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Studies In The Spirit


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#21 Fortigurn

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Posted 21 March 2003 - 11:12 PM

GUIDANCE BY THE WORD, GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRIT


Our first example was Balaam. His life provided an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen (that is, not obviously evident), Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, and finally a revealed explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

The second provides an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, but only an implied explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

#22 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 03:59 AM

ELIJAH


1 Kings 19:
9And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

11And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.


The pattern of events is the same as with Balaam - the word of commandment is given first. This incident differs to that of Balaam however, in that Elijah is aware that he is to receive some form of guidance. It is left to his personal understanding as to what that guidance will be - and this test of discernment is itself part of the guiding process to which Elijah will be subjected.

11... And, behold, the LORD passed by...


As with Moses, Elijah is to be given a manifestation of the Divine presence - but what will it be? We have seen that whereas Moses wanted to see the glory of God revealed to him visibly, he only heard the voice of God proclaiming His character - His true glory. What does Elijah experience?

11...and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire...


The experience of Elijah is entirely consistent with the experience of Moses - are we really surprised? Elijah had three manifestations of power presented to him, but in none of them was the presence of God, and he knew that. It says something for the knowledge of God which Elijah had.

What happened next?

11...and after the fire a still small voice.


The effect which this final manifestation had on Elijah is telling. It proves to us that he understood these events were for his benefit and his learning. He was being taught the wisdom of God silently, by means of God's spirit working in his life:

13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.


One would have thought that Elijah would already have been firmly wrapped in his mantle, cowering from the wind, the earthquake, and the fire - but such was not the case.
It was only this voice which had both the power to compel him to hide his face, yet the compelling intimacy to draw him closer to what he knew was finally the Divine presence.

Perhaps you may think that this was a poor example to bring to the topic under discussion.
Perhaps you may think that it is an obscure example, which isn't directly related to God's guidance of us in our lives at all.

I have chosen this example deliberately. It is obvious from this incident that God was bringing about certain events in Elijah's life in order to guide and teach him - without telling him why they were occurring, or what they actually meant.

In fact nowhere is the meaning of this event revealed to Elijah. God does not tell him, and nor does He insert it conveniently into Elijah's head. My question to us all is, therefore:

'What was Elijah intended to learn from this, and do you think he learned it?'

Furthermore, put yourself in the position of Elijah, and tell us what you believe you would have learned. This is an unusual case in which Elijah knew full well that God was moving in his live in order to teach him, to bring him to a better knowledge and understanding - but God did not explain the event to him, nor was it ever His intention to do so. Why was this?

We saw that the incident in Balaam's life had a harmonious relationship to the commandment already revealed. To what was this incident related?

I have used this incident as an example of those times in our lives when we may be absolutely certain that God is moving in our lives, that He is attempting to guide us in some way, but where we are unaware of the complete meaning and purpose of the events - we are uncertain as to what precisely we are to learn.

I have also used it as an example of God moving in our lives in a manner which we may not understand, and which we may not fully appreciate. It is another example of the necessity of being sensitive to the working of God's Spirit in our lives, in its various modes of operation - without treating God superstitiously and looking for wonders and signs with profound meanings in every incident of our lives.

#23 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:00 AM

GUIDANCE BY THE WORD, GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRIT


Our second example provided an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, but only an implied explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

The third provides an example of a revealed Divine commandment, unseen Divine guidance in life to reinforce the commandment, and no explanation of the relationship between the revealed commandment and the unseen guidance.

#24 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:01 AM

JONAH


Jonah (his name means 'a dove'), was the son of Ammittai, and God had commanded him to prophesy to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. they were to repent in 40 days from the time of the prophecy, or God would destroy them.

Instead of going to Nineveh (to the north east of Israel), Jonah immediately went to Joppa (a sea port on the western coast of Israel), and boarded a ship to Tarshish.

So why did Jonah want to go there - more to the point, why did Jonah not go where he was told?

Jonah knew that Assyria was a dangerous nation. She was beginning to form a world empire. She was terribly cruel and savage.
Jonah knew full well that Israel would very likely be attacked by Assyria... he wanted to make sure they couldn't repent by not giving them the message of salvation.

Most importantly, he knew the character of God.

Jonah ran because he didn't want Nineveh to have the opportunity of repentance.
God does not recognize some sins as 'worse' than others. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and thus God is calling all men to repentance, as Paul said in Acts.

During Jonah's flight a storm blows up, and the ship begins to founder... the sailors all pray hopelessly to their gods - to no avail (were we surprised?).

The sailors dig Jonah out from under the deck, and confront him:

Jonah 1:
8Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
9And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
10Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.


So, Jonah, being a man who actually does care about his God, has his own conscience smitten by these pagans, who are all trying to obey their gods desparately. He knows also that his life is endangering theirs.

#25 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:03 AM

Incredibly, Jonah is being taught by this incident the very compassion for Gentiles, for non-Jews, that God wanted him to understand when he was sent to preach repentance to Nineveh!
If this isn't an example of God's Spirit moving in Jonah's life to bring him wisdom, I don't konw what is.

11Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.  
12And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.


The men didn't want to do this - perhaps they thought that Jonah was more use to them alive, if it was really his God which was causing the storm. In any case, they didn't want to throw him overboard:

13Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.

Finally they were compelled to throw Jonah into the sea:

14Wherefore they cried unto the LORD, and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, hast done as it pleased thee.
15So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.


Note that they do their best to disassociate themselves from the action of casting Jonah overboard. In their prayers to God, they make it clear that they are doing this under duress, and that they understand this man to be innocent.

But the irony is, this man isn't innocent! He has been deliberately disobedient to God!
Again, these men are showing Jonah the kind of compassion he would never have shown them!

16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.


Repentance and obedience! Amazing! Jonah is bringing Gentiles to repentance and the knowledge of God, even when he's trying his best not to! Of course, he did need some help here from God...

What this really shows is that God is determined to fulfill His purpose, regardless of Jonah's lack of cooperation. In fact it shows also that God is moving in Jonah's life to convert Jonah with the very message of God's forgiveness which he is supposed to be bringing to others.

#26 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:04 AM

Ok, so now it's question time...

1) Why did the sailors fear and pray to their gods? Easy question...
Simply put, they recognized their need for salvation, and realised that they could not save themselves. They were made vulnerable by God.

2) Why did the sailors fear and pray to Jonah's God, after they had thrown him overboard, even making sacrifices and vows to God?
They recognised and feared the God who had performed such a miracle. They were in need, and He provided.

Interestingly enough, they didn't stop to wonder if they had to be Jews in order to worship God. What they did recognise was that they had a need for salvation, and that God had fulfilled that need, regardless of who they were. His operation in their lives had already taught them something of His character - the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom indeed, and He had moved in their lives to inspire their change of heart.

So, what's a good way of teaching Jonah the same thing that these men were taught?
Put him in a situation in which he is utterly dependent on God for his survival.
Just killing him isn't going to help - God provides Jonah with the same opportunity for repentance which He had provided the Ninehvites, and the sailors on the ship.

The opportunity of repentance which Jonah had denied others...

#27 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:06 AM

So what's it going to take to get the message through to Jonah?
How about putting him in a situation in which his salvation is dependent utterly on God...

17Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.
And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.


What's the key phrase there? It is 'had prepared'.
God already knows what He's going to do with Jonah.
Jonah's disobedience is not going to thwart the Divine plan.
God will have salvation preached to Nineveh, and will have it preached by Jonah.
That way, He not only saves Nineveh, He saves Jonah as well.

What does Jonah learn from this experience?
He knows that God has intervened in his life, and he knows that events have been deliberately brought about by God's Spirit in order to shape him, to mold his character, to change his mind, and to teach him the mind of God.

But God has not revealed to Jonah what the point of all this is.
God never actually tells Jonah why He is doing what He is doing.
With time for reflection, however, Jonah realises that the answers are far from obscure:

Jonah 2:
1Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly,
2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.


The last words of Jonah's prayer are very telling:

9But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.


This is a direct quote:

Psalm 50:
14Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.


Jonah's learning things already!

#28 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:08 AM

Appropriately enough, he is learning what the sailors themselves have already learned - while he is quoting the psalm, the sailors are obeying the psalm:

Jonah 1:
16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.


As soon as Jonah has learned that lesson, God gets the fish to spit Jonah out, then tell Jonah, 'Now that you understand why I'm telling you to do this - go and do it!'.

Jonah is now a better and more prepared vessel for the message he carries. He has been taught true wisdom from his experiences.

Jonah 3:
1Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days’ journey.


Three days is a long time to be walking... plenty of time to think... plenty of time to change your mind...

But Jonah does not change his mind:

4And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
5So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:  
8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
9Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?


The Word of God converts those to whom it is brought - Jonah's work is done, and it has converted him along the way.

10And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not.


This is the mercy of God - the very mercy which Jonah would have denied the Ninehvites.

But this is the 'mercy' of men - the residual resentment which still exists in Jonah:

1But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.


Jonah needs another reminder of the lesson he has learned earlier, he also needs to understand that God extends forgiveness even to people who are going to sin again.
That lesson would be taught to him through the painful experience of the gourd and the hot east wind.

#29 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:09 AM

GUIDANCE BY THE WORD, GUIDANCE BY THE SPIRIT


What then have we seen thus far?

1) We have seen that God has moved and worked in the lives of men and women in order to guide them and give them knowledge and understanding. God has not ceased to operate in this way, and continues to do so in our own lives today.

2) We have seen the relationship between the revealed Divine commandment.
That is, the unseen working of God's Spirit in our lives by various means, through various channels and various agents, is for the purpose of reinforcing the previously revealed Divine commandment, and increasing our understanding, knowledge and appreciation of the Divine commandment and will.

3) Thus, as we have seen, there is never any contradiction between the revealed Divine commandment and the working of His Spirit in our lives. This principle holds true for each and every way in which the Spirit works in anyone's life.

4) We have also seen that where our understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of the revealed Divine commandment is lacking, God uses the indirect operation of the Spirit to correct and guide our understanding in the various ways of which we have read.

5) We have seen that this indirect operation of the Spirit does not always result in the immediate and complete understanding of the revealed Divine commandment by the individual being so guided. Three times God intervened in the life of Balaam in order to reinforce the commandment He had already given. But despite this intervention, Balaam either failed to understand or disobeyed willfully. Similarly, Job underwent enormous trial and pressure in his life as the Spirit of God influenced him indirectly, but failed to appreciate completely the guidance he was receiving.

It is evident therefore that this method of indirect guidance by the Spirit does not necessarily always result in the individual concerned understanding the message which they are being taught, or appreciating fully the knowledge to which they are being guided.

#30 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:10 AM

6) Very importantly, however, we have seen that despite the limitation of this means of guidance (a limitation which is the result of the limitations of the flesh, not the Spirit), it is the principal means by which the Spirit operates in our lives.

For thousands of years it has been the method which God has used above all others, the method which He has chosen to use as the most common and almost exclusive means of instruction and guidance. It is for this very reason that those instances in which God has operated in some way directly on individuals by means of His Spirit (Samson, Solomon, David, Christ, the apostles, for example), are so obvious to us - they are different, they are distinct, they are separated from the normal operation, they are quite clearly a departure from the usual experience and they are the exception to the rule.

7) In contrast to the occasional incapacity of individuals to discern and learn from the indirect working of the Spirit in their lives, those moments in which the Spirit has operated directly on individuals have always been without any ambiguity whatsoever.

- When Samson received the Holy Spirit, he knew he had received the power of God - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When Solomon received wisdom from God, he knew he had received wisdom beyond the level of normal human understanding - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When David recieved inspiration from God, he knew he had received such inspiration - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When Daniel and his friends received wisdom from God, they knew they had received wisdom from God which was not the result of their Babylonian education - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When Daniel was inspired by God in answer to prayer, that he might give the correct interpretation of prophecy, he knew that he had received such inspiration - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When Christ received wisdom, understanding, spiritual insight and strength beyond the normal human capacity, he knew he had received such gifts - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

- When the apostles received the Holy Spirit in order to recall infallibly the words of Christ, to expound the Scriptures as if they had been trained in them, to prophesy future events, to heal or to strike blind, they knew they had received these powers - and others could see clearly that this was the case.

Examples could well be multiplied, but the point is obvious.

#31 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:12 AM

8) In the case of the indirect influence of the Spirit on us (in terms of the examples of guidance we have previously considered - Balaam, Elijah, Jonah), the purpose is to reinforce the revealed Divine commandment, and to lead us to a greater appreciation and understanding of it.
But there is no supernatural enhancement to provide us with an understanding or capacity which we could not have previously acquired through our own reflection on the revealed Divine commandment.

In the case of the direct influence of the Spirit on us (in terms of the examples of obvious direct influence on the bodies and minds of individuals - Samson, Solomon, Christ), the purpose is to reinforce the revealed Divine commandment by means of the demonstration of supernatural capacities which are quite manifestly Divine in origin, and which are completely unavailable to us apart from the direct receipt of them from God.

9) Given the instruction and examples from the Scriptural record on this matter, it is obvious that whilst we may well be unaware of the indirect operation of the Spirit on us, it is inconceivable that we might be unaware of the direct operation of the Spirit on our hearts or minds.

- If we have prayed for the Holy Spirit and God has blessed us with it, we will know.

It will be unambiguous to us, and clearly manifest to others - we have no indication in Scripture to suggest anything otherwise.

- If we have prayed for wisdom in the form of direct and immediate enlightenment and God has blessed us with it, we will know.

It will be unambiguous to us, and clearly manifest to others - we have no indication in Scripture to suggest anything otherwise.

- If we have prayed for a supernatural action to be taken directly on our mind and God has blessed us with it, we will know.

It will be unambiguous to us, and clearly manifest to others - we have no indication in Scripture to suggest anything otherwise.

#32 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:13 AM

Two of the most contentious issues within the Charismtatic, Pentecostal, and Evangelical communities are 'When do we know we have received the Holy Spirit?', and 'What is the evidence that someone has received the Holy Spirit?'.

The complete confusion into which individuals have been thrown by these two questions is a manifest contrast to the Scriptural record. Nowhere in Scripture do we find these questions posing the insuperable difficulty to men and women of God which they pose to the contemporary claimants to this gift.

The Charismatics, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals are riven with doubt over this issue.
Whether they are speaking of the Holy Spirit gifts, or of the direct influence of the Holy Spirit to increase faith, instill wisdom, and to cause spontaneous supernaturally instilled feelings of joy, peace, and love towards other people, the same vexing questions arise - and are answered in a dazzling range of different ways which only proves the complete confusion on this issue.

Lists, tables, and charts are arranged, informing you of the various different 'sensations' which herald the 'indwelling of the Holy Spirit', and relating them to various different 'ministries' or 'annointings' which you apparently may receive. Everything from the tingling of one's little finger (an 'outreach ministry' - you are being 'annointed' as a 'teacher'), to a person feeling compelled to bark like a dog (a 'watchdog' ministry of 'protecting the church'), is analysed, with some significant meaning being attached to it.

One could continue, but there is really no point.

The simple fact of the matter is that we find nowhere in Scripture who was wandering around wondering if they had the Holy Spirit or not, wondering if they had just performed a miracle or not, wondering if God had directly influenced them with His Spirit.

Individuals who had received direct influence from God knew that they had received such an influence, and did not need to speculate. Solomon didn't spend days puzzling over whether or not he was now the wisest of men. Christ did not have to speculate as to whether or not he was receiving unprecedented supernatural aid. The apostles were not left wondering whether or not they really understood Scripture better than they had previously.

We may believe that God has influenced us directly. We may believe that in answer to our prayer He has directly infused us with wisdom, with feelings of love for others which we were otherwise reluctant or unable to cultivate, with a sense of peace and comfort - but we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that such an event has taken place, and we can certainly never be sure.

Why is this? I believe it is because we are not influenced directly in this way - if we were then the Scriptural example is that we would undoubtedly be very obviously aware of it, and it would be manifestly and undeniably supernatural in origin.

#33 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:14 AM

HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE IN OUR LIVES


Our study of the Holy Spirit is far from complete, but we have definitely covered sufficient material in order to answer the following questions:

1) When we pray for God's help in our reading and study (or pray for wisdom as in James 1) - what happens?

God moves and works in our lives in order to guide us and give us knowledge and understanding.
God has not ceased to operate in this way, and continues to do so in our own lives today. God uses the indirect operation of the Spirit to correct and guide our understanding in the various ways of which we have read previously.

2) How does God answer such prayers?

Through the indirect operation of His Spirit in our lives - that is, in a manner which does not involve the direct operation of His Spirit on our hearts/minds, is beyond our knowledge and/or capacity to understand and appreciate, and involves no compulsion of our will.

We have seen that this indirect operation of the Spirit does not always result in the immediate and complete understanding of the revealed Divine commandment by the individual being so guided. Three times God intervened in the life of Balaam in order to reinforce the commandment He had already given. But despite this intervention, Balaam either failed to understand or disobeyed willfully. Similarly, Job underwent enormous trial and pressure in his life as the Spirit of God influenced him indirectly, but failed to appreciate completely the guidance he was receiving.

It is evident therefore that this method of indirect guidance by the Spirit does not necessarily always result in the individual concerned understanding the message which they are being taught, or appreciating fully the knowledge to which they are being guided.

Nevertheless, despite the limitation of this means of guidance (a limitation which is the result of the limitations of the flesh, not the Spirit), it is the principal means by which the Spirit operates in our lives.

3) Does he answer it?

Absolutely and definitely yes. For thousands of years the indirect operation of the Spirit in the lives of men and women has been the method which God has used above all others, the method which He has chosen to use as the most common and almost exclusive means of instruction and guidance.

4) Is it answered by purely external means (providence)?

In times previous, no. In our dispensation, yes.

5) Does God at all act upon our minds to allow us to better understand His word?

Not to any discernable degree, no. If He did, it would be obvious, and we would both realise and appreciate it.

#34 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:17 AM

In the case of the direct influence of the Spirit on us (in terms of the examples of obvious direct influence on the bodies and minds of individuals - Samson, Solomon, Christ), the purpose is to reinforce the revealed Divine commandment by means of the demonstration of supernatural capacities which are quite manifestly Divine in origin, and which are completely unavailable to us apart from the direct receipt of them from God.

In contrast to the occasional incapacity of individuals to discern and learn from the indirect working of the Spirit in their lives, those moments in which the Spirit has operated directly on individuals have always been without any ambiguity whatsoever.

If we say that God's Spirit does operate directly on our hearts/minds, but without us being able to detect, discern, understand, comprehend, or appreciate such influence, and that it is never obviously, evidently, clearly, or unambiguously the Divine influence apart from any other influence, then what we are saying is that we haven't really experienced any benefit whatsoever.

The simple fact of the matter is that we find nowhere in Scripture who was wandering around wondering if they had the Holy Spirit or not, wondering if they had just performed a miracle or not, wondering if God had directly influenced them with His Spirit.

Individuals who had received direct influence from God knew that they had received such an influence, and did not need to speculate. Solomon didn't spend days puzzling over whether or not he was now the wisest of men. Christ did not have to speculate as to whether or not he was receiving unprecedented supernatural aid. The apostles were not left wondering whether or not they really understood Scripture better than they had previously.

We may believe that God has influenced us directly. We may believe that in answer to our prayer He has directly infused us with wisdom, with feelings of love for others which we were otherwise reluctant or unable to cultivate, with a sense of peace and comfort - but we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that such an event has taken place, and we can certainly never be sure.

Why is this? I believe it is because we are not influenced directly in this way - if we were then the Scriptural example is that we would undoubtedly be very obviously aware of it, and it would be manifestly and undeniably supernatural in origin.

6) Is there any difference between the previous 2 questions?

Yes, most certainly - and that should now be abundantly apparent.

#35 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:19 AM

HOLY SPIRIT GUIDANCE IN OUR LIVES


We have discussed at some length the direct operation of the Spirit on the hearts and minds of individuals. Let's examine what we have found:

1) Where the Spirit has operated directly on the heart/mind of an individual, it has always been for a specific Divine purpose. Particularly, the purpose is to reinforce the revealed Divine commandment by means of the demonstration of supernatural capacities which are quite manifestly Divine in origin, and which are completely unavailable to us apart from the direct receipt of them from God. Our examples have been Samson, Solomon, and Christ himself - and examples could well be multiplied.

2) Where the Spirit has operated directly on the heart/mind of an individual, it has always been known and readily understood that this is the case. Again, we have the examples of Samson, Solomon, Christ and the apostles, not to mention others.

3) Where the Spirit has operated directly on the heart/mind of an individual, their free will is never infringed, nor are they compelled to perform an action beyond their capacity to choose to do otherwise.

The case of Pharoah is an example of this, and it is clear that the hardening of his heart was the result of the indirect operation of the Spirit as the plagues were sent on Egypt.

Brother Jonathan Pogson comments helpfully:

All God had to do to antagonise Pharoah was to touch his pride and tell him what to do against his will, ie, let my people go, and enter into a competition with Pharoah as to who was the greatest.

Pharoah could have been impressed for good, but in his position, pride and prejudice would have been just too much, and so, without any special magic, God could quite easily harden Pharoah's heart.


Brother Dev Ramcharan adds this, which is also extremely useful, and agrees well with what Brother Jonathan has said:

But, perhaps the hardening was not just by means of plagues but by a plethora a circumstances directed/engineered by God's angels which all served in the end to increase the spiritual calcification of Pharaoh's wicked heart. Every story of Israeli production shortfall, inefficiency, provincial breakdown in the Egyptian "empire", every report of domestic and civil strife and unrest in Egypt together with the continual pressure to compromise which his advisors must surely have subjected him to, generated another step in the progressive hardening of his heart.

The full responsibility for, and ownership of, the hardening of heart was the man Pharaoh's, and not God's. If the reverse were true, if God directly manipulated P's thoughts and feelings, his condemnation of P. would have been unjust. God manipulated circumstances, not Pharaoh.
He did not create his thoughts, He revealed them.


That last phrase of Brother Dev's, 'He did not create his thoughts, He revealed them' is quite brilliant, in my opinion. It sums up the relationship between the operation of the Spirit of God in Pharaoah's life and Pharaoah's response to it in very clear and simple terms which are evident from the record.

#36 Fortigurn

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Posted 22 March 2003 - 04:20 AM

Another example we have considered is that of David numbering the people.
Who was the adversary who caused David to number the people, we ask?
The answer, always, is 'God, of course'.

But this is not strictly true. David's numbering of the people was in direct response to the adversary - an adversary raised by God, but who was not actually God Himself.

Consider first the Samuel record:

2 Samuel 23:
1And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.


This verse says that God moved David to number Israel. The question we must then ask is how did He move David against Israel? A simple reading of the text would indicate that God simply reached out and caused David to sin - and indeed, this is the natural reading of the text.

We may object 'God does not cause people to transgress in this manner', but what else are we to make of the verse? At the very least it appears to indicate the direct operation of the Spirit beyond the knowledge of the individual, and at the compulsion of their will.

In fact, this incident did not involve the direct operation of the Spirit on David in this way, and very importantly it tells us how God does act in such situations.

Let's now read the Chronicles record:

1 Chronicles 21:
1And satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
2And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.


The Chronicles record tells us that an adversary opposed Israel, and that it was this opposition to Israel which provoked David to number Israel.

In other words:

1) An adversary opposed Israel...

2) ...And this adversary, though stirred up by God, was not God Himself.

3) David responded to the threat made by this adversary to Israel...

4) ...And did so of his own free will, undirected by God.

5) Thus the involvement of God in the numbering of Israel was completely indirect, rather than the direct method which appears to be the case on a superficial reading of the text.

So what was the opposition which rose up against Israel?

The answer is to be found in David's response:

1 Chronicles 21:
5And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.


2 Samuel 23:
9And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.


David numbered the people for war. What sort of activity would cause him to number the people for war? The hostile military activity of a foreign power, nothing less.

Thus, when we read this:

1 Chronicles 21:
1And satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.


...we understand that the adversary opposed Israel, and that David, far from being compelled by the Holy Spirit to act out of character, actually chose to respond to this threat in manner which resulted in transgression.

Interestingly enough, we have now learned that the adversary, strictly speaking, was not God, that God moved the adversary against Israel not David, and that David then responded in his own free will to a threat to the nation. The operation of the Spirit in this way was clearly indirect, but it is described in the Samuel record at least in terms which sound as if it was direct, even though we know it was not.

The Samuel record therefore describes the process in a 'shorthand' manner, rather than giving details of the event, whilst the Chronicles record provides the full account of the situation.

It is noteworthy that this record of events demonstrates to us that the indirect operation of the Spirit may be spoken of in terms which suggest that it was direct, even though it was not.
This is an important principle to bear in mind when we approach other passages of Scripture dealing with the operation of the Spirit.




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