A Look at the Spirit in a Month of ‘spirits’ (2): Walking After the Spirit

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:12-14, 18-22).

            We are as a human race apart from God wholly corrupt (Ps 51:5, Romans 3:9-18,20-24; Hebrews 11:6). We “are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). We appear ugly and gross in sin.

The events of Pentecost then, which signified the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the New Testament church both Jew and Gentile alike, are a wondrous thing! First, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit gave assurance and validity. It showed that Christ indeed had died and risen again and fulfilled the prophecies (Acts 2:32-36), and it showed that the man that had been crucified was indeed the very Son of God. Second, it showed the great mercy and love of our God, who chose to save such a depraved and unworthy people. God sent His Son to bear on the cross the burden of an entirely rebellious and undeserving people, saving us by His grace!

Though we are members of the blessed body of Christ, we still so often stumble and sin. We bumble around our lives, turning to our own cares, desires, and opinions on how things should be done. We so often look to find wisdom and direction in ourselves or use our feelings to guide our decisions. We fall into temptation and find our focus on this earth and our own selves. We want a say in how we are going to live our lives. We want to use our own reasoning, and we want to create our own morals. We want to have our own priorities and control. Over and over again we find ourselves in sin. We are still at war with the Devil and his hosts, who fight so fiercely to wreak havoc in the Church. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:9-19), and we are “dead indeed unto sin” (Romans 6:11a). Depravity still works to devour us.


 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:18-24).

             Knowing our depravity and shortcomings is important. It teaches us just how much we need our Lord. It reminds just how much we can’t trust our own selves, and how vital it is that we look to God first in ALL things, for He alone is the source of infallible truth and wisdom, knowledge and justice. If we try to deduct things for ourselves, or only use Scripture to justify our own set of wants and opinions, we place our fallible and sin-filled opinions above the constant truth and goodness found in our Lord.

If we were left on our own we would be overcome. We would have no hope. We would be drowned in the angry torrents of sin and depravity, capable of doing only evil. God, however, has not left us defenseless. In Christ’s name and righteousness we have been made pleasing to God. When His Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, we were also given, with the great knowledge that sin and death had been overcome, a means to fight against the onslaught of Satan and his hosts, to fight fiercely against sin. We were given the Holy Spirit.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit working spiritual life within us we are able to live a life of faith in God, loving Him and looking to Him for direction and wisdom. We are given strength and comfort. We are able to fight against sin and live a life pleasing to God. On the cross death has been overcome, and in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit life has been given, that we may fight with all our might till Christ returns in final judgment. To us unworthy sinners “He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Through the Spirit, we are able to mortify the deeds of the body, and live a life of love and hope in our Almighty God (Romans 8:13). What grace!


“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).


The sovereignty of God over sin

In reading The Sovereignty of God, by Arthur W. Pink, I recently became more aware of the sovereignty of God over the Devil and our own sinful flesh. Pink uses one chapter to explain how God governs all things from inanimate creatures, living things, people, and the angels and demons. This chapter struck me as interesting because I don’t think we as young people take into consideration very often just how much power God has over Satan. When thinking about this power, don’t forget that God’s power over sin and Satan does NOT mean that God is sinful Himself, or that He is the author of sin. I John 3: 8ff stress this fact, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Basically this passage stresses the fact that sin is from the Devil, and those who have the new man of Christ and are born again cannot sin because God does not sin.
The most obvious example of God’s control over Satan is when Satan was temping Christ, and Christ told him to “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matt. 4:11). Satan may think that he has the handle on things, that he is going to get the Son of God to sin, but he is not that powerful. In fact he has no power compared to God’s power! As soon as Christ told him to leave, he had no choice but to leave. Another example is Job. Satan could not bring any of Job’s calamities upon him until God had allowed him. But even in that Satan was limited. He was not allowed to touch Job. And in the end the whole purpose of Satan to bring Job so low so that he would curse God failed. Job was strengthened in his faith through his trials and in the end blessed God even more! So we can see in that circumstance that God uses even the trials in our lives as ways for us to grow and become more and more Christ-like.
Think about this control of God personally now. Yes we all are terrible sinners, and we can see that every day and in different areas in our lives. At times we may think that sin controls us, and that there is no way out of it. But even in our weaknesses and sins God is still in control and has a way of leading us out through forgiveness and through our asking for forgiveness. Yes, Satan, our flesh, and the sins and temptations of this world are powerful, but always remember that God is far greater and far more powerful. Then when we can fully grasp that, we will be able to say no to sin, because He will give us the strength to do so!


The Third Temptation – Matthew 4:8-11


We have been considering the third temptation.  In this temptation, the devil is seeking to lure (the lure being the earthly kingdoms and their glory) Jesus into his trap (the trap is Jesus bowing down and worshipping the devil, thus turning Jesus from the path to the cross).  Today, we study Jesus’ answer to Satan.

In His answer to the serpent, Jesus looked past the lure to see the trap, and immediately identified the heart of the temptation: worshipping Satan – “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (vs. 10).

Already at this point, we can learn three things from Jesus’ answer to the devil’s temptation.  First, it is brief.  We do well not to linger at the source of our temptation, contemplating how to reject it – we must quickly, and briefly, see the temptation for what it is, and immediately run.

Second, Jesus’ answer is concise.  He locates the heart of the temptation – worship.  We must do the same.  We should pray to God that we have wisdom not to be distracted by the attractive lure the temptation offers, but to see the trap, the sin, the root, of the temptation.  Satan will always clothe sin in attractive garb.  We must see past the smokescreen.

Third, we must, as Jesus did, command Satan to depart from us.  When we willingly expose ourselves to these tests of the devil, we are inviting his presence, not demanding that he flee.  But when we reject sin and pray to God, the devil will run.

Fourth, essentially, all temptations are a matter of worship.  When we fall to any temptation, we are placing our trust in and submitting to Satan, and not God.  This is the seriousness of sin.  This is the frightening nature of temptation.

What else does Jesus’ answer to the devil’s temptation tell us?  Negatively, our Savior would not be deceived by the devil.  But especially this, positively: He would submit to and obey His Father, only.

First, Jesus understood that the Father’s will for Him was to be king over all only by the way of the cross.  It was only after He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” that God would highly exalt Him, giving Him a name which is above every name (Phil. 2:8, 9).  The Father’s will was the cross.

Second, that Jesus worshipped God, and not the devil, means that He would follow the path to the cross to establish His spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom.  This was Jesus’ message throughout His ministry: My kingdom is not of this earth – it is a spiritual kingdom!  This was the issue, for instance, at the feeding of the five thousand in John 6: the people wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him their king.  In response, Jesus departed into a mountain, alone (vs. 15).  He was not their earthly king.

The Father sent His Son not to establish an earthly kingdom, to reign over the kingdoms of the world, but to lay the foundation of the spiritual kingdom, by His shed blood, a kingdom of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).  It is true – Jesus would, exalted at His Father’s right hand, rule over all things – He would certainly rule and govern the institutions of this world, governments, and all lands (Matt. 28:18).  But all things would be subservient to the spiritual kingdom.  Over this spiritual kingdom, sitting at the Father’s right hand, the exalted Christ would rule by His grace.

This Man, young people, is our merciful high priest!  He rejected Satan’s temptation, and worshipped only His Father.  And now, having died on the cross, and sitting at the Father’s right hand, He runs to our aid in the most grievous temptations of life.  Surely, He helps us in our times of need!