Will I bring Myself up to this level? (Oswald Chambers)
i.e. "perfecting holiness in the fear of God" II Cor. 7:4
"You are the slaves of the one whom you obey" Rom. 6:16
The goal of the Holy Spirit is to transform our natural life into spiritual life in every detail of our life. If you give in to selfishness you will find it to be the most enslaving tyranny on earth. The only One who can break the bondage of our sin nature is the Holy Spirit as we willingly allow Him to do so.
One of the penalties of sin is our acceptance of it as normal, saying it's "just the way I am" -- sin establishes itself in our life and always takes its toll -- a terrible harvest of destruction. No power, except the power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, can change us or prevent the inherent consequences of tolerated sin.
I want to explore various aspects of our relationship with the Holy Spirit and end up with the practical day by day steps of Walking in the Spirit. This begins with:
- Experiencing the Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
- Experiencing His Illumination and Power.
- The Holy Spirit's Purpose in our life.
- The Release of the Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit's Guidance.
- Walking in the Spirit
1. Experiencing the Holy Spirit's Fellowship
If you want to enjoy the Spirit's fellowship you need to make His passion your priority, i.e. to "glorify the Son" (John 16). So the way to check this priority out in your own life is to ask yourself, "How much attention are you giving to Christ?" "Is loving and serving Christ your driving passion?" If Jesus Christ is a low priority in your life, then you won't have a dynamic fellowship with the Holy Spirit either. When Christ is your passion, then you will experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit because Jesus Christ is the One He glorifies. You will experience the flowing river of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised in John 7:37-39. The life-giving, thirst-quenching fellowship of the Holy Spirit is enjoyed when you seek Christ, and know your need for Him. [E.g. (II Cor. 3:17-18) Notice how the Lord and Spirit are used interchangeably, i.e. when the "glory of Christ" becomes your passion, the "Spirit of God transforms you from one degree of glory to another degree of glory."] This transformation is a process, but it is very real with practical benefits you will experience in your day-to-day life.
One of these benefits is conviction - the light of God's revelation, His word, sensitizes us to our sin areas - and that is good. Then the Holy Spirit uses God's word to convict and convince us we are in sin and heading away from intimacy with Christ. As we respond, (if we respond), we become more "in tune" with the Holy Spirit, and "walk in the light" (John 1:7) which is the only way we see our sin clearly. When we are continuing to sin, we don't see anything terribly wrong with our "special sin", the besetting one, so our path gets darker and our way gets more confused. Don't feel depressed if the Holy Spirit is convicting you, it means you are sensitive enough to be convicted, you ought to feel good that you are able to recognize His conviction. Next take action! That's what I John 1:9 is all about, saying the same thing about your sin that the Holy Spirit says, i.e. it is sin. He wants each sin dealt with specifically so that you are not "quenching" or "grieving" Him and His call to sanctification and transformation.
2. Illumination and Power
This is the process of spiritual enlightenment whereby the Spirit enables you to grasp, experience, and apply God's truth in your daily Christian life. The Holy Spirit connects us to the "mind of Christ" so that we can make sense out of what is happening in our life, and choose the best way to go. I Cor. 2:12 tells us that the Holy Spirit knows the deep thoughts of God and is pleased to reveal them to us. We need the Holy Spirit as a "translator" who can explain (as Paul says in v.13) "not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." This is a process of spiritual discernment, we begin to make judgments from God's point of view.
The Bible gives us the objective standards. The Holy Spirit gives us the subjective leading within the Biblical parameters to the specific goal we would have. This results in "sanctified common sense" like in Acts 15:22, it "seemed good" to the apostles and elders, they held a meeting and talked it over.
3. The Holy Spirit's Purpose in our Life
If we are going to experience the benefits of being led by the Spirit, and discovering the will of God in our life, we need to be "filled with the Spirit". It is an imperative but it is in the passive tense. Somebody else provides the action, you are the objects of that action. You can resist the filling, but you cannot fill yourself. This passive command is also in the present tense, it is to be a continuous process of "keeping on being filled with the Spirit."
The purpose of the Spirit's filling is that He might control our lives and transform us supernaturally. When we are willing to be filled, the Holy Spirit's power is released and His influence permeates our life with the "fragrance of Christ". His influence is evident in our life, and we call on him for everything, whether prayer is 5 seconds or 5 minutes doesn't matter. What matters is that we are in a vital dynamic relationship with him all day long about everything.
4. The Release of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit has to break us before we can really walk in the Spirit, we need the discipline of the Spirit because our soul has so much sin-scar tissue around it that has to be broken to let the Spirit have His way in our soul and body.
The Means of Growth nourish our inner man (Spirit), but they have no effect on our outer man of soul and body, in fact, the "flesh fights against the Spirit". So the Holy Spirit uses external circumstances, and people to bring us to the end of our 'natural strength' so that we will allow the Holy Spirit to control and "put to death" the flesh. The old nature is "being delivered over to death so that our inner man is being renewed day by day". The way to check your willingness to be broken is to see whether you keep focusing horizontally on: (a). your problems, (b). those people who are bugging you, or (c). your hard circumstances. If your focus is horizontal, your mind, will, and emotions are consumed by those problems, and you have nothing left over to focus on the Spirit. The more unbroken you remain, even under the discipline of the Spirit, the more you get consumed by your problems, other people, and your circumstances. On the other hand, if your "inner man" grows because you are allowing the Holy Spirit to discipline your mind-will-emotions to trust Christ and walk with Him through your problems the more you will appropriate the Holy Spirit's power and depend on His strength.
If you mistake the hand of the Holy Spirit for the "hand of people or circumstances", you will miss the Holy Spirit's corrective and instructive discipline. He uses people and circumstances to cut through the tough sin scars in your soul and release His power. As long as Satan helps your sin-scarred soul to keep focused on circumstances and people, you will not experience the release of your Spirit through the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead you will protect your soul, excuse yourself and act confused. Paul says in Rom. 12:1 to present ourselves as living sacrifices, and when we do, the Holy Spirit will break us. Then you get to hear His voice as He speaks with the application of the "living and active word of God". He gives discernment (I Cor.2:15). "Appraising all things" is seeing below the surface to the true situation. Don't fight brokenness, you will miss a great blessing, and your sin-scarred soul just gets more hard and unyielding. As I say so often, not allowing the Holy Spirit to put to death and remove your besetting sin guarantees that as you get older that sin will take you over, besetting sins get very ugly and controlling in older Christians, they become their pattern of life. Usually the Holy Spirit ceases to strive with older Christians who have refused His discipline for years on end.
5. The Holy Spirit's Guidance
Being able to determine the Holy Spirit's leading through life's choices and decisions is the desire of every sincere Christian. Spiritual guidance occurs when the objective revelation of God is combined with the subjective witness of the Spirit as we "walk in the Spirit".
The Spirit will never lead you if you are debating in your heart whether you will do God's will (Plan B). There must be a determination and desire to obey God and live in His will.
- If you pray at "all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18) and
- "Set your mind on the Spirit" (Rom. 8:5),
- "you will be led by the Spirit" (Rom. 8:14) and
- He will "bear witness with our Spirit" (Rom. 8:16)
- in the "hidden person of the heart" (I Peter 3:4)
- by the "witness of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1).
The goal of the Holy Spirit's guidance is to help us discover and do the will of God. God has:
- an overarching sovereign will (Eph. 1:11). "He works all things after the counsel of His will",
- a moral will which is clearly recorded in his word, and
- an individual will for each of us as His children.
We need the Holy Spirit's help as He works from the "inside out". We experience a compelling inner conviction about a decision that is within God's moral will, and we know we should move in a certain direction. The greater the kingdom implications of that decision, the louder He speaks. If you don't ever get that kind of leading it's not God's fault. You have the teaching and illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit (I Jn. 2:26,27).
The Holy Spirit often guides through prayer (James 1:5). Wisdom is the ability to make right choices and if we don't pray often or feel that prayer is a low priority, we will know very little of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What the Holy Spirit does in prayer is to conform your thinking and desires to God's will (Rom. 12:2).
The Holy Spirit also guides through the Body of Christ. God brings mature Christians into our life whose spirit witnesses with our spirit.
Circumstances are to confirm the Spirit's inner witness, not determine it. That's why the Holy Spirit's guidance must start from the inside out -- that way negative circumstances don't deter our walking in the will of God as he has made it clear to us by His Spirit. Satan often tries to deter our walk by creating huge barriers and terrible circumstances. But God often overthrows Satan's plans as He did with Pharaoh (Ex. 3-14) saying everybody will know that I am God, revealing His power to Pharaoh, Pharoah's army, and all the watching nations, as well as Israel.
You may ask: "What must I do to position myself to experience the Holy Spirit's guidance?" The more intimate your relationship with Christ, the clearer you will hear the voice of the Spirit. If you have a daily ongoing deep relationship with Christ, you have an ongoing experience of the Spirit's guidance. Intimacy with Christ is the key. John 15:7, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you."
To "walk in the Spirit" is to "set our minds on the Holy Spirit" and "set our mind on the things above" That's God's way of teaching us to:
- remember the past
- consider the future
- and in the present, then live by faith, depending on Him.
1. PAST: Remember the great things God has done in (a). the Old Testament, (b). His power, (c). prophecy, (d). Christ's work on the cross, (e). His resurrection, (f). our salvation, (g). positional truths.
2. FUTURE: consider the future equals (a). the hope of Christ's return, (b). the rewards He will give us, (c). His gracious words, "well done", (d). reigning with Jesus Christ forever.
3. PRESENT: Therefore, it makes sense to choose to live my life fully committed to His Body here on earth, and His program of evangelizing and depending on the Holy Spirit's power.
To "Walk in the Spirit" is to place my life, my time, my schedule under God's control, with His agenda in contrast to my selfish, narrow, destructive lifestyle. This is not to try legalistically to walk the Christian life, nor is it even self-discipline, it is rather obedience; obedience of replacing the negative sinful selfish "grooves of behavior" with the positive, stimulating, and rewarding lifestyle God provides under the leadership of the Holy Spirit with His power.
God promises that this is the abundant life, characterized by freedom, Christ's love, His peace, and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, self-control) as well as fruitfulness as we reach out to others with the gospel, equals the renewed mind. Unfortunately, the fact is we usually expect God to work at the expense of our obedience and trust. We are so rebellious, so addicted to our selfish lifestyle that often we refuse to obey God.
6. Walking in the Spirit
Practically speaking, "How do I walk the Christian Life?" "How do I walk in the Spirit?" Eph. 5:15-18:
- To walk in the flesh is to not believe - not trust God, and allow our "grooves of behavior" to continue our enslavement to sin - the old slave-master.
- To "Walk in the Spirit" is to:
- Believe - to trust in what God has done - and focus on the wonderful truth of being IN CHRIST - a new creature. Col. 3:3 "We have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God." God sees us in Christ, and He accepts us just as He does Christ - sin nature crucified and alive to God in Christ.
- Study the Bible - meditate on God's promises - that He will strengthen us, empower us, that we are totally forgiven - these truths are the "key" to being able to trust God.
- Obedience is the next step - not only trusting God, but placing ourselves under His authority, and living our lives under His direction. Putting "feet to our faith" - acting on what we believe God has done and promised.
- Prayer - it vital to our Christian walk of faith
- To maintain at all times an awareness of God's presence within us - He is personal. He is living within us.
- The Holy Spirit's constant availability and involvement in our lives
- Christ is our closest friend and confidante
- He loves us unconditionally - He will never leave us.
- His authority and power are mine as I walk in the Holy Spirit
- His strength replaces my weakness.
- His schedule for my life is orderly and obtainable (not hectic & overwhelming)
- His work which I am doing is effective and rewarding now, as well as eternally significant.
Do you know what God's eternal purpose is? That he would dwell within us and through us express Christ on earth during this segment of time, the Church Age, and do this corporately through the Body of Christ, as well as individually at work, school, etc.
My individual life - as I walk in the Holy Spirit - and your individual life - counts for very much in the history of the universe. That is a staggering concept! I can play a significant part in the healing of this broken world by participating in reconciling people to God. By living a mature Christian life as ambassador, His witness through the members of the Body of Christ, should we not then give considerable portions of our time and our thought life to creatively think, meditate, and pray for insight and direction about how we can:
- Reach those without God - lost and broken without hope.
- Disciple members of the Body of Christ under our care.
- Comfort the hurting, counsel the confused, help the helpless.
- Proceed towards the goal, our sanctification, maturity.
- I Cor 9:26 "I run the race, not uncertainly or without aim."
- Eph. 5:15-18 "Be careful how you walk" "Making the most of your time." "Understand what the will of the Lord is." "Be filled with the Spirit."