The Holy Spirit or a Bad Piece of Beef?

Cathedra-HolySpirit 2Have you ever wondered how to know if something is from the Holy Spirit or something else? You feel something warm inside at a concert or revival meeting. Your church has a wave of emotions come over the congregation at a service. A person says they have a message from God for you. You feel a tug of the heart to stop and talk to a total stranger at the mall.

Chances are, you have wondered about these or similar things before. We ask, “Is this the Holy Spirit? Is it my fragile mind, a guise of Satan, or a bad burrito?” Thankfully, some great thinkers, like Jonathan Edwards, have gone before us and thought about these kinds of questions.

Edwards was a master at discerning the work of the Spirit. He wrote a little booklet about it called Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Edwards lived and ministered in the thick of the Great Awakening–a time of great revival in New England. His theology of the Spirit’s work was thus formulated in the crucible of everyday ministry, not in the sanitized study of a theoretical theologian. He was ruthlessly biblical in his approach, and 1 John 4 was an especially helpful guide for him. From Scripture, Edwards found five marks, or signals, that the Spirit is at work:

  1. Treasuring Jesus: When something happens and people fix their gaze upon the Jesus revealed in Scripture and upon what he has accomplished in the gospel, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God. 
  2. Hating Evil: When something opposes the work and interests of Satan, and when sin is exposed and killed, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.
  3. Loving Scripture: When something moves people toward an increased love and desire for the Bible and its rich and layered truth, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God. 
  4. Discerning Truth and Error: When something enlightens people to believe in, embrace, and apply truth as it is seen in Scripture, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.
  5. Loving God and People: When something produces sincere love for God and other people, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.

Much more could be said, but this is clarifying, convicting, and comforting! As we encounter happenings, feelings, or urges and run them through this “grid,” we will be able to discern the work of the Spirit. Even more, let’s pray for the Spirit to work so that we continually see these five marks evident in our individual and corporate lives!

Life Theology

Resolutions, God’s Grace, and Jonathan Edwards

As the New Year is still underway, perhaps many are still sorting out what they want to work on this year (or, at least, until mid-February). For the most part, we list things like not eating as much, losing five pounds a month, reading more, praying more, or others.

Those are good things, of course. And goals are, to be sure, very good to have. It’s easier said than done, but we need to remember that we need God’s grace through the Holy Spirit to do these things–to do anything. Simply mustering up motivation and esteem to lose weight might make you thinner, but it also might make you angrier or arrogant. Manufacturing energy and will power to read the Bible and pray might get you practicing these disciples, but it also might turn you into a coldhearted Pharisee. Remember God’s grace, pray for God’s power, love God above all else, and, as St. Augustine, said, do as you please.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, then, I want to direct you to the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. He didn’t pen these during one of the wild Puritan New Year’s Eve parties. Rather, he compiled them over a period of time, mostly during the year 1723. Edwards had a ferocious passion for holiness in life and ministry, one that God used to rebuke me as I read these earlier this week. These resolutions are grace-driven and faith-fueled. I trust that God will use them to spur me on in the faith, and I hope they do the same for you. I plan to read them often throughout the year, not because they are inspired or revelatory, but because they are focused on the glory of God and living life to reflect the centrality of that.

You can read the resolutions as they originally appeared here. I found Desiring God’s post on Edward’s resolutions very helpful, as they put them into modern categories with subheadings to increase readability.

Happy resolving for the glory of God in 2013!


This I Believe: The Power of the Holy Spirit

The Power of Holy Spirit
I believe that this redemption is applied to believers by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ, regenerates spiritually dead sinners, convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and in him they are baptized into union with the Lord Jesus. By the Spirit’s activity, believers are renewed, sanctified, and adopted into God’s family. The Holy Spirit seals believers unto the day of final redemption and is the down payment for those who have received this promised inheritance. He indwells, guides, instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.

John 3:1-8; 6:63; 7:37-39; 16:4b-15; 1 Cor. 12:1-13; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-12; Rom. 8:9-17; Gal. 3:1-9; 4:6; Eph. 1:13-14; Heb. 9:14; 1 John 3:24; 4:13


This I Believe: The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit

God the Father
I believe in God the Father, an infinite, personal spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power and love. I believe he infallibly foreknows all that shall come to pass, that he concerns himself mercifully in the affairs of men, that he hears and answers prayer, and that he saves from sin and death all who come to him through Jesus Christ.

Matt. 23:9; Luke 10:21, 22; John 3:16; 6:27; Rom. 1:7; 1 Tim. 1:1,2; 2:5,6; 1 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 1:6

Jesus Christ
I believe in Jesus Christ, God the Father’s only begotten Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. I believe in His virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, and teachings. I believe in His substitutionary atoning death, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven, perpetual intercession for His people, and personal visible return to earth.

Matt. 1:18-25; 20:28; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1; 20:28, 30; Acts 1:11; Rom. 5:6-8; 6:9-10; 8:46; 9:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:4; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 7:25; 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:21-23

The Holy Spirit
I believe in the Holy Spirit who comes forth from the Father and Son to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify, and empower all who believe in Jesus Christ. In all that the Spirit does, he glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Christ, and that He is an abiding helper, teacher and guide.

John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:9-14; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Gal. 5:22-26


Morning Prayer

Here is a prayer I wrote that I will start to pray each morning to remind myself of the gospel.  It is a prayer that I’m sure will change slightly over time and it is not meant as a “be all, end all” prayer. It is also not meant to produce “religious gibberish” that is merely repeated with the mouth and not meant in the heart.  It is meant as a template, if you will, so that my mind and heart get into the daily (hourly?) rhythm of confessing Christ as my sole righteousness.

Please feel free to pass this along or re-post or even continue to add paragraphs in the comment section below.

Father in Heaven,

This new day I come not to ask that my slate would be “wiped clean,” for it was wiped clean when your Son cried, “It is finished.”  Today, I acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that my righteousness is solely based on the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ. I am accepted by you because of him. By grace through faith I look outside of myself to Jesus and wholly lay claim of the alien righteousness that he gives as the only ground for my acceptance.  Only this active faith in Christ will increase my sanctification today.  No amount of good works, kept disciplines, hallelujahs, prayers, sighs, or tears will improve my heart or get you on my side. For in Christ, you are already 100% for me.

I am perfectly loved in the gospel. Your grace has broken into my life through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Only through the Spirit’s application of his redemptive work am I able to experience relationship with you and so become your child, your servant, and your friend, and am no longer a son of disobedience, a slave of sin, and your enemy.

You welcome me this morning not because I rise early to read your word and pray. You welcome me not because I try to love you, my family, and those around me. You welcome me not because I try to live purely and righteously in a broken world. You welcome me because you welcome your Son, with whom you are well pleased. Because your Son, who knew no sin, became sin on my behalf I have become your righteousness. This righteousness is not my own, but it is a righteousness from you that depends on faith. Now when you see me, an unworthy sinner, you see Jesus, for my life is hidden in him.

Thank you for the gospel, O glorious Father.  Thank you for Christ, my substitute Savior.  Thank you for the Spirit who gave life to my dead heart and is active in me as the guarantee of my inheritance. Thank you for your gracious love for and acceptance of me. Because of your love and acceptance, cause me to walk in a manner worthy of this calling that I might be fully pleasing to you and put Christ on display to show the world how marvelous he is.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.