A Picture of Power

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald. Today we will look at being filled with the Holy Spirit.

There is no Christian life apart from Christ in you; Christ is only in you by His Holy Spirit. What are the attributes of the Holy Spirit? (Galatians 2:20, John 14:16-17).

The Holy Spirit is God, not some force of God. The Arians taught that the Holy Spirit was an energy of God, but not a person. Unitarians deny a distinctive personality and personhood of the Holy Spirit. Mormans and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe He is the influence of God but not God.

The Spirit has mind, will, and emotions, just like any person with a soul. He has Intellect or capacity to know (1 Corinthians 2:11), He has emotions and can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and has a will giving gifts to whom He desires (1 Corinthians 12:11).  Here are some of the Spirit’s activities:

  • Source of truth – 1 John 5:6
  • Convictor of sin – John 16:8
  • Provider of comfort – John 14:16
  • Gives boldness to witness – Acts 4:31
  • Gives courage to follow – Ephesians 3:16
  • Gives grace to stand – Acts 9:31
  • Gives hope to endure – Colossians 1:11
  • Illuminates God’s Word – John 14:26
  • Prays for God’s people – Romans 8:26-27
  • Advances God’s agenda – John 16:13


Living in the Holy Spirit’s power can only happen when we are filled. If you don’t want what God wants for your life, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit sets your priorities and goals when He fills your life.

In Ephesians 5:18, the meaning of “being filled” is to be controlled, filled, intoxicated and thoroughly influenced. (Luke 4:28 and Acts 13:45 have a similar understanding of the word). It is to be overcome with a power greater than your own. It is a command, to be filled. It is also in a tense that indicates a continual action, “keep on being filled.” Early believers were filled and were filled again (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 9:17, 13:9). When you drink water in the morning, you get thirsty in the afternoon!

Check out Romans 8:9-13. How does one put to death sinful inclinations? Or get over a private addiction? Or become a man of purity? Or do what’s right? Or stand against sin?

Five confirmations of being filled (Romans 8:14-17):

  1. Is God leading me? (Romans 8:14) God directs our lives, helps us to speak well, do the right thing.
  2. Is God giving me confidence? (Romans 8:15) we no longer live in fear (the future, death, not having enough) but in confidence.
  3. Am I growing in intimacy with God? (Romans 8:15) with a spirit of adoption into God’s family.
  4. Do I feel secure in Christ? (Romans 8:16) we are not meant to doubt our salvation. We should doubt our doubts, not our relationship. When we are insecure, two things may be present: am I grieving the Spirit? (doing things that sadden Him) or am I quenching the Spirit? (not doing that which He has asked me to do)? What have you ignored (1 Thessalonians 5:19)? What is He saying?
  5. Do I draw my identity from Christ? (Romans 8:17) being an heir with Christ. We don’t earn the filling, we simply ask for it.

How to be filled with the Holy Spirit:

  1. Repent of all known sin (Psalm 139:23-24)
  2. Ask God to fill you (Matthew 7:11, Luke 11:13)
  3. Believe that He has filled you (John 14:13, Matthew 9:29)

Bill Bright has a Campus Crusade piece that helps us understand the Spirit-filled Life.



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A Picture of Grace

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald. Today we will look at what Jesus was doing on the cross.

What was Jesus Doing on the Cross?

The cross is the signature symbol of the central event in human history. It was a symbol of execution until the second century when Constantine saw a vision of it and banned it as an instrument of execution. Today people are often casual about it and can wear it as a piece of jewelry, without understanding the meaning of the symbol.

He was substituting:

Between two robbers, thieves or better translated, revolutionaries, Jesus took the place of mankind, just as He did for Barabbas (Matthew 27:26). Jesus paid the penalty for us; He took the death that we all deserve (Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:8).

He was scandalizing:

The cross is an outrageous offense that evokes intense reactions from those who are not saved. Look across America at the intense, irrational hatred of Jesus. Why all the illogical animosity toward Jesus Christ? Would people react the same way to Krishna, or Mohammed, a Hindu or the Buddha?

There is an army of darkness that has it’s sights on Christianity. To really live for Christ, we are going to experience this scandalizing hatred (John 7:7, 15:18).

He was suffering:

First century executions were not like today. They wanted to torture and completely humiliate the criminal. For Jesus, the pain was a lesser issue; it was the separation and abandonment that Jesus experienced that caused His suffering (Matthew 27:46).  He was forsaken by the Father and surrounded by darkness.

He was satisfying:

The curtain of the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). The temple represented God’s presence. He lived in the Holy of Holies. The curtain represented that which separates man from God. It was torn from top to bottom, as if God was ripping it apart, saying “the way is now open, come into My presence, the wrath is diverted, My Son paid your penalty.” The debt is satisfied.

Why doesn’t God do something about sin? He did! It is finished (John 19:30).

Four Pictures of Grace.

Grace is undeserved, unmerited, unlearned; and received as a gift. It is not justice (getting what you deserve) or mercy (not getting what you deserve) because grace is getting something that you do not deserve.

Grace that redeems – the penalty is gone:

There was nothing special about any of us; God chose to set His love on us (Colossians 1:14). It is a picture of payment to God; not to come and get us but to pay a price to get us back.

Grace that releases – the power is gone:

Redemption without release is like a mountain climber who stays at base camp. It is not just that we have a home in heaven, but that we can be released from the power of sin here and now. No longer will we be slaves to sin; we have been set free. We have the power to say no to sin. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today (Romans 6:13, 14).

Grace that reconciles – the prejudice is gone:

Grace causes us to reconcile with every class, race and culture. The walls of separation are broken down (Ephesians 2:14). There are no barriers. The people of God should be the most diverse place on the planet because Christ makes us one, united in spirit. Not only is the wall broken down, but hostility is gone (Ephesians 2:15-16). We must hate every form of prejudice in our society.

Grace that removes – the past is gone:

All sins are wiped away because of the cross (Luke 23:42, 10:33-35, 15:11-31, Matthew 20:8-15). So, where is my debt? It is cancelled (Colossians 2:14). Sometimes the greatest barrier is the way we see ourselves: we don’t feel worthy of God’s love; maybe too ashamed for what we have done or what we were.

Not until we grasp the gravity of our sin problem can we grasp the amazing solution that God has provided by grace. He has redeemed us, released us, reconciled us and removed the shame from us.



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A Picture of Repentance

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald. Today we will look at five marks of genuine repentance.

What is repentance?

Repentance is the funnel through which all personal revival flows. After we have seen God’s holiness and been brought to a place of personal brokenness over our sin, repentance is the first step in the personal cleanup of the wreckage that sin brings. Here are a few passages regarding repentance: Matthew 3:2, 6:12, Luke 15:7, Acts 3:19, 17:30.

Repentance is change inside of me, in every way and at every level. Change not on the outside but in me. There’s a three-part definition: recognition of sin for what it is (heartfelt sorrow) culminating in a change of behavior. I see sin for what it is (changing my mind) and experience heartfelt sorrow (changing my heart). Then I determine to change my behavior (changing my will).

Repentance is a work of God; where God grants repentance (2 Timothy 2:25 (NIV)). It is a gift of God to anyone who wholeheartedly seeks Him. It’s not easy, only God can grant to us repentance from all that we have failed to do on our own.

Here are the five marks of repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9, 10, 11). Paul lists eleven fruits but are grouped here into five categories:

Grief over sin:

We must lose the grip we have that life is all together. We need to feel like a worm and recognize sin for what it is. If we desire to go higher, we must go lower. Here are a few responses of people who have made contact with the Lord: Genesis 18:27, Job 42:6, Isaiah 6:5, Luke 5:8, Revelation 1:17. The essence is heartfelt sorrow and regret over sin. This sin is always against God, not just against other people.

The word used is lupeo, meaning “greatly distressed,” like the feeling the disciples had after hearing Jesus’ announcement of His crucifixion (Matthew 17:23). It is used 26 times in the NT; half of those in 2 Corinthians; half of those right here in this passage.

Repulsion over sin:

See what godly grief has produced in you (2 Corinthians 7:11). To see means to behold; repentance brings with it an urgency about my relationship with God and strong negative feelings toward anything that would injure it. Those activities no longer bring happiness.

Restitution toward others:

Repentance does not demand anything, but it does request reconciliation; it is not concerned with what another person’s part may have been but what my own part has been. I am the one who is to do whatever it takes to make it right. Repentance is concerned about the people who are affected by my sin. We should be innocent in matters (2 Corinthians 7:11) meaning free of guilt, blameless in the eyes of others. Many people what to be right with God but will not make it right with others. We are to be bridge-builders for reconciliation. No more blaming. No more excuses.

Revival toward God:

Repentance brings an obvious restoration I our relationship with God. Your heart will become sensitive to sin, hunger for the Word of God, and crave less the things of the world. Fear is an attitude of the heart that seeks a right relationship to the fear source.  Fear of the Lord is a good thing (Proverbs 9:10, Luke 23:40). It is an increased awareness and respect for God.

All of a sudden church is not a chore for the repentant person, there is a longing and zeal (2 Corinthians 7:11). Bible study is not a burden. Joy in the Lord has returned. There is a realization that life is temporary. Revival is renewed interest in God after a period of indifference and decline.

Moving Forward:

We are to move forward and not look back; no “if only’s…” that bring regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance without regret! Move beyond self-punishment that is stuck in the past and won’t move toward the future. Worldly grief produces death, separation from God and hell for eternity. Let’s keep these five marks of repentance in the forefront.



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A Picture of Brokenness

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald. Last time the lesson was on holiness, and it was significant to point out that we need to know what holiness is, because God expects us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16).


Drop the umbrella:

We have an umbrella that keeps the showers of God’s blessings from reaching us, it is called sin. Sin is not in the neighborhood, or in the newspaper; it’s in the mirror. If you have ever asked the question of why you don’t feel as close to God as you used to, the answer is sin. You can study the Bible all day and serve faithfully in the church, but the bottom line is that you have to deal with sin; and deal with it God’s way.


We must take sin seriously because it brings God’s wrath (Romans 1:18). We fail to conform to God’s Word and His standard. Hamartia is the word for missing the mark or target. And missing it brings death (Romans 3:23).


The origin of sin goes back to the Garden of Eden; they chose their own way and did the one thing God told them not to do (Genesis 3:6-7). From then on we have passed on a sin nature to all mankind, like a genetic disease. This makes every unbeliever an enemy of God.


The extent of our sin:

We all are sinners, to claim anything else would be self-deceit. When we acknowledge it, we forget it is a slippery slope that leads to ruin. Sin intends to do much harm:


  • Sin will pursue you (Genesis 4:7, 11, 12) by crouching at the door and desiring us.
  • Sin will disappoint you (Hebrews 11:25) by bringing pleasure for only a short time.
  • Sin will trip you up (Hebrews 12:1) by spotting your weakness and catching you off-guard.
  • Sin will enslave you (Romans 6:16) by making you obey through addiction.
  • Sin will expose you (Proverbs 28:13, Number 32:23) by bringing your secret sin into the open.


Sin is my choice:

There are no excuses like, everybody’s doing it, or it’s not that bad, or I haven’t hurt anyone. Sin suppresses the fact of God’s existence (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Theologians call this our God-consciousness. You’ve got to work hard to suppress the sense that somebody’s out there. He sees me and is keeping track. Sin is the attempt to push this sense down.


Your conscience accuses you; that internal alarm that knows right from wrong. No one can plead ignorance, God has made himself clearly seen (Romans 1:19), and He has written it on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). Can you let your conscience be your guide? Nope!


  • Your conscience is conditioned by what you know. The more you get into God’s Word, the more tender your conscience gets.
  • Your conscience is conditioned by what you do. It is made tender by doing right and becomes calloused when you do wrong. It is possible to sear your conscience, and actually lose the capacity to feel pain (1 Timothy 4:2).


Creation shouts the existence of God (Psalm 14:1) so it is foolish to say there is no God. We are without excuse, and have no defense.


Sin is destroying your mind, causing you to think foolishly (Romans 1:21 – meaning pointless or in futility). Thinking becomes soft or logically unsound. When sin drives decisions, a lot of foolish thinking will follow. (See questions on p. 119 in the book). Sin so distorts our thinking that we begin to invent a god that will actually agree with us (Romans 1:22-23).


A slippery slope:

We often do not fully consider the consequences of lingering in sin; but must see the slippery slope that will cause us to tumble. The author mentions three broad categories of sin: pride, pleasure and priorities.


Pride is self-centered thinking, made up of three elements: position, prestige and power.

  • Position – it focuses on thoughts of superiority in relation to others because of the role you have attained.
  • Prestige – it has a consuming need for recognition, being watched by others and a desire for others to pat you on the back. It is dropping names and listing accomplishments.
  • Power – it is an inappropriate use of influence, to force people to do something not in their best interest. Then taking pride in the ability to affect others this way.


Pleasure is not sinful, since God supplies things for us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). It becomes sin when we seek to pursue it at the wrong time, with the wrong person or in the wrong amount.

  • Sex – it is out of control in our world today and has made serious headway in the church. It can seriously hurt and degrade like a bad cavity when out of the boundaries God has set.
  • Substance abuse – it dulls the need to rely upon God, and it used to take off the edge or dull the pain of life. It keeps you from seeing how much you really need God.  God wants you under His power and nothing else (1 Corinthians 6:12).
  • Stuff – it is not wrong to have things; it is wrong when things have us (Psalm 62:10). Pursuing stuff in the wrong amount, at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons is sin.


Priorities describe the good that is left undone (James 4:17).

  • Priority of personal care – it is not taking care of yourself. Since we belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) we are to care for ourselves. Overeating, failure to exercise, refusal to rest, etc. sound familiar?
  • Priority of others – it is making relationships a priority, rather than closing up or withholding yourself from others, failure to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32) and failure to love.
  • Priority of relationship with God – Only you can answer this: are you loving Christ with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? Are you walking with God?



Cultivate the discipline of calling your behavior that fails to keep God’s law what it really is, sin. We need to give God unlimited access and ful permission to shine His light into every dark corner of our souls. I will bring the handout on page 125 to class on Sunday.



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A Picture of Holiness

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald.


What is holiness?

Holiness is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but what is it? Not to make a play on words, but it revolves around your view of God; that He is exalted, sitting high on the throne in heaven, transcendent and separate from His creation. In Hebrew the word is qodesh and in Greek it is hagios, and both mean “to be set apart.” He is majestic, set apart, and there is nothing like Him (Exodus 15:11). When we think of holy we must think separated.


At the core of our sinfulness is our desire to usurp God. Adam and Eve listened to the lie that they could be like God (Genesis 3:5). In the New Testament, every human has exchanged the truth for a lie and worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). We desire to reduce this thing called holiness so that there is seemingly no separation between God and mankind.


Holiness describes separation:

Heavenly throne room scene 1 – Isaiah 6:1 describes a heavenly scene, when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. John 12:41 tells us that it was the pre-incarnate Christ that Isaiah saw (a theophany). John 1:18 mentions that no one has ever seen God; remember that He is separate from anything we know.


  • “I saw the Lord sitting.” He was not pacing or worried, but sitting in authority.
  • “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” God is continually worshipped beyond space and time. The throne is high, so that even sinless angels will know God is separate from everything.
  • “And His train of His robe filled the temple.” At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, she had a train that went down the isle and out the back door; a fitting symbol of her splendor. Here the train fills the temple, back and forth, packing the house. Who is like our God? (Deuteronomy 33:29, Psalm 35:10, 89:8). The question is rhetorical!


Heavenly throne room scene 2 – Ezekiel 1:1, 3-4 has another scene different from Isaiah. The common theme is that if you have seen heaven you’ve seen the throne. Ezekiel is having a hard time finding words to describe it; using likeness 10 times and appearance 16 times. But when he sees it, he had to get down low (Ezekiel 1:27, 28). This emphasizes separation.  Today, we have lost this view of God because we see Him as near, approachable and our BFF. We have lost the reverence of Him being lofty, separate, holy and exalted. A casual view of God leads to cheap grace; and shallow sanctification on our part. We forget that no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20) and that He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). Basically our view of God is too small.


Holiness demands caution:

Be careful; be very, very careful. Isaiah does not go on to describe God, but rather the angels around Him (Isaiah 6:2). Even they fear gazing upon God, that He could consume them in a moment, so they cover their eyes and don’t want God to look at them. Even these sinless seraphs don’t want His holiest of eyes to look at them. They emphasize a “carefulness” around God.


Heavenly throne room scene 3 – There is a Great White Throne in Revelation 20:11, like the garments at the transfiguration, being exceedingly white (Mark 9:3). Even the earth will see His holiness and retreat (2 Peter 3:10). Our sinful “casualness” in the presence of God is amazing, that we believe we could run the world better than God, or we would want to give God a piece of our mind.


Holiness declares God’s glory:

The angels sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” back and forth as they praise God. The universe declares His glory. The weather declares His glory (notice what is called acts of God). The earth is full of glory (earth’s axis being at 23 degrees to the sun). The solar system declares His glory (1.3 million of our earth could fit inside the sun). Not only is He Creator, but in Him all things are held together (Colossians 1:17). The universe declares His glory (140 billion galaxies in the universe; like 140 billion peas would fill a football stadium).


The human body declares His glory: 100,000 miles of blood vessels, a heart beats 100,000 times each day, the body makes 25 billion new cells every second, nerve impulses travel at 426 feet per second (five times faster than lightening), and even a three month old pre-born infant has fingerprints. Psalm 139:14 is very true.


Heavenly throne room scene 4 – it is associated with honor, all to Him and none to us (Psalm 115:1). In Revelation 4:11, the word is worthy, meaning “properly balanced scales.” No amount of praise we give to God will ever tip the scales.


Holiness determines mystery:

Isaiah 6:4 tells us about the ground shaking when He speaks. John was feverishly writing what he saw and then was told to stop (Revelation 10:4-7), which reinforces that fact that some things are going to remain a mystery.


Heavenly throne room scene 5 – This scene comes from Daniel 7:9, 10, where God is called the Ancient of Days and a book is opened. Revelation 20:15 explains the book. Each of us needs to be in this book, and there’s no fooling Him, tricking Him or playing games with God. You are either a new creation or you’re not (2 Corinthians 5:17). We should be changing day by day, pressing on toward the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The power of sin must be broken for God to begin changing us.



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We Need a Downpour

These are notes for my Bible study class on Sunday mornings at 9:45, a book called Downpour by James MacDonald.


A dry and dusty heart

There’s something about a dry spell that gets people talking. The bible is full of garden imagery, like Isaiah 58:11, that the human heart is like a garden. If you weed and water the garden you will experience a bumper crop. We are also instructed to guard our hearts, and take care of it (Proverbs 4:23).


Think about the condition of your heart right now. What one word might describe your heart? The Bible promises that time of refreshing may come (Acts 3:19). Where are you on the scale between parched and refreshed?


What do we mean by revival?

We are not commanded to seek revival, although the Bible frequently mentions people being revived. How would you define revival?


How about this? “Renewed interest after a period of indifference or decline.” It’s getting back on the right track; seeing the goal again; pursuing with a new passion; getting God back at the center of your life.


The cart before the horse

One cannot be revived if you have never been vived! We need to make sure we have already taken steps toward becoming a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).


The invitation

It does not matter how far someone is away from God or how they have been gone, the key is to return (Hosea 6:1-3). Our problems begin when we fail to “return” to the Lord. There is an invitation to “come.” It’s not too late for anyone to return. We also read, “Let us,” indicating that we are not alone, others are on this journey, too. The Hebrew word for return is used over 1000 times in the OT, 23 times in Hosea (like Hosea 5:4, 7:10, 11:5). Hosea encourages us, that good things await those who return to the Lord (Hosea 14:4, 7).


Promises to keep

These promises will keep us going when it gets tough:

  • I promise to be dissatisfied with anything less than a genuine personal experience with God (Matthew 15:8).
  • I promise to set God’s Word high above human teaching and to handle it with the respect it deserves (Acts 17:11).
  • I promise to give God access to every area of my life (1 Corinthians 10:26).
  • I promise to make this study about me and God alone (Matthew 7:5).
  • I promise to put into practice what I am learning (1 Corinthians 8:1).



Returning is a decision, which starts with understanding three things:

  1. Turning to the Lord is recognizing that some things have to go. Get rid of stuff that is harmful and recognize sin for what it is.
  2. Turning to the Lord is repenting of sin, being sorry for what has been done, and moving in another direction, away from sin and toward God.
  3. Turning to the Lord is actually re-turning, to the place where water has once flowed before, wanting what God has for me.


The need for crisis

The author mentions a difference between faith in a crisis and faith in a process. People become followers of Jesus at a turning point, conversion comes in a crisis. It would be good for each of us to share our conversion experience, as time permits in class, otherwise, sharing it with others helps to solidify what has happened.


The author mentioned that while faith comes in a crisis, we wrongly believe that the Christian life will then be a process (called sanctification). “Process-only” sanctification leads to always adding to our faith; gathering more data in Bible study, with hopeful implementation. He says that the crises should not be left in the rearview mirror. We received Christ in faith, so walk in Him (Colossians 2:6). We often change our horizontal behavioral adjustments, but have very little heart transformation.


Through pain to purpose

Hosea 6:1 tells us that God has torn us so that He may heal us. The word torn is like that of a predator. It’s explicit, He is the one who has done this, make no mistake. God is behind the hurt in your life. God is trying to bring another crisis into your life, to move on to another area in your life that He wants to change in you.


Through death to Life

Although He has struck you down, He will bind you up (Hosea 6:1).  Job declares that we should not despise the discipline of the Lord (Job 5:17-18). The surgeon wounds in order to heal; the bone is properly broke to set it; the skin is cut to remove the tumor. We must stop trying to live the Christian life as all process and no crisis.


What if I don’t return?

God would rather see you anywhere else than in rebellion and resistance to His will. His desire is for our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God is wiling to do whatever it takes to have you back.


What if I do?

We should know what the Lord expects; it will not be easy (Hosea 6:3). We are to press on to know the Lord. It’s more than just facts about God, it’s understanding the facts (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). Knowledge of the Lord is an experience with God. Press on is a military term that can be translated persecute, the way a warrior conquered and then vanquished the enemy. Intentionality and intensity all rolled into one. We must make a commitment; don’t be lazy or sluggish about our faith, get fired up about it.



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