Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not Prana

The Holy Spirit as Personal Comforter

The idea of “practicing the presence of God” is meaningless. Do we also practice the omniscience of God; or perhaps, we need to practice His omnipotence?
- Pastor Ken Silva [1]

The point in this quote above is well said. As various forms of mysticism invade the evangelical church today, heresies about the nature of the Holy Spirit and His actions, are running rampant. Evangelicals are being told that in order to connect with the divine, they must meditate, contemplate and practice various new/old forms of mysticism. This has no biblical foundation, but rather more closely approximates the views and practices of eastern meditation. In fact, those of us who formerly practiced Transcendental Meditation in its many manifestations easily recognize this heresy -- and the dangers of connecting with the spirit world. But our prior experience in this realm doesn't mean that the warnings we issue will be heeded.

These two quotations below illustrate the mindset of eastern mysticism:

Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only.[2]

Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness. The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite.[3]

The eastern worldview errs by attempting to connect with the divine through various mystical activities. The eastern mind uses meditative mechanisms to encounter the world of the spirit and become one with it. In the corruption that is called "Christian mysticism," the Holy Spirit becomes confused with a "force," something that can be manipulated by mystical pursuits in order to achieve a higher order of spirituality.

The Holy Spirit is downgraded from a Person in the Trinity to becoming a means of "connection" to spirituality itself, often presented as a chief "spirit" among many in the modern pantheon. The locus shifts to the person meditating and their own subjective spiritual experiences. The meditator mistakes experience for the Divine; a fool's gold shining in the rays of self absorption which substitutes for the "gold tried in the fire" (Rev. 3:8).

While enmeshed in the eastern mindset, then, it is difficult (if not impossible) to view the Godhead according to Scripture.

In contrast to the seductions of these errors, we offer a solid biblical refutation by J.C. Philpot, in a selected excerpt from “Meditations on the Person, Work, and Covenant Offices of God the Holy Ghost,” by J.C. Philpot (1802-1869), On Matters of Christian Faith and Experience, Vol. 1 (Old Paths Gospel Press) (406-466-2311), pp. 187-192).

We pass on to another class of proofs of the Personality of the Holy Ghost. Actions are ascribed to Him which none but a person, and He a divine Person, can perform.

1. Thus He is said, "to search all things, yea, the things of God;" "to know" the things of God; and "to teach" them in words not of human wisdom but of His own special inditing. (1 Cor. 2:10-13.) Are not all these personal actions? How can a quality, or a virtue, or an influence... know, search, or teach?

If you came from a foreign country and told me that there was a dignified and exalted Personage there who searched, knew, and taught the inhabitants of that land all that was good for them to know, should I think you meant that there was a certain influence in that climate, or a peculiar virtue in the sun or air which knew, searched, and taught all things? Should you not deceive me by ascribing to a breath, or a passing influence, such actions as a person only can perform?

So, we may argue if all that the Holy Ghost is declared to do be not personal actions, but merely figurative expressions of a certain power which God puts forth, would not the Scriptures awfully deceive us, and could we credit their testimony on any other point?

2. But the fullest and most blessed testimony of these personal actions of the Holy Ghost is contained in the words of our Lord to His sorrowing disciples where He promised to send them "another Comforter." Now nothing can be more clear than that when the blessed Lord was with His disciples He was a personal Comforter. It was Himself--"Behold it is I," who was ever with them. It was not, as now, His spiritual, but His actual bodily presence, which was their joy and strength.

If, then, the promised Comforter were not a Person, and a divine Person, but a mere breath, an influence, or a quality, how could He be to them what Jesus had so long been? The Lord did not say to them, "I will send you comfort;" no' but "a Comforter;" another Comforter, who shall be to you all and more than all I have been to you. But observe all the personal actions which the gracious Lord said this Comforter should perform. He was "to abide with them for ever." (John 14:16.)

Now an influence has no abiding, still less for ever. When not put forth, it ceases to be.

He was also "to dwell with them." This is a personal act. I dwell in my house, but an influence does not dwell. It is like the wind that passeth away, and the place thereof knoweth it no more. When the blessed Lord said in the same heavenly discourse: "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him," (John 14:23,) are not the Father and the Son, who come and make their abode in the believer's heart, Persons?

By parity of reasoning, then, the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, when He is said to dwell in believers, must be a divine Person also. He is also said "to teach and bring all things to remembrance" whatever Jesus said unto His disciples. Are not these personal actions? Does not the Lord expressly say "He"* not "it," "shall teach you all things?"

We all know how peculiar, how authoritative, how distinct a living teacher is from any book. How wisely he can discriminate cases, fathom the extent of our ignorance, adapt his lessons to our capacity, chide us when we are sluggish or stupid, encourage us when we are diligent and attentive, blend tenderness with authority, and mingle affection with rebuke. But could an influence do all of this? Where is the teacher's influence when he himself is not present? Let every large school testify. Where, too, the all-seeing eye; where the kindly hand; where the tender forbearance; where the peculiar adaptation to the thousands of wayward pupils could there be in a breath, or a passing power, compared with what the Holy Ghost, as a divine and distinct Person in the Godhead, personally exerts, as He looks down in all His infinite wisdom, and all the depths of His boundless pity and love, upon His dear pupils--the family of God?

3. He is said also "to testify," or bear witness. (John 15:26; Rom. 8:16; 1 John 5:6.) Is not this, too, a personal act? According to the Levitical law, personal testimony was needed. "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness shall he not be put to death." (Deut. 17:6.) What we call circumstantial evidence, as blood upon a man's clothes, or the property of the murdered person found upon him, was not admissible. The testimony only of personal, living witnesses was admissible under the Hebrew law. Thus our Lord could not be legally condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin until the two false witnesses came to testify what they [claimed to have] had personally individually heard Him say.

Bearing, then, this in mind, see what a proof it is of the
Personality of the blessed Spirit, that He bears witness. And observe also how, according to the Lord's words, He testifies or bears witness of Him: "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:15.) Is not taking a personal action? It is as if the blessed Spirit had hands. You could not say of a quality, an operation, or an influence, that it takes of a thing.

4. To speak also is a personal action. "He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." (John 16:13.) It is true that in figurative language, "the heavens" are said to "declare the glory of God," and that "there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." (Psalm 19:1,3.) But this we know is figurative language; and so when the prophet says that "at the end the vision shall speak," (Hab 2:3), we clearly understand that it is a figure or metaphor.

But our gracious Lord was not speaking figuratively to His disciples, but describing and declaring, in the plainest, simplest language, the work of the promised Comforter. It is hard to judge for others, but to us it seems that no simple-minded, believing child of God can rise from the solemn perusal of these three chapters of John's Gospel (14, 15, 16) without the deepest persuasion that the Holy Ghost, the promised Comforter, is a divine Person in the Godhead.

5. To seal is another personal act. An influence cannot seal. You may be sealed by the blessed Spirit, and feel His sweet influences, as He seals the love of God on your heart; but it is He who seals. Of our blessed Lord we read: "Him hath God the Father sealed." (John 6:27.) This was the personal act of God the Father. So believers are sealed by the Holy Ghost: "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with (or by, as it might be rendered) that Holy Spirit of promise." (Eph. 1:13.) "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Eph. 4:30.)

When I sign and seal any legal document, as a deed or a power of attorney, is is not my personal act? The very words I use are a proof: "I deliver this as my act and deed." My personal act gives it all its validity. Another must not seal for me any more than he may sign for me. I must do it myself. So when the blessed Spirit seals the love of God on the heart, it is a personal act, and from this personal act is derived both all its validity and all its blessedness.

6. To intercede for another is also a personal act. We see this especially in our glorious Intercessor within the veil. The personal intercession of Jesus is the most blessed feature of His presence in the courts of bliss. Now the blessed Spirit is declared to intercede for us: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom. 8:26.)

To help our infirmities is a personal act. View the thousands of poor, needy, tried, tempted saints, all full of infirmities, and see by the eye of faith that tender, holy, Almighty Intercessor helping the infirmities, however varied, of each and all. Must He not be a divine Person, ever present, Who can thus help the several infirmities of thousands, and that from age to age? And O, His unparalleled condescension, Himself to intercede for them with those unutterable groanings in which they vent the desires of their troubles hearts! And that He should thus "make intercession for them according to the will of God!"

It is by this inward witness, these personal teachings and divine operations of the blessed Spirit upon their hearts that the saints of God know for themselves His Deity and His Personality.

Thus whatever infidels may deny, or heretics dispute, the child of God carries in his own bosom the precious testimony of the truth of God. He knows that he has not followed cunningly devised fables in believing, worshipping, adoring, and loving God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, Three distinct Persons in One glorious undivided Essence.

The Truth:

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8: 26-27)

"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." (2 Corinthians 11:4) [emphasis added]

1. Pastor Ken Silva, "DR. JOHN PIPER AND MORE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS," January 11, 2011, For a recent example of the problem of mysticism coming into the evangelical church see also "CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM SLITHERS EVEN CLOSER TO YOUR CHURCH," by Pastor Ken Silva, Jauary 8, 2011,
2. Swami Chidananda Saraswati, Chidananda, Sri Swami, The Philosophy, Psychology, and Practice of Yoga, Divine Life Society, 1984, quoted on Wikipedia's entry for Pranayama, Emphasis added.
3. Paramahansa Yogananda, Yogananda, Paramhansa, The Essence of Self-Realization, ISBN 0-916124-29-0, quoted on Wikipedia's entry for Pranayama, Emphasis added.

*[Philpot's Note: " The 'He' is very strongly expressed in the original; 'He,' 'that very person.'"]

[Ed Note: Minor formatting and grammatical changes were made for modern usage and blog posting.]

Today's post is part 3 of a series. Part 1 is posted HERE. Part 2 is posted HERE.