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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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“Seven In Heaven Way”

Seven firefighters who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 recently had a street named in their honor near their fire station in a Brooklyn neighborhood. The street was named “Seven in Heaven Way”.

Now, a group called “New York City Atheists” is insisting that the street sign is offensive to their beliefs and violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. The group’s president says the public domain is no place for signs or displays that incorporate religious belief. He feels the word “Heaven” on the street sign  is insulting because atheists don’t believe in heaven or hell.

Well, it’s too bad his feelings are hurt, but his thinking concerning the Constitution and the First Amendment is totally imaginary! Secular progressives would have us believe that the First Amendment implies freedom from religion; not freedom of religion. The First Amendment promotes religious freedom in all areas of public life.

The bus signs that deny God and promote atheism during the Christmas Holidays (which are funded by atheist groups) are very offensive to me. Yet, the First Amendment protects the beliefs of an atheist – just as it protects my Christian beliefs. Perhaps the NYC Atheists are just put out by no one naming a street “The Atheist Way”.

In 1820 James Madison wrote in a letter to Jacob de la Motta:

“Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect.” (Our Sacred Honor, Bennett, p. 333)

Growing Spiritual Discernment

In America the words “guidance” and “will of God” have become labels that loom large in public discussion. Many Christians find it to be a source of intense personal anxiety. The problem includes discovering the God-pleasing way to make decisions, particularly about such major matters as whom to marry, where to live, etc. Christians also want to know how they should deal with inward impressions, suggestions, promptings and urges that seem to come to us unbidden. Evangelicals think that these impressions might be the voice of God, and also that they might not be of God. Can we tell whether the promptings we feel are products of wishful thinking, or the Devil’s false leading, or true guidance by the Holy Spirit which we should follow? Without the renewing transformation of the Holy Spirit in our lives, personal discernment of the will of God will not take place. James I. Packer explains:

The terrorist demolition of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, has led many to speak of it, with good reason, as a day that changed the world. But there was another day that changed the world, in a much deeper and more far-reaching way: that was Pentecost morning in the year 30 or thereabouts, when shortly before nine o’clock Jesus of Nazareth, God’s glorified and enthroned Christ and the world’s cosmic Lord, poured out the Holy Spirit on his disciples gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1–41). For it was then that the new covenant ministry of the divine Spirit was initiated, and that ministry—maybe I should say, the Church in the power of that ministry—has done more to change the world than any other force since history began.

Jesus, as recorded in John’s Gospel, had already declared what this new ministry would involve. It would not be the world’s first acquaintance with the Spirit of God, who had already (so the Old Testament tells us) been active in creation, providence, revelation, gifting for leadership, and renewing of hearts. But this would be the opening of a new era, all the same, with the Spirit adding a new role to the work he was doing already. Jesus would send the Spirit as “another Paraclete” (Helper, Supporter, Counselor, Comforter, Encourager, Advocate—paravklhto” [parakletos] has a wider range of meaning than any one English word can cover), to be not just “with” but “in” his disciples for ever (14:16–17). Through his coming Jesus himself, now absent in body, and his Father with him, would come and reveal themselves to disciples in a personal and permanent way, in a communion of love (14:18–23). As teacher, the Spirit would enable the apostles to recall and grasp what they had heard from Jesus, and would add more to it (14:26; 15:26; 16:13). Thus the apostles would come to see the full truth about Jesus’ glory (16:14) and so be qualified to bear faithful witness to him (15:27). Then through that witness the Spirit would convince people everywhere of the Christian facts (16:8–11; 17:20) and bring them through new birth to the living faith in Christ that marks entry here and now into God’s kingdom (3:1–15). Hereby the Spirit would engender in life after life the joy and influence that Jesus pictured as “living water” in flow out of the believer as a temple of God (7:37-39, cf. 4:10–14; Ezek 47:1–5). (“The Ministry of the Spirit in Discerning the Will of God”)

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