All spiritual growth, personal and corporate, is the work of the Holy Spirit. In Galatian 3 the apostle Paul said, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” “You have begun in the Spirit because regeneration is a work of the Spirit. Justification is a work of the Spirit. Adoption is the work of the Spirit. Conversion is the work of the Spirit. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit. Why have you set the Spirit aside and attempted to complete your spiritual development through the flesh? That’s foolish.” The model, or the example, of the Spirit-controlled life is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
From a theological viewpoint, one of the most fascinating studies in all of Scripture is how the Holy Spirit worked in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the best way to answer that – and I want you to think through with me a little bit today – the best way to answer that is this, that the Holy Spirit eternally was Christ’s perfect companion, as was the Father. That’s the nature of the Trinity: one in three, three in one.
But in the incarnation the Holy Spirit was Christ’s inseparable companion from womb to tomb to throne. The Holy Spirit was His inseparable companion. When He emptied Himself of divine prerogatives and became a man, set aside some of His eternal rights, He did not set aside relationships. He was still one with the Father, and He was still one with the Spirit. And the nature of His incarnation was that He set aside the independent use of His attributes and yielded Himself up completely to the Holy Spirit. He voluntarily turned Himself over to the Holy Spirit to do the will of the Father through Him. He became a vessel, completely under the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the will of God. That is how we are to understand the incarnation.
Let me say it another way. The Lord Jesus did only the Father’s will in the Spirit’s power. That is the essence of His incarnation. He did only the Father’s will in the Spirit’s power.
Just following His life you see the role the Spirit played. According to Luke 1, He was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. As a child, in Luke 2, the grace of God was upon Him by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Baptism – the Holy Spirit came upon Him. The Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted. He ministered, according to Luke 4, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In His death He literally died and rose again through the power of the eternal Spirit, and His post-resurrection appearances in giving the Great Commission was even done by the Holy Spirit. All those things are stated in the Scriptures.
The life of our Lord then was a life lived completely dominated by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the perfect illustration of a Spirit-empowered man. Under the complete control of the Spirit of God He lived a perfectly sinless, God-honoring life, demonstrating what a holy human looks like and how a holy human acts. In His death He validated God’s salvation plan, made it possible. In His life He demonstrated God’s salvation plan, He made it visible. In His death He made it possible, in His life He made it visible.
This is what the saved man in ultimate perfection looks like. This is what interests the Holy Spirit, not knocking people over, not doing bizarre things, not barking like a dog, not giving private messages in people’s feelings, not making people rich, not even making them well necessarily; His work is spiritual. It is an insult to lower the ministry of the Holy Spirit to some kind of circus event or chaos or confusion, or to be the source of satanic things that are somehow attributed to God.
Let me take you to a text that just kind of points this out: 2 Corinthians 3:18 – you want to look at that with me for a minute – 2 Corinthians 3:18. Really one of those definitive portions of Scripture. As the apostle Paul comes off the illustration of Moses coming down out of the mountain and having seen the glory of God and having his face veiled, Paul says in verse 18, “We all, with unveiled face,” – there’s no veil. The Old Testament, the old covenant had a veil. There were things that were not discernable, were not visible, were not yet revealed; and so, there were things hidden. “But we all, with an unveiled face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord.” I’m going to stop there for a moment.
This is our current state as believers. The veil is off; the veil of ignorance, the veil of darkness, the mysteries of the New Testament, that veil is removed. We see clearly in the glass the glory of the Lord, and it’s manifest in the incarnated Christ. So he’s talking about looking at the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face, nothing hindering our view. We have a full revelation of the Lord because of the New Testament. And it says that as we look at the glory of the Lord in this clear glass unveiled we are being transformed into the same image from one level of glory to the next. In other words, this is what sanctification is. As you gaze at the glory of the Lord, you will literally be being changed into that image, moving from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, to the next.
And who is doing this? End of verse 18, “just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” This is the Holy Spirit’s work to conform us to Christlikeness. Christlikeness is the goal, the Holy Spirit is the agent, and the Scripture is the means, as we gaze at the glory of the Lord revealed in Scripture. Sanctification then is only by means of the Holy Spirit taking what we see of the glory of Christ, revealing it to us, and then conforming us to that same glory.
I mean, just go back in redemptive history. Man is created in God’s image to reflect God’s glory, back in Genesis 1; man falls in Genesis 3. So man created to reflect and express the glory of God is fallen, he is corrupted, he is evil. The purpose for his existence is lost. In fact, man is so corrupt that by the sixth chapter of Genesis God drowns the entire world, the entire world. God literally obliterated the distorted image of His creation of man. So God had to make a plan; He saved eight people. And He had to make a plan to restore the terribly distorted image by sovereignly, supernaturally, and graciously transforming sinners so that they could become again capable of reflecting His glory.
So how did He do that? When He redeems us He makes us, 2 Peter 1:4, partakers of the divine nature. We escape corruption, the Bible says. That’s what salvation’s purpose is, is to deliver us from corruption and give us the power to become Christlike. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit; that is God’s plan. The Father initiated it, the Son validated it at the cross, and the Spirit demonstrates it.
The Spirit, as we saw last time, is the author of Scripture, which is the instrumental means of the transformation. He is the Creator of life, and therefore He is the only one who can regenerate. He is the agent of resurrection in the miracle of glorification at the end of the purposes of salvation. So whether it’s the beginning revelation, whether it’s the work of regeneration in us or the work of sanctification or the work of glorification in the end, it’s all the Holy Spirit’s work. And in the end when we get to heaven we will be like Christ, 1 John 3:2, because we’ll see Him as He is.
So this is the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s just so sad to me to see so much nonsense attributed to the Holy Spirit. This is the true work of the Holy Spirit: revelation in Scripture, illumination of that Scripture, leading the nonbeliever to repentance, awakening his dead heart by regeneration, going through the process of sanctification, conforming the believer to the image of Christ, and one day raising the believer to glorification. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we read so many times in Leviticus, “Be holy, for I am holy. Be holy, for I am holy,” over and over and over again, how does this happen? How does this happen? The answer comes in Leviticus: “I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” “I want you to be holy, and I’m the Lord who sanctifies you.”
There was only one person who ever lived who was self-sanctified and that was Jesus. That’s why John 17 He said, “I sanctify Myself.” We can’t say that. He said, “I sanctify Myself.” For us – as for Him, it still was the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is the regenerator, the sanctifier, and the glorifier of the people of God. So very important that we give the Holy Spirit the worship and the honor that is due to Him.
So much more could be said about that. I love to read Romans 8; I commend that to you. That is the Holy Spirit’s chapter. I won’t go through all of it, but I can’t resist at least a look at a portion of Romans chapter 8, you can look at it with me.
Let’s just go to verse 14 for a minute, Romans 8: “We are all being led by the Spirit of God.” If you’re being led by the Spirit of God you’re sons of God. Verse 16: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” The Spirit’s work is to give testimony of our true salvation.
Verse 23 says that we ourselves have the first fruits, the down payment, of future glory, which is the Holy Spirit. It’s like God’s engagement ring given to us guaranteeing our future wedding. We have been given the Spirit, but we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. We live in hope; we wait for the glorification that the Spirit will bring. But in the meantime, we have the Spirit as the down payment on that.
Verse 26 says the Spirit helps our weakness. We don’t even know how to pray, so the Spirit of God intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. The Spirit is our constant companion. The Spirit in us incessantly prays for us.
Go down to verse 29: “Those whom God foreknew, He predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” That’s salvation. It’s not just to get you out of hell, salvation is to conform you to Christ. That’s the point. He predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son; and to that end He predestined us, verse 30, called us, justified us; and He will also glorify us. This again from initial grace to final glory is the work of the Holy Spirit. And again, back to what I said at the beginning: the person of Christ is the model of the Spirit-filled man.
Now, I want to turn the page, and let’s talk about the Lord Himself. Let’s talk about the Son of God; we’ve talked about the Father and the Spirit. And I know you know the most about Him, and so I’m going to assume your knowledge is deep and rich and true. But the person of Jesus Christ is constantly under attack.
I don’t know if you’ve been watching this, but recently on television there’s a series being done where they’re trying to expose scientology. Have you heard about that? Scientology started by a science fiction writer, who is basically demon-possessed, by the name of L. Ron Hubbard. It’s a pseudo religion. I just think it might be interesting for you to get their perspective on Jesus Christ.
L. Ron Hubbard said this: “Jesus Christ never existed as a person, but rather is an electronic idea, implanted by the true powers of the universe into the mind of someone between incarnations around 600 B.C.” That is just wacky. “Jesus Christ is not a person, He’s an electronic idea, implanted by the true powers of the universe into the mind of someone between incarnations about 600 B.C.”
So he believes in reincarnation, and he believes there are true powers in the universe; and there are: the power of darkness. This is why I say he’s demon-possessed obviously. And he spawned a whole operation, false religion, scientology. He says this electronic idea implanted by the true powers of the universe into the mind of this person between incarnations in 600 B.C. we call RG, RG. And he went on to say the depositing, or implanting, of RG occurred while this person was between bodies and watching a mad man or something. This was some kind of a spiritually biological implant, and this RG that we call Jesus had all the characteristics of a pedophile.
Really? If you don’t think that’s from hell; Jesus a pedophile? I can’t imagine anything more blasphemous or bizarre, far from the truth; and yet that organization has flourished. That’s bizarre. But any deviation from the truth about Jesus Christ at all in any way is equally blasphemous. “If someone preaches another Christ let him be damned,” the Bible says.
So how are we to see Christ? Let me just show you one passage just a few minutes: Luke 20 – and there are so many places we could go obviously. But let me just show you Luke 20. I find this fascinating down in verse 41. This is Passion Week, the final week of our Lord’s life before His crucifixion and resurrection, and it’s most likely Wednesday of that week. Thursday was the upper room, and Friday, of course, the crucifixion. Sunday He rose from the dead.
He’s preaching the kingdom, He’s confronting the religious leaders; and there are discussions, parallel passages in Mark 12 and in Matthew. And there is a discussion about Messiah. He’s confronting them about Messiah. And according to Luke 20:41, He says to these Jewish leaders, “How is it that they say the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”
Our Lord put them on the horns of many dilemmas, many dilemmas; and here is one of the most potent of all. They were sure that the Messiah would be a man; no more. They were also sure, and rightly so, that the Messiah would be in the line of David. They were also sure that the Messiah who would come in the line of David and therefore have a royal right, would be a man who would defeat all of Israel’s enemies and bring all kingdom promises to fulfillment. That was their messianic view, that everything that had been prophesied to or promised to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant, everything that had been promised to David in the Davidic covenant, even everything promised in the new covenant to the prophets would all be brought to fulfillment in the arrival of this son of David, this powerful man who would be the ultimate anointed king, subdue all Israel’s enemies, bring all the promises of the kingdom; that’s Messiah. But they never thought He would be more than a man. So our Lord takes them to a passage, as it’s mentioned in verse 42, from Psalm 110.
The discussion prior to this, according to Matthew 22, is, “What do you think about the Christ?” He asks them. “Whose son is He? Whose son is He?” That’s kind of what launched this. And they’re responding, “Oh, He’s David’s son. He’s David’s son.” And so, He say, “How is it that they say Christ is David’s son based on what it says in Psalm 110?”
In Psalm 110 it says David himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’” The Lord is pointing to this psalm and saying David says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand.’” The Messiah is not just David’s son, He is David’s Lord, He is David’s Lord.
How can the Messiah be David’s son and David’s Lord? How is that possible? David’s son and David’s Lord? That would mean preexistence, He would have to have been around when David lived. How can He be after David and before David? How can He be born and yet eternal? This simple statement, simple look at Psalm 110:1 shows us the nature of Christ. He is David’s son: a royal line, a man. He is David’s Lord: God the eternal Son.
This is the glory of Christ, David’s son and David’s Lord. It’s a little bit like when Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Amazing. David’s Lord, adonai, or kurios in the New Testament, deity. We know He is David’s Lord because He manifest omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, mutability. He received worship, He knew the future.
I guess you might kind of pull it together and say this: If God became a man, we would expect His human life to be sinless. If Holy God became a man, we would expect His human life to be sinless. Jesus was. The uniform testimony of the New Testament is the sinlessness, the blamelessness, the faultlessness of Jesus. No one could ever find any fault in Him.
If God, Holy God, Sovereign God, eternal God were to become a man, we would expect Him to be perfectly righteous – not just sinless, but righteous; not just without sin, but the very essence of pure holy virtue, the purest personal character; not just the absence of sin, but the presence of perfect righteousness. And He was.
If God were a man, we would expect His words to be the wisest, truest, purest ever spoken. And Jesus’ were. His words were basically so profound that they said of Him, “Never a man spoke like this man.”
If God were to become a man, Sovereign God, we would expect Him to exert the most profound power over creation. He did, He did: stilled storms; created food, organs; healed diseases.
If God, Holy God, Sovereign God were to become a man, we would expect Him to have a profound power over the souls of men. He did. He gave them life, forgiveness. If Holy God were to become a man, we would expect Him to exert complete power over fallen angels. He did. He sent them into pigs, commanded them at will. If God became a man, we would expect the demonstration of supernatural power over nature, over people, over demons, over everything; and that’s what He did.
And then this; if God became a man, we would expect Him to manifest the attributes of God, all of His attributes, including love and mercy and grace and compassion. If God became a man, we would expect Him to have power over life and death. If God were to become a man, we would expect Him to have complete authority over sin.
Well, that’s Jesus. He did become a man. When we think about Christ we have to think about Him in those grand terms; and one of the things that you have to be very careful of is not pulling Jesus down to a kind of such a human level that we forget the divine nature. I think there’s a lot of frivolous reference to Jesus that doesn’t uphold His glory. There’s a closing to this that’s most fascinating to me. So, Jesus is David’s son and Lord at the same time.
“While the people were listening,” – look at verse 45 – “He said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes,’ – those are the theologians of Israel – ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.’”
So fascinating to me that Jesus didn’t condemn the Gentile idol worshipers, He condemned the Jews who claimed to worship Him and represent Him. He condemned them for their religious hypocrisy. They rejected Him, they rejected Him, they rejected Him, and in rejecting Him they rejected the Holy Spirit who worked in Him. Remember they said, “What He does He does by the power of Satan”? And He said, “You have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and you will not be forgiven for that in this age or the age to come,” Matthew 12. And in rejecting Him, they rejected the Spirit; and in rejecting the Spirit, they had rejected the Father.
The Father said at the baptism of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him, in whom I am well-pleased.” John says, “If you honor the Son you honor the Father. If you honor the Father you honor the Son.” So in rejecting the Son they had rejected the Spirit who was in the Son doing all the works, and they rejected the Father who sent the Son and whose will the Son was doing. It was a full scale Trinitarian rejection.
And so, Jesus says, “Beware of these hypocritical false religionists. All their worship is corrupt because they do not know Me.” And then this powerful, powerful little incident, verse 1 – forget the chapter division: “He looked up.” He’s sitting near the temple in one of the courtyards. “He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.”
They had these – I think there were thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles around the wall of this particular court, outer court, and people would drop their money in these receptacles as a way of giving to the system, the Jewish system of religion. And He was watching the rich putting their gifts in, and they would do it with fanfare, as we read about in Matthew 6, calling attention to themselves. And then He sees this poor widow putting in two small copper coins. That’s the least – that’s like dropping in two pennies; it’s the least of all currency. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”
Now I don’t know how many times you’ve heard somebody talk about that verse, but normally they would say this is sacrificial giving, this is sacrificial giving. It is that, but it’s not a model for what you should do. The Lord never asked a widow who has two pennies left to give them to the temple and go home and die. That’s absurd. Nobody does that. You wouldn’t say to your church, “Now you need to take everything you have, empty your bank account, your pockets, everything you’ve got, bring it all down here, and go home and die.” That’s not giving, that’s stupid.
God gives you an abundance; doesn’t ask for that. This is not a model of giving. This woman isn’t a Christian. This isn’t instruction. This is a victim of a corrupt religious system who is so desperate in this legalistic system, who is so desperate that she literally gives all she has to purchase what she’s missing, go home and die. This is how corrupt that system was; and all you have to do is go back to verse 47 and see where Jesus said, “They devour widows houses.” They divest widows of their money.
Corrupt views of God take advantage of people. Goes on all the time in all false religions, whether it’s scientology or the prosperity gospel, or any corruption of religion. This woman is giving more than all these rich people who are so proud of their giving. Percentage-wise she’s giving everything she has. This system is so rotten, it is so corrupt that it literally devours the last two pennies in the hand of a widow.
And so, He says about this system – look at verse 6: “As for these things which you are looking at,” – you’re watching these people putting money into this corrupt system – “as for these things, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” Whoa. Our Lord says, “This entire temple with all its gold that’s been being built for fifty years under Herod’s leadership, this massive symbol of Jewish religion is coming down to the ground.” In 70 A.D. it’s exactly what’s happened.
When He saw what it was doing to widows, the corruption of a false religious system, He pronounced judgment on that system. The massacre of 70 A.D. was just amazing; read Josephus. It said the Romans threw over a hundred thousand bodies over the wall when they came in to slaughter women and children and men. There are various accounts of the hundreds of thousands of Jews that were slaughtered by the Romans. And then the Romans proceeded to go through the land of Israel and sack 985 towns and villages, and massacre the people. That was an act of divine judgment, divine judgment. Jesus even said to them in that same week, “This desolation that’s going to come on you is going to last until you change your view of Me.” And the desolation of Israel goes on even today among those who reject Christ.
True worship is what God requires, false worship is what He judges. And so, we sort of end where we began. Remember in Exodus, “If you take My name in vain you will not go” – what? – “unpunished. If you take My name in vain you will not go unpunished.” This is the highest and the holiest and the most sacred thing in our lives is the true worship of our triune God.
Lord, again such a privilege for us to be together. Thank You for these precious young people here. Thank You for what You’re doing in their lives. I thank You for the encouragement, blessing they are to me and to all of us here. We thank You for raising up the school. Thank You for those who have sacrificed for 90 years to bring us to this hour. But mostly we give You the glory and the praise for all that is right and good. Thank You for the privilege of being a part of it.
And, Lord, we want to be those true worshipers who honor You, who ascribe to You what You are worthy of. Elevate our thoughts about You, enrich them from Your Word; and may our worship please You, because we come with clean hands and a pure heart. So thankful for this privilege.
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