Essential to developing a viable intimate walk with God, is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to open our minds and hearts to the real person of Jesus. John 14:16 tells us:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” (NIV)
Truth in our day is something that can be pretty elusive. Whether you use print media, television, or the internet for your news source, you often find yourself wondering what is really true and who you can believe. The church has likewise been infected with personal opinion, self-serving agendas, unhealthy debate, and even power struggles that often sacrifice real truth for a corrupted version of it. But it is possible to know real truth because God’s promise is that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. John 16:13-15 reads:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking truth that is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (NIV)
This passage tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus to us and that He is the truth. Reading the Scriptures, we learn what is true, who is true, who we can believe, what we can trust. Both for today and tomorrow. How often as we live our daily lives do we wish we had some idea of what is coming? God in His wisdom will not tell us everything, but both through His Word and also through the Holy Spirit speaking to our inner man, He will tell us the things we need to know. This is the importance of that intimate walk with God that we’re spending so much time discussing. Knowing the truth does not happen without that intimacy. There is way too much noise in our ears to hear the Lord unless we set quiet time aside to commune with Him.
The Holy Spirit will always direct us to the Second Person of the Trinity. (The “Trinity” is a very difficult concept for many, but is a subject for another time.) The Holy Spirit makes Christ real to our lives–so real, that we begin living a life that becomes a mirror image of His. What is important to Him, becomes important to us. What moves His heart, moves ours. What causes Him joy, delights us. And what brings tears to His eyes, breaks our heart.
One of our problems in today’s modern world is that we often piously speak of living a Christ-like life, yet, when it comes down to it, we really don’t believe that the Christ-like life is actually practical for the time we live in. We can listen to a sermon based on one of the two passages in the New Testament Gospels where Jesus multiplied food for multiplied thousands of people. We can listen to a sermon like this and be excited for what happened 2,000 years ago but do we believe it could ever happen in our own life? No, not really. We know the Scripture passage that tells us that God will meet all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. But in our own minds we are asking how God is going to do this for us. We have to pay our bills with real money! Great spiritual concepts won’t satisfy those we owe money to! We’ve been taught to trust the Lord, but have you ever been guilty of wondering if your case was too hard for Him to handle? If this is how we are thinking, aren’t we guilty of a bit of pride? My situation is bigger than God! I read a statement by Oswald Chambers recently:
“Beware of the pious fraud in you which says–I have no misgivings about Jesus, only about myself. None of us ever had misgivings about ourselves; we know exactly what we cannot do, but we do have misgivings about Jesus. We are rather hurt at the idea that He can do what we cannot.”
We make the mistake of trying to figure out for ourselves how God is going to do it. But the “how” is in His command, not ours. It’s our own inferiority that causes us to question God’s ability, not knowing how He can accomplish something, so doubting that He will. The Creator of the universe does not fit within my limited mindset!
The Holy Spirit will teach us that walking in unity and intimacy with Jesus will have us in a place where we will never have to doubt. Does that mean we’ll never miss a meal? Probably not. Does that mean we’ll never have a tight paycheck? No. Does it mean that we will never have another ache or pain? Does it mean that we won’t have to battle with the fallen nature of this world and the curse that is on it? No. But, God will walk us around, over, under, and if necessary right through the chaos that defines so much of this short journey through this earthly training ground. See, it really is a training ground! Stretch your faith and let God be God in your life! If these things were not true, Psalm 91 would be a lie! Please hear what the Father is telling us in this wonderful collection of promises.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge, his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling–even the LORD who is my refuge–then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra, you will trample the great lion and the serpent. ‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, I will rescue him, I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (NIV)
Here in America, miracles seem so few and far between. This is because we live like we don’t need God’s help. We live like we have it all together…and, God HAS blessed this nation. Even though evil was present at the very infancy of this nation, it was still built on godly principles–much of it inspired by the Puritans. America was also blessed for being a very generous nation, and because it was Israel’s staunch protector. God had promised Abraham in Genesis 12 that all that blessed Israel would be blessed and all who cursed Israel would be cursed. That covenant with Abraham and his descendants is still in force.
America however is not the nation today that it was, even sixty years ago. God’s blessing and protection has been lifting, especially since the turn of the millennium. But, in comparison with most of the rest of the world, Americans live very well. While billions in the world scramble to get a meager meal, most of us here do not have that concern–not yet!
I am going to suggest that God’s people in the West begin trusting God for everything NOW, so that we are in practice if and when difficulties do come. Scientists are telling us that great famines are coming and there will be no nation on earth that will escape their ravages. How will we then live? Let’s make a point of developing that inner intimate walk with our Lord and God so that no matter what life throws our way, we are prepared because we are already practiced at trusting God. The Bible tells us that God knows our every need and will meet them as we trust in Him.
Many years ago when I was a young man, fresh out of Bible College and taking my first position in a church in the San Francisco area, I experienced a miracle I will never forget. Work was very difficult to find and so I had no money left for anything, especially gas for my old car. When I finally got hired, I needed to be able to drive to many construction sites each day to work on the new homes my boss had contracts for. I had to drive over 1,000 miles (1609 km) each week. How was I going to be able to drive my car, which by the way only got 11 miles (18 km) per gallon of gas (3.8 liters)! I had no one to borrow from. After racking my brain for a while, I finally did the last thing I thought of: I prayed! That should have been the first thing I did. So, the next morning I got in my car and drove it with an empty gas tank. I came back home with an empty gas tank. The next day I did the same thing, and of course had to drive to four or five construction sites every day from then on–with an empty tank. When it came time for my first paycheck I figured I had driven about 2,000 miles (over 3200 km). I decided to see how far I could drive on that empty tank after receiving my paycheck and my old car quit running that very day within a short distance of a service station! My gas tank had a lock on it and so I knew no one could put gas in my old car. So, did God put gas in my car that did not show up on my gas gauge? Or, did God just cause the car to run without needing gas until I could afford to pay for some? I don’t know! But I do know that God provided the miracle when I most needed it. It was undeniable.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. That means that He will walk with us just the way He did with his disciples 2,000 years ago. He has been walking with His own ever since!
I remember the wonderful story told to my wife and me over a year ago for a group of believers in Northern Jordan who were studying the subject of prayer. They had made a two day fast at the end of the week and spent the time seeking God in prayer. There were about 100 people in attendance. At the end of the fast, the Lord spoke to one of the widows in attendance and told her to take her little bit of money and buy food to make a feast for the people. She had only the equivalent of about $25, but she bought 6 kg of potatoes, eggplant, rice, and a small bottle of oil. Not near enough to feed such a large group of people! As the widow began cooking, everyone could of course smell the food after having been fasting both food and water for two full days! When they were asked what they would most like to eat, some dreamed of beef, some preferred chicken, some wished for fish. Soon the food was ready to eat and the people shared what was offered. Surprisingly, they all filled their plates and yet there was still food left. The bigger surprise, however, was as each person began to eat, they began to shout from different places in the room, each saying that what they were tasting in their food was exactly what they had desired!! Some beef, some chicken, some fish. Amazed at this, the Pastor went from person to person to taste what they were eating and, sure enough, each tasted of the meat that was most desired by that individual. What a miracle! No meat had even been cooked! What had God done? When everyone had eaten, there was still enough food left over to feed 200-300 more people! That sounds the miracle of the loaves and fishes in Matthew 14:13-21, doesn’t it? The Pastor called us from Jordan almost in tears from his excitement. He kept exclaiming, ‘A MIRACLE, A MIRACLE! Just the same as the loaves and fishes! I SAW this miracle!’
These kinds of miracles, extravagant as they are, move the Holy Spirit to raise up within us a spirit of thanksgiving, and a spirit of worship–true worship. This is not the same as participating in a song service in a church gathering. It has to do with an attitude of heart that reaches up to our Lord God and honors Him with an “awe” in our spirit for Who He is. This is more than just thanksgiving for what He gives us; the “awe” comes from recognizing WHO He is! In Romans 8:26-27 it says:
“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (NIV)
Another scripture we should look at is found in Ephesians 6:18:
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (NIV)
These two passages as well as many others show us how the Holy Spirit desires to be involved in our prayer life. The Bible teaches us that we pray with the understanding, but also totally through the interceding of the Spirit of God, which happens through our own spirit, but bypasses our carnal mind.
The way I understand the working of the Spirit of God within the Church of Jesus Christ, is that He works behind the scenes doing everything necessary to make Jesus real to us. We are connected with our Master through the Holy Spirit. We feel His love and hear His voice, because of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the power of the Spirit of God that we are all in unity with Jesus the Messiah as He is in unity with the Father. Because of this we, the children of the Kingdom are able to be in unity with the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Present Triune God.
1 Peter 4:7 tells us:
“Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone, and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV)
The work of the Spirit of God is not just to enlighten us with an external revelation but an internal revelation of who Christ is and what His life was all about so that we the believers can develop a working walk of continued intimacy with God. As we receive this revelation, we are changed from the inside out and can then be changed on the outside. Sometimes we get upset with ourselves or other people because we don’t change quickly enough on the outside to satisfy our expectations. But the Holy Spirit is still changing us on the inside. Let God do His work and stay out of His way. God is quite good at cleaning His own kids up! Be patient with yourself and with others in the process. I Corinthians 3:18 speaks to this very thing:
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (NIV)
Let’s look at two more Scriptures that fit in very well with the work of the Spirit. First we will look at Galatians 5:25, and then Galatians 5:16:
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (NIV)
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (NIV)
The more we walk with the Spirit of God, the more we mirror the life of Jesus Christ. The more we allow the filth and corruption of the world around us to become part of our lives, the less we will be able to mirror Christ. It is really that simple. Luke 6:43-45 speaks to this:
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
The things that we allow into our eyes, ears, and minds are going to affect what we are like. There is much around us in this world that we cannot control, but the things that we can control, we should; in fact, we are expected to. I am not a legalist, but I do control how much of anything I watch on television. I have also walked out of a movie theatre because its content was of no benefit to my walk with God. This does not mean that I don’t mix with non-Christian people. I don’t have to buy milk that only comes from a Christian man’s cow! I will not be defiled because someone swore within my range of hearing. I will however be affected by the input I allow into my mind and spirit that God’s Spirit is telling me is not doing me any good. That is where we need to decide whether to obey the still small voice within or ignore it and then pay the price later. We will either respond to the leading of the Spirit of God or we will listen to what “self” wants. Responding to the guidance of the Spirit of God will continue to lead us into a deeper, more intimate, worshipful walk with God.
To Be Continued in Part 5
In part 6 we will look deeper into the life of worship. True worship is the only thing that can break the death-grip we have on our lives with spiritual busywork which turns our priorities upside down.