Pastoral Picks (9/15)

Good time to be a pastor. Apparently they are the happiest people in their work.

Pastor Mike Pohlman asks his church: “Are we too busy”

Pride cometh before the bad sermon says Tim Raymond. It sure does.

Tim Challies asked Pastor Brian Croft how he organizes his prayer life.

Every wondered what Biblical Counseling really is? Here are 15 definitions.

Phil Monroe highlights a church that models how to take abuse prevention seriously.

And here’s a great little book Dealing with depression. When the Gospel Coalition gave it a positive review, I grabbed a copy, and can heartily recommend it.

One of the elders in my congregation wrote a little devotional, A Watered Garden, that will search and warm your heart.

Want a winter reading project? Here’s a fantastic list of books on Christ-centered Bible reading compiled by Dane Ortlund at the Gospel Coalition

I also enjoyed Dane’s post on Gospel Men: Four ways masculinity is expressed by Christian men today; three wrong, one right.

And here’s a post to encourage pastor’s wives and other home engineers.


10 ways that believers experienced the Holy Spirit in the OT

Further to our discussion about the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, John Piper takes us to the Aswan High Dam in Egypt to answer the question: How did OT believers experience the Holy Spirit?

asswan dam

I’ve put Piper’s 10 answers below, but you can listen to or read the whole sermon here; and please pay special attention to his exposition of #2 and #3.

1. The Spirit as Creator and Sustainer of Life

2. New Birth and Indwelling of the Spirit

Second, the OT believers experienced the new birth and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Nicodemus was bewildered about Jesus’ demand for new birth by the Spirit, Jesus responded (John 3:10), “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand this?” In other words, I’m not teaching or requiring anything new. Any Israelite who has ever been saved had to be born again by God’s Spirit. Otherwise how would they ever overcome their natural hostility to God? How could they have ever submitted to God’s law and pleased him—as many did, like Abel and Noah and Abraham and Moses and Rahab and Ruth and Deborah and David? Paul says in Romans 8:7–9, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.” There are two groups of humans: those in the flesh (born of the flesh) and those in the Spirit (born again of the Spirit). Those in the flesh are devoid of the Spirit and cannot submit to God’s law or please God. Those in the Spirit are indwelt by the Spirit and are enabled by him to fulfill the just requirement of the law.

This means that all the saints of the OT who trusted God and followed his ways in the obedience of faith were born again by the Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit. For example,Numbers 14:24 says of Caleb, “My servant Caleb, because he has a different Spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into this land.” And Numbers 27: 18 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him.’” The OT believers were saved the same way we are: they were born of the Spirit, they trusted in God’s promises, and they followed his commandments in the obedience of faith.

3. The Constant Presence of the Spirit

Third, the OT believers enjoyed the constant presence of God’s SpiritPsalm 139:7–10says, “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Old Testament believers enjoyed the presence of God’s Spirit wherever they went. It gives me a lot of encouragement, when I am called to go places where I feel insecure, to know that the Spirit is within to give me the words I need and that he is also already in the place where I am going to prepare the way and to hold me when I get there.

4. The Spirit as Counselor and Teacher

5. The Gifts of Craftsmanship and Artistic Ability

6. Power to Denounce Evil and Declare Righteousness

7. Victory over Fear

8. Extraordinary Feats of Power to Help God’s People

9. The Ability to Interpret God’s Revelation in Dreams

10. The Gift of Prophecy


Did the Holy Spirit indwell OT believers?

A huge amount of ink and electrons have been devoted to answering that question.

Personally, I can’t understand why this is deemed such a complex issue. It all really depends on our answer to this simple question: Were Old Testament believers believers?

If the Old Testament believers were real believers, the Holy Spirit indwelt them. No one can be born again, believe, or repent without the inward work of the Holy Spirit. And no one can stay a believer for one second without the ongoing internal work of the Holy Spirit – neither in the OT nor the NT. Without the Holy Spirit constantly in and at work in our hearts, we will immediately apostatize.

So, here are the options:

1. Old Testament “believers” were not real believers.

2. Old Testament “believers” believed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit but kept believing without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit.

3. Old Testament believers, like New Testament believers, believed and kept on believing as a result of the Holy Spirit’s initial and ongoing indwelling work in their hearts.

If #1 is true, then the Bible is not true (Jn. 8:56; Heb 11).

If #2 is true, then Old Testament believers were not as depraved as we are, as they did not need the ongoing indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. (And in some ways, this debate really is a debate about the nature of human depravity in the Old Testament. Could anything less or other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep a believer believing, repenting, hoping, obeying, etc?)

If #3 is true, then the question that’s left is: “In what ways did the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit differ in the Old Testament compared to the New, especially post-Pentecost?” Everyone accepts there was a difference. But what was it?

That’s a question I’ll return to in coming days (there are some difficult texts to deal with that seem to contradict #3), but in the meantime let the weight, significance, and consequences of the three options clarify our thoughts.


Blogging or preaching?

Preachers, how long will the impact of your sermon last? Hopefully a bit longer than the impact of this blog post.

According to bitly, the Twitter, Facebook and Google+ links to this post will have generated half of all the views it will every receive within 3 hours of its posting. After that it’s downhill rapidly.

The only bright spot is Youtube, whose links produce about 7 hours of attention. (Time to start video blogging again.)

Thankfully the Holy Spirit is promised to accompany preaching in a way that He is not promised to blogging.

Maybe that should affect our priorities?