September 23rd

Spirit-led

5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  John 3:5-8 NIV 

5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  9You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.  Romans 8:5-11 NIV 

Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us is one of the challenging tests of our new life in Christ.  It’s challenging because we often want to hold on to the reigns of control over our lives.  We want to give some allegiance to God, yet we resist surrendering our “all” to him.  Doing so may impinge on our comfort zones or even threaten the security of any secret sin habits we may have.  Even so, God calls us to yield to his ways and his guidance through the Holy Spirit, and to trust him.   

Jesus explained that we should come to God in simple trust as little children (Matthew 18:3-5).  We adults can tend to get to wound up with the complexities of life and our “practical thinking” too often fuels doubt in God’s faithfulness and goodness.  When we can come to God and be OK with the fact that we might not understand everything or have an explanation for it, we’re at the beginning of childlike faith.  When we can trust that God is in control and will lead us in righteousness one day at a time, we’ll be on the road to truly being led by the Spirit.   

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he discussed the need for our minds to be controlled by the Spirit and not by our sinful nature.  The sinful nature is bound to death, where the Spirit-led nature is bound to life and peace.  If there is anything that we need in our thoughts it is life and peace!  Unfortunately, it seems that Spirit-led living is often portrayed as a life of piety, self-denial and somberness.  Granted, we are called to control ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit, but the fruits of that will rightfully yield true joy and happiness.  Instead of being sad-faced monks isolated in a monastery (no offense to the monks out there), we’re to be free moving ambassadors of God’s love, joy and peace to the people in the world.  When they see the love of God flowing through us, they’ll naturally want to know what we have found.  Jesus exemplified this for us and people came from all over to be ministered to by him. 

I was recently outdoors on a breezy day and saw an analogy that captured Spirit-led living.  As the wind rustled all around me and in the trees above, I saw how their trunks and limbs yielded to the wind and moved as a result.  They were moving in cooperation and conjunction with the flow of the wind.  John compared to Spirit’s move to the wind’s moves, and the scriptures often compare us to trees (Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 104:16, Psalm 1:1-3).  Just as the trees move with the wind, so we are to move with the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit.   

It takes time and obedience to cultivate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Not that we can’t hear the Spirit right away, but rather our faithful yielding to the Spirit with the little things in life will lead to God entrusting us with bigger things for the kingdom.  For example, the Spirit might tell you to tell a stranger that God loves them.  If you set aside your fears of embarrassment and obey, you’ll prove yourself faithful and perhaps God will use you again to touch another person’s life. If you let fear or doubt persuade you to avoid the stranger, you grieve God and the unique opportunity to minister to a hurting person is lost.   

Thankfully, God will not give up on us when we fail in such situations. He lovingly forgives us and continues to invite us to join him in his work.  The sooner that we begin to yield to Spirit and join him in his work, the greater joy and peace we’ll have!   

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord God in Heaven, thank you for having mercy on me. I confess the ways in which I have not completely yielded to the Holy Spirit: ________________(specify).  Please forgive me for grieving you.  I surrender myself completely to you today. Please help me to trust you with simple, childlike faith, and yield control of every area of my life to you.  Please grant me the flexibility to move when I sense the Spirit moving.  Please give me your compassion and love for people.  I am your child and I delight in doing your will. Thank you, Father!  I praise you now and forever.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”