In a world where emotions drive behavior, how can we keep a balance between mere reaction and taking God-approved action?
Some of the most difficult theological conversations revolve around salvation as “God’s work” and the role of human will in both responding to His grace and in continuing Christian experience. The old classic work by Pastor-Speaker Morris Venden “Salvation by Faith and Your Will” takes this topic head on. How do we best understand the role of God in purifying and remaking us in His image and our own in allowing him to do that work, in obeying His commands, and in following his lead? A major assumption of this week’s lesson, of course, is that humans have free will. Adventists have not been too keen on any kind of predestination or fate.
The Spirit of God
While the greatest number of references to the Holy Spirit occurs in the book of Luke (and its sequel, Acts), the most direct teachings about the Holy Spirit can be found in John 14-16. Here, Jesus tells us who the Spirit is and what is His role. Examine each of these passages and note the ways Jesus describes the Holy Spirit, or the actions which he does:
Some features are worth noting here: first, the Holy Spirit is a called “comforter,” but the same word (paraclete) is used in 1 John describing Jesus as an “advocate.” This is someone called to be present beside us to give advice, to encourage, comfort, intermediary, etc. Second, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. As the lesson notes, we can experience conviction for sin, and yet the turning from it is up to us. God’s Spirit does not do that work for us; He cannot, even though repentance itself may be called a gift.
Have you ever felt the convicting power of the Holy Spirit? What occasioned the need for conviction? How did you respond?
What happens if we ignore the conviction of the Spirit regarding sin? Do the effects go beyond the spiritual? Are there mental and physical health results?
Feelings vs. Facts
It seems reasonable that we live in a world where our feelings and the reality of the world around us are congruent; that is, our feelings follow the truth and facts of our environment. Yet this is rarely how feelings come. Someone may make a comment about how I’m dressed, and though they mean it as a compliment, if I’m already self-conscious about my clothing, I may feel slighted or demeaned. My feelings will not be in harmony with reality.
When God makes statements about our condition as sinful humans, my feelings might lead me to either deny that reality, or to be so discouraged, I no longer feel worthy of His promised forgiveness. Further, when God says “you’re saved by your faith in my work for you,” and “you’re forgiven,” I may have trouble reconciling my hearth with His statements of reality.
How can I keep from being deceived by my emotions, while at the same time recognizing how I feel at the moment? What steps can I take to live with the reality of God’s promises even (or especially) when my heart has a challenging time accepting them?
Throughout the New Testament, the apostles constantly use the imperative mood, that is, they give commands to live and act in certain ways.
How should we take understand these imperatives? Are they “works” we must do to be saved? Are they just “fruit” of the sanctified life? Does the Holy Spirit use them to build conviction and obedience in us, in harmony with our own will to do His good pleasure? How do you think about them?
This week’s study challenges us to see God’s work, and our willing submission to His leading. This may be one of the most strenuous crucibles a Christian will endure. Our will is not naturally bent toward His.