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The Key of the Myster

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Confidence in the Flesh or Power of the Spirit

In Katz’s book, Ben Israel, he notes his so-called baptism of the Spirit, and indicates that this was an empowering, liberating, delivering experience for him. In your article on “Laboring” you say that at a certain point introspection can become counterproductive when seeking to establish whether we are, in fact, in the faith. Is it possible that some of the difficulties people have may be due to not experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (as distinct from the indwelling or sealing that I understand occurs upon true conversion)? Or, put another way, assuming the experience related in Acts 2 is one that is not extinct, but valid for today, is part of the benefit of this experience a deliverance from certain “strongholds” in our lives — i.e., would it help us overcome areas where we just plain feel helpless?

I‘ve never heard it called that, but yes, I would be a ‘continuationist’, not a cessationist. Regardless of how much we see or think we see that is bogus or contrived in the church world around us, from the standpoint of where prophecy shows that God is taking the church in its last perfection through persecution and confrontation with Antichrist, I can’t see how, even logically and quite apart from experience to the contrary, one could be cessationist without also being a preterist. Of course, this is most often the case. Even John McArthur, who is a futurist, can only sustain his position because he is pre-tribulational in his eschatology. By this, he can make a line of demarcation between the present dispensation and the future tribulation. Only in this way can he be a cessationist, since it clear to any literal reading of prophecy that there is great power to do mighty works by those whom Daniel calls, the ‘maskilim’ (persons of insight and understanding; Dan 11:32-35; 12:3, 10). Then there are the two witnesses, not to speak of the signs and miracles performed by the the false prophets of that time. All’s to say, a post-tribulational premillennial eschatology leaves no logical room for cessationism, theologically speaking.

As time permits, I will be happy to speak with your further concerning the evidence from the scripture that there is a crucial distinction between the receiving of the Spirit in initial regeneration and the baptism or ‘coming upon’ of the Spirit to some that are already spiritually alive. That would be most helpful indeed.

Circumstance forces me to make this shorter than I would like, but I am looking to the Lord to help me say something that would help you in your quest for simplicity and freedom in Christ. First, I will keep you in mind if something should occur to me that I could point you to. In the meantime, let me say that I think our greatest need is know God’s faithfulness in our personal experience of His love.

Our one great enemy is confidence in the flesh. When this is broken, to whatever degree it is broken, and we are broken, we are able to be free from the divided and mixed trust that robs us of His face and sense of His favor. All will be a muddle in our lives to the degree we are foggy and unresolved concerning the simplicity and power of the gospel, as a finished work, and our eternity as sure and safe. I notice that Peter says things begin to break down and we cannot see far off when we “forget that we were purged from our old sins.” It is that forgetting, and failure to reckon with the reckoning that Paul enjoins upon us, that we get into trouble.

In another place, Peter says that those who suffer in the flesh show that they have ceased from sin. I don’t think he’s talking just about some ultimate suffering in a time of persecution. I think he’s pointing to a principle. Believers have a right to be edified and confirmed when they choose the suffering that is always to some degree present when the flesh is being denied. Then there is the fear of God. Do we tremble at His Word? Our discipleship begins with the call to take up the cross and bear it daily, to set ourselves apart to God in all the purposes of our heart. If we indulge the flesh, knowingly and willingly, if we “make provision for the flesh,” we are literally asking to be filled with doubts and fears, and the pettiness of resentment, etc. We are literally inviting access of the powers to persecute our consciences, which are of greatest price. We are essentially agreeing to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

On the other hand, the victory never comes by a sin focus, but by a steadfast gaze, by the help of His Spirit, on the glory of His face. If we think our standing with God depends on our performance, there will be no power to fight the good fight. Our walk is only as good as the ground under our feet is solid. Blessed assurance is the crown by which alone we can walk without coming under the condemnation and defeat that robs our power to walk in a holiness that depends on the joy that comes in knowing the certainty of our end, because we are dead and our life is hid in God.

Without that helmet fitted down securely, the walk is wobbly at best. To have any success on the misguided principal of a performance based relationship is itself a judgment of divine grief, even provocation, since it is an insult to grace, as it can only minister pride when successful and despair when it is unsuccessful. I like to say that every false gospel is in the first place a matter of putting the horse before the cart. The only walk that counts is one that is on sure footing of an original regeneration that had nothing of man in it. Our continuance, though it has everything of the new man, has nothing of the old man in it either. I always get back to the fact that even Jesus disclaimed the works as his own. So we are never setting light by works, only works of the flesh, since the true works of the Spirit are not, in that sense, our own but issue out of a Spirit born faith that works best when it is most at rest.

To know His heart and mind, His secrets, and the glory of His wisdom, not only as it pertains to us personally, but as it pertains to the glory of His eternal purpose in history. To see Him high and lifted up and to count it the greatest thing just to know the certainty of our destiny is to actually be like Him, that is the one thing worthy of our uttermost pursuit. Since we will be like Him in that day when we will see Him as He is, then that’s the rule for our present change as well. It is to see Him as He is. It is that seeing that transforms, and all of life’s ups and downs, in and outs, joys and afflictions, are geared toward that seeing. That is the light that brightens ever more to the perfect day. As we see, so we are. As we are, so we live. That seeing doesn’t come by anything else than His Spirit’s free and sovereign prerogative to reveal and illuminate whom He will, as He will. This comes to weakness only, to desperation that counts the alternative to such true seeing an unthinkable option.

When one asked a certain old saint what he thought the church’s greatest need, he answered, “the church’s greatest need is to feel its great need of God.” How deeply do we feel that need? To not feel that need intensely, and to not count that pearl of His presence worthy of the most costly exchange, it is a statement that we are full of our selves, and that more than we know or suspect, we are yet full of confidence in the flesh, trusting more in ourselves than in the God who raises the dead. An unmixed undivided dependency on God for all things, that should be our constant prayer, since the crown of true maturity is trust, simple, undivided trust. This is what I covet for us both.

Spurgeon’s testimony of personal salvation reviews the time when an interim preacher directed a word straight to him, something to the effect that the young man would remain miserable until he looked. The preacher exclaimed, looking straight at Spurgeon in the back of the church, having just stepped in to escape the rain, “look unto Me, says the Lord! There’s life in a look. Indeed, there is, but that kind of seeing is a sovereign gift of grace that changes everything in an instant. I hope some thought here will be a catalyst for further light and help to you. His grace overtake you.

In His precious service, Reggie Kelly

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