1. Who is the Holy Spirit?
I think many Christians do not know who the Holy Spirit is. Often He is described as the unknown God. But the Bible’s view of the Holy Spirit is that He is the unseen but real person, presence, power and activity of God.
In the Synoptic Gospels the Holy Spirit was active at the birth of Jesus and his anointment by God during his baptism (Mt 3:16, Mk 1:8, Lk 3:16). The Synoptics also articulate that Jesus is the source of the work of the Holy Spirit for he …baptises in the Holy Spirit and with fire… (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16). In the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete (or Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, the Spirit of truth; Jh 15:26). In Acts (2:4, 38) the baptism with the Spirit was an act of God who empowered the disciples and early Church and was accompanied by both unusual visible and audible phenomena. Paul articulates the Holy Spirit as the divine energy or dynamic of the new life whose Head is the living Christ (1 Rm 15:13; Eph 5:18; 1 Th 1:5). Paul helped to personalise men’s thinking about the conception of the Spirit. In Revelation the Holy Spirit is called Seven Spirits or the Seven Eyes of God (Rv 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). The number seven is a symbolic indication of the plenitude of the Holy Spirit. The Seven Eyes of God are symbolic of the Spirit as the eyes of God. He sees the entire cosmos. Nothing escapes him. He is the Spirit of perception (the Deus praesens). He is also identified with the eyes of every individual believer (5:6). Through the Spirit, John is able to perceive the need in the seven congregations.
“A man with an experience is not at the mercy of an argument.”
Baptism should be understood in terms of Christ – in Him we find the truth of every Biblical doctrine. To understand the sacrament of baptism, one should therefore start with how Christ was baptized, and what He has said in this regard.
The Bible refers to two events where Christ was baptized, and we are going to discuss both events in order to give us clarity concerning the sacrament of baptism.
There will always be doubt
Doubt was and will always be one of life’s challenges. Our world has never been without the temptation to doubt.
In the beginning, we find the snake’s question to Eve: “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden” (Gen 3:1). This question was intended to suggest something along the lines of: “Is God really so nasty in that He does not allow you to eat the fruit from all the trees?” With this question the Devil created the perception that God is not good and sowed doubt in her heart.
The Devil even approached Jesus to plant a seed of doubt when he tempted Him: “If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” After having spent forty days and nights in the desert without food, the Devil tempted a fragile and hungry Jesus with doubt. It was a temptation to go for a shortcut and to tempt God to prove his care for his Son and his Son’s mission.
The world has never been without doubt: doubt in God’s goodness, love and His involvement in this disastrous world and in our own endangered personal lives. People usually ask many “why” questions when things go wrong and events happen which is seemingly against the belief in an almighty and loving God.
The demands of being a pastor can be overwhelming. Even pastors, like Paul, who faithfully pray, study the Bible and avoid moral lapses are not immune to fatigue (2 Cor 11: 23-33). In verse 28 he says: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”. How can you minister successfully over the long haul without burning out? We can learn certain principles from the apostle Paul:
1. Know your strengths, weaknesses and limitations
Strong leaders understand how God has put them together. In 1 Corinthians 2:3 Paul says: I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. Often leaders must experience pain, failure and crisis to fully understand their limitations. The truth is that those experiences can result in humility plus a deeper understanding of strengths and weaknesses. These leaders know how much emotional input they need and the level of ministry output they are capable of sustaining over time. That is why Paul could say his ministry was not like that of Apollos and Cephas; each had their strengths and weaknesses but ultimately they were servants of Christ (1 Cor 1:12; 3:5). He didn’t always have wisdom and the gift of persuasiveness, but he had a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
Easter is the most important Christian festival of the Christian year. But Christmas itself has now outstripped Easter in popular culture as the real celebration of the year – a move contrary to the New Testament’s emphasis. Jesus’ death on the cross on Easter is the fulfilment of the manger. The shadow of the cross falls over the manger and the cross was made out of the wood of Jesus’ manger. Easter is the moment when God’s new world started growing like green grass through the thick concrete of death, evil and injustice (N.T. Wright).
All languages about the future is an effort to set up signposts pointing into a foggy future. We see through a glass darkly, says Paul, as we peer towards the future. But with the first Christmas (4 BC) God came forward in Jesus in the first person, out of the fog or mist of God’s space. Jesus stepped out of the metaphysical world of God’s space to meet us and reveal God’s blueprint for His creation.
The church – the people of Jesus Christ – now lives in the final or the eschatological age. We are living between the times. Between the first coming and return of Christ. The period between his victory in the decisive battle between God and Satan and the day of final victory. Satan is the father of all evil and opposed to God. He, our biggest enemy, is defeated but not yet eliminated. For this reason Christian parents and children live on the battlefield. Christian parents and their children must be watchful and prepared for this spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18).
Paul (Rom. 8:20) asserts that after the Fall creation was subjected to futility (Gr. mataiotes), emptiness, frustration, sin, evil, disharmony, and apparent meaninglessness. This condition came after creation was complete. After the Fall, Adam and Eve and all their descendants lost their innocence and real freedom (Rom. 5:12). People not only commit sins but are sinners, and the nature of their children are inherently affected.
How to make day-to-day decisions in difficult times?
How is the Christian to make day-to-day decisions in difficult times? We do live in difficult times. As Christians we are more than often confronted with situations in which we really do not have all the answers and guidelines. And Satan tries to make this world and the Church of God a stinking swamp.
Stay in an intimate relationship with God
Of course, first and foremost, the relationship between a Christian and God must be intact and fresh. Since God and his nature is our guide, we need to keep in contact with Him. There are basic moral and spiritual principles rooted in the nature of God, to which those in a right relationship with Him must conform their thoughts, words, and deeds. This provides resources for both the daily grind and the emergency situations. For these difficult situations we must try to stay prayed-up for such times.
Worldview refers to a way of looking at the universe, or in more Biblical language, how we look at creation. It has to do with what one thinks about the nature of reality, why things happen, why they are the way they are, and what the real goals and proper outlook on life is. Broad parameters of a general New Testament (hereafter NT; and OT for Old Testament) worldview emerge from an overall assessment of the NT’s documents.
Four phases of the New Testament worldview can be articulated:
The proclamation (kēryssō) or preaching of the NT asserts the existence and activity of the transcendent sovereign God even before creation. He is the supreme God above all human limitations and the totally incomprehensible God (the Mysterium tremendum). The NT stipulates that He really exists. The world came into being as a result of His will, power, and action. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebr. 11:2, 6). But God revealed Himself through His self-revelation, His activities in creation, providence and redemption.