Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] Just weeks after Jesus’ resurrection His followers were gathered in Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost. Suddenly, the room was filled with the sound of wind. What appeared as tongues of fire came upon them and they began to speak in different languages. In this way, God announced the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as the prophets had foretold.
The New Testament is filled with wonderful stories about people whose lives were dramatically changed when then received the indwelling of God’s Spirit. This same miraculous, life changing Spirit is available to you today. It is a spirit not of fear but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Is this happening in your life? Are you filled with fear? Or do you experience spiritual power and serve others with God’s love? Are you constantly wracked with guilt, hatred, lust, envy and confusion? Or do you have a sound mind?
Pentecost is celebrated by many churches as a reminder of what happened to the earliest Christians when God poured out His Spirit upon them. Is this power in your life? Today’s program will challenge you to take a closer look at your spiritual life as we discuss Pentecost: Your Need for the Holy Spirit.
What happens to a person when he or she receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the followers of Jesus did on that great day of Pentecost?
The power those first Christians received on Pentecost is the same power God wants to give you. There are a lot of passages in the New Testament about how God’s Spirit interacts with human beings. In these stories we read about how God’s Spirit produced dynamic changes in their lives.
Did you know that God wants to create those same changes in your life? The conquering of fear and anxiety, replacing fear with spiritual power, unselfish love and a sound mind.
Today, we’re going to look at these three miraculous changes God’s Spirit can accomplish in your life.
1. God, through His Spirit, gives us meaning, guidance and comfort. A sound mind.
The human mind, with all of its complexity and abilities is unable to understand great spiritual truths unless God reveals them to us. Spiritual truths like: Why were you born? Does God have a plan for your life? How can I even know God? How can I find happiness? Why is there so much suffering in the world?
We’re all looking for those “aha moments” when we experience a remarkable spiritual insight into life and death. But how can we trust that our own “aha moments” that they aren’t just sort of figments of our imaginations or purely emotional responses?
We find the answer in the example of Saul. Saul was a very religious man. He was highly respected in the religious community for his obedience to God and active public defense of the Bible. Then one day Saul was literally knocked down and blinded by the resurrected Jesus Christ. Up until this time Saul believed in God, but rejected Jesus as the Christ. It was a real “aha moment” and it changed his life forever.
For three days Saul was blinded by his encounter with Christ until God sent him a teacher named Ananias. God gave Saul back his eyesight and he was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. Saul became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest teachers and writers in Christian history.
When you read about the life of Paul you find two important points about his great spiritual “aha moment.” First, when Christ revealed Himself to Paul, Paul’s life took a dramatic change in a different direction that he chose. He had to give up his life, his dreams and desires, time and effort to God. Secondly, when you read Paul’s writings you see that he is using the Scriptures as the word of God to define the changes that were happening in his life.
Listen to what Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” Paul is saying what God will do in your life and the future He wants to give you in His kingdom and it’s beyond your imagination.
So it takes an “aha moment” to understand what God is doing. But where do these spiritual insights even come from?
Listen to what Paul writes next, “But God has revealed them [these are the meaning of the things He has prepared for those who love Him, He has revealed them] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”
Saul was absolutely sure he had it all together. He had a great deal of biblical knowledge but without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Saul had focused his zeal towards persecuting the followers of the very Messiah he was looking for.
Paul goes on, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned…” A little later in this same passage Paul wrote, “But we… [speaking of those who have the indwelling of the Spirit] have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). “But we have the mind of Christ.” We can’t know God or Christ on our own any more than Saul could. God and Christ will reveal themselves to you, fortunately not by physically blinding you, but through His Spirit He can unlock the power of His word contained in the Bible. In this book, in this book, we discover the mind of Christ.
The power of the Holy Spirit in us is more important than outward expressions like speaking in tongues or even miracles. God gives us His Spirit in order to impart in us the mind of Christ, to lead us to His word. We all desperately need the Holy Spirit to even relate to God, understand the Bible or the right way to live. There isn’t much benefit in outward show of spirituality if the inward person isn’t becoming Christ-like.
So how can the mind of Christ be developed in us? This brings us to our second point.
2. The Holy Spirit imparts into our hearts and minds the very nature of God.
We just read that through God’s Spirit we receive the “mind of Christ.” What exactly does that mean?
Let’s face it, all of us are weak, fallible human beings. Many times we flounder through life with a vague realization that for all of our religious feelings and efforts at worship, nothing has really changed in the inner person. You’re still the same old person you used to be.
To have the mind of Christ means that you must have a drastic change in the inner person, a change in your human nature.
The apostle Peter addresses this change in his letter known as 2 Peter. Listen to what he writes, “…His [talking about God] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…”
Let’s stop for a moment and think about what we just read. Peter says that through God’s divine power, the followers of Jesus Christ have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness.”
In the darkest hours of your life or when you are faced with temptation to disobey God. When you suffer doubt, God’s Spirit will give you everything you need in this life. The ability to overcome fear and replace it with power, love, and a sound mind.
And whose sound mind will God develop in you? Well Paul already told us. The mind of Jesus Christ.
So let’s go back to 2 Peter and continue in verse 4, “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises…” [What are these promises? Well Peter tell us] “…that we may be partakers of the divine nature…” That’s right, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:2-4).
What would a person who has become a partaker of the divine nature look like?
First of all, God’s Spirit doesn’t possess us and make us obey God. It doesn’t erase our free will or ability to make choices, which means that a person with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can still sin. Something else God’s Spirit doesn’t do, and this can be a little disappointing to a new Christian, it doesn’t immediately erase our corrupt human nature, emotional problems, attraction to sin, or the difficulties of everyday life.
The Christian life is a journey. By submitting to the guidance of God’s Spirit a person will experience a lifelong journey to becoming Christ-like. Saul was shocked to discover the living Christ. As Paul, he spent the rest of his life trying to imitate the living Christ.
Let’s look at the Christian life this way. You go to an awe-inspiring concert and have one of those “aha moments.” Music becomes your passion and you go home just bent on becoming a virtuoso musician. You try through fits and starts, but you just don’t have the talent or the perseverance to master a musical instrument. So you experiment with different instruments but to no avail. You sign up for lessons, but only go for about a month before petering out. To get better, you know you should be practicing every day, but instead you just settle into a habit of watching inspiring performances on YouTube once a week.
Does this sound a little bit like your Christian lifestyle?
You’ve discovered God. You want a relationship with Him. You try and fail so you finally settle into going to church once a week but you experience no real daily change in your life.
Once God gives us the “aha moment” He must also, He must give us, the “talent” in this metaphor, the Holy Spirit. You and I can’t develop the mind of Christ on our own. Once God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit then we are required to practice our Christianity every day, to be led by that Spirit and changed by it.
This is why an emphasis on ecstatic speaking in tongues as the proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is actually a dangerous spiritual concept. The gift of tongues given to the followers of Jesus in the book of Acts was a gift of languages so that the gospel could be spread beyond the borders of Judea. The proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that a person is becoming Christ-like.
Paul told Timothy that the Spirit God gives us is not a not a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
So is that what is happening in your life? I asked these questions at the beginning of the program, but right now I want you to really look inside yourself, into that inner man, and give an honest answer. Are you filled with fear? Or do you experience spiritual power and serve others with God’s love? Are you constantly wracked with guilt, hatred, lust, envy and confusion? Or do you have a sound mind?
The indwelling of God’s Spirit doesn’t instantly immediately remove the dysfunctional actions, thoughts and emotions from our lives but as the mind of Christ is developed in you, you will receive the power to overcome these faults. God wants to forgive you and He wants to heal you from your sins. He will then be able to replace your broken heart and mind with the fruits of the Spirit which Paul lists as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So the first two miraculous changes God’s Spirit can accomplish in your life are a sound mind to understand the spiritual things of God, and a godly nature that replaces our own corrupted human nature. The third miraculous change God’s Spirit can accomplish in your life is:
3. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we become the children of God
Going back to the story of the apostle Paul, think about the kind of man he was before he was called by God to do His great work when he was a religious Pharisee named Saul. Saul had a relationship with God. He worshipped Him and praised Him. He understood Him as Creator and tried to live by His laws. But he really didn’t really understand God as Father. In his “aha moment” when he discovered Christ, Saul was given insight to God and Christ. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit revealed to him the awesome reality of God’s love toward him as a Father loves a child.
Just listen to what Paul wrote to the Romans, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear…but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba…Father.’” (Romans 6:14-15)
Do you understand the meaning and power of Paul’s words?
When a person receives the indwelling of God’s Spirit he or she literally becomes a son or daughter of God. This relationship allows us to come before the awesome, all powerful, Creator of the universe and cry out to Him as if He was right there in the same room with us. Now I know not everybody can relate to the concept of a loving father, maybe because of your past. But Paul tells us that the most loving, caring, father-child relationship we can ever experience is with God in spite of how terrible our relationship may have been with our own physical fathers. He says we can cry out to Him, “Abba, Father.”
Abba is an Aramaic word that expresses a tender intimacy and child-like trust. Just think about a little girl who runs to her mom when she is hurt. According to Paul, it is only when you are being “led by the Spirit of God” that you can experience this intimacy with God.
There is more to being a child of God than just having the ability to relate to Him with the love and trust of a child towards a parent. Think about the relationship of a physical parent and child. Our children don’t stay little forever, do they? They trust you, they look up to you and as a parent you are surprised by the love you feel for them, a love that motivates you to sacrifice yourself for their wellbeing.
But if they stayed a child forever, they could never experience a full life. You know that if they never grew up emotionally or physically, they could never make it in the world. Isn’t that the point of raising them, of raising up your children and teaching them? You help equip them for the real life. They need to learn what it is to handle hardship, not to be selfish and make wise and moral decisions. You hope that they will become adults and have the same parent-child relationship with their children.
That relationship is similar to our relationship with God when we are led by His Spirit.
We begin like very little children. We need Him, we run to Him with all of our problems, we cry out to Him in our times of need. And He’s there for us.
But He didn’t create us just to receive His love. No, we’re created us to grow and to learn to love Him. Jesus said that the greatest of the commandments is to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). As we are led by God’s Spirit we learn to love Him. We learn to love Jesus Christ. God’s Spirit helps us to grow into spiritual maturity so that when we obey God we do it because we love Him.
Jesus told His followers, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). To love God is to obey God! And through His teachings we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. We learn a Christ-like care and desire for all people to know God.
So let’s return to Romans where Paul writes, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:14-17).
Did you catch that? Did you catch what he’s saying here? He says that a person who is led by the Spirit of God becomes an heir to everything the Father owns.
Now just think about this for a minute. What does God not own? What is excluded in that promise? Nothing. God owns everything. This is the awesome future God has prepared for those who receive the indwelling of His Spirit.
But in the meantime, in the here and now, life can be very complicated and difficult, can’t it? All of us face times when there seems to be no answers to the problems. When you cry out to God, “ABBA, FATHER!” Maybe it’s an illness, or personal financial ruin, or the unfaithfulness of a spouse, and in the darkness you can’t even pray.
Be encouraged by Paul’s experiences with pain, with hardship, with loneliness and despair. Read what he wrote a little further here in what we’re reading in Romans 8. He says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
Through His Spirit, God is intimately in touch with your thoughts and emotions. He understands you better than you understand yourself. He can guide you when there is no hope. Through His Spirit He will give you comfort when comfort seems impossible, when peace seems impossible. And yet He can give you peace that surpasses understanding.
Saul understood religion. Paul had an intimate relationship with God and Christ through the Spirit of God and you need this power of Pentecost in your life.
We’re going to talk about God’s Spirit and this power in your life with the Beyond Today panel, but first let’s recap what we’ve covered so far:
1. God, through His Spirit, gives us meaning, guidance and comfort. In other words, a sound mind.
2. The Holy Spirit imparts into our hearts and minds the very nature of God.
3. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we become the children of God.
We’re joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts Steve Myers and Darris McNeely. Thanks guys for being here today.
You know, we’ve all seen where God’s coming into someone’s life, God’s come into our lives and helped us. Can you share some dramatic situation where you’ve seen God’s Holy Spirit dramatically change somebody?
[Darris] I can, I had a situation one time where a woman caught her husband in adultery and basically was ready to just walk away from the marriage. And he came to my house, it was the proverbial dark and stormy night, he knocked on my door literally and I opened the door. He was there just dripping wet and crestfallen. And I talked with him and began to work with him and he turned his life around and he was baptized and he was a completely different person. Probably one of the more dramatic ones I’ve ever dealt with where you were absolutely certain that a person had come to a moment of change in his life and the evidence of God’s Spirit was there.
[Steve] It’s interesting in those situations. It’s not just a change of mind but it really is a transformation. That we can be godly people, we can have a change not only of heart, of thinking, the way we look at life it is a total transformation. Not just a few little bad habits that might be corrected. But it’s total change that we really begin to think like Jesus Christ.
[Gary] You know we just can’t get to the place where Jesus loves me and then go on with life. Any thinking, serious Christian is going to be looking at themselves from time to time and saying, “Am I truly becoming Christlike? Where am I falling down?” This love for God drives us to want this change to take place because we want to love Him.
Which bring us to another question. Is it possible for someone to think they have God’s Spirit indwelling, and not?
[Darris] Oh yes, absolutely. Many good people are sincere in their belief and their faith but if they have not followed biblical teaching on the receipt of God’s Spirit and they, they just may not have that. The proof is in the fruits of the Spirit and not just for those of their own tribe or clan but for all of mankind and a relationship with God. So yes, it’s very real.
[Steve] In Acts chapter 2 there is a little equation that is given there that begins to demonstrate whether or not we have God’s Spirit and the first thing that the Apostle Peter says is that we have to repent. So if we just say well I’ve taken Jesus and I accept the Savior without changing, without repentance, without realizing I’m a sinner and I need a Savior, I need the sacrifice of Jesus Christ applied to my life so that I can begin to change, then I haven’t followed what is the God given method to repent, to believe, have the faith and then have hands laid on you so you can receive God’s Spirit and that power then that can help transform us.
[Gary] You know you just mentioned two things. Baptism. It’s amazing how many churches today teach that baptism is not required. You know in this book, in the New Testament, there are no Christians who aren’t baptized. They’re all baptized. But also laying on of hands. It’s a command. That isn’t some work we do, it’s a command from God and how He’s going to do things. And we need to submit to that spirit and those instructions.
[Darris] That’s one of the fundamental teachings of the Bible in regard to especially, as you say, baptism that is the means by which the Holy Spirit is given.
[Gary] As I discussed in the course of today’s program, the New Testament is filled with marvelous accounts of people whose lives were dramatically changed when they received the indwelling of God’s Spirit. The same miraculous, life-changing Spirit is available to you today. It is a spirit not of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
To help you better comprehend how you can experience spiritual power and serve others with God’s love, we have prepared a free, eye-opening Bible study aid: “The Power of the Holy Spirit.” This important publication will help you examine your spiritual life to learn not only why you need the Holy Spirit but how it can help you enjoy a sound mind that is free of fear.