19 July 2023
We have looked at the role of the Holy Spirit in effecting conversion – the power of the Spirit, the conviction of sin, and the bestowment of faith — all these took place by the grace and ministry of God’s Spirit.
But the Spirit is also primarily involved in helping the believers to grow, to mature, and to be useful servants of the Triune God.
The Holy Spirit is the author of Holy Scripture and also the interpreter of the revelation of God from the Scripture. The Holy Scripture which is Law and Light, is also Life in the precise sense that it bestows life through the Holy Spirit who writes it in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10-11).
The Apostle James wrote in James 1:21: “Receive with meekness the implanted word”. God implants the Word in our hearts, just as the gardener implants bulbs and seeds in our flowerpots.
James continues: “The implanted Word is able to save your souls.” The Word of God takes root in our hearts and changes us in ways we are not even conscious of initially; in due course, we become aware that we are different from the way we were. What has happened is that the Word has been implanted and taken root and through the Holy Spirit it has become the means of life to our hearts.
Bible truth imparts spiritual life, and we need to soak ourselves in Scripture if we are ever to learn how to know and love and serve and honour and obey our Lord. Do not ever hope to grow to spiritual maturity and genuine spiritual service if we ignore the Scripture and just skim through it superficially without any real desire and interest to truly know the heart of God. The Bible can just be plain literature unless and until the Holy Spirit makes it alive to our hearts; hence the Word, as part of the armour of God, is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit. Just quoting the Bible verses ‘in the flesh’ can result in negative impact instead of edifying and ministering spiritual ‘life’. It is the Spirit of God who imparts Life.
The basic petition of the entire Lord’s prayer is: “Hallowed be your name” – which means – ‘May you, God, be always and everywhere honoured, exalted, magnified and praised for all that You are and do. All the other petitions that follow are actually specifying in one way or another this central idea and petition. Whenever believers pray, this central petition is the controlling thought of the Lord’s prayer as a whole – so the longing is to see this petition fulfilled – we are therefore to pray to God in order to further the praise of God first and foremost, not to gratify selfish concerns in which God has no place. But is it not true that our petitions are often centred on our desires and wants – we want ‘this’; we want ‘that’, and nothing that we ask for has anything to do with honouring, glorifying and praising God – it has very much to do with what satisfy us and gratify us.
God searches our hearts – the inner realities of motivation, purpose and desire that prompt and energise our actions; these inner realities are just as important as the performance of the actions themselves.
Prayer that is mechanical, without any focused thought, carried out in a state of suppressed resentment as having to do it as a duty, is prayer from a heart that is not as it should be. God assesses all our actions from the inside as well as the outside.
Our prayer must come from a heart that desires to honour and glorify the Triune God. Can we say that what we ask for, and why we ask for, truly point toward God: His name, His glory, His kingdom? Ponder and pause: Is not this parallel with “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Are our prayers concerned with His kingdom, and God’s eternal purpose and glory? Are they in line with God’s will (in heaven and on earth)? Or are they all about ourselves, our needs, our desires, our immediate concerns?
A prayer life that is well developed and nurtured is essential for spiritual formation and maturity.
DEVELOPING A LOVE FOR CHRIST AND HOLINESS
Yet another area that is essential: Developing a love for Christ and holiness. We feel saddened and dismayed when we hear of believers falling into serious sins, and we wonder why this should take place. The soul that really loves God delights in holiness. Note the word ‘delight’. There was a time when sin looked as good to us as it did to Adam and Eve. Paul reminded the believers that this describes their lives before being born again. But if any one is in Christ, he or she is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) – this means that there should be a change of heart in the heart of a Christian – his or her heart has been moulded by the Spirit’s workmanship.
Unless this has taken place and is progressing, sin will always be pleasant. Circumstances may keep you from expressing the secret longing for sin, but inwardly, the heart will be continually hankering after it. The lust will lure you back again and again unless you are convicted to hate it as much as you once lived it. The devil finds it eady to separate a person from kingdom worj when the persin never liked doing it anyway. A man is diligent about the thing that satisfies him and delights him. There is no readon to fear degeneration after Christ had tied you to Him and His service by the heartstrings of love. Your love for God and holiness will keep you away from sin and self-life, or sin and self-life will keep you away from loving God and what He loves.
PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF HOLINESS
We have looked at loving God and holiness. Let us consider some practical aspects of holiness: A holy father, a gracious husband or wife or any member in the home – the good from their holiness is like precious perfume that lingers – see what we can learn from this holy individual – watch how he or she behaves under affliction, how he or she worships and receives God’s mercies and directs the daily life. Holiness must relate to others also.
Our love to our neighbour takes fire from God’s love to us. It is practically impossible to perform any commandment unless we first love Christ and do it for His sake (John 14:15). If we really want to be holy we must first love the Lord and also love humility (Micah 6:8). God has not asked us to earn heaven by our holiness but to show love and thankfulness to Christ who earned it for us. Christ laid down His life and took it up again for our sake and to intercede for us. If we truly value these deeds and the blessed fruit we reap from them, we need to love Him enough to keep His commandments and learn to be holy humbly before Him.
GROWING IN HOLINESS AND PLEASING GOD
Paul instructed the8 Thessalonian brethren to excel more and more in faith, love and hope. He summarised it by saying that they ought to know how to live in order to please God.He added that it is God’s will that they should be sanctified and to avoid immorality (1 Thess.4:1-3). It is unfortunate that we tend to take God’s grace for granted and assume that God will always forgive and overlook our rebellion and self-centredness despite our continual rejection of His ways. Israel of old in Jeremiah’s time was shocked when God, because of their sinful ways, allowed Jerusalem to fall and the temple destroyed. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians wrote: “The Lord will punish men for all such sins …For God did not call us
to be impure but to live a holy life. Therefore he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God who gives you His Holy Spirit (1Thess. 4:6-10).