Friday, January 11, 2008

Practically in the Spirit II

The following post draws its base from the following Scriptures:
Galatians 5:22 – 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
James 3:8 -- 11
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
Eph 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Picking up from yesterday’s ending thought, sometimes being out of the spirit is easier to recognize than being in the spirit. Have not a large number of us experienced a thought and wondered if it were God directing us or not? Or, upon acting on a thought we felt sure was of the Lord, the results were less than satisfying. The simple confusion of the matter is that we often can’t tell if we are “in” God or not, especially as a young Christian.

Practically speaking, I had stopped trusting my ability to “hear” God because it seemed my own feelings were always in the way; then I realized something clearly. It was obvious when I was out of the spirit. There were times when my conscience wasn’t sensitive enough to register all my unholy attitudes, of course; but if it was clear I was out of the spirit, there was no doubt.

As yesterday, follow the understanding in reverse: I am out of the spirit when I hate, lack joy, am anxious, impatient, unkind, lack goodness, am unfaithful, harsh, lack self-control, curse, or speak unwholesome words which do not edify or fill another’s hearing with grace.

Learning to walk in the spirit of the Lord can be accomplished if we reduce it from some deep, spiritual meaning that cannot be established either intellectually or emotionally, and set the goal of understanding in very real terms of our actual natural existence. Stopping the flow of our old natures, which is...well the natural thing we are inclined to do, is a good step. We will fail in trying to stop our old natures. That is part of the process. Jesus said to forgive 7 X 70 for a reason.

Failing enables us to confront several things. The way it “feels” or how we “think” before we fail. As dull, natural human beings, we have usually become so accustomed to our rationalizations and/or emotional habits which enable us to live with unholiness, we do not recognize our sinfulness either as sin or as something that can be changed. Identifying a clearly bad habit or thought process, thus alerting us to make a change--if we will--before we blow it is learning to walk in spirit. The most important aspect to learn, I believe anyway, is the confrontation between Truth and our selfish lack of love for God which is evidenced by our failure. Honestly acknowledging before the Lord our lack of love and repenting there is much more effective than praying, "God, please change me." God has beaten death, washed our sins in His blood sacrifice, and determined to take us into His heart for eternity. Taking some personal responsibility in loving Him is up to us.

If we can turn our lack of love for God into love for Him at any level, we are first acting in the spirit and second our obedience in the matter will follow. Why do I call this in the spirit? This process is a work of grace. God accomplished the hard stuff on the cross. He has established the path out of unrighteousness, and His Spirit lights the way. His gentle voice speaking in our conscience is His leading. We make a decision to follow that voice of conscience. Following His leading must be a spiritual or in the spirit act. (This is why legalism fails. It places the responsibility on the believer to accomplish all holy acts, all the time, according to man's interpretations of Scripture. Thus legalism removes the spiritual nature of walking with God, and the believer does not connect with God's heart or intent moment to moment.)

Therefore, learn to work on what your conscience weighs upon you. You cannot leap into the new creation as a completed human. Learning the way of love is not like cooking microwave macaroni.

4 comments:

Iris said...

Thank you for staying with this and sifting some things through. I appreciate this post -- you do a nice job of blending the emphasis on our Lord and us. Both must be engaged. Good thinking.

Craig V. said...

For myself it's not easy to tell if I'm in the Spirit (in the sense I believe you describe). Paul seems to describe an either or, but I'm not sure that's what I experience. There are times when it's clear that I'm in the Spirit and times when it's clear that I'm not. Most of the time, however, as I try to look at my own heart, it seems that I'm both. Or worse, I may be convinced I'm in the Spirit but as soon as I examine myself it's clear that I'm not. The examination itself, like the law, seems to bring a kind of death.

For this reason, though I don't pretend to have better answers, I'm a bit skeptical of an approach that requires individualistic introspection. The sheep in Jesus parable who served Jesus without knowing it (because they served the least of His brethren) seemed to have lived in the Spirit without even knowing it. Is it possible that introspection came become a form of idolatry that actually takes our attention off the cross?

ded said...

Iris,

Thanks again for your encouraging contributions here on the blog!

Craig,

I am so thankful you are reading here and commenting. This will not be the first time this has happened. Since I finished this post, I have been pondering what really needed to be said next. I worked some on the next post this morning, and stopped half way through. Your comment clarifies for me what I was thinking.

I completely agree with you about introspection turning ourselves into an idol. Your comment here helps me see I need to carefully clarify the difference between what I would like to be understood as believer dependence on the in-dwelling Spirit of Christ as opposed to believer fascination with self.

Craig V. said...

Thanks ded,

I'm very thankful for this blog and all the imagination, creativity and thought that goes into your posts. You always make me think and then pray. Thank you.