The Brush Arbor
Rev. Robert L. Brush
The Witness of the Spirit
"The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:l6).
What is this dual or joint testimony that we are the children of God? We can divide them in this fashion:
I. The direct witness - (God's voice or impression)
II. The indirect witness - (a clear conscience)
I. The Direct Witness: An inward impression on the soul whereby God's Spirit directly witnesses to my spirit: "I am a child of God, Jesus Christ loves me and has given Himself for me and all my sins are blotted out, that I, even I , am reconciled to God."
A. This direct witness must precede the witness of our own spirit. In other words this direct testimony must precede the indirect testimony. We cannot love God, obey and rejoice in Him, until we know He loves us. Then we love Him because He first loved us.
B. This testimony must precede all holiness, or knowledge of any real change wrought in our hearts and lives.
C. Wesley states: "The Spirit of God gives the believer such testimony to his adoption that, while it is present in the soul, he can no more doubt the shining of the sun while he is standing in the blaze of its beams." But how may we distinguish this God-given witness from the presumption of the natural mind; from our natural enthusiasms or euphoria? One is a revelation my sins are forgiven through Christ. The other is simply a feeling of love or tenderness toward whatever the mind is occupied with at the time.
D. We may also examine ourselves with the steps of true salvation:
1. Law. Have you ever been convicted of sin?
2. Have you truly repented of your sins?
3. Have you made any attempt to right your wrongs?
4. Have all things become new?
5. Are you delivered from the power of Satan?
6. Was there ever a time when you truly believed and knew Christ died for your sins?
II. The indirect witness or clean conscience or the witness of our own spirit. "For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world and more abundantly to you-ward" (2 Cor 1:12).
A. The need for the indirect witness: Many people imagine themselves to be children of God while doing the works of the devil. These are fanatics of the worst kind! It is a daunting task to unveil the darkness that covers many of these souls. Except for the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit it is nearly impossible. They consider the one that would attempt to help them as enemies of the faith. They have become self-deceived. This is indeed a desperate condition.
B. How may we hope to rescue these? "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom 8:14).
C. Self examination. How does the Holy Spirit lead one? Into all holy tempers and actions. Are we thus led? We know if we are kind and understanding or hot-headed, stubborn, fiery or impatient.
D. The fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and temperance (Gal 5:22-23). Can we honestly say we have the fruit in our lives? Do you have a meek spirit? A teachable spirit? A tenderness of soul? Humbleness of mind? Did you have a noticeable change, victory over sin, old sins that before seemed impossible? a bad temper, lying tongue, sticky fingers, lustful thoughts, hatred for sin and love for right?
E. Having read what St. Paul said, let's see what St. John has to say: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4). We know Him if we keep His commandments. We know we are in Him because we keep His word and the love of God is perfected in us (1 John 2:5). "Ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of God" (1 John 2:29), which means everyone born of God does righteousness! "And hereby we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit which he hath given us"( 1 John 3:24).
F. How then may we know God's voice? We must test it by the Word of God and examine our lives for the fruit of the Spirit. His Spirit is a loving spirit and an obedient spirit. If we resist the word of God in these matters we are in danger of becoming presumptuous and thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. A presumptuous man imagines he has favor with God and becomes lifted up with pride. The more confident of God's he imagines he has, the more lifted up with pride he becomes. He may assume a haughty behavior and may become overbearing to all around him. He becomes incapable of receiving reproof and develops a kind of fierceness in his manner. Is such a one growing in grace? No, he has found an easy way. He will be overly strict in one area while doing outright sin in another. His joy then is not of the Lord. but of his own making.
CONCLUSION: The believer has victory over sin, he is purified by faith as the Holy Spirit cleanses his affections and emotions and placed in him the love of God and love for God. This change of attitude gives power to the will to resist sin and cling to God.
Regeneration cleanses from the acquired pollution of habitual sins. Entire sanctification cleanses from inherited pollution of original sin. However, there is no state of grace that exempts us from temptation. The most perfect have continual need of the atonement of Christ for involuntary transgressions. We must, like St. Paul discipline our lives and watch and pray, lest after we have taught others we ourselves become a castaway (1 Cor. 9:27).
[This outline is taken from John Wesley's sermons #10, 11, 12: "The Witness of the Spirit, Discourses 1-2; The Witness of Our Own Spirit"].
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