Tag Archives: spirit

Hail Mary, Given Grace [T.F. Torrance and Grace in the Annunciation]

Tonight on Christmas Eve we celebrate the fact that to us a Savior was born. He was born in the little town of Bethlehem to a faith-filled virgin. Hear what T.F. Torrance has to say about Mary and the pattern of grace we see in the virgin birth…

The angel went to her and said "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women."
The angel went to her and said “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

In the virgin birth we are given at the very beginning of Christ’s life a revelatory sign, which tells us what the divine act of grace is. Grace takes a form in the birth of Jesus which we may take as a pattern or norm for all our understanding of grace. Here God takes the initiative and approaches Mary through the word of his angelic messenger – the word proclaimed to Mary is the word of election or grace: she is chosen and told of God’s choice. She has nothing to do in this matter except what is done in her under the operation of the Spirit. What Mary does is simply to receive the word, to believe, which she does not in her own strength but in the strength given her by the Lord, and she is blessed because of that, not because of her virginity….

This is the normative pattern for the believer in his or her attitude toward the Word announced in the gospel, which tells men and women of the divine act of grace and decision taken already on their behalf in Christ. (Incarnation 101)

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Experiencing The Trinity

The Trinitarian revival that has been experienced among academic theology has now started to trickle its way down into popular theology. This is a good thing! We can always get better at knowing God’s heart – and the way to really do that is to dive deeper into his Trinitarian character and nature. A couple of popular treatments of this doctrine come to mind – The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders and Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves; however these books still feel like theology books. What was needed was a book on the doctrine of the Trinity that feels more devotional…. Joe Thorn has written such a book.

Experiencing the Trinity

The book consists of a short introduction, describing why Thorn wrote this book and a few words describing the discipline of “preaching to yourself.” According to Thorn preaching God’s word to ourselves helps us find peace, joy, strength, and faith in God. However it is not necessarily a quick fix, at times we will suffer and experience sorrow, yet even these experiences can lead us closer to God. While in the midst of these experiences we need to keep our eyes on the truth – that is where preaching to ourselves comes into play.

Here is how Joe Thorn describes the nature of this book:

What follows are fifty daily readings that reflect on God and the gospel and how they overcome our fear, failure, pain, and unbelief. Much of this I preached to myself over the last couple of years, and all of it is directed toward my own heart… But if you find yourself with a heart like mine, weak, and in need of grace, I pray these readings will be an encouragement to you. For God offers his grace to people like us.

These 50 readings are divided according to each person of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Under the Father section you will find “notes” on topics like – He is Creator, He is Patient, He is Unchanging, He is Jealous, He is Father.

Under the Son section you fill find “notes” on topics like – His Humanity, His Deity, His Poverty, His Temptation, His Obedience, His Suffering, His Reign, His Mission, His Glory.

Under the Spirit section you will find “notes” on topics like – He Indwells, He Fills, He leads, He Revives, He Sanctifies, He Gives Gifts.

This book certainly serves its purpose well. Though I didn’t take 50 days to read through it, I definitely did stop to meditate on the topics that spoke most to my heart. Thorn has written a wonderful devotional that takes a difficult theological concept – the Trinity – and brings it down to a point where our heart can be warmed by it. I really appreciated hearing the story of how he wrote the book – he was brutally honest – I appreciate that. Hearing his story really helped me to see how “preaching to yourself” can be a powerful spiritual discipline.

Note: I received an advanced readers copy of this book courtesy of Crossway in exchange for an impartial review.

Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

I have run into several people across the years who have been very adamant about the notion that as Christians we should not pray to the Holy Spirit, sing to the Holy Spirit, or worship the Holy Spirit. They say that all of our worship/prayer ought to be focused on Father, through Jesus. Are they right?

Do We Worship the Holy Spirit?

Karl Barth seems to think that they are wrong, we indeed ought to direct prayer and worship to the Holy Spirit. In Church Dogmatics 1.1.12 Barth quotes the Nicene Creed which adamantly affirms that we ought to worship the Spirit as well:

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified…

The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles during Pentecost.

The Father is worshiped and glorified, the son is worshiped and glorified, the Spirit is worshiped and glorified. What the creed refers to, according to Barth, is that the One Lord is to be worshiped and glorified as Father and as son and also as Spirit. Thus tritheistic worship is ruled out. All this to say that “the Holy Spirit is denoted as an object of worship and glorification.”  As the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is fully God. As part (such a tricky word) of the Godhead he is one with the divine essence.  This means that when we worship the Holy Spirit, we are fully engaged in worship with the Triune God. This is just as true as when we worship Jesus or when we worship the Father. All Christian worship is directed at the entire Triune Godhead, its not as though one person of the Trinity gets left out when we worship the other persons of the Trinity.

So to answer your question – “Do we worship the Holy Spirit? The answer is an emphatic yes.”

The Challenge of Acts 2:42-47 (pt. 1)

The Challenge

So this week I was given the task of preaching on Acts 2:42-47, what the NIV calls “The Fellowship of the Believers.” Normally being given this text to preach is every preacher’s dream. Its so easy! You just preach about community and how to do church! To a certain extent I can resonate with this. I have done it a million times…as the Lifegroup Director for Rocky Peak’s college group, SOMA, it’s a passage that I am constantly going back to whether it be for Lifegroup trainings or for conversations with leaders. On top of this I have even have written about it at length in this blog. (See https://cwoznicki.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/simple-smallgroups-pt-2-biblical-life-groups/ ) I have written that in this passage there is a relational pattern, 2- a spiritual growth pattern, and 3- a missional pattern. In other words, in the language of Soma’s culture we see believers 1-encountering Christ, 2-being community, 3-being on mission. So the challenge of preaching this passage is to say something that hasn’t already been said, its to approach it from a different angle. On top of that the challenge is not to be simply descriptive as to what the Christian community is supposed to be like, this is not an official blueprint for Church. Also the challenge not to make it prescriptive. We don’t want to turn this into imperatives. We don’t want to say… Go be loving! Go be generous! Go pray! Because these actions were spontaneous for the early church (spontaneous in the sense that it came from within rather than simply being random.) We can’t force people to be loving or generous or prayerful. On top of those three challenges (1-don’t repeat what has already been said, 2-don’t merely be descriptive, and 3-don’t merely give imperatives) there is the ultimate challenge of any sermon… how do we point this to Christ?

Pointing the Sermon To Jesus

Karl Barth says that the Bible becomes the word of God when the Spirit takes it and points it to Jesus. Maybe you don’t agree with this… but he applies this logic to sermons too. Barth ends up saying that a sermon becomes the word of God when the Spirit takes it and points it to the Word of God, Jesus Christ himself. I completely agree with this latter point. A sermon becomes God’s word for God’s people when the Spirit makes Jesus appear wonderfully glorious to them. This is why a sermon is an act of worship, because it points people to Jesus and says “Look at Christ! Look at how glorious he is! Look at the honor and glory and praise he deserves because of who he is and because of what he has done for us!” So if the sermon becomes a sermon when it points people to Jesus it means that in church we can end up with people who aren’t giving sermons. They might certainly be teaching the Bible, they might certainly be giving us great truths from Scriptures. If they are doing this they are teaching but they certainly aren’t preaching. I don’t want to teach Acts 2:42-47. I want to preach Acts 2:42-47. I want to make it point to Jesus. The goal of a sermon on Acts 2:42-47 is to take “The Fellowship of the Believers” and make you want to worship Jesus for what he has done. This is the challenge I face this week.  But as I am starting to read this passage and really dive into it I begin to see Jesus all over the place. I begin to see the cross all over the place. I begin to see the gospel all over the place….

The Church is the community formed around the cross for the sake of God’s glory…