Thrive Part 3
Live by the Spirit
Have you ever picked up a device, tool, opened up a smart phone, tried to turn on your computer or television, and it just doesn’t work? We live life by faith all the time without even realizing it frequently. We walk into a dark room and flip a switch on a wall or pull a cord, and we expect the light will come on. We have faith the electricity is powering the house properly and the bulbs are in good working order. When the light doesn’t come on, we know there is a problem. Then we start troubleshooting to find the problem. Is it just this bulb or is it the room? Is it just the room, or is it the whole house? Is it just this house or the whole neighborhood? Then we deal with the parts of the problem that we can address… If it’s just the bulb, we change it. If it’s the room, maybe we reset the breaker. If it’s the whole house, we’ll check the breaker and then call the power company. We take action to fix the problem whatever it might be.
With certain devices, it can be more complex. A computer or other technological device like a phone or tablet, not only needs electricity, but it has a basic input output system, then an operating system, then the individual programs to run each operation or series of operations to get the desired result. Troubleshooting those problems can sometimes take weeks or months. Writing new programs and development is a whole career that can take years and then you are always working on different versions to improve or upgrade the experience. Not unlike our lives…
We started a series called “Thrive.” As a congregation and as individuals we should want to thrive. To thrive means to prosper, to be successful, to develop, and to flourish. We want to thrive as a church. We want the Body of Christ to thrive. We want our community to thrive. We want our families to thrive. It is natural for us to desire those things. And as the Body of Christ, we started off with a resolution to take it SLOW. To Serve, To Love, To Obey, and To Worship. Serve, love, obey, and worship to develop as a thriving congregation and impact our community and the world for Christ. In our efforts to thrive, we looked at those four short phrases last week that can wrap up how we can live in such a way as to remain right with God and right with others. To have faith, do good, show love, and do the next right thing, but just like a house without power, or worse, troubleshooting a faulty computer; in order to thrive, we need to be properly plugged in.
As believers in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are given the gift of God’s very own Holy Spirit living and abiding within us. There are a lot of similarities between our existence as human beings and the computer systems that we have created. So much so, we continue to use ourselves as a pattern to develop more and more complex machines, artificial intelligences, and robots. All those things still have a basic input output system, operating system, and programs; but if we break it down; our lives, and especially our spiritual life has a similar structure.
Our lives in Christ are powered by his Holy Spirit living inside of us. His Holy Spirit inside us is what defines us as children of God. Romans 8:14-16 says,
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children.
To live a life filled with God’s Holy Spirit’s power and authority within us is the only way for a Christian to thrive. Paul, throughout all of his letters, writes about living in and relying on Holy Spirit’s power to live godly lifestyles, to practice righteousness, to fight against the desires of the flesh, to guard against the works of the devil and escape temptation. However, if we continue to live as we once did, we can grieve or quench Holy Spirit’s power in our lives. Don’t quench the Spirit, Don’t grieve the Spirit, Don’t short circuit Spirit’s power in your life. The power in the life of a Christian runs on Holy Spirit power, and so we must remember that Holy Spirit’s effect in our lives is controlled by a basic input output system and an operating system.
Earlier this week I posted on our Facebook page the content of Jesus’s first public sermons; he said in Matthew 4:17
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.
The most basic message from the beginning of the Gospel is to repent. 34 times in the New Testament repentance is talked about… To repent literally means to change your mind. Change your mind from what you think about and do to what God says you should think about and do. Acts 3:19 says,
Therefore repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out…
To repent is closely tied to the idea of confess we find in 1 John 1:9 where we are told,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
Where repent means to change your mind, confess literally means to say the same thing. To confess our sins means we say the same thing about our sin that God says about our sin, then repent means to change our mind about our sin to agree with what God wants us to think about our sin. The basic power of Holy Spirit’s operating system functioning properly in our lives starts with confession and repentance. If we do not confess and repent, God is under no obligation to impart his Holy Spirit to us. The same Holy Spirit that God breathed into the scriptures themselves is the same Holy Spirit that empowers believers to live according to the precepts that God has given us. Of course, we have mercy, of course we have grace, of course we have forgiveness when we mess up, but that is not an excuse to not surrender our lives to the control of God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us.
We must notice, IF we confess, HE, GOD through JESUS, is the one who forgives, he is also the one who cleanses!!! We can’t cleanse ourselves! We open ourselves up to be cleansed through confession and repentance, HE DOES THE WORK through the power of his Holy Spirit.
Romans is Paul’s most complete treatise from start to finish on the state of mankind without God, the effect of salvation, living in through the power of Holy Spirit, living holy lives, and how life within the church should function tied into one letter. He chases down a few rabbit trails of course, because Holy Spirit is writing through him to the believers in Rome whose societal norms were so contrary to God’s laws for the Jews; they had no basic understanding of sin in the first place.
When we compare ancient Rome to today, living in Rome would have been much like living in any big city in America minus the technology. Particularly some of the more ‘modern and enlightened’ self-indulgent areas like L.A. Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. Paul tells the Romans what judgment God had made on those who chose to claim he didn’t exist despite all the evidence he has left them, and those who chose to worship the creation rather than the Creator himself, and Paul says in Romans 1:26-2:5
For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
Therefore you (believers in Rome) are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things (all those things he just listed). And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!
The problem for these believers in Rome who had grown up in such a perverse society was, after coming to believe in God and salvation, they continued to do the things that they had been doing. We find a similar situation in Corinth when Paul writes to them. They are believers in Jesus, but they continue to live as though they have not been saved. Paul says in Romans 6:1-2
What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
He continues in verse 12,
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!
When we continue to allow sin to rule in our lives, we can cause our connection to God’s Holy Spirit to short circuit. This is why in Romans 12:1-2 Paul says,
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
Being transformed is the act of God doing the work in us, we are being actively changed by God. He does the work in and through us. Paul describes this scenario in Galatians 5, because again, he is writing to a pagan relativistic society, he reminds them; Galatians 5:16-25
But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery (which is getting high for the sake of enlightened thinking), hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.
It is living by in Holy Spirit’s power that we thrive. It is by living according to indwelling Holy Spirit’s power that we produce the fruit of the Spirit. By the way, even in the original language, it is THE fruit, singular, one fruit, of the Spirit is multifaceted. THE fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit is a multifaceted fruit that produces many Spirit-filled attributes. Those attributes are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. His Holy Spirit in us produces all of these things together and simultaneously. If I am lacking in any one or more of these attributes it means Holy Spirit is not fully in control of my life. The more I thrive in my faith, the more our congregation thrives, the more these attributes will burst forth and shine in and through us.
The meditation of our hearts should be, where in my life am I refusing to acknowledge and repent of my wrongdoing before God? I am willing to submit, to God, for him to cleanse my life?
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