Continued from previous post . . .
How does the Holy Spirit enable us to mortify sin? According to the Puritans, He does so by fanning the flames of our love for God to such a degree that sin becomes the object of our hate. The Holy Spirit heightens our love for God by revealing His “excellencies” to us. “The more the blessed God is known,” says George Swinnock, “the more He is prized, desired, and obeyed.”
For starters, the Holy Spirit impresses God’s greatness upon us. “Can you by searching find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than the heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7–9). We have a greater chance of holding the stars in the palm of our hand, measuring the mountains on a scale, gathering the oceans in a thimble, and balancing the world’s skyscrapers on a needle, than we do of finding out “the limit of the Almighty.” He is higher than heaven, deeper than Sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. Heaven is high but limited; Sheol is deep but restricted; the earth is long but contained; and the sea is broad but bounded. God alone is unlimited, unrestricted, uncontained, and unbounded.
This great God “looks on the earth and it trembles; [he] touches the mountains and they smoke” (Ps. 104:32). A mere glance produces earthquakes, and a mere touch produces volcanoes. If these slight impulses from God cause such devastation, what is the full effect of His power? This great God “determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147:4). Apparently, in the time it takes me to snap my fingers, light circles the earth seven times. Traveling at that speed, if the sun were the size of a pea, it would take ten billion years to reach the edge of the universe. How long would it take travelling at a realistic speed? How long would it take given the sun’s actual size? We cannot get our mind around the computation. Some astronomers estimate that there are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on the earth’s beaches. Here are two wonders: God can compute that number, and God can invent that number of names.
The Holy Spirit also impresses God’s righteousness upon us. Does God need us? Does He gain anything from us? “Can a man be profitable to God?” (Job 22:2). God is a perfect being, meaning He is incapable of increase or decrease. Nothing can be added to Him or subtracted from Him. He does not require anything outside of Himself, nor does He benefit from anything outside of Himself. Our effect upon God is that of a snowball hurled at the blazing sun. What are we to God? “Sheol and Abaddon are before the LORD; how much more then the hearts of the children of men!” (Prov. 15:11).
God peers into our heart – weighing its desires, motives, impulses, and inclinations. He sees our heart riddled with self-love. This sin is an affront to Him – a transgression of His law, rejection of His rule, desecration of His goodness, and violation of His glory. He has power to avenge Himself. With a mere look He can cast us into hell. Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never extinguishes (Mk. 9:48). The first speaks of the internal torment by conscience, whereas the second speaks of the external torment by God. In hell, the sinner falls into the hands of God who is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). A day is coming when He will deal definitively with sin. He “will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). He is a perfect judge, whose knowledge of the evidence is unsearchable and whose power to execute sentence is unrivalled.
The Holy Spirit also impresses God’s loving-kindness upon us. The Son of God draws near to us in the incarnation. He experiences life in a fallen world. He bears our sin and shame, and tastes death for us (Heb. 2:9). We placed ourselves where He deserves to be – on the throne. He places Himself where we deserve to be – on the cross. In His death, He bore God’s judgment in our place. John Flavel describes His sacrifice as follows:
“Lord, the condemnation was Yours, that the justification might be mine. The agony was Yours, that the victory might be mine. The pain was Yours, and the ease mine. The stripes were Yours, and healing balm issuing from them mine. The vinegar and gall were Yours, that the honey and sweet might be mine. The curse was Yours, that the blessing might be mine. The crown of thorns was Yours, that the crown of glory might be mine. The death was Yours, but the life purchased by it mine. You paid the price that I might enjoy the inheritance.”
All the blessings of salvation (all that Christ purchased for us) flow to us through our union with Him. Christ takes hold of us by the Holy Spirit, and we take hold of Him by faith. As a result of this union, we live upon His merit. We commune with Him in His names and titles, His righteousness and holiness, His death, burial, and resurrection. As a result, we enjoy a new status. God owns us as His people. He owns us by creation – He made us in His image. He owns us by election – He chose us before we were born. He owns us by redemption – He paid an infinite price for us. He owns us by regeneration – He caused us to be born again. He owns us by adoption – He made us part of His family. In Christ, God’s forgiveness supersedes our sinfulness, His merit eclipses our guilt, and His righteousness hides our vileness.
Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ (Rom. 8:31–39). Separation means division (or divorce). But Christ never divorces His bride. It is an eternal union, based upon an eternal love. We can rest assured that His love for us does not depend on anything in us. As a matter of fact, we spoil His love when we think it is induced by anything in us. R. C. Sproul explains, “God does not love us because we are lovely. He loves us because Christ is lovely. He loves us in Christ.” He loves us, because we are one with His Beloved.
In Christ, God is our God. We find in Him all we could ever want. We find an eternal and spiritual good, suitable to our every need. We rest in Him as the dearest Father, wisest Guide, strongest Shield, greatest Good, closest Friend, richest Grace, highest Honor, kindest Comfort, finest Beauty, deepest Truth, and sweetest Love. Our knowledge of Him diffuses into our soul a satisfying peace in this life and a ravishing foretaste of what awaits us in glory.
As the Holy Spirit impresses these wonderful truths upon us, our love for God grows, and correspondingly, our hatred of sin. “Be confident of this,” says Swinnock, “the more you know of the excellencies of God, the more you will prize His Son, submit to His Spirit, crucify the flesh, condemn the world, fear to offend Him, study to please Him, the more holy you will be in all manner of conversation.”
To be continued . . .