Sunday, November 13, 2011

Understanding the Spirit's Work

Re-posting this from the archives.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

As we are teaching and training our four year old son, we are praying, like all other responsible Christian parents, that God will save him and that it might happen while he is still young. So it was while I was reading Dr. Martyn Llyod-Jones book, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians 1, that I found his teachings on Ephesians 1:3 lifting me above my usual understanding of what spiritual blessings we have received.
Here is Pastor Lloyd-Jones teaching on how a person can ever become spiritual:

Man by nature is not interested in spiritual matters at all; they seem strangely remote to him. He is interested in the life of this world, in things that can be seen and touched and felt and handled; but when you begin to talk to him about the soul and the things of the spirit he really does not know what you are talking about. This is so because he is dead and his life is governed by the 'prince of the power of the air'. He is interested in houses and in horses, in dogs, in animals, in furniture, in pleasures of various kinds and business and great affairs; but begin to talk to him about communion with God and the life of the Spirit and he is at once in an utterly strange realm. And he will remain in that condition until the Holy Spirit begins to quicken him and to put a spiritual principle in his life. He needs a spiritual mind, a spiritual outlook and a spiritual understanding; and the Spirit gives these blessings in regeneration. These are preliminary blessings that come to us through the Spirit to prepare us to receive the fulness that is in Christ. He then proceeds to convict us of sin, to make us see something of our utter emptiness and woe. He makes us see how appalling it is that God should be of no interest to us, the things of eternity utterly remote, and these great things of the Spirit boring and unattractive to us. He makes us see the enormity of our sin.

And it's those last two sentences that gripped me as I seek to explain to my son how terrible sin is and what it has done to us.
It has gouged out our spiritual eyes and left us to see only ourselves and our selfish pleasures. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we recoil from ourselves and see what our sin has caused us to become and do.
Martyn Llyod-Jones calls this act a "preliminary blessing that comes to us through the Spirit to prepare us to receive the fulness that is in Christ." This initial work of the Holy Spirit is what Reformed theologians speak of as regeneration. Our minds are being given a spiritual awakening as to our true condition. We see with a spiritual mind and a spiritual understanding what our sinfulness entails.
But thankfully, the Holy Spirit does not leave us there to drown in the tsunami of the wretchedness of our sin. He moves to provide another spiritual blessing for us. Dr. Lloyd-Jones continues:
Next, the Holy Spirit gradually leads us on to contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work on our behalf. He gives us the faith by grace. 'By grace are ye saved through faith'(Ephesians 2:8). The Spirit creates faith in us. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'(1 Corinthians 2:14). So the Spirit enables us to exercise this gift of faith and thus we come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
...The Holy Spirit then leads and guides us and keeps us in this union, so that we are enabled progressively to receive Christ's fulness, and 'grace upon grace', 'grace after grace'.
...This is what happens to us as Christians; this is God's way of salvation.

When we understand what the work of the Holy Spirit includes, it is only then that we can truly say, "It's all of Him and none of me".
And this is why I continually need to take the gospel to my son and take my son to God the Father and intercede on his behalf. His four year old spiritual eyes are still dim, perhaps not even open at this point, but by the Spirit's awakening and convicting, we pray that he may soon see Christ in all His fullness and can experience life in Christ.


  1. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Amen! thanks for re-posting!! what a blessed reminder!... I was blessed by reading this.

  2. Anonymous11:26 AM

    sorry.. it was Norma posting (Marvo and Sebastian are logged in, and I did not realize it!!)

  3. That passage reminded me of a quote I recently jotted down in my journal from John Piper:

    "Any truly spiritual action; any desire for Jesus is an amazing work of the Spirit. You can't even say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit."

    I *loved* that. That's incredible to think of; that none of our spiritual thoughts or actions can occur apart from the Holy Spirit!

  4. Yes, Norma, I know you like MLJ a lot. :)
    Stacy, thank you for that Piper quote, it certainly puts our spiritual life into perspective. Thanks for commenting here. :)


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