Showing items filed under “Travis Lowe”
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Praying in the Spirit

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What does it mean to, “pray in the Spirit” in Jude 20?

The book of Jude is one of the shortest in the New Testament, and ironically, one of the most likely to produce questions. There are all sorts of strange passages that most of us never come across unless we’re really sticking to our bible in a year plan. Our question is rooted in one of those parts that we might skip over at the end of Jude if we aren’t paying close attention.

So what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? 

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that has been a source of a lot of discussions. We usually come to passages like this and wonder if it refers to speaking in tongues or not. Those from a charismatic perspective see a connection here with Paul’s words to the Corinthians, or they reflect on the way that the Spirit caused the apostles to speak in tongues at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13, 1 Corinthians 14:14-16). Often times, people will also point out that Paul commands the church to, “Pray in the Spirit” at the end of Ephesians 6:18. In one sense, I think those of a charismatic bent are right to affirm that this is part of what Jude is getting at, sometimes when the Bible describes, “Praying in the spirit,” it’s accompanied by tongues. 

But I think it’s important to recognize that tongues is only one of a long list of things that happen when the Spirit is at work in the New Testament:

- Simeon is in the Spirit when he blesses the new-born Christ (Luke 2:27).

- Paul decides to visit Macedonia in the Spirit (Acts 19:21).

- Believers are said to be in the Spirit because of their salvation (Romans 8:9).

- John receives his vision of Christ’s return while he is in the Spirit (Revelation 1:10). 

With all of this in mind, New Testament scholar, Richard Bauckham, points out that in the Bible, “Praying in the Spirit includes, but is not restricted to, prayer in tongues.” It’s easy to look at Jude as seeking to capture something from all of the passages above. 

The unifying thread is dependence, in every case we see people relying on the Holy Spirit to save, lead, and strengthen them in the face of the challenges in front of them.

That dependence is exactly what Jude’s readers so desperately need. If you look at the rest of Jude’s letter, you’ll notice that he starts by describing the letter he wishes he could write, a happy one that celebrates the salvation that he and his readers share. However, false teachers have crept into the church, so the letter Jude actually writes is full of warnings and suggestions for how to avoid error (3-5). It’s in the face of these challenges that we find the command to pray in the Holy Spirit: “build yourselves up in the most-holy faith; pray in the Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Jude basically says: 
spirit-filled prayers of dependence are one of the ways that God will help them combat false teaching, 
it’s how God will build them up in the true faith, 
it’s how God will give them the strength to wait for Christ’s return. 

Interestingly these are all things that we’ve just seen the Holy Spirit does elsewhere in the New Testament. The church Jude is writing to needs to depend on the work of the Spirit to help them weather this crisis. But they don’t just need the Spirit to do one thing, they need the Spirit to do a little bit of everything we see him do in the Scriptures. 

Jude is calling the church to the sort of prayer that will draw them to exalt Christ like Simeon, to make decisions led by the Lord like Paul, and to await the return of Jesus with patience like John on Patmos. 

This sort of prayer will often take different forms: it may look like speaking in tongues or asking for wisdom and discernment. But they all have one unifying theme: dependence. This is the sort of prayer that strengthens our love of Jesus, the kind of prayer that helps us stay faithful until His return. All of these are the work of the Spirit, all of these things are meant to strengthen the church up so that we, like Jude’s readers, can stand against false teaching. 

Jude’s command wasn’t just needed in his day, it’s needed in ours. May we be a people who pray in dependence on the Spirit to guide lead us home. 

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Assurance of Salvation

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I have often thought myself a believer, however, I have recently heard there are many things I should be feeling in my heart that I don’t. Since I’m not sure, if I’ve ever felt this heart change, am I truly saved?

When I was in elementary school, the Left Behind books hit the evangelical world like a hurricane. Growing up going to a private Christian school, I was always surrounded by people reading the New York Times bestsellers. Those books along with more kid-friendly, “Junior Novelizations,” described people who were roughly my age living through the rapture and the tribulation. What most haunted me about those books was the fact that many of the characters thought they were Christians only to find out when Jesus came back that they actually weren’t. So began my great childhood phobia of finding out that I wasn’t really a Christian because I was left behind.

I really empathize with this question, because it’s so similar to the one I asked myself every time my teachers showed the Kirk Cameron movie adaptations in my elementary school class:

How do I know that I’m really saved?

Right up front, I want to affirm the goodness of this question. The very fact that someone is troubled about their salvation is a sure sign that they take these issues seriously. I am far more concerned for the person who never grapples with this issue rather than the one who occasionally struggles to feel confident in their security. So, the question still remains, how do we know that we’re saved, where do we turn for confidence?

Don Whitney is right to say, “we must begin by looking for assurance in the right places.” As far as the right places go, examining our hearts isn’t necessarily bad. Especially since the role of the Spirit is to convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-10). When we wonder about our salvation, it’s worth it to ask, “Do I feel convicted about my sin?” That’s not to say that you will always feel this way, or that it may not take time to feel conviction over particular sins. However, we are all growing into the image of Christ, and that takes time, but no conviction at all should give us pause.

On the more positive side, Paul describes for us the fruits of the Spirit, which should accompany our salvation (Galatians 5:22). We should look for these in our life as a sign that the Spirit of Christ is at work sanctifying us. Of course, real fruit does not grow overnight, nor does the fruit of the spirit. So, it’s important to recognize that we may not notice the change that God is working in us if we measure in weeks. Instead, we should seek to discern how God has matured us in these areas over the course of our salvation.

Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes alone with their thoughts knows that feelings are fickle. Scripture teaches that our hearts are deceitful above all things because of the stain of sin. And as we go through different circumstances, how we feel can shift radically from one moment to the next (Jeremiah 17:9). So, if we rely too strongly on how we feel inside, our confidence will be perpetually in flux. In fact, John seems to indicate that we can have confidence in our salvation in spite of our feelings even when our hearts condemn us (1 John 3:20). With that being said, I think we should start somewhere else.

A better place to start is to look outside of ourselves because that’s where redemption originates in the first place. Salvation does not come because we have first loved God, but because God first loved us. Because of that, we look to God’s character rather than our own(1 John 4:10). Doing this we find that, “He who calls you is faithful” and that He has sworn to keep us, “blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he assures them of something similar, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Sam Storms is right to summarize, “God will do whatever it takes to uphold the Philippian's faith in Jesus and you in your faith in Jesus.”

So while reflecting on our sense of conviction, and the fruits of the Spirit are all helpful grounds for assurance, it should never rest solely on those things. If we look for our assurance in our own hearts, and how we feel at any given moment, we will be tossed back and forth.

Look instead to Christ and his character, find the anchor for your soul, and the foundation upon which to build your confidence.

Some further resources to consult:

Sam Storms: Kept for Jesus

Donald Whitney: How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian



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