Over the last few years I have been led by God to place a strong private and public emphasis on what the Scripture teaches concerning the person and work of God the Spirit. For some, this shift in my public emphasis was a struggle over the years, as most of my history was rooted in a denomination of Christianity that did not emphasize the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Because of my commitment to the Scriptures, I had to refuse denominational restraints in order to retain an organically New Testament position and practice regarding the Spirit of God. While we would all be naïve to pretend that solid believers have not historically disagreed about the Spirit and His gifts, we should all be able to emphatically affirm this one statement from the Apostle Paul about the intense need for our lives to be characterized by close, personal intimacy with the Holy Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 5:16-18:
“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
When I learned several years ago that a close friend who was a pastor had been living in some egregious sexual sin, my heart was brought very low. A myriad of questions and emotions filled my head and heart for many days as I retro-investigated how something like this might have occurred while I and all who knew him were ignorant of what was happening. This brother was a zealot for the Kingdom. He was one of the most naturally gifted people-persons I have ever met. We spoke nearly every day, prayed together often, talked of Jesus together, and did ministry in the same city. We talked with one another about everything that pertains to a Christian man’s life, including our sexuality. I was completely blindsided when the hidden sin in his life was exposed. I need to confess that, among the many thoughts that flooded my mind, I considered that, if this could happen his life, it could very well happen in my own. I shuddered at the thought. It was just a few seconds later that I sensed the Holy Spirit bringing a lesson to my soul, when the promise in the verses above were cemented in my mind and heart: “If you walk in the Spirit, Jeff, you will not gratify any desire coming from your flesh.” This is a promise to us all.
You and I need to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. To be Spirit-filled is a non-negotiable command for every Christian. It is found for our ongoing benefit in Ephesians 5:18. In the English language, the command reads less intense, but in the original Greek language, Christians are here being commanded to live a continuously Spirit-filled life. Sadly, many Jesus-followers view the filling of the Holy Spirit as a one-time event that occurred in their lives sometime in the past. They had a supernatural experience and, from that point onward, they categorize themselves as Spirit-filled. There are many reasons why it is important for us to know that we personally are living out this commandment to live perpetually filled by the Holy Spirit. Not the least of these reasons is found in the truth that living in the Holy Spirit is the guaranteed means by which you and I will not live in any bondage to our flesh. If I am walking in personal closeness with God, I cannot sin against Him. Each and every time a believer commits an act of sin, in that moment the believer is not walking in the Spirit. We are saved, but we are not in communion with God when we sin. If that moment of distance continues, and becomes a season of distance, terrible things can begin to happen in our lives. We can become gossips, liars, bitter, hopeless, lusty, covetous, jealous, lazy, fearful…the unhappy list can go on and on. Yet, if I remain aware of that negative potential for my life, and how it can break the heart of my good and gracious God, I will desire more than anything to prevent that from happening. I will not only understand that I need Him, I will begin to more deeply want Him.
Somewhere along the way, my friend stepped off from walking with the Lord. He grieved the Holy Spirit. He failed to repent and his heart invisibly hardened. Only God saw it. The distance between him and his Lord grew. He did bad things, and failed to be honest with himself, with others and with his Lord. He became inwardly driven by fleshly impulses and these impulses became actions, which then became repeated patterns of behavior.
Then, my friend fell. Hard.
It all occurred because he failed to walk in the Holy Spirit. Friends, it is that simple. And it is that devastating.
The end result was a catastrophic implosion which hurt many. My Christian friend, feel free to disagree with me on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. I won’t sacrifice my relationship with any Christian over the issues of tongues, prophecy or healing. Yet, if we must disagree on those things, can we work hard to agree on this one thing: that we all desperately need to be filled with the Spirit every day of our faith-journey? We don’t primarily need to seek to be more refined in our theological positions about God the Spirit…we need to come bankrupt before Him and believe that He wants to control our minds, mouths and bodies. We are His temple, and He refuses to allow anyone else to own a single square foot of that temple. If we are unsure whether or not we are living a life defined by the fullness of the Holy Spirit, then we need to make gaining that confidence a huge priority for the new year.
No more religion.
No more powerless moral striving.
No more portrayal of public piety while private lusts are cultivated and protected.
No more double-mindedness.
No more doing life alone.
No more pretending that we have it all together.
No more assuming that we are walking in intimacy with the Holy Spirit. We need to pursue that fullness. We need to experience it. We need to protect it. And we need to know it is our own reality.
Too much is on the line in these last days for Christians to be “winging it”. We bear the name of Jesus Christ and the glory of His name is far too weighty for you and me to carry it in our own strength.
We all must be continuously filled by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.