Posts Tagged ‘ Moses ’

Question: Is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a concept or a practical reality?

Now this is another question which I’ve been thinking about lately. I am meeting with some young guys from our Youth Group every week. It is a leadership training, where I want not only to teach them things, but I want to think stuff through with them. (That is because I feel that the statement is true: The first generation believes it, the second generation assumes it, and the third generation denies it. Whoever said that…it’s true.) They need to develop their own views and convictions to be a real benefit to the body of Christ.

We are going through different books together, right now it’s Calvary Distinctives. Now at Calvary Chapel we are big on the three different Greek prepositions which point to the different ways God relates to us/works through us by the person of the Holy Spirit. But this time I really wanted to get down to the knitty gritty: Who is this…Encarnación? No, but seriously, I wanted to find out with them what these things practically mean for us. We made a list that looked like this:

para (beside): conviction of sin, encouragement, comfort; Jesus said to his disciples about the comforter: He will be with you always.

epi (upon): annointing, empowering, equipping, authority (which here refers to a supernatural authority, independent from the question if it’s backed up by the character of the person)

en (in): indwelling, sanctification, personal growth, authority (which here refers to the authority that comes with integrity)

Now there were actually two questions which came up in my mind: First, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit only a ’spiritual reality‘, or is it ‚practical or nothing‘? Can I say that God lives in a person, or is at home there, even when there is no practical implications such as repentance, personal growth, sanctification? Secondly, and this is a conclusive question: if it not so much meant as a theological concept or spiritual reality, then couldn’t I say that God also indwelt believers under the Old Covenant?

I’ve been taught, that the indwelling is a mark of the New Covenant, made possible only by the blood of Jesus. I always believed it, but never really studied that for myself. Is that true? One of the boys wrote me an eMail some days later, and asked me this same question. He read first Peter 1:11 and was wondering what the deal was. It is talking about the OT prophets there, and it says that they were „trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.“ ‚In‘ is of course the same Greek preposition.

So I thought about it and asked Dave Guzik to find an answer. He pointed me to the OT prophecies for the New Covenant. And it’s true, the Ezekiel and Jeremiah passages do speak about something inward rather than something outward. But did God really mean the indwelling, when he said that he would put his spirit inside them? Now please don’t get me wrong here! Of course I believe in the indwelling! I just wonder about it’s nature (see question 1), and about how unique it is to the New Covenant.

A day later, as I was reading in Ezekiel in the morning, I read this verse in my ‚today’s chapter‘: „Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!“ (18:31-32) Now God here tells them to go and get themselves a new heart and a new spirit. The only way in which this can make sense – and I believe that that’s the way it was meant in this context – is that this simply refers to a new attitude. So my question is this: could it be that the indwelling speaks very practically of ‚God in someones life‘, made possible by that person through a changed attitude (repentance)? If the answer to that question is Yes, than of course this was also possible and available for a believer in the OT.

The point I am struggling with is this: imagine you were a very carnal Christian. There were not really any real outward implications of God dwelling in your life. Imagine you would travel back in time and see a man like Moses. A man deeply committed to God, walking with God and – in the truest sense of the word – a holy man. With the understanding of the indwelling as I have it now (as a doctrine), you could go to Moses as a carnal Christian and tell him, that God lives in your heart, is at home in your life, while in his live that wasn’t the case. I don’t know, but I wonder if God maybe wants us to think about him dwelling in our hearts in a more practical sense. When would you normally say, that someone lives in your heart? When you love him. Can you say: I don’t love him/her, but he/she lives in my heart? Not really…

I have to think now of the Corinthian church, who was very carnal, and to whom Paul wrote: „Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own“ (1 Cor. 6:19) as a reason to not commit sexual sins. So maybe it is possible. But it is still very wrong (for which the Corinthian church is a perfect example) to seperate the spiritual reality from the lived-out practicality. Maybe someone can share his thoughts on this?

His grace is his glory

Last night we studied Exodus 33-34 in our Youth Group. It is a fascinating study, especially on the background of Israel’s naked dance around an Egyptian god. Moses is seen foreshadowing Christ’s mediating work in a beautiful way. Because Moses had found favor in the eyes of the Lord, God would ‚change His mind‘ and dwell in the midst of the congregation, instead of the tent of meetings outside of the camp. Israel gets a completely fresh start as a result of Moses‘ intercession. The ten commandments are given again, the covenant being renewed, the former plans of the tabernacle taken up again.

What an encouragement! For we are all idolaters. We all have turned back to Egypt in our hearts at times, we all have – secretly – carried some gods of Egypt with us on our journey with Jesus… Through the mediating work of Jesus – Christ as the High Priest – we all can have fresh starts. I think it is important to understand what Jon Courson points out: It is not Jesus‘ words, with which he intercedes for us, but his wounds. When it says in Hebrews 7:25, „Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.“, it is not to be understood in a technical sense. I think that at this point we often make the mistake that we base a certain doctrine on one verse alone, which is never a good idea. When Christ intercedes for you and me, he doesn’t need to lose any words. „…he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (…) But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.“  (9:24; 26) The Holy of Holies was not a place of prayer, it was a place of atonement. Jesus is not before the throne of grace pleading our case with words. It is his blood: „…Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.“ (12:24) To say that on top of the fact that he will always be as a lamb that has been slain, he would still have to add words of prayer and intercession takes away from the atonement. It is to say that his blood isn’t enough, he has to add words. So this thinking is not biblical and it is not logical, because we know that his blood is enough.

Well, anyways…actually I wanted to share something else. In verse 18 Moses asks: „Now show me your glory.“ Up to this point, God had been speaking to Moses through an angel. Even though that is not in the text here, the Rabbis always understood it this way and it is stated three times in the New Testament (Acts 7:38; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2). Moses wasn’t satisfied to be lead into the promised land by an angel, he wanted God in their midst. He wasn’t satisfied to only hear from God through an angel. He wanted to see God.

Now he had seen alot of God’s glory, in the sense of the miraculous demonstrations of supernatural power and majesty. So what was he asking for? I believe he just wanted to go deeper. He wanted to know God in a deeper way. Which is remarkable, especially on the background of everything he already had experienced in the past. Many of us would be satisfied to see God work or manifest himself in supernatural ways. Moses didn’t want to see what God could do or even would do – he wanted to see God.

„Only do not let us make Moses talk like a metaphysician or a theological professor. Rather we should hear in his cry the voice of a soul thrilled through and through with the astounding consciousness of God’s favour, blessed with love-gifts in answered prayers, and yearning for more of that light which it feels to be life.“ (Alexander Maclaren)

God told Moses that this was not possible in the fullest measure, because that would simply put Moses to death. But in his love he was willing to show Moses as much as was possible. Now check out what God shows Moses as an answer to his request to see God’s glory, his beauty: „I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mery on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (…) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.“

Now without wanting to ellaborate much further, the observation is clear. Moses wants to see God’s glory, and God shows him as much as possible of that glory of His. He does it by a self-revelation, not to the eyes but to the ears of Moses. He doesn’t show Moses what he can do, but he tells him who he is in his relation to human beings. And I just think that this is God’s glory, that is his beauty. We are saved to the praise of the GLORY of his grace. To me, that is the most glorious thing I could ever imagine…