Thursday, December 06, 2007

God doesn’t tinker with the mind

The following article by Russ Brierly was recently posted on the Truth Alive forum. Russ makes some really good points and I personally think this article is a good contribution to the discussion of the Holy Spirit in the Christadelphian community. The article is re-posted here with his permission.

He wrote: "I recently submitted the following article to one of the Christadelphian magazines. I got a pink slip on it and while I am not surprised at the pink slip on the one hand, I believe it’s indicative of a serious problem we have in the community, and that is the fear to discuss openly with Bibles in hand anything which resembles teaching on the subject of the Holy Spirit."

I agree with his conclusion that Christadelphians generally avoid this subject, probably through fear. As a result there is a great deal of ignorance about it in the Christadelphian community. Consequently I also feel that the Christadelphian community is impoverished through its neglect of a very important Bible subject.

I know that Russ would value feedback, and discussion is welcomed at the Truth Alive forum.

God doesn’t tinker with the mind

When discussing how God works in our lives recently with a group of brethren, the statement was made by one that “God doesn’t tinker with the mind.” I found this rather troubling for three reasons:

1. It leaves my spiritual growth and progress totally up to my own intellectual abilities.
2. My three-score and ten years on this earth has demonstrated that I possess a mind that does need “tinkering with” in a supernatural way.
3. It is not in accord with numerous scriptural passages, or perhaps one might go so far as to say, in accord with a total Biblical theology.

God works with us in many ways; through the words of wisdom and righteous examples we find in the scripture; through circumstances, something which we often refer to as providence; through our counsel with loving, God fearing friends; and through the direct impression of thoughts on our mind.

When we look at the concept of God working with us by direct impression of thoughts on our mind, we are talking about God bringing about a change of attitude from the worldly to the spiritual, from the natural to the Godly, from the un-holy to the holy. We are talking about God helping us overcome sin in all its forms. We are talking about God helping us deal with addictions and those things to which human nature can so readily become a slave.

In exploring this subject we are looking at the concept of indwelling – God and the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling in us in such a way that our thoughts, our resultant speech and actions, our very being and mindset are representative of Jesus Christ, the one whom we claim to be our Lord. When someone looks at us he should see the Lord Jesus in us just as the early disciples could look at Jesus and see God because God dwelt in him. Jesus spoke of this indwelling in the following manner when the disciples wanted to see the father; “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

Temple of the Holy Spirit

Paul writes to the Corinthians, “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; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:18-20 NIV). Though most of the spirit gifts appear to have died out over time, the gift of the spirit that Peter refers to in Acts chapter two is very much alive. Paul talks about it as the “earnest of the spirit.” Another version terms it a “deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Perhaps Paul was making the transition in his own thinking away from the Jewish concept of the temple being the temple made of stone in Jerusalem as he listened to Stephen. Shortly before the witnesses who stoned Stephen laid down their cloaks at his feet Stephen cried out the words of Isaiah the prophet. These were words stating that the “most high does not live in houses made by men.” He was telling the stubborn Jews that their beloved temple is not the place where God chooses to dwell. As Stephen continued the quote from Isaiah, God himself asks, “where will my resting place be?” The Jews that knew well that prophecy of Isaiah would have know that the answer to that question is found earlier in that same prophecy: “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isa 57:15 NKJV) Perhaps it was here that Paul began to see that God would dwell in the hearts of man and that his work would be accomplished through this indwelling, a teaching which shows up so strongly in his writings.

Help Those Who Are Being Tempted

God would indwell in the hearts of men through his power or spirit and this would be channeled through the Lord Jesus Christ to whom he had given all power and authority. In the same passage in Matthew where Jesus states that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him he also states his promise to his disciples that he would be with them always, a promise that we can claim today.

In John chapter fourteen Jesus talks about a “comforter” or “counselor” that would be sent to help the disciples. The Greek word is ‘parakletos’ and it refers to one who stands along side of another to comfort, aid and help. In John 14:18 Jesus indicates that he would not leave them as orphans but would come to them, this time in another form, a spiritual being with all power and authority and a desire to “help those who are being tempted” and provide strength to the weak and encouragement to the faltering. He is there to help us in our time of need as the following portion of scripture teaches us:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16 NIV).

Christ in You, the Hope of Glory

Paul the Apostle writes many times of the uncommon power and energy at work in himself and the people he is writing to that is from God and the Lord Jesus Christ, a power that helps the disciple in his new life:

· Paul said, ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
· In writing to the Colossians he says, “To them [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
· In talking about his work of admonishing and teaching everyone so that he may present everyone “perfect in Christ” he talks about “struggling with all his [Christ’s] energy which so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:29)

God Who Works in You

Paul writes some very warm words to the Philippians encouraging them to continue in the faith. In doing so he assures them that God is working in them toward a good end and that good end is their salvation.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Phil 2:12-13)

To the Colossians he writes these words:

“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Col 1:10-12 NIV)

The God Who Gives You Endurance and Encouragement

Romans chapter fifteen is a powerful chapter. Paul is encouraging the Roman brethren toward a spirit of unity so that they might glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with “one heart and mouth.” He starts verse five with the words, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity….” We do not know the exact mechanics of how God will work to bring about the desired attitudes, but we do know that Paul states quite clearly that endurance and encouragement, which are attitudes or mindsets, are things that God works with in accomplishing his will among his people. Verse thirteen is a wonderful expression, found at the beginning and end of many of Paul’s letters, which conveys Paul’s conviction that God and the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, work with the attitudes and spirit of those who would be disciples of the Lord Jesus.

Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. NIV

Paul constantly recognized a power within himself that was not of himself that drove him to accomplish the things he accomplished for Christ. Consider this verse:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV)

We’d like to look at one more passage before we end our tour of a few of those passages that speak to the concept of indwelling. That passage is found in Romans eight, a chapter all of which speaks quite profoundly to the subject. We will look at verses six through eleven:

“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom 8:6-11 NIV)

The question of free will.

This verse not only deals with indwelling, but it also deals with the question of free will. Fearing that the concept of indwelling takes away a persons free will is probably the biggest reason why some have difficulty with the concept of indwelling. It may appear to take away ones free will and make them into an automaton.

The opposite is the truth. We have free will and can exercise it as we choose. To choose to empty ourselves and let God work in us is a choice we make of our own free will. To refuse to allow God to work in us is also an exercise of our own free will. We have the choice all along, just as Jesus had the choice in his life.

We readily accept the concept of miraculous healing. We take the medications, we do what the doctor says, but we still look to God for the healing. We all know of times when the prognosis of the physicians has been very pessimistic yet the miracle of healing has taken place. And when it does occur, whether anticipated by the physicians or not, we give glory to God and recognize that he is the ultimate healer.

Why do we then have difficulty with the concept of God working with the mind or our thinking processes? Why do we work so hard at keeping God out of our mental processes? The answer of course is our human nature. To deny that God will “tinker with our minds” because we do not theologically accept the concept is far different from not letting God work with us because of our human weakness.

The concept of indwelling is seen not only throughout the scriptures but it is also firmly embedded in our statement of faith. It is part of the fabric of spiritual growth and faith-building. It is perhaps exemplified best in the words of David, a man after God’s own heart yet a very human being whose human nature too often ruled his being; “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NIV)

Russ Brierly

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