Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The God We Ignore - Part 1

There is a famous scene in the 1976 movie, “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” where Inspector Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers, is checking into an inn. After checking in, he proceeds to walk across the lobby noticing a cute dog sitting in the middle of the floor. Smiling, the Inspector looks back at the elderly desk clerk and asks, “Does your dog bite?” The clerk immediately responds, “No.” Then the Inspector bends down to greet the dog with extended hand only to be bitten by it. The Inspector abruptly stands up, and sternly reminds the clerk, “I thought you said your dog does not bite!” Without missing a beat, the clerk responds, “That is not my dog.” This is a hilarious scene due to mistaken identity of a dog. It is funny when a dog’s identity is mistaken, but quite the opposite when the mistaken identity is God’s. If we mistake God's identity, we ignore the true God.

Most Christians often refer to God the Father or Jesus as actively advancing God’s Kingdom here on Earth today. But, is that accurate or is this a mistaken identity? Consider the fact that the Father is seated on His throne which is not on Earth, and Jesus, His Son, is either at His right hand or busy preparing a place for us in Heaven (not Earth). In fact, Jesus has not and does not return to Earth until the Second Coming in the end times. But, that does not stop us from seemingly giving all credit and glory to the Father and Son for all they are doing here on Earth when the direct credit probably lies elsewhere…with the Holy Spirit (God). In fact, ironically, so many Christians often refer to each other as being “Spirit-led” while they fail to even recognize who the “Spirit” is and what He is clearly doing here. By the way, what does it truly mean to be Spirit-led? Simply, it means to be actively and continuously led by the Holy Spirit (God). It is a problem to claim that we are led here on Earth by the Father or Jesus while ignoring the Holy Spirit, and calling this activity Spirit-led. That divine leadership role belongs today to the Holy Spirit. Isn't it ironic (and sad) that many Christians ignore the very One that they claim to be led by. We first have to acknowledge who is leading us before we can claim to be led by Him. 

Francis Chan highlighted this in his book “The Forgotten God.” The Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” He is the One who has been advancing God’s Kingdom for the past 2,000 years. He is responsible for all of God’s work on Earth today. And, He is God. It is the Holy Spirit who is doing everything here. Even prayer begins with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). But, He is practically forgotten or even ignored by so many who claim to follow Him. It is impossible to recognize what the Holy Spirit is doing if you constantly mistake His identity. To illustrate, what was the last command you recall from the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit leading you today? What do you sense that the Holy Spirit is telling you to do right now? When was the last time you deliberately listened to the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you deliberately attempted to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice?

What we believe is the Holy Spirit's identity will be reflected in how we imagine Him in our minds. How many Christians when asked to imagine the Holy Spirit would conjure in their minds the image of a dove? While the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as descending upon Jesus "like a dove," this does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a dove. A dove was used as a metaphor to describe the manner of the Holy Spirit's lighting upon Jesus, which says almost nothing about the nature of the Holy Spirit. Christians today reducing the identity of the Holy Spirit down to a symbol of a dove further distracts us from His true and magnificent identity. In the Holy Spirit exists the fullness of the Almighty God. In Him is the unlimited, supernatural power and authority of the Trinity. In Him is the fullness of God as an all-consuming fire. In fact, the essence of God is described as spirit (John 4:24 for example) and certainly not flesh, especially flesh in the form of a fragile bird. 

As mentioned in earlier blogs on apologetics, the enemy seeks to attack the identity of God first and foremost. He knows that if he can change God’s identity in our minds, he can more easily separate us from our faith in Him. Alter the identity of our object of worship and our worship is misplaced. In other words, if the enemy can distract us into focusing on something that is not God, we will worship that something (not God). The best way to accomplish that is to deceive us into believing a false or counterfeit identity of God. This can happen by several means. The most effective means the enemy has used is to create false or counterfeit religions across the world. By deceiving people to follow a false god in a false religion, or a god that does not exist and thereby does not bear the identity of the true God, its followers are devoutly distracted away from the One in whose image they were created. In addition, for those who claim allegiance to the true God of the Bible, if the enemy can deceive you into altering the true God’s identity (say by ignoring the Holy Spirit), he can divert your worship that is otherwise true in the direction of a concept that is not. Can you truly worship God if you ignore the Holy Spirit? If you are worshiping the Father and Jesus while clearly excluding the third member of their Trinity, you are worshiping something that is not the true Trinity, and, therefore, not God. You have created in your mind a god of duality, not Trinity.

Consider also how you relate to the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. Do you ever acknowledge the Holy Spirit by name regularly throughout the day? Do you ever speak with the Holy Spirit seeking commands? Do you ever follow a request of the Holy Spirit with silent pause to ascertain His voice? If not, by what means can you claim to be daily led by the Holy Spirit? Or are you led by random religious feelings possibly borne in flesh, and not in spirit?

Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” This begs many questions. If this passage is true, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Holy Spirit (God) living inside him or her, and the person who does not? If the Holy Spirit dwells in you, how do you interact with Him conversationally, responsively and relationally? Do you seek guidance from Him in all things? Do you confuse unclear advice for His? The Holy Spirit will never lead us to do something contrary to God’s word. Nor would the Holy Spirit ever lead us to do something that is spiritually unwise. Galatians 5:16-17 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

Christians in churches all across America say that the Holy Spirit lives inside of them and leads them. Yet, when the world sees no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. According to Galatians 5:22-23, the “fruit” or proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Instead of displaying His fruit, are you foolishly pointing people towards a god of mistaken identity? Or, does your life radically bear the proof of an obvious and supernatural Host?

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