RESET: The Holy Spirit

How many of you have ever had to learn to march in step?  Some did in the military; some of us did in band.  I learned in the band.  8-5…eight steps every five yards.  Start with the left foot.  Ankle to the knee… I weighed 145 pounds in my junior year of high school.  I carried a brass sousaphone on the marching field…it weighed around 40 pounds.  I had to make a strategic decision in marching season:  continue standing up while holding the sousaphone, or actually play it.

But I also got yelled at…a lot…for being out of step.   Again, I was focused on breathing…not marching.  We’d watch game day films of our performances and I would get called out for being out of step…a lot.  Hard to hide when you’re carrying a tuba!  The band was no place for a renegade, I quickly learned.

I want us to look at a section of the Book of Galatians over the next few weeks together.

It’s kind of a teaser for a larger study we’ll do in the spring.  But today I want us to look at what it means to “keep in step” with the Holy Spirit, as we think about RESETting this topic.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

On the whole, we have an uneasy relationship with the Holy Spirit as Baptists.  Ever fearful that we’ll be mistaken for charismatics or Pentecostals, we have gone in the opposite direction of just not dealing with this One Who is the Third Person of the Godhead.

And yet the Bible just won’t let us sidestep this subject.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was referred to as the “ruach,” which is Hebrew for “wind” or “breath” or “breeze.”  It was the “ruach” of God that was brooding over the face of the deep in the creation account in Genesis 1.  It was the “ruach,” the “breath” of God that was breathed into Adam at creation.

And it was the “Ruach” of God that blew on the Day of Pentecost as 120 disciples in Jerusalem were filled with the Spirit and began speaking in languages they had never learned.

In the Old Testament, the “ruach” of God would fall on certain people chosen for a task.  Kings or priests or prophets would have the Holy Spirit for a time, but they could lose the Spirit by their disobedience.  This prompted part of David’s confessional prayer in Psalm 51 when he pleads with God to “take not your Holy Spirit “ruach” from me.”

As Christians, the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ) indwells us when we come to Christ for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.  The Spirit of God lives in us, (regeneration) and we become “temples of the Holy Spirit.”  And because of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf, the Spirit of God never forsakes us, even if we fail.  We can “grieve” the Spirit or “quench” the Spirit, but we cannot lose the Spirit.

“All who are children of God have the Spirit of God.”   ROMANS 8:14-15

In 1 Peter 2:21 we are told that we are to “follow in the steps” of Jesus. Now this is not suggesting that we just try really hard to imitate Jesus’ life.  We do not live the Christian life by imitation, but by identification.   When we trust Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit then baptizes us into Jesus…identifies us with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.  We then receive His power, His presence that allows us to live out the Christian life.

And so, we are to “walk in the Spirit.”  This means “keep in step” with the Spirit in every part of our life.  We are told elsewhere to do the same.  The Christian life is a walk with Jesus…every day and through every experience.  Sometimes the word “walk” means the actual movement of our feet and legs and arms, representing our daily activity.  But here it means “to keep in step, follow a leader or follow a rule.”

The Holy Spirit actually does four things in us:

The Spirit of God helps us to overcome

We CAN NOT overcome our sinful nature by keeping the Law.  Now the Law is good…it reveals God to us and reveals our need for salvation.  Earlier in Galatians Paul writes, “The Law is our schoolmaster leading us to Christ.”  But the Law…your own good efforts…is powerless to save you.  When we come to Jesus, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit Who comes to live inside of us. And it is then that we can begin to overcome the flesh.  Every Christian has a civil war going on inside.  We are continually in a war between our old person and the presence of Jesus Christ in us.  As Carl Sandburg said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to fly but there is also a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

There is a spiritual presence in you if you’re in Christ Who wants you to fly like an eagle, but the old hippopotamus still lives inside.  The Holy Spirit wants to let the eagle fly.  Your flesh still wants to hang out with the hippo.  The reality is, you now have a choice about what you choose to do if the Spirit of God lies in you.  A person without the Spirit lives for the desires of their flesh, and they’re in slavery to it!  But through the Holy Spirit, we can OVERCOME the flesh.

The Spirit of God guides us. 

Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, will guide you in all truth.”  Through the Holy Spirit, the Bible suddenly makes sense.  He opens our eyes to things we’ve never noticed and never understood about the Bible.  But He also leads us in everyday decisions, and He leads us to do His will.  “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

Have you ever simply said, “Lord, whatever it is, whatever it costs, I just want to do your will.”  In 1979, I knelt beside my bed in an apartment in Williamsburg, Ky and prayed that prayer.  For some reason I vividly remember praying that.  It was on New Year’s Eve.  Pam was working that night.  I was alone.  I was struggling with God’s will for my life.  But it was almost like God said, “OK.  I hear you.”  I felt a tremendous sense of relief when I did that.  And I remember it like it just happened, 42 years later.   God wants to lead you if you’ll follow.

The Spirit of God reveals the presence of sin in us: 

The Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.  When the Holy Spirit is living in us, He points out when we get “out of step” with the Spirit.  We are given a list of what a life “out of step” with God’s Spirit looks like.   We’ll take this list on in more detail next week, but for now let’s allow The Message paraphrase to bring it home for us

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you; you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.”

Galatians 5:19-21 MSG

By no means an exhaustive list, but certainly an exhausting one!  Those who live this way find death and despair, defeat, and depression all the while being deceived by the flesh into thinking “this is really life!”  But the Holy Spirit tears the scales off our eyes, so we can see that this kind of behavior leads to death, not life.  You may find yourself getting out of step every now and then, but the Holy Spirit prompts you and reminds you “hey, you’ve been here before and you were miserable…why are you back rummaging through the garbage again?”

It’s like you going to the grocery store, hand-selecting the best organic meats and dairy products and produce, making fresh bread but you have a child that keeps slipping away from the table and going out to the garbage can, tearing open the bags and eating spoiled meats and drinking soured milk.  You would immediately be aware that there’s some problem, right?

But spiritually this is what we do when we prefer the rotten fruit of the flesh life to the fresh fruit God provides us.  And we are warned, if you keep “practicing” that, you’re going to die: “You will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

The Spirit of God produces the righteousness of God through us

By their fruit will you know them…. (Matthew 7:20)

The fruit the Spirit produces:

What you are inside will come out of you.  Especially when you get squeezed.  The pressures and problems of life are opportunities to prove what you possess.  When you are treated spitefully but you respond with love, well you know that’s not you doing that, right?  When things are not going well but joy comes out…. when the storm is raging but you have peace…

Now we don’t go to an apple tree and expect to find watermelons.  It’s the nature of the apple tree to bear apples.  What’s inside the tree will come out.  “By their fruit…”  You don’t need to try and bear fruit.  You just will if your inner nature is home to the Holy Spirit.  If it’s not…well, you’ll know.  And so, will everyone else.

(SPECIAL NOTE:  So grateful for ideas provided by some messages preached by my friend Stephen Rummage and a classic book by JI Packer entitled “Keeping in Step with the Spirit.”)

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