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Would that the Seventh-day Adventist church actually believed and practiced what this lesson teaches!
For the most part, the author of this lesson accurately presents the Holy Spirit and his work. It was a breath of fresh air to read through the lesson. What saddens me is that other Adventist beliefs directly contradict the truths taught here.
In particular, it is sad that the author felt the need to use quotations from Ellen White to “prove” his points. The Bible texts he chose are completely up to the task and needed no further emphasis.
Therefore, rather than write a collection of essays in rebuttal of various days' teachings I will add a bit of further contemplation on the Holy Spirit and his work in our lives.
This lesson has much to offer in terms of a changed life. The Holy Spirit in each child of God is the absolute source of life and godliness.
Praise God that he made this possible! Praise Jesus that he was victorious over sin and death! Praise the Spirit for being the absolute proof of our salvation – the seal, the down payment, our never to be broken connection to the divine nature!
Days 2-6: Sunday - Thursday, July 13-17, 2014 – Further Emphasis
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14 NASB)
Again, I am not trying to rebut what the author wrote, but only to expand on it.
This passage from Titus 2 changed the way I thought about salvation, righteousness, holiness and everything else that applies to life as a Christian. There is something unique about the grace of God, something that instructs us and causes us to look forward to final victory.
“Things” can't do this. They don't instruct and they don't give hope. Only a personal Being can provide these. In the context of what this lesson teaches it is clear that the Holy Spirit alone meets the requirements of power and intimacy necessary to teach and give hope.
Therefore, grace must be personal. Grace must be the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Look how Paul explained this to the Philippians.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)
There are some very important phrases in this passage.
These four points are summarized in Philippians 2:12, 13:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
God himself, via the indwelling Holy Spirit, works in us to will and to work. These facts, when they become real in your life, drive you to your face (literally and figuratively) before such power, such love, such grace.
A pastor I knew (James Ryle) defined it this way: Grace is the empowering presence of God enabling us to be who He has called us to be and to do what He has called us to do.
Grace is the Holy Spirit, nothing more and nothing less.
So, if the Holy Spirit does all this for us and in us today, how is this different from how the Holy Spirit worked in the Old Testament? As the lesson points out,
Genesis 1:1–3 indicates that God’s Spirit participated in Creation. He equipped people for specific undertakings: (1) Bible writing (1 Peter 1:10, 11), (2) tabernacle construction (Exodus 31:3), (3) leadership (Othniel, Jephthah, David—see Judges 3:10, 11:29, 1 Sam. 16:13), and (4) prophetic utterance (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 1 Sam. 10:9–13) [Teachers Edition Quarterly Page 39]
The difference is Jesus. Everyone in the Old Testament, including prophets, kings, priests and people, could have the Holy Spirit come upon them for some specific work. However, because they lived on that side of the Christ Event, they were dominated by the law of sin and death. In their spirits they were separated from God (or, spiritually dead) because of sin.
Everything in the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus, and when he came he fulfilled it all. The only thing we're waiting for now is his final return and the final, utter destruction of evil.
In Jesus' twin victories over sin and death he made possible our restoration to Spiritual life (eternal life). Therefore, on this side of the Christ Event the Holy Spirit became an internal reality instead of merely an external reality.
This is why it was good for us that Jesus returned to the Father. This is why Paul told Titus that this Grace appeared, first in Jesus, and then in us via the Holy Spirit, in order to teach us and give us an unshakable hope.
Finally, what about Spiritual gifts? What was Paul getting at in 1 Corinthians 12-14? Thankfully, he made it very clear.
First, the point is not gifts. The point is love. What the Corinthians were doing had nothing to do with love and everything to do with competition. The only thing their practices provide us is a negative example. In other words, avoid these things at all costs.
But it is clear in the letters to the Romans (chapter 12), the Corinthians (chapters 12-14) and the Ephesians (chapter 4), as well as other places throughout the New Testament, that the Spirit gives gifts, and these gifts can be pretty spectacular.
Here is a brief list of the purposes of Spiritual gifts.
Spiritual gifts are neither to be feared nor idolized, because they are given as the Spirit chooses and for the purposes described above.
If you attend a church where speaking in tongues is considered proof of salvation, then I suggest you leave. This is no different at all from Adventism's consideration of Sabbath-keeping as proof of salvation. Legalism is legalism, regardless of its focus.
On the other hand, don't be surprised if one day someone walks up to you, with an accent quite different than your own, and says, “Thank you for sharing the gospel with me.” You may or may not remember, but this is the Spirit thanking you for being available at that moment when this person needed to hear about Jesus in their own language. Once again you will find yourself on your face before an omnipotent God who condescends to do his work through the likes of us.
(No, this is not the only kind of tongues talked about, but it is the most important evangelistic use of this gift by the Spirit. Nor am I trying to give a complete explanation of spiritual gifts. The Teachers quarterly asks a question regarding tongues, so I thought it appropriate to remove some of the fear from the conversation.)
I invite you to spend some meaningful time getting to know the Holy Spirit. Learn how to distinguish his voice out of the din of the noise around and within you. Every aspect of his work is available to you.
Start with something simple. Ask him to reveal the Bible's meaning to you. You will discover passages that were never there before, at least not in the way he shows them to you.
Take your time. The things of the Spirit are not understood in a millisecond. You've got your entire life, and then eternity after that, to be in relationship with him.
Be patient. The Spirit is God. You're not. You will misunderstand. You will fail. You will be proud and willful and human. But the Spirit is infinitely patient with you, so be patient with yourself.
Most of all, wallow in the love that God has lavished on you. He has called you his child, and that is what you are. Your are a new creation. You get to participate in the divine nature, and nothing can separate you from Him!
Grace is the Holy Spirit. This realization will change your life.
The Spirit's work today is much expanded over his work in the Old Testament, because Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death.
Spiritual gifts are neither to be feared nor idolized. They are not to be pursued for personal reasons or proof of anything. Rather, they will be manifested as we come to understand God's love, which first pours into us and then overflows from us to others.
Day 7: Friday, July 18, 2014 – Further Study
“At all times and in all places, in all sorrows and in all afflictions, when the outlook seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, the Comforter will be sent in answer to the prayer of faith. Circumstances may separate us from every earthly friend; but no circumstance, no distance, can separate us from the heavenly Comforter. Wherever we are, wherever we may go, He is always at our right hand to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 669, 670. (Standard Edition Quarterly, Page 28)
Here is the pain of Adventist belief.
After a pretty amazing lesson extolling the virtues and power of the Holy Spirit, the author chose to support his argument with this quotation.
After all the texts quoted in the lesson, and the additional scriptural support I offered, this quote clearly defines the Holy Spirit as out there.
What is a child of God to think when he or she gets trapped in a sin? “This can't be good. I've already shipwrecked my faith, so the Spirit cannot be available to me.”
It doesn't matter that Mrs. White says nothing can separate us from the “heavenly Comforter.” This Comforter is still heavenly; that is, out there.
This is the cost of trying to live under the Mosaic Covenant, a covenant fulfilled in its entirety by Jesus. Truly, the Holy Spirit was out there in that covenant.
Just as clearly, under the New Covenant the Spirit is in here! When God says, “I'll never leave or forsake you,” he's not kidding! When God says, “Nothing can separate you from my love in Christ Jesus,” he's not kidding! When God says, “You are saved completely,” he's not kidding!
All of this is yours as a child of God because the Holy Spirit lives in you. Remember Colossians 1:27 – Christ in you, your hope of glory.
God (the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) has done everything necessary to save us. He has initiated this salvation to us. Our only role in this process is to accept the gift offered. When we do, God himself comes to live in us.
God himself comes to live in us!
God himself came to live in you!
Let the reality of this eternal, all-powerful, all-loving, all-encompassing truth take your breath away. Fall on your face before him in thankfulness, humility and awe.
You are alive, because the One who is alive lives in you.
Third Quarter 2014 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Week 3: July 12–18
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.