Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Diop
There’s a hit show on Fox Network television, called “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” The show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, actually pits elementary-school kids against adults in a showdown of knowledge for a grand prize of a million dollars. Concerning the adults who excel on the show, Foxworthy says, “Even if you get it right, you’re answering questions eight-year-olds answer, so you can’t get too puffed up about that.”
Now, the success of this show speaks to a very real and vital truth in the Christian faith:
Our successful negotiation of the advanced levels of Christian growth and development depend heavily upon the retention of correct concepts (called ‘precepts’ or “first principles”) which we should have learned in our spiritual childhood.
As adult Christians, the way that we talk about God and the things of God, betray the way we actually serve God and think about Him. The words and phrases that we use in our spiritual vocabulary are indeed expressive of the manner of service that we give. It is a sad fact, our doctrine is unsound, and so is our speech. Paul said,
For the time will come when they will not endure SOUND doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
In the passage above, the word ‘SOUND’ means, arising out of and unto the truth. Some unsound doctrine arises from the word of false teachers, from a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive us. Some unsound doctrine, however, is simply carried over from our days as spiritual babes, when our understanding was still tender and immature. It is the latter that I will focus on here. We had many oversimplified concepts then, and should have grown to be able to handle the intricacies and complexities of the faith. As Paul also said,
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. Hebrews 5:12-13
You see, getting saved is very simple. All you have to do is repent and believe. On the other hand, understanding the Christian faith is a very complex affair. Or, as one Christian poet once wrote,
The only thing you’ll ever need is the first thing you received.But, the last thing you will understand is the first thing you believed.
One apostle, Peter, once spoke about the writings of another apostle, Paul, in this way,
…our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable [TWIST], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16
So, when one full-fledged apostle refers to the writings of another apostle as “hard to be understood,” then what can we say in truth but, “We have a very complex religion on our hands.” Any other conclusion is unlearned, naive, misleading, and downright dishonest. And, not coming to a right understanding can do great damage to our souls. Even as Peter just said, it can even eventually lead us to ‘destruction’ (vs 16). So, by all means like they say, “DON’T GET IT TWISTED!!”
Please allow me then, to address some very common expressions that are a carryover from our spiritual infancy that are very problematic and need to be corrected. There are four spiritual concepts, which if not correctly understood, lend to errors in understanding and behavior. These concepts are nothing more than ways of representing the person, the power, the presence, the operation and the manifestation of Jehovah God.
“Jehovah” is the more widely used Latinized version of Yahweh. And, the name “Yahweh” is the personal, formal, specific, and proper Hebrew name of God. The name Yahweh does not appear in the Bible. Jehovah appears in the King James Version (KJV) about a half-dozen times. The concepts and terms at issue are:
- The Holy Ghost/Spirit is… Jehovah God wholly localized in the world.
- The Anointing is… Jehovah God present with power with a servant.
3. The Gifts of the Spirit are… Jehovah God operating in a servant in characteristic and supernatural ways.
- The Fruit of the Spirit are… Jehovah God manifest in a servant, by His attributes (identifying traits) evident in the human character.
We must cease talking about the Spirit/ Anointing/ Gifts/ Fruit as if they were tools or some kind of merit badges — things belonging to our flesh. They are not sacred objects or relics lent to us, nor are they prizes hung upon our person. These terms are simply ways in which we, using words from scripture, designate that the Father, Jehovah God, is present and operating within us.
Even though we say that God has taught us better, the Holy Spirit is still spoken of by us as if He were an ‘it’ — like an impersonal force that undergirds our work for the Lord. This is what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. It is sad and unfortunate that our doctrine is no more sound than that of a cult. The anointing is definitely spoken of as an ‘it’ that we can count on to “get the job done.” Pitiful! The gifts of the Spirit are ‘they’ in our language — these ‘endowments’ that give us supernatural abilities. Wrong! And, the fruit of the Spirit are also ‘they’ in our daily usage — these earmarks that show that we are “making progress” in “our” spiritual growth and development. That is an erroneous and unfortunate understanding also. Ultimately, we disassemble and compartmentalize God, until He appears to be nothing more than objects we can manipulate to suit our own will and pleasure. Thereby, we also intercept the glory belonging to him.
If this is at all the way that you think of and speak about these, then my friend, you’ve been spiritually stunted, dwarfed, hoodwinked, and bamboozled. And, until you realize and profess the truth, you will be stalled in your spiritual growth and development.
We ought to understand once and for all that the term ‘Holy’ in “Holy Spirit” simply identifies the spirit in question as our Father, Jehovah God. And, that holiness denoted in the word ‘Holy’ differentiates, distinguishes, and separates God from every other spirit in the world. Holiness is God’s unique signature. It is the sum effect of all his other attributes combined. It entails and encompasses His love, mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, faithfulness, readiness to forgive, and His righteous judgment.
God alone is holy. In the book of Revelation, when they worship God they cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” They never cry out any other single attribute. For example, they never cry, “Love, love, love.” Nor do they ever say, “Mercy, mercy, mercy.” So, when you say ‘Holy,’ you’ve just identified Jehovah God, and you’ve said it all. So, the holy in “Holy Spirit” is that special, great distinctive that sets Him apart from every creature in the world. And so, when that ‘Holy’ spirit shows up, Jehovah God has shown up. Calling Him the Holy Spirit is just another way of saying, “This spirit is none other than Jehovah God the Father himself.”
Likewise, with “the anointing” we should be clear what we are referring to, or rather it would be more proper to say, “WHOM we are referring to.” “The anointing” designates that God has wholly “come upon a servant,” and thus He himself guarantees that His purpose at work in that servant will succeed. God cannot possibly fail, nor can He fall short of fulfilling His own will. Thus, to say that someone is anointed, means that Jehovah God himself is using them and is fully active in them to accomplish His purpose and to do His work.
In the Old Testament, it was the custom of God to anoint his chosen leaders. For example, the judge Gideon and the prophet Zechariah were both anointed. Of Gideon the scripture says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Gideon…” Likewise, the scripture also says, “And the Spirit of the LORD clothed himself in Zechariah… (Judges 6:34; 2Chron 24:20, Jubilee Bible 2000). This is a faithful rendering. In other words, God assumed their identity. Or, it would be equally correct to say, God subsumed their personality, or God consumed their persona with His own. And thus, it is in all cases of anointing. Literally, God “clothes Himself” with us, and so uses us for His own indomitable will and purpose. In this way, we truly become living ‘images’ and ‘likenesses’ of God (Gen 1:26-27), and His work in us is guaranteed.
So too, it’s also true with the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. It is God making Himself known in the ways He characteristically and supernaturally operates in us through “spiritual gifts.” And, it is God who manifests Himself by His own divine character traits in the “fruit of the Spirit” He produces in us. Christ is the Vine. We are but branches, Jesus said (John 15:1-5). But the heavenly Father, Jehovah God, is the One who is evidenced by the fruit that is produced. We can no more gloat, glory, nor take credit for what is being produced in us, any more than a branch can take credit for the fruit produced on it.
We must come to know that WE are the tools, being servants of God. We are the ones being used, not God. God is running the show — not us. He is the One showing up, producing the results, operating the servants, performing supernatural deeds, and manifesting divine character, unto His own glory. It’s all about Him. In fact, IT IS all Him. As the word declares,
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36
Now we must come to terms with the idea of being God’s tools, and being used by Him. If God is the one handling and using us, then there is no shame in that, but only honor, and glory, and life. After all, do we not customarily say, “I want to be used by God”?
We must come to understand and speak of these designations for what they are — manifestations of God our Heavenly Father — not as things at our disposal that we use to “glorify God.” We got this whole thing inverted — backwards, upside down, and inside out. No! The cart is not pulling the horse! And, God is not subject to our use of Him. We are the ones who are subject to His use of us.
He is the Lord. We are the servants. He is our Commander. We take orders from Him. He is the Head, the Worker, the Life, and the Power. We are only the subjects, the tools, the mediums, and the instruments. Don’t “GET IT TWISTED.”
He is the Godhead. We are the Godhood. The Lord explains Godhead-Godhood as being ‘One.’
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…” John 17:21-23
We, who are in Christ, should no longer speak about anything having anything to do with our service to God as though it were a self-willed private enterprise. Because God is living in us — dwelling in our very bodies — in everything we do and experience, God is cohabitating. Because God is our wisdom, in every decision we make, God is deliberating. Because God is our head in all respects, in everything that concerns us, God is cooperating with us and we with Him. Cohabitating, deliberating, cooperating — with God as both our head and our very life, it is not only true that God is WITH us, but we are IN God. It is supremely true with us, that it is God proceeding and succeeding in us in all that we do. Glory to His name. Amen.
So, in terms of our language and understanding, this is the truth and should be the sum:
Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)
Our present understandings are very primitive and unworthy of God. They depersonalize God and diminish His glory. They lead to the perpetuation of much pride and prejudice, not to speak of the persistence of errors in doctrine. In 1Cor 14:20 the word says,
Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. Selah.
Now, do these things make sense to you? Are they even remotely relevant to your life and experience, or are you on the outside looking in? If these things sound foreign to you, and you can’t relate, then the bad news is, “My friend, you are not yet even born-again. You are yet outside the life, covenant, and promises of God.” Now, the good news is, you can remedy this predicament by inviting Christ into your life right here and right now. And, if you are ready and willing to do that, then please pray the following suggested prayer.
Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open my heart and life now and receive you as Savior and Lord. Come in and take control of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit. Come and make me the kind of person you want me to be. Amen.
Did you pray that prayer? Then, on the solid-rock foundation of simple child-like faith, I now pronounce you a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. Mark this date on your calendar. It’s the first day of your eternal life. Congratulations! And welcome to the family.
For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000
If you are already a Christian, but are in need of repentance and rededication, then pray this prayer,
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for not serving you the way that I should. I open up my heart now, and give you full access and control. Have your way, Lord. Cleanse me from all my sin and idolatry. Fill me with your Holy Spirit again. Renew me, Lord. Make me the kind of person and servant I ought to be. Amen.
For 24-hour prayer and for help finding a church, call 1-888-731-1000