The Sanctifying Consolations of the Holy Spirit
Rev 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
The eternal joy, salvation and grace which Christ imparts to his children are like living waters springing from a pure, refreshing, abundant, and eternal wellspring of life. The sanctifying consolations of the Holy Spirit prepare us for heavenly happiness; they are streams which flow for us in the wilderness. This noteworthy thought is of special weight and significance in our Christian experience so let us take much care in opening and examining it.
Our world has never been more fragile. Our world teeters precariously atop the final violin string of God’s grace – the others have either worn through or simply ‘exploded’ due to the insurmountable crises of life’s daily pressures, such as sickness, loss of a loved one, natural disasters, and various forms of sufferings and/or emotional trauma. Though the Lord, the Master violinist, has played the melody of grace since the cross, humanity continues to move steadily away from the sound of heaven’s song that has the power to quench the thirsty soul with times of refreshing from heaven’s living water. Civilizations that are lost in the quagmire of misery, distressed about the past, worried about the present, and frightened about that which they have no earthly control over, continue to place their trust in the systems of this world. They look to men and not God.
Worry, fear and anxiety are nothing new – each was prevalent in the lives of the Hebrews in Bible times – and still today the threat of attack looms over them (and us) like a thick, ominous black cloud. There is an array of dozens of long and short-term situation-specific, rational and irrational anxiety and fear factors on the horizon. Each refers to moral, social, and existential worrying, some to fear of suffering and death. The gamut stretches from mild fretting to panic, from trembling anguish to numbing dread.
What hinders us?
Have we missed God somewhere in the midst of life?
Was it when we took prayer out of the schools? What about when we legalized abortion and sought to reconcile the fact that God created a Man and Woman and NOT Adam and Steve?
Have we lost God somewhere during life’s journey and are therefore reaping scanty wheat?
Have you and I traded God for ‘stuff,’ the ‘artificial porridge’ life has to offer, for so long that we’ve lost our longing for authentic Christian living ?
Is it too late to feel whole, complete and happy?
Am I sure – or just hoping – that God lives inside me? If he does live there, then why don’t I feel the joy and see the miracles come my way?
Charlie Brown sits in front of Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help” booth as the ‘doctor’ waxes eloquent: “Life, Charlie Brown, is like a deck chair.” “Like a what?” he exclaims. Lucy explains: “Have you ever been on a cruise ship? Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit out in the sun.” Pointing to her left she continued, “Some people place chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they’re been.” Then gesturing in the opposite direction she says, “While others face their chairs forward. They want to see where they’re going!” The explanation now completed, Lucy turns to her ‘patient’ sitting on the stool and demands, “On the cruise ship of life, Charlie Brown, which way is your deck chair facing?” The boy thinks for a moment and then replies, “I’ve never been able to get one unfolded.”
Brain-deep, but not life-deep.
Like Charlie Brown, people are still trying to figure out how to unfold their deck chairs. There on the ship – the sun is shining, but they are still baffled with this thing called ‘life’ and how God fits into the equation. They watch others unfold their chairs, get a seemingly comfortable place on the Ship of Life’s deck, but they themselves are neither looking ‘rearward’ nor ‘forward.’ The sun is shining – but they don’t feel its warmth. The birds are singing – but they can’t quite catch the tune.
For many, they’ve simply given up! Let alone, found an intimate relationship with this other-worldly person known as “God.”
After all, I can’t seem to find him.
Finding God, serving God, and at times, even ‘believing’ in God seems so distant for some. At best, their depth of understanding of God is only brain-deep, but not life-deep!
Why can’t I get my deck chair unfolded?
Yet scriptural doctrine states emphatically that God can be known fully in personal experience in spite of this cloudy vagueness standing between us and him.
A loving portrait of a caring God permeates the pages of scripture. He is – here – daily – walking – talking – and in fellowship with his created family – breathing life into every moment.
Paul assured the Athenians that “God is not far from any one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
Though our theological texts teach this, somehow we manage to obliterate the memory and fact that throughout the scripture, God was always there as a living, loving, caring, guardian, provider and parent. He was communicating, loving, showing Himself whenever and wherever His people were vigilant to regard their time with him and develop the necessary Spirit-induced receptivity to receive his thoughts and help. And he wants to become involved in every level of society. Any society devoid of God opens the door to tragedies we recently experienced in Florida.
The patriarch Jacob, “in the waste howling wilderness,” gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not!” Jacob had never been for one small second outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.
To properly unfold your deck chair is not a matter of intellect, but of spiritual experience.
The golden calf of Aaron’s embarrassing moment – the spirit of shopping for idols we can see – still is a hindrance for us today. Some (but certainly not all), enter into their places of worship with the same mindset in which we enter a movie theater or mall. I am here to be entertained. I am shopping for the best buy, the best sermon to fit my busy schedule.
I don’t have a lot of time, so what you do, give it your best shot- because there are other malls close by.
The embarrassing answer usually given – simply that we have cold hearts – will not explain all the facts as to why the ‘God-thing’ we call “a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God,” is so complicated for some. There is something more serious than coldness of heart, something that may be back of that coldness and be the cause of its existence. What is it – save the presence of a veil over the hearts of man? A veil which remains there – shutting out the light and hiding the face of God from us – a veil of our fleshly, fallen nature living on, unjudged within us, uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross. This mysterious, opaque veil is not difficult to identify.
It is the Carnal Man!
We have but to look in our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to one’s spiritual progress. This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which we commonly care to talk about, but I am addressing the thirsty souls who are determined to follow God, and I know they will not turn back just because the way leads temporarily through the blood-stained hill of Golgotha. For those who wish to be free from all that binds them must be willing to face the facts – however unpleasant – and endure the cross for the joy set before them. So I am bold to name the threads out of which this inner veil is woven. It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our nature to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them.
The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian churches even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy; and of course in most institutions in our nation and society. They are so much in evidence as actually (for many people) to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the visible Church and Market Place. Some think promoting the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone can deliver us from the power of the self-sins; but it does not work out that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its efforts. To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy and is more at home in some Bible Conference than many other places. Our very state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under which to thrive and grow. Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction.
We might as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work where God himself helps to destroy it, before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment and repent to be free. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Savior passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual and soulish tissue; it is composed of the sentient, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed, it is deeply painful. To say otherwise is to make the cross – no cross.
A cross devoid of the blood and accepted as the only way by which we are made clean and whole is powerless to help those in need.
Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free. Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope that we ourselves have the power to rend the veil. God must do this for us. His blood was shed for just such a cause. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish ‘lazy acceptance’ from the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate Saul and spare the best of the sheep and the oxen. Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered into an actual spiritual experience, into the Presence of the living God.
These points contain in them the pith and marrow of Christianity, the work of the Cross in our lives to remove the veil. As we die to self, we receive the living waters of the Fountain of Life – Christ pouring himself in and filling up the thirsty soul. The true and original spring of eternal mercies is God’s love for each of us. This benevolent love is graciously poured out at the cross. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev. 22:17).
Meet the Author
Alan Bullock has a BA in Biblical Studies, a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling, and an earned Doctor of Theology. In addition, Alan is a Certified Pastor Counselor, a member of The International Association of Christian Counseling Professionals (IACCP), and also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC).