Receiving the Holy Spirit

We are beginning a series on the Holy Spirit.  Today’s Bible Journaling is from Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (NASB) Allow me to give a little background on what has happened.

The disciples had been given a directive from Jesus right before He ascended to Heaven, to stay in Jerusalem until God, the Father, gave them what He had promised, telling them, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NASB) They went to the Upper Room and stayed there.  On the day of Pentecost as they were together, the sound of a mighty, rushing, wind came with tongues of fire and lit upon each one of them, and each one received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Peter preached to those who were witnesses to this occurrence, explaining what had happened. People from every nation were there and the disciples were able to speak to each one in their own language because the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speaking in tongues (speaking languages they had not learned). 

Peter told them how Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world, how He was crucified, was buried, and rose again, and is alive, and ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God, the Father. Then, Peter gives the first altar call and asked them to repent of their sins, believe in Jesus, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as the disciples did.  Three thousand people came forward and became Believers, and the Church was born! 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He is God in spirit, and when we ask God to forgive us of our sins, believe in Jesus, and ask Him to come and live in us, He sends His Holy Spirit to take up residence in us, so that we can have a constant communion and fellowship with Him. 

The Holy Spirit is also our guide, our counselor.  He speaks to us, not always in audible words, but in our minds, or a nudging in our hearts.  He is the still, small voice that whispers to us the way we are to walk.  As new Believers, He teaches us through promptings and opening our minds as we read God’s Word, helping us to understand what the Scriptures are saying.

Many times, in churches I’ve attended, I’ve heard people talk about the Holy Spirit as an “it”.  But the Holy Spirit is not an “it”, the Holy Spirit is a “He”, for He is a person…the third person of the Trinity.  There’s a song we sing in Pentecostal churches call “Send it on Down”.  My Pastor doesn’t like it when we sing it that way, He changes it to say, “Send Him on Down.”  The Holy Spirit is not a thing, He is a person…living inside of us, guiding us, loving us, helping us.

The only way we receive the Holy Spirit is when we become Born Again.  We must be saved to receive the Holy Spirit.  Once we have made that decision, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is residing in us.  We then can walk in peace and in power.  Remember what Jesus told the disciples?  “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be witnesses of God’s love and forgiveness.  We must be sure we are listening to His voice as we walk daily with Him. 

When we are saved, we are initially filled with the Holy Spirit, it is called the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  This is different from the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, as mentioned in Acts 2:4.  The Baptism of the Holy Spirit gives us power…power to live a holy life, to witness about God’s love and forgiveness, and to evangelize the world.  It is for today to give us power to be witnesses.  We receive Him by faith, and He becomes our comforter, counselor, our friend, and so much more.  What a blessing to have God, the Holy Spirit in a Believer’s life.

Following Jesus Transforms Us

In this last post on our series on following Jesus, we look at the results of following Him.  2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (KJV).  I found the King James Version a little hard for me to understand, so I looked at other versions.  The Living Bible puts it like this, “But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.”  I decided to try another version as well.  The NIV states, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

If we read before the passage, the chapter is comparing living under the law versus living under grace.  The Apostle Paul talks about Moses and how, when he came back from being with God in the mountain, he had to wear a veil to hide the glory of God that shone on his face until the glory completely faded away so that the people wouldn’t see it fade.  The people recognized he had been with God because they could see it in his face.  Moses brought the law (the Ten Commandments) down from the mountain to give to the people to show them God’s requirements for living a holy life.  The covenant of the law shows us our sin and we are condemned because the law is impossible to follow perfectly.  If we break one law, we have broken them all.

However, as Believers, we live under grace, which Paul says is a better or greater covenant.  As we follow Jesus and allow Him to change us from the inside out His glory, or His light, shines through us, and those around us can see Him shining out in our very appearance.  Paul talks about looking into a mirror and seeing God’s reflection.  When we follow Jesus wholeheartedly, He begins to change us from the inside out.  We are transformed when we allow Him to make the changes in us that will result in us looking more and more like Jesus; we are reflections of Jesus’ glory.  Romans 12:2 tells us we are not to be conformed to this world, looking like the world; rather, we are to be transformed by letting God change our thinking, “renewing of your mind”. (NIV)

The closer we follow in Christ’s footsteps, the more we become like Him.  When we are saved, His Spirit comes to live inside us.  The Holy Spirit directs us.  He is that little “nudge” when we need correcting or a prompting to do something out of our comfort zone.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us if we will only listen to His still, small, voice; and He will guide us to live in the light that shines from Jesus so that we reflect that light to others.

Some may say they don’t know if they hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.  We all have times when we aren’t sure we hear His voice.  Lately, I’ve been aware of His nudge to share something in my blog as I write my posts.  It’s like a strong urging from the Holy Spirit to give insight on something He wants my readers to know.  When we keep our hearts open to receive, He will give us what is needed.  The more we are receptive to His prompting, the closer we get to becoming more of a reflection of His glory.  The more we reflect His glory, the more we are transformed and become a mirror image of Him.  Today, let Him transform you by following Jesus closely.

Follow Me – Deny Self – Take Up Your Cross

Today we’re looking at Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (NLT) Following Jesus requires some sacrifice on our part. Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, He asks something that, for us as humans, is hard. We are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.

When we became Believers, we turned from sin and accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and sacrifice on the Cross as payment for the death penalty that hung over our heads for our sin. At that point, we were initially sanctified because of the blood of Jesus. However, sanctification is also a daily process. Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, in other words, deny our fleshly desires and turn toward righteousness. J. Vernon McGee explains it this way in his commentary on Matthew, “Many people interpret this verse, ‘Let him deny himself ice cream’ or ‘Let him deny himself some luxury down here.’ What this verse says is ‘Let him deny himself!’ You already know that the hardest person in the world to deny is yourself. To deny myself dessert is hard enough, but to deny myself is difficult indeed. To deny myself is to put self out of the picture and to put Christ in the place of self.”

Does that mean that in denying ourselves we are to not treat ourselves with respect or have anything good? Of course not! We are not to see ourselves as the world’s doormat or appear to be a poor, pitiful creature, all the while saying that God is taking care of us and seem as if He abandoned us. Denying self is an internal working out of our salvation so that the Light of Jesus shines through.

Jesus also says we are to take up our cross. This is a concept some may find hard to understand. The cross we are to bear isn’t Jesus’ cross of sacrifice for sins. It is our own cross…the cross of fleshly desires, desires that would lead us back into sin. Daily we are faced with decisions that must be made. Will we turn to an area that will lead us into sin or do we deny ourselves the temporary pleasure of that sin and walk in the path of righteousness?

Galatians 5:19-20 gives a list of “works of the flesh”, those things that we are to walk away from. Daily we need to nail those things to the cross and kill them so that we can turn our hearts to righteousness. Some of those things are easy for us to reject while others can be a source of constant struggle, thus we battle daily with overcoming our fleshly desires. We may deal with something our whole lifetime. It is only through daily nailing our sin nature to the cross that we can find victory.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in the book of Romans. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 NKJV) We are to deny our sin nature and daily endeavor to walk in righteousness. Righteous living is exhibited in the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23. Those things are what we are to strive to turn our attention to, to place in our lives as we walk daily with Jesus and follow Him.

Walking with Jesus is a life-long journey. The more we crucify those things in our lives that would turn us away from Him, the closer to Him we will walk. Deny self and take up your cross.

Following Jesus

We begin a new series on following Jesus, and we begin with a Scripture that doesn’t seem to fit with that topic, but when we think about it, it’s a beginning place. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NASB)

Salvation is the beginning of our journey in following Jesus. Following Jesus doesn’t depend on what we can do to gain salvation from our sins, because there is nothing we can do to work for our salvation. Our verse today tells us that it is a gift from God when we believe in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, through faith, and because of the grace God has extended to us because He loves us so much.

Many people don’t understand this. They think that if they could only do enough good things to outweigh the bad, that God will accept them into His family, and they can gain entrance into Heaven. Some believe that they can “buy” their way into Heaven. They think if they could only give enough money to the church, it will count in their favor, but no amount of money will get them into Heaven. That isn’t God’s requirement for being part of His family. He requires faith in Jesus and a clean heart.

The Apostle Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (NIV) Only through the grace of God can we be saved from our sins. Because we are imperfect and sinners, we can’t save ourselves.

The church leaders of Jesus’ day never got this. They added so many laws to the original Ten Commandments, that it was virtually impossible for anyone to follow all of them. Following the Ten Commandments perfectly was impossible, let alone adding more to it. The law (Ten Commandments) was brought forth by God as a measuring stick for the children of God to see how far from being perfect they were. God knew they would never be able to obey every single one of the Commandments perfectly. Jesus pointed this out to them in Matthew 23:27, “ Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” They expected the people to follow the law, but they didn’t even follow it in their hearts. On the outside, they made the appearance of following the law, but they were far from it on the inside.

That’s why Jesus had to come to earth and die for our sins. He was our perfect sacrifice! He paid the penalty for our sins. When we accept Him into our hearts and lives by faith in what He did for us and believe in our hearts that He is the Son of God, we are saved. That starts us on a journey in following Jesus. He places us on a pathway that has been designed for us. Each Believer has their own journey, and no journey is the same as someone else’s.

So, as we begin this study. Now is a good time to do an evaluation of ourselves. Are we saved? Have we accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? Have we accepted God’s free gift of salvation? If not, now is the perfect time! The Bible says, “For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2 CSB)

The Cross Heals

This is the end of our study on the Cross. As I was looking for a verse to journal on, I found Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities, punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds.” (CSB) As I thought about this verse my focus went to the end of the verse, “we are healed by his wounds.” Then I began to think of the different ways we receive healing through the Cross of Christ.

First, I thought about what the Cross means to the Believer. The Cross brings salvation. Salvation comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He paid the price for our sin debt and our rebellion, and we are no longer bound. Next, God showed us His grace through the Cross. We don’t have to fear judgment by God because He sees the finished work of Jesus on the Cross for us and His shed blood. Because of this we then receive forgiveness. We are forgiven of all our sins, past, present, and future, and we also receive healing. That healing comes in different forms, which I will go into a little later. Because of the healing we receive we also find peace and joy. Peace and joy are the result of a life that has been surrendered to Jesus because of what He has done for us on the Cross. Each of these builds upon the other.

As I was thinking about the healing we receive because of the Cross, the thought crossed my mind that there are different kinds of healing. The most obvious is our Spiritual healing. Because of the forgiveness and grace given by God, our soul is healed. The wounds of sin have been bound by Jesus’ blood and He releases healing upon our hearts. We are no longer under the death penalty of sin and we have a new life in Jesus Christ. Today’s verse says that Jesus took our punishment and because of the wounds He took for us, we are healed.

When most of us hear this verse we also think of 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (KJV) I think most of us see these verses as talking about physical healing, and that is true, however; this healing is much more than physical. It is also dealing with Spiritual, mental, and emotional healing. Healing comes to us in every area of our lives.

The thing that stands out to me in the verse in 1 Peter is that it says that our healing was completed on the Cross that very day. We were healed long before we were born. We only need to claim it. When we speak healing over ourselves, it puts into motion God’s desire to accomplish what we are asking. Now, sometimes we don’t see that healing manifested here on earth, and that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t heal, it just means that our healing may not come until we see Heaven. God has a plan for each of us, and the reason for what we go through may not be obvious to us, but God knows what will be accomplished because of the things we endure.

When I was a teenager, one of my friend’s mother had horrible arthritis, to the point that it put her in a wheelchair and eventually into the hospital. None of us could understand why this dear lady had to endure such horrific pain, but when she eventually passed away, we heard testimonies of how the hospital staff was affected by how she withstood the pain. She always had a smile on her face and never complained. I don’t know if any of them received Christ because of it, but you can believe she testified to them about how Jesus loved her, how He was taking care of her, and why she had such joy. She never wavered in her faith. He didn’t heal her here on earth, but she received her healing in Heaven, and because of how she was able to endure, people’s lives were affected. It was part of God’s plan for her, and He was given the glory through it all. The only way she would ever have been able to accomplish that was because of the Cross. She had accepted Jesus many years before, and she lived her life for Him through her trial.

The Cross makes a difference in our lives in so many ways. When people see the change in us because of the Cross, they take notice and it impacts them. We are also influenced by the Cross because it heals us from the inside out. The Cross changes everything!

Being Crucified with Christ

As we continue our study on the Cross of Christ, we look at Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (CSB) The Apostle Paul talks about being crucified with Christ. What does that mean? What is a life that has been crucified with Jesus supposed to look like?

I did some looking on the Internet to see what others have said about this. Most of us think of it as the “old man” being crucified when we were saved, which is true. However, it also should mean that we are conscious of the sin we struggle with every day and are endeavoring to get it out of our lives. Johan Oscar Smith, in an article I found on the Active Christianity website, says, “At some point we have to come to victory over all that we know to be sin, because conscious sin is of the old man. Then we gradually discover the sin which has been unconscious. As we receive light over unconscious sin, we will also crucify it. The body of sin will thereby be destroyed, and we will no longer serve sin.” The act of being crucified with Christ includes a conscious effort on our part to conquer the “sin that so easily besets us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

J. Vernon McGee states, in his commentary on Galatians, “We are not to seek to be crucified with Christ. We have already been crucified with Him. The principle of living is not by the Law which has slain us because it found us guilty. Now we are to live by faith. Faith in what? Faith in the Son of God. You see, friend, the death of Christ upon the cross was not only penal (that is, paying the penalty for our sins), but it was substitutionary also. He was not only the sacrifice for sin; He was the substitute for all who believe.”

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He forgives our sin and comes to live inside of us. He helps us to conquer sin in our lives. It is through faith in what He has done for us that gives us the strength to conquer those things that would cause us to stray. We can be victors over sin because He is living in us and showing us what needs to be changed. He gives us the power to accomplish this. (Acts 1:8)

We don’t live under the law but under the law of grace. God’s grace covers us, and we are no longer found guilty because of Christ’s blood covering and sacrifice. Therefore, we are alive in Christ. We live by faith in Jesus, He gives us the strength and power to live a life that can win over our sins. We can’t do this on our own…only through Jesus can we conquer our failures.

Does that mean we are perfect and never sin? No, it means that when we are confronted with sin in our lives, Jesus helps us to defeat it so that we can nail that sin on the cross and win the victory over it. This means we must be looking for those things that would cause us to break our relationship with God and deal with them.

This is a life-long process. Every day we must take charge over our sin and refuse to be obedient to it. We then can say like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ!”

I Will Glory in the Cross

Today is Good Friday and Sunday will be Easter Sunday. This year that brings us to circumstances that are not the norm of the past. We are all sheltered in place and Easter church services are online, not in the church building. Many of us are disappointed that we can not celebrate Easter together in our church buildings. But as we look at Good Friday and Easter and the place the Cross has in our celebration, we can reflect on the purpose the Cross has in our celebration.

In our Bible Journaling passage today, the background of the verse is after Jesus has resurrected from the dead and He is walking on the Road to Emmaus and met two disciples; they were discussing the events of the past few days, everything from Jesus’ Triumphal entry to His death, burial, and now His body was not in the tomb. They did not recognize Him because He had blinded their eyes so that they didn’t know who He was. But as they walked, Jesus listened to them and that brings us to today’s verses in Luke 24:25-26, “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’” (NASB) Jesus explained to them why He had to die on the Cross and they still didn’t know who He was. They finally recognized Him when they sat down to eat, and Jesus broke the bread and blessed them and then their eyes were opened.

Jesus told them that He had to endure the Cross so that He could “enter into His glory.” Through His death, salvation was obtained for those who believed in Him, and He was glorified so that He could return to Heaven until He comes again to take Believers back with Him. He explained everything He endured, from His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, to the scourging, beating, mocking, scorn, His torturous death on the cross, and finally His resurrection. All He went through was to secure our salvation and to glorify Him.

When we look at Good Friday, our hearts are broken because we realize that it should have been US on that Cross. And yet, even though there is sadness, there is gratefulness, there is hope, there is peace and joy. All these things cause us to thank God and give glory to the One who paid our sin penalty.

When I lived in Wisconsin, I was a Sunday School teacher to 5 and 6-year-old children. As we were talking about the Cross, the lesson planner for the teacher emphasized that we never leave Jesus on the Cross, but we finish with His resurrection. While I was reading the story of Jesus’ death, one of the little boys in my class became very distraught. His face clouded over, and he had a frown on his face, and I could tell he was thinking about why Jesus had to die on the cross. But when I said, “But Jesus didn’t stay dead, He rose from the grave!” His face lit up and he said, “Jesus didn’t stay dead!” The joy on his face was unmistakable, and I could tell he had let that sink into his heart. It impacted him so much that the next Sunday he repeated it, “Jesus didn’t stay dead!” We as Believers need to be like that little boy, full of the realization that Jesus died for us and is alive today.

Jesus’ death and resurrection also mean that we can have eternal life. John 11:25 says, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:” (KJV) We can glory in the Cross because of what Jesus has done for us. His death has rescued us from sin and His resurrection has given us freedom over death and the grave. There is a song that Dottie Rambo wrote many years ago called, “I Will Glory in the Cross”. I will leave you with the lyrics to this song as we think about what Good Friday and Easter means.

I Will Glory in The Cross
Writer: Dottie Rambo

Verse 1:
I boast not of works nor tell of good deeds
For naught have I done to merit His grace
All glory and praise shall rest upon Him
So willing to die in my place.

Chorus:

I will glory in the cross, in the cross
Lest His suff’ring all be in vain
I will weep no more for the cross that He bore
But I will glory in the cross.

Verse 2:

My trophies and crowns, my robe stained with sin
‘Twas all that I had to lay at His feet
Unworthy to eat from the table of life
‘Till Love made provision for me.

Repeat Chorus

© 1978 Designer Music/SESAC, Songs Of Rambo McGuire/SESAC (Adm. By CapitolCMGPublishing.com) Licensing: http://www.CapitolCMGLicensing.com