In case you haven't noticed, our world has gone nuts. We are facing drug addiction across the nation as never before.
Leaving a wake of destroyed lives, families and communities. According to the CDC, suicide rates in the U.S. have begun a steady yearly increase and have increased over 35% since 1999. 1 The combined effect of these two issues has been so impacting. They have literally decreased the average life expectancy in America for the last three years, after a steady rise previously. 2 We are facing political division in this country that has reached a frenzy of unrest. Some worrying of another Civil War if it continues progressing. Hate crimes have seen a massive increase in the past several years, from race, to religion to sexual orientation. The Coronavirus has struck the world, changing life as we have known it for months, and much to come. Racial tension and rioting have reached new levels which are unparalleled in our lifetimes. Christians are being viewed more and more as bigoted, villainous, hate groups against society. Many of us are confused, angry, worried about what the future holds, blaming our issues on bad government or on certain political groups, even certain nationalities. Many are wishing we were living in different times, or they're just holding on, waiting for the craziness to pass by.
The First Century Christians who watched Jesus be Crucified and were left to face the crazy, hate-filled, sin-ridden world that killed Him were completely gripped with fear and uncertainty—much like many of us today. They were told to stop speaking about this "Jesus" to the public; stop living as they were living, or they would face a life of consequences (persecution, arrests, torture, death, etc.). These men and women who had been in hiding in fear since Jesus' death had a change of heart after one major event occurred—the Coming of the Holy Spirit to live with them, in them. After this Event, listen to one example of how they prayed in the midst of the turmoil and threats—because this prayer speaks volumes to us today
(Peter and John returning from an arrest and threats from leaders): Acts 4:23-31: Please notice the first thing these disciples recognized, even in the middle of the worst of times: that God was always in complete control; even when the masses turned on Jesus; even in their times of persecution at that moment. God does not like or cause the evils in the world, but in His foreknowledge, He uses every circumstance and decision made by men of this world to bring about His will and plan. So, in all of the political upheaval; in all of the social, health, economic threats; in all the changes towards Christian views in society, we are not helpless victims somehow caught in times and circumstances which have slipped passed God's Sight or Control. Everything is happening exactly as God has allowed, or we would not be right where we are today. Which means we have but one course of action; one clear-cut direction in all of this mess in which we find ourselves today. We have the answer for what to do, how to respond. The disciples didn't ask for deliverance from the crisis; they didn't even primarily ask for protection from it as it happened. They asked for boldness and faith to stand up in the midst of the crisis and continue to represent Him. They recognized and accepted that God was working in the difficult times of their lives, and asked for strength and blessing to serve Him well in His plan. Not just to be taken away; not just be shielded from what He was doing because it was uncomfortable. Purpose and contentment come from a release of worry over what you want or stand to lose. And whole-hearted devoting of yourself to Something or Someone so much bigger and more important to you that you can push ahead with unhindered dedication without worry over the cost. God moved powerfully, as He Promises to do when we pray in His will, and they all pushed forward in a world of chaos and rejection for Him in boldness, but not alone. The key to everything they were able to do after this prayer—this choice to serve Him, came with the filling of the Holy Spirit working through them. And there will absolutely be no other way in which we can have the will, strength, or blessing to do the same in our time, without truly, literally learning how to walk in the power of the spirit as well. He is the key to everything we can have and do for Christ. How many here would truly like to know how to walk closer with the Holy Spirit of God? Would like to experience God in intimacy and power as Scriptures say we can? Honestly? What if you could connect to God through a headset for an entire 24 hours? Hear Him comment. Ask Him questions about the moment? Hear Him breathe on the other end as you worked? Share every moment as you went through the day? It would be exciting, powerful, and comforting in some ways; and in others intimidating, intruding, annoying, tasking. There would be times His Presence would be invaluable and comforting, as you made decisions and faced mean people or hard times. And there would be times you really wished He wasn't there. When you were tempted to do something, you know He wouldn't approve of. When you hope He didn't ask you what you were doing at that moment. He is there 100% of everyday: John 14:15-17; Romans 8:9. I am convinced that we do not live intimate, powerful lives for Jesus today, mainly because we have not learned to walk with and listen to the Spirit of God. Often because we've never been taught, nor felt that we could ever be that close to God. Often because we don't feel we are one who is worthy of that kind of Presence from God. Often... Honestly because we don't want that kind of presence with God. We like control of our own lives. We like our "perceived" privacy to indulge in what we know He might not approve of. Jesus prayed in the Garden before His Death that we would become one with Him and the Father. The Spirit is the One and Only Key to that Oneness. Just as it was for Jesus when He was on this earth as a Human, the entire New Testament is based upon the Holy Spirit as our key to everything God will do in our time, in our lives. He is our way of experiencing God with a true intimacy and of feeling His acceptance in our very soul. He is our Power to resist sin. Our Power to see others and love others beyond self. Our Power to know God's will. To focusing on what's important to Him, now, in this time and moment. Our Advocate in prayer, in how to pray, and our Prayer Warrior even when we don't know how to pray. No wonder Satan wants us to miss everything the Spirit has for us today.
Let's get past all the mystical notions and deep theological ways that one can walk in the Spirit, and just get real. Because I don't think 1st century Christians had lengthy Bible Classes on "How to Be Filled with the Spirit", and they seemed to do pretty well. Here are the Biblical, simple, practical things to consider if you want to be filled with the Spirit of God. 1) We just read several Passages of Scripture which emphatically told us if you are a child of God the Spirit lives in you. We don't acknowledge Him; don't often hear Him, but He does. The first thing I want you to do is stop for a moment and acknowledge—maybe for the first time in a long time—maybe ever—the God of the Universe is literally in you right this moment: 1 Corinthians 3:16. Tell Him you are repentant of the fact that you have not been mindful and reverent of His Presence. Remember, right now, the incredible cost Our King Jesus paid in order for you to have this intimate privilege, and recognize the Potential which goes along with this realization. 2) Understand why He has not been more active or noticeable. The Spirit of God can be a fire that lights, warms and fuels our minds and souls, but, He is Holy, and only wants to be where He is desired. He will only go into areas of your house that you allow. If the door is closed to Him, He will wait outside. In absolute honesty, some of you have let Him into your house, only to leave Him locked in the broom closet since day one—and you wonder why He isn't working in your life. In the middle of a list of sins which Paul is telling the Church of Ephesus to "put away", he gives this admonition: Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19. Paul is letting us know that our sins are like literally throwing water on a flame, putting it out. Not because of the act itself, but because of our mindset and heart when we commit such sins. We show that we are not interested in His Fellowship, or His Thoughts when we focus on sin instead. Do you see how much we are giving up when we not only sin outwardly, but when we are even obsessed with sin in our hearts, even if the world never sees the sin come to fruition? Why do we think we should have the privilege of sensing and hearing the Spirit in us when the Cost to have Him was the Blood of God Himself? When we treat so flippantly and irreverently what God sees as so intimate and costly? You will begin to sense the Spirit of God in you when you desire to know Him more than anything else in your life—when you are willing to passionately pursue Him, as He has Passionately pursued us: Romans 8:5. If you know He is Intimately waiting; if you know that much is at stake, hat much can be gained, is it not worthy of becoming the highest priority in your life? You and I will have as much of the Spirit of God as we truly desire. 3) We must get rid of the selfish, Americanized, fictional view that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us to answer our commands like a slave genie when we see what we think needs to be given or done and we ask with enough faith that we will get it. Even well-meaning Christians often walk in their own wisdom and when they see what they think needs done, or they come across a need for their plans to be blessed, or they are in need of direction on their path, they call on the Spirit whom they act like they are dragging around on a leash to come forth and bless them with power. We have the Spirit of God in us to help us in serving him, we should be in reverent thanks that he is with us. We should be listening intently to His lead because we are here to do His will. He comes to dwell with us to be in Command, not used as a Tool. That is why so many will never see or feel the Spirit working in them. Because they are not ready to live a life of humbleness and servitude. Being led by the Spirit, means being dedicated to God's leading at all times. And remember, He asks nothing of us that He has not first done for you. He gave Himself in complete, Humble Submission first. He lived His entire Life for us first. To be Filled with the Spirit is to be sensitive to His Leading at every step; to look for His Work, His Desire, at every turn; to walk with Him in His will. If that is not your true desire, do not expect to have His Presence Guide you. "You are not getting supernatural help to live your life, you are finally stepping into a supernatural pursuit of His life!" 4) In everything that you and I hopefully will do in order to give ourselves more perfectly to the Spirit, the number one main reason Jesus died was to give us access to Him. The Primary purpose of having the Spirit living not only with us, but in us is to experience a Oneness with Him like none other. Not later, when we get to Heaven, but right now from the day of Salvation. His interest is to [calm your Heart, teach you how He sees other people, show you what life is truly about, show the Father and the Son to you more perfectly, make you realize how you are loved—what Price was paid for you, reveal God's unfathomable Word to you in a New Way, to pray for and care for you in ways you don't even understand, to lift your heart, mind and soul into a place of Oneness with God]. We cannot seek the Spirit because we seek Gifts, Knowledge or Power. How would any of these things be advantageous to God if our hearts were not first sold out for Him and desiring everything He desired? We seek the filling of the Holy Spirit because we want more of Him than we thought possible. And if we get that, nothing else will matter anyway. Then, He will manifest Himself in ways we never dreamed, because we will be working together with Him. 5) We need to truly believe and expect His filling; not based upon our worthiness, but the Worthiness of what He did for us. Not based upon our past experiences, but based upon the Promises of His Scriptures. Understanding that God will not deny what His Precious Son's very Blood Bought for Us at the Cross; understanding that to truly be filled and controlled by the Spirit is God the Father's plan for how we will Honor His Son and do His work through and with Him: Acts 1:8. He wants us to be filled far more earnestly than we even want to be filled.
Remember that it is God's Mind, God's Heart, God's Power, God's Honor and Character at stake. None of these things are ours, but God's most intimate gifts. All of these things are to be coveted, protected, appreciated; used wisely and in pure love. Why would we think the filling of the Spirit and all that He brings would come as a cheap, self-help kit? Simply for our pleasure and benefit? All the Spirit brings is for us to experience True Life and to give True Life to others. Until that is our goal, we will not experience more of Him. Understand the preciousness of the Spirit and His power in us. Understand the price paid to receive Him, and then seek Him with the heart and passion He deserves and you will find Him: Ephesians 3:14-19; Galatians 5:25. If you and I learn to truly Walk With The Spirit of God—whatever comes in this crazy world, whoever leaves or forsakes us, whatever we have to stand against—though we stand alone against the world, He will always be standing with us: Romans 8:31.
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