Posted by: whereintheworldismike | December 21, 2014

The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Formation, Pt 3

WWI 1WWI 2

Yesterday at the Getty there was a visiting display of images from WW I. I’m standing at either end of the timeline of the conflict–the “War to End All Wars.” They just didn’t understand that Israel had to be reconstituted as a nation and all of the nations on earth had to start cursing them, and men and women would become lovers of self rather than lovers of God.  These days, I keep thinking about the martyrs under the throne in heaven. All those beheaded for their testimony about Christ and His unbelievable goodness. “How long?” They ask. “How long until You avenge our blood.” And Jesus replies, “Wait a little longer until all those who are to be martyred come here.”

Now Part 3 of The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Formation

Timothy, a younger man who was half Jewish, had considerable exposure to the Hebrew scriptures from his mother and grandmother and was very familiar from a formative age with the Jewish worldview largely shaped by his forefathers’ time in the wilderness with God leading the way with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. Early in his life, Timothy also learned how the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land at flood stage on dry ground as God showed them his miraculous providence. Timothy could be exhorted to “fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim.1:6 NIV). He was familiar with spiritual power. What he most needed was safe boundaries for that power. Hence, Paul’s exhortation to him to develop ability in the comprehensive discernment of God’s written Word.[1]

As any missionary who has worked in an animistic culture can tell you, there are sources of spiritual power other than the Spirit of God. On the eastern side of the main island in Okinawa, there is a “college” for “yutas,” the shamans of the Okinawa islands, who are known for levitating objects and other “counterfeit miracles” (2 Thess 2:9). People in many such cultures expect manifestations of spiritual power on a daily basis. Almighty God often seems to like to show up in such contexts, and show himself supreme. Timothy needed the knowledge of God to touch his head as well as his heart and hands—so that he might stand against the darkness and cooperate with the Light in his historical cultural context.

When Paul exhorted Timothy to “imitate me,” he included Timothy’s—and our—“hands” (actions) in the realm of areas needing attention in spiritual formation (1 Cor. 4:16). Paul’s rejoinders to diligent study of the Word, and life on life imitation are good words of reminder to some who might be so enamored with signs from God that they are tempted to neglect these important areas of discipleship.

[1] Wilson, Michael L. Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication. P. 66. (2014)


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