N O L O N G E R M E
Biblical Reflections on What it Means to Walk in the
Spirit
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2017 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
permission of the author.
“Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®),
copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved.”
Special thanks to Sue St. Amour for proof reading.
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 - Crucified with Christ
2 - No Good Thing
3 - Lean Not
4 - A Temple of the Holy Spirit
5 - Sheep Hear My Voice
6 - As You Received Christ
7 - Waiting on the Lord
8 - The Vine and the Branches
9 - Apart from Me
10 - The Weapons of our Warfare
11 - More than Conquerors
12 - Filled with the Holy Spirit
About The Author
I
PREFACE
n a day when almost anything seems possible through technology and
human wisdom, we need to be reminded again why we need the Holy
Spirit and His enabling power. In a day of mass communication, we
need to learn how to distinguish the voice of God from all other voices
calling for our attention. In a day where individual rights and freedoms are
championed, we need to hear afresh the call of God to surrender and
obedience. In a day of emphasis on education and training, have we come to
a place where we no longer see our need of dependence on God?
The subject of what it means to walk in the Spirit is one that cannot be
reduced to a small study of this nature. Learning to walk as God requires is
a lifetime effort. Scripture, however, does speak powerfully of the need of a
strength greater than our own to live the life God has called us to live. It
reminds us of our true nature and brings stern warnings to anyone who
would seek to live and serve in fleshly wisdom and strength and not in the
power of God’s Spirit.
Could it be that one of the great tragedies of the Christian life is that we
have never truly learned the importance of the Holy Spirit’s role in our
lives? True and victorious service is possible only as we rely and walk in
the leading and enabling of God’s Spirit.
It is my hope that this study will reveal our need of God’s Spirit and show
us what it means to walk in tune with Him. It is my prayer that the Lord
will use this effort to point each reader to the importance of the Lordship of
God’s Spirit in our lives.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
U
1 - CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20)
nderstanding what it means to walk in the Spirit is not something
that can be accomplished in a study like this—it is a lifelong
learning process. All I can hope to achieve is to point the reader
to a series of Bible passages that speak to various aspects of what it means
to walk as Christ intended. For our purposes in this reflection, let’s begin at
the cross of Jesus.
What happened when the Lord Jesus went to the cross? We know what
happened in the physical world but if we had the eyes of Christ and could
see what was happening in the spiritual world, what would we see?
Paul tells us in Galatians 2:20 that when the Lord Jesus died on the cross,
we died with Him. Notice how Paul put it in Galatians 2:20 “I have been
crucified with Christ.” This is a difficult concept for our minds to grasp but
it is essential that we understand what Paul is telling us here.
What does Paul mean when he tells us that he was crucified with Christ?
When Jesus died on the cross, He did not die for Himself. As the perfect
Son of God, He never sinned. He died, not for anything He had ever done,
but for you and me. Imagine, for an instant, that you were in debt. Your debt
was so great you could not possibly pay it. Along comes a friend who goes
to those to whom you are indebted and pays what is owed. Though it is
your friend's money that paid the debt, it has all been done in your name. It
is as if you had paid that debt personally. In the books, the payment is
recorded as “paid in full”.
When Paul thought about the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, he
realized that the cross paid his personal debt. The transaction records of
heaven stated that Paul's debt was paid in full. When Jesus died, it was just
as if Paul had gone to the cross himself.
Paul so personalized what happened on that cross that he no longer
considered himself alive. He chose to live his life with the understanding
that he died the day Jesus died. "I no longer live," says Paul. When Jesus
died, I died too. There are two principles I would like to underline here in
what Paul is saying.
First, the law of God demanded that the soul that sinned die:
4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the
soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18)
Paul did not take what the Lord Jesus had done lightly. He knew that
according to the Law of God, he had been sentenced to die. While Jesus
took his place on the cross, Paul chose to live his life in the reality that this
death was for him. He would live now understanding that Jesus’ death was
his death.
Second, the death of Christ demanded a response. With his penalty paid,
Paul could no longer live as he had formerly lived. He was morally
accountable to the one who died on his behalf. He chose to live no longer as
he did in the past. He chose to die to all the sinful passions that had
formerly placed him under this penalty of death. He would show His
gratitude to the Lord by living only for Him.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh
with is passions and desires (Galatians 5)
Notice in Galatians 5:24 and Galatians 2:20 that we have been crucified
with Christ. This is something that has already taken place. If I belong to
Jesus, I have been crucified to the sinful nature.
When I come to the cross I lay all that I am and have down. I accept
Christ’s death as my own and choose to live as one whose old nature has
died with Christ on the cross. The day I came to the Lord, a spiritual
transaction was made. I died to myself and my sin and was born again as a
new creature into the kingdom of God. I became a new person.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old
has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this, is from
God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the
ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5)
Notice what Paul says here. He tells us that the "old has gone." This is a
finished work. Our old selves died with Christ. We died to who we were
and what used to motivate our thoughts and actions. We are no longer the
people we used to be. We have been born again as a new creation. The cross
changed everything. I rise from the foot of that cross, not only forgiven but
changed.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will have to admit that we still feel the
pull of the flesh with its lusts and desires. If we have died to this flesh, why
do we still feel its pull? Let me answer by saying that there is a world of
difference between dying to the flesh and the flesh itself dying. As long as I
live in this mortal body, I will be tempted. Evil and sin are still alive in this
world. Jesus was tempted by sin, the flesh and the devil. He was tempted
because these great enemies have not been completely defeated.
When I died with Christ, however, a new life was planted in me. This is the
life of the Holy Spirit. The day I died with Christ I chose to reject the flesh
with its lusts and attractions. I chose to kill their influence in my life. I
chose to no longer be governed and ruled by the flesh but by the new life of
the Spirit in me. This is the life I chose to live. I no longer trust the flesh. I
no longer identify myself with that old nature. The old nature is no longer
who I am in Christ. I chose to divorce the old nature and renounced any
right to it. It also has no longer has any right over me. The bond between us
has been legally broken. If I return to that old nature I commit spiritual
adultery. My allegiance now is to Christ and His Spirit in me and to them
alone.
Understanding that I was crucified with Christ ought to change how we see
ourselves. We have been released legally from the flesh and are now
children of God. If I have been crucified with Christ and legally separated
from the old nature—I no longer find my identity in it. That is no longer
who I am.
There is a custom in some places for a woman who marries to take on the
name of her husband. She no longer uses her maiden name. Instead she
chooses to identify herself with her husband and his name. She will, should
God desire, raise a family under this new name. This is how it is for us. We
have taken on a new name. We walk with our heads held high. We are now
part of a new family. We are children of God. We carry His name with us
now. We are joined with Him and no longer identify with our old name and
what it represented.
How we see ourselves will dramatically impact how we live. If you see
yourself as one who is crucified with Christ, then you will live as one who
has been crucified to the flesh and its influences. If you see yourself, as
Paul did, hanging on the cross with the Lord Jesus, then you will live your
life with the understanding that you are no longer alive to the flesh and its
influences. You will bury that old body and move on in your new life.
The old nature that used to define us has been crucified with Christ. The life
we live now we live by faith in Jesus and what He has done. We live as new
creatures. We live our life with the understanding that we are crucified with
Christ. We live with the understanding that we have a new name. We no
longer identify with the old nature. We live our lives with this truth burned
deeply into every thought and decision. I get up in the morning and
remember that the person I used to be died with Jesus on the cross. The life
I now have is a new life. When the flesh rises to tempt me, I turn my back. I
have divorced that old flesh and now have a new allegiance. I have no more
right to please this old nature. It is considered dead to me.
The first thing I need to understand is who I am. I now define myself by the
cross and my death on the cross with the Lord Jesus. I have been crucified
with Christ. Everything changed that day. My allegiance to the flesh died. I
now live in the reality of my crucifixion with Christ. That reality changes
how I see myself. It changes how I live. Who I used to be is no longer alive.
I am legally separated from the flesh. I have taken on my new identity and
live in its wonderful reality.
If I am to learn what it means to walk in the Spirit I must first come to the
cross and die to the flesh. I must understand that my old way of thinking
has been crucified with Christ. My old way of life is no longer what defines
or motivates me. I am a new creation. The life I live now is under Christ
and His purpose. We cannot learn to walk in the Spirit if we first do not
understand this principle.
For Prayer:
Father, Your Word teaches that the soul that sins should die. I confess that I
have sinned and deserve the ultimate penalty for that sin. I thank You,
however, that the Lord Jesus died on my behalf, paying the full price for my
redemption. I recognize that when He died, He died for me, taking the
penalty that I deserved. When I came to the cross, I died with Him. I died to
my old way of living. I died to the sin that placed Him on the cross. I rose
from the foot of that cross a new person –set free from sin. Help me to live
in the reality of this new life. Teach me to look to you for direction and
guidance. Teach me to die daily to the sinful impulses and reasoning of the
old nature. Teach me instead to look to you and walk in this newness of life
you have given. Teach me what it means to walk as a new creation in
Christ.
T
2 - NO GOOD THING
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh,
For I have the desire to do what it right, but not the ability to carry
it out. (Romans 7)
his statement of Paul is a very difficult one. Yet it is at the heart of
what it means to walk in the Spirit. Let’s take a moment to
consider the man who spoke these words. The apostle Paul was a
well-trained and dedicated believer in the Lord Jesus. Through his ministry,
the cause of Christ was wonderfully advanced. Here was a man who loved
the Lord enough to lay down his life for Him. He was mocked, threatened,
beaten, stoned and left for dead on the road. He suffered for the cause of the
Gospel and never gave up. Numerous souls were won to the Lord. Many
churches were planted. His impact continues to be felt in this day as the
largest part of the New Testament was written by him. What was his secret?
He has just told us. His secret was in his understanding that nothing good
lived in his flesh.
It is one thing to say that we are sinners and that our hearts are wicked, but
it is totally another to live in the reality of this truth. Before we examine the
implications of Paul's teaching, it may be helpful to look at what the
prophet Jeremiah said about the heart and flesh of humankind in Jeremiah
17:
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17)
Jeremiah makes a strong point here. He not only tells us that the heart is
deceitful but it is more deceitful than “all things.” In other words, there is
nothing more deceitful in the universe than the heart of man. Consider this
for a moment. Where do the most violent crimes originate? When you think
about the terrible events of history, what was the source of these events?
Did these things not begin in the desires of a sinful heart?
The human heart is capable of terrible evil. Out of that heart comes lust,
envy, jealousy and bitterness. From their source in the heart, these evil
thoughts find their way into our words and actions. The sinful desires of the
heart have started wars. They have been the cause of the most vile and
terrible crimes this world has ever seen. They have wrecked homes,
destroyed reputations and split churches.
Notice that the prophet tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is
“desperately sick”. The word he uses here could also be translated by the
word, “incurable.” In other words, it cannot be fixed. It is so desperately
sick that there is no longer any hope of a cure.
It took me a long time to understand the reality of this statement. I believed
it as a doctrine, but never really understood its implications for my personal
life. Many believers are the same. They teach that the flesh is evil and that
nothing good dwells in the flesh but they still trust the wisdom and strength
of the human flesh.
Listen to what the prophet tells us in Jeremiah 17:5:
5 Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land. (Jeremiah 17)
Consider what the prophet is saying in these verses. He tells us that the
person who trusts in the flesh is cursed. The person who trusts in the flesh
will be like a bush in the desert which has no water to drink and withers
away in the heat. He will dwell in a parched place of no blessing. He will be
planted in a salt land where there will be no fruit or growth in his life.
Do you see what the prophet is saying? If you trust in the flesh you will not
prosper. You will perish and wither away. All blessing will flee from you.
The joy and the fruit of the Spirit will not be evident in your life. There
have been times when these words of Jeremiah have perfectly described my
life as a believer. This is the natural result of trusting in the flesh.
What do we need to understand from Paul and Jeremiah? We need to
understand that we dare not trust the flesh. The writer of the book of
Proverbs understood this truth as well.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lead on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3)
Proverbs 3:5 is a direct command of Scripture. We are told in very clear
terms here that we are not to lean on our own understanding. To lean on is
to trust or to find support in. In our day, education and training is becoming
more easily accessible. We like to see ourselves as people who are mature
enough to make wise decisions. Many of us have had years of experience
and with that experience comes great wisdom and understanding. We like to
think that somehow all this wisdom and understanding will be of benefit to
us. The writer of the Proverbs tells us not lean on that understanding. All
too often our experience and understanding can be our downfall.
If we really believe that no good thing dwells in our flesh this will be
evident in the way we think and minister. We need to trust the leading of the
Holy Spirit more than we trust our own reason. This may seem to be quite
radical for some but it is at the heart of what Paul and Jeremiah are teaching
us here.
If I truly believe that in my flesh dwells no good thing, I will distrust what
comes from the flesh. If I believe what the Scriptures say about not leaning
on my own understanding, I will not base my decisions on what I think is
right but rather upon the teaching of God’s Word and the leading of the
Holy Spirit in my life. If I believe that there is no good thing in my flesh, I
will trust more in the promises of the Word of God than in what I see
around me. When faced with worry about finances, I will not look at my
earthly bank account but to the promise of God to supply all my needs.
If we truly believe that in our flesh nothing good dwells, it will have a very
dramatic effect on how we do our business as church leaders. I have often
been amazed at how many decisions were made in the early church through
prayer. As the church gathered to deal with their problems, they got on their
knees and sought the Lord. Very often, the Lord would reveal to them what
they needed to do in that time of prayer. How often have we handed over
the leadership of our churches to business people who are skilled in
decision making? Would it not be as wise to have a simple man or woman
of prayer? I am not downplaying the importance of committees in churches.
What I am saying is that if we truly believe that nothing good dwells in our
flesh then we will be more prayerful in our business meetings. We will be
less concerned about pleasing people and more focused on seeking God and
His purpose.
Sometime ago I remember reading about a man of God who spoke out
against the church of his day because they no longer sought pastors who
were Spirit filled men of prayer. Instead, they chose them because of their
education and how they could answer theological questions. Correct
doctrine is vital if we are to be effective in our service of the Lord. How
often, however, have we so emphasized education and experience in our
selecting a pastor or leader for our church that we have downplayed the
importance of his spiritual life and dependence on the direction and
enabling of the Spirit of God.
As you go through life, are you trusting your fleshly wisdom? How much of
your day is spent seeking the purpose of the Lord and His will? Are you
willing to let the Lord change your plans? Are you willing to open your
eyes to see what He wants to do? Will you surrender your agenda for His?
Proverbs 3:6-7 challenges us:
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3)
Notice what we are told to do here. We are to “acknowledge” God in all our
ways. What does it mean to acknowledge God in our ways? It means to
bring Him into our plans and to recognize His Lordship over every decision
and action we take.
If we are going to acknowledge God in all our ways, this means putting
aside our own ideas and plans to walk in obedience to His purpose. The
writer of Proverbs makes this clear when he goes on in the next verse to tell
us: “Be not wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7). How many times have I
been wise in my own eyes and felt that I could make decisions myself. I did
not consult the Lord but did what I felt was best. This is what the writer of
Proverbs is telling us not to do. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Remember
that the heart is deceitful above all things. Those who trust in the flesh will
be like a desert with no blessing. Seek God. Seek His will. Seek Him in
everything you do. Bring Him into every plan you make. Commit your
ways to Him and let Him lead you.
Notice finally the promise of God for those who will acknowledge Him
instead of being wise in their own eyes:
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3)
God knows what it best for us. His plan is so much greater than anything
we could ever imagine. As we walk in His purpose, the path may not be
easy but it will bring healing and renewal.
If we are to learn to walk in the Spirit, we must accept what Paul tells us in
Romans 7:18 -- there is nothing good in our flesh. Instead of trusting our
own reasoning and wisdom, we will listen to the Word of God and the
leading of His Spirit who lives in us. We will commit all our decisions to
the Lord and seek Him and His purpose. How thankful we need to be that
while our hearts and flesh are deceitful, God has given us His Word and His
Spirit to be our guide in all matters. May we learn to walk in tune with
them.
For Prayer:
Lord God, the apostle Paul tells me that there is nothing good in my flesh.
This is a hard statement for me. I see the reality of this, however, in the
world around me and in my personal life. Forgive me for the times when I
have not acknowledged You and brought You into the decisions I have
made. Forgive me for trusting my own fleshly wisdom more than Your
Word and the leading of Your Spirit.
Jeremiah tells me Lord, that those who trust the flesh will be like a shrub in
the desert that sees no good. Help me to take this seriously. Help me not to
lean on my own understanding or to be wise in my own eyes. Teach me
instead to seek You in all my ways. Lord, I thank You that You have given
me Your Word and Your Spirit to be my guide. I have often neglected them
in favour of my own understanding. Teach me from this point forward to
rely on Your Word and Your Spirit to be my only sure guide in life and
practice.
I
3 - LEAN NOT
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own
understanding. (Proverbs 3)
n the last chapter, we touched on Proverbs 3:5 but I would like to take
a second look at this important passage. We have seen what Paul and
Jeremiah taught about the flesh and the human heart. Because of the
corruptness of the sinful human heart we cannot rely on it to direct us in the
ways God has planned for us. We are commanded instead to acknowledge
the Lord and let him direct our paths.
The concept is very simple. Don't trust your own reason, experience and
understanding. Instead acknowledge the Lord by bringing Him into every
decision you make and let Him direct and lead you in the way you should
go.
In my culture, we measure maturity in our children by how independent
they are. If our children are unable to make decisions, we feel we have
failed them as parents. On the other hand, we feel that we have been
successful if we raise children to no longer need us and depend on us for
everything. This is not how it is in the spiritual realm. The mature Christian
is not one who is less dependent on God but one who depends more and
more on Him. God is looking for a people who are more dependent.
Our experience and understanding often stands in the way of doing the will
and purpose of God. There are several examples of this in the Scripture.
Permit me to share them with you.
The first example of this is found in Exodus 17:4-6. Here the people of God
were traveling through the wilderness and in need of water. The Lord told
Moses that he was to go to a certain rock and strike it with his rod. When
Moses obeyed, and struck the rock, water came out and the people had all
they needed to drink. Later in the book of Numbers a similar situation
occurred. This time, the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock (Numbers
20:2-9). Instead of speaking to the rock, however, Moses did what he did
the first time and struck the rock again. While the blessing of God still
came, God held Moses accountable for his disobedience and refused him
entrance into the Promised Land. Let’s consider what is happening here?
Experience can be a very great hindrance to hearing God. As I look at this
story, I see a man who had experience with getting water out of a rock. He
had done it before and knew how it was done. Could it be that this was why
he did not listen carefully to the words of the Lord? This time God wanted
things to be done differently but Moses didn't listen. He went up to that rock
and did exactly what he did the first time. He struck it instead of speaking
to it. How many times have ministries failed because we have trusted our
experience rather than the leading and direction of the Lord God? We don't
hear God because we don't believe we need to hear Him. We've done it
before. We feel we can do it again. Instead of trusting God, we trust our
experience. We don't hear God because we have our mind made up. This is
a sure way to fail. We are told by the writer to the Proverbs that we are not
to trust in our own understanding but to acknowledge God. Moses refused
to acknowledge God in this situation. Listen to what God told him in
Numbers 20:
12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not
believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of
Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that
I have given them.” (Numbers 20)
God accused Moses of not honouring Him before the people. Do you
realize that when you choose to listen to your experience before the Lord
you are dishonouring the Lord? In this case, God told Moses that, after forty
years of labour, He would not be able to see the children of Israel into the
Promised Land. This would have been a serious blow to Moses and a
reminder of just how important it was to acknowledge God and His way in
all He did.
There is another example of this in the life of Moses. As you know, Moses
grew up in the home of Pharaoh’s daughter. He knew the language and
culture of the Egyptians perfectly. He was a man of tremendous influence
and wealth. One day, the Lord put it in his heart to rescue his own people
(the Israelites) from the land. The opportunity came for Moses to make his
move. He saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave and he stuck the
Egyptian, killing him. The writer of the book of Acts tells us why he struck
the Egyptian:
25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was
giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.
(Acts 7)
Moses believed that by killing an Egyptian, the people of Israel would put
their trust in him as their deliverer. Moses was the perfect man for the job.
He had the influence, wealth, language and skills necessary. He had a
passion in his heart for his people. He even had a call from God to rescue
the people. The problem was that the people did not stand behind him. His
murder was discovered and he ended up fleeing Egypt to save his life. Why
would the perfect man for the job be forced to leave? He was forced to
leave because, at that time in his life, he was leaning on his own
understanding and resources.
God took him into the desert for forty years. There in the desert he cared for
sheep. He no longer had any influence in Egypt. He lost his fluency in the
Egyptian language and even his sense of pride. Later when God asked him
to return to Egypt to rescue His people, Moses told God that he needed to
find someone else. He was stripped of all confidence in himself and his
abilities. This was the man, however, that God would use to rescue His
people from Egypt.
You see, the greatest obstacle for Moses at the age of forty was his pride. If
he had delivered the people at that point, the people would have seen Moses
as their deliverer. Now at the age of eighty there could be no doubt about
who delivered the people. It wasn't Moses who delivered them but God.
It is vital that we understand this principle in our walk with God. God is not
looking for experience and finely tuned human wisdom. He is looking for
people who will listen carefully, acknowledge Him and obey.
This was the secret to the success of Paul's ministry. Listen to what he told
the Corinthians:
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4
and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of
wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that
your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of
God. (1 Corinthians)
Paul did not want people to see man's wisdom and understanding in his
preaching but to see the power of God. There is a world of difference
between a message preached in human wisdom and a message preached in
the power and anointing of God’s Spirit. Both may be messages of truth but
one is filled with power to change lives. How often when witnessing and
preaching, do we place our confidence in our ability to teach and reason?
How often have we tried to persuade people by our careful logic as opposed
to trusting God to move in power through His Word? I would dare to say
that there are times when we trust our own reason more than we trust the
power of the Word of God.
Throughout the ministry of the Lord Jesus we see this absolute dependence
on the will and purpose of the Father for everything. Though He is the
perfect Son of God, Jesus demonstrated to us what it meant not to trust in
human wisdom and understanding. In John 10:37 He makes a bold
statement by telling those present that they were not to believe Him unless
he did what the Father did.
37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;
38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the
works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me
and I am in the Father.” (John 10)
What is Jesus saying here? He is reminding us that He lived in total
surrender to the will and purpose of the Father. He did only what the Father
led him to do. This is why we can believe Him He was one with the
Father in all He did.
In John 5, Jesus went further and said that even as a Son, He could not do
anything by Himself. In other words, he was totally dependent on the Father
for everything. Nothing He did on this earth came from independent human
wisdom or strength. He chose only to minister in the leading and
empowering of the Father.
19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do
nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.
For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For
the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.
And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may
marvel. (John 5)
There was a deep connection between the Father and the Son. The Son was
not independent of the Father. They were so intimately connected that the
Son only did what the Father led Him to do. They were of one heart and
mind. The Lord Jesus, chose to surrender so fully to the Father in
everything He did that He could truly say: “the Son can do nothing of His
own accord.” It was not an option for Jesus to do anything of “His own
accord.” He lived in absolute surrender to the will and purpose of the
Father.
This principle was not only true in the way the Lord Jesus lived but also in
the words He spoke. The words Jesus spoke were not His own, but the
words the Father gave Him to speak.
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in
me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority,
but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14)
Jesus was led by the Father in what to say. He spoke in harmony with the
Father. What is true of the Lord Jesus is also true of the Holy Spirit. Jesus
clearly tells us that the Holy Spirit will not speak on His own. He will only
speak what He hears.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the
truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he
hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to
come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and
declare it to you. (John 16)
The Holy Spirit speaks the words of Christ. Christ speaks the words of the
Father. All three members of the Trinity are of one voice. They do not speak
of their own accord.
If this is true of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, how much more should it be true
in our lives and ministries. We dare not trust our own wisdom. While our
experience and understanding are important, we cannot allow them to take
the place of the clear leading and direction of the Spirit and the Word in our
lives.
This calls for a people who are in tune with the Lord Jesus. God does not
leave us to face the world alone. He wants to work with us and through us.
For that to take place, He asks us not to lean on our own understanding but
to acknowledge Him. To acknowledge God is to seek Him in our plans and
decisions. When you acknowledge God in a decision you bring him into
that decision. When you acknowledge God in a ministry you invited Him to
be Lord of that ministry and you submit yourself to His leading and
direction.
When you acknowledge the Lordship of Christ in your life, you surrender to
His leading and enabling. Notice that the writer to the Proverbs tells us that
we are to acknowledge Him in "all our ways." That means that He needs to
be Lord over every decision and every task. We will surrender even the
smallest detail to Him.
What does it mean to walk in the Spirit? It means surrendering to the
Lordship of Christ. It means committing ourselves to acknowledge the
Lordship of Christ over every aspect of my life –over what I do and what I
say. This requires a conscious decision not to lean on my own
understanding but to submit to God and His ways. This is the challenge of
the writer to the Proverbs. It was the 40-year lesson Moses had to learn in
the desert. It was the way the Lord Jesus Himself lived before us and the
example that we are to follow.
For Prayer:
Father, I thank You for the many things you have taught me and the
experiences you have brought me through in life. Teach me, however, to
trust You and Your leading more than these experiences so that I do not fall
into the error of Moses. Thank you for the example of the Lord Jesus, who
declared that He did nothing of His own accord and spoke only what the
Father gave Him to speak. Thank you for the heart of Paul to speak not in
persuasive words but in demonstrations of the Spirit’s power. Forgive me
for trusting my education and human wisdom more than You. Teach me to
acknowledge your Lordship in all things. Help me to live like Jesus in true
connection with the Father in all I do and say. Break my independent and
proud spirit and teach me to live as one with you in all I do and say.
T
4 - A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY
SPIRIT
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit
within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for
you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1
Corinthians 6)
here is a real mystery in the verses quoted above. Paul tells us that
our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God
has chosen to take these frail and sinful human bodies and make
them a place in which He dwells. More than this however, He has made
them His temple. Let's take a moment to examine this truth and its
implications.
What is a temple? The temple, in the Old Testament context, was the place
where the Lord God chose to manifest His presence. While it was
understood that the Lord, in all His fullness, could not be contained in any
temple, He did choose to make His person known there in a special way.
The temple was also a place that was consecrated for the Lord's use. It was
a holy place. It was not a place of worldly business. Jesus made that clear
when He drove out the money changers telling them that the temple was a
place of prayer and worship (see Matthew 11:15-17). It was separated from
the ordinary and secular matters of life for the honour and glory of God.
When Jesus tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, He is
telling us that they are the places where the Holy Spirit has chosen to make
His presence known in a very special way. He is telling us that the Holy
Spirit has set these bodies aside for His special purpose. It is in these bodies
that the Lord will be worshiped and honoured.
It is important that we notice that Paul tells us that our bodies already are
the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is not something we are striving for. It is
already the case. If you are a child of God, then your body is already the
temple of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the
Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of
Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8)
Do you see what the apostle is saying here? He is telling us that if we
belong to Christ the Holy Spirit lives in us. If the Holy Spirit is not in you,
you do not belong to the Lord Jesus. The body of every believer is a temple
of the Holy Spirit. You may not understand it. You may not live in the
reality of this fact but it is true nonetheless.
It is an amazing thing that these frail and temporary bodies should become
the place the Holy Spirit has chosen to make His temple. It is in these
bodies, however, that God has chosen to reveal His power. Listen to what
Paul told the Corinthians:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4)
The treasure of the Holy Spirit is contained in jars of clay. These jars are
fragile and common, but they contain a treasure of infinite value and power.
This is who you are as a believer.
It is for this reason that we are exhorted in the Scriptures not to lean on our
own understanding. We have within us a wisdom worthy of greater
confidence. The Spirit of God has chosen to live in us. Paul tells us that the
Holy Spirit comes to show the world that the power in us is not from us but
from God. People look at these feeble jars of clay and they are amazed at
the power and wisdom of God demonstrated through them.
How often have you looked at others and been amazed at how the Lord uses
them? Remember, however, that the same Spirit dwells in you if you belong
to the Lord Jesus. You are as much a temple of the Holy Spirit as any other
believer. The same power and wisdom is available to you. How important it
is for us to tap into that power.
What we need to understand is that if our bodies are the temple of the Holy
Spirit, they do not belong to us. Paul reminds us that we were bought with a
price. In other words, we do not have any right or claim over our own
bodies. If this is the case, we need to seek the Lord God for all that we do
with these bodies. Because we belong to the Lord, He has the right to ask of
us anything He desires. He holds the deed to our bodies. The Spirit of God
does not come as a tenant but as the owner. We have been purchased
through the death of Christ and we now belong to Him. We are His
servants. Because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit we need to
be careful about what we put into them and how we use them.
It would be easy for us to assume that because the Holy Spirit resides in us,
we can use Him in whatever way we like. There are people who try to
control the Holy Spirit and tell Him what He is to do. The reality of the
matter is that the Holy Spirit owns us and bought us for a price. He controls
us. He did not come to dwell in our hearts to be bossed about by sinful
creatures. He came to guide, empower and control. If we understand that we
are servants of the Holy Spirit, we will listen to Him and obey His
prompting and commands. We will let Him control us and do what He likes
in and through us. We are merely the temple. He is the owner and manager.
The Spirit of God lives in us and uses us for the glory of God. He comes to
empower and equip us in ministry. He comes to guide us into God’s heart
for our lives. What good would it be for the Holy Spirit to take up residence
in us if He could not communicate with us and guide us into the will of the
Father? In Matthew 13, Jesus reminds His disciples that they were truly
blessed because they had been given ears to hear:
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they
hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you
hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13)
Not only does the Spirit of God come to live in our heart but He also gives
to believers the ability to know and hear His leading and promptings. The
challenge for us is to learn to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit from
the voice of our own understanding.
This is how the Lord Jesus ministered. This is how the apostles ministered.
The apostles learned not to trust in their own wisdom and understanding.
They had learned how to walk in the truth of the Word of God but also to
hear the inner voice of the Holy Spirit who lived in them. They had learned
how to be a channel through which the Spirit of God could flow freely in
their lives.
Those who understand that they are temples of the Holy Spirit willingly
surrender to the work of God’s Spirit in their lives. They bow to His
authority and wisdom. They step forward in obedience to His leading with
confidence in what the He can do in them and through them.
Those who know that they are temples of the Holy Spirit do not rely on
their own strength and wisdom because they have a much more reliable
source of wisdom and power in the Spirit of God who lives in them. They
understand that because they have surrendered all rights to God, they are no
longer in control. They understand that the Holy Spirit has taken up
residence in them for a reason. He wants to use them and empower them.
They expect Him to move and communicate God’s heart to them. They
make room for Him to act. They turn from their own understanding and
trust Him and His leading. They make it their priority to hear His voice
because they understand that in so doing they will accomplish far more for
the kingdom then they ever could in their own wisdom and strength.
This indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is something we need to
understand if we are to walk the walk God calls us to walk. We will surely
fail if we do not understand that our bodies are the temples of the Holy
Spirit. We are mere jars of clay but God has put a wonderful treasure in us.
The Spirit of God has come to live in you. If you belong to Jesus, this Spirit
is already in you. He comes to empower and enable you. We must make it
our number one priority to listen to Him and obey His voice.
Let me say in conclusion that there is a world of difference between
accepting the truth of 1 Corinthians 6:19 as an intellectual fact and
accepting it in reality. You can accept this as a truth and never live in its
reality. You can believe that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and
never understand the power of this in real life. Let me underline this and
state is as clearly as possible: The Holy Spirit of God with all His power
and wisdom, lives in you! He has come to live in you for a very particular
purpose—to lead you into the purpose of God and to empower you in doing
what God has called you to do. Will we ignore His presence and trust our
own wisdom instead? Will we refuse His enabling and do things in our own
way?
God forbid that we should ever live ignoring the presence of God’s Spirit in
our lives. May the reality of this wonderful truth cause us to renounce
human strength and wisdom and cling to the greater strength and wisdom
that is provided through the personal ministry of God’s Spirit in our lives.
For Prayer:
Father, Paul speaks of the wonderful truth about our bodies being the
temple of the Holy Spirit. It is a mystery to me that the Spirit of God would
choose to take up residence in my life. I am unworthy of this but I am
eternally grateful for this priceless treasure. Thank You that you have given
to me, in the person of the Holy Spirit, all the wisdom and strength I need to
live for You. Teach me to surrender to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in my
life. Forgive me, Holy Spirit, for the times I have sought to take control and
make You a servant by demanding my way. Teach me always to bow to
Your will and purpose and not my own. Tune my ears to hear You so that I
can know the wise counsel You want to give. Teach me to depend less on
me and more on Your strength in ministry. Forgive me, Spirit of God, for
seeing You only as a doctrine to be believed and not as a real person living
in me to empower and guide. Forgive the hypocrisy of saying I believe in
You while living in my own wisdom and strength. I stand before You today,
committing myself afresh to know You and walk with You in greater
obedience. May I truly come to a point in my life where I can say with the
apostle Paul that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me
(Galatians 2:20).
I
5 - SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
(John 10)
n the last chapter, we saw how, our bodies are the temple of the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to live in each believer so they can be
empowered to live the life God requires of them. Let’s take a moment
to develop this point further here in this chapter by examining what Jesus
tells us in John 10:27.
Jesus makes a very important statement in John 10:27. He reminds us that
His sheep hear His voice. To understand this verse, we need to see it in its
cultural context. Jesus speaks about the practice of the shepherds to bring
their sheep to a central fold where they would hire a man to watch them for
the night while they rested. In that central fold were sheep from many
different shepherds. In the morning, the shepherd would come to the fold to
gather his sheep. He would stand at the gate and call out. The sheep would
hear his voice and come to him. The sheep of other folds did not respond to
the voice of another shepherd. They had learned to distinguish the voice of
their own shepherd from the voice of other shepherds. The result was that
when the shepherd called them, they would wind their way through the fold
moving past other sheep in the direction of the voice of their shepherd. The
shepherd did not have to separate his sheep from his neighbour's sheep. He
simply had to call, and his sheep would hear and come to him. Jesus is
telling us that we are like these sheep. As His sheep, we can hear and
recognize His voice from all other voices.
What does the voice of the Lord sound like? How are we able to distinguish
the voice of the Spirit from the voice of our own reason? How can we know
the direction and leading of God in our lives? These are important questions
that we need to examine in this context.
The first thing we need to understand is that the voice of God can be found
in His written Word. The Bible is the Word of God. It was inspired by God
through the prophets and given to us for direction and guidance. This is the
teaching of the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3 when he says:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that
the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2
Timothy 3)
It is clear from what Paul says here that the Scriptures have been handed
down to us for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
It is by these Scriptures that we are completely equipped for every work the
Father gives us to do.
Notice the words Paul uses here. He tells us that we can be complete and
equipped for every good work. In other words, these Scriptures will give
you all the training you need to do "all" that God has called you to do. The
focus of my writing ministry is to open the Scriptures. This is my focus
because these Scriptures contain all that we need to know for life and
godliness. There is nothing more that needs to be added to enable us to live
the life God requires. The Scripture is a complete textbook on the Christian
life. All you need to know to live for Christ is found in its pages.
If we want to hear God, we need to listen to the Word He has given us as
found in the pages of Scripture. We need to master the content of those
Scriptures. We need to spend time seeking His direction and leading
through the pages of this inspired Word.
Having said this, we need to ask ourselves an important question. If God
speaks to us through Scripture, why has He put His Holy Spirit in us? Why
do we need the Holy Spirit if we have the Word of God? The answer to this
is quite simple. The truth by itself is of no use to us if we cannot apply it to
our lives.
Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God were constantly taught
the truth of Scripture. They knew what God was calling them to do but for
some reason they seemed to be powerless to apply that truth to their lives.
They continued to fall into sin. The pull of the flesh was so overwhelming
that they could not walk in the truth as God required. The same is true for
us. It is one thing to know the truth and another to walk in that truth. If we
are to walk in the truth God has given us, we need a power that is greater
than our flesh. We need the very person of God’s Spirit working in us to
enable us to live out what God requires. More than this, however, we need
the same power to convict us of the truth of this Word.
Maybe you have seen this in your own life. You heard the message of the
Gospel for years and it did nothing for you. Maybe you have non-Christian
friends who can repeat the Gospel to you but have never been changed by
that Gospel. They know the truth but the truth has never changed them. Paul
reminds us that when he preached he not only preached the truth but he did
so under the power and anointing of the Spirit of God.
3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4
and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of
wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that
your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of
God. (1 Corinthians 2)
The apostle understood that the truth would never change a sinful heart.
Only the Holy Spirit could change that heart. It is for this reason that we
need the Spirit of God. It is He who takes the truth of the Word of God and
uses it to convict the sinner and the saint of their sinful ways. The Spirit and
the truth must walk hand in hand.
This principle is true also in our quiet times with the Lord. When you read
your Bible, you need the Spirit of God to be your guide. It is one thing to
take the truth of the Scriptures and understand it in the flesh. It is another
matter for us to allow the Spirit of God to teach us and use those Scriptures
to convict us of sin and empower us to change what needs to be changed.
Do we realize that we have within us a personal tutor? The Holy Spirit
comes to lead us into the truth of the Word of God. If you will let Him, He
will open our eyes and our minds like no other teacher can, to the truth that
has been inspired from the days of the prophets. He will personalize those
Scriptures and apply them specifically to your life. He will use them to
guide and direct you in every step you take.
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be our teacher.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my
name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance
all that I have said to you. (John 14)
This is one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives. How often, however,
do we come to the Word of God with our own understanding and reasoning.
We understand the truth and doctrine of the Scripture but it is not alive to us
because we are not letting the Spirit of God breathe life into it and apply it
personally to our hearts.
We also need to understand something else here in this context. A quick
look at the Scriptures will show us that God not only directed His people
through the Word but He also specifically led them through His promptings
and inner guidance.
There are many examples of this. Take for example how God led the apostle
Paul in Troas. As he and his companions travelled, Acts 16:6 tells us that
they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
Understanding this, they moved forward and tried to go to Bithynia but
again we read in Acts 16:7 that "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them" to
go there either. Finally, Paul and his companions arrived in Troas uncertain
of what God was asking them to do. Here in the town of Troas the direction
they needed came.
8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision
appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing
there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help
us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought
to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to
preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16)
The direction the apostle needed came in the form of a vision. God had a
purpose for Paul and his missionary team. Communication of that purpose
did not come from the Word of God but by means of the leading of the Holy
Spirit. The Holy Spirit hindered them from going to Asia and Bithynia and
then showed them in a vision what it was that He had for them to do.
In Acts 13, we read how the Holy Spirit directed the church in Antioch
while they were praying:
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit
said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I
have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their
hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13)
Again, the guidance of the Holy Spirit was given in a very specific way. We
are not told how they heard from the Holy Spirit that day, but when they
rose from their knees in prayer, they knew very clearly that the Lord was
asking them to do. They were to set apart Paul and Barnabas for a special
work. They did not read this in the pages of Scripture, but it was
nonetheless a very clear word from the Lord.
The rest of Scripture bears out this teaching as well. Philip, while
ministering in the region of Samaria, was told to go to the desert where he
met an Ethiopian eunuch traveling from Jerusalem. He heard the Holy
Spirit tell him to go up to the chariot of this man and, when he obeyed, the
Lord wonderfully opened a door to witness and win this official to Christ
(see Acts 8:26-40).
Peter was told to go to the home of Cornelius even though this would have
been contrary to his Jewish traditions (see Acts 10:9-33). Abraham was
called to leave his home and go to the land the Lord had prepared for him
(see Genesis 12:1). He was also told to take his son and offer him on an
altar as a sacrifice (see Genesis 22:1-8). Before facing their enemies, the
kings of the Old Testament would seek the will of the Lord as to whether
they were to go into battle against them or not (see 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel
5:19; 2 Chronicles 14:10). The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that Ananias
was lying to the Holy Spirit when he brought his gift to the church (see Acts
5:1-6). These men did not read these directions in the Scriptures –God led
them directly.
In my life, I have experienced this direction of the Spirit many times. My
call to missions was very clearly a word from the Spirit of God. While He
did use Scripture to show me His missionary purpose for my life, what I
heard was clearly from Him. He led me through circumstances, prepared
my heart and opened my mind. When I was ready, He spoke directly to my
heart and convinced me of God’s purpose. When he had finished speaking,
I knew what I was to do and felt a deep conviction to walk in that path, no
matter the cost. I trust that every pastor, missionary, or Christian worker
ministers because they have such a calling on their life.
Some time ago I received a letter from South Africa requesting books. The
number of books they requested was significant and required a large
investment. I wrestled with this for some time in prayer. I asked the Lord
what I should do. I remember sitting in a coffee shop praying about this
when the Lord spoke clearly to my heart these words: "Of all that I give you
lose none." With those words came a very deep peace and assurance that I
was to trust Him not only to provide for this specific project but for all
contacts and projects He would give me in the future. The result of this is
that tens of thousands of books have now been distributed around the world
for the glory of God.
What I am trying to say is this. God has not left us in this world to figure it
all out by ourselves. There are many people who live their lives as though
God created the world, wrote the Bible as the instruction manual and said:
"Here guys, figure it out yourselves." We need the Spirit of God to guide us
into truth and His purpose. The fact of the matter is that there are times
when we need clear and specific direction. Where do I minister? What do I
say to this person? Do I move ahead with such and such a plan or not? For
these questions, I need the specific guidance of God’s Spirit as He show us
how to apply the truth of God’s word in our lives.
Some people don't worry about these matters. They believe that if we obey
the Scriptures we can do whatever we want. This however, runs contrary to
everything we have seen so far. This is not how the apostles ministered.
They were led by the Spirit of God who not only showed them where He
wanted them to minister but also the words he wanted them to speak. If we
want to follow their example, we need to make a conscious decision not to
trust in our own understanding and learn instead to listen to the voice of our
Counsellor.
Having said these things, I understand that there are those who have gone to
the extreme. While they claim to hear an inner prompting of the Spirit, the
evidence seems to be that they are still listening to the flesh. It is important
that we learn to distinguish the voice of flesh from the Spirit. This is what
the Lord Jesus was speaking about when He said, “My sheep hear my
voice.” They have been given the ability to distinguish His voice from all
other voices that seek their attention. Let me close with a few guidelines in
this regard.
The Word and Spirit Always Agree
The specific direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit will never be
contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures. All specific guidance is
subject to the authority of the Scriptures. If you want to know if the
prompting you are feeling in your heart is from the Lord and not the flesh
then the first thing you need to do is to place it under the microscope of the
Scriptures. If you find that this prompting is to do something that is clearly
contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures than you must question its
legitimacy.
When I speak about this specific guidance being contrary to the teaching of
the Scripture I am not speaking only of theology and doctrine. I am also
speaking about the principles it teaches about relationships between
believers as well. Is what I am sensing in tune with the teaching of the
Scripture to honour and respect those in authority? Does it fall in line with
my responsibilities as a father or as a husband or as a spiritual leader? We
must take what we hear and subject it thoroughly to the inspection of the
Word of God.
The Aroma of the Spirit
The Lord showed me some time ago that we can also recognize the voice of
God by the aroma of the Spirit that accompanies it. There is a coffee shop
not far from where I live that used to allow people to smoke inside the
building. On occasion, I would go to that shop to write. When I came home,
the smell of cigarettes lingered on my clothes. In the world of the Spirit
there is also an aroma. I have been in situations where I very clearly sensed
a real spirit of evil and confusion in what someone was saying. You can
sense jealousy, anger and bitterness. This is the aroma of the flesh and the
enemy. When you smell that aroma beware.
You can also sense the fruit of the Spirit. What aroma accompanies the
inner prompting you are feeling? Does that voice move you to confidence
and peace in your heart or does it bring confusion and disbelief? Does that
voice lead you to deeper love and obedience or does it cause you to
question the Lord and His purpose? Do you sense the fruit of love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-
control in what you are hearing (Ephesians 5:22-23)? It should not be
difficult for us to discern the aroma that comes with the voice and the
prompting. We can discern the leading of the Spirit because we know the
character of God and can discern His character in what we are feeling in our
heart.
In Tune with God’s Greater Work
If you want to understand if the voice you are hearing is from God, you also
need to understand that it will also be in tune with the greater work God is
doing. The enemy will often seek to bring confusion and chaos. He will
seek to bring disharmony and interrupt what God is trying to do. The Lord
Jesus tells us that "if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be
able to stand" (Mark 3:25). God will not fight against His own purpose. His
will is to build up the body. Maybe you have seen individuals who stepped
out in what they perceived to be the leading and prompting of the Lord but
what they did seemed only to disrupt and destroy the unity of the body and
the further advancing of the kingdom. We need to beware of any voice that
will disrupt the purpose of God and what He is doing in our midst.
The Confirmation of Other Sincere Believers
Just one final word on this matter. If you want to know if the voice you are
hearing is from the Lord, you should be ready to put it to the test. Paul
makes this clear when he gave guidelines for prophets in 1 Corinthians 14:
31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and
all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to
prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1
Corinthians 14)
Paul reminded those who heard from the Lord that they needed to be
submissive to the rest of the body. If a prophet heard from God, he or she
was to submit what they heard to the other prophets in the body. If you
believe the Lord is speaking to you about a matter don't hesitate to bring
that to other godly believers and share it with them. Let them confirm that
voice to you. Some time ago I was seeking the Lord about His direction for
a conference I was thinking of attending. There were two conferences going
on at the same time. I prayed about it and felt that I was to go to one of
these conferences and not the other. When I mentioned this to my wife she
told me that she too had that same sense. This confirmed to me that this was
the will of God. I could go with a greater confidence that what God seemed
to be saying to me He was also saying to my wife as well.
What we need to understand is that as sheep we need to discern the voice of
our shepherd not only in His written Word but also in His specific
prompting in our lives as well. What a wonderful thing it is to know that
God does direct and lead us into His purpose. It was that voice Philip heard
when he went to the desert to minister to the Ethiopian. It was that voice
Moses heard when he returned to Egypt to lead His people out of bondage.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: “Do we hear His voice? Do
we recognize that still small voice? Will we respond to it and walk in
obedience?
For Prayer:
Father, I thank You that you are a God who communicates personally with
Your people. You have written down Your purpose for us in the pages of the
Scriptures. You have protected that Word from corruption and distortion
down through the ages so that we have an accurate representation of Your
purpose for our life and faith. Help me to appreciate what You have given to
me in the pages of the Holy Scriptures –may I study and live in the truth
you present in them. Thank You also that You have not left me to figure out
the truth of these Scriptures on my own. Thank You for the person of the
Holy Spirit who lives in me to guide me into the understanding and
application of the truth of Scripture.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you also lead me into the specific application
of the will of God for my life. Teach me to recognize your leading and
prompting and be quick to obey. Teach me to wait for Your direction and
trust Your enabling. Teach me what Jesus meant when He said: “My sheep
hear my voice.” Thank you for the incredible privilege it is to know this
voice of God in my life. Thank you that You have a purpose for my life.
Thank you that you are so willing to communicate that purpose to me in
Your inspired Word and by Your Holy Spirit who lives in me. Teach me to
walk in obedience.
O
6 - AS YOU RECEIVED
CHRIST
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the
Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3
Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you
now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3)
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live
your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the
faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
(Colossians 2)
ne key distinctive that separates a child of God from an
unbeliever is the presence of the Holy Spirit in his or her life.
This is very clear from what Paul told the Romans:
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm
of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone
does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
(Romans 8)
It is the Spirit of God who brings the life of Christ to us. He seals the
relationship between God and His children and is the guarantee of our
inheritance as children of God.
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us, 22 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)
Writing to the Galatians, in the passage quoted above, the apostle Paul
asked the question: "Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by
believing what you heard?” The context of this question came from the fact
that there were teachers who had come into the region teaching that, to
become a child of God, a person needed to be circumcised and observe the
law of Moses. Paul reacted very strongly against this teaching. He
challenged this teaching by asking the believers how they had received the
Spirit.
The question Paul asks here is very important. We have already seen that
for Paul, if a person did not have the Holy Spirit they were not a child of
God. Paul is asking the question: How did you come to know Christ? For
Paul, just as there could be no salvation apart from Christ so there could be
no salvation apart from the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God who gives
us spiritual life through the forgiveness of Christ. The question of Paul here
is very simple: How did you come to experience the new life of the Spirit in
Christ?
Paul went on to question the Galatians: Did you receive the Holy Spirit
because you were faithful in observing the law of Moses. Does salvation
only come to those who measure up to the law? Does God only save those
who prove their worth by obedience?
It is very clear in the Scriptures that the Lord does not save us because of
our good deeds. In fact, no amount of good deeds can save us. The Bible
teaches that we are sinners and that nothing we can do or say will ever get
us to heaven. You can attend church every day and still not go to heaven.
You can help you neighbour and live a good life but never enter heaven’s
gate. Salvation has nothing to do with how good we are. None of us
measure up to God requirements. We all fall short of His standard. The
prophet Jeremiah puts it this way:
23 Can an Ethiopian change his skin
or a leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil. (Jeremiah 13)
We owe our salvation entirely to the Lord Jesus and His work alone. We
were saved because Jesus died and rose again. We received the Holy Spirit
as a gift and guarantee of our adoption into the family of God. All we had to
do was accept what was already done on our behalf.
From this background, Paul went on in Galatians 3 to show the believers
the implication of what the Lord Jesus had done for them by asking them
another question:
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you
now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3)
The apostle reminded the Galatians that they began their life in Christ by
faith. The Holy Spirit come as a gift from the Father. Their forgiveness was
a gift from God even when they did not deserve it. Their salvation had
nothing to do with their human efforts to please God. In fact, they were all
on a path of rebellion against God when the Spirit of God changed their
lives.
Paul went on to ask the Galatians why, if they began the Christian life by
faith in what Christ had done, were they now trying to live that life in their
own effort and wisdom? Surely if the Christian life began as a work of God,
it must continue by faith in what God will continue to do. We need the Holy
Spirit as much to live the Christian life as we did to enter that life. This is
why the Lord Jesus placed His Holy Spirit in us. He did so because He
knew it was impossible to live the Christian life apart from the work of that
Spirit in us.
One of the greatest reasons for our defeat in the Christian life is that we do
not understand this principle. We understand that we must trust the Lord for
our salvation but we fail to understand that we also need to trust Him to live
the Christian life. Somehow, like the Galatians, we believe that we need the
Spirit of God to get us started on this Christian life but we feel that we can
take it from there. Paul tells us that this is pure foolishness. Writing to the
Colossians he said:
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live
your lives in him (Colossians 2)
We received Christ by faith. We must walk in the same way. We received
Christ as those who were unworthy and totally incapable of saving
ourselves. We must learn to walk as those who depend on Christ because
we are totally incapable of living the Christian life without Him. If we want
to know how to live the Christian life, we need to go back to when we
started and live in that way.
When we received the Lord Jesus we did so as those who could not
possibly save ourselves. No one can come to the Lord Jesus unless he or she
recognizes this fact. Some of the hardest people to reach are very religious.
They believe they can merit a place in heaven by their religious activities.
The Pharisees of the New Testament were clear examples of this. They
trusted their efforts and did not see that they needed the Lord. For us to be
saved from our sins, we need to understand our need of that salvation.
The same is true in our Christian walk. If we believe we can live the
Christian life in our own strength, we will always fall short. We will never
walk in victory if we believe we can do so in our own strength. Even as an
unbeliever needs to be absolutely convinced that he is a sinner, totally
incapable of saving himself, so we too need to be convinced that we cannot
live the life God requires in our own effort. If we want to live the life that
God requires of us, we must first be absolutely convinced of our own
inability. We must come to the end of ourselves. God must break every
ounce of confidence in ourselves and place our full weight on Christ and
His Spirit.
The second detail we need to understand is that when we came to the Lord
we received the Lord Jesus by faith. We couldn't explain how it all
happened. We heard the voice of the Spirit speaking to our hearts and we
responded by faith to that voice. Our salvation was not an intellectual
choice. It was a step of faith. We cannot explain how we were changed.
What happened that day was spiritual in nature. The apostle Paul reminds
us that as believers we are to learn to live in the same way when he said:
“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)