Take Not Your Holy Spirit from Me

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We cannot muster up love for God’s Word or surrender to it on our own.

Before we can become surrendered and obedient disciples, there must be divine action—that we are unable to manage or control—that occurs for the Bible to become sweet to us. In other words, we need to be acted on from the outside in order for our insides to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

We know that God’s voice contains immense power. His spoken word brought dead people back to life (John 11:1-44), stilled violent storms at sea (Mark 4:35-41), sent evil spirits to their demise (Luke 8:26-39), and caused water and earth and sky and galaxies to come into being (Genesis 1:1-31).

And yet, God’s breathed-out Word will have no impact upon us until God breathes life into us. Just as a rocket cannot launch and a car cannot travel without an igniting force to fire up its engine, so a Christian cannot be transformed by the Bible without the prerequisite new birth through the Holy Spirit: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Said differently, the word of God in itself and by itself is powerless to change us. Change only happens when the igniting power of the Holy Spirit, by and with the word of God, overtakes the heart and the mind and the will.

What was true of Jesus’ disciples is also true of us: Before we can do anything to love God or neighbor, we must receive a power from on high (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-13). Because of this, our prayers must include the humble request that God “take not” his Holy Spirit from us (Psalm 51:11), but rather give us the Holy Spirit in increasing measure (2 Kings 2:9; Luke 11:13).

The filling of the Spirit creates in us a new posture toward the Bible. Rather than being bored and unmoved by it, we become drawn to it. Rather than being perplexed by it, we become driven with desire to know and understand more deeply. In fact, a sure sign that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit is the presence of a new affection and thirst for Scripture. God promises his people a new heart or spiritual “flesh” to animate our otherwise dead spiritual “bones” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ephesians 2:1-10). In the words of the great theologian, Benjamin B. Warfield:

The Holy Spirit, when applying the benefits of Christ’s redemption, saving men from the guilt and dominion of sin, works by and with the Word of God (emphasis mine); and produces a supernatural experience not only congruous to the Word, but inexplicable and impossible, unless the Bible be God’s Word…the testimony of the Church awakens great reverence for the Scripture, and while the traits of Scripture show it to be the Word of God…The Holy Spirit, the indwelling God, by and with the Word, creates an experience conformed to the Word, and so, honoring and confirming it, testifies that it is the Word of God.

As the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts by faith, we humbly and even joyfully accept that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9).

The Bible, as opposed to our feelings, opinions, experiences, and wishes, starts to have the final say about things that are true, beautiful, and praiseworthy for us. Where Scripture affirms us and where it contradicts us, where Scripture delights us and where it offends us, where Scripture comforts us and where it stings us, where Scripture clarifies and where it confuses us, every word, sentence, and paragraph is revered as God’s direct and shaping authority—relevant to all people of all cultures and all times.

We creatures are not meant to censor our Creator’s words; his words are meant to censor us.

We are not meant to revise his insights; his insights are meant to revise us. We are not meant to re-align his statutes to our sensibilities; his statutes are meant to re-align us to his sensibilities.

We are not meant to improve upon his Word; his Word is meant to improve upon us.

When the Holy Spirit persuades our hearts of these things, the authority of the whole Christ, the whole Scripture, the whole time becomes our guiding principle. This is when the Bible becomes to us “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

We must first be acted upon. And when we are, our faith is ignited into action.

May it be so.


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6 responses to “Take Not Your Holy Spirit from Me”

  1. Brent Browning says:

    Election by predestination is a concept introduced by John Calvin 1500 years after the death of Christ, it is not a New Testament concept. John 3:16 explicitly says that “whosoever beleveth (belief-a conscious belief, an act of the will) in Him, shall not perish but have everlasting life. WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH, Scott. There is no secret guest list made up before the foundations of the world. Presbyterians make up only 10:% of Christians so this is at best a minority opinion not shared by the majority of Christians.

    • scottsauls says:

      Seems your comment here directly negates Ephesians 1:4, almost verbatim. While there are great mysteries around the discussion divine sovereignty and human responsibility, to call out words directly from Scripture and say that they are not true, or a “concept introduced by John Calvin” seems neither right nor safe…not to mention historically uninformed.

  2. patrick says:

    You said:

    Said differently, the word of God in itself and by itself is powerless to change us. Change only happens when the igniting power of the Holy Spirit, by and with the word of God, overtakes the heart and the mind and the will.

    And after 24 years of faithful commitment, in all the ways I know, I don’t believe this has happened to me, or to a whole lot of others in my church! And I’m desperate for it! So now what? What % in the church really are ‘born again?’ It’s not easy when u have given all to read these words, and I believe these words are true. So, again, now what? What does Almighty God do with my prayers?What does He do He do with my giving? Has He stolen from me? What about ALL the times I went forward to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Am I brainwashed? Why did God let the Branch Davidions suffer so horribly? Its God in our circumstances, really? Or should we not confuse God and life? For sure I cannot ever return to the World!
    The only place I feel ‘right’ is in the Sanctuary. That says something to me.

    One thing is sure … I have had something to pursue for 24 years!

    Anaheim –

    • JH says:

      I agree with you, Patrick. While I am desperate for the change, I do not think “the igniting power of the Holy Spirit, by and with the word of God, [has] overtake[n] [my] heart and [my] mind and [my] will.”

      Would love to hear Scott’s thoughts on this.

    • CP says:

      When I feel distant from God in His Word, it’s usually a sign to me that I need to confess my sins, lay my soul vulnerable at His feet, repent that I may believe again the Good News. If I don’t know or can’t see my sins, I pray that God will reveal them to me.

  3. Candace says:

    I agree with Anaheim and have the same questions…
    But what about the testimonies of people I’ve read and heard from far off lands who were unbelievers and read the Bible for the first time and it immediately transformed them and they became believers as a result???
    There are MANY of these testimonies.
    Your blog seems to contradict this spiritual phenomenon happening so often these days.
    I’m not being critical, I just want to understand.
    And I want to feel a hunger and desire and love for the Scriptures that I have heard some others have.
    But I don’t.

    Candace

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