Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Transforming Spirit

The call to total surrender, complete consecration, and sacrificial cross-bearing discipleship is a call to do the impossible. Or better yet, it's a call to the supernatural. For none of us can live the Christian life, as it is supposed to be lived, in our own power. However, God has given us His Spirit to dwell in us, and  it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately empowers us and transforms us. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

It is striking that in the epistle to the Romans the Holy Spirit is mentioned only one time in the first seven chapters. And it is toward the end of chapter 7 that we see the apostle Paul's desperate cry of frustration: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" All of his efforts to obey the law of God and to do the will of God were in vain. He was not able to overcome indwelling sin. The power of the flesh conquered him. Strive as he might, victory eluded him. He wrestled, but in vain. Then, when finally at the point of real desperation, he ceased his own efforts and cried out for divine help. Then, and only then, do we learn the glorious secret of sanctification. For in chapter 8 of Romans, the Holy Spirit is mentioned nineteen times. He is the divine person of the Trinity purchased by Christ's death to take residence in our hearts and transform the very depths of our souls. His proper name and essential property are holy; for He is the One whose primary work is to make the Christian holy by transforming the soul into the moral image of Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can save and sanctify the soul, renew and transform the mind, and inspire and empower dedication. Christ died on the cross so that "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4, emphasis added.).

And if we want to experience His power in our lives, we must consider four apostolic exhortations regarding the Spirit.Two are negative and two are positive.

The first one is: "Do not grieve the Spirit." Grieving the Spirit means that we cause the Spirit pain by harboring any known sin, but especially by harboring sins of bitterness and anger. All anger, clamor, and bitterness must be put away. but notice that it is put away from us, not by us. It is the Spirit, not us, who will put these sins away from us if we will yield to His work in us. It is when we resist this work that we grieve Him. If we yield, however, He will mortify our sins and produce in us the precious fruit of the Spirit.

Also, we must not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Whereas grieving the Spirit has to do with practicing sin, quenching the Spirit is a result of two very specific attitudes: ingratitude and unbelief. The context of the passage makes it clear that we are to continually demonstrate a grateful attitude by expressing thanks to God. No murmuring or complaining; no whining or self-pity. Moreover, when hearing the Word shared or taught we are not to "despise prophecies" (1 Thessalonians 5:20). In other words, we must not make light of, or ignore, the Spirit's instruction and conviction coming to us through the spoken Word. If we do so, we are quenching His work. Listen to what the Spirit is saying to you through the Word. Be quiet and listen.

On the positive side, we are told first, to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) and to "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16). the filling of the Spirit happens when we practice both personal and corporate praise and worship. We are to make it a practice not only to be grateful in our hearts, but also to sing our praises - to "offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15). As we discipline ourselves to be grateful, the Spirit is please to fill our lives, as the glory filled the temple. With His presence real in our lives, the fruit of the Spirit is produced in us. And we "walk in the Spirit" by yielding to His guidance and permitting Him to manifest His fruit in us. We literally "keep step" with the Spirit.

Much more could be said about God's work of sanctification. Indeed, entire tomes have been written on it. ... He wants a yielded will. Yield to Him and He will renew your mind, transform your soul, and sanctify your affections. 

— David Vaughn & Diane Vaughan

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