Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Witness of the Holy Spirit

Last Wednesday our lesson led to an interesting discussion.  We were discussing Romans 8:16; The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  Evidently this verse has been used to teach the idea that the Holy Spirit either audibly or with some other manifestation witnesses directly to someone when they are saved so that they may be assured that they are truly a child of God.  One might immediately point out that if this is so, there is no further teaching as to what this “witness” might look like.  This in turn would open the flood gates of all sorts of things being mistaken as the prompting of the Holy Spirit with no clear teach from Scripture.  Are we to look for an inner, audible voice?  And if so, how can we be sure it isn’t a devil? 
We also might wonder why the vast majority of solid Christians have not experienced any such thing?  Why do Christians like the Reformers, the Puritans, Spurgeon and Pink remain silent of such audible and miraculous witnesses?  Can we not expect that such men as these would certainly be first in line if such assurance was the norm?  And Romans doesn’t say that just a few receive such a witness.
But even more interesting than this line of thought was what it led to.  This gave rise to the question of why doesn’t God manifest himself in some obvious way; one in which our senses can clearly see?  Wouldn’t this give us more faith, more assurance and make us better able to be strong witnesses for Christ.  My answer is not at all!  For one thing, the Bible gives us some obvious examples that miracles and physical manifestations of God do not increase faith nor cause nonbelievers to have saving faith.  Remember when Abraham told the rich man while in torment that even if Lazarus was raised from the dead, his brothers would not believe and the proof was that they were not believing God’s Word.  After all, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of God.”  A short time later another Lazarus is raised from the dead and yet the unbelievers were unmoved by it.  This wasn’t done in front of a bunch of wild-eyed, Bible thumping crazies.  There were plenty of the Pharisees’ spies there who immediately ran to the Pharisees and told them, not that Jesus was claiming to have raised the dead, but they witnessed that indeed he had raised Lazarus from the dead.  All this did was to confirm to the Jewish leaders that Jesus must die.  So much for miracles helping faith.  Certainly there is no indication that the disciple’s faith was in any way strong until after Pentecost and yet they saw the Lord himself do miracles for over three years.
But let’s look at this from another angle.  Suppose the sign gifts were the norm for all saints or that every Sunday the Lord Jesus himself came down and preached the Sunday morning message to us in plain sight.  Or suppose as soon as one was converted he immediately shone or had a halo.  I suppose an argument could be made that for Spirit-filled Christians this would certainly give us a boldness and on one level make us stronger witnesses.  But let’s think for a moment of the downside of this.  Would this, in fact, honor Christ more or honor him less? 
I believe the primary witness of the Spirit to us is that he is conforming us to Christ; it is the new nature as we think differently and love what we once hated and hate what we once loved.  The evidence of the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit.  I know that I am a child of God when I look like my Father.  Now more can be said about assurance but that isn’t in our scope right now. 
So how does a Christian most glorify the Lord in this life?  Not by walking around in a glowing white suit, not by speaking in tongues so everyone can be either impressed or envious; not even if Christ appeared at his bedside every night to give him special revelation.  This would help build our pride but would not conform us to the image of Christ.  It might prove to other Christians what they already know; that there is a God but it will not convince those dead in their sins of anything.  What glorifies him is humble saints who look no different than the next guy, walking through this life serving and trusting God even when there is absolutely no earthly, visible reason for him to do so.  When every temptation and trial screams at us to forsake God and embrace the world, there is new life in us that causes us to love Christ regardless of the cost; regardless that everyone around you is laughing. 
One good way to illustrate this is to imaging a small burning ember floating in the middle of the ocean during a hurricane.  On and on it floats but the water cannot put it out.  Even more amazing than the fact of there being an ember in the middle of the storm is the fact that it isn’t being snuffed out.  God is more glorified by keeping weak sinners in love with him while this world and Satan tries to ruin us than he would be to keep a forest fire going in southern California.  One reason we are to walk by faith and not by sight is because the Lord is most glorified by people that show forth his power and glory with only their new natures flickering in the midst of this world.  He is glorified by loving him supremely when there is every adversity.  To love and serve him because everything is going well in this life doesn’t prove how wonderful he is, but to be willing to give up any worldly pleasure for the privilege of knowing him says volumes about how glorious he is!
Why is the perseverance of the saints so important?  Yes it demonstrates his power to keep his people but how dishonoring to him would it be for someone to love him one day and then the next love something else more and so forsake him for something else?  If he is the most glorious entity in the universe it must be impossible to fall out of love with him.

No comments:

Post a Comment