577:  Abiding – The Key to Lasting Surrender and Joy

577: Abiding – The Key to Lasting Surrender and Joy

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No More Roller-Coaster Living

When it comes to spiritual disciplines like surrender or yielding our life to the Lord, the hardest part is not the act of initial surrender, but the journey of remaining surrendered to Him in the days and months ahead.  For most believers, this journey can be discouraging, filled with success and failure, ups and downs, and sometimes, you may even feel like giving up.  But that should never be the case.  After all, it is the Holy Spirit living in you that seals you in Him and is the deposit, the guarantee of the promise of your future inheritance to come (Eph. 1:14).  And this is more than going to heaven when you die— far more.  The indwelling Holy Spirit also guarantees your sanctification, which is you becoming more like Christ each and every day (1 Cor. 1:30).

But the one question still remains, how?  How do we experience the process of becoming more like our Lord in the chaos of everyday living?  And how do we make sure, at least on our end, that we remain surrendered and submitted to Him?


To Abide

In Christian circles, we hear much about the word abide or abiding regarding our relationship with Christ.  Jesus actually made that term the centerpiece of His teaching on the nature of our relationship with Him in John 15.  You would do well to study this teaching.  In it, Jesus said:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” – John 15:4-5.

Abiding in Christ is the key to remaining surrendered and walking in obedience under His authority.  But what does it mean to abide in Him? And how is it done?

The word “abide” in Greek is menó, and means to “remain or stay, live, and dwell with someone in an intimate, close relationship by being united with them, or being made one with them, in heart, mind, and will.”¹  It is more than a casual acquaintance but rather a deep, enduring connection.  And it is only when we remain connected to Him, that we allow His life to flow through us, producing spiritual fruit that brings glory to the Father (John 15:8).

The principle is simple: When we abide, we flourish and live.  When we detach from the vine and try to go it alone, we flounder and die.  And the choice is always ours to make.


Remaining Connected (Surrendered) to the True Vine

Why is abiding so important?  Because it leads to spiritual fruitfulness in our lives.  Jesus said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  As we stay attached or surrendered to the Vine (Christ), His life flows through us, and this supernaturally enables us to bear His good fruit— the fruit of righteousness, godly character, and the expansion of God’s kingdom, all for the glory of the Father.  It is an amazing dependent relationship.  Remember, as a branch, we don’t produce any fruit.  That’s the job of the Vine, Christ.  But as long as we remain attached and surrendered to Him, we get the joy of bearing His fruit since all He is, as the Vine, flows through us and, as His branches, gives our life purpose.  And all we have to do is remain surrendered, attached, and submitted to the source of everything that gives our life value.  He produces all the fruit, and we get to bear His handiwork for the world to see.  Let that sink in for a moment.

The Scriptures reveal we were created for good works (Eph. 2:10), but we can only fulfill these works if we rely wholly on Jesus’ power working in us.  If we detach from the Vine, our best efforts become futile, and we quickly discover we can “do nothing” (John 15:5).  But when we remain connected or surrendered to Him by abiding in Him, we partner with Him as He allows us to bear His lasting spiritual fruit.  Abiding places us in the channel of God’s wonderous grace and enables us to experience the joy of vibrant Christian living.  It is truly the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10).


The Fruit of Obedience

Abiding also produces obedience.  Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).  It seems that obedience and love are intrinsically intertwined.  So when we love Christ, obedience to His Word flows naturally.  And as we follow His commands, our love for Him grows deeper still.

Our culture exalts self-will and independence, but Jesus calls us to a life of voluntary surrender and submission— recognizing His wisdom exceeds our own, on every level.  Therefore, as branches abiding in the Vine, obeying Christ’s commands allows His life and power to flow unhindered through us, which is the entire point of being conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

Some may view obedience as restrictive, but in reality, it leads to great peace and freedom.  Sin and pride trap us in bitterness, resentment, anxiety, and emptiness.  But obeying Christ frees us from sin’s grip, no matter how strong the grip is.  His commands are given as a blessing, not to stifle, but to protect, guide, and bless.  And as we surrender to the Vine, we find true purpose in bearing His righteous fruit that will last, and not mindlessly spending our life chasing the trinkets and toys of this world that will inevitably perish.

But how can we grow in abiding obedience?

It starts by cultivating a heart that longs to honor Christ.  Before rushing into any activity, we must take a moment to stop and listen to Jesus, focusing on His voice among the fray.  Remember what He said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).  This is a promise and a condition.  If we rest in Him and allow His words to permeate our hearts, He will give us the power and, most importantly, the desire to obey.  Abiding flows out of a satisfied heart resting in Christ’s love.

Finally, understand that abiding obedience is a journey.  We will make missteps, count on it, but the Father graciously prunes us to grow sweeter fruit within each season of our lives (John 15:2).  So do not let past failures, no matter how many or how often, sever you from the Vine.  Repent and rely on Christ’s forgiveness and power to help you take the next step in faith and obedience to Him.


The Fruit of Dependent Surrender

Abiding in Christ requires full dependence on Him. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  We must recognize that apart from Him, we are helpless and fruitless.

When we try to live the Christian life in our own effort and strength, we end up exhausted, frustrated, and often burned out.  You’ve probably experienced that at some point in your life.  But when we fully surrender control to Jesus, trusting in His inner working more than our striving, then His divine life, power, and joy flow through us.  Surrender means ceasing from our labors and completely relying on Him (which is a great definition of abiding).

This surrender is not passive or apathetic, but rather one of active dependence.  As we abide in Christ, we gain wisdom to know what He desires us to do each step of the way.  We then act in alignment with His will but rely, not on our own meager and finite resources, but on His inner strength to accomplish it.  As Paul said, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29).  The life of Christ within empowers us beyond human capability.  The joy of experiencing being complete in Him (Col. 2:10), comes from abiding as His branch and letting the Vine do all the stuff only the Vine can do.  And then we do what we can do, which is simply to remain connected to Him.


The Fruit of a Life That Matters

Jesus promised that abiding in Him would produce spiritual fruit that remains.  He said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).  When we minister in human strength and wisdom, the impact is often limited and temporary.  But drawing life from the Vine produces eternal fruit that matters and remains.

This fruit comes from our conscious effort to remain surrendered to Him in everything.  As we listen to the Spirit’s promptings through an abiding relationship, He leads us to act in ways that bless others.  It may involve speaking a word of encouragement, showing compassion, serving a practical need, or doing something that moves us out of what feels comfortable and stretches our faith.  When we follow His lead rather than our own agenda, the fruit always brings glory to the Father.  And since the fruit is from the Spirit and not our own human efforts, it will always remain.

Scripture describes the fruit that naturally grows from abiding in Him as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  These fruits of the Spirit emerge in our character as we stay connected to the Vine and become more like Jesus.


The Overflow of Joy

One primary fruit Jesus mentions is fullness of joy.  He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).  As we abide in God’s love, His joy naturally overflows in our hearts.  And the joy of Christ, the joy He experiences Himself, will remain in us.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

This joy is much deeper than temporary human happiness based on circumstances.  This kind of joy flows from a surrendered relationship in Christ, trusting Him amidst any situation, good or bad.  Even in great trials and heartwrenching tribulations, we can experience His supernatural joy as we rely on His presence by remaining surrendered to Him.  And, as Paul and Silas discovered when chained in a dungeon in Philippi, we can now view all troubles as opportunities to experience more of Him (Acts 16:25).

This abiding joy comes from recognizing and embracing that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:38-39).  So now, life’s pressures only drive us closer to the God who sustains us.  And when we abide in the Vine, joy remains even in the midst of suffering, because we now know that pain, with purpose, produces great joy.


Launching into Jesus’ Harvest

Finally, abiding readies us for Kingdom impact.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.  I have said these things to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:16, 11).  Abiding fills us with contagious joy and propels us into Jesus’ harvest fields.

When our roots grow deep into the Vine, we gain a passion to share Christ’s love with the world.  We yearn for others to know this soul-satisfying relationship we have in Him, and therefore, we long to see others grafted into the True Vine with us as fellow branches.

So we follow the Spirit’s leading to invest in the work of His kingdom.  We freely leverage our gifts and resources to make disciples, meet needs, and proclaim the Gospel in any way possible.  We spend and are spent for the cause of Christ, fueled by our joy in Him.  This is what an overflowing life looks like abiding in the True Vine.  And it fills us with overabounding gratitude for His choice of us in Him (Eph. 1:4).


His Final Plea: Remain in Me

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus pleaded with His disciples to remain in close fellowship with Him when He said, “Stay here and watch with Me” (Matt. 26:38).  He knew great trials would soon come that would shake their faith to the core.  But He also knew that if they clung to the Vine, drawing life and strength from Him that day and daily thereafter, they would bear eternal fruit, and their lives would have a lasting impact on others.

Centuries later, His same plea echoes in our own hearts.  Jesus says, “Abide in Me.  Stay vitally connected to Me.  For apart from Me, you can do nothing.  A branch detached withers quickly.  But if you stay united to Me in abiding surrender, My life will flow through you with supernatural power.  Abide in My love and joy.  Seek My heart above all else.  Remain in Me, and your life will overflow with righteous fruit that endures forever.”

This is the way to live fully surrendered to the Lord, no matter what— come what may.  Are you ready to live a life abiding in Him?  Good.  Then let’s get started today.


Notes:

1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.


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576: The Seventh Step – Don’t Leave Home Without Him

576: The Seventh Step – Don’t Leave Home Without Him

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We’ve Only Just Begun

We are now at the last step to surrendering our lives unreservedly to the Lord.  And this seventh and final step deals with how to keep close to Him, and how to remain surrendered and submitted, even after the initial awe of the experience begins to wear off and we let our guard down.  Don’t be deceived— yes, it will happen to you, just like it has happened to all those who have gone before you in seeking the Higher Christian Life or the life of full surrender.

Even though we are at the last step, our journey of surrender has just begun.  Like Peter, taking his eyes off Jesus and sinking into the waves when doing the impossible, walking on water, it’s easy to lose focus on Christ amid the trying circumstances we face every day (Matt. 14:30).  Remember, sin is sin, and all sin, no matter how trivial we make it, hinders our relationship with the Lord and grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  Therefore your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to keep Christ at the center of your life, always, regardless of the situation you may be facing.  And we do that by keeping our eyes on Him.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 11), let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2.

So how do we maintain a posture of continual submission to the Lord and make seeking Him our consuming priority in life?  Or, how do we keep our eyes on Him like He kept His eyes on His Father?  Let me share with you a few disciplines that should give you some direction in your life-long pursuit of Him.


Start the Day Anchored in Christ

Begin each morning grounded in Scripture and prayer.  Make this a priority and set the tone of your day, communing with Jesus before anything else.  Take His word in John 15:5 to heart, “Without Me, you can do nothing,” and realize He meant what He said.  Read a devotional or passage about Christ’s character.¹  Write down what He has been showing you or how He has answered your prayers.  This anchors you in Him before the chaos of the day competes for your attention.

“My voice You shall hear (when) in the morning, O Lord; (when) in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up” (Psalm 5:3).  Just as we nourish our bodies with breakfast, we must nourish our spirit with Christ first thing in the morning.


Don’t Exclude Christ from Your Daily Tasks

As you go about your day, talk to Jesus continually through quick, conversational prayers, thanking Him for the little blessings you notice.  Ask the Spirit for patience when frustrations arise, and they will.  And seek His wisdom in any decisions you have to make, no matter how small.  Remember, He is the Lord over everything— even the small stuff.  Offer up a prayer of blessing to those you encounter.  And ask Him to guide your interactions throughout the day.

When you pray without ceasing, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs, it keeps your focus on the Lord no matter how busy your schedule gets.  Whether you’re checking off your to-do list, heading to appointments, running errands, or socializing with others, you can invite Jesus into every moment of your day.  And if you invite Him, you will no longer be surprised when He comes to walk beside you in what you consider the mundane things of life.  Try it.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much He wants to be part of your life.


Look at Everything Through His Eyes

Consider how your daily choices reflect on Christ’s priorities.  Does your use of time and money align with pursuing God’s Kingdom and righteousness?  Do your entertainment choices and digital consumption feed your spirit or merely your flesh?  Did you know that who you befriend and interact with also impacts your walk with God?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, (why) that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  Evaluate whether your lifestyle choices, even the ones you consider trivial and non-important, line up with the His Word.  And if they don’t, dump them.


Prioritize Spiritual Disciplines

Be willing to say “no” to lesser commitments and rearrange your schedule to embrace spiritual disciplines that feed your soul.  This is the one practice our Christian heroes of old did that we seem to ignore today for the sake of what seems important now.  So set aside consistent time for Bible reading, extended prayer, corporate worship, serving within your local church, and fellowshipping with other believers before your schedule gets so jammed you have no room for God.

As Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man (including you) shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4).  Don’t let busyness crowd out what matters most.


Turn First to Christ During Difficult Times

When challenges inevitably come, resist falling into despair and anger by trying to manage them on your own.  Instead, immediately turn to Jesus in prayer, surrendering the situation to His control.  “Cast all your care upon Him, (why) for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).  And all means just that— all, everything.  Trust in His sovereignty and ask Him to use this trial for your spiritual growth.²  Learn to lean into His peace and perspective, no matter how things may look to you at the time.  Remember, “Our God is in His heavens; He does what He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

As Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  So keep your eyes fixed on Christ through the storm.


Limit Earthly Pleasures
(No Matter How Good They Make You Feel)

While God richly provides for our enjoyment, beware of overindulging in His temporary gifts.  We belong to Him, and what He blesses us with is also designed to be a blessing to others.  So generously share your finances to further the Gospel rather than storing up treasures on earth that rust, rot, and fade away (Matt. 6:19-21).  Learn to develop healthy boundaries around media, food, shopping, and how you spend your leisure time.  Commit to investing more of your life in the eternal rather than the fleeting.

“Set your minds on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  Our indulgences can easily become idols if we aren’t careful.


Immerse Yourself in Christ-Centered Influences

Carefully consider those who speak into your life or who you rent space to in your brain.  Limit your time with media (especially social media), relationships, and interactions that can hinder your focus on Jesus and quench the power of the Spirit in your life (1 Thes. 5:19).  Instead, immerse yourself in influences that point you to God and grow your faith.

As Proverbs 13:20 states, “He who walks with wise men will be wise (promise), but the companion of fools will be destroyed (also a promise).”  Don’t be a companion of fools, no matter how socially acceptable it may be in our culture.  Do the hard stuff.  Seek out mentors, pastors, books, podcasts, sermons, and friendships that strengthen your spiritual walk.  And make that a daily priority.


Make Christ the Center of All Your Relationships

Surround yourself with people who reflect and encourage your devotion to God, not hinder it, malign it, or encourage you to downplay it.  Graciously, but firmly, end any relationship, even on social media, pulling you from full devotion to Christ.  Bring Jesus into your conversations.  Pray for your friends’ needs.  Set an example of wholehearted obedience to the Gospel.  And let your closest relationships be with those sharing your commitment to Him.  Don’t ever settle for anything less.

As Christ said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  Seek out fellow travelers on the narrow road.  There aren’t many of them, but they are out there.  You just might have to go out of your way to find them.


Honor the Lord’s Day for Spiritual Recharge

Set aside Sunday as a sacred day to reconnect with God. It was given as a command to God’s children for a reason.  Disengage from work, news, political commentary, and social media.  Prepare yourself to enter into His presence in worship.  Read His Scripture reflectively.  Have spiritual conversations with Him and others.  Spend the day being renewed in Him.

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  God gave His day to us as a gift, not a burden.  So set apart this time to refocus completely on Christ.


Find Your Ultimate Fulfillment in the Pursuit of God

Earthly pleasures quickly fade, but true joy is found in communion with Christ.  After all, it is Christ who brings joy and peace in this chaotic world (Rom. 15:13).  So make abiding or resting in Him your source of satisfaction (John 15:5).  Take delight in prayer, meditating on Scripture, serving in the church, praying for others, and sharing your faith.  Discover your true purpose as you daily walk closely with Jesus.

As Psalm 16:11 promises, “In Your presence is fullness of joy.”  And it is in His presence where we find our enduring treasure.


So What’s Next?

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in the midst of life’s trials, hurts, and constant distractions takes determination, spiritual strength, and a mental commitment.  But as we choose daily to seek Christ first, above all else, and build our lives around Him, He promises to align our hearts with His perfect will, producing abundant life and joy (John 10:10), and a peace that defies description (Phil. 4:7).  Just as a compass needle continually realigns to its true north, we must realign to the source of our true life each day— and that source is Jesus Himself.

May our lives fulfill Paul’s words in Philippians 3:14 — “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Let’s keep our eyes only on Him.

And let’s do it today.


Notes:

1. A great devotional is My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

2. See Step Five – Surrendering to God’s Sovereignty.


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575:  Why Did Jesus Pray for His Church to be One?

575: Why Did Jesus Pray for His Church to be One?

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Church:  The Hatfields and McCoys

We live in a world that is totally at war with itself.  Our nation is being torn apart by division – racial, socioeconomic, political – you name it, and we’ve experienced it.  But that’s not how Christ designed His church to be.  In fact, Jesus said in John 17 that when we love each other more than we love ourselves, the lost world will come to believe God sent Jesus and He is truly the Son of God.  In other words, our unity and oneness with each other will be the strongest evangelical draw we have to bring others to Christ.

But if you look around, all we see within the church is division.  Some churches believe in the sovereignty of God, while others deify man and his free will choices.  Some churches see homosexuality as a sin, while others have drag queens teaching the children on Sunday mornings.  The church has a history of dividing on trivial matters such as the mode of baptism or our posture in prayer rather than uniting around the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

But what did the Lord have in mind when He created His church?  And does it look anything like what we’ve turned it into today?  Let’s take a few moments and do a brief survey on what the Lord said about His church.


It’s Unity Above Almost Everything Else

As we’ve shared already, the early church was built on devoting themselves to the four disciplines found in Acts 2:42.  And as you can see, two of the four deal with building our family relationships with each other in unity (fellowship and the Love Feast, or the breaking of bread).

And they continued steadfastly in (were devoted to) (1) the apostles’ doctrine and (2) fellowship, in the (3) breaking of bread, and (4) in prayers – Acts 2:42.

Then we have the prayer of Jesus before His death on the cross.  And what was the content of His prayer?  Our unity in Him and each other.

“That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us (why) that the world may believe that You sent Me” – John 17:21.

Notice how many times Paul encouraged the church (and the individual believers) to humble themselves in unity with others like our Lord did.  It seems that being one together in Him was continually on Paul’s mind.

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be (what) like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, (why) that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 15:5-6.

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that (what) you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment – 1 Corinthians 1:10.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to (what) walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, (how) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all – Ephesians 4:1-6.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others – Philippians 2:1-4.


Ugh, Enough Already

I know, too many passages all saying the same thing lose their power over time.  Maybe.  Or maybe several passages all saying the same thing might convict us of our sins and move us to make the changes internally we need to in order to become one with other believers.   Maybe we will realize Jesus was serious about unity in His church, and Paul just piled it on even more after Him.

And maybe, just maybe, this will move us to change how we view church and each other in order to make His name known to those who live in sin, skepticism, and denial.  And maybe when we are one in Him, our loved ones will see the incredible power of Christ and come to faith in Him.

And if so, all He is waiting for is us to obey His commands.  Are you ready?  I sure hope so.


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572: The Sixth Step – Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

572: The Sixth Step – Surrendering to the Holy Spirit

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God is Three and Three in One

When we decide to fully yield our lives to the Lord, one essential step is surrendering control of everything to the Holy Spirit, who is probably the most overlooked member of the Trinity.  And this is because the doctrine of the Trinity, or trying to explain the triune nature of God, is one of the most confusing teachings in Scripture.  After all, we are finite beings who think in finite, logical, cause-and-effect, terms.  Yet God is infinite, off the scales, and His nature is beyond what we can explain or logically process in our finite minds.

But let’s try.  The doctrine of the Trinity is defined as God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.¹

Or, to make it easier to digest:

1.  God is three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit).
2.  Each person is fully God.
3.  There is one God.

But, even though they are all equally God, they have different and unique functions, especially regarding salvation and sanctification.  For example, Scripture reveals God the Father is right now seated on His throne in heaven.  Jesus is currently at His right hand interceding for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25).  And where is the Holy Spirit?  He is the one who now lives in us and empowers us with His gifts, guidance, and transforming power.  The Spirit is not a force that emanates from the Father to do His will, like in Star Wars, but is God Himself— co-equal, co-eternal, of the same essence as the Father and the Son.  Yet, even though the Spirit is as much God as Jesus and the Father, sadly, we must admit He is the one Person we spend the least amount of time with and the one we know the least about.

If you look at just a few things the Holy Spirit has been tasked with, you will quickly notice these have to do with securing our salvation and enhancing our sanctification.  It seems, of the three Persons in the Godhead, it is the Spirit who works the closest with us, and yet He is the one we tend to keep at arm’s length, distant and aloof.


The Vital Roles of the Spirit

Here are some key roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives while residing in us:

•   The Holy Spirit helps us understand God’s word and apply it to our lives – John 14:26.
•   The Spirit guides us into truth and helps us discern right from wrong – John 16:13.
•   The Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit in our lives like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22-23.
•   The Spirit empowers and equips us with spiritual gifts for ministry – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
•   The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us in prayer – Romans 8:26-27.
•   The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, giving us an assurance of our salvation – Romans 8:16.
•   The Holy Spirit seals believers for the day of redemption – Ephesians 1:13-14.
•   The Holy Spirit comforts believers in times of need – Acts 9:31.
•   The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment – John 16:8.
•   The Holy Spirit fills believers for service by empowering them to speak the word of God with boldness – Acts 4:31.
•   The Holy Spirit reveals the deep things of God to believers – 1 Corinthians 2:10.

And the list goes on.  Notice, these are not things the Father or the Son does in us, but the Spirit.  And it is a shame that we know so little of the Spirit compared to what we know about the Father and the Son.

But all that can change today.


15 Ways to Deepen Your Relationship With the Holy Spirit

Deep intimacy with the Holy Spirit comes through continually yielding control of our lives to Him and responding to His work within us.  The more we surrender to Him, the more we learn to recognize His leadings, promptings, and His voice.  And the more we obey Him, the more we acknowledge our dependence on Him, and the closer He becomes to us.  Like with any relationship, it grows with time.  The more time you spend with the Holy Spirit, the more you will get to know Him as much, if not better, than you do the Father and the Son.  It is really that simple, but it takes a commitment on your part to make it happen.

So let me share 15 ways to help build a closer relationship with the Spirit.

1.  Begin with a simple conversation.  Start by speaking to the Spirit as you would a friend.  Tell Him what is on your heart, and confess to Him if this process of praying to Him seems strange.  Remember, He is God, and He already knows. Nothing you say will surprise Him.

2.  Develop a habit of thanking Him for His works and gifts in your life.  Recognize the Spirit’s activity in your life, such as bringing you comfort, wisdom, power, discernment, etc.  And when you pray, don’t make it generic by saying God or Lord.  Thank the Spirit specifically, by name, for what He has done for you, and remember that He alone brings transformation in your life.

3.  Ask Him to reveal more of Himself to you.  Pray for greater knowledge, awareness, openness, and intimacy with the Spirit.  Ask Him to become as close to you as Jesus and the Father.  And if you ask, He will respond.

4.  Rely on His guidance every moment and show Him how dependent you are on Him.  Seek the Spirit’s direction in all things, big and small, and thank Him specifically for the guidance He brings (see #2).

5.  Share some personal testimonies of His activity in your life and your awareness of Him.  Tell others how the Spirit has guided, helped, or empowered you.  And be specific, if it was the Spirit who empowered you, then give thanks to the Spirit.

6.  Meditate on His name and attributes in Scripture, such as Counselor, Comforter, or Spirit of Truth.  When you reflect on verses describing the Spirit’s nature, you will soon begin to see His personality emerge from the Scriptures.  And when you do, it changes everything about your relationship with Him.

7.  Thank Him for letting you bear His fruit and for producing His Godly traits in you.  Express your gratitude to Him for your growth in love, joy, peace, etc., and acknowledge your dependence on Him for your continued growth.  Remember, they are His fruits, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), that He graciously allows us to manifest in our lives.

8.  Ask Him to reveal any sins that need confessing or relationships that need restoring.  Pray for His conviction and your courage to make things right.  Be quick to repent and forgive.  And eliminate anything hindering, grieving, or quenching your fellowship with the Spirit.

9.  Respond immediately when you sense His presence and guidance.  Act quickly when the Spirit prompts your spirit.  Don’t dismiss His gentle whispers.  And be sure to act before the urgency fades, because it ultimately will.

10.  Worship the Spirit.  Yes, you heard that right.  Profess your praises directly to Him for who He is and what He does.  After all, as God, the Holy Spirit is also worthy of your praise and devotion.

11.  Take time and be still to hear His voice.  Create space in your life to listen to the Spirit’s promptings and for His voice when you read Scripture.  If you don’t make the time for Him, you will miss the joy of His presence.

12.  Write down your conversations or encounters with Him and record what He tells you.  Note how He is stretching and maturing your faith and conforming you into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  Over time, you will see how the Spirit has been moving in your life all along, even before you were aware of it, and it will grow your faith more than you can imagine.

13.  Before you make any decisions, ask Him to guide you and make His wisdom clear.  Seek the Spirit’s direction in all things and wait for His green light.  As Oswald Chambers said, “Never run before God gives you His direction.  If you have the slightest doubt, then He is not guiding. Whenever there is doubt— wait.”²

14.  Imagine experiencing His presence when you read Scripture accounts of Him empowering believers, like in the book of Acts.  Visualize the Spirit’s activity as you read His Word, imagining how you would have been impacted if you were there in the pages of Scripture.  Then expect Him to move likewise in your life.

15.  If you don’t have a strong sense of His presence, tell Him about it, and ask Him to increase your revelation of Himself.  Share honestly your desire for greater closeness with Him.  And rest assured, He will give you what you ask.  For it is His will to reveal more of Himself, and the Father and the Son, to you.

But this leaves us with one pressing question:  How does my life change when I grow in my relationship with the Holy Spirit?


The Spirit’s Transforming Power

As we grow closer to the Holy Spirit, He progressively conforms us to the image of Christ, which is the goal of our sanctification (Rom. 8:29).  We partner with Him in the process of sanctification as we, on our part, yield more control of our lives to Him and He, on His part, bears His fruit in us, renews our minds, produces Christlike virtues, and releases His gifts through us for others.  He gives us a new hunger for His Word, convicts us of sinful patterns, comforts us in sorrow, intercedes on our behalf beyond our understanding, seals our salvation, and guarantees our inheritance in Christ by His continual presence in us (Eph. 1:13-14).

What an amazing gift to have the very presence of God dwelling in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor. 6:19).  As we yield more of ourselves to His control, He changes us from within and partners with us in the lifelong process of being reshaped into the image of Jesus Christ.

Remember, the Christian life was never meant to be lived in our own power.  With the Holy Spirit within us, we have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11).  He wants to operate through us, transforming us into vessels that overflow with divine fruit, gifts, power, and godly character traits.

So why do we hold back from giving control of everything to Him?  Why not surrender your life to the Holy Spirit today, totally, wholeheartedly, without reservation, and watch what He can do in a life fully devoted to Him?

As D.L. Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”³

Let’s make that same commitment today by surrendering our lives totally to the Holy Spirit.  Are you ready to experience the abundant life Jesus promised?

Then what are you waiting for?  Do it today!


Notes:

1. Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 226).  Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

2. Chambers, O. (1992).  My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today’s Language (J. Reimann, Ed.; p. 4). WORDsearch.

3. This quote is widely attributed to Dwight L. Moody, a 19th-century American evangelist, although its original source is unclear.


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Prayer: Ephesians 3:6-7 – Effective Working of His Power

Prayer: Ephesians 3:6-7 – Effective Working of His Power

As we prepare to close out this section of Scripture, I want to remind you that the seven verses that begin Ephesians 3 are all one long sentence.  Therefore, it is difficult to understand the whole without examining each individual part.  And it is equally difficult to understand the various parts, or verses, unless we first have a grasp of the entire meaning of this single sentence.  It seems this sentence has at its beginning and end two bookends displaying both the humility of Paul and the grace given him by the Lord.  We find these two bookends revealed in the word: given.

Paul begins with the “dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2) and ends with “I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me” (Eph. 3:7).  In both instances, Paul humbly reflects he was nothing more than the blessed recipient of something from God given to him for the sake of someone else.  In this case, the Gentiles.  But he ends by stating the gift given him, his calling into the ministry, was only accomplished by “the effective working of His power” and for no other reason (Eph. 3:7).  So both the gift and the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry, is all according to God, and not of any inherent merit of Paul.

Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power – Ephesians 3:7.

Paul claims his calling to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gift from God.  He never ceased to be amazed that God took someone like him, a murdering, vile, angry, detestable, blaspheming Pharisee, and turned him into not only a believer, but one called to minister to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).

Paul understood everything that happened in his life was because of grace.  God gave him the grace of revelation to be able to tell the Gentiles about the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  But God also called him into service as a minister of Christ and a servant of others, which gave his life more meaning and purpose than anything else, ever.  His old life as a Jew, “born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law” (Acts 22:3) meant nothing now.  Compared to the Lord’s gift of ministry and revelation, Paul considered it, like all things, “rubbish” – save for the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).


His Power, Not Ours

But the most profound statement Paul makes in this section of Scripture is that he became a minister of Christ for no other reason, and by no other means, than “the effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7).  The word translated “effective” (enérgeia) means “operative, active power or ability.”  It’s where we get our word, energy.  And the word for “power” (dúnamis) means “mighty deeds, miracles, or achieving, explosive power.”  Paul clearly understood it was only because of what Christ had done and the gift he received, that he was anything at all.

As believers in Christ, sometimes we wonder how God can save the most unsavable and disinterested of our family and friends?  Is it done by our proper diction, our eloquent use of our best English, or our ability to present the gospel in a way they will understand and be able to relate?  Is it by the teaching in our current church culture that strives to make the gospel less offensive and bring seekers into the church to somehow, by osmosis or good works or lattes before the praise band starts, lead them to Christ?  I think you know the answer.

The only way someone can come to Christ is through the new birth; through regeneration.  It is not by making a decision, nor by joining a small group, nor by reading a book by Beth Moore.  It is only by the Holy Spirit, or the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7)

Some sermons are preached by the most learned and eloquent of men, and nothing happens.  And other sermons are preached by those who have limited education or a difficult accent to understand, or maybe they have a speech impediment, and yet revival breaks out.  What is the difference between these two?  It is the power of the Holy Spirit, the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7).

Paul spoke about this in his first letter to the church at Corinth.  He said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

And there’s no greater demonstration of the “Spirit and of power” than changed lives.

God also called you to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We’re not necessarily talking about a clergy position in a church.  But we are talking about each of us having a ministry to serve others as we serve Him– which makes you, and every other member of His body, a minister who is to proclaim the good news.  You may not be a pastor or have a seminary degree, but you are just as much a minister for Him as anyone else.  And the spiritual fruit we are blessed to bear, the lives we live as light in darkness in front of our family and friends, and all those in our sphere of influence, are affected by the “effective working of His power” in us.


Time to Pray

Please know, nothing is standing between you and all God wants you to be other than your desire to yield to His Spirit.  He’s given you the gift of the Holy Spirit, not in part, not miserly doling it out to you like Ebenezer Scrooge, but He’s given you all of Himself in full.  So much so that Colossians 2:10 says, “you are complete in Him.”  Therefore, as a minister of Christ, let our prayer be for us to move out of the way so the Holy Spirit can do His work through us by the “effective working of His power” (Eph. 3:7).

And that all begins by simply asking Him.

Lord, I thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit who has “sealed” me in You and is the “guarantee of my inheritance” as Your child (Eph. 1:13-14).  I confess I have often been afraid of the Holy Spirit and, because of my fear, have relied on my strength and resources more than I have the Spirit You left in me.  Please forgive me?  And Holy Spirit, I ask You to forgive me for grieving You (Eph. 4:30).  I believe You are equally God, the Third Person of the Trinity, and I thank You for choosing to make Your home in me.  Please show me how to yield my life to You in a way that brings glory to the Father, honors the Son for His sacrifice for my sin, and allows You to change the lives of others through me.  The glorious work You did in my heart in salvation, I pray You will use me to do in the lives of my family and friends.  I ask You to fill me to the point of overflowing for the sake of others and for the glory of God.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

Until tomorrow.

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