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Feb 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 7, 2021



And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:1-6

Intro: Some of what I have to say will sound like a repetition of last week

I’m okay with that – we need to have it reinforced for us to own it
– my intention is to build on what we went over last week
• our Scriptures are sacred writings,
◦ but we don’t know how to read sacred writings
• we have learned that we read sacred writings”
◦ with reverence, receptivity and responsiveness, and self-reflection
◦ last week, we read the sacred writings with the Spirit of God
– today we learn to read the sacred writings Spirit-to-spirit
• so we are moving into a deeper place than last week
◦ we are entering a deeper place in God and in what happens in ourselves

Paul’s question is interesting and it is unique to this encounter

I think it’s fair to say, he discerned something was missing in these men
– the were “disciples,” they had beliefs, and they had a faith
• perhaps Paul felt there was a missing dynamic
– the same dynamic had been missing from his previous, very religious life
Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17)
• the same dynamic is missing from lives of many Christians
◦ that means, they’re trying to “do” Christianity on their own
◦ in their own energy and by the exercise of worldly powers
• other Christians think receiving the Holy Spirit is about power
◦ power to work miracles, raise the dead, prophesy, or speak in tongues,
but the Christian life can be lived only in the strength of the Holy Spirit
Howard Hendricks once observed that we “need to be filled with the Spirit to play with our children.”
◦ we definitely need the help of God’s Spirit when entering the sacred writings
Fr. Romuald, in reference to the monastic tradition, said, “Our approach to the Scriptures is that, if you are not in the Holy Spirit, why even bother? Throw the book away and do something more useful. But we must believe that [the Word and the Spirit] come together. The only way a community could hear the word proclaimed or an individual could read the word, is in the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Scriptures.”

The idea I want to get across to you, can be found in a psalm
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me
(Ps. 41:7)
– this is a Psalm of Depression
• the poet asks the type of questions asked by depressed people
Why are your cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
(v. 5)

There is a large grotto in a cliffside on the Mediterranean coast in northern Israel. You can reach the grotto only by taking a cable car down to it, and during low tide. But it is a system of large and small caves that the sea rushes into, and as the waves crash in it, their thunder reverberates off of its walls.
I imagine the poet being in a place like this. It seems to him as though God sent breakers and waves to roll over his head and hold him down. At the same time, he feels some kind of correspondence with this majestic and powerful display. In poetic resonance, the depths of the sea reach and speak to a deep place in him.

– that is how we read the sacred writings
• their depth finds deep places in us

The societies of humankind do not spring up from the earth

Their organization and structure are not produced naturally,
– like, say an ant colony, where ants act according to their natural instinct
• human society is a “fabrication”–in English, fabrication has two meanings:
◦ something invented or manufactured by humans
◦ a fabrication can also be a lie
• the New Testament refers to human societies as “the world”
And so Hannah Arendt, “This world, however, is not identical with the earth or with nature, as the . . . general condition of organic life. It is related, rather, to the human artifact, the fabrication of human hands, as well as to affairs which go on among those who inhabit the man-made world together. To live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it; the world, like every in-between, relates and separates [people] at the same time.”
– the world of society forms the lives of people who live in it
• through government (law and order), but more so through culture
Arendt says that to not live in the world “means to be deprived of reality”
◦ to be invisible to the world, and if you’re not seen in it, you don’t exist
◦ at least not as a human person
• she makes a another observation that I find remarkable:
“Historically, we know of only one principle that was ever devised to keep a community of people together who had lost their interest in the common world and felt themselves no longer related and separated by it. To find a bond between people strong enough to replace the world was the main political task of early Christian philosophy . . .” and the bond the church found in the writings of St. Augustine was “charity” (love), which is “admirably fit to carry a group of essentially worldless people through the world . . . .”

The person I identify as “me” in the world, is my false self

That is, the self that is shaped by, and conformed to the world
– Paul refers to is as the “flesh,” the “old self,” and the “natural person”
• he tells us that when Jesus enters a person’s life, the false s has to go (Ro. 6:1-11; Gal. 2:20)
For whoever would save his [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his [soul] for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Mt. 16:25-26)
◦ one must lose the false self to find his or her true self
• the false self can be religious and mimic a form of godliness (2 Tim 3:5)
◦ but this self cannot know God or please God

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; in deed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Ro. 8:5-8)

– the false self is a fabrication like the world it inhabits
your true self is spirit
• God is the life of your true self
◦ his Spirit is the life of our spirit-self

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Ro. 8:10-11)

◦ within us, the Spirit leads us, speaks to us, and prays within us

Our relation and interaction with God is Spirit-to-spirit

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption and sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, their heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we many also be glorified with him (Ro. 8:14-16)

Bernard Ramm wrote an entire book on verse 16, The Witness of the Spirit. He says, the witness is “the touch of the divine Spirit upon the human spirit. . . . What the Father speaks the Son mediates, and what the Son mediates is actually spoken into the ear by the Holy Spirit.”
“It is the Spirit who makes the heart burn as the Word is heard.” (cf. Lk. 24:32)
“The Holy Spirit is the internal minister of the Word who speaks the compelling and persuasive Word to the human heart. When the word spoken . . . penetrates the ear of the listener, the internal minister speaks it to the heart.”
“The actual bringing of Christ to the consciousness of the believer by the Spirit through the Word results in an ‘experience.’ . . . that act whereby the Holy Spirit takes Christ out of the realm of idea and history and makes him a reality to the believer.”
– this is what I mean by reading the sacred writings Spirit-to-spirit,
• and as deep calling to deep

But as it is written,
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him” —
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ
(1 Cor. 2:9-16)

Eugene Peterson, “The Christian Scriptures are the primary text for Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is, in its entirety, rooted in and shaped by the scriptural text. We don’t form our personal spiritual lives out of random assemblage of favorite texts in combination with individual circumstances; we are formed by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the text of Holy Scripture. God does not put us in charge of forming our personal spiritualities. We grow in accordance with the revealed Word implanted in us by the Spirit.”
Bernard Ramm, “In its simplest, definition, revelation is God making himself known, and this ‘knowing’ is a spiritual knowing.
– do you see how we cannot get this “knowing” from scripture on our own?
• the holy writings are made alive to us by the Holy Spirit
Hans W. Wolf, using breath as a synonym for spirit, wrote, “Breath as the characteristic of life shows that man is indissolubly connected with Yahweh. Everything to do with man is earthly and material, even though it is formed by Yahweh himself; but man’s existence as a living being is thanks to Yahweh’s infusion of the breath of life. . . . Thus breath as the basic function of human life is to keep man bound together with his Creator . . .”
Fr. Romuald, “If you can breathe, you have a hope that you could recognize the Spirit in you [and] in the Scriptures.”
• the Spirit who has access to the depths of God,
◦ has access to what is deep in us – he explores all levels of our being
• so to read Spirit-to-spirit is a very close, personal experience
Joel Green, “As we read the Bible as revealed history, we come better to understand that this story is our story. . . . when we approach the Bible as Christian Scripture we take seriously the faith statement that this book is our Book, these scriptures are our Scripture. We are not reading someone else’s mail . . . .”
Helmut Thielicke, “Here the Word is a personal and not purely verbal event.”
Hans Von Balthasar, “. . . The word need not be apprehended as something alien, some ‘other’: it can be understood to be what is most our own, what is most intimate and close to us; it is MY truth, the truth of me and about me; the word which reveals me and gives me to myself. For we have been created in this word, and it contains our entire truth . . . .”
◦ this is an important clue regarding how to read Spirit-to-spirit

Conclusion: Reading sacred writings Spirit-to-spirit will be personal and prayerful

Personal: God’s Spirit shows us our true selves: we are his children!
– you are not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to explore

Prayerfully: with the intellect we meditate; with the spirit we contemplate
Thielicke, “With the Bible . . . one must first pray one’s way into it . . . .”
Richard Rohr, “. . . most of us have not been taught the practice or the patience to stand guard over this seemingly empty space where your Inner Witnessing Presence, your quiet Inner Knower dwells. You must learn to trust this Knower. The Spirit is doing the knowing and loving in you, with you, and for you. . . . Most Christians have not been taught contemplation. Contemplation is learning how to abide in and with the Witnessing Presence planted within you, which of course is the Holy Spirit . . . .”

I would suggest that as we approach the sacred writings,
to read them Spirit-to-spirit
we first take a slow, deep, cleansing breath
Then focus our attention on the presence of the Spirit,
that he is present
in this place and this moment
That through the sacred writings,
the Spirit is reaching into the depths of your spirit
bringing to you the heart and mind of God
from his own depths
If you can breathe,
you can bring yourself to an awareness of the Spirit
Read with that awareness

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