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Feb 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 31, 2021



I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:12-15

Intro: Three weeks ago I said we read sacred writings with reverence
– since then, have you noticed more opportunities to experience reverence?
• every day brings us a sacred gift – it comes to us on tip-toe
◦ in our busy days, it is too easy to miss
◦ however, if we monitor our inner radar, we’ll hear a ping and find the blip

Gerald May referred to the reverence we feel in sacred events “unitive experiences,” because we feel united to whatever evokes the experience–for instance, we feel may feel united to nature, to nature’s beauty, and to nature’s God. May said, “Spiritual longing often takes the form of a desire to re-unite with the ultimate source of being, as if we know vaguely that at some primeval level we are in and of God, and God is in and through us.”
“In true unitive experience the senses are wide open; the world presents itself with utter clarity, but there is no sense of separation of oneself from it. . . . Unitive experiences often occur spontaneously, and often outside of obviously religious contexts. . . . It is possible to increase one’s openness, receptivity, and responsiveness to unitive experiences, but it is not possible to make them happen.”

• these opportunities are so many and so close,
◦ that it’s nothing less than tragic to go through life without enjoying them
– reading the sacred writings of our faith has the potential to wake us up
• but there’s a condition, and that is:
We must read the sacred writings with the Holy Spirit
• Jesus referred to the Spirit as a Comforter (Helper or Counselor)
◦ here he is, the Spirit of truth, who would take over Jesus’ role
◦ whatever questions the disciples would have asked Jesus regarding the Scriptures, the Spirit could answer, for
he will guide you into all the truth

The New Testament leaves no doubt; the Spirit inspired the Scriptures

Jesus’ followers could quote from Psalm 2 as words that God gave
through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:25–cf. Acts 1:16; Mt. 22:43)
– in our study in Hebrews, we saw how the Spirit spoke through scripture Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice . . .” (Heb. 3:7)
• we began this study in 2 Timothy 3, where we read that Timothy had been
acquainted with the sacred writings, and that
All Scripture is breathed out by God
• that is not a direct reference to the Spirit
◦ but the Spirit of God is the breath of God
◦ and associated with God’s word in Hebrew Scriptures
– to take the Scriptures as sacred writings,
• we must know they have come from God through his Spirit
The prophet Zechariah refers to
the words that the LORD of hosts had sent to them by his Spirit through the former prophets (Zec. 1:12)
Walther Eichrodt, in his Theology of the Old Testament says, we observe that “the linking of the Word with the Spirit of God . . . preserved its living dynamic, and kept it from petrifying in an impersonal world order.”
“The process . . . by which inspiration, the control of history, and creation were all included in the activity of the Word, made it inevitable that statements about the Word should in many cases overlap with those about the Spirit.”
• that link of Spirit and word was personified and fully realized in Jesus

The past three centuries saw much work invested proving the reliability of the Bible
– proving its historical, archeological, textual, and scientific integrity
• at end of the day, all that has accomplished,
◦ has been to convince Christians of what they already believed
• it has not convinced or changed the minds of unbelievers
– when we read scripture as sacred writings, we don’t need convincing
• first, because to accept them as sacred writings is a choice – an act of faith
• second, immersing ourselves in sacred writings discover their reliability
◦ this encourages us to return to it repeatedly and frequently
◦ if we do not read the Bible as sacred writings, it won’t work its life into us

My friend Fr. Romuald was asked to lead a Franciscan/Benedictine forum
– he began his talk with the question:
“If you say the Scriptures are inspired, what do you mean?”
Fr. Romuald explained, “The modern answer is that inspiration probably happened by accident when somebody got the Bible as we know it into writing. Then the Spirit died. So now it’s the problem of Christians to grunt out some meaning from this whole plethora of words–which is a horrible way to think about inspiration, but it’s a common way.”
• “literary theory” is the attempt to discover a science of interpretation
◦ known as hermeneutics, it is more philosophy than science
◦ anyway, today there are many different theories of interpretation
• all of them share in common some kind of rational approach
◦ by looking at a text through a magnifying glass and then dissecting it
– I know there is solid ground for all kinds of biblical research
• but there tends to be a couple of missing pieces to this process
• one piece is the naive realism: reading the Scriptures as sacred writings
◦ what about the other piece?

Fr. Romuald reminded the participants of the Christian tradition

Fr. Romuald, “Since God transcends time, he inspires the Scriptures (present tense) and will always inspire them. The only way you could read them today would be with the Holy Spirit in-spiring (breathing into them). Inspiration applies not only to the initial writings, but to the constantly ongoing reading of scripture in every community and every individual.”
– the Spirit of God works at both ends of the sacred writings
• he works at the front end, inspiring the various writers
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21)
• and he works at our end
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 (1 Cor. 2:12)
Jonathan Pennington, “An active reader listening to the text of Holy Scripture with a right posture is inevitably and rightly already applying the text to himself or herself, at least at the heart level of asking probing questions. This is the Spirit’s work; the sense of conviction and openness to be convicted, corrected, guided, and consoled are Spirit-wrought applications of the text even while the reader is in the midst of identifying the climax of tension [in a story] or considering doctrinal points of revelation.”

I find Paul’s teaching regarding the work of God’s Spirit in us fascinating
– he contrasts two classes of wisdom:
wisdom of the world, which is also the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 1:20; 2:5)
the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21, 24; 2:7)
. . . the world did not know God through wisdom . . . . But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (1 Cor. 1:21)
◦ what this means, is that
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 (1 Cor. 2:14)
◦ there are things of God no eye has seen, nor ear heard
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God (I Cor. 2:9-10)
– God’s Spirit works in us, to open our hearts and minds to God
Helmut Thielicke, “The Word opened up by the Spirit does things rather than just imparting [information].”
• God’s Spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear

I imagine the sacred writings to be like a candle and the Spirit like a flame
– if you have only the wax candle,
• you do not have the light you need to see what’s in text
◦ then the Bible is foreign, irrelevant, and impossible to grasp
Regarding Paul’s letters, Peter wrote, There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:16)
• if we have only the flame, it burns out of control
◦ so you find people trying to harness its power
(this is the theme of “The Book of Eli,” if you’ve seen that film)
◦ that is what results in false prophecies and counterfeit miracles
– the Spirit is greater than I am, he knows more than I, and he is in control
• through the sacred writings, the Spirit interprets me
◦ he helps me to see myself as I am – reveals what I need
◦ and he sends me in the right direction with my life
Helmut Thielicke, “This is a truth we cannot control . . . . It is a truth which leads me to being in truth and which thus transforms me. This transforming character of truth is what is brought to light by the active Word that mediates it. This Word is plainly the instrument of the miracle of the Spirit, bringing new birth and the new creation of the spiritual man [and woman].”

Okay, let’s pause and draw a slow, deep breath
– when we open our hearts and minds to God,
• and are mindful of the sacredness of scripture,
• then begin reading it, the Spirit of God is with us, around and in us
◦ he is God’s voice, speaking to us through what we read
◦ he awakens us to the life he gives to the words before us
– how can I know that it is God who is speaking to me?
• I will suggest only one simple test: Is the voice I hear loving?
◦ if it seems like God is uncaring, angry, or condemning,
◦ I am most likely hearing another person’s voice
(e.g., an angry parent, a severe nun, or Bible-thumping preacher)
◦ then I need to listen again for God’s voice
• even when I need scolding, God is compassionate and forgiving

Conclusion: Let me leave you with this:

We never have to somehow conjure God’s Spirit
– we don’t have to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” because he is already here
• he came to the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-36)
• what we do today is receive the Spirit
(Jn. 20:22; Acts 1:8; 2:38; 8:15; 19:2; Ro. 8:15; Gal. 3:2 & 4)
– we open our Bible as if opening the door to the sanctuary
• we stand at the threshold and become mindful of the Spirit
◦ then we enter the sacred writings
◦ and as God breathes out his Word by his Spirit, we breathe it in

Paul told the Ephesians,
Do not get drunk with wine . . . but be filled with the Spirit (Ep. 5:18)
The implication is, that if we can get ourselves drunk,
we can also get ourselves filled with the Spirit
All we have to do is ask
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Lk. 11:13)
You have a divine Helper
Rely on Jesus and on his Spirit
who you receive from Jesus
and who you is a fountain of living water

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