Understanding the Work of the Holy Spirit

Understanding The Work Of The Holy Spirit

Part I

Experiencing The Fullness of The Spirit (Chapters 1-8)

Chapter One

Understanding The Work Of The Holy Spirit
The Convicting Work Of The Holy Spirit 1 The Counseling Work Of The Holy Spirit 5
The Convincing Work Of The Holy Spirit 2 The Communicating Work Of The Holy Spirit 6
The Cleansing Work Of The Holy Spirit 3 Discussion Questions: 7
The Comforting Work Of The Holy Spirit 4    

John 14:15-20

The Convicting Work Of The Holy Spirit

The apostle Paul one time asked certain disciples, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed"? (Acts 19:2-3, NIV) Many today are just as ignorant regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world today.

In considering the work of the Holy Spirit during the next several days, consider several words, each of which describes one of the many different ministries of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts, convinces, cleanses, comforts, counsels, and communicates.

The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:8, NIV)

The word that John uses of the work of the Spirit "is the word which is used for the cross-examination of a witness, or a man on trial, or an opponent in an argument. It always has this idea of cross-examining a man until he sees and admits his errors, or acknowledge the force of some argument which he had not yet seen… Now clearly such cross-examination can do two things–it can convict a man of the weakness of his case, and the strength of the case which, up to this time, he has opposed. In this passage we need both the meanings; we need both convict and convince". (Daily Study Bible; John, vol. 2; William Barclay)

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict a man of his sin, and to convince a man of his own weakness and of Christ's strength.

The Spirit of God, speaking through the Holy Scriptures, convicts man of inward attitudes and sinful desires against which there is no civil law. Civil laws are made against murder, but only the Spirit can convict a man for anger. Civil laws can convict a man for perjury and fraud, but only the Spirit of God can convict a man for malice and resentment. There are civil laws against adultery, but who, other than the Spirit of God, can convict one of lustful desires and impure thoughts? Laws against stealing are made by society, but only God's Spirit can convict one of the wrong in covetousness, envy, and jealousy. What passes the scrutiny of man, does not pass the scrutiny of God. Jesus said that the Spirit convicts the world of sin because the world does not believe in Him. One may not be a murderer, or an adulterer, or a thief, but if he does not truly believe in Christ, that person stands condemned. "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18, NIV)

"Father, I come to you with a receptive heart and an open hand to receive you gifts of divine grace. I stand convicted of my own inadequacies, and convinced of the adequacy of your grace. What passes the scrutiny of man cannot pass your scrutiny. I confess my hidden sins in order to receive your revealed mercy."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow society's approval of my outward conduct to blind me to my need for God's cleansing of my inward condition!

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John 16:5-11

The Convincing Work Of The Holy Spirit

It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convince the world of true righteousness, as it is supremely exemplified and personified in Jesus. Comparing other men with Jesus is like comparing coal dust with freshly fallen snow. All others appear unclean and unrighteous in the sight of the sinless and immaculate Son of God.

It is a strange characteristic of sin to reverse values and to change moral standards until right can be called evil, and evil goodness. It is a realistic commentary on the deceitfulness of man's heart, that the Jews who performed the most religious practices in Jesus' day were the same Jews who defamed and rejected the very Son of God! It was the Jewish religious leaders who accused Jesus of keeping bad company with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:11). It was the religious leaders who accused Jesus of gluttony and intemperance (Matthew 11:19). It was the Jewish High Priest who accused Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew 26:65). Jesus' own family on one occasion accused Jesus of insanity (Mark 3:21). The spiritually-blinded Jewish leaders even accused Jesus of being possessed with devils (John 7:20) . The hardened, calloused Jewish legalists accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath (John 9:16). The spotless Son of God was accused of treason (John 19:12).

Who would date say to His fellowman, as Jesus said, "Which of you convinceth me of sin"? Jesus was sinless and to men he declared His sinlessness without giving any evidence of pride. Only the Son of God could do this.

Jesus' disciples spent many months with Jesus under all circumstances. They saw Jesus when He was overcome with weariness or hunger, when the crowds pressed upon Him and the diseased people thronged around him, when the repentant ones cried out to Him, and when the hypocritical challenged Him with subtle questions. The disciples saw Jesus when He was filled with sorrow, following the beheading of John the Baptist. They saw Him when He was sore pressed in His spirit and when He experienced the agony of the Garden. And yet those who knew Christ best declared that He was sinless and pure. Peter, a devout Jew who believed with all Jews in the universality of sin, declared that Christ "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth". (1 Peter 2:22)

"The world denied Christ's claim to righteousness, disputed His profession of Messiahship, declared Him to be an execrable imposter, and finally seemed to have triumphed in its attempted demonstration of His unrighteousness, by His crucifixion … But just when it seemed that the world had triumphed, and had demonstrated the falsity of Christ's profession, thus putting an end to the religion He had sought to establish, the grandest demonstration of his holiness and of His Messiahship was given to the world by His resurrection from the dead." (The Holy Spirit, A Study, p. 173; Hogue)

"Father, your Son of righteousness shines more brightly than the noonday sun. No sooner can sinful man deny the righteousness of the Son than can man quench the flames of the sun with the waters of earth. His righteousness is from everlasting to everlasting."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Just as Christ's righteousness was demonstrated conclusively through the Resurrection, I will allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate Christ's righteousness through my new life today!

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Ezekiel 36:24-28

The Cleansing Work Of The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit cleanses the sinner from the guilt of his sins. The Holy Spirit is the agent in resolving guilt and imparting new life. "But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward man appeared, he saved us in his mercy–not by virtue of any moral achievements of ours, but by the cleansing power of a new birth and the moral renewal of the Holy Spirit, which he gave us so generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. The result is that we are acquitted by his grace, and can look forward to inheriting life for evermore." (Titus 3:4-7, Phillips)

The Holy Spirit is also the agent in cleansing the believer from the pollution of sin. Man is not only a sinner in practice who needs forgiveness, but man is also a sinner by nature who needs inner cleansing. David acknowledged his need for inner cleansing. "Behold, I was brought forth in (a state of) iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me (and I, too, am sinful)… Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean (ceremonially), wash me, and I shall (in reality) be whiter than snow… Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me." (Psalms 51:5, Pslams 51:7, Pslams 51:10, Amplified Bible)

The fire which took the appearance of cloven tongues on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) symbolized cleansing. The disciples of Christ needed cleansing from carnal strife and selfish ambition. The Holy Spirit comes to consume the dross of sin and to purify the character of the Christian, enabling the believer to reflect the beauty of Christ's holiness. "He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers soap, and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi." (Malachi 3:2-3) "The illustration is that of a jeweler sitting before his crucible watching the fierce flame as it eliminates the dross leaving the silver so perfectly refined that at length he can see his image in the glowing metal." (To Tell The World, p. 76; Myron Boyd)

Cleansing is the work of the Holy Spirit. He works to refine Christian character and to cleanse away all defilement. "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." (Ezekiel 36:25-26 a, NIV) One believer who read these verses found deliverance from sin. "I began to exercise faith, by believing 'I have the blessing now'. Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I spoken than refining fire went 'through my heart–illuminated my soul–scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole'. I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed me from all sin." (Entire Sanctification; Studies in Christian Holiness, p. 73)

"Wash me and I shall be clean! Purge me and I shall be whiter than snow! Renew a right spirit within me and cleanse me from every guilty stain. In Jesus' name."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God offers nothing less and I will settle for nothing less than a heart that is totally cleansed from the pollution of sin!

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John 14:15-17

The Comforting Work Of The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit gives comfort in times of sorrow and loss, but, as Comforter, He does much more than this. The Holy Spirit gives courage to the faint-hearted, strength to the weak, and assurance to the doubter.

The Holy Spirit is man's helper. The Holy Spirit enables the Christian to cope with every circumstance of life. As helper, He is the strengthening and enabling presence of Jesus.

Dr. A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, discovered new strength to cope with life when he surrendered his life completely to the Spirit's control. His testimony is inspiring; "I shall never forget the morning that I spent in my church reading an old musty book I had discovered in my library on the subject THE HIGHER CHRISTIAN LIFE. I had struggled long and vainly with my own intense nature, my strong self-will, my peculiar temptations. My spiritual life had been a constant humiliation. I had talked to my people about the deeper things of the Spirit, but there was a hollow ring, and my heart was breaking to know the Lord Jesus as a living bright, reality. As I poured over that little volume, I saw a new light. The Lord Jesus revealed Himself as a living and all-sufficient presence, and I learned for the first time that Christ had not saved us from future peril, and left us to fight the battle of life as best we could; but He who had justified us was waiting to sanctify us, to enter into our spirit, and substitute His strength, His holiness, His life, His joy, His faith, His power, for all our worthlessness, helplessness and nothingness, and make it an actual living fact. 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' Across the threshold of my spirit there passed a Being as real as the Christ who came to John on Patmos, and from that moment a new secret has been the charm and glory and strength of my life and testimony … I have learned the secret, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me'." (Prayer and Life's Highest; Paul Rees, p. 83)

The Holy Spirit gives the Christian strength to accept trouble without defeat, and to accept success without pride. Take the latter idea. When life heaps honors and favors upon a man, there is the temptation to become spiritually proud. It is when one becomes esteemed in the eyes of the public that one can too easily forget that true greatness is measured in terms of service and not in terms of popularity. In a letter a few weeks before his death, the sainted F. B. Meyer wrote the following to a friend: "I am now 82, and in a nursing home. I want to tell you what the Spirit of God has been showing me lately. That I have acquired a reputation for sanctity by my books. This may grow upon me. It makes one want to creep into heaven unnoticed" . (Aldersgate Studies in Christian Holiness, p. 109) The Holy Spirit enables a believer to accept success with humility.

"Father, because of your wonderful indwelling Spirit, I am able to cope with anything that life can hand me. I can accept sorrow without bitterness, trouble without despair, success without pride. During changing circumstances, I serve a changeless God! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Through Christ's indwelling Spirit I can be what God wants me to be, and do what God wants me to do!

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John 16:12-15

The Counseling Work Of The Holy Spirit

Our Scripture reading for today indicates that the Holy Spirit guides the believer into all things. No greater or wiser Counselor can be found than the Holy Spirit. God has promised to guide the earnest seeker of Truth: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalms 32:8) Towards the end of George Muller's life, he said, "I never remember in all my Christian course, a period now of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever sincerely and patiently sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the Word of God, but I have always been directed rightly." (Prayer and Life's Highest, p. 120; Paul Rees) "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The Christian life is not a static life; rather, it is a dynamic life with new depths to reach, new horizons to find, and new capacities to develop. It is the Holy Spirit who helps the open minded Christian to find truth, to recall truth, to understand truth, to defend truth, and to spread truth. A stubborn will and a closed mind destroy all receptive powers and make it impossible to receive God's communications.

There are several ways by which the Holy Spirit communicates God's will to the believer.

There is the counsel of others. Consulting a wise, experienced, and tested friend and counselor will oftentimes save one from many a pitfall and from many a heartache. Read Proverbs 11:14 and Proverbs 12:15.

The Holy Spirit often works through circumstances to reveal God's will to the sensitive Christian. Because God is sovereign, the Christian knows that God controls nature with its laws and history with its events. If the Christian knows that God is big enough and powerful enough to control the laws of nature and the events of history, the Christian also knows that God is loving enough and Fatherly enough to control the circumstances of life which determine personal destiny.

There is prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who enables the true believer to pray effectively. "The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Romans 8:26, NIV)

The Bible is another means that the Holy Spirit uses to give guidance and counsel to the Christian. The Psalmist looked to the Word for guidance, and so can every modern-day believer. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path… The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Psalms 119:105, Psalms 119:130)

"Father, help me to be open-minded to receive your truth, tender-hearted to experience your love, and strong-willed to obey your commands. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Easy guidance comes to those who are easily controlled by the Holy Spirit. I will keep the reins of my life in the hands of the Holy Spirit today!.

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Acts 1:1-8

The Communicating Work Of The Holy Spirit

Jesus, just before His ascension, spoke of the Holy Spirit's ministry: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses …" (Acts 1:8) The rushing mighty wind on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) symbolizes the power of the Holy Spirit–the power to witness. Throughout the Book of Acts, one can see the Holy Spirit's communication of the Gospel through the lives of the disciples.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with power, boldness, and greater love, enabling one to witness effectively to his fellowmen, whether that witness is in word or in deed. Says Bill Bright, "It should be made clear that to be 'filled with the Spirit' does not mean that we receive more of the Holy Spirit, but that we give Him more of ourselves. As we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit and are filled with His presence, He has greater freedom to work in and through our lives, to control us in order to better exalt and glorify Christ". (Ye shall Receive Power, p. 13)

Every Christian needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to be an effective witness. Says Dr. R. A. Torrey, "I have gone through my Bible time and time again checking this subject and I make this statement without the slightest fear of successful contradiction that there is not one single passage in the Old Testament or the New Testament where the Baptism (or filling) with the Holy Spirit is spoken of where it is not connected with testimony for service". (Ibid, p. 18) Says Dr. Oswald J. Smith, "Read the biographies of God's men and you will discover that each one sought and obtained the Endowment of Power from on High. (Ibid, p. 9)

Believers are called to be dead to self-centeredness and alive to Christ (Galatians 2:20). "The Christian's body now becomes Christ's body to use as He wills; the mind becomes His to think His thoughts; the will is now controlled by His will, the total personality, time, and talents are now completely His." (Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 10; Bill Bright)

The Holy Spirit wants to communicate God's love to the world through the instrumentality of the Christian. As Barclay points out, "Jesus Christ is no longer in this world in the body; and therefore, if He wants a task done for Him within the world He has to find a man to do it. If He wants a child taught, He has to find a teacher to teach him. If He wants a sick person cured, He has to find a physician or surgeon to do His work. If he wants His story told, He has to find a man to tell it. Literally, we have to be the body of Christ, hands to do His work, feet to run upon His errands, a voice to speak for Him". (Daily Study Bible; Corinthians, p. 126)

"Father, empower me through the sanctifying work of thy Holy Spirit, that I might witness fearlessly, live peacefully, work tirelessly, give generously, fellowship warmly, and live expectantly. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will use my head (intellect), my heart (affections), and my hands (will) to serve the Lord wholeheartedly in my world today!

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Discussion Questions:

Understanding The Work Of The Holy Spirit

  1. What is the meaning of the Greek word which is translated 'Convict', as this word applies to the work of the Holy Spirit among sinners?

    Answer: To bring sin to light, make an awareness of

  2. How does the convicting work of the Holy Spirit differ from the conviction which results from the application of civil laws in society?

    Answer: The Holy Spirit convicts us of personal sin, whereas the civil laws of society are more focused on our actions.

  3. What moral realities in our world today make necessary the Convincing ministry of the Holy Spirit?

    Answer: A lukewarm approach to life. We must be either hot or cold

  4. How do the negative reactions of some of Jesus' contemporaries reveal the depth of human depravity and self-deception?

    Answer: Some of them accused him of keeping bad company with publicans and sinners, and other sins. Jesus came for all people. He had to become like them in order to show them his love. He was rejected because of the complete truth in action of his life.

  5. Why are the testimonies of the disciples of Jesus, regarding the sinlessness of Jesus, so convincing?

    Answer: The disciples were with him each day. They were with him almost always. They saw how he put his own needs aside to meet the needs of others.

  6. What is the grandest demonstration of Jesus' holiness and Messiahship?

    Answer: Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, and resurrection

  7. How does the Cleansing work of the Holy Spirit apply both to the sinner and to the Christian?

    Answer: The Holy Spirit cleanses the sinner from guilt. The Spirit cleanses the Christian each day from the pollution of sin.

  8. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Man is not only a sinner in practice who needs forgiveness, but man is also a sinner by nature who need inner cleansing". (Give Scriptural support for your answer.)

    Answer: He guides our daily walk, as states that if we give him our weaknesses, he will glorify them. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

  9. Share various ways in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work as Comforter.

    Answer: Gives us courage, strength, assurance, our helper, and enables us to cope with life's circumstances.

  10. From your own personal experience or from your observation of others, illustrate the truth of the following statement: "The Holy Spirit gives the Christian strength to accept trouble without defeat, and to accept success without pride".

    Answer: God has a purpose in everything that happens to us. This should keep us from defeat or pride.

  11. What relationship does the Holy Spirit have to the Word of God. as regards to the Spirit's ministry of providing guidance and counsel.

    Answer: It is the spirits instrument (instrumentality)

  12. List and describe several ways by which the Holy Spirit communicates God's will to the believer.

    Answer: Other Christian, circumstances, prayer, Reading the Bible

  13. According to Bill Bright, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

    Answer: To give the spirit more of ourselves

  14. Based upon a thorough knowledge of the Bible, what does R. A. Torrey say is the manifestation or evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life?

    Answer: Testimony for service – witness

  15. Through what instrumentality does God accomplish His work in His world today?

    Answer: Through the life of a Christian.

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Experience Power in Witnessing

Experience Power In Witnessing

Chapter Three

Experience Power In Witnessing
The 'Secret' To Witnessing 52 Becoming A 'Courageous' Fisherman 60
The Authority Of Keys 54 Are You Ready To 'Go Fishing'? 62
Skilled Sinners And Addicted Saints 56 Helping People Get Ready 64
Learning To Be 'Fishers Of Men' 58 Discussion Questions 65

Acts 1:1-8; Acts 2:1-4

The 'Secret' To Witnessing

The great soul-winners throughout the history of the Christian Church have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Whether they were highly educated persons (like the apostle Paul) or 'blue-collar' persons (like Simon Peter who was a fisherman), the 'secret' to effective witnessing has been the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). In his helpful book 'How You Can Pray With Power', Lowell Lundstrom shares a vivid example of this truth. He writes: "Dwight L. Moody was a great success as an evangelist. He drew large crowds to his church, but he says that many of these early victories were accomplished '…largely in the energy of the flesh.' The change came when two humble Free Methodist women, Auntie Cook and Mrs. Snow, attended his meetings. They sat in the front row and prayed as he preached. Moody appreciated their intercession so much that he spoke to them about it. 'Yes,' they said. 'We have been praying for you.' 'Why me?' the evangelist inquired, surprised. 'Why not the unsaved?' His pride was a bit hurt by the implication that he personally needed prayer. 'Because you need the power of the Spirit,' was their answer. Several weeks later, Moody invited the two ladies to his office to talk more about his need for power. 'You spoke of power for service. I thought I had it,' Moody said. 'I wish you would tell me what you mean.' Auntie Cook and Mrs. Snow told him all they knew about the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Then they prayed with Moody and left. Moody said later, 'From that moment, there came a great hunger in my soul. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service.' He continued to pray for a special infilling of the Holy Spirit. Then one day in 1871, the evangelist went to New York on a fund raising mission. As he walked the streets of New York, his soul became hungry for God. Suddenly the Spirit of God swept over him, and his companions could tell something was happening. To his companions, Moody said, 'Get me in a room, and get everybody out and leave me by myself!' Afterward, Moody said that waves of God's power poured over him until he cried out, 'Lord, You will have to stop or I will die! I've got all I can hold! God, it is about to kill me!'" (pgs. 139-141)

Here is how Dwight Lyman Moody described the experience of being 'filled with the Holy Spirit' – and the permanent results in his ongoing ministry. "I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name … I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world; it would be as small dust in the balance."

"My blessed Father, I desire not only to be 'indwelt' by your Spirit, but I desire also to be 'filled' with your Spirit. Give me the courage to 'pay the price' – full surrender!'

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is my Father's good pleasure to give me what I most need and desire – namely, the gift of the Spirit's fullness! Inner purity and outward power!

– Ron Christian –

NOTES:

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Matthew 16:13-20

The Authority Of Keys

While pastoring in a city, I was employed for a brief time with a janitorial service for floor maintenance in a department store. Keys to the front door permitted me to enter at 5:57 – 6:03. Wells Fargo, a security agent, took it for granted that it was I who entered the building within those six minutes, when the light lit on their downtown monitor. Once inside, I was not to leave until the manager arrived, nor could anyone else enter, including the manager, prior to 9 o'clock, unless granted permission.

There was a knock one morning on the glass door at 7:45. A well dressed man with a satchel wanted in, but was denied. He showed me his I.D. as an employee of the franchise. A call to security revealed that they had no one by that name with permission to enter the store at that hour. I refused his entry; and he said he would report this to officials; then left with curse words ringing in my ears.

I reported this incident to the manager, who wondered the intent of the man wanting to enter at that hour; and further, stated that I was right in refusing him entrance. The case was closed, except for spiritual lessons.

Keys are symbolic of authority and knowledge. Permission, entrance, ownership, ex/in-clusion – are included in the use of keys.

Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Dr. Harold Lindsell in the Harper Study Bible, commenting on this verse says: "Thus men of God have the power to declare that God has forgiven the sins of those who have repented and received Christ by faith." The hypocritical teachers of Jesus' day were shutting up the kingdom; actually keeping people from entrance. But Peter used the keys to unlock the door, as stated in the Book of Acts. He, by the Holy Spirit, convinced people that Jesus is Lord and Christ, telling them to repent. In one day 3000 people were brought into the kingdom.

At the Beautiful Gate of the temple, Peter, with authority said to the lame man, "…in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And the man stood and walked. Arrested, along with John, and brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter boldly proclaimed, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Later, Peter used the same keys to unlock closed doors.

Christians hold the same keys when they proclaim the terms of salvation in Christ. You do too, as a praying, interceding Christian. Guided by the Holy Spirit and the Bible, we will not lose the keys through neglect, indifference, or misuses.

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"Dear Jesus, many people are bound by sin's habits, unable to find release. Enable me by the Holy, Spirit to share with them the good news of repentance and salvation. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I do not have the power to forgive sins, nor can I pronounce absolution, but today, as opportunity comes, I can exhort people to repent and receive Jesus Christ.

– Floyd Cooper –

NOTES:

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Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 16:15

Skilled Sinners And Addicted Saints

The title seems paradoxical in inference to society's battle with addiction. And "skilled" is more in alignment with the positive aspects of the work force. But an examination of the two above scriptures reveal the title's correctness.

Jeremiah, writing of the spiritual and moral conditions of Judah in the seventh century, says that "they are skilled in doing evil" (RSV). The people are idolatrous, rebellious, wicked; they have forsaken God, they practice injustices. "They are skilled in doing evil."

A skilled person is one who has the ability in a particular trade or occupation. By practice, repetition, and devotion that individual becomes skilled in that trade or business or occupation. It may have been learned in an apprenticeship, or by a observation, practice and experience.

So Jeremiah says: "They are skilled in doing evil." "They are experts at doing what is evil" (GNB). Daily they practiced idolatry; repeatedly they rebelled against God; their mode was that of wickedness, even to the forsaking of God.

Society today is akin to that of Jeremiah's day. Repeated offenders, majoring in sin and crime, bound by destructive habits. Wickedness, evil continually, corruption, and violence describes our world today as it did in the antediluvian period. (See: Genesis 6: 5, Genesis 6:11-12)

Skilled sinners, one people; addicted saints, another. Tucked away in a parenthesis and amidst concluding exhortations and salutations is this observation: "(You know the house of Stephanus, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints)" (1 Corinthians 16:15)

Addicted is to be devoted or given up (to a practice or habit, esp. a bad habit). Addiction is a habitual inclination. (Web. Dict.) The drug scourge has given a bad connotation of the word "addicted." An addict is one who is apparently controlled by something.

Was Stephanus appointed by the church to this work? No. How he fleshed out his addiction is not known. He lived out Chapter 13. Problems in that church did not deter his addiction. Converted to Christ, he yearned to express his love for Christ. How? So "Stephanus and his family … are spending their lives helping and serving Christians everywhere". (TLB)

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Through an inner change by Christ, skilled sinners can become addicted saints.

"Dear Jesus, enable us to snatch the perishing from sin; to weep o'er the erring one; to lift up the fallen; to tell them of Jesus. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace I will be vulnerable to needs and hurts of others whom I meet on life's pathway.

– Floyd Cooper –

NOTES:

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Matthew 4:18-22

Learning To Be 'Fishers Of Men'

Jesus called some of his disciples from the life of being fishermen. Jesus based his call upon what they knew so well – "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. "What does it mean to be 'fishers of men'? To answer this important question, we must simply look at what good fishing involves. In his Daily Study Bible (commentary on the book of Matthew), William Barclay points out five characteristics of all good fishermen, and relates these qualities to the life of a good 'fisher of men'.

First, "he must have patience. He must learn to wait patiently until the fish take the bait. If he is restless and quick to move he will never make a fisherman." Paul said he learned to be all things to all men, that by all means he might win some to Christ. The Scriptures exhort us as believers 'not to grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not'. That spells 'patience'! Adapting to meet the needs of all. A private (in the military) who was a Christian was abused badly by a rough and big sergeant. One night when the private came in very tired and wet, he got down on his knees to pray. The sergeant took his heavy boots, wet with mud, and "let him have a boot on each side of the head". The private patiently endured this cruel treatment and did a most unusual thing, in response to this abuse. Next morning, the sergeant found his muddy boots beautifully polished and standing by his bed. That gentle reply of the private by kind action broke the heart of the rough sergeant and, as a result, the sergeant was wonderfully saved and he became a beautiful Christian.

Second, a good fisherman "must have perseverance. He must learn never to be discouraged, but always to try again." During his long (and oftentimes, difficult) ministry of preaching and teaching and organizing, John Wesley demonstrated this wonderful quality. John Wesley preached 42,000 sermons. He averaged 4,500 miles a year (which means that he rode about 60 to 70 miles a day on horseback). He preached three sermons a day on an average. When he was 83 he wrote in his diary, "I am a wonder to myself. I am never tired, either with preaching, writing, or traveling." Barclay describes the rugged virtue of Christian 'perseverance' as follows: "It is that determination, unhasting, and unresting, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on, and which refuses to be deflected. Obstacles will not daunt it; delays will not depress it; discouragements will not take its hope away. It will halt neither for discouragements from within nor for opposition from without." (Hebrews; pg. 196)

"O for a faith that will not shrink, though pressed by every foe, 
That will not tremble on the brink of any earthly woe. 
A faith that shines more bright and clear when tempests rage without; 
That when in danger knows no fear, in darkness feels no doubt. 
Lord, give us such a faith as this, and then, whate'er may come,

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We'll taste, e'en here, the hallowed bliss of an eternal home."

(E. H. Bathurst)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Perseverance will enable me not to swerve from my God-given task, however difficult it might be!

– Ron Christian –

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Luke 5:1-11

Becoming A 'Courageous' Fisherman

Which is more exciting to you – catching fish from a large pond or 'catching men' in a needy world? To certain fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, John) Jesus said, "From henceforth thou shalt catch men." (Luke 5:10) In our devotional yesterday, we looked at two of the several qualities which all good 'fishers of men' possess. Let's continue.

Third, a good 'fisher of men' must have courage. Let's remember that, especially in the ancient world of Jesus' time, a fisherman faced the tempestuous sea in a small boat. That took a lot of courage! It is also true that the 'fisher of men' must possess a lot of courage. He must be willing to risk, if necessary, his very own physical life that he might share Christ with the unsaved. Never forget, more Christians have died for the sake of Christ in the 20th century than in all the other centuries together, since the time of Christ! Remember also that the word 'witness' (when it was first used by Jesus) meant 'martyr'! Every one of Jesus' original disciples died a 'martyr's death' except the apostle John (who died as a very old man, after he had been exiled on an island as a form of 'punishment' because he was a follower of Christ). To follow Christ, during the first centuries of Christian history, took considerable courage. But, amidst all the abuse and persecution in our modern-day world, followers of Christ now must also exercise great courage! It is not easy for a believer to 'stand alone' in the midst of a sneering crowd of unbelievers! But remember, "any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim upstream!" The follower of Christ must be willing to 'swim upstream' against the 'current of popular atheistic culture'! It takes courage (as it did with Noah who preached so long to his unresponsive world) to continue to speak up (witness) for Christ, even when no one seems to be listening or repenting.

George Fox (1624-1691), who was the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was a man of unusual courage (a great 'fisher of men'). Listen to his own account (in his old-fashioned English) of what happened to him at Tickhill. He writes: "I found the priest and most of the chief of the parish together in the chance! So I went up to them and began to speak, but immediately they fell upon me; the clerk took up the Bible as I was speaking, and struck me on the face with it, so that it gushed out with blood, and I bled exceedingly in the steeple-house. Then the people cried, 'Let us have him out of the church'; and when they had got me out they beat me exceedingly, and threw me down, and over a hedge; and afterwards they dragged me through a house into the street, stoning and beating me as they drew me along, so that I was besmeared all over with blood and dirt… Yet when I was got upon my legs again I declared to them the word of life and shewed them the fruits of their teachers, how they dishonored Christianity."

"O thou most courageous Christ, you 'never answered back when insulted; when you suffered you did not threaten to get even; you left your case in the hands of God who

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always judges fairly'. (1 Peter 2:23, Living Bible) Give m courage to follow in your steps!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I 'dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!'

– Ron Christian –

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Mark 1:16-20

Are You Ready To 'Go Fishing'?

Let's continue to look at those qualities which you must possess in order to be a good 'fisher of men'.

Fourth, a good fisherman "must have an eye for the right moment. The wise fisherman knows well that there are times when it is hopeless to fish. He knows when to cast and when not to cast." The good 'fisher of men' knows when to speak and when to remain silent. He is a man who is sensitive to 'good timing'. There is a time, when, if you spoke (to a sneering person about Christ) you would be 'throwing away your pearls'. There are times when wisdom would 'dictate' that you (as a witness) should 'keep your mouth shut' and 'simply pray' (for a rebellious person). Said Jesus "Don't give holy things to depraved men. Don't give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you." (Matthew 7:6, Living Bible) During a part of His so-called trial (which was a 'mockery of justice'), Jesus remained 'silent'. To some of Pilate's questions (and accusations) Jesus 'opened not His mouth'. A good 'fisher of men' is wise and discreet. Yes, Jesus was the wisest of all soul-winners. There were times when he was silent in the face of opposition and there were other times when He was very verbal. Jesus sought for 'points of contact' with people. For instance, with the woman of Samaria (John 4), His 'point of contact' was water. Jesus began with the physical and material and then He made an application to the spiritual. Jesus always had 'an eye for the right moment', and so must every good 'fisher of men'.

Fifth, a good fisherman "must fit the bait to the fish. One fish will rise to one bait and another to another." Jesus, the master soul-winner, fit the bait to the fish. He could speak philosophically to the intellectual, as demonstrated in the discourses in the Gospel of John. Or Jesus could speak illustratively and in parables to the more simple (and illiterate) as shown in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The message of Christ's grace is always the same, but the methods by which we present the Gospel must be adapted to the 'kind' of person (or group) to whom we are speaking (witnessing). There are intellectually-orientated persons who may need a witness which contains more of a 'reasoning approach' (apologetic approach) than the person who is more emotionally-oriented or more volitionally-oriented. The latter 'type' may respond more to the great 'challenges of a cause' which Christianity offers – for such a person is 'looking' for a 'great cause' to which he may commit himself. Adapt your methods (bait) to the 'type' of person to whom you are speaking.

Sixth, a good fisherman "must keep himself out of sight. If he obtrudes his own presence, even his own shadow, the fish will very certainly not bite." The 'fisher of men' is concerned in attracting people to Christ, not to himself. Focus on Christ alone!

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"Lord Jesus, You are the Physician and I am only the 'Instrument"; You are the Destination and I am only the 'pointer in the way'. You must increase; I must decrease!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My 'glory' is found in being able to point people to 'the Lamb of God' who takes away the sins of the world!

– Ron Christian –

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Acts 2:20

Helping People Get Ready

I was surprised by this morning sunrise. It was very red and very beautiful. As I was not usually an early riser, I'd forgotten that sunrise could be as glorious as sunset.

Growing up at the foot of the sage-covered Horse Heaven Hills of southeast Washington, I saw some dramatic skies over the hills. As a child, I was sometimes awed or even frightened by them. Did you, like me, grow up hearing of (and sometimes fearing) the awesome signs in the heavens of end times. Did you associate that with the coming of Jesus? Did you wonder if you were ready for His coming?

One afternoon I came home from school and my mother didn't answer my calls around the house and yard. I thought of the skies and wondered. Did Jesus return? Had my godly mother gone to be with Him and I was left behind? My mother soon returned from a visit to the neighbors. But these experiences were part of God's preparing me to be ready for Jesus' 'first' coming. Oh, not the one at Bethlehem but the one when I asked Him to forgive me and come to live in my heart, when I was not yet twelve.

Receiving Christ as my personal Savior prepared me for the awesome signs of His second coming still ahead. Yes, I am still awed by great natural phenomena. Storms and earthquakes seem to be increasing in number and intensity these days. It's scary. How do I prepare myself for Jesus' second coming?

When Jesus left this earth he was taken up into heaven before His watching disciples. Angels asked them "…why do you stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11).

In Mark 16:20, we are told "then the disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it." That brought much joy and excitement to them.

If we, like the disciples, are busy helping others get ready for Christ's coming we'll be ready for the awesome signs of His second coming. "…the great and glorious day of the Lord." (Acts 2:20)

"Dear Jesus, I want to be forgiven and to serve You, and to be ready for your return."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Helping others to be ready for His return helps me to be ready too.

– Beth Stewart –

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Discussion Questions

  1. After carefully reading the devotional about D.L. Moody (entitled "The 'Secret' To Effective Witnessing"), share your personal insights, 'feelings', and responses (or reactions) to his testimony.

  2. As a witness for Christ and as a soul-winner, do you have the 'right' ('power') to declare that God has forgiven the sins of those who have repented and who have asked Jesus to come into their hearts, during a time when repentant persons are troubled and doubtful that God could accept them into his 'forever family'? Why or why not? (Note Matthew 16:19)

  3. Even though you (as a follower of Jesus Christ) do not have the authority (power) to forgive sins, what God-given authority do you possess and can you exercise? (Note Matthew 16:13-19; Acts 3:1-10)

  4. Give your interpretation of the following statement: "Through an inner change by Christ, 'skilled sinners' can become 'addicted saints'." (Note Genesis 6:5, Genesis 6:11-12; Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Acts 9:36; Acts 11:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10)

  5. As a skilled 'fisher of men', why is it important to wait patiently until the fish (sinners) take the 'bait'?

  6. From a Biblical viewpoint, how would you define and describe 'Perseverance' especially as this virtue applies to soul-winning efforts? Do you think that this Christian (God-given) virtue is one of the most difficult virtues for Christians (soul-winners) to cultivate in their lives? Why or why not?

  7. Do you think it takes a lot of 'courage' for Christians to continue to speak up (witness) for Christ, even (as in the time of Noah) when no one seems to be listening or repenting? In addition to Noah, can you think of other faithful believers (as recorded in the Bible or throughout the ages of the Christian church) who courageously 'stood up' and 'spoke up' for Christ, amidst times of great persecution? (Note Daniel 6:1-23; Daniel 3:1-30)

  8. During Christ's earthly lifetime, share ways and 'occasions' in which He manifested unusual courage. Do you believe that (like Christ) the most courageous persons (believers) are those who "return good for evil", who continue to trust God even when "wrong seems so strong" and when "right goes unrecognized and unrewarded"? (Note 1 Peter 2:20-23)

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  9. Give your 'explanation' of the meaning of the following statement as it applies to the life of a skilled 'fisher of men, (witness): "The good 'fisher of men' is sensitive to 'good timing'."

  10. As it relates to 'good timing' and to discreet understanding of the 'context' (and the 'spiritual condition' of the person to whom you are witnessing), how would you apply Jesus' teaching as recorded in Matthew 7:6?

  11. After reading the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John, how would you describe Jesus' 'point of contact' with the Samaritan Woman? What have you discovered to be some of the most effective 'points of contact' ('openings') with unbelievers to whom you have witnessed?

  12. From your own personal experiences in witnessing, and from your observation of other effective soul-winners, and from your study of God's Word, give examples which illustrate the truth of the following statement: "The message of Christ's grace is always the same, but the methods by which we present the Gospel must be adapted to the 'kind' of person (or group) to whom we are speaking (witnessing)."

  13. Practically-speaking, what does it mean for a 'fisher of men' to "keep himself out of sight" when he is witnessing and seeking to lead a person (sinner) to a 'saving knowledge of Christ'?

  14. What affect does one's personal knowledge that his sins are forgiven have upon him, as he becomes increasingly sensitive to the calamities (catastrophic) happenings throughout the world, and as he sees the 'signs for the last times' and realizes that Christ may soon return to earth?

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