Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Let it Flow

Turned on the hot water for a shower and just a trickle came out.  Rats!  When I tried one of those new, low pressure shower heads but hardly a dribble came out.  Finally, I’d had enough. I shut off the main valve to the house and tore the shower control apart.  Surprisingly, everything seemed to be in good shape.

But then I discovered the problem.  Shining a light into the pipe, I discovered old deposits of groodah (that’s a term professionals use), clogging up the hot water pipe.  It wasn’t easy to remove that stuff; it had built up over time and was hardened onto the pipe.  Little by little, I loosened it up, but I’m sure there’s more to be done.  But now the shower works better.

When people sing and pray to be “filled with the Holy Spirit,” I suspect “filling” isn’t the problem.  After all, Jesus said:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  –  (John 14:16-17)

The apostle Peter reminded fellow believers, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…”  (2 Peter 1:3a)

My shower problem was not caused by a lack of water pressure, but by old crusty deposits in my pipes.  It had lots of water and plenty of pressure, but didn’t let the water flow through.  We can be “filled” with the Spirit but still not work right.  The Spirit is given to us to flow through us, transforming how we act in the world.  Sometimes, instead of asking God to fill us, we might better spend some time scraping away the groodah inside our pipes.

Going from How? to Wow!

“Greatly troubled” probably doesn’t even come close to describing Mary’s reaction when Gabriel popped out of the closet.  And then he said, “Don’t be scared, I just came to tell you God wants you to have His Baby.  If Mary was hyperventilating before, I’m guessing she notched it up a bit, thinking, “What?  God wants His Son to come and live in me???”  Imagine.

As preposterous a request as that was, God sends a similar one to you.  He wants His Son to be born in you and live in your soul forever.  On one level, that is more of a privileged invitation than a mere request.  But it is not unusual, when people hear that amazing invitation for the first time to respond as Mary did.  First, “greatly troubled” (read: frightened down deep). 

But then, confused.  Mary said, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” ( Luke 1:34b)  She knew she was unqualified, in a sense, not good enough to have a baby.  Our question is similar: “Me?  God wants Jesus to live in me???  Doesn’t He know how I have been living, what I have been thinking?  There’s no way I could be qualified!  How could that possibly happen?”

The answer is the same as Gabriel gave Mary:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.   – (Luke 1:35b)

And who gets to have that new birth?  Everyone who, like Mary, believes and says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”  –  (Luke 1:38b)

Recognizing the Holy Spirit in You

Late one night, at the Apple warehouse, a box of new iPhones were engaged in a casual competition to see which one of them was the best.  Unexpectedly, one of the phones was connected to a cell phone signal and then to the WiFi.  The other phones sensed something was amiss and asked him, “What’s that goofy look on your face; what’s going on?”  “I don’t know how to explain what I’m experiencing, but it is almost as though I came to life for the first time.”  The other phones considered him weird and ostracized him.

Okay, maybe that didn’t really happen, but it illustrates the problem of answering the question we posed last time (See: Who is in Control?): “How do I know when I have received the Holy Spirit?”  If you have received Him, you probably agree it’s pretty hard to find words to describe the experience.  But a pretty good start is to say it feels a bit like coming to life in a new way and for the first time.

Some will tell you that receiving the Holy Spirit is always accompanied by speaking in unknown languages, or by falling down and twitching, by hysterical laughter or even barking like a dog.  Perhaps all of these things have occurred to some as they received this mysterious and powerful new life, but it is nonsense to insist that everyone will respond in the same way.  Paul made that point in an extended argument you can read in 1 Corinthians 12 through 14.

Let me suggest a couple of telltale signs  of new life in God’s Spirit.  The first one is that you will begin to notice basic changes in how you think, what you see, what kinds of things are most important, etc.  You may think to yourself, “Well, that wasn’t like me…”  One of the changes I noticed pretty quickly was a desire to read the Bible, when I formerly had found it incredibly dull.  That wasn’t like me.  The changes might be very subtle, and even more noticeable to others.  The night I crossed the line of faith and received the Spirit, when I walked in the front door, my wife looked up and said, “Something is different about you; what’s going on?”   I don’t know what she saw or sensed.

Secondly, these changes will not fade over time but, instead, will grow.  They are not simply temporary emotional responses, such as what you might experience if you get a promotion, but living and growing changes, as you gradually become more attuned to the life of God’s Spirit within you.

Eventually, the life of the Holy Spirit will produce fruit.  Jesus spoke of the difference between a superficial religious experience and one that was genuine.  He said, those who genuinely come to new life in Him don’t wither away when trouble comes but continue to grow and produce fruit (see: Matthew 13:1-23).  What does this fruit look like?  Paul says it looks like this:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…”  –  Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV84)

And you think, “Whoa…  that’s not like me!” Notice that these “fruit” changes are external, they impact others around us.  The changes and then the fruit grow as the Spirit changes our character and attitudes to more closely resemble God’s.

Eventually, the Spirit gives us new aptitudes and abilities –  gifts of the Spirit.  And we’ll take that up next time.

P.S.  –  If you are concerned about your situation and need to run some questions past someone, I strongly encourage you to seek out a local pastor, one who is comfortable with the concept of what it means to be born again.

Water Power

The water bubbles up continuously, constantly filling and refreshing the pool and then flows out through a hand-crafted, wooden trough, dropping onto a water wheel.  The wheel powers the steady turn of an antique flour mill at the Heritage Homestead in Waco, Recirculating Mill PondTexas.

Tail-Water Dumps into Pond

On a recent visit, I was struck by this nearly silent, steady source of power and reminded of Jesus’ words:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive (Jn 7:37b–39a).

When a person recognizes the Identity of Jesus, the Son of God, and responds in surrender and complete trust, an amazing transformation occurs as His Holy Spirit is given to live forever in his or her soul.  That Spirit becomes a Spring of “living water” flowing up from within.  He refreshes and cleanses, informs and guides us.  He restores our living connection with Almighty God.  But this Flow of living water also empowers us to do what we are intended to do.  He does so in a silent, steady way.  It may not seem like much at first – no screaming machinery or belching smoke – but we can learn to rely on this Source of power, day by day.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Skinning Your Spiritual Knees

Learning to ride a bike involves skinning a few knees.  Most kids, after successfully riding a few feet without falling, look up and shout, “I can do it! I can do it!”  –  that , just before they dump the thing, trying to avoid the neighbor’s dog.  Dad runs along beside the bike, shouting encouragement, but he cannot actually teach a child how to ride.  He can describe what to do, but balance, the skill that makes bike riding work, has to naturally and gradually emerge from inside the life of the one who is learning.  Balance is built in to their system; they just need to learn how to use it.

Learning to follow Jesus is a lot like that.  Most of us skin our knees repeatedly in the process.  We default to our old habits, which don’t work, and we crash.  It can be discouraging.  So we say things like, “I should be better; I shouldn’t make the same mistake over and over again.”  And the biggie: “Maybe I’m not really a real Christian.”  But remember this:  Christlikeness, like balance, can be described but it cannot be taught.  It does not show up instantly.  It emerges gradually as a natural consequence of the Holy Spirit coming to live in the believer.  That’s why Paul said this:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.(Philippians 1:4–6 excerpts)

If you have followed Jesus by faith, God is going to make the changes in you. He is not going to be rushed in His work.  He also isn’t going to quit until you are finished.  God doesn’t give up.

So then, if God is going to do the work, what is our part?  Should we just passively wait until He makes us to be like Christ?  Nope.  That would be like waiting for balance to show up before we try to ride a bike.  Our part is to pay careful attention to what God is telling us, climb on this new life and try once again to take it for a spin.  See if we can get further down the road before the next crash.  And don’t sweat the skinned knees.  Paul said it like this:

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.  –  (Philippians 2:12b–13).

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

If Nobody is Home

Exorcism can be dangerous, Jesus said, because it can leave you worse off.

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” –  (Matthew 12:43–45)

The problem in this scenario is that the soul of the exorcised person is not filled with another and better spirit.  It is merely “swept clean.”  It may be “put in order,” temporarily following a set of rules for moral living.  But it is vulnerable to spiritual attack.  This is the condition of so many who attempt to become morally good by following rules and strict discipline.  In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees who followed that path.  In our day it is frequently those raised in a legalistic church who find themselves in this kind of peril.  His or her “house” is “swept clean” but it is “unoccupied.”  Take that person out of their childhood environment and plunk them down, unsupervised on, say, a college campus and some very strange and sad things tend to happen.

However, when a person trusts Jesus, He sends His Spirit to live in their soul to guide them and empower them in truth.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—  the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  –  (John 14:16–17)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. –  (John 16:13a)

This is an essential difference.  Their “house,” their soul, is no longer “unoccupied.”  It is the reason why the message of Jesus is not merely another religion, doomed to failure, but is genuine, Good News!  He gives the Holy Spirit Who lives in our souls and overpowers the forces of evil.

Quotes: The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Mt 12:43–45). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

One Tool

The biggest Swiss Army knife would never fit in your pocket.  It is 9″ wide and weighs 2 pounds.  It has 141 different tools folded up in it, including a hook dis-gorger and a snap shackle.  If you bought it, you might have more room in your pocket though, because it lists for $2100.  I suppose this thing is a joke, but before it went to seed, the idea of having one tool with which you could do most things was attractive.

Paul lists a bunch of new behaviors for followers of Jesus to put into practice:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   –  (Colossians 3:12-14a (NIV)) 
That’s quite a list – a nice list, to be sure – but a lot to remember.  And, even at that, it is not comprehensive; it doesn’t include everything for us with which to “clothe ourselves”.   However, there is a “Swiss Army Knife” of attitudes for Christians, one tool for most circumstances.  Here’s the rest of what Paul wrote:

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  –  (Colossians 3:14b)

If you understand that love is an act of will with which I put away my self-interest to minister to what you need, all of the attitudes listed in the first passage really are bound together under the one tool called love.  Better yet, you will discover that “Love” fits in your pocket.  It’s not free however; it costs you, maybe even more than $2100 in some circumstances.  But it is a great tool, worth much more than the biggest Swiss Army Knife.