We are going to spend this evening on one of the most important areas of Christian growth: i.e.
- The Work of the Holy Spirit
- How to Walk in the Spirit and
- The Discipline of the Holy Spirit - Brokenness
This is also one of the most practical aspects of Christian growth - the "how to's" and "why's" - which we all need to understand and use.
In Romans 6-7-8, Paul is laying out the path of Christian growth in the form of a syllogism, i.e. a reasoned argument where the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. In chapter 6, Paul's first premise is that although our sins are paid for by Christ's work on the Cross, God still has to deal with our nature - what we are. Being forgiven for what we DO does not solve our real problem: what we ARE has not been changed. The source of our actions is our Adam sin nature. Therefore, in God's view we were legally judged - dead - buried with Christ, so He not only forgives us for what we DO, but He also deals with what we ARE.
We are now raised into new life. We are a new creation (II Cor 5:17), and Paul tells us to count this spiritual fact true (Rom. 6:11). This will set us free from having to follow or yield to the sin nature with which we are born. To count true what God says is true, robs our sin nature of it's power over us. Most important is the key phrase: "alive to God in Christ Jesus."
Just what does that mean, and how do I experience this aliveness in Christ Jesus?
1. The first step is to go through law school (Rom. 7). We understand the first aspect of faith, i.e. the willingness to act on God's truth.
2. But the second aspect of faith is only learned by failing, i.e. we try to help God accomplish what He want to in our lives -- we try and fail over, and over again until we come to the end of ourselves and cry out, "There is no good thing in me" "who will deliver me from my sinful self?" Now we are ready to learn the second aspect of faith - With complete dependence upon God to perform His will in me.
In Rom. 8:1, Paul returns to the complete assurance of our acceptance by God - our relationship with God is NOT in jeopardy when we fail - and we must recognize and live in this FACT - No Condemnation - our position is eternally secure IN CHRIST'S love. If you know you are loved, you can focus on "counting yourself alive to God in Christ Jesus" - since He accepts you so completely and without condemnation. Especially is this easy because in verse 2 Paul says "this life-giving Spirit sets us free from our inherited sin nature."
This powerful "life-giving Spirit" setting us free could be illustrated by the analogy of a powerful jet plane lifting off from the ground with its tons of weight. The plane is being 'set free' from the 'law of gravity' as a more powerful law takes over, i.e. the 'law of aerodynamics' with that powerful engine takes over the plane and lifts its load away from the downward drag of the 'law of gravity'.
However, if, after leveling off at 33,000 ft. the pilot said "I'm free from the law of gravity" and he turned off the jet engine with its superior power, the 'law of gravity' would take over again. The plane would nose-dive - subject again to the 'law of gravity' - the law of jet power turned off.
The Holy Spirit is our "jet power". He supersedes the "law of gravity", our sin nature. We can't unzip our body of sin and take it off, so we must count ourselves "alive to God in Christ Jesus" --> depending upon the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit to set us free from the "law of sin" in our body - we must count true what God says - God says present, with the Holy Spirit - jet power.
It is just that simple to Walk in the Spirit.
- Presenting the members of your body "alive to God in Christ Jesus" - that's an act of your will. The key in the switch.
- With your "mind set on", turn on the switch - which means counting true what God says is true in His word.
- Believing and receiving - allowing the Holy Spirit to perform in you the will of God - allowing the jet to lift you out. "In order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled IN you"- not by you (v.4).
In other words, where you "set your mind" determines how you are going to walk. Note the frequency of the 2 phrases (v.5-8) "mind set on", and "walk according to". I am convinced, however, that most, if not all of us learn this lesson by trying to live for God - trying to "reckon ourselves dead to sin" by our own efforts - and failing. We sputter and fall, sputter and fall because we turn off the switch; turn off the "jet engine" of the Holy Spirit. We think we are free of the 'law of gravity' - our sin nature.
The Holy Spirit has to convince us in area after area of our lives that we CANNOT keep God's law - We fail and fail - finally we give up and let Him. We gradually learn to depend, "mind set on", on the Holy Spirit to perform God's will in our lives. N.B. "The effortless life is not the will-less life."
3. The next step in our Christian maturing process is the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Those of you who are willing to go all the way for the Lord - have one thing in common. You will experience brokenness. Brokenness sounds bizarre - not all the attractive "abundant life" - almost like the middle ages with their emphasis on 'hair shirts', 'sleeping on nails', etc. Brokenness is not negative - it is the formation of the character of Christ into the fabric of our lives on the basis of the Holy Spirit's supernatural work to break our soul-life - our self-life.
- The Holy Spirit reveals the things in our life and character which are unlike Christ. We are to "put off" the old self - He helps us do it.
- The Holy Spirit reveals the riches of Christ, and enables us to appropriate them in our innermost being.
However, if we are lazy or rebellious, and refuse, we frustrate the Grace of God; we quench and grieve the Holy Spirit. A good rule of thumb to check out your attitude and response to the process of brokenness is - Am I debating? This attitude is expressed in various ways: self-pity, self-seeking, self-defensive; our fear and worry level rises; our irritation and sensitivity becomes obvious. Then we tend to deny, cover-up, and hide our real feelings. We pretend and put on masks - the soul-life protects itself.
The way back to openness and willingness is Rom. 8:1. Our position in Christ - our love relationship with Him is not in jeopardy. Love one another- confess wrong attitude and get back in close fellowship with Body.
Brokenness is really the only way to freedom - peace - joy.
1. We are born "slaves to sin" - all our 5 senses, our body, our soul, mind, will, emotions are enslaved to selfish living - selfish living is slavery of the worst kind. This is the "outerman" of II Cor. 4.
2. As walking Christians, the new creature, the "innerman" needs to be nourished by the MOG. But we need to realize that all these growth factors which nourish our new nature have no effect on our "old nature" which we brought with us. The Spirit wears the soul and body. We are enslaved by our "body of sin". We are will able (with Satan's help) to "spiritualize" our nature man and use its abilities to minister, and we do that effectively for a period of time.
But there comes a time when the Holy Spirit desires to cripple the old sin nature and bring the body and soul under His control in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants total control over our self-life. Paul calls it "the old nature being delivered over to death, so that our inner man is renewed day by day." (II Cor 4:11) Jesus calls it the grain of wheat (or losing soul-life) which has to die to bring forth fruit (John 12:24,25).
Since spiritual things are effective to make the spirit grow - what is effective to make the soul-flesh life become submissive to God? Physical external flesh things!! The Holy Spirit uses external circumstances, other people, our environment, trials, self-loves. Especially does He use those who love you.
The Lord weakens our dependence on our "old nature" - our soul-life, our 5 senses-body - by these means. The objective being to raise up our new nature - the "inner man". He wants these 2 natures to pass in the hall.
- the "old nature" passing from life to death
- the "new nature" on the way from death to life
So we will learn the walk of faith, i.e. depending on the Holy Spirit to perform God's will in and through us. Walking in the Holy Spirit. This is "Abiding in Christ" - this is "Releasing the Spirit" to give life to others. This results in a continual fellowship with Christ. Living through any and all circumstances with His peace and joy, and using His power to effect the world around us.
I'm sure we all want to live this way, so that's why we should pray for breaking, eagerly accepting the Holy Spirit's breaking the hold of our soul-life on us. He takes His own time and has His own schedule. But don't struggle to retain your self-life; don't quench Him, or grieve Him and frustrate God's grace.
The "thing in hand" or sin which entangles. (Heb. 12:1). I say this knowing that we will struggle to retain our soul-life, our self-life. Here are 2 ways:
- We hinder the Holy Spirit's breaking when we refuse to see God's hand in every area of our life.
- We only see other people opposing us and our good ideas and effective ministry.
- We see our circumstances as impossible for God to work through.
- We see our environment as not conducive to growth.
So we struggle - we complain - we rebel - we do everything in our power to retain our self-life, our position of power, comfort, ideas, habits, etc. We must recognize God's hand as Sovereign in our life (even in the bad circumstances we have engineered for ourselves). Jesus Christ can do no wrong - He has our best interests at heart and we can trust Him to work ALL things together for our good - don't resist the breaking .
- We can hinder and prolong God's breaking of our soul-life by self-love.
The one most over-whelming reason for our discontent under breaking is that we secretly love our self-life, and we plan many ways of escape - ways in which we can deliver our self to escape breaking - we are so afraid of giving up our self-love - we are full of pride and rebellion and self-will. E.g. The Israelites always wanted to return to Egypt when they were in rebellion - the meat, the leeks - even the slavery was more acceptable than God's way - slavery was at least familiar - God's way is not familiar.
The Holy Spirit will not neglect one area of our life - MIND, EMOTIONS, WILL.
Our thought-life may be:
- Independent - I'm doing my own thing in my thought even though I don't quite dare to verbalize or do what I want to do.
- Confused - jumbled, no direction, controlled by whoever or whatever is around.
- Uncontrolled - off on a tangent of blaming others, negativity, kingdom building, bitterness, anger, lust.
- Intellectual arrogance - we may think we are smarter than others, God is thrilled with our deep thinking on His behalf - pride results and independent interpretation of God (i.e. liberals)
- Secret love in thought life - world, things, someone, position, power.
Scripture say to "take every thought captive to Christ" (II Cor. 10:5). The Holy Spirit uses others, our own misery and mistakes to convince us. As we begin to experience (Phil 4:8), thinking on these things - the freedom, the up-lift, the edifying result is we are more quickly convinced to let Christ transform and renew our minds.
We can revolve continually around our emotions.
- Elation - dissipation of energy
- Depression - inactivity and negativity
- No Emotion - neutralized
God will continue to remind us in situation after situation that we dare not live by our emotions - they fluctuate, they are undependable, they react to situations, rather than making sound judgments.
Biblically, we see that entering into the heavenlies with Christ is exhilarating and His power and mind is available to live through every situation. Through our ordinary daily life, He gives us many opportunities to deep seeking His mind, His will, and view each event from His viewpoint - heavenlies. so we become more stable, less emotionally-reacting, yet our joy is deep and unmoved by circumstances. Our peace does not evaporate and our love remains constant for Christ and for others. Even in pressure situations, we don't go to pieces, but remain under the Spirit's control, focusing on the eternal plan, not the present disruption.
This area is the greatest problem. We all are naturally will-ful and obstinate and stubborn and rebellious. Our strong will is supported by our mind - emotions - self-love - own judgments, etc. excuses.
The will is like a monument being held up by these may pillars. God removes the pillars one-by-one until our will collapses - submitted to the Holy Spirit. He must deal with us until our will is docile and tender - where we are not trust our own judgment - but we throw ourselves on the Lord, and say "not my will, but Yours."
Have we learned to submit our will to Christ? Probably not. As we become more mature, more broken, we discover the tremendous power of our own will. Only by complete obedience, complete dependence on Him will we begin to be open and sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.
Most of the time we know what God's will is - we just love to debate with Him, side-step, rationalize, blame-shift, and finally grudgingly do it. That's not submitting. We need to develop a sensitive conscience, always open towards God, talking everything over with Him and joyfully submitting to His will in all things. He certainly knows best and will lead us by far better than we are able.
When our "outerman" - soul-life is broken, our whole being is brought under the control of the Spirit. We are unified - an open channel for God's love and life to touch others. We can love, speak, make decisions, think thoughts as Christ does. The one who has willingly accepted the most discipline from the Holy Spirit is the one who can best serve - love - discern - give - and live the life of freedom - abundant life. The one who is most broken is most used by the Holy Spirit.
We do have individual responsibility even more so as we become increasingly sanctified. To say, as Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20) does not mean no responsibility. Rather it means that I have the responsibility now of seeing that Christ works through me at all times. I must no allow my soul-life to choke out His life in me. By faith, "Christ is made to me wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification." (I Cor. 1:30).