My pastor’s sermon yesterday at Riverstone UMC touched on the power of the Holy Spirit to change our lives. One of the Scriptures he read was Acts 1:5-8, which is Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit. Jesus said,
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you
More and more professing Christians today seem to lack power. I know this was true in my own life for many years and as I look around at the rates of addiction, divorce, depression, suicide, relational woes, church splits, gossip, fears, anxiety and so on within the church world I am left to conclude one of two things:
1) Jesus overstated his case, or,
2) The Holy Spirit hasn’t come upon many of us.
I have no reason to call Jesus a liar but I think I have every reason, based on what I see in my own heart, to believe many of us approach the things of God with an attitude that says,
I’ve got all I need, thanks.
And in so doing we grieve the Holy Spirit.
The greatest news on earth is that even while we are here we can be made into new creations through Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). This is tremendous news for the addict who thinks he or she must forever identify themselves with their addiction or be chasing after the idol called recovery. God doesn’t just want to make you better. He desires to make you new.
And He has the power to do so.
It’s my testimony that God meets us in our deepest need and becomes that need fulfilled. Christ truly is our “all in all.” It’s also my testimony that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). We must come to God as empty vessels, with nothing in our hands but our brokenness and a willingness to surrender all that was and is about us.
God can’t fill us if we already think we are full.
So how do we walk in the power Jesus promised us as Christians?
What I am about to say would have greatly offended the “me” of a year ago but I have come to see it as truth and power.
First, we must humble ourselves before a holy God and reckon our addiction not as a “hang-up” or a “struggle” or a “thorn in our flesh” but as sin which offends God and makes a mockery of grace. Jesus did not hang on a cross for us to be saddled with an addiction for the rest of our lives but he came to “destroy the works of the devil.” No one born of God makes a practice of sinning (1 John 3:8-9).
The beautiful thing about naming it for what it is – sin – is that sin, unlike “addiction,” has a cure. The same power that rose Christ from the dead will make a home in the one who truly repents and agrees with God that the reason we continue to stumble is because we love our sin more than we love God.
When I was in the pig sty of my addiction I was still convinced that God and I were OK. Nothing could be further from the truth! In the same way that God had departed from King Saul in his sin (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:12), God departs from the one who continues to walk in the flesh.
The second thing we must do is stay needy. We must learn to stay at the foot of the cross, which we now see as our only hope. As we fix our gaze upon Jesus we will find it natural and necessary to let go of the things of this world which used to fill our lives as well as find the energy and will to invest ourselves in the lives of others, extending the same mercy to others that we have been so graciously shown on the cross.
This is the beginning of walking in the Spirit, which is power and life, versus walking in our flesh, which is death. I know that in my own life, the extent to which I denied these truths is the same extent to which I lived a defeated Christian existence. I had no power. I had no self-control. I had no will to please God or serve others.
But all that has changed, praise be to God, and I know the same can be true for you, too.
God doesn’t desire to make you better. He wants to make you new!