Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Manner of Spirit

“But he [Jesus] rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” (Luke 9:55)

In today’s vernacular, Jesus would be saying, “You don’t know where you’re coming from.” Because a city of Samaritans (racial outcasts to the Jews) chose not to have Jesus stop by their town on His way to Jerusalem, two of His disciples, brothers James and John, tried to talk Jesus into letting them “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them,” just like Elijah did in the first chapter of 2 Kings. But their zeal said less about their love for Jesus than it did about their own natural inclinations. A spirit of anger in a man or a woman, which is both hasty and harbored, is the sign of a fool, says the wise man in Ecclesiastes (7:9). And, as Jesus tells us, it is possible to have a wrong spirit and be unaware of it, or even to look upon it as a sign of Spirituality.

What kind of “spirit” do I manifest? What kind do you? Please understand I am not speaking of the Holy Spirit and His fruit in our lives. I am drawing our attention to the atmosphere and attitudes that provide a backdrop for the things we do and the way we do them. For instance, there are some people who are more easily influenced by error than they are by truth. (1Jno.4:6). In fact, there is a spirit about them that is always skeptical of Biblical principles, while at the same time gullible when it comes to every hair brained intellectual theory that comes down the pike. Sometimes what may look like honest inquiry is really dishonest skepticism. This is not to say that anyone who questions a particular doctrine has an ulterior motive; but when the Word of God is plain, and the vast majority of good men down through Church history have acknowledged the veracity of certain truths, failure to see these truths is to manifest not only willful ignorance, but a spirit of error.

Then, there is the man or woman who might mistake a “spirit of fear” (1Tim.1:7) for healthy dependence upon God, or even the equivalent of a “spirit of meekness” (Gal.6:1), both of which are assets in the Christian life. But when one sees that the spirit of fear is contrasted to “power, love, and a sound mind,” it becomes evident that failing to see the difference between fear and meekness is to run the risk of being a spiritual cripple. Meekness understands it is not above falling, but is courageous enough to confront sin and patient enough to affect restoration. Fear, on the other hand, has neither the power nor love to deal with people, because the mind is preoccupied with itself.

Finally, a “spirit of bondage” (Rom.8:15) is no indication that one is a mature, obedient Christian. Those who live for God because they fear His wrath, or that He will disown them, only prove that they have an unhealthy (and unbiblical) idea of what it means to be a child of God. God wanted us to know just how secure we are as His children, so He told us that we are not only His by birth (“Abba” [Papa]), we are His by law—adoption (“Father”). Some people, who are unaware of the spirit of bondage they have come to live with, serve God…or else; others of us serve God…because there is nothing else. He is not only my Father, He is our life. To deny Him would be to deny myself; and for Him to deny me, He would have to deny Himself. Even if the former was possible, the latter could never be. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2Tim.2:13).

You who are familiar with the Word of God are aware that I could go on. But my purpose has been to show that, like James and John, we can have a wrong spirit that either masquerades as a right one or at least appear to be an understandable one. In the case of the two disciples, they were blessed to have the clear rebuke of God the Son to point out their misplaced zeal. But you and I are equally blessed, in that we possess, as believers, God the Holy Spirit to do the same within us. It all depends on which spirit we choose to obey. We may not know “what manner of spirit [we] are of,” but we can know. The real question is, once we know, what will we do about it?

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