Imagine a wee little spring bubbling and gurgling, laughing and splashing life giving water on it’s surroundings. We see beauty in the rock’s hidden treasures that only wetness can bring. Our eyes caress the little mountain wildflowers and we wonder at that perfect shade of lavender. The little spring accomplishes so much as it feeds life into it’s environment.
“But whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be more thirsty again. The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
The Holy Spirit lives within those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Transformed and made whole hearts happen because of the up-springing of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is the spring within us that gives us victory over our old life, makes real the things of Christ, and helps us realize the Fatherhood of God.
When the Holy Spirit can flow through our lives unquenched and ungrieved, he takes up our troubles and fears and settles them for us according to God’s will. The Holy Spirit makes a way for our outer lives to be the unforced reflection of an inner life which is pure, full of tenderness, looks on humanity with a heart of love, and watches for opportunities to offer a helping hand to lift up the oppressed and weary.
The power of God lives within us like the little spring in the woods. Sometimes we wonder if it will ever run dry, but then we hear the whisper of the upper spring assuring us that we’re connected to a much bigger source that will never run dry. It’s only risks are blockages to the flow. Muddy leaves or falling branches will prevent the grand-daddy springs from feeding the little spring.
What blocks the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
Grieving the Spirit
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:30-31
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice grieve the Holy Spirit. Every time we justify one of these by saying, “God made me with a quick temper, it’s just the way I am, he’ll understand.” It might be the way you are, but have you considered the consequences to the person you took your quick anger out on? We don’t live as isolated islands, but intertwined and inter-dependent on one another.
All the things we keep in our hearts, defended, hidden, petted, and justified choke the inlet and outlet of the Holy Spirit in our life.
Quenching the Spirit
“Do not quench the spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19
Is it easy or hard for you to say yes to God? When God says to pray, do you? When he says be still, do you get busy? When he says give your time or money, do you find ways to get out of it?
Each time we say “no” to the command to pray, give, or serve, we block the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Say yes with your whole heart.
My beautiful friends, it’s not about getting more of God in you by praying harder or doing more, it’s about taking into account the fact that you have him already. As C. I. Scofield states, “If you really believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells in your mortal body, a transformation of life has begun.”
We don’t base this God-life on feelings but by receiving the facts by faith. God lives within you, you are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ, and the Holy Spirit lives within you. Those are facts that you can receive by faith.
I’m a both and kind of girl. It’s both coffee and chocolate. It’s both chocolate cake and chocolate frosting. I can’t separate the two. I mean, I can, if I have to, but I’d prefer not. But those are the easy both/ands. Those are the ones that I can take and run with that don’t make me squirm or feel twitchy inside.
It’s the ones that challenge our pet preferences, especially when it comes the Bible, that make us twitchy. Everybody has them, so when one of the both/ands rub up against those preferences, which we often disguise as biblical truth, we get. . . twitchy. You know, that squirmy feeling we quickly ignore, but keeps coming back and so we drown it out with busy? Yeah, meet twitchy.
Grace and Truth
Grace and truth is a both/and kind of deal, and it’s easy to get twitchy about them. Our human tendency is to lean slightly one way or the other. We extend so far to the grace side that we forget to bring truth right along. Or we run so fast with truth as a weapon that we leave grace back there at mile marker 3 while we’re at mile marker 20 brandishing our sword.
The two can’t be separated, it’s when we try to separate the two that we create legalism and liberalism. Both prevent the Holy Spirit from truly accomplishing his work in our lives. So what do we do? How do we stop this separation of grace and truth?
John 1:16-17 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
For starters, we focus on the personhood of Jesus Christ. Who was he? Why did he come? Why should I follow him? We can answer these questions by starting at the beginning. Jesus is God in the flesh. He came to show us the way to Father God and following him is the absolute best, most remarkable decision you can make. Not so that you have a “genie in the bottle,” but so that you have the hope of heaven in your heart, which makes every trial or burden in this life a mere stepping stone into the presence of God.
So. First things first. Consider your own heart. There’s a funny little saying that when you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you. Technically, they’re pointing at your hand, but I think we get the picture. Be careful how you point an accusing finger at someone. Often the lack we witness in other’s lives is prevalent in our own.
Jesus brought both grace and truth. He fulfilled the law, streamlined the law and in essence made it much more difficult to follow since it’s now dealing with the heart rather than behavior as the Mosaic law did. But his grace is what gives us the power for our hearts to be changed. Grace is the power we need for transformative living and when we reject grace in our own hearts, we turn back to the Mosaic law and focus on behaviors.
Grace considers how much God loves you. Think on how Christ set that kind of love before him in order to endure suffering on the cross. If God’s love can be Jesus’ motivating joy, and through Jesus you get to know that kind of love, embrace it. Embrace the grace that God pours out into your heart.
The truth? God loves you. He has set you apart. He has called you to be righteous. What steps can you take, with God’s strength, to step into that righteousness? What habits or attitudes are preventing you from “right-living” according to God’s standards?
It’s both grace and truth simultaneously growing in your heart. As you experience God’s grace and truth working in your heart, you will be so enamored with loving God and serving others that another person’s failure won’t bring out the pointing finger. But instead it will bring out a story of how God showed you grace and truth to change your life.
I use to be afraid of people and their rejection. But God showered me with grace. He reminded me over and over again that his approval could satisfy me. But he also showed me truth. He showed me how people’s approval had his spot in my heart. I turned seeking people’s approval into an idol. I can’t serve two masters. God helped me kick that people-pleasing, fear of rejection, dead idol right out of my heart.
Grace and truth. They work together to bring lasting change. They work together to bring victory. Keep them together as one unit and watch how your life is transformed.
“Where there is life, there is hope,” is an old Roman adage. But it’s not a certainty. It’s not a guarantee that just because you’re alive, you have hope. Hope is so much more than being alive–it’s nebulous and concrete–it can’t always be explained, but must be experienced.
Hope makes a way for us to touch life with tenderness, taste life with delight, view life with optimism, and hear the song of life. It’s in our most devastating moments that we can experience the highest hope. But how?
How do we transition from devastation to hope and furthermore to a lifestyle of hope? Is it possible to make hope our first reaction instead of our second or third or last?
The words Peter writes in 1 Peter, resound with the sound of hope in my ears. It’s a guidebook for living hopeful in this devastating world. Peter walks us through the definition, the defining nature, and the determination of hope.
Peter defines our living hope as the resurrection of Jesus and the future glory of his return. He shows us to live defined by hope by getting rid of the things that hinder it, and how to be determined in hope.
As believers we live future minded. Our present choices and actions are governed by the expectation of seeing Jesus face to face. There are three things that we can do in the here and now that will grow our hope.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
A disciplined mind.
Have you seen those toy sticky hands? My kids will occasionally get these plastic, gelatinous hands with a stretchy string attached and they slap it on the windows, the doors, and the sofas, and as it gets used it picks up dirt, debris, cat hair, and crumbs. And pretty soon it’s filthy. Sometimes walking through life can be like that hand. We’re reaching and touching lives and getting a little dirty. Things start sticking to us and pretty soon we’ve lost our hope. If you can center your thoughts on the return of Christ and live accordingly, then you will be effective in the world, spreading hope wherever you go. Outlook affects outcome and attitude determines action.
A sober mind.
Sober doesn’t mean serious. It means a calm, steady, and controlled mind by weighing the things you watch and listen to by God’s word and being secure in it. It stays aware that satan is on the prowl and staying alert to his tricks. Our cat is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We call him Sunny, but he is anything but sunny. He purrs and then bites. He prowls and then attacks. And when we forget his tendencies, we become prey to his tricks. He jumps at us and our hearts race and we remember his nature. Satan is like that. He prowls around attempting to distract us with despair, disappointment, and discouragement. But you have no reason to fear: Christ is coming! And for that reason alone, your mind can stay calm and secure.
An optimistic mind.
Positivity comes easy for some people. It’s like they ooze glitter and sparkles. It’s easy to look at that type of person and wonder if they understand that pain exists. As a positive person myself, let me assure you: I’m aware of pain. Pain has stolen my breath and turned my world dark. But I’m also aware that God is in all and over all and that he has my back. His heart is good and trustworthy. When the outlook is gloomy, have an up-look.
I took a hike along the Northshore of Lake Superior this fall. The beginning of the hike deceptively hid the strenuous middle. At one point I faced 275 stairs. In a row. I have a funny knee that doesn’t laugh at stairs. I knew the view at trail’s end would provide me with a beautiful reward, but I needed to stop in the middle to catch up and to look up. To pause and take in the beauty of the forest, the curling birch bark, and the way the clouds skidded along the mountain. Life is like that trail. It’s starts out innocent enough and then morphs into difficult challenges and the only way through is through. Look beyond your circumstances and see God. He’s there.
A disciplined, sober, and optimistic mind creates a spiritual mind-set that allows us to experience the grace and hope of God in the day to day grind of life. We have the assurance of seeing Jesus face to face at his second coming, but we have the ability to see evidence of him in our todays as we fix our minds on him.