepted by faith alone. “The just shall live by faith” is an iconic expression of trust and hope that encourages believers to proceed without all the answers confident in God’s goodness and greatness (Jer. 29:11-13).

The things that belong to us are those truths which God has communicated through His Holy Spirit and through His Word. With the coming of Pentecost, believers were gifted with the Holy Spirit to live within them. Jesus provided not only a Comforter with the Holy Spirit but also His Presence to guide believers in all truth (John 16:13). God’s Word continues to reveal His nature and His never ending love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God discloses Himself as the Master Creator seeking to restore His relationship with His beloved Creature. The greatest evidence of God’s persistence and love is His plan of salvation resulting in man’s freedom from the penalty of death, our reconciliation with the Father, power to live victoriously, and the promise of eternal life, beginning now (1 John 3:2).

Through the things that belong to us we gain a thorough knowledge of God and what is needed to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3). Our challenge will come in our ability to walk in the truth that God has revealed to us and to obediently follow His directions. Shifting societal and moral norms will force believers to “stand fast” in that which has been clearly revealed by God (Eph. 6:11-13; 2 Thess. 2:15). Such shifts will lead to continual rejection of Christian beliefs and persecution by this fallen world (2 Tim. 3:12). However, Jesus has more than adequately prepared us for such a time as these: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As believers we need not concern ourselves with the secret things we don’t know BUT to trust and obey that which we do know.

What do we do with Sin?

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.       1 John 1:8 (RSV)

What do we do with sin?  For too long this question has been asked only by theologians and scholars as they “pontificate” over spiritual things.  But the people who should be asking this question are those who are currently stewards of God’s grace, desiring that God’s “kingdom will come”—to our nation, to our churches, and more importantly, to our homes.

Unfortunately, the people of God have allowed the “elephant in the room” (sin in disguise) to go unchallenged. We express concern over the national debt, growing unemployment, and the decline of the middle class.  But what do we do with sin?

As crime increases in our communities, we demand more police surveillance and create neighborhood watch groups.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for more social programs and outreach.  But what do we do with sin?

It is a subject that is glaringly absent in our discussions concerning the plight of our world especially in our church pulpits.

Many of the issues we face in society are as a result of sin. 

They originate from thoughts and feeling that focus on activities that satisfy personal (and usually) selfish desires (James 1:14-15).  These desires are then acted upon by the will (spirit and heart) which has the power to do what is good—or evil.  Social reform and political posturing cannot affect these human dime nsions. What then is the remedy for the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)?

God has devised His plan of redemption to deal with the issue of sin. 

It is “grace-based”, no longer requiring His forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  He became, through His Son, the just and the justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).  Faith would be the starting point and the end would be a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  He would replace the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh and place His Spirit within man that would cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).  Then man and God would once again be reconciled (Col. 1:21).

What do we do with sin?  We must first recognize it by comparing it with the will and counsel of God.   This requires reading His Word, being fervent in prayer, and seeking spiritual discernment. It is time to unmask sin for what it is.  If you personally, are in the midst of sin, first confess and repent quickly.  God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1: 19).  Then reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and no longer let it have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!

Press In

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJ)

This month we’ve been exploring the biblical truth that God is in and among us—continually, without interruption, 7X24.  We experience God through our personal fellowship with Him and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  However, there may be times when we don’t “feel” God.  We feel estranged from Him, alone, and unable to hear His voice.  Be assured, this is a common experience for believers.  The resolution for this spiritual occurrence, however, is not to curb our prayer life or cease in reading His Word.  During those times, it is imperative that we “press in.”

Disturbing Quietness

There are seasons in my life when it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice.  I’m not talking about unanswered prayer but times of “disturbing quietness” when l must strain to hear Him—if I hear Him at all.  As I shared this experience, I found other believers had been through similar seasons of silence.  Interestingly, we all described it as a period when we “didn’t hear His voice.”

 In Search of an Answer

When I first experienced this quietness, I began to the search my heart for sins I might have committed yet failed to confess.  It was the sin of Adam that separated him and Eve from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.  Later Adam and Eve would experience the physical death of their body—the final separation from the world God had created for them.  I asked God to forgive me of my sins, yet I still felt disconnected from my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

My next effort was to examine my devotion time with Him.  I would increase my time of reading His Word.  Psalm 119 became my “song book” as I sought to hear His voice.

  • I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v. 16)
  • I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. (v. 26)
  • Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (v. 151)
  • May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. (v. 169)

I would rise early to pray—leaving more time to “listen” and less to speak.  I would “draw near” with a sincere heart with expectations that He would do likewise (James 4:8; Heb. 10:22).  I would dedicate my day to praise and worship.  If God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3), He would surely respond to me as I emptied myself to Him.  Yet with all the modifications to my devotional time, I couldn’t hear Him.  After many days of silence, I finally experienced a breakthrough.

Learning to Press in

In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge shared his insight into my situation.

Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throne room. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a  distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out.  And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy and anything less drives us crazy on the inside. It is at those times that we need to press into God like you never have in your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment.  

God’s periods of quietness were an invitation to draw closer to Him—to “press in.”  More than proximity, He desires to establish an intimate friendship with us that is walked out through the course of our everyday lives. He is not looking for a segment of our day nor a day of the week.  He desires unbroken communion with us.  So on those occasions when it appears that “you can’t hear God”, press in!  Be of good courage for He is ever near (Ps. 73:28).  Press in!  Eagerly and unabashedly pursue Him, the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Press in!

SELAH:  Read Psalm 63:1-8.  Write in your journal the ways that David “pressed in” to God during his time in the wilderness.  Read the text again using a different translation or paraphrase.  Then ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to “press in”.     

The Holy Spirit of Pentecost

“And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able…” Acts 1:8a (MSG)

This past Sunday was designated as Pentecost on the Christian calendar. It is celebrated in churches across the nation and around the world fifty days after Easter. Many churches dress their altars in the color red to symbolize the fire of Pentecost as well as the apostles and early followers of Jesus who were gathered in the Upper Room for the empowerment from God to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

Pentecost or the Feast of the Weeks, was one of the three major feasts mandated by God for the Jewish people to observe (Deut. 16:16; Ex. 23:14, 15). It is to be celebrated fifty (50) days after the Passover Feast.  With the completed work of salvation by Jesus Christ—His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—Pentecost now takes on a new dimension and meaning for Christians with the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

It was the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence that would enable Jesus’ disciples to continue the work He had begun. As importantly, Pentecost marked the availability of the Holy Spirit to everyone who would “call upon the name of Jesus” (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:38); collectively, individuals responding in faith would form the Church promised by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 16:18).  While we may know about the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, it is even more important to fully grasp the enormity of His Presence within us.

Deity is living within us!

I love the way Jesus described this phenomenon: “I (Jesus) in them (Believers) and You (God) in me, (so) that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23a). Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost we are in need of the Holy Spirit’s power and direction as we live for God’s glory. Pentecost is not only a day on the church calendar but it is an invitation to join with the Triune God in Their ministry of deliverance, wholeness, and grace (Eph. 2:10).

Stormie Omartian describes our ministry with the Holy Spirit this way:

God wants to lead you to places you cannot get to without Him, and He does that by the power of His Spirit. He can bring you into the realm of the miraculous-not as a show, but as a demonstration of His love and compassion for the lost, hurting, or needy. Who among us doesn’t want or need that?

SELAH:  What question(s) do you have about the Holy Spirit?  Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to know about the Holy Spirit in order to make His presence real in your life.  Journal what God says to you.

CLICK HERE  to learn more about Pentecost

The Presence of the Lord

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  John 14:16-17 (NIV)

This month, we will be focusing on the topic “God in and Among Us.”  We have chosen this topic because we believe that once we fully understand that God is present with us—continually, without interruption, 7X24—we will live more dependent upon Him and “to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14).  Last week we opened this series with the Pentecost event (Acts 2) and the arrival of the promised Holy Spirit.  This week we will begin to examine how His presence impacts the life of believers and the Church.

For three and one-half years, Christ built a spiritual community with His disciples.  It was one of great love and intimacy.  As Jesus’ ministry expanded, the disciples grew in faith and confidence as they experienced the presence of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46) who had the words of eternal life (John 6:68).  In anticipation of His departure, Jesus promised the disciples “another Comforter” (allon parakletos)—another of the same kind to aid (John 14:16).  The Holy Spirit would represent God to the disciples as Jesus did in his incarnate state.  The Holy Spirit would direct the disciple’s decisions, counsel them continually, and remain with them forever.  Jesus knew the heart of His disciples and the importance of His presence in their life.  That  same Comforter now dwells within each believer in Christ (Eph. 1:13).

“The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and

the Church is famishing for want of His Presence.”

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Jesus knew that even in 2017, His Church and believers would need the loving reassurance of His presence.  With the uncertainty of the world we live in, it is comforting to know that we are never outside the watchful eye of God IN ADDITION to being indwelt by the very presence of Jesus, who is the Holy Spirit living within us.  God never changes and His promises are still true—“He will never leave or forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).   It is critical that we grasp the enormity of God’s presence with us. We are never out of God’s watchful eye or reach. Now that’s “blessed assurance.”

SELAH: Find a quiet place and using your favorite Bible translation read Psalm 139:7-10.  Write down any words or phrases that catch your attention.  Then read this passage a second time from The Message paraphrase below.  This time write down the emotions you feel as you read this text.  (Click here if you need help in recognizing different emotions) Lastly, ask the Holy Spirit to share what He wants you to now know, do, or believe as a result of this reading.

 

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?

to be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!

If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings

To the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute—

You’re already there waiting!