The Bridge Less Traveled - Part II

People Agree, They are Not Who They Want to Be

In the last Midweek Article, a brief quote from John Stott became the launching pad for this series of articles.  The quote concerned Stott’s view of our day as he wrote, “. . . when the gulf between the church and the secular world is already so disastrously wide that few bridges are left by which the two remain in contact.”  The aim of the first article, and now this one, is to show what bridges may be left intact for evangelism.  The first article proposed one point of contact to be the common realization that there is “just something not right in this world.”  A second bridge may now be proposed.  This approach is closely related to the first, but is more personal.

Almost universally, people admit that they have not lived up to their potential.  Most will say that they are not what they want to be as individuals and often what they want to do they cannot do and what they do not want to do is the very thing they do.  In Romans 7:15 the Apostle bears his soul and says what we all think from time to time, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”  Do you feel this way?  Do you feel this way often?  If so, then the Gospel offers a solution.

What you need is the Holy Spirit in your life.  Hmm?  Does that pique your curiosity?  The Bible says that the Holy Spirit comes into someone’s life in order to “help” do all sorts of positive things.  The Holy Spirit is a person, but He is a Spirit, the Spirit of God.  One of the things that He does for a person is help to put to death those things that you want to rid from your life (Romans 8:13).  You need the divine help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to become who you want to be and do want you want to do.  The Spirit gives you power to master temptations, wrongdoings, weaknesses, and to do what you truly intend to do (Acts 1:8).  Romans 8:11 even goes as far to say, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  The Holy Spirit wants to give you life, help, power, and many benefits from God.  Are you ready to accept these free gifts?

How does one receive the Holy Spirit into his/her life?  Thanks for asking.  Probably the clearest statement on this comes from the Apostle Peter’s sermon on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon him and the other Christians.  He proclaimed to the people, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  So, he says, folks need to be baptized, that is, water baptized, in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (which sounds about like what Jesus said to Nicodemus that night in John 3).  But is it the water of baptism that has some kind of miraculous power?  No.  Let me ask you this and I think we will get to the real crux of the matter: why would someone be baptized?  People are baptized, to unite with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because they have heard the Gospel message that Christ has died to bear their penalty as their substitute, repented of their sins, and put their faith in Christ for salvation.  You see, this is a “conversion package.”  All these things take place in response to what Christ has done on the cross.  When people come to this knowledge, accept it, and actively respond, they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives (Ephesians 1:13).

Once you have committed your life to Christ, how do you know that you have received the Holy Spirit and that He is working in your life?  This is another good question.  Many in the charismatic circles, such as Pentecostals, have taught for years that one knows he/she has received the Spirit when he/she begins speaking in tongues.  “Tongues,” or languages, become the sign and seal of one’s new birth and Spirit gifting.  I do not find this to be true in Scripture.  Did many of the early Christians speak in other languages when the Spirit came upon them?  Sure.  Does the Bible teach that all Christians will speak in languages?  No.  If there is any interest, another article may be written on that subject.  For now, let it be known that this writer does not believe that Christians must speak in “tongues” or other languages.

The Holy Spirit is a necessary part of the Christian’s life.  After all, the New Testament teaches that He is our sign and seal of redemption; He is our guarantee of salvation and heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:5).  Let me offer a few indicators as to how you can be positive the Spirit is in your life.  First, the Bible says that when we are united with Christ, we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  This is a promise, and God is always faithful to His promises.  Second, we are told that the fruit of the Spirit is love which is evidenced in many ways (Galatians 5:22-23).  You can check yourself by really considering how you love.  Ask yourself, do you love others? do you love better today than you use to? do you love in ways that you know you couldn’t without the Spirit in your life?  Those who have the Holy Spirit in their lives will be loving.  Third, as mentioned above, the Holy Spirit will help you to defeat sin in your life slowly, but surely (Romans 8:13).  Are you ridding your life of sin?  A fourth way of knowing the Spirit dwells in you is something that is very personal.  You can know that the Holy Spirit has come into your life because He tells your spirit that you are a child of God (Romans 8:14).

Four signs of the Spirit’s coming into your life have been offered in the previous paragraph, but there are many more that can be explored.  Let me summarize here those four: You know the Holy Spirit has come into your life if you. . . have put your faith in Christ and been united with Him; love more and more; are putting to death the deeds of the flesh; know in your spirit that you are a child of the living God.  Christ has made a great promise to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and He has fulfilled that promise.  We often do not even know that the Holy Spirit is at work in us until we look back over our lives and see His activity.  Just because you may not know or feel exactly what the Spirit is doing in your life does not mean that He is not actively renewing you day by day.  Lean not on your understanding, but acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5).  He is doing a mighty work in you and will complete what He has started!

Again, to summarize, what is the second bridge that has now been offered between the church and the world?  Connection: Folks will usually admit that they are not who they want to be and do not do those things they want to do.  They often feel vulnerable to their own weaknesses and without help or hope.  Proposal: Folks need the Holy Spirit to empower them to conquer their temptations, weaknesses, and sins.  They receive the Holy Spirit by turning to Christ in faith.