6 Aug 2013
Paul told us that when we are weak then we may be strong.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (AMP)
10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).
Have you taken pleasure in infirmities or insults or hardships lately? While it is reasonably easy to repeat these phrases, it is extensively more difficult to consistently assume this attitude deep within our hearts. Most of us have a natural bent to be in control and to be on top of everything, to be honored for our insights and skills by men. These natural desires, when given their head, drive rampantly toward avoidance of all hardships, infirmities and especially insults, seeking self for their center.
Believers are no doubt expected to believe. Yet the name believer sometimes carries a bit of paradox since when faced with the choices of everyday activities, we seem to consistently think that we are the better one to be in control rather than placing our believing trust in the Holy Spirit. Below is the choice that Paul commands:
Ephesians 5:18 (AMP)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.
The word ever reflects in this translation the idea from the original language that this command was not a onetime instruction but rather one of continuous habitual import.
We are told that the Holy Spirit was given to us in order that we might be witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ. We are to be witnesses of His work and His glory. Conversely many of us often look like we have just been enlisted in a witness protection program. Our true identity in Christ is strategically and carefully concealed so as to avoid any of the negatives results of insults, hardships or embarrassment.
A great irony prevails where God has provided to each of us, His children, the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling our lives, yet we regularly chose to be filled with self. The indwelling Holy Spirit desires to provide to us power to witness and disciple, the guidance and power to live righteous lives. But we think that we know best and elect to grasp the control of our lives and hang on for dear life. This assuming of the control of our lives results in the Holy Spirit’s active power and direction for our lives to disappear. While the Holy Spirit continues to indwell us His power and presence seem to recede to some unknown location where He waits for our repentance and surrender. He refuses to override our choice to be in control.
Our choice to habitually be filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit is a very critical one. It is critical for our marriages. It is critical for the raising and development of our families. It is critical for our relationship with God. Somehow we have adopted the general idea that we should ask the Holy Spirit to fill and control us when we have some big thing to accomplish for God. But this idea is distantly divorced from the direction of scripture.
Galatians 5:16 (AMP)
16 But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).
God has given us at least five amazing gifts, the gift of choice that proves our love for God or lack of it, the gift of the Church for fellowship, instruction and accountability. He has provided the gift of His Word for instruction, rebuke and wisdom. He has supplied the gift of His Spirit to enable us with power and guidance, conviction and comfort. And He has given us the wonderful gift of the privilege of prayer. Our use of His gift of choice determines how we are able to access or assimilate each of these other gifts …….for our good and for God’s glory.
Have you found that walking and living habitually in the Holy Spirit is a challenging assignment? I have not yet made it through an entire day where I have been filled and controlled by God’s Spirit the entire day. But by the help or my Father someday this will be a reality. My experience is not the means of evaluation for the Word of God. The Word of God is the means of evaluation for my experience. So how can we make progress in this direction of being habitually filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit?
First Spirit control must become a critical priority. I am afraid that many of us have fallen for the fuzzy fantasy philosophy that we are not living carnal life style even though we are not controlled by the Spirit and there is no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit flowing from our lives. We like to think of this as “normal” Christian living. We must come to the realization of the truth that to be filled with the Spirit allowing Him to completely control us is normal Christian behavior. Any place short of this is living in sin and carnality. The Christian life is not like the shift lever on our cars, there is no neutral, only forward [Spirit control] or reverse [carnality].
Romans 8:7 (AMP)
7 [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot.
Second, Spirit control has someprerequisites. All throughout the scriptures God reveals His requirements of confession and repentance, a submission of our heart and attitudes to God.
Psalms 24:3-4 (AMP)
3 Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or to what is false, nor sworn deceitfully.
2 Timothy 2:21 (AMP)
21 So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.
Another area that seems to trip us up is pride. The Bible is clear that pride is a sin; but we often buy into the perspectives of the world which pronounce that pride is just fine. Pride in God’s eyes is sin, regardless of what our culture proclaims.
James 4:6 (AMP)
6 But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).
Third, Spirit Control requires preparation. Our hearts desperately need preparation. We are swimming in the cesspool of sin in this world. The stink of our environment soaks into our souls, and sways our perspectives away from God and His truth. Without continuous spiritual heart preparation[cleaning] we naturally begin to think and act under the influence of our decaying surroundings. Sin blinds us to the truth. We recognize that a blind person cannot know what they cannot see, but when we are the one blind it is impossible to comprehend the depth of our oblivion.
Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB95)
22 "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
23 "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
A.W Tozer reflects in his essay Does God Always Answer Prayer?* there are two requirements related to our request that must be met. “(1) We must pray in the will of God and (2) we must be on what old fashioned Christians often call ‘praying ground’; that is we must be living lives pleasing to God. …… God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way.”
1 John 3:22 (AMP)
22 And we receive from Him whatever we ask, because we [watchfully] obey His orders [observe His suggestions and injunctions, follow His plan for us] and [habitually] practice what is pleasing to Him.
God hears our prayers and answers them when we are parked on praying ground, when we are habitually walking and living in the Spirit. As you consider praying for revival we strongly encourage you to seek to be habitually and continually filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, for it is here only that though we are weak we are in Him amazingly strong.
*from: The Best of A.W. Tozer Volume 2