Insight: Do You Have the Holy Spirit or Does the Holy Spirit Have You?(Part 1 of 2)

Once we have placed our saving faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation, God graciously sealed us with the precious gift of the Holy Spirit. Because salvation is derived from the finished atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, our deeds will never be righteous enough to earn us our salvation. As believers, the loving work of Christ on the Cross mightily liberates us to be all who God has purposed us to be. We now have this remarkable assurance that our salvation is not contingent on our overall performance as Christians. While I do vehemently believe that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation, I do believe that it is possible to live a defeated life as a Christian failing to live in the fullness of what God has ordained.

Have you ever wondered why so many Christians are merely scraping by within this life? They may go to church faithfully, know all of the right things to say within Christian Culture, avoid committing the obvious sins, and even become involved in a ministry or two. But, they are still struggling with the same addictions and struggles that they have for decades as Christians. They may have accepted Jesus as their Saviour, but not as the Lord of their life; they have not wholeheartedly surrendered every area of their lives to Jesus. Why is this? Why would a Christian choose to live a mediocre life with a divided allegiance? What I believe God has taught to me through His Holy Word and through other mature believers is the importance of being immersed in the Holy Spirit.

When Christians are born again, they are born of the Spirit. Through the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, our heart of stone is exchanged for a heart of flesh. God’s Spirit now resides within each and every believer who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer certainly has the Holy Spirit but does the Holy Spirit have the believer? There is a significant difference between the two–the difference between simply surviving as a Christian and actually thriving as a Christian. The Holy Spirit deeply desires to be actively involved in the believer’s life rather than to be restricted to the confines of the believer’s body. He wants to overflow as a stream of life towards everyone whom the believer comes into contact with. The Holy Spirit wants to radically transform your life as a believer so you can live the life of victory God has destined for you to live. Jesus has already overcome this war and the dominion of sin, but it is up to us to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. The invitation is there. Will you respond to it or ignore it like so many already do? God will not infringe on our free will; we either want Him or we don’t, it is as simple as that!

Humility is one of the secrets to the Holy Spirit controlling, leading and empowering the believer. This is counter-cultural and a major threat towards our westernized mindset(which has affected much of the church already). God’s Spirit cannot work as it intends to when we place confidence in the flesh or when we become prideful. Pride and humility are opposing forces. Until we humble ourselves and repent before our mighty God, we will be stuck in this spiritual stalemate. We need to get on our knees before God and confess our sins. We should not ritualize this confession like so many do, but we should weep and mourn over our sins recognizing how depraved we are before a Holy and Just God.  It is then and only then that God’s Spirit may begin to work within us as Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered believers.

Secondly, there must be a willingness and openness to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit through abiding in Him. An interesting observation from Jesus’ earthly ministry is His repeated emphasis on Him being One with God the Father. For example, in John 14, Jesus teaches His disciples, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves”(Jn 14:11). Once Jesus ascended into Heaven, He poured out His Holy Spirit(John 14:26; 15:26) onto all those who would believe. The person of the Holy Spirit is co-equal with God and Jesus. Unfathomably, God has purposed for His very Spirit to dwell inside each believer. Now, each and every believer has direct access to God through Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit! It is pivotal that we as believers comprehend the importance that the Holy Spirit has for us in our lives.

Jesus teaches in John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”(Jn 15:5). Please listen closely and hear what Jesus is saying here! If we do not abide in Him, we can literally do nothing of spiritual worth! We are fruitless, ineffective and destined for destruction if we do not abide in Him. The way in which we abide in Jesus is through abiding in what Jesus gave us before He ascended, that is His Holy Spirit and His Holy Word! There is no other way to fruitfully live the Christian life. It is through the indwelling Holy Spirit within individual believers where the spiritual body of Christ is now capable of living within and among huge numbers of people at a time. Jesus exemplifies this awe-inspiring truth when He teaches in John 14,“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father(Jn 14:12). Jesus was not referring to the quality of the works, but rather the size and quantity of the works from this multiplying effect from disciple-making. Because Jesus is residing in each believer through His Spirit, He is able to replicate Himself as many times in order to broaden and extend His reach to further His Kingdom.

In conclusion, as followers of Jesus who are called to model the way in which He lived, we must be one with the Holy Spirit. In addition to the Holy Spirit residing within us, we must reside in the Holy Spirit through being immersed within Him. This is primarily accomplished through humbling ourselves and through being one with the Holy Spirit, much like how Jesus and the Father are one(John 14:20).

Stay tuned for next time where I plan on showing how this would practically look in our lives as Christians seeking to live immersed in the Holy Spirit today.

Father, please humble your Church before You. Help us to repent over our sinful ways and return back to our first love, Jesus. Provide us with an openness and willingness to have you move within our hearts anew! I pray that the Holy Spirit will overflow within each believer’s heart and stream into every area of our lives so that we can powerfully transform the lives of those around us! In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen!

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

God’s Common Grace

Despite the fact that we live in a very fractured world infected with sins of all forms, God’s beautiful grace not only lavishes the lives of believers but it is extended towards non-believers as well. I will refer to this form of grace as God’s Common Grace and, as will be explored below, it exemplifies God’s sovereignty and His all-the-time goodness which is, simply put, impossible to contain, even in a world hostile to God.

In Acts 14:17, Paul and Barnabas frustratingly tell the people in Lystra and Derbe:

“Yet He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy

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Suffering, Perseverance (Part 2 of 4), Character, and Hope

Press on; God's Got This!

Press on; God’s Got This!

Throughout today’s blog entry I will continue the series, which I began last week, however this time I will underscore the importance of perseverance in the Christian life.

Perseverance is a widely disseminated term particularly within the confines of Western Culture. Therefore, I feel that a working definition is required for purposes of clarity within this post. Continue reading

Attitude of Gratitude

One of the most consistently explored topics in the Bible surrounds the importance of being thankful as believers in Christ Jesus. Being thankful in all circumstances is by no Thankful in all circumstancesmeans an easy thing to accomplish alone, but I do believe that as Christians with the indwelt Holy Spirit it is not so much a recommendation than it is an act of obedience to the Lord. Throughout this post I will highlight three central reasons explaining why the Christian attitude should be one of gratitude.
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Suffering (Part 1 of 4), Perseverance, Character, and Hope

Romans 5 3-4.jpgToday I feel that the Holy Spirit is guiding me to start a new series about perhaps one of the most ubiquitous topics that we face on a day-to-day basis. Specifically, this topic focuses on both suffering and perseverance and their critical importance in our lives, particularly as Christians living in an increasingly broken world. Throughout this first entry (1 of 4 in series) I will attempt to provide linkages between suffering and perseverance, relying on God’s Word, in order to emphasize their respective levels of significance in the Christian life.

To begin, I will identify what the Scriptures tell us regarding the value that suffering has in the Christian life.

The relevant Scriptural Text here comes from Romans 5:3-5 where it tells us the following:

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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Value of Money in The Christian’s Life

Like with mostly anything, when we as Christians view something as an ultimate, we risk committing the sin of idolatry. As Christians we must ensure that we do not allow anything to obstruct our relationship with God. Most people believe that money in and of itself is evil, but rather it is “…the love of money” which is the real root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). The Lord knows that we require money to live. It is when we relentlessly pursue and desire the accumulation of more and more money, regardless of the costs involved, that we run into problems. This is why it is critically important that we keep Christ above everything else in our lives. Continue reading

Dealing with Anxiety through Contentment in Jesus

Anxiety is an area of my life that I have continually struggled with. Although I have certainly come a long way from my high-school days where my anxiety was at its peak, anxiety loves to try to re-gain prominence in my life at the seemingly most inconvenient of times. What I find particularly intriguing about the Scriptures is its repeated reference to trusting in the Lord rather than being afraid. Jesus Himself spent a good portion of His earthly ministry towards communicating the futility in anxiety which is definitely rooted in fear. Strikingly, fear does not only lead to anxiety but it will also typically result in a paralyzing-fear of pursuing godly risks essential to our faithful obedience to God(See COMPLACENCY HINDERS OUR JOYFUL OBEDIENCE TO GOD).

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Christianity is About a Personal Relationship with God

Christianity-relationship-not-religion.jpgPerhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks towards those entering into a relationship with God through Jesus are derived from religion. From my personal observations, a consistently communicated message towards this topic of discussion is, “I’m not religious, but…”. It appears that being religious is very stigmatized throughout an increasingly pluralistic western society. This is a real tragedy particularly for those living their entire lives afraid of entering into a personal relationship with God under the false impression that religion is somehow a necessary step in doing so. Continue reading