Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Spirit-Walk

What if you could live in complete confidence? I don't mean that you would magically know the winning lottery numbers or which British football team will win the championship (it was Leicester City). What I mean is, could you be confident in knowing that your everyday actions and your words toward others would
be loving and gracious, life-giving and generous? Sounds like an impossible goal, but it's not. Human willpower won't do it. But the simultaneous movement, made possible only by the gift of God's generous Spirit, of following the Spirit and turning away from our normal drives, turns 'normal life' into a life of joy and victory! How so?

Paul has a lot to say about the Spirit's work in us. He tells us this: "So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves." (Galatians 5:16, NLT). Also in Romans 8, verses 9-11, he writes "You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you...And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you." Paul very clearly shows that in terms of heart and mind, the Spirit = Christ = God. So then, the Spirit living in me every day can do the will of God in me as I live every day. Hallelujah!

Here's an example. Jesus, said "Love your enemies" in the Sermon on the Mount. How good are you at that? I'm lousy at it -- I get my feelings hurt, hold grudges, give people rent-free space in my thinking, and avoid people I distrust. Telling myself "stop doing that and love them anyway" doesn't work. But Paul wrote that Jesus, through the Spirit, actively lives in people who know they belong to him, so the Jesus who said those things is alive in you and me. And the Spirit loves my enemies through me, instead of me trying (and miserably failing) to love them on my own. Paul writes in Galatians 5:25-25, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." The simultaneous movement of denying our negative human desires, and instead doing good, is only possible when we actively and intentionally "follow the Spirit's leading." Paul says "let us follow" which is an encouragement to be involved in seeking and following, not just letting life happen unaware; and he includes himself in the need, just like I'm telling you I need that leading.

"Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal. 5: 22-23) result from the Spirit's work in us, not from our own effort. If these nine aren't the normal attitudes and actions in your life, it's time to surrender more fully to the Spirit. If you need help doing that, I or others who are familiar with the Spirit's work can pray for you. Or would you rather keep up your old habits?

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