Attributing Work To The Holy Spirit

Neal Pollard

Inquiring minds want to know.  How does God work through providence? How does He answer our prayers to strengthen, help, lead, and endow us with wisdom? We are without doubt that God is active, interested, and involved in our lives today. Deism denies this, saying that a Creator set things in motion and then permanently stepped out of the picture on planet earth. Theism affirms His present involvement and interest in the affairs of men today. The dogmatic at either extreme purport to speak for God, absolutely affirming or denying what He does or does not do. There is an area in which we cannot say how God operates or whether it is the Father, Son, or Spirit who is at work simply because it has not been revealed and we are not in a position to observe what is transpiring in the heavenly realm. Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).  Moses told Israel that some things aren’t revealed to us, but he also said some things are revealed. We are obligated to observe what is revealed.  We are on dangerous ground when we affirm what Scripture does not reveal.

Scripture does not reveal that the Spirit is involved in our decision-making in a direct way apart from the Word. It does not indicate that He is stirring inside our hearts, influencing us to think, speak, or act in a given way for a given purpose or moment.  He does not give us our words in the miraculous way He did for the apostles, who had no need to prepare or study for a given moment (cf. Matt. 10:19-20).  When we boldly assert such things, we stand without the foundation of revealed truth beneath us and, at best, stand upon dangerous conjecture.

The Spirit’s work in written revelation informs my heart and mind, and it (Scripture) awakens me to appreciate and depend upon the power of God through that word and its promises.  The Bible says we are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16).  We do not know the full implication of that promise, though we are thrilled by it. What a leap it is to go from acknowledging the Spirit strengthens us to claiming He gives us thoughts, ideas, or direct guidance in addition to His Word.  If we say, “The Spirit led me to take this job” or “The Spirit told me to speak to that person” or “The Spirit told me I’m saved,” we speak from ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge or information). Kathy once studied with a woman and showed her the multitude of passages proving the essentiality of baptism, but she replied, “But the Spirit told me I’m saved.” We know that it was her own will and desire in her heart that she attributed to God. That is the danger of such reckless assertions. We easily confuse what we desire and prefer with “the will of God” or even “the Spirit’s work.” God repeatedly warns that our hearts can deceive us, that we can credit God for what, in reality, is our will (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23).

We do need to study the personality, the work, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit more. It is obvious, hearing and reading after even some brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have neglected studying about Him. Let us handle each other without suspicion, in a spirit of love and kindness and without attacking people and personalities. Let us also always be careful not to “exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), never adding to or taking away from what is revealed (Rev. 22:18-19). Yet, let us be grateful that our great God is interested and involved in our lives, being content to affirm only what Scripture reveals.

“The People…In The Wilderness”

Neal Pollard

Shortly before Joab turns the tide of Absalom’s rebellion by killing him, David, the rebel’s father, had reached a low ebb in his reign.  David and his faithful followers had been on the run from Absalom for some time, hiding and trying to escape rout and death. Worry was a regular exercise for David during this time (2 Sam. 15:14), as was weeping (2 Sam. 15:30) and weariness (2 Sam. 16:14).  Just before the fateful day of his son’s death, David and his loyal followers fled for their lives and survived thanks to the crafty counsel of Hushai.  The state of the people, at this point, is described in 1 Samuel 17:29: “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”  They were at the end of their rope, worn and frazzled by their very real problems.

Have you wrestled with worry, weeping, and weariness lately?  Can you relate?  Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed and overmatched by things going on in your life.  As we read this account, there are several reasons to hope.

THEY WERE NOT ALONE.  2 Samuel 17:22 notes that it was “David and all the people who were with him” who arose and crossed the Jordan to go to Mahanaim.  Each struggled, anxious and uncertain, but how comforting that they were able to go together.  The Christian should never have to go it alone.  There are those around us who to help bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).  From the beginning of the church, this has been the case.  Acts 2:44 says, “All who had believed were together.”  While each of us may be struggling with individual problems, struggling is part of the human condition (Job 14:1).  In God’s wisdom, He has made the church a place where we can help and support each other (1 Th. 5:11).

THEY WERE BENEFICIARIES OF KINDNESS. What happens when they get to Mahanaim? Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai are waiting for them.  That had to be encouraging by itself.  But look what they had with them—“beds, basins, pottery, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans, lentils, parched seeds, honey, curds, sheep, and cheese of the herd” (28-29a).  Those three men saw their brethren were suffering, hurting, and needy.  So what did they do?  I have seen this in the church more times than I can remember.  A brother or sister was in financial, emotional, or spiritual need, and their brethren showered them with kindness and love. So many of God’s people take to heart Paul’s exhortation, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted…” (Eph. 4:32a).  See 1 Corinthians 13:4, Colossians 3:12-15, and 1 Peter 3:8, and you see the heart of so many of our fellow-Christians.  How helpful when we are in the wilderness!

THEY WERE SOON VICTORIOUS.  David draws up a battle plan in 2 Samuel 18:1, and before long the threat was quelled. There were still plenty of challenges that lay directly ahead, but they had doubtless learned a valuable lesson in the wilderness. Their victory did not mean that they were exempt from further problems, but they had experienced God’s deliverance. What a powerful lesson for us!  Yes, we will continue to struggle so long as we are pilgrims on this earth (cf. 1 Pet. 2:11), but there is a victorious “day of visitation” on the horizon (1 Pet. 2:12).

Are you “in the wilderness”?  Hang in there!  Focus on the people God has put in your life, be attuned to their kindness and encouragement, and remember the great victory God has promised you.


Neal Pollard

The leading local story today has to do with how police and fire responded to the Aurora theatre shooting in the summer of 2012, a horrific crime that left 12 dead and most of the other theatre patrons injured to one degree or another.  Those tasked with evaluating the response use words like “chaotic” and uncoordinated to describe what emergency responders did in the face of the incredibly unusual and tragic scene.  It is hard to imagine how one would prepare for something so unprecedented and it is much easier to make such evaluations in hindsight, but all seem agreed about the need to work together more efficiently when faced with life or death situations.

There is no greater life or death situation than concerns the spiritual state of even a single soul.  Whether we are talking about bringing a lost soul to Christ, helping a discouraged or offended brother or sister, or retrieving a Christian who has fallen away, it requires a coordinated response! Many people are needed to work together to help a person in his or her relationship to God.  Paul urges, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” (1 Th. 5:11).  He also writes, “Bear one another’s burden” (Gal. 6:2a).

When we are faced with the challenge of reaching a lost soul, think of all the coordination needed.  There is the friend or family member trying to reach them, but who else? What about the one(s) trying to study with them, not to mention members who need to reach out to them by befriending them, make them feel welcome, have them into their homes, and introduce them to other Christians?

When someone is struggling, it requires many people calling and reaching out, visiting, and doing what can be done to show them love and concern.  When someone has fallen away, it takes more than the preacher or an elder to do that “heavy lifting.”  Anyone who knows them and can influence them should coordinate with all others to rescue the perishing one!

Twelve lives ended that fateful night in Aurora.  It has been determined that emergency responders were not responsible for a single person being lost, a fact that has to provide them with solace and validation.  When we stand before Christ, each of us wants to do our part so that we can say no one was lost due to our neglect or lack of response.



Neal Pollard

At the southern Illinois state track meet, Claire and Chloe Gruenke, twin sisters, were signed up for several races.  Chloe would even win the one mile race in 5:23 that day.  But in the 800 meter race, Chloe heard a pop in her knee and absolutely could not run another step.  Claire saw it happen and made an incredibly sacrificial gesture.  She put her sister on her back and carried her piggyback the final 370 meters of that race.  The crowd wildly cheered her on and gave her the encouragement she needed to do the difficult and finish the race with her sister in tow (via It was a beautiful story!

The writer of Hebrews tells us we are running a race, surrounded by many witnesses (12:1).  It is easy to grow weary and lose heart (3).  God has given us Christ as a focal point (2). However, the Bible gives us the charge to help each other, too (Gal. 6:1; Heb. 12:13).  While no one can run the Christian race for someone else or make another person do what they need to do to be saved, we are encouraged to help each other run that race.  Paul talks of helping other “runners” and watching himself in the process (1 Cor. 9:27). He urges the Romans, “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-2).

There are times when we feel strong and can make progress without the assistance of others on this earth, but at other times we will struggle.  How terrible if we do not have someone to help us make it through the struggling times.  Of course, we also have to think of ourselves as ones willing to aid the brother or sister who needs a spiritual lift—the carrier and not just the carried.  God has made the church as a unified body, each member helping the other when the need arises.  Many will not finish the race.  May we make sure that we do what we can to prevent our spiritual family from failing to successfully cross the finish line.

“What Ever Happened To Toasters?” (*)

Neal Pollard

That’s what Tidewater resident Laila Cheikh might want to know.  She made a cash withdrawal for her cab company drivers from her Newport News, Virginia, Bank of America branch and got an unexpected “gift.”  Someone accidentally included a dye pack, like those given to bank robbers, in her bag of cash.  It exploded, leaving a huge mess and a foul smell.  That was on August 14, 2008.  In March, 2009, she sued Bank of America for bodily injuries from the dye (via USA Today Online, 8/14/08; Janie Bryant, The Virginian-Pilot, 3/14/09).  It’s unclear if the case has ever been solved.

I imagine you have had a day or two when you were delivered a less than pleasant surprise.  It may have been a dose of bad news.  Perhaps it was that person whose apparent color-blindness regarding the red light roped you into a fender bender that changed your morning plans.  It might have been a pink slip from a company you’ve faithfully served for years.  So many things can happen unexpectedly which alter your course or have a negative impact on you.

Though it will not compare to the day Job had (Job 1-2), it will test your character, your attitude, and your Christian example.  What you do when the unexpected and unpleasant “blows up in your face” is crucial!  You can be a light or you could cross over to the “dark side” (cf. Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Th. 5:8-10).  It’s up to you.  You never know what might be in the “bag of life.”  Be ready!


(*) They used to give new customers a toaster when they opened a bank account (before my time).


Have We Misunderstood Grace?

Neal Pollard

Perhaps the subject of grace has been neglected in some pulpits and congregations.  Undoubtedly, it has been misunderstood and improperly taught since the first century (cf. Rom. 6:1; Gal. 5:4).  It is vital to properly emphasize and explain such a huge concept within the gospel message.  Why? Because of what it is—the completely free and undeserved expression of God’s lovingkindness and favor toward mankind, because of what it does—brings salvation (Ti. 2:11; Eph. 2:5) and comfort and hope (2 Th. 2:16), and because of what it cost to make available (2 Co. 8:9; Heb. 2:9).  Perhaps some try to restrict God’s grace, making the requirements of Christ more stringent than Scripture teaches.  If we forbid what God permits, we are distorting grace.

However, our age tends toward the other extreme.  Far more try to make God’s grace extend further than Scripture teaches.  This is not novel to our times.  From the time of the early church, some apparently wanted to make God’s grace embrace things it simply does not cover.  Jude contended against some who attempted to have grace cover excessive indulgence in sensual pleasure (Jude 4). By leaving Christ’s grace for another gospel, teachers contradicting the gospel message distort not just the gospel but also grace (Gal. 1:6-9).  Paul also contradicts the idea that continuing in sin, without repentance, is abiding in God’s grace (Rom. 6:1).  Passages like these serve as a warning not to make God’s grace cover what it simply will not.

Grace will not cover willful disobedience, a refusal to repent, a lifestyle or habit, or relationship that violates the expressed will of God.  Some in adulterous marriages defend the relationship, trying to hide behind grace. Some feed addictions, sure that God’s grace will sweep away the guilt of it.  Some refuse to follow God’s plain plan of salvation, claiming that they will ultimately be saved by grace on the day of judgment.  Such ideas and claims are tragic misunderstandings and ignorance of revealed truth.  The source of grace is Divine.  So are the explanation and terms of it.  Paul’s teaching is definitive when he says, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:2).  The life in Christ is a new life (Rom. 6:4), a life characterized by turning away from sin, lust, and unrighteousness (Rom. 6:12-13).

Let us never restrict God’s grace.  By the same token, let us never redefine it—especially to excuse or validate a lifestyle of sin.  How that disgraces and cheapens the act that brought grace, Jesus’ painful sacrifice.  May each of us grow in knowledge and appreciation of this great Bible doctrine!

Studying The Sweet Samaritan

Neal Pollard

Jesus wants us concerned with people, especially those near us in some way.  It may be easier to care about someone who looks like us, who is decent or even attractive, or who is easier to help.  The unattractive, strange, dissimilar, or unpleasant may not be ones we are as easily drawn to assist.  That is why Jesus’ teaching on who our neighbor is ought to be convicting and persuasive.  Luke 10:30-37 records the infamous lesson of the good Samaritan.  Here is what the text reveals about this story.

The parable reveals a problem (30).  Someone is hurt and in need and can do nothing for himself.  It is an observable problem, as the text will reveal.

The parable reveals three pedestrians (31-33), a priest, a Levite, and the Samaritan.  The first two do nothing to help the hurting man, but the Samaritan is moved to provide assistance. The priest was passive, the Levite paused, but the Samaritan pitied.

The parable reveals a proper performance (34-35).  It is seen in what he felt—compassion. It is seen in what he did—came to him, bandaged him, soothed him, carried him, cared for him, and supported him.

The parable reveals a proof (36). Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor…?”  The answer did not depend on how long they were followers of God, how much they knew, or how much influence they had in the community.  The proof was in the performance, as revealed in the previous two verses.

The parable reveals the point (37).  The point of the parable is to prove to be a good neighbor by “going” and “doing.”  Learning this story or hearing its application does not make one a good Samaritan.  Feeling convicted does not, either.  Instead, the good neighbor is the one who puts the principles of this parable into practice.  Jesus would tell us all, “Go and do the same.”

Can He Accept Me As I Am?

Neal Pollard

Can God accept me as I am?  I know me better than I know anyone else—my thoughts, feelings, motives, intentions, desires, temptations, and attitudes.  I know I have sin in my life, and I have for many years.  I know I struggle today and I will continue to struggle until He takes me home or He comes again.  Can He accept me as I am?

No!  Not without a heart of resolve or an attempt to please and serve Him.  Not without obedience to the best of my ability.  Not without submitting to His Word and His plan.  Not if I am defiant and self-ruled.  Not if I continue to serve sin in order to get more grace.  Not if I am trying to write the rules or make it on the basis of my righteousness.  Not if I feel I can somehow earn His acceptance or do enough good or avoid enough bad to force His hand and make Him accept me.  Can He accept me as I am?

Yes!  He made the plan.  He set the promises and defined the conditions.  His Son offered the sacrifice.  He has the power and ability to cleanse my sins as I walk in the light.  After I have lived the way He wants me to, to the best of my ability, He provides the grace that bridges the gap between my best and perfection.  He refers me to Zaccheus, the woman at the well, the Prodigal Son, the woman who was a sinner, Peter, Saul of Tarsus, prostitutes, and sinners, the tax collector praying in the temple, the rabble, and the rest, and He says this is what is possible for you!

Can I accept that He can accept me?  Perhaps that is the question that needs addressing first.  His grace and my obedient faith is the roadway to divine acceptance.  Heaven depends on my accepting that!