Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Advertisements

Hot, Cold, & Serving God

1 Comment

Revelation 3:15 – 17  

 Jesus speaks to the church at Laodicea

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus, this One who humbly walked among men and would not “bruise a broken reed nor snuff out a smoldering wick”, was now giving a stern warning to the believers at Laodicea, a first century church founded in Asia Minor. Jesus was warning them that if they did not change their ways, they would be in danger of being rejected by Jesus. And not only would Jesus reject them, but he would do so in quite a violent manner.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

So this raises a huge question. What was the problem with the Laodiceans? What terrible things had they done to deserve this warning? As I look at this passage of Scripture, it seems to me that Jesus was just as concerned with what they weren’t doing as with what they were doing. When it comes to spiritual matters, we must stand up for what is right in God’s eyes as well as reject and resist the things that are not right in God’s eyes.

But the Laodiceans were neither hot nor cold. They were (spiritually speaking) lukewarm. Had they adapted (or should I say accommodated) themselves to the secular society around them? Is it possible that they were no longer advocating godliness in their daily lives, and were tolerating ungodly behaviors and attitudes of those around them? Hmmmm…. This does not sound a whole lot different from the way things are here for many Christians and churches today in our Western culture and society.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now hot and cold are generally thought of as being opposites. And most people tend to like one or the other, but not both at the same time. At least this is true when it comes to drinking beverages. We drink hot coffee or hot chocolate at the beginning of work days and when it is winter. We drink cold drinks or chilled sodas when we want to relax and when it is summertime. But few of us would enjoy drinking lukewarm coffee or Coke at any time of the year.

The same is not true when it comes to temperature and climate. We will do all that we can do to stay warm in frigid weather, and to cool off when it is blazing hot weather. Believe me, I have seen both. I remember our first winter in Manitoba when it was -45 Celsius (-49 Fahrenheit) or worse for over six weeks. And I also remember how terribly hot it was when we were living in the village in Papua New Guinea. During the first six months, I would lay on the floor of our house for over an hour after lunch panting for air and leaving a pool of sweat on the floor around me.

But given enough time, I did acclimate myself to these extreme temperatures. What used to bother me before, became “normal” for me. And that is the danger of sin and ungodliness for us today. If we allow ourselves to be continually exposed to things that don’t please God, or we don’t actively pursue the things that do please God, then the end result is that we can become spiritually lukewarm. Let us take care or may find Jesus ready to reject us just as He was about to do to the Laodiceans.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

There is one more aspect that I would like to explore in this article. Namely this: whenever we do sense God is calling us to serve Him in some way, we should not be surprised if He takes us out of our comfort zone. I still think it was rather ironical that God called me, a person who grew up in the high, dry mountains of Western Canada, to serve him in a low swampy and humid, tropical region of Papua New Guinea. After five years in PNG, I became accustomed to the heat, but then God moved our family back to Canada.

Four years later, we were ready to return to PNG, but this time God sent us east rather than south. We ended up serving with our mission for a year and a half in East Africa. More recently, Jill and I had anticipated spending more time together as a couple seeing as one of our boys is married and our other son was accepted into the military. But apparently, God wanted me to serve Him in Dallas while Jill stayed home back in Canada. And in just over a week, I will be heading to PNG to work on some Bible translation projects. Thankfully, Jill will be able to join me for about half of the three months that I am over there.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In all of our travels though, I can honestly say that God has taken good care of all our needs. And I have sensed His presence in all we have done. Perhaps we are the lucky ones, for in our constant travels we have had to depend on God and trust Him. Perhaps we have been able to avoid some of that slipping into mediocrity in our spiritual lives that can come through the experiences of simply settling down and blending in to the general cultural environment that is all around us. In either case, may God help us all to stand up for his truth and impact others around us. May we be either hot or cold, but never lukewarm.

Run The Christian Race

Leave a comment

Dumb Criminal & Christian Endurance

Probably many of us by now have heard a number of “Dumb Criminal” stories that make us chuckle as well as shake our head. Such as, did you hear about the criminal that the police were able to easily follow in the dark until they caught him? He had forgotten that he was wearing his sneakers that blink a bright red light every time you take a step. Or how about the bank robber who wrote, “This is a holdup,” on the back of a personal check that had his home address on it.

These stories sound both ridiculous and funny at the same time, don’t they? It really is amazing how some people can do the most foolish things, and also try to get away with things that ultimately will only hurt them in the end. Here is another story that illustrates this point:

David Posman 33, was arrested in Providence, R.I, after allegedly knocking out an armored car driver and stealing the closest four bags of money. It turned out they contained $800 in PENNIES, weighed 30 pounds each, and slowed him to a stagger during his getaway so that police officers easily jumped him from behind.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Now consider what one person said after reflecting on this story:

David Posman is not the first person to make the mistake of trying to run while being weighed down. In fact, it happens spiritually all the time. The Hebrew writer talks about sin being a weight that keeps us from effectively running the Christian race. We can get bogged down with things that pull us away from God. And, by the way, as with Posman, those things that are weighing us down are not worth nearly as much as we thought they were when we grabbed hold of them.

And here is the verse in Hebrews that the person was thinking of:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

As we look at this verse in Hebrews, we will notice that there are three important aspects in this verse. First, there are the “witnesses” that surround us. Secondly, there are the things that weigh us down and the sins that ensnare us and hinder us from running a good race. And then finally, there is the aspect that we need to run our Christian race with endurance.

So who are these “witnesses” who are watching us as we live out our Christian lives? Many have felt that this is a spiritual reference to God and all the angels who are watching us here on earth. Textually, these witnesses could refer back to all of the “heroes of the faith” of whom we read about throughout Chapter 11 of Hebrews. Others have thought that this could simply refer to the people around us.

In any case, whichever interpretation we might agree with, there is one more imagery aspect that I want to highlight at this point. The idea of others watching as we run our race creates the image for us that we are in an Olympic type event surrounded by many spectators who were cheering us on to cross the finish line. That image helps us to understand the powerful point that the writer is trying to make here.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Imagine an Olympic marathon runner wearing heavy shoes, extra layers of clothes, and carrying a heavy backpack. There is no way that runner could ever win the race, let alone even finish the race. And that is what our spiritual lives are being compared to if we allow sin or otherworldly distractions to keep us from focusing on our goal of winning the prize of being called to be children of God here, and inheritors of eternal life in the hereafter.

But not only are we called to live godly Christian lives, Scripture tells us that we are to run this race with endurance. That implies that it will be hard work, there will be sweat, and there very likely will be some pain and sacrifice involved. We must remember, that godliness is pursued and grown over an entire lifetime. The Christian life truly is a marathon, not a sprint.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Personally, I have some great memories of being a long-distance runner when I was in school. I loved the feeling of being in good physical shape, and being able to run very long distances. And I also enjoyed the thrill of the competition of running against other athletes. As I said above, it did take a lot of work, dedication, and sacrifice to get to those competitions.

And even when we experience great pain or trials in life, we are called to keep pressing on. I still remember how that in grade 9, the night before the big competition, I sprained my ankle. The next day, I convinced my coach that if he put a tensor bandage tightly around my ankle I would still be able to run the race. And so I ran. And it hurt terribly. But I still came in third across the finish line. The next year, I won the inter-school competition of the 800 m run and was able to go all the way to the Calgary city finals.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And so my friend, how are you doing in your Christian life today? Is there anything weighing you down in your spiritual life? Do you realize that other believers, God and all the heavenly angels, and perhaps even the “heroes of the faith” may be watching you and cheering you on to run this race.  May you have the strength and the courage to lay aside whatever it is that is keeping you from running this race well.