The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 2

Having written about the temple, I’ll now move on to the web. I’ve never taken much interest in a spider’s web, but apparently, the spider is always moving along the edge of it. Then, as soon as a fly goes into the web, the web vibrates and the spider can zoom in and attack.

“Be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be like that spider whose feet are on the edge of the web. As soon as something comes in, it’s captured. We capture the good things from God. It’s the Holy Spirit who (as Berni Dymet puts it) lifts a verse right off the page and plonks it into our hearts, but we can also apply this to any unwelcome intrusions. “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As soon as we’re tempted, we can say, ‘No! I’m not doing that, because God says …’ like Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil. Turn these stones into bread? No! It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:2-4).

Have you ever pictured yourself standing guard at the door to your heart, like a spider on the edge of her web?

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The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 1

There were two interesting pictures that people in my house group had of the Holy Spirit. I wanted to write them down to remember them, so I thought I’d share them with you at the same time.

First, the temple. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We were created in three parts: Body, soul and spirit. Similarly, the Jewish temple was in three parts: The outer court (where the whole assembly could gather), the inner court (for the priests), and the Most Holy Place (which the high priest could enter once a year).

Our makeup is like the temple. Our physical bodies (the outside of us) can be seen by anyone. When it comes to the inside – our soul (our feelings, our emotions), we’re more selective about what we share and with whom. It’s a more intimate relationship. Beyond that is our Most Holy Place – our spirit communing with God’s Spirit.

Before someone’s a Christian, they’re living by their own thoughts/feelings/emotions, or in the words of my friend: “The spirit has been suffocated by the soul.” When we become Christians, God makes us alive in Christ. Our spirit can connect freely with God’s Spirit and isn’t suffocated/dead anymore.

When Jesus died on the cross, we’re told in three of the gospels (I’m really surprised John doesn’t mention this) that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The barrier between the inner court and the Most Holy Place was obliterated – a picture of what Jesus has done for us. He’s made a way for our souls to come into the presence of God to find nourishment and strength. Perhaps in his own way, John does point to it because he recorded Jesus’ famous words: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Unparalleled

“Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and told the nation’s leaders and the elders: ‘You are questioning us today about a kind deed in which a crippled man was healed. But there is something we must tell you and everyone else in Israel. This man is standing here completely well because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You put Jesus to death on a cross, but God raised Him to life. He is the stone that you builders thought was worthless, and now He is the most important stone of all. Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.’ The officials were amazed to see how brave Peter and John were, and they knew that these two apostles were only ordinary men and not well educated. The officials were certain that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:8-13).

When you repeat Jesus’ statement that no one comes to the Father except through Him, people don’t like it. I suppose they think you’re arrogant, saying you’re right and they’re wrong, but Peter would go along with you. “His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone”, Peter said of Jesus, and he wasn’t speaking on his own. He wasn’t just an opinionated so-and-so; he was filled with the Holy Spirit. When the leaders saw his courage, they knew Peter had kept company with Jesus.

Jesus truly is unique. No one else can save us, and with His Spirit living in us, we can have an unction we’ve never had before. Earlier this month I mentioned the fruit of the Spirit, including gentleness. Thanks to Him, we can bring a message without hostility or hate. “Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). I want the words I speak or write about Jesus to be for the good of those who hear them.

Messiah

“A man named Simeon lived in Jerusalem. He was a good man who was devoted to God. He was waiting for the time when God would come to help Israel. The Holy Spirit was with him. The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he saw the Messiah from the Lord” (Luke 2:25-26). Messiah is a Hebrew word. Christ is its Greek equivalent, and both mean the same thing: Anointed One.

In the time before Jesus was born, the Jews used anointing oil. It was a sign that God had chosen someone (or something) for a task and they were fit for purpose, but the anointing oil was just that – a sign. Now, we no longer need oil to be anointed because we have the Holy Spirit.

We’ve seen that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so from day one, Jesus was anointed, but when He was baptised by John, His anointing became visible. “I also did not know who the Messiah was,” says John. “But the One who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and rest on a man. He is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen this happen. I saw the Spirit come down from heaven like a dove and rest on this man. So this is what I tell people: ‘He is the Son of God’” (John 1:32-34).

Nowadays, although the Holy Spirit anoints Christians, oil is still used within the church. “Anyone who is sick should call the church’s elders. They should pray for and pour oil on the person in the name of the Lord. And the prayer that is said with faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will heal that person. And if the person has sinned, the sins will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15). Oil, and a prayer said in faith. In other words, we’re acting as people have for thousands of years. The oil is a sign that we welcome the work of God in someone’s life. When Jesus taught His followers to pray, one thing He said to ask for was that God’s kingdom would come on earth, as in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Jesus, I welcome You and Your kingdom. I welcome You as my Anointed One – my Messiah.

Holy Spirit

When Joseph’s emotions are in turmoil thanks to Mary’s pregnancy, an angel reassures him in a dream: “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

When Jesus touched someone, people could see Him touching them. But when God’s Holy Spirit’s at work, something always happens on the inside and flows out – the total opposite of two people having sex, which is an outward, visible act. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was integral to His existence, as my parents are to mine.

When Jesus died, His Spirit could work in every one of His followers. “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things” (Galatians 5:22-23). That’s one reason we’re instructed to be filled with the Spirit – so our lives can display this fruit for all to see. I’ve learnt that verse in Ephesians about being filled with the Spirit is a continuous tense in the Greek, so it doesn’t mean be filled only once; it means be being filled. Be filled; flow out; be filled again. That’s what God wants for us.

Isolation

I really like being with people, but I also like to have some quiet time in order to process what’s gone on. Being amongst people from different backgrounds who don’t understand where you’re coming from and don’t necessarily say things the same way you would – it can be hard, and if I’ve had one of those difficult days, I like to come home, flop onto the sofa and get into a book that’s going to lift my mood. Sometimes I get far more encouragement and strength from reading a book by someone in my situation than I do from people who’ve never experienced it.

The problem comes when my four walls become my safety net. I’m tempted sometimes just to be around family and close friends, and not to bother with anybody else. After all, no one can upset me if I’m not there, but here’s a Bible-verse that really hit me earlier in the year: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire” (Proverbs 18:1). So it’s saying isolation is selfish? I always thought of it as unselfish. If I’m feeling fragile, I won’t go, they won’t upset me, I won’t fly off the handle and everybody wins … but that’s not what the Bible says. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

Brian May (my hero as a teenager) said once: “If you’re hardened off, you’re not living,” and he’s right. I have to let people see the real me – not just me when I’ve got it all together. “The fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is … self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit needs a chance to grow. If I choose to be with people and let the growth happen, surely that can only be a good thing.

Have you ever been tempted to isolate yourself? If you’re unable to leave the house, what ways have you found to connect and grow?

Persecution

How do you find the positive from someone put in prison for their faith? In North Korea, it’s even done by association. You might be imprisoned because an uncle believes in God, and if you’re pregnant, then your children are born in captivity. “Escape from Camp 14” showed me they’re not taught about love; they only know survival. Families have so little that they’re in competition with each other, even for daily food.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). Christians can hold onto this truth: Rescue is coming. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). We may not be persecuted the same way as North Koreans. For us it might be people showing hostility, or mocking our faith. Perhaps your relatives follow a different religion and are doing their best to steer you away from Jesus. “They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. And so you will bear testimony to Me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life” (Luke 21:12-19). “Everyone will hate you because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).

If you’re a believer in Jesus who’s being persecuted, keep relying on His Spirit to give you the right words and attitudes. Hold on till the end, and focus on your heavenly reward.

Grief

Today a close friend of mine is at her dad’s funeral, so if you’d like to pray for her as you read, that would be brilliant.

I thought I’d write something on grief, even though I feel quite unqualified to. I haven’t grieved the loss of a parent or sibling, but my uncle’s death at 57 from cancer affected me deeply. We’re told in Psalm 34:18 that God is close to the broken-hearted, and He did feel particularly close at that time. A Bible-verse that jumped out at me was Romans 8:28: “In everything God works for the good of those who love Him.” When I trained to volunteer on the chaplaincy team at my local hospital, we were told not to quote this to a grieving person. I must be odd then, but I found it a real comfort that because God loved me, He would bring some good out of my family’s tragedy.

So, my positive message to anyone who’s grieving? You’re not without a Comforter. When Jesus knew His death was imminent, He tried to prepare His friends by promising them another Helper, who would be with them forever – the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). God is three persons rolled into one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He wants to be close to you and put His Spirit in you, so you’ll have someone there to give you the exact comfort you need in your situation.

31 Jesus-Benefits: That Same Power

“And you will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe. That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Day 22 and there are some Jesus-benefits I can’t quite wrap my head around. This is one of them:

God’s mighty power working in me.

Those verses above – did you take them in? God’s power for us who believe is the same power that raised Christ from the dead! Christ who lay, lifeless and motionless, in a borrowed tomb. The power of God came when His Holy Spirit breathed life into Jesus’ already-deadness, and it was an angel of the LORD who rolled away the stone too large for a human being to move. That same power is at work in us! Amazing!

“With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

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31 Jesus-Benefits: Holy Spirit

“I will send you the Helper from the Father; He is the Spirit of Truth … When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come” (John 15:26, 16:7).

If I had to put them in order, this benefit would be in my top 3. I don’t take for granted that:

Jesus ascended to heaven so that we could have the Holy Spirit.

It would be such a burden to try to live the Christian life in our own strength, without God’s Spirit. Jesus knew how important the Holy Spirit was. Before His ascension, He doesn’t want His friends to do anything except wait in Jerusalem until they “Receive power when the Holy Spirit comes”. We wouldn’t have the power to live the way God wants us to without His Spirit. In his letter to the Romans, Paul takes it even further by saying that anyone without the Spirit of Christ doesn’t belong to Him. Sometimes the illustration is used of a hand in a glove. The glove can’t do anything on its own, but with a hand inside, it can do as directed. Similarly, we’re unfruitful on our own, so we need God’s Spirit in us for that to change. His Spirit equips us for what He’s called us to do. We can have the gifts of the Spirit – tongues, prophecy etc, and all His fruit. Like Jesus’ followers at Pentecost, have you had your own experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

“A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church” (1 Corinthians 14:4).

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