One of the main reasons that Christians struggle with sin are legalistic in our walk. We have no spiritual direction and have no power of God in our Christian lives today because we either do not understand what an important and precious Gift we have in the Holy Spirit, or we are simply not walking in the Spirit.
New Testament Scriptures teach emphatically that living a Christian life is literally centered around, and dependent upon, the work of the Spirit in our lives. So, doesn't it make perfect sense that one of Satan's biggest goals would be to keep us from understanding and walking in that Power and Knowledge? There are many things to discover and many ways to grow in the Spirit. But today, I would like for us to focus on one or two things only. These things being the foundation of life in the Spirit, that most seem to be missing today.
Listen closely to a seemingly unrelated story, and you will see the tie-in shortly: when Jesus appeared to the First Century Jews, an unbelievable multitude had come to Him in a mass euphoria: John 12:17-19: at the time of Passover, which is the time of Jesus' historical crucifixion, ancient writings give us an idea of the size of the crowd that gathered in Jerusalem (see William Barclay). Two and a half to three million people were gathered, and many of these people were in a mob hysteria to make Jesus the King: John 12:12-13; John 6:15. We all know the sad ending just a week later—this same group of people gathered to scream, "Crucify Him!" And He died with only a couple of people who even had the courage to show up at the foot of the cross. What happened to make these people change so radically? We have studied before—these people were looking for something from Christ they did not receive: a Conquering King. And when He was not what they wanted, they questioned Him, turned on Him, and crucified Him. What I want us to clearly see today, is we are doing the same thing to the Precious Holy Spirit in us. We have certain expectations of the Spirit in our lives today, and these expectations often involve trying to force Him to do things we feel need to be done, when we need them, and how we want them. And whether Biblical or not, when these things aren't done, we give up on the Spirit working in our lives. We stop pursuing Him, stop having faith in Him; we go back to our lives as they were before—worldly. Honestly, when was the last time you literally, truly, expectantly relied on the Spirit to speak, guide, or move through you?
If you are not purposefully walking in, and relying on, the Spirit of God, then you are purposefully walking in your own knowledge and power: Romans 8:5-8. Being filled by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit is a completely different thing from being indwelt by the Spirit. You are not led and controlled by the Spirit simply because you are saved. It requires a choice. Every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God when you accept Christ as your Savior and King: 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:9. So first realize this: the Privilege of having His Spirit literally dwell in you and I is an unbelievable act of intimacy and love from a Holy God, which says so much about Him, and His Character. Also realize, this intimacy cost Jesus Christ everything. The OT Saints did not have the Spirit literally dwelling within them—sharing every moment, every emotion, every sin. We had to become clean vessels first: John 7:38-39. But here is where we miss everything as a Christian: we have this constant indwelling of the God of the Universe inside of us, but we do not have the filling of that Spirit which simply means He is not being allowed to work and love through you. The Holy Spirit is like: a kind Guest that will only go where invited in your home. [So honestly, most leave Him locked in the Foyer or closet]. He is like the Cell Phone you won't turn on. He is like a huge M1 Abrham Tank you walk beside instead of riding in, with protection and power. The filling of the Spirit only happens to the degree that you surrender yourself to Him .It is not, "How much of the Spirit do you have?"—You have all of Him since Salvation—it is, "How much of you does the Spirit have?" The Filling of the Spirit can come and go, even though He is with us, based upon your choice to surrender all of yourself to Him. So you can have Him with you, yet, never have a single moment that you are filled and walking in His wisdom, power and love: Ephesians 5:17-18. Does that verse not reflect a voluntary choice? An action on our part? Scriptures say the disciples were all filled by the Spirit: Acts 2:4. Two chapters later, Peter was again filled: Acts 4:8.
Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 say we can grieve and quench the Spirit in our lives (push Him out; put Him back in the broom closet). You make a conscious choice to walk in control of the Spirit, or of self: Galatians 5:16-17, 25. Which do you walk in? If you do not make a conscious, surrendered choice to walk in the Spirit, that is a sure sign of how you are walking.
The most beautiful and perfect illustration I have seen in Scriptures about being filled with the Spirit, actually comes from the OT. When the priests in Moses' time, go twice a day into the Tabernacle of God, to light the Menorah. This light is fueled by the purest of olive oils, which represents the Spirit of God, always. The wicks used in each of the seven lamps, was made from the worn out, tattered strips of the priests' own garments—tattered, torn, worn out, useless strips—became the central piece used for bringing light when they were totally saturated by the Oil/Spirit. Otherwise they were useless. With no Oil (No Spirit), the wick will not light. Or it will simply burn up instantly (Unsaved). With a wick that is Steel (hard, strong, shiny), it will not let the Oil saturate it (Like self-controlled, unbending life)—the wick will not light. All that toughness and strength actually becomes the downfall. Only when our weak, torn, tattered lives are completely surrendered and saturated, can we burn powerfully for Christ. We have to be purposefully, surrendered and saturated by the Spirit.
Here is the next big thing that we really need to grasp in being Filled by the Spirit. Being filled, not just indwelt, is the only key to being able to love, and forgive, and have passion for others; the only way to feel the love and acceptance of Christ; the only way to truly worship in an intimate, humble way; the only way to have supernatural gifts in your life such as direction, healing, miracles. Otherwise, we are living, working, and worshiping in our own power and heart—unacceptable and ineffective. Not only do we have these supernatural gifts, the Spirit will work through us to use the talents and skills He's given us naturally to enhance them in a supernatural capacity beyond our reach—in preaching, teaching, giving, yes—but also in so many more ways than just church related serving. In the OT and the NT, we see examples of people using their natural abilities in many fields to do things in supernaturally gifted ways for God. From perfumers, metal workers, incense makers, blacksmiths, seamsters and seamstresses, warriors, managers, carpenters, poets, writers, etc. This is where we all need to begin to ask the Spirit to use us in our own special way to Glorify Christ [Mechanics, carpenters, computers, drafters, writers, cooks, artists, warriors, teachers, organizers, supervisors, counselors, janitors. Use what you have, where you are to Glorify God on your job, at home, at church, and in public. He will show you ways to serve God you've never known. He will gift you in ways beyond your ability. Just be saturated.
But here is the last, and most important thing that I would like for us to consider about being Filled and used by the Spirit: we so often think about speaking in tongues, healing, and prophesying, even teaching and preaching and serving, we so often ask God for wisdom or direction and want a reply. We so often covet these things in our lives—strive for them, make them signs of how Holy we are in Christ—none of these things needs to be our focus. None of these things will ever be given by the Spirit until we first surrender to the Spirit for the single-solitary reason of knowing God more, and having His heart, and His love first. Fruits over gifts! Then all of the gifts, natural or supernatural, will simply be a needed result of the love and passion we have to serve God and others. They will be the available tools, when they are needed for the right reasons. Not proof of our Holiness, or power to be wasted on selfish or immature motives. Then we will be treating the Spirit as God in us to be listened to instead of commanded. To be followed instead of led. To be His helper, instead of a Him being yours. The real struggle, the real need for God's power, the real miracle is in truly making us see this harsh world with God's love, even when we are treated poorly; in truly wanting to live sinless lives for Him; in truly trying to live lives that are surrendered to Him in everything we do, rather than pursuing our own way. Focus on just letting the Spirit draw you intimately closer to Him—nothing else—and see how your love for others changes. See how He guides. See the gifts and the knowledge change.
In light of this fact, let me share a hard lesson learned that will hopefully help many of you. How often do you struggle to learn God's will for a very important decision in your life? Only to doubt whether it is you, God or Satan that is putting the answer in your head? First, can you honestly say that you were consciously living a surrendered life, and walking in the Spirit up to that point? Or did you suddenly needed an answer, so, you suddenly spent some hard time in prayer, and expected God's wisdom to fall down on you? And when it didn't, you were annoyed and doubtful, like the Jews were with Jesus in the First Century? God doesn't give out wisdom and direction when we drop a coin in the slot machine and pull the lever. He gives us direction and wisdom when we are truly trying to follow His plan anyway. When we are walking with Him—wanting what He wants—and we ask for wisdom, He will not only give it to you, but, you won't have to worry about missing it, or wondering if it was Him or you. He will make sure that you can't miss what He says—but, only if you are already surrendered; already walking, already wanting His will. So, answer these questions for yourself: are you consciously trying to surrender to the ways of the Spirit, or are you following your own way every day? Do you even have any real expectation of ever hearing from Him or being used of Him? Will you change the course of your life if He speaks? Will you correct the sins He points out, so you can draw closer? Are you ready to be saturated by His love and passion for others in your life, over your own desires? Can you stop thinking of self-recognition in all you do, and simply be His Tool, for His Glory, because you truly want to love others? If so, then you need to draw a line in the sand, and consciously give Him control. Seek His will every day. Let Him out of the closet, to have control of it all. Trade your steel wick for a tattered and soiled wick that can be saturated with Oil. Surrender yourself to Him right now—right here—and watch your world completely change. Don't you think if the God of the Universe really did take control of your life, that it might just be a bit different, a bit more successful, a bit more loving, a bit more supernatural, than it is right now? Give it a try—the world will always take you back: Luke 11:9-13: You just have to humbly, sincerely ask. Surrender!
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