Archive for the ‘The Holy Spirit’ Category

Power to Live

Many of us act like we believe the Christian life can be lived by human effort. We don’t pray much and don’t takes risks that require God’s help. But living the Christian life is supernatural.

I used to lead small groups by relying on my skills as a facilitator. But I now realize for the time to transform lives the Holy Spirit must be free to work. He can be hindered by relying on myself instead of his presence.

For years, my wife complained she didn’t feel I loved her deeply. This led me to try harder. But it wasn’t enough. Finally, I gave up trying and committed  the problem to God to enable me to rely on his power to love her – and it worked. She feels more loved today than she ever has.

Often we are exhorted not to ask why we are the way we are. The reason is  we are complex and often can’t figure out what the twisted motives of our hearts are. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”(Jeremiah 17:9, NLT). But the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and will often reveal them to us if we ask. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT).

We need the Holy Spirit to free us from the lies and bad habits that continually block us from embracing the fulfilling life God offers us. We don’t have to keep striving to be safe, loved, and important. We already are.

The Holy Spirit helps us when we give him control. This is scary because many of us can only trust ourselves to protect us. How do we know God can be trusted? We may think,  He has allowed many hurtful things to happen to me in the past., how can I rely on his protection this time?

When I was twenty-six, I gave up trying to find a wife. I had dated extensively for six years and was frustrated because I couldn’t find a person I wanted to marry. So, I gave the problem to God. After a five-year wait, he finally brought her into my life. After forty-one years of marriage, I am convinced a better pick couldn’t have been made.

We get his help through trust. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17, ESV). Knowing the Bible is good. Obeying the Bible is better. But unless we have the courage to trust the God in the Bible, we will never live a supernatural life.

He tells us that we are important without achievement. He loves us regardless of how we perform. He comforts us by assuring us we are safe in spite of living in a dangerous world. But unless we rely on these life-giving truths, we will continue to be a slave to performance, pleasing people, and worrying about life.

The Holy Spirit can help us to trust in these truths and be transformed. May we escape being described as “they will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 3:5, NLT). May our lives have supernatural power as we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us think, feel, and do as Jesus would.






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The Power to Live

A few years ago I was listening to a pastor teach on the role of the Holy Spirit and how he helped us live the Christian life. The pastor taught that the Holy Spirit teaches, comforts, and convicts of sin. I thought to myself, “This is great! Now for the punch line – that he provides the power to live the Christian life”

But the punch line never came. He didn’t teach that the Holy Spirit provides the power to live the Christian life even though it’s a clear teaching of Scripture (Romans 8:13).

How did this happen? How can a respected and knowledgeable teacher of the Word of God miss teaching this important truth? Was it an oversight? Or was there something more going on here?

What could be going on here is that we Protestants have been strong in teaching that the Bible is our authority for life and godliness. We have also tended to emphasize the importance of evangelism. Where we have been weak is in focusing on sanctification. This is the process of how we cooperate with God in growing spiritually and living the powerful life that we have been called to.

Why We Often Lack The Power

One of the reasons we lack the power to live is that we try to grind it out in our own strength. For example, the battle cry for me in the past has been “Give me the biblical principles and I’ll do them.” But sadly I learned that I couldn’t. Having begun by depending on God, I was trying to grow and serve by my own fortitude (Galatians 3:3). We don’t let the Spirit lead, but instead try to muscle our way towards living and serving God.

We also don’t obey – and then we get mad because God’s power seems to be missing from our lives. We don’t seem to realize that the Holy Spirit in us is a Person and can be grieved and quenched when he is disobeyed. And without his presence we can’t accomplish anything that will stand the test of time (John 15:5).

Probably the most tragic reason for our lack of power is to know the truth without relying on it. We think that because we know God totally accepts us that we will be able to cope with rejection by others or ourselves. But how many of us worry more about what people think of us than what God does? And when we don’t depend on his perspective, he withdraws his power from our lives (Hebrews 11:6).


Living By This Power

We live in this power by keeping in step with the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:25). We need to develop sensitivity to his guidance. One of the key ways I discern the way to go is through experiencing peace, relying on God’s promise that “In all my ways I will give you peace” (Proverbs 3:17, paraphrased).

Another way we live by this power is to shed the lies that control us and embrace the truths. For example, it’s a lie that we aren’t important and don’t have major purposes in life. The truth is that “we are continually being made more like God in character and have specific purposes that he has made us to accomplish” (Ephesians 2:10, paraphrased). By shedding the lies and embracing the truths, he empowers us to change and accomplish the supernatural tasks that he has planned for us.


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The answer to this question is “No” for many of us. We tend to be moral people who try to live up to the standards of goodness and decency.

But are we supernatural? Or, can our life be explained by sheer human effort and gifting?

For example, I was trained from childhood that if I were to become important, loved, and respected, I had to work hard and maybe I would get it. I was not trained by my home, school, and society that I could get these things by just being me. Paraphrasing a commercial, ”I became important the old-fashion way, I earned it.”

But I am becoming more supernatural in this area. I am daring to allow God’s perspective to become mine. This means that I don’t need to earn respect. I already have it. “You are precious, you are honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4), says God.

This is supernatural. This helps free me from my natural dependency to rely too much on flawed people to give me the importance, love and respect I desperately need.

So, how can we know if our life is supernatural?

How We Can Know

One way is to look at the fruit. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). We can examine our life and determine if love and peace are deep within.

If these fruits are there, our life is probably supernatural.

Are we able to forgive those who have hurt us? Do we have the courage to say what we believe even in the face of disapproval from people we respect? Can we claim being a Christian even if we know that the consequence is being beheaded, as the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians did?

If we can do these things, our life is probably supernatural.

If we can look at the homes in which we were raised, the values of our society, and the bad habits from our past and see a big difference, our life is probably supernatural.

For example, my home growing up was not very loving, as my parents’ homes weren’t. I vowed that my home was going to be different for my kids. It was going to break the cycle.

As I look back, our home was largely a loving home for my kids. Mistakes and sins were made, but both kids grew up to be reasonably secure and knowing that they were loved by their parents and God.

Where I see the supernatural the most, however, is in the loving home of my grandkids. Their home is supernatural. Sheer natural effort can’t explain it. The cycle is being broken – supernaturally.

How We Can Experience It

The most important thing in order to live supernaturally is to allow the Holy Spirit to live through us. “Depend on the Holy Spirit and then our life will become supernatural” (Galatians 5:16, paraphrased).

But how do we depend on the Holy Spirit to live through us and make our life supernatural?

Courage, obedience, trust, and perseverance are key ingredients for our lives changing from the natural to the supernatural.

  • It’s supernatural to trust in the goodness of an unseen God when great pain awaits us if he doesn’t come through.
  • It’s supernatural to follow the voice of the Lord to go a different way when the common path gets us approval.
  • It’s supernatural to trust in a God we don’t understand more than in our own wits and wisdom.
  • And finally, it’s supernatural to continue on the hard road of following God instead of quitting and taking an easier path.

But God can and will help us to have the courage, obedience, trust, and perseverance to do these things, if we ask and rely on him.

Let us not be one of “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” as President Teddy Roosevelt described people who were not willing to meet the challenges of life. May we meet perhaps the greatest challenge of our life by allowing God to transform our life from the natural to the supernatural.

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Most of us are.

Even though the Holy Spirit is God, and loves us greatly, we tend to fear him. I think it is a loss of control that scares us the most. When he is control, we are not.

So what happens when we are afraid of the Holy Spirit? These are a few examples of what I think does happen:

  • We stay focused on gaining Bible knowledge at the expense of allowing the Holy Spirit to change us at a deep level.
  • We rely on our “wits and wisdom” to guide us rather than the Holy Spirit to lead us step by step into our future (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • We forbid the Holy Spirit to use his “miraculous gifts” in the ministries of the church.
  • We do not ask and depend on Jesus to use his Spirit to guide and empower our lives and the church’s.

We forget that the Holy Spirit is not an option. We forget that he provides the power to live the Christian life (Colossians 3:1-11). We forget that he is a Person and can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). We forget that he can withdraw his presence and power from our church.

Listen to this. Through his Spirit Jesus told the church at Ephesus:

“I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place- unless you repent” (Revelations 2:4-5).

This passage says that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit can be withdrawn from our church if we continue to grieve him. So, our fear of letting God and his Spirit have their way can be devastating to our church, as well as to our own lives.

So, let us lay aside our self-effort to control and crank out the Christian life. Let us learn to love and depend on the Spirit so that our lives and churches are full of love, joy, and kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us repent of how we have pushed the Holy Spirit out of influencing our lives and our churches. Instead, let us embrace him as a vital member of the Trinity and no longer fear him.

What evidence do you see in your life and in your church’s that shows you or your church is afraid of the Holy Spirit? Talk to God about what he wants you to do about it.

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A pastor friend of mine recently read my book, and was concerned that I had placed God’s Word in a secondary role to the various disciplines described in the book as it relates to spiritual growth. I explained to him that I did not think that I had placed those disciplines above the Word. I stated in the book that the standard of truth for all of life is the Bible, and that no discipline or anything else that conflicts with the Bible is to be accepted. Hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word are vital for our healthy spiritual growth.

However, I pointed out to him that what the book does stress is that just knowing the Word is not enough. Much like the Law of Israel, the Bible is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The Bible points us to God. The Bible reveals God and is a medium by which we communicate with each other. The Bible also paints a picture of what life is like in the kingdom of God.

Yet, knowing the Bible does not give us the power to live the Bible. We must learn how to walk in the Spirit throughout the day to do that, and practice appropriate disciplines to enable this to happen. So, I do stress that the Bible is vital for transformation, as long as we rely on the Spirit to help us understand it and give us the power to live it. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

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