“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
Revival is an interesting phenomenon. Much like the Lord’s Supper, it is a time in our lives when we stop and evaluate where we stand with Christ. For some, it will be a time of reflection about our walk with Him. For others, it will be a time to check their hearts to see if they walk in the faith.
This time of reflection may sound like an ominous time of introspection, but for true Christians, it is really a boost of confidence. You see, a true Christian walks with Christ constantly and habitually. In fact, Christ lives in and with us 24/7. How and why does He choose to have such a close relationship with us? Let’s look and see.
The Final Exam
In 2016, evangelist Ken Freeman came to our church. He gave us a test in order for us to examine our lives to see if we were “in the faith,” based on 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test.” Here is what Ken called, “The Final.”
- The Holy Spirit initiates salvation. God is always working to move us to a place of awareness where we are aware of our need for Him. We don’t decide on our own that we are going to be saved. That would be like treading water in the middle of the ocean and deciding that we are now on dry land, or that a boat is coming by at our command to rescue us. We must realize that we are without God and without hope, and that we need a Savior, someone to rescue us. That Someone is Jesus!
- You must realize that you are lost, without a Savior, spiritually ruined (dead), and totally unable to help yourself. The apostle Paul describes us as “dead in our sins.” Actually, this is a good thing. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He “killed” every human being to sin. The punishment for sin was death, and we still take part in that death physically, but spiritually we are now dead to sin. What we cannot do is become alive on our own; we need the breath of God, His Spirit, to come into us and make us live! Let’s not worry about the past and what we did while we were dead; let’s focus on becoming alive in Christ.
- You’ll never know you need God until He makes you aware of your need. We need saving faith–trusting Him enough to surrender everything to Him. We have an enemy. His name is Satan. He is a liar and a deceiver. Currently, he has much of this world deceived into believing that there is no God (or that there is no need for God in their lives), or that there is no way to know God. The truth is that through Jesus Christ, we can know God as Father: Personally, intimately, and eternally! Faith is simply believing Jesus Christ and His invitation to come to Him and find rest for our souls. He also told us that if we trust Him enough to obey Him (His biggest command is to love our neighbor) that He–and His Father–would come and live in us, making us alive spiritually. Think of it: God the Father and God the Son coming to live in you as the Holy Spirit! You would be born again spiritually, right with God, and in communion with Him (them) forever!
- There is no salvation without repentance; it calls for a change of mind, direction and purpose. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. Salvation happens when the Spirit of Christ comes and takes up residence in you. “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17. Once the Spirit of Christ enters you, you will begin to have a change of mind, direction and purpose, which is what repentance is. We can’t have Christ without repentance, nor can we have repentance without Christ. We give Him our lives and He comes in and empowers us to live righteously. It really is that simple!
- These truths are evident in your life: Love, joy and peace. You understand that you are Not Guilty, Forgiven, having a peace that passes all understanding. Forever! When the Spirit comes into you and makes you alive to God, we experience His love, joy and peace. The Father and the Son love us, and that love radiates within us, as does their joy and peace. In a world filled with hopelessness and despair, pain and suffering, war and violence, we can retreat to the One within us and experience that love, joy and peace. Oh, and one other thing: Since the Spirit is eternal and He lives in our hearts, we are now eternal. Though we will die physically, we will continue to live with Christ forever in His kingdom.
This “final” is something that every person takes at some point in their lives. The Father is always at work around us. He loves us and wants a personal relationship with each of us that is ongoing, and He invites us to join Him in His work of sharing His love with everyone. Exciting, right?!
Acts 2:38 ends with, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What does that gift look like? How does He mesh with our lives? Let’s dive into the Scriptures and see!
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Relationship. Salvation IS relationship. Yes, it’s about having our sins forgiven; yes, it’s about missing hell and gaining heaven. But, if heaven is where God lives, and God lives inside you, then heaven is within you! Your eternal life has already begun! The whole reason Jesus came was to re-establish the relationship between Himself and mankind. HE took that which was preventing us from knowing Him and got rid of it: sin. You ask, “How does God come to live inside us?” NOW we’re getting somewhere.
When a person comes to Christ the Holy Spirit comes to make His home in him! When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He came to live in YOU. You may have heard it as Him living in your heart (the seat of our psyche and emotions). We are actually accepting His invitation for us to live in His heart! Here is the transaction:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Eph. 1:13-14
There is NO WAY to separate Savior from Lord; it is because He IS LORD that He can be Your Savior! As we delve into Scripture and look at this wondrous gift of the Holy Spirit, keep in mind that His goal is to transform you on the inside into someone who is just like Jesus. He wants us to learn to be loving, peaceful, joyful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful and have perfect self-control. He wants us to trust Him fully and immediately (which comes from practice and experience), and to be a Fully Formed Follower of Christ.
Quick Side-Note: Many in Thessalonica listened to Paul and received the message of Christ, but it was the Bereans who were called nobler because “they examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11. I highly recommend that you look EVERY Scripture up in your own Bible and make sure that what I say is according to His Word. Go ahead and highlight them; write related Scriptures out to the side. This procedure is called “stringing pearls of wisdom.”
We begin with an if/then statement of Jesus, “Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23. IF we love Him, THEN we will OBEY Him. IF we obey Him, THEN His Father (God) and He will come and live in us. How? Through the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is how we describe God. He is not just God, but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He is Three-in-One. That’s about as good an explanation as you can get. If He were explainable, then He wouldn’t be a very big God. “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me [Jesus].” John 15:26. The One who comes is the Spirit of Truth.
Jesus was very specific about the Advocate. Look at John 16:7-15.
Verse 7: “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is, as Andy Stanley calls it, a Brand New thing. Before the cross, all believers went to the temple to meet with God Who resided in the Holy of Holies, an inner room with a curtain that was 30’x30′ and was six inches thick. But when Jesus died on the cross–well, read it for yourself:
“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46.
What was THAT all about? Until that moment, only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies and meet with God–and then only once a year. Now, EVERYONE has access to God. BUT, it wasn’t so much us having access to God at the temple, but of God now having access to US! When you trusted Christ and He came to live in you, you became a mobile temple! Now you know the significance of the pillar of fire in the desert that led the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21-22) and the tongues of fire that came to rest on the disciples in Acts 2:1-4,
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Those tongues of fire were like the dove that came from heaven and rested on Jesus when He was baptized. God the Father, because of His Son, Jesus, came to them in the Person of the Holy Spirit from His heavenly temple to dwell in them. Thus, they became the first “living temples.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” It doesn’t get any plainer than that.
Verse 8: “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” John 16:8-11
These verses give us a picture of all that Jesus did on the cross:
- He will now convict all people personally through His Spirit.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” Romans 1:18-19.
- He, through the Spirit, intercedes for us.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27
- He sealed Satan’s fate.
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10.
Verse 12: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”
There is only so much information that we can receive at one time through our senses. Have you ever gone to an event where you had sensory overload? The disciples needed the Holy Spirit inside to help them digest what Christ was saying. All of His insight came with His Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).
Verse 13: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
With the Holy Spirit inside, He can reveal truth on a much more personal level. This verse also tells us that the Holy Spirit has direct and complete access to Jesus Himself. 1 Corinthians 2:10-15 explains it:
“But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
It is His mind with which we ought to think. Easy to say; hard to do.
Verse 14: “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”
This verse assures us that it IS Jesus that we are hearing.
Verse 15: “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
Another Trinity verse. Father = Son = Spirit. As we can see, Jesus was coming back to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Pretty awesome, huh?
The Initial Work of the Holy Spirit
When we trust in Christ to be our Lord and Savior, responding to His Spirit, confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believing (trusting in and relying on His power) that God raised Him from the dead, the Holy Spirit immediately does certain things:
- He brings us from death to life (Ephesians 2:1, 5).
- He picks us up and puts a new song in our mouths (Ps.40:1-3).
- He cleans us up (Titus 3:5).
- He puts a robe and sandals on us, and the ring of sonship on our fingers (Luke 15:22).
- He throws a party! (Luke 15:10, 23-24).
- He signs adoption papers (Ephesians 1:5).
- He seats us with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
When we look closely at the five realities of salvation (see chapter 1), we find that all but one are taken care of by the Holy Spirit. HE initiates the process, HE makes us aware of our sin and separation from God, HE gives us the faith to believe, and HE gives us love, joy, and peace as He comes to live in our hearts.
Let’s look at what He does for us upon salvation more closely:
- He brings us from death to life. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1 and 5, “As for you, you were dead in your transgression and sins,” and “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” We have no more to do with it than we did when we were created physically (did you choose when and where you were to be born and to whom? Of course not). And since He quickened us, He will keep us in Himself. Colossians 3:1 and 3 tell us that we have been raised with Christ, and (even though we are called to die to ourselves daily) our life is now hidden with Christ in God.
- He picks us up and puts a new song in our mouths. King David sang,
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3
- He cleans us up. Okay, so we were in the slimy pit and were covered with mud and mire. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is a beautiful picture of the salvation process because it not only demonstrates our dying to this life and being raised to walk in newness of life (Col. 2:12), but it is also a picture of us being born again, washed in the blood and being cleansed from all unrighteousness (John 3:3, 1 Cor. 6:11, 1 John 1:9, Rev. 7:14).
- He puts a robe and sandals on us, and the ring of sonship on our fingers. In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus said,
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22
I know we get white robes,
“The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” Revelation 19:14.
The ring and sandals, though, I cannot verify in Scripture. I DO know that we all are raised to the level of sonship, which is stated in Galatians 3:28-29,
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Notice that we are now heirs, also. It just keeps getting better and better!
- He throws a party!
““Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-23.
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10.
- He signs adoption papers.
“He predestined [set it up beforehand] us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Ephesians 1:5.
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15.
According to Roman law, a father could disown a natural-born son, but once adoption papers are signed, the law protected the rights of the adopted son. God’s own word protects us from ever being disowned! Also, these papers are sealed with and by the Holy Spirit,
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22,
and again in Ephesians 1:13-14,
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
- He seats us with Him in heavenly places.
Ephesians 2:6 says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” How we can be two places at once, I don’t know, but I know it’s true! There is so much about the heavenly world that I don’t know. And to think that this world is a pale comparison to the heavenly kingdom is beyond comprehension! But, here is what I DO know:
“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Hebrews 8:5
“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—(Isaiah 64:4) but God has revealed it [in bits and pieces] to us by his Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:9-10
Salvation by works? I think not! The law (salvation by works) brings death. Only faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins brings life. Romans 5:1, 17-21
Right up front let’s get something straight: God does not ever accuse us, especially in general terms, such as, “you’ll never be good enough, or pretty enough, or skinny enough, or do enough, or learn enough, etc.” God does convict us on a specific point in our lives, but He always does it in a loving manner.
One of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is gentleness. God IS gentleness. Philippians 3:15 lets us know that God Himself will make things clear to us.
But what does His voice sound like? How do we recognize it when He is speaking to us?
Let’s look at an Old Testament passage that describes some of the ways of how we hear Him speak to us. Isaiah 30:20-21,
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Verse 20 tells us that the Lord many times uses hard things in our lives to teach us that this life is part of an old covenant that is dying. We are now part of a new covenant that will last forever. We have Him inside; now we just need to learn to hear His voice and see His hand. Through the Spirit we can see how God uses the difficult times to teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us so that we, His people, may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We often need to have our insulation stripped away before we can hear His voice and see His hand at work. In many cases, we have become callused, or desensitized, to right and wrong. He must remove the calluses, which is a painful experience–and is usually through painful experiences!
Verse 21 tells us that the voice of the Spirit is just behind us. I hear Him as if He is looking over my shoulder. It’s not audible, but it is every bit as loud. Sometimes He reminds me of Scriptures; sometimes He reminds me of teachings I’ve heard. Other times it’s a command–or a push–to go and do, or to stop, or even flee. You and He will encounter all kinds of situations as you walk together through this life.
I will say this: The more you read and study God’s Word, the more handles He has to speak to us.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
There is one more Old Testament passage that describes God’s voice. It is in 1 Kings 19:11-13.
“The LORD said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’”
What does the voice of God sound like? To Elijah, it was a gentle whisper. What was the question God asked Elijah? “What are you doing here?” God already knew, but wanted Elijah to realize and check his motives. In the next verses, God reassured Elijah and encouraged him, and then He gave him very specific instructions on what to do next. Now, THAT’S God talkin’!
Two Natures in One Body
Romans 8 is the premier chapter on the Holy Spirit. It begins with a conclusion of a discussion of the topic on dual natures. Whereas we have a sin nature wrapped up in our flesh, we also, as Believers, have a new nature, one that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 1-2: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation (or, “Therefore, NOW NO CONDEMNATION!”) for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Paul starts the chapter out telling us that even though we have this fight inside, we don’t have to worry about being rejected by God. The Holy Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. For this freedom we are most grateful! We could even say, “NOW, NO DISAPPOINTMENT!”
Vs. 3-4: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us [through Him], who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
Here is the reason for the cross. By nailing our sin with Him on the cross and taking it to the grave, we now can live a resurrected life with His Spirit inside us! Colossians 1:27 explains it best, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Vs. 5-6: “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;”
Before we start thinking, “In that case, I can now sin all I want and not be held accountable,” we must remember that sin comes with physical consequences as well as spiritual ones. This is actually a mindset. It’s how we think, which is a really good clue as to whether we’re actually saved or not. We also belong to Christ now and can expect His discipline, as stated in Hebrews 12:4-8,
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ (Proverbs 3:11-12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”
Another test of salvation is whether or not we get disciplined by Jesus. Do we ever feel conviction or guilt because of our sin? His conviction is ALWAYS specific and encouraging. As we grow, His new nature within us begins to override our old nature and we begin to desire what He desires and to think like He thinks. It’s not long before we prefer His company to the world. We begin to think like Him instead of like a sinful person, much like a married person lets go of thinking like a single person when he gets married. We experience His peace and His presence like never before, which gives us great joy and a love for God and our fellow Christians, and compassion for the lost on an ever-increasing scale.
Vs. 7-8 “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”
We cannot expect unbelievers to think and act like Christians. They have no Holy Spirit within them, therefore, they have no new nature. They simply cannot do it for any prolonged period. They may pretend for a while, but their sinful nature will eventually “tell” on them. They are enemies of the cross and cannot please God, nor do they want to, until they are willing to let go and be cleansed of their sin.
Vs. 9-11: “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”
This life that Christ gives to us is a continuous spring that flows from His throne right into our hearts. Even as Adam and Eve-before the Fall-were continuously being renewed by the Spirit of God, our inner persons are being renewed daily. Our bodies WILL die, and with them, the sin nature, but the real “us” will simply change residences. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says it best,
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Vs. 12-13: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,”
Anytime we read the word, “therefore,” look to see what it is “there for.” Paul is telling us that because of the life-giving Spirit within us, we have an obligation to live according to His Spirit, with His Spirit. He is our Counselor now (John 14:17).
Vs. 14: “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
The Spirit within us is Who makes us children of God. He is our deposit and guarantee of what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5:5 says, “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
Vs. 15: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
We have been adopted by God! And, according to Roman law at the time, once adopted always adopted. “Abba” is the Hebrew equivalent of “Daddy,” as spoken by a small child. Wow! Also, where sin enslaves us, His Spirit frees us to walk in forgiveness and redemption. This freedom gives us the opportunity and the ability to know God. As we walk with Him (through the Spirit) we become like Him. Look at 2 Corinthians 3:15-18,
“Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Vs. 16: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
This verse is KEY to our confidence in our salvation and, indeed, is our verification of salvation. “Examine yourselves.” 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us to do it every time we take the Lord’s Supper. It keeps us on track with Him.
Vs. 17: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
There are two If-Then statements made in this verse:
- IF we are children, THEN we are heirs to God and co-heirs with Christ.
- IF we share in His sufferings, THEN we will also share in His glory.
John 17:24 tells us, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”
These two statements are not designed to make us doubt, but to build our confidence in days to come. We may not experience the trials in present-day America that Paul and the early Christians endured, but we are all asked to suffer in other ways, such as to put aside worldly beliefs and practices, to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, to insist on Christ’s ways in our lives instead of our families’ ways, to endure financial hardship and other relational hardships because of the name of Christ, and many other ways. We have an inheritance that is out of this world! As Paul puts it in Philippians 3:20,
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
And as it says in 1 Peter 1:3-4,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,”
All of this and to see Christ’s glory unhindered–Wow!
Vs. 18-25: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
All creation was placed under the curse. In this way, all creation—and so with man—could be redeemed by one Man, Jesus. Creation awaits His Second Coming when He will return His creation to its original glory, and so do we! See Matthew 19:28 and Acts 3:21.
Vs. 26-27: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
With the Spirit, we create something new for the Father: a prayer that is unique in that it is fashioned by us and the Spirit. We pray according to the prompting of our hearts, and, in a very real sense, the Spirit delivers our message to God for us, reformatted and in alignment with the Father’s will. The Person of God Who lives within us, the Holy Spirit, intercedes on our behalf with the Person of God Who sits on the throne of heaven, God the Father. Not only that, but Jesus Himself is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). We have the ear of the King of the Universe! And all of His prayers are according to the will of God and His Master Plan.
Vs. 28-30: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
Speaking of His plan, it has been His plan all along to redeem us. And He loves us. There are several key truths in this passage:
- God is in control of ALL things.
- He wants good things for His children.
- It has been His plan all along (Titus 1:2).
- We are being conformed to the image of Jesus!
- Jesus was the first-born of all Christians (we who will be resurrected from the dead).
- He planned us, called us, justified us (“just as if I’d never sinned”), and He has glorified us: we are being made into the image of His Son. 1 John 4:17 tells us that love is being made complete in us because we are like Him. As stated before, 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Verses 31-39 sum up Paul’s teaching on the Holy Spirit’s job in our lives.
Vs. 31-34: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
If God would send His Son to die, rise again, and ascend so that His Spirit could live inside of us, who-including Satan- can be (or stand) against us? Even to die physically does not separate us from Christ, but actually propels us into His very presence! It doesn’t get any better than that!
Consider this: For if there was glory in what worked to declare people guilty, how much more must the glory abound in what works to declare people innocent! 10 In fact, by comparison with this greater glory, what was made glorious before has no glory now. 2 Corinthians 3:9-10
What Jesus Christ has done for us is in accordance to God’s overarching plan. He showed us what we deserved (we were guilty) and then gave us what we needed (grace and salvation). He is still doing it today!
Vs. 35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
These verses hold these two truths:
- No one can separate us from Christ. Once His, always His. John 10:27-30 says it this way,
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30
It’s a double-fisted grip. We can’t even wiggle out!
- We are more than conquerors through Christ! What a confirmation of our salvation! What security, what comfort, what peace! What JOY! What can we do but love Him and praise Him for His great love and mighty acts–on our behalf! Thank You, Jesus!!!
A Practical Look
Okay, so we have the Holy Spirit inside us. How can He help us live our lives?
We need to move Him to the forefront of our minds. We must learn to be consciously aware of Him all the time, and to have a running dialogue with Him. We also need to remember that we are now dead to our old life and have Christ living through us. Galatians 2:20 says,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The word “Faith” is the measure of how much we trust the Lord. We trust when we act upon what He has said.
John 1 speaks of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (Jesus). The Word is the action of God by speaking, as in when He created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1-26). It is this same Jesus that lives in our hearts through the Person of the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:3 expounds this thought. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
His divine power came with and through His Spirit, Who is the Third Person of the Trinity. We get ALL of Him upon salvation, and He is everything we need for life and godliness, and will continue to work in us, guiding us home until Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). We have this promise: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).”
What does it mean “for life and godliness?” It means that He gives us everything we need to live a godly life, just like Jesus. As it says in Titus 2:11-14,
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
How, then, shall we live?
If our relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit is all-important, then it makes sense that talking to Him is the best way to communicate. It’s called “Prayer.” When a person prays, it is just like talking to a person on the phone. We know the person is there, but not where we can see him. Praying is how you got saved in the first place. Are Christians expected to pray? Take a look:
“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:36
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Galatians 6:18
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 1 Peter 4:7
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Jude 20
And these are just the New Testament verses!
For instance, 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us that God said, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” God wants a personal, ongoing conversation with you! Remember the verse in Isaiah 30:21 that says, “And you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
He is always with us. Consciously consider Him in everything you think and do. Let’s look at 1 Cor. 6:15-17.
“Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which belongs to Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you know that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the Scriptures say, “The two are united into one.” But the person who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
We are one spirit with the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. That is the POINT of Salvation.
So, how are we to live? We must learn to listen and obey. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:11-16.
“For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames. Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you [collectively as the church]?”
We lay our foundation: Our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling (presence) of the Holy Spirit. We then have a choice between two kinds of works: Gold, silver, and jewels or wood, hay and straw. One kind is temporary (wood, hay and straw); the other is eternal (gold, silver, jewels). What are these works? I believe that they are obedience and disobedience. Since we have no spiritual insight of our own (spiritually bankrupt, Matthew 5:3, and Revelation 3:17, which also calls us wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked spiritually, and without Christ), we are completely dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance, for instruction, for timing, and for understanding. Basically, we live our lives in response to His leadership in our lives. When we do: Gold, silver and jewels. When we don’t: Wood, hay and straw.
You may ask, “Why didn’t God remove my sinful nature when He saved me?” Actually, that part of our salvation is coming. It is called, “Glorification.” It happens when we die, because our sin nature is wrapped up in our flesh. As soon as we shed it, then we are glorified! Think about it: If God called us to heaven when we are saved, then how would anyone else ever hear the Gospel? Thus, we have a mission! We are to be His witnesses to the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:20-21). In the process of living, though, we must learn to “kill” the “old man” inside of each of us. Jesus referred to it as denying our selves daily, taking up our cross and following Him (Luke 9:23). Paul called it being crucified with Christ. Galatians 2:20 (which we looked at earlier, but bears repeating) says,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Dying to self is a process called “Sanctification [learning to be set apart for Christ as Christ’s]” and is part of becoming like Christ. Important stuff.
We must learn to rely on His wisdom and power. If we try to do it in our own strength, we will just mess it up. We don’t have a total picture of the situation, nor do we know the timing and scope of all that the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish. Let’s face it: our power is tainted. Anything we try to do for God has our sin nature all over it. Paul knew his dependence on the Holy Spirit as he stated in Colossians 1:28-29,
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”
We know that we talk to God through prayer–but how does God talk to us? The best verse to explain this process is Hebrews 4:12-13, but I included verses 14-16 to balance the harsh reality of verse 13.
12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
14 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
The word for sword is the same word from which we get “scalpel.” The Lord uses His Word to perform spiritual surgery on us. His Word is alive because He is Ever-Present, thus He is always speaking. So, every time we open His Word, we hear Him speaking those words to the writer of whatever book we are reading and to us as we read that book! Think about it: He is speaking those same words to us, which is why the Bible is so relevant, applicable, and alive! As we read, He may highlight whatever message He wants us to learn; He may have us read a verse or passage and then call it to remembrance sometime in the future as it applies to a certain circumstance; He sometimes reveals truth as a friend shares what God is saying to him. The Bible is God’s revealed Word for mankind–TODAY!
Read it. Learn it. Know it. In the process, we’ll get to know the King of the universe!
Abiding In the Vine
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [the Greek word also means “cleans”] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain [abide] in me, and I will remain [abide] in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain [abide] in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain [abide] in me.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains [abides] in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain [abide] in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:1-6
Interesting word, “Abide.” In the Greek, “meno” [abide] means, “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy). Synonyms are: continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (wait for).
Dictionary.com gives eight definitions for “abide.” Let’s look at each one and see how they can apply to this passage.
- To remain; continue; stay.
This definition is the one that the New International Version chose. It denotes permanency.
- To have one’s abode; dwell; reside.
Here again, a permanent setting. When Jesus comes to live in us, He abides in us. He is asking us to abide in Him. A contradiction? No, just on a different plane. Him coming to live in us is foundational. It sets up the ability for us to live with Him in our own heads (so to speak).
- To continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.; to last.
Our relationship lasts forever, so what Jesus is asking us to do is, “Start now!”
- To put up with; tolerate; stand.
Abiding in Christ is like any other relationship in that it is not always pleasant. The difference is that he is NEVER WRONG. But He IS perfectly loving, patient, kind, and doesn’t keep records of our wrongs.
- To endure, sustain, or withstand.
It is in our abiding in Christ that we are able to withstand any and all demonic onslaughts. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:13 that “after you have done everything, to stand.”
- To wait for; await.
We abide in Him by abiding [awaiting] His coming. Nice word play, yes?
- To accept without opposition or question.
Abiding in Christ is daily surrendering to His Lordship over us. We simply have nothing to bring to the table.
- To pay the price or penalty of; suffer for.
Abiding in Christ is about suffering. Listen to Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.”
There is a permanence that permeates every definition. When Christ used the “if/then” application, we need to understand that it’s not that we can be lost again, but that He is emphasizing the eternal nature of our relationship. It goes something like this, “You are connected to Me, so you WILL bear fruit. I take care of My own. If you are not Mine, then you would be nothing more than a dead stick, good for nothing but to be burned for kindling.”
John 15:7-8 tells us what happens when we are connected to the Vine:
“If you remain [abide] in me and my words remain [abide] in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
The fruit might be construed as good works, but Galatians 5:22-23 tells us different, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The spiritual fruit to which Jesus is referring is the character that He wants to grow in us as we receive nourishment from the vine.
Just remember the part of Romans 8:29 that tells us the we are being conformed to the likeness (image) of Jesus. HE is doing this work in us!
What is our job? To fix our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2-3. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Spending time with the Lord is a continuous event. Even when we are not consciously aware of His presence and influence, He IS there whispering these sweet words, “You are my child; I love you with an everlasting love.”
King David was a man after God’s own heart. Listen to his daily desire:
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4
Now, THAT’S abiding!
Higher Up, Further In
In the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Aslan [a lion, representative of Jesus] is constantly encouraging the children to keep following Him deeper into His land (heaven) with, “Higher up and further in!” This phrase helps me capture the true nature of my new nature, which is eternal. If I am, indeed, “transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor. 3:18),” then my glory (which is actually His glory) will increase forever.
The Apostle Paul opened an amazing window into our future in 1 Thessalonians 4:51-58,
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imper-ishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Colossians 1:28 says, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”
Paraphrased, it says, “I am determined, with God using any teaching tool He wants, to one day stand before Him mature and complete in Christ, bringing along everyone around me.”
I know that my labor is NOT in vain, because it is Him working in me with “all His energy, which so powerfully works in me (verse 29).” He is our DYNAMO, our power source.
A prayer that I have been praying for years is this, ”Lord, I give all I know of myself to all I know of You.”
It makes me run a self-diagnostic every morning. What I find is that I see more and more of my sinfulness and more and more of His glory. I can relate with Paul when early in his ministry he referred to himself as the least of the apostles (1 Cor. 15:9), then in the middle of his ministry he referred to himself as the least of God’s people (Eph. 3:8), and then at the end of his ministry he called himself the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:16). He had found the true meaning behind John 3:30, “He must increase; I must decrease.”
May this prayer become part of your morning devotional as you spend time with Him in the Spirit and the Word. May “my God…meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”