Thursday, March 13, 2014

Be led by the Holy Spirit - Part I

First of all, is there such an exhortation?  Yes, the closest ones are these:

Gal 5:16-17 - 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Amplified Bible - 16 But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.

Romans 8:13-14 (KJV) - 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify {put to death} the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Romans 8:1 (KJV) - There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The above are New Testament (NT) passages, are there any from Old Testament (OT) on this?  Yes, but because in OT, the Holy Spirit did NOT function as the spiritual Emmanuel (God with us), like He is doing in the NT, we find instead, reference to be led by the LORD; to me, it is on the same theme.

We will NOT look at Moses, how he was led by the LORD, because he was in a unique season where the LORD travelled with the people, and he, Moses, could appear before the Tabernacle where God was, and had the LORD speak directly to him.  Rather, we will look at another character, David, and as a short contrast, his predecessor, King Saul.

In the OT, we find David, the man God said to be after His own heart, was always wanting to be led by the LORD.  We can see his expressions of this, in a number of his psalms (which we will see below).

One of the reasons King Saul was replaced by God with David was that the former turned away from being led by the LORD.  In those days (OT), the common way the LORD led was by the mouth of His prophets, who were well-schooled in the laws of God, have learnt the ways of God.  One such prophets, then was the prophet Samuel.  He was the one who anointed Saul as King over Israel (and later David, too), because the Israelites insisted on a man-king when the LORD was already their King.  We see the LORD’s anger when Samuel turned away.

1 Sam 15:1-3; 9-13; 19-23 - 1Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. 10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret {become grieved} that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. 12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.” 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” {Samuel speaking, to Saul} 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 …. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.

Acts 13:22 - After removing Saul, he {God} made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

Ps 16:5 (by David) Amplified Bible - The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot.
As opposed to King Saul, David was humble, and had truly chosen the LORD as his Lord, chosen to have the LORD decide his fate all the time.  He believed in his LORD, and was ever defensive of the good name of the LORD. 

When the Philistine giant, Goliath, challenged the army of King Saul, David, then still a young lad, stood up against Goliath.  In 1 Sam 17:26, we read what David said,“….Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  We know the story; David fought Goliath, in the name of the LORD, and killed Goliath with a sling and a few smooth stones.
To David, whatever the LORD decided as to his life, he would embrace it – “The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot.  David was a shepherd boy, looking after his father’s flock, had to fight off wild animals which attacked the flock; later, he worked for King Saul, was his harpist, was the King’s commander; and then when he did extremely well in the army, King Saul persecuted him, and wanted to kill him; he had to run, and became fugitive even in the land of the enemy, the Philistines. 

David was careful to keep the LORD’s laws and commandments, although there were occasions of failure, but held no ill-feeling towards the LORD, even when the LORD decreed death to his first son from his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.  He, when convicted through the words of the prophet Nathan, waited upon the LORD to see if the LORD would relent from His decree, but when God did NOT, He accepted it, and moved on, after 7 days, letting NOT the “bad patch” which was a result of his own failure (a serious one, too – triple violations of the 10 Commandments), to affect his steadfastness towards the LORD.
Portion, cup and lot, they all speak about the same thing, David’s abandonment to the LORD; accepting whatever the LORD would decide for him: in little (shepherd boy or on the run) or in much (as king), in low position (shepherd boy) or in high position (as king), in troubles (pursued and persecuted; his own son, Absalom revolted against him, even) or in peaceful times (David did have peaceful times, as King), in failures (covetousness, adultery and murder from encounter with Bathsheba) or in successes (David could have killed King Saul when the latter came after him, but he did NOT [he understood Saul was King put up by God]).

We can see David’s steadfastness from this declaration of his, in Ps 16:8 – “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  David said (Ps 16:7), “I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.  He said he praised God who counselled him, his heart instructed him in the night seasons; what did he mean; how was he counselled or what was this “his heart instructed him in the nights”?  In the OT, counsel from God came through the written laws of God and the prophets of God (additionally, in Moses’ time, from enquiry before the Tabernacle, from God).  Ps 119:9-16 (which I believe the author was David), gave us the clue:

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

David took the laws and words of God to heart, and have himself constantly be reminded of them, to that He would NOT sin against God, even in the dark or difficult seasons of his life.

David, we could read from the psalms, he had this posture of wanting only God’s ways, even when he was in troubles or afflictions of life:

Ps 5:8 - Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way level (straight and right) before my face.
Ps 27:11 - Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies [those who lie in wait for me].

David took God’s words and laws to heart, and was completely given to them, and so, lived a righteous life (albeit, with some failures). David made another declaration:

Ps 37:23-25 Amplified Bible - 23 The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. 24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him. 25 I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the [uncompromisingly] righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread.

David said a righteous (v25) man, the LORD delights in his ways.  The Amplified Bible said God busies Himself with the man’s every step! [Note: the NIV translated this wrongly as “the man delights in God’s way”] For such a man, his steps are ordered (directed and established) by God.

We now come back to our times, NT times.  Today, as given at the outset of this article, NT scriptures exhort us to be led by the Holy Spirit.

Except for Jesus, all the other significant characters in Scripture, put in, by God, as examples for our benefit were NOT perfect at all.  Secondly, from our own life, and from day to day dealing with fellow believers, really, I cannot see how it can be that any preacher could claim that upon (entry into) salvation, one attains perfection.  I hope these preachers are NOT suggesting they are themselves the perfect ones, the Jesuses!

Some believers do enjoy higher favour in certain areas of their lives, compared with some others.  For example, one may have an example of a sin bondage that he once had, but has completely been broken by the Lord, and he has no more struggle with the sin, even when he comes into temptation.  But is he completely free from all allures of the fallen world?  I doubt there are any believers who managed to live a completely sinless and struggle-free life all the time.  Scriptures are showing that the draw to go back to the “vomit or mud” is very real. 

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.” 2 Pet 2:22

The Apostle Paul also gave us the picture of the struggle, tug-of-war, that still goes on, in the life of a believer.  The sinful nature or carnal flesh (or just called flesh, even) or what I called Iniquity or Sin (or agency of Satan), on the one hand, is still trying to get us to go back into the fallen world ways, when on the other hand, the Holy Spirit whom God has put to indwell us, trying to have us to work with Him on our sanctification.  As can be read from the NT scriptures (given at the outset), the desires of the flesh and those of the Spirit are opposing.

We have seen for the OT people of God, what they had to do, to be led by God, in righteousness – hid the words and laws in their hearts, meditated on them, obeyed them and lived by them; and then on top of that, they would heed the prophets’ words for them. 

How different is it for us, NT believers?  Do we have to treat the Word and commandments of God like David did? My answer is yes.  We still need to take in the Word and commandments of God into our hearts, meditate on them, obey them, and live by them.  What about this verse:

Heb 8:10 - This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

This verse does NOT mean 1) now, we just do NOT need to hear, read, or study the Word; 2) God will take a pen and write it all down for us (the entire Bible) into our mind and heart, so that it is all there, ready for use by us; 3) it obviously does not mean you don’t have to listen to the teachers standing behind the pulpits or that you don’t have to go to church anymore, to hear from anybody anymore; and 4) the New Covenant is without laws and commandments.

This Heb 8:10 scripture text, a re-quote of Jer 31:33, is a dual context prophecy, and so, the author of Hebrews used it as the “far prophecy” (the “near prophecy” referred specifically to the house of Israel). 

Now, as used in OT, it (God writing laws into hearts and minds) can be said as almost metaphorical, and there many verses in OT alluring to this metaphorical use.  For the NT, although my belief is that it is no longer metaphorical in its use, the bringing about of the laws of God into our mind and heart, is NOT to be understood, literally like “God to write them in, nothing to do with us”; in fact, it is on top of what OT people, like David, would do with the laws; it added a dimension which previously was largely from external, today, is internal; and by that I mean, the function of the indwelling Holy Spirit, in this area.

What I am saying is therefore, we still have to take in the Word and commandments of God into our hearts (through hearing, reading and studying the Word), meditate on them, obey them, and live by them.  It is on top of that, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who is “The Tutor”.  Now, the understanding of how it all works is this:

Consider the metaphor of you, the knowledge in Science text books (for e.g.), and your tutor.  When you have NOT the tutor, you do all the reading and understanding on your own; you get all of those knowledge with understanding into your mind (and heart).  Now, that you have a tutor, it does NOT mean you do NOT have to read and understand the knowledge from the books, but it is that you still do all of that, read and understand; but if you are in doubt, you have the tutor who has better knowledge and understanding then you (that is why he is your tutor-right?!), to help you. 

The tutor does NOT read for you and understand for you; the onus is on you to read and understand, even though the tutor, and if he is good one, he will guide you along, correct you when your understanding is off; and he will teach you when you ask him.  If you ignore him, then he cannot really help you, can he?  Say, you have to take an exam, your tutor is NOT the one taking the exam; you are.  He won’t take the exam for you.

The idea of a tutor tutoring you is so that you are able to get what is outside of you, the knowledge in the books, and the understanding that is NOT yet had, into you, better; so that you can do what you have to do with them, subsequently.  Of course, a tutor’s role included briefing you on how to use what you have gotten into your mind, properly, like examination-taking.  And so, he would test you, too; give you some test papers to do.  And then at the end of the day, what you gotten into your mind (and heart) is yours to keep, and to use.  When the tutor is satisfied with you for specific areas, it indicates you have mastered it; he would leave you to “operate” those.  If you are humble, you still know that you could err, and you would humbly go by the tutor to check if what you intend to do, is the best thing to do.

What I am trying to say is that the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to do the job of “hiding God’s word in our hearts, so that we may NOT sin against God” (Ps 119:11), better, more excellently.  But it is still we have to work with the Holy Spirit on this.  This Holy Spirit is NOT just our particular subject tutor, but is the Tutor of our life.

We are the product of God’s creation.  The Holy Spirit came from the “manufacturer of us” (God).  The Word or Scripture is the manufacturer’s manual on us; how we are to operate.  In the OT times, the Holy Spirit made visits, but in NT, the Holy Spirit is with us, indwelling us.  It is now a more intimate setting, yet, you and I have to work with the Holy Spirit, be led by Him.  He knows best, for He is from the manufacturer, part of the manufacturer, and is the manufacturer, God.

Satan, too, had put “a tutor” of his own, in men; this, according to how the apostle Paul said of “him”, he resides in the flesh.  He is, who I called, Iniquity (or Sin); scripture referred to “him” as flesh or sinful nature.  This Satan, he came from the house of our manufacturer (God), too; but he was driven out, and he has come to create havoc with us.  He knows what is in the manufacturer’s manual, the Bible, and he would try to get us to operate outside of the true prescription by the Bible.  He would even exploit and twist and turn what is written in the manual, to deceive us. What he wanted of us, is the corruption of us, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and if possible, our destruction.

That is why the scriptures given at the outset of this article, all talked about the flesh or sinful nature or Iniquity (agency of Satan, and therefore, of Satan)’s desires are antagonistic to those of the Holy Spirit.  So, the exhortation is that we are to listen to and be led by the Holy Spirit, and NOT to the flesh.

John 10:10 gave us the contrast: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

The thief in the verse is referring to Satan or “typing” (type for) Satan.  The “I” there, is Jesus.

To sum it all, it is necessary we be led by the Holy Spirit; we must want to be led by the Holy Spirit, so that we are NOT led by the flesh.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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