The Holy Spirit
Bearing spiritual fruit is part of the reward of abundant life. Jesus promised his disciples that he would go to the Father and send them an advocate, a helper, a comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16). Before they received the Spirit, the disciples were struggling. But Jesus told them as he was ascending into heaven, in Acts 1, to wait in Jerusalem for the promise before they went off to preach and make disciples of all nations. He had something for them, something crucial if they were going to succeed not only in the continuation of Jesus’ ministry but in living a fruitful Christian life.
Consider what the disciples were like before they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that they were still arguing amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, and according John, had washed their feet, partially in an attempt to teach them the value of humble service to one another. Then soon after, Judas arrived with the guards to arrest him, at which point the disciples scattered, abandoning him. Even Peter, who swore to go to prison and die with Jesus, denied three times that he even knew him.
But after Pentecost it was an entirely different story. These men were filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for miracles, for preaching, for courage, and for obedience in righteousness. What happened? The Holy Spirit had been poured out and filled them, taking up residence in all believers. Consequently, we are no longer enslaved to sin. The Bible teaches that we once were slaves to sin. This meant we almost had to sin. But now, when we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit on conversion, we do not have to sin. Can we? Yes. Must we? No longer. The extent to which we will be able to abstain from sinning is directly related to the extent to which we choose to walk by the Spirit in us. How much do we choose to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:18)? When Paul directs us to be filled, he is not talking about something we have no control over, such as when the Holy Spirit manifests himself in us by some physical manifestation like “tongues of fire,” or a physical sensation, or a miracle such as healing.
He is talking in that sense about being mindful of the Spirit in us and being mindful of Christ. He is talking about submerging ourselves in this new reality called the “newness of life” that our newly regenerated Spirit loves but our flesh still shuns. He is telling us to take control of our flesh by submitting our minds to God and his Spirit inside of us. He is calling on us to acknowledge the amazing power to change and obey God, loving our enemies, forgiving those who’ve hurt us, living out the truth and righteousness of Christ, and obeying everything he commands. Ask God to help you to be full of the Spirit at all times.
Abundance of Life
What now? What was the original intent of I AM?
Taking the reality of our creation and assignment and applying the grace of God and the Spirit of God to actually do it, how then shall we live? What does it mean to die to self and to live abundant life?
Over the course of your life, in your sinful fallen state, you have been at the mercy of your fleshly impulses and the forces that shaped you. By “forces” I mean parents, culture, experiences, characteristics, and things like that. Along with that, you have made a trillion choices in your life that have shaped you into the self that you are today. Even if you have been saved, born again, you are still impacted by the past. The secret that most people refuse to believe is that the past, the old self, can be completely let go of, or more precisely, killed. Jesus said we had to die in order to live. He said we had to take up our cross daily. He said we had to lose our life to find it.
This is a great mystery in some ways, but in other and more practical ways it is quite simple. You have an old way of being which included your old way of thinking and interpreting the world. Christ would like you to have a new way of thinking about the world and yourself in it. This is the life that he wants for you. If you have put your faith in him for salvation, you are saying that you believe that his way of seeing things is the right way, that he truly existed, died on the cross (because it was necessary), rose from the dead, and is coming back again. If you believe this, your sins are atoned for and you are going to heaven. But that doesn’t mean that you will necessarily become very different in this life. In heaven, it will be easy to change, and you will in an instant. But if you think you should wait until then to become like Christ, then you don’t get it at all. You can change starting now. Eternal life starts now. Abundant life starts now.
Choose it. Ask God to help you choose it. Thank him when you have made the choice. But do your part. Believe you can change, and then do it. How do you see the world now? Go back to the beginning of this message and re-read it. If it is not your default worldview, make it so. It is biblical. Choose life. Choose to be a small “i am,” a creator in the image of the Creator who is your Father in heaven. Choose to be courageous. Choose to live for God, for good, for others, for you, and not for the opinions of others (which is different than living for others). Inventory your beliefs about the world. If they don’t match the Word of God, change them. Inventory your beliefs about yourself. If they don’t match the Word of God, change them. Have courage, and do it.
It is that simple. How you relate to the world is based on what your view of it is. Change that, change yourself. We’ll come back to this concept again and again over the course of this blog. Next, we’ll learn to understand what we can about how we are called to relate to others, and how the way we relate can lead to a deeper and higher quality experience of the abundant life that is its own reward.