Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Spirit of God

Rom.8:5 - For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Just what are the “things of the Spirit”? If we are to mind, or pay attention, to the things of the Spirit would not that require us to know what they are? Many people imagine the Spirit as a kind of invisible cloud that has much less personality than does the Father or the Son. That is a misrepresentation and a caricature. The Holy Spirit is a Person who is one with the Father and the Son, even though He does not bear the name of a family member with which we can identify.

Jesus told His disciples that when He left this earth physically He would send another Comforter which was and is the Holy Spirit. He seems to be the most intangible of the divine persons, however that is only because He has been so neglected by the church. Many churches have relegated Him to a silent partner in the kingdom of God while some churches have constructed a strange and unbiblical set of manifestations that are forced and unwieldy. And the common definition of His ministry is almost confined to interpreting Scripture and sealing the believer, especially in non-Pentecostal denominations.
But Paul exhorts us to seek after the things of the Spirit. This encompasses more than just spiritual gifts and callings, although they certainly are part of the things of the Spirit. But God’s Spirit is seeking to tear down and build up in every true believer. He alone now wields the priest’s knife of circumcision which once belonged to Aaron’s sons. And He cuts the inward person of men and women alike and not just the flesh of males as in the Old Covenant. He wounds, and He heals. He cuts away, and He replaces. He brings death, and He brings life.
I can remember my first few weeks after being born again in 1975. It was like a dream for me since I had been a wicked and violent sinner. I had always lived by the dictates of my own flesh, and I was my own master. I did an enormous amount of drugs and sold them in high schools. I drank heavily and was often in fights. It was the result of one of those fights that landed me at my atheist aunt’s house to recover. But when I was saved my inward man was completely changed, and the metamorphosis that took place inside me cannot completely be described with human words.
But I remember the first time I heard the voice of the Spirit direct me in an unusual and startling way. Those first few weeks had been filled with excitement about everything remotely connected with Jesus. The Bible, t-shirts, bumper stickers, radio and television programs, church services, and even things like statues of Jesus in a familiar cemetery drew my attention. I was consumed with Him. But one day as I left for the bar that I still frequented but remained sober and became an evangelistic pain to all my friends and family, I heard the Spirit (not audibly) tell me it was time to stop going.
All of you know what I mean when I say I “heard” the Spirit inside me. People ask me if I heard Him audibly and I often say “No, it is much clearer than that.” Believers know what I am saying. But I want to confess publicly that keeping sensitive to the Spirit’s voice over the next 35 years was very challenging and I neglected Him more times than I care to acknowledge. I have found it very easy to walk in an image of religion and morality while the power within me dissipates. And there comes a time when you know so much Scripture and have become so familiar with Christian jargon that you can fake it with great success. I have done that in my life, have you?
I have even preached while being much less than filled with God’s Spirit, and I have spoken words in prayer that were hollow and nothing more than redundant Christian phraseology. Have you? Although I could claim to be free from adultery or drugs or other “major” sins, I still was in those times a pretender, and yes, even a liar. That is what this verse is pointing out. Look at the very next verse.

Rom.8:6 - For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

A person can be saved and sealed with God’s Spirit, but if he is attending to the things of the flesh he is walking in death. Perhaps some of you can relate to this. When I was walking in my own flesh and not seeking the things of the Spirit, not only was I walking in death, but I was inwardly miserable even when smiling. But when I am seeking the things of the Spirit, not only am I walking in abundant life, I am filled with contentment and joy even if I am moved to tears. Have you ever been there?
What am I saying? And why would the Spirit through Paul point this out to believers? It is because the things of the flesh, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are all pulling us away from the things of the Spirit. And it does not happen all at once, but it happens ever so slowly and with great clandestine design. The little foxes gather one by one until they provide a thoroughfare for the larger foxes. And the flesh is well adept at appearing religious and fitting into Christian circles unrecognized.
Are you seeking after the things of the Spirit? The prerequisite must be that Jesus must be Lord over everything. That does not mean perfection, but it does mean pursuit. One of the phrases that Jesus used most often was “He that hath ears to hear…”. Our ears must be fine tuned to not just listen, but also to hear what the Spirit is saying. I am not advocating extra biblical messages or some weird and strange manifestations that seem to draw attention to us and not Him. I am suggesting that we who hold the Scriptures in primacy and as the unabridged foundation for our faith should not shun or neglect a spiritual connection with the Spirit of God that creates in us a hunger and thirst for the things that are of His desire.
The Holy Spirit is not just a theological teaching within a systematic theology that has no tangible evidence in our very lives. I remember my brother telling me about a believing young woman at the university who would not even order at McDonald’s until she bowed her head and asked the Spirit what she should order. (He probably would have told her NOT to order! :) ). Now that is going overboard, however she was on the right course. How often do we ask the Spirit to speak to us? How often do we live our lives with us being the behind the wheel and just asking God to bless what we decide?
Is it not time to cultivate an insatiable hunger for the things of the Spirit? Do we look at people and see their spiritual need or do we see their gender, occupation, race, or - God forbid - their political persuasion? I will address more of this subject in a coming post.

I want to express my deep gratitude for those of you who read and take to heart my writings. Many, many people have encouraged me via e-mail, and even those of you who communicate some disagreement have done so with a spirit of love and respect. I consider myself an obvious nobody and my blog does not attract legions of readers, however I feel so contented to know that God uses me in the lives of some of you. My health is not good but my spirit is being renewed all the time.

Thank you so much for your prayers and may the Lord Jesus receive all the praise and glory which rightfully belong to Him forever!

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