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Heidelberg Catechism LD 20: The Holy Spirit and His Work – Part 3 (Ezekiel 36:25-27 and 2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We continue our study from the Heidelberg Catechism concerning the Holy Spirit and his work in us. And we will conclude our discussion on Lord’s Day 20 (kasi next Sunday is the 21st Lord’s Day na rin po).

Last week, we discussed that the Holy Spirit does not only regenerate and illuminate the heart and minds of sinners, but also converts them. Nagkakaroon ng “radical change” at ito’y makikita sa pagkamuhi (or opposition) laban sa makasalanang laman at yung pagkakaroon ng maka-Diyos na pamumuhay (which we identified as the fruit of the Spirit). 

So he converts us, changes our desires, and gives us the abilities/virtues to live for God. But more than that, he also makes us grow and mature in it.

So hindi po ‘to yung para bang sasabihin ng Banal na Espiritu, “Ayan, I gave you a new heart and the abilities to live in godliness, malaki ka na—kaya mo na yan.” No. Makikita natin sa mga examples sa Bible at kahit sa ating mga sarili, na ang buhay ng isang mananampalataya ay may kasama pa rin na mga kahinaan at kasalanan. 

At kaya patuloy ang pagkilos ng Banal na Espiritu, kung saan tayo ay pinababanal at pinapag-tibay sa ating pananampalataya hanggang sa huli. He sanctifies us, he comforts and encourages us, and helps us persevere until the end.

Let us go 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (Read).

1. The Holy Spirit, Our Sanctifier

For context lang po, Paul was recalling the account of Moses in Exodus 34:29-35. Nung bumaba si Moses galing sa Mount Sinai kung saan nakausap niya ang Diyos, at dala-dala niya yung bagong tablets of stone (which is the 10 commandments), nakita nung mga tao na nagnining-ning yung mukha ni Moses. And it is the glory of God reflected by Moses. At dahil natakot sila at ayaw nilang makita yun, tatakpan ni Moses yung mukha niya gamit ng “veil” para hindi nila makita. At tuwing kakausapin na lang niya ulit ang Diyos, saka niya tatanggalin yung veil.

Paul points out that the Israelites were not able to see and understand the glory of God because they were blinded by the hardness of their minds and hearts (v. 14 and 16). They still cannot see and understand the glory of God—until they know Jesus Christ, who is the real message and the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

In verse 16, he states, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” In Greek, it could also be translated as, “whenever he turns to the Lord” — referring to Moses — “the veil is removed.” And with that removal of the veil, he was able to behold and even reflect God.

In either case, Paul says in verse 17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” 

Of course, Paul is certainly not teaching modalism here, that the Lord (if that refers to Christ) is just the same as the Holy Spirit.

We don’t have time to go in detail sa Greek grammar dito… But this text can be translated as, “Now this Lord is the Spirit.” This Lord, not referring to Christ, but to God in general. This God, the presence and glory of God that Moses witnessed and reflected in the past is the Holy Spirit.

“and the Spirit of God gives us freedom” — Not freedom na malaya ka nang gawin kung anong gusto mo. But freedom from sin, from spiritual blindness, from the hardness of heart.

Kaya nga in verse 18, as a result, Paul says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord…”

Di tulad ng mga Israelites noon, tayong mga mananampalataya ngayon ay nakakakilala na at nakakaunawa na sa Diyos—sa Kanyang mga katangian, kapangyarihan, at pagliligtas na ipinakita Niya kay Jesu-Cristo.

At yung phrase po na “beholding the glory of the Lord,” it is actually beholding as if in a mirror, na para bang nakaharap ka sa salamin. “Mirroring or reflecting the glory of God.” Si Moses, hindi lang niya nakita ang kaluwalhatian ng Diyos, ito rin po’y nakita ng mga tao sa kanya. And in the same way, believers who have the Spirit in them reflect and manifest God in themselves.

“and they are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

Of course, this “reflecting the glory of God” in us and “being transformed” is not something superficial—na tipo bang tayong mga Kristiyano ay magnining-ning din yung ating mga mukha tulad ni Moses. It is not physical. Rather, it is a spiritual reflection of God’s glory and an inner and spiritual transformation into the image of God.

In Genesis 1, we learn that God created everything good—kasama po ang tao dun. And God made man in his image. As explained also by Heidelberg Catechism LD 3, Q. 6, being created in the image of God means that man had that original and true righteousness and holiness. Si Adan at Eba ay binigyan ng Diyos ng katuwiran at kakayahan na sumunod sa Diyos at dalhin ang tao tungo sa kaluwalhatian.

Pero dahil sa pagkahulog natin sa kasalanan, yung image of God na yun ay na-distort at na-corrupt. But the good news is, Christ, the Son of God, took the form of man to redeem the design of God for man. Not only to restore us to the original design but to transform us and bring us to the glory which God intended and designed for man in the first place.

Paul also speaks of this in Romans 8:29, that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

At dito rin po natin makikita ulit kung paanong ina-apply sa atin ng Banal na Espiritu si Cristo at ang Kanyang ginawang pagliligtas. Si Cristo po ay nabuhay nang matuwid, ginawa ang kalooban ng Diyos, at nagdusa para sa ating kasalanan—hindi lang para maging “role model” natin. Na tipong mga spectator lang tayo, at nasa atin na yung pagsisikap kung paano tayo magiging katulad ni Cristo.

No. Sa pamamagitan ng Espiritu na ibinigay Niya sa atin, ang mga resulta ng Kanyang buhay, kamatayan, at pagkabuhay-muli ay nagiging totoo at buhay sa atin. Tayo ay nagiging banal at lumalago sa kabanal upang maging kawangis niya.

Ang Banal na Espiritu ang kumikilos po nito sa atin. He is our sanctifier. “we are being transformed.” It is in passive voice. Tayo yung tumatanggap nung pagkilos ng Espiritu. It all begins and comes from God. And this makes an immediate implication that unless we are in Christ and have the Spirit dwelling in us, sanctification is impossible.

Hence, the continuous call of repentance and faith in Christ. Only then, if you are in Christ, will you have the hope and assurance of being made holy and conformed to the glorious image of God.

2. Our Role in Sanctification

Now, I believe most of us here know that although our sanctification comes from God—ang Banal na Espiritu ang nagpapabanal sa atin—it doesn’t mean we are passive—na wala na tayong gagawin. Hindi mangyayari na nakatunganga lang tayo buong araw, and then suddenly ang lalim na ng understanding natin about God, ang mature na natin sa faith, ang tibay na convinctions natin against sin. Hindi po.

In regeneration, conversion, and justification, we are passive. Ang Espiritu ang Siyang bumubuhay satin, nagbabago ng ating mga puso, at nagbibigay ng ating pagsisisi at pananampalataya. But now that we are spiritually alive, as a result of his gracious work, we are responsible in cooperating with the Spirit’s work in us.

One of the most common texts we read is in Philippians 2:12-13 (Read).

Yes, God is at work in us through the Spirit, but we should also “work out” the salvation that we received from God—to perform it, to live it out, to carry it out until completion. And it is because God is working in us that we are encouraged to do our responsibility.

Kasi po, mga magulang ko’t kapatid, ang Banal na Espiritu ay aktibo at palaging kikilos sa atin. Yun po ang pangako ng Diyos. Pero hindi po ito yung tipong robot tayo na kino-kontrol ng Diyos. Kapag nandyan yung tukso ng kasalanan, we choose to give in or not. Kapag nandyan ang Bible sa harapan natin, we choose to read it or not. So we must not hinder or go against the Spirit’s work of increasing our faith and holiness. Let us submit and keep in step with him and he works in us.

Now when we talk about sanctification, it’s basically two things: “mortification of sin” (meaning, pinapatay natin ang mga kasalanan na nasa atin) and “vivification of righteousness or good works” (meaning, yung kabutihan at katuwiran ay nagiging buhay at aktibo sa atin).

And we must note that this work of sanctification isn’t disconnected from the Word of God. God purifies and transforms us through his Word. That’s why when consider mortifying sin and exercising good works, hindi po tayo naka-base sa mga modern self-improvement or psychological techniques—like how to change habits or change your mindset. Although some of their principles may be helpful, we base everything from the Word of God.

Paul explained in Romans 6:17-19, that believers “who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching” (i.e., the Word of God). And through their obedience to God’s Word, they were able to live in righteousness leading to sanctification.

After all, sanctification isn’t about changing just our outward behavior but changing the intent and motives of our hearts and minds in submission to God’s Word.

So as believers converted and being transformed by the Spirit, how do we do it? Paano tayo makiki-cooperate sa Banal na Espiritu sa ating paglago sa kabanalan at pananampalataya?

Given our limited time, let me mention 3 practical ways.

1. To mortify sin and live in righteousness, we must treat sin for what it really is

Kapag tayo po ay sakitin, madalas ka na lang nilalagnat, hindi pwedeng aasa ka na lang lagi sa Biogesic. Kasi yung pabalik-balik yung lagnat, it’s just a symptom of a deeper problem inside your body. Pwedeng dahil sa lifestyle mo (lagi kang puyat, unhealthy mga kinakain mo), or pwedeng may nag malfunction na na organ sa katawan mo.

I remember nung 2013 bago ako dalhin sa hospital, sumasakit yung dibdib at likod ko. Nagpapahid pa ako ng Katinko kaynila ate Daisy, tapos sinubukan ko humiga. Baka madala sa pahinga. Eh nag tuluy-tuloy. Yun pala, nagka-butas na yung baga ko, nai-stuck na yung hangin sa loob, at naipit na yung baga ko. That’s the real problem.

In the same way, when we mortify our sins, we don’t look only at our sinful words or acts but we go deeper into the root of our sinful behaviors.

For example:

  • Kapag tayo’y nakakapag-bitaw ng masakit na salita sa ating kapwa—sa asawa man, magulang, anak, kaibigan, kapitbahay—hindi natin pwedeng isipin na, “Ay nadulas o nabigla lang ako.” Or sisisihin natin yung iba, “Siya kasi, ganito.” Sabi ni Christ, “Out of the abundance of our hearts, our mouth speaks.”

    At nagagawa natin ‘to hindi dahil kulang tayo sa communication skills, but because there’s hatred in our hearts and we love ourselves more than others. Ang taas ng tingin natin sa sarili natin, and that is why deep inside we think, “I’ll say what I want to say. Kahit masaktan ka, wala akong pakialam.”
  • Kapag tayo’y nakapag-commit ng sexual sin in whatever form—may-asawa man tayo o wala, lalaki man o babae—hindi natin pwedeng isipin, “Eh, sobrang pagod lang kasi ako nun, kaya gusto ko ng konting comfort.” The deeper root of that sin is playing “god” or making ourselves “god” over others.

    We’re essentially saying, “I will get my comfort and enjoyment whenever I want it, however I want it, and from whoever I want it (kahit hindi ko asawa).” At kung may asawa man tayo, looking at others with lust is essentially lack of gratitude for what God has given to us in marriage.
  • Kapag tayo’y nagrereklamo sa mga bagay at pangyayari sa buhay natin, at hindi natin magawang magpasalamat at umasa pa rin sa Diyos… what we are saying is we know better than God. “Lord, ayaw ko yan. Ayusin mo yan.”

At the same time, we also confront sin, and not just avoiding sin. Kung ikaw ay isang boxingero, hindi pwedeng ilag ka lang nang ilag, takbo ka lang nang takbo. You have to confront and deal with the enemy.

Ako po, may times na madaling ma-frustrate. Lalo na kapag sobrang pagod na ko, pero may kailangan pang tapusin… tapos may gusto akong i-request kay Yeng, pero di niya magawa, ang lakas ng temptation na magalit eh. And it is by the grace of God, na mako-kontrol yun.

But I cannot just avoid that sin, na makikinig nalang ako lagi ng YouTube music para kalmado ako. No. Whenever that sinful attitude springs up, I would speak to myself, “Reuel, you cannot be proud, self-righteous, self-demanding.” “Lord, remove this from me. Teach me gentleness, love, patience.” 

That’s how you deal with your sins.

Brother and sisters, until we see the seriousness of sin, we will not take it seriously to mortify it. But if we look at sin as self-worship and hatred against God and others, we will mourn over it, we will truly repent, and we will run to God for help to overcome it. And by the grace and help of God, we will arrange our lives and discipline ourselves so that instead of doing sin, we will do good works and righteousness that pleases God.

As the Holy Spirit convicts us in our conscience, and he always do, let us follow him.

2. To mortify sin and grow in righteousness, listen, read, and meditate on the Word of God

Let us read 1 Peter 2:2. It says, “Like newborn infants, long (not just take, but intensely crave) for the pure spiritual milk (that is, the Word of God), that by it you may grow up into salvation.”

Kung tayo po puro junk food at mataas sa sugar ang laging kinakain, what will we expect? In the same way, kung puro makamundong mga bagay at opinyon ang pinapasok natin sa utak natin, what will we expect? Not to say na dapat hindi tayo nanonood ng Netflix or nagbabasa ng kahit ano maliban sa Bible.

But simply put, there is no spiritual growth—there is no sanctification—without our regular intake of the Word of God. 

The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains that the “reading, and especially the preaching, of God’s Word” is God’s ordinary means of grace—means of producing faith in us and strengthening that faith. Kaya napakalaking kawalan din po natin kung hindi tayo pupunta every Lord’s Day and take every opportunity of hearing God’s Word—in morning service, sunday school, inquirers’ class, and vesper service. These are provisions of God. And whenever we participate in these, God nourishes us, satisfies us, and strengthens us in our faith. 

Kahit po ang ating patuloy na pag-babasa at pag-aaral ng Salita ng Diyos throughout the week—mahalaga po ito para sa ating espirituwal na paglago. Madalas po kasi naiisip natin, ang hirap intindihin kapag binabasa natin yung Bible. Lalo na kapag nasa Leviticus na, or Isaiah, paano ka pa aabot ng Revelation?

Well friends, God provide means. Yung salita nga siguro ng mga K-Pop, Koreano na yun ah, naiintindihan ng iba sa’tin eh. Ni-re-research pa yan ng iba. How much more the Word of God!?

Kung di alam kung paano simulan, then read the Bible systematically. Check http://fivedaybiblereading.com/. That’s what I use. Hindi required na mabasa mo lahat sa isang taon. But just keep reading God’s Word. Kung may di ka maintindihan, ask your pastors, your elders. Search online. Invest in a good study Bible na tutulong sayo to understand what you read (ESV Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible).

There are just many ways God provides for us to learn the treasures of his Word. Alam niyo problema, I will quote Dr. R.C. Sproul:

We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. (Unlike kapag sa Netflix, naka-upo ka lang, getting entertained). Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.

Ang hirap po tanggapin, pero yun po ang katotohanan. What is 15-30 minutes of our day to read God’s Word? Yes, marami po tayong hindi mauunawaan agad or nang husto sa Salita ng Diyos. And that’s fine! Kahit kami po nila Pastor, marami pang kailangan pag-aralan.

But we have this encouragement when Christ said in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth.” In my experience, kahit matapos mo nang basahin ang Bible, pag-basahin mo ulit, maraming times na bibigyan ka ni Lord ng deeper insight into that text, at masasabi mo—”Di ko naisip ‘to noon ah.”

That’s how the Spirit guides us in his truth. While we do our responsibility, alam natin na ang tunay na pagkaunawa ng Salita ng Diyos ang nanggagaling pa rin sa Kanya. What we may not understand right now, God will help us understand sooner or later. And because we have the Spirit to guide, let us read, study, and meditate on God’s Word.

3. To mortify sin and live in righteousness, pray

Christ said to his disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray (or keep watching and praying) that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Dahil sa ating kahinaan, mas lalo nating kailangan na laging lumapit sa Diyos. Halimbawa po, sa isang mag-asawa, kaya nagiging dry ang isang relationship eh dahil wala masydong quality time, walang pag-uusap, walang communion. At the same time, isa sa malaking dahilan kapag tayo’y nanghihina sa ating pananampalataya ay dahil hindi tayo nakikipag-usap sa ating Panginoon.

God also provides prayer as a means of grace. Hindi sa paraang as in lahat ng request natin ay ibibigay Niya. No. But as we bring our requests to him and as we receive his answers (whether yes or no), God continues to teach us to find all our needs, our hope and our satisfaction in him. Kaya nga encouragement ni Paul, “Pray without ceasing. Keep praying.”

Maraming times po na ang mismong panalangin natin ay mababaway, dry, or distracted. Pero part lang po yun ng ating sanctification. Study the Lord’s Prayer (kasama po yan sa dulo ng Heidelberg Catechism or Westminster Shorter Catechism). Puritan John Bunyan once wrote, “Pray until you have prayed.” In short, because God calls us to pray, keep praying until you learn to really pray.

And we have the encouragement in Romans 8:26 (Read). It helps a lot kapag meron kang list of prayer items or you follow a written prayer, like the prayer of the Puritans. But there will be times, which is hard to explain, when you will just pour out your whole heart and affection before God in prayer. And in the end, you feel this great encouragement and joy that you just talked as if face to face.

At mapapansin mo, mas humihina ang tukso ng kasalanan, at mas tumitindi yung pagnanais mo na makapiling ang Diyos sa Kanyang presensya.

The Holy Spirit teaches us to pray, and that should be our encouragement, that despite the weakness and imperfections of our prayers—God hears us because of Christ and provides for us everything that we need for life and godliness.

These three practical things, my friends… this is how we cooperate with the Spirit’s work in us. 

And that is how the Spirit also comforts us as our Catechism affirms. Hindi po tayo kino-comfort ng Banal ng Espiritu out of nothing. Na tipong may pagsubok tayong pinag-dadaanan, or we are discouraged and doubtful sa ating pananampalataya—and then out of the blue, okay na.

No. The Holy Spirit comforts us through his Word, when we read and hear about his character, his saving work, and his promises to us. And we are comforted when we see the sanctifying work of the Spirit evident in our lives, gaya nung sinasabi ni Peter. If we see things real and increasing in us—the more we are able to mortify our sin and live in righteousness—we will not fail.

3. The assurance of our sanctification/perseverance

In the end, going back to our text in 2 Corinthians 3:18, we are “being transformed… from one degree of glory to another.” Some translations, “from glory to glory.”

And this suggests that our sanctification and transformation is a lifelong process. Walang makakapag-sabi satin na perfect na tayo. Until we die and be resurrected, we’re all a work in progress. Such a humbling thought.

But at the same time, this suggests that the Holy Spirit will be with us until the end, until we arrive to that consummated glory in the end. Christ himself said in John 14:16, that this Helper, the Spirit, will be with us forever. And friends, that is exactly the reason and our assurance why we can persevere in this life.

Yes, in our sanctification and growth in faith, we are responsible. We cooperate with the Spirit. But it is not as if our effort is independent from God. Our responsibility is always dependent on his work. We know for ourselves that we are never faithful in our responsibility. Yet because of the Spirit’s work in us, we are still able to continue and persevere.

That’s why from start to finish, our transformation is from the Lord who is the Spirit. Maraming times na hindi natin namo-mortify nang husto ang kasalanan. Sometimes, even Christians will fall into sin or backslide. Pero gaya ng ipinaliwanag sa Canons of Dort 5.5 & 6:

“Ang Diyos na mayaman sa awa ay hindi lubusang nag-aalis ng Kanyang Banal na Espiritu mula sa Kanyang [mga anak]—kahit pa sa panahon ng kanilang malubhang pagkahulog sa kasalanan…

Kundi tiyak at mabisa Niyang babaguhin sila tungo sa pagsisisi… [hanggang] maranasan at madama nilang muli ang biyaya ng maipagkasundo sa Diyos, at mahalin Siya, at ipamuhay ang kaligtasang natanggap nila.” (Paraphrase)

That is why brothers and sisters, if you find yourself running away from God and living in sin, long for the Spirit’s restoration, pray, “Lord, give me true repentance, and restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

There will also be times when we are so down and discouraged by the trials and afflictions in our life. In our families, health, finances, etc. But it is a great wonder, na kahit gaano man kahirap ang ating nararanasan (or nararanasan ng ating kapatid sa pananamanpalataya)—nagagawa pa rin nating magpatuloy, at umasa, at magpuri sa Panginoon. How!? Because the Spirit remains in us.

Habang nabubuhay tayong mga Kristiyano sa mundong ito, tayo ay patuloy na magkakaroon ng bahid ng kasalanan at kahinaan. Subalit hangga’t tayo’y may bahid nito—hangga’t hindi pa tayo perfectly conformed to the image of God—ang Banal na Espiritu, ang Espiritu mula sa Ama at sa Anak, ay mananatili sa atin… at patuloy na magpapabanal at magpapalakas sa atin hanggang sa huli.

Hence, in the end, we can say with Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day”—unto the glorious image of God. This is God’s work in us through his Spirit

May we find comfort and encouragement in it. Let’s pray.

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