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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Friday, December 12, 2008
Walking By/Being Filled With... the Holy Spirit
One of the biggest "foggy" areas in the life of many Christians, has to do with the relationship between self and the Spirit. We ask ourselves, "How do we walk in the Spirit, as opposed to the flesh?". Or, "What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?"

I mean, we see that there are commands in scripture (imperatives in the Greek) which tell us that we are supposed to be walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), or, said another way, that we are to be being filled by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Yet for many new believers, and for a good portion of immature long-time believers, these commands remain mysterious.

Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Now, don't get all hung up on the capitalization of "Spirit" - some translations have it capitalized, some do not - the original texts and manuscripts were all written in the same "case" - there was no mixing of upper and lower case, so that whenever you see in your bible that God's name has been capitalized, that is an interpretive help, and not a manuscript thing. In this case, it isn't clear which spirit is being discussed here - man's spirit, or the Holy Spirit, and for that reason, it is left in many translations, uncapitalized.

Yet if we reason for a second that this means "our" spirit then the distinction being made is pretty much a literary flourish - a poetic thing. If we understand the spirit to refer to God's Spirit, then we are being told that the way to discern the line between what I want and what God wants of me - that is, the way to discern my will from God's will, or put into the words of this verse, the way to distinguish the will of my own soul, from the will of the Spirit - is to be familiar with God's word. God's word, when allowed to speak, will show me whether a thing is serving my own interests or God's interests.

Whether or not we capitalize the "s" on spirit, this is true of God's word - this interpretation however makes that explicit.

Paul speaks in Romans twelve of being transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that by testing we are able to discern what the Spirit's (God's) will is (c.f. Romans 12:2). In Romans eight he spoke of the mind set on the flesh and the mind set on the Spirit four chapters later he is still making the distinction - and explains again the means by which we make that distinction - a transformed, renewed mind, not conformed to the world, but conformed to God.

Can I be blunt? That doesn't happen by reading a single, random, chapter of scripture every three or four days and going to church on most Sundays... It doesn't come about by reading a plethora of books about scripture, Christianity, or even by immersing oneself in theology. It comes about by spending quality time daily in God's word - try reading at least four chapters every day of the week, and read through the bible cover to cover again and again and again. Don't fret that you don't understand it all - God will open your eyes on a day of His choosing. Just get to know God's word, because if you don't know His word, you will never be able to discern between your soul and His Spirit - that is, you will never be able to set your mind on the things of the Spirit, because you won't have a clue what the things of the Spirit are.

1 Corinthians 11:31 tells us that, "if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." [ESV]. I think a good way to start a day is by judging yourself. Who am I serving today? Whom should I serve? Is it just that I serve God? What if I fail? etc. Let the first judgment against sin in your life come from God's Spirit within - let it be condemned in your life, so that you agree with God that it does not have the right to rule you. Condemn in yourself that part of you that desires to sin, don't let it fool you into thinking that it is you. Your will/soul/self is the part that makes the decisions, not the part that spits out desires. That part that spits out wicked desire is called "the flesh" - and if you are in Christ, you have been set free from bondage to it. It will still churn out the same wicked desires, but your will/soul/self no longer has to obey those desires.

Don't be fooled either, your soul will want to obey the desires of the flesh - that is why -you- must discern God's will in every moment of trial and temptation - and his will is that you put to death in the flesh what He has condemned, and more so, that you do this in His strength and the power of His might (c.f. Ephesians 6:10).

Typically, we begin this sort of thing by expecting there to be a sort of mystical feeling or experience that is going to punctuate or at least give us some tangible feedback whenever we are truly walking in the Spirit. We really do desire some sort of indicator to let us know that now we are "in the Spirit". That is partly because we misconstrue what it means to be filled with, or led by or walking in the Holy Spirit.

Listen: The filling is not like filling an empty glass with Holy Spirit water. It is more like filling a sail with wind. The point is to allow the will of Another person (the Holy Spirit) to direct your actions. Not that you sit cross legged, and hum waiting for the Holy Spirit to "possess" you; but that you do simply do God's will in any given situation. A soldier obeys his commander; he walks in the steps his commander orders him to walk, he is filled with the directives of another. It isn't any different, it really isn't.

Walking in the Spirit or being filled by the Spirit should not be thought of as some distant mystical state that we hope to enter into by praying for it hard enough, and waiting for something to happen to us. It is not a second Pentecost, not a series of new spiritual baptisms that we hope to undergo, it is not done to us from without, it is simply making biblical informed choices in our conduct during times of trial and tribulation.

Consider men like Job, Moses, or John the Baptist. The least in the kingdom (the least Christian) is supposed to be greater than even these ...according to Christ's own testimony. How are we measuring up? Are we living in defeat because we are waiting for God to zap us? If any of us is, let us stop at once. Let us put aside forever that walking in the Spirit is a sort of divine poppetry.

Here is what we are called to do - [1] know God's word so that we can comprehend God's will. How did Spurgeon say it?

"If you wish to know God, you must know his Word.
If you wish to perceive His power,
you must see how He works by his Word.
If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass,
you can only discover it by His Word."
(C.H. Spurgeon)


Knowing God's word transforms our thinking, or as Paul says it, renews our mind, so that we are able to discern spiritual things. Having some discernment, however much we have - we employ it thus: we discern between what our flesh desires, and what God desires - and reject the desires of the flesh. We call that taking up our cross, or living crucified, or being crucified with Christ, or putting to death the deeds of the body - it simply means we don't do what the flesh desires, even though we want to. If it were easy, we wouldn't use such profound and drastic metaphors (death, death, death!) to picture it. There has to be a profound reliance on God in order to obey Him, and the strength to do that is supplied by God through trusting that it is truly there by God's promise (see Ephesians 6:10 again).

George Mueller said it this way,
"There was a day when I died;
died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will;
died to the world, its approval or censure;
died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends;
and since then I have studied only
to show myself approved unto God."
(George Mueller)


There is no mystery about walking in the Spirit - it is just a metaphor for obeying God, and we are commanded to do so. His word informs us of His will, and His Spirit convicts us of the truth of it - having comprehended His will, we must choose to either obey what we know to be his will, or deny it in order to gratify our flesh. The path of obedience is to recognize which is which, and set our heart/mind/will on the desires that we know are the Spirit's desires, and carry out what they Spirit desires, rather than setting our affections on, or remaining obedient to, the desires of the flesh...

Practice, practice, practice.
posted by Daniel @ 6:41 AM  
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