The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Victory

Reflections

This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here

The Power of the Victory

We are born with complex and demanding desires. As we grow beyond infancy, our desires grow rapidly beyond physical needs and move into the realm of the sinful desires of the flesh. We begin to want more than we need. We begin to want what we forgot we already had. We begin to want what we don’t need. We even begin to want the things we know will harm us.

Sin has devastating power when allowed to mingle with our human desires. As we grow, these irrational and illogical desires grow too. Although we read that God is enough and that he supplies our every need, we easily become dissatisfied with his provision and turn to the world for what we “need.” The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not simply a return to our Creator. It is a return to who we were at the time of that creation. At that time, all we knew was our Father; all we knew was how much he gave us. The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not simply illuminate the satisfaction in Church fellowship, Bible reading or positivity toward the world. We become deeply satisfied with God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the deception of worldly satisfaction and gratification. Where in the past our desires were for our relationships, jobs or money, the baptism of the Holy Spirit reveals the truth: that sin has deceived us into believing that we truly need those things when in fact we were never designed to have any of them. Originally, we were designed to have God and God alone.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism, we are reintroduced to that original design.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
Psalm 62:5-12

Upon being baptized by the Holy Spirit, all else fades in the presence of the Creator God who knows our name, has called us, has saved us, and continues to bless us. While we can still find joy in our jobs or relationships, they simply further illuminate the love we have for God. We love our job because in it we can share the Gospel or glorify him in our responsibilities. We love our relationships because in them we can grow to be more like him and see the deeper love he possesses toward us. God is and has always been at the center of why we are here and why we are the way we are.

Although sin has marked our worldly image, through Jesus Christ we are allowed to return to the image before sin ever corrupted what was originally holy. The baptism of the Holy Spirit allows for that return and releases the life that follows. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary to truly know God as we were created to. Without it a Christian life is tragically incomplete.

Tuesday Devotional: Ruth 3

Devotional

Read Ruth 3bible

12Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.  13Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem.  But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it…”

Sin is not a fun or comfortable word.  It conjures up a collage of negative imagery that most of us would rather not think about.  However, while the consequences of sin or separation from God are terrible, perhaps we can approach the word through another word that most of us are comfortable with.  The word is hunger.

Sin capitalizes on our appetites.  Throughout the day we have a physiological appetite that nourishes our bodies, and a variety of appetites related to our emotions and our personalities.  Sin within us finds a good thin, something we all have a healthy appetite for, and makes it into an ultimate thing that we are starving for.  Over time, left unaddressed, sin creates in us a famished appetite that hunts for satisfaction and pleasure, an unhealthy need for a particular thing.  Appetite does not consider right from wrong, consequences or righteousness.  Sin creates in us an addiction that relates the thing we hunt for to the source of our emptiness and our need to fill it in order to survive.  Sin creates a spirit in us that ignores right and wrong, and ultimately opposes God altogether.

On our own we are not able to control this appetite.  This is not to say that everyone who is not following God is a rabid animal wreaking havoc on villages of innocent people.  However, sin unaddressed creates in a person appetites that have the power to kill or take away the good things in our life.  Sin can destroy a marriage.  A job.  Friendships.  Families.  Sin creates self-righteousness and destroys mercy and grace.  Step by step, sin divides rather than creating harmony.  Submitting our lives, including our appetites, to Jesus as our King and Savior, we are suddenly given the power to not only resist our prior feelings of starvation but we begin to lose our appetite in our old addictions and instead hunger for new things, pure things, Holy things, Godly things.  While sin creates a tolerance for theft, the righteousness of Christ creates a hunger to give away what we have.  While sin feeds a tolerance for dishonesty, the righteousness of Christ creates a hunger to tell the truth.  It is beyond us to always do the right thing, especially when doing the right thing stands in the way of us feeding our appetites.  But as Christ said, “With man this is impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.”

Tuesday Devotional: Leviticus 23

Devotional

bibleRead Leviticus 23:33-44

As humans we love a reason to celebrate and we love a celebration. There is something in our spirit that desires to break though standard joy to pure elation, shared and multiplied by the presence of others. Festivals are times where people unite under a banner of celebration. However, typically overshadowed by the presence of overwhelming joy and excitement lies the reason or cause for celebration. Behind every festival exists a significant moment or event that produced the initial celebration. Where there is a celebration there is also a time where there was nothing to celebrate. There was a time where there was little hope and little joy. Then, there were both. Then, something happened. Then, there was all the reason in the world to explode in passionate praise for this most incredible change in fortune, change in direction, change in circumstance.

One of the most recognizable characteristics of a Christian is the presence of joy. An individual who has met the Lord, been forgiven by him and proceeds to walk with him cannot exist apart from joy. This is a stark impossibility. It cannot exist. A person that has met the Lord tends to test this world’s acceptability of joy in his or her joyous reactions to all things trivial, mundane or life changing. To a person exhibiting the spirit of Christ, there is no difference between trivial, mundane and life changing moments. All possess Christ. All are from Christ. All are pointing to Christ. Therefore, all of these moments prompt our utmost praise and worship. This continual joy and praise are an aspect of the flowing stream of living water that we not only feel consistently throughout each day, and an experience that we chase and would give anything for. This joy not only fulfills us when we have it but it drives us when we don’t have enough.

However, this celebration in the joy of Jesus Christ cannot exist apart from the acknowledgement of its source. The moment that we celebrate is not as much in the now as it is forever locked in the past. The moment we celebrate has everything to do with what he has already done and less of what he is doing now. Without the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be overjoyed about. We are still overcome by sin and our life in this world is overshadowed by the inevitability of death. We have life to celebrate now because he gave his life for us completely then. Joy in the Lord today cannot be fully complete without the ongoing presence and reflection of what he did. The fruits of the spirit are recognizable to those around us, but each moment a fruit is recognized must always be a moment of reflection and redirection. That moment does not provide the opportunity to praise what God is doing through the person in that moment, but the platform to tell a story. This story is about a God that so desperately desired his children that he was willing to give of his only son to bring all sons and daughters home. This story is what breaks the walls of our prideful and stubborn hearts to reveal a spirit in all of us that desires to come home. This is the story that has the power to change each one of us, and in turn can change the world. The fruits of the spirit are the results of that story that we can dance and sing in pure unadulterated praise. That praise is non-existent without the recognition that at one time there was nothing about which to praise and now there is nothing but.

Tuesday Devotional: Revelation 2

Devotional

Read Revelation 2:1-7bible

What does it mean to be a Christian?  What does it mean to have faith in Christ?  What does it mean to go to church?  What does it mean to read the Bible?  What does it mean to serve as Christ served?   What does it mean to desire heaven and fear hell?

What does any of it mean?

Why would a person go through day after day after day consumed by such things?  Is it to stay busy in a world of drifting and laziness?  Is it to find purpose in a life of wandering and ever-changing directions?  Is it to right wrongs that we know deep down exist in order to sleep at night?  Is it submission to an authority figure in our lives that we strive to impress?

Christians do a lot.  Christians are very busy people consumed by their Christian lives, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a horribly misguided, useless existence if the Christian is caught up in what they can do and not what Jesus Christ can do.  The foundation of Christianity and of every Christian must be the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And this life, death and resurrection occurred for no other cause than outrageous love.  Therefore, a Christian’s busy-ness must only stem from the love received from Christ and returned to him.  Understanding the relationship between man and God is no different than understanding relationships between people.  A relationship built on activity and productivity is empty and futile without love.  Love between people is not just the product of that relationship, but the fuel that propels the relationship forward.  Similarly, a relationship built on anything other than this received and returned love is not the relationship that God desires.

The debate between faith and works has been waged since the early church and will continue until Christ returns.  In a true relationship, one overwhelmed and overcome by the love freely given us by Jesus Christ, there is no possibility of service void of love.  The love that we received from him on the cross is returned to him in our transformed lives. The selfless nature that operates in ours works devoted service to him as proof of our commitment to loving him with everything we have, because he loved us first.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 John 5

Devotional

Read 1 John 5:1-12bible

If we desire change, we must introduce something that has the power to create change.  If we desire a radical change, we must introduce something that has radical power.  We face extreme troubles with insufficient resources, and we desire a change in our limited ability to ultimately overcome and find success. In order to create a change in our limited human ability to overcome the daily trials of this world, we must introduce something so radically powerful and real to give us any hope that the change is possible.  This new agent for change must be more extreme than the obstacles we face if success is possible.

To commit to this process and to hope in this change requires great trust and confidence.  Jesus Christ claims the power to produce the change necessary for overcoming the challenges of this world and providing us with a hope beyond them.  If we approach these promises with anything less than complete submission to their power and reality, we should not be surprised when our progress in this life remains limited by what we try to overcome.  There is no complete healing without complete submission to the healing agent.  If we cannot or will not take the promises of Jesus seriously then we must not seriously hope that we can ultimately be healed.  If we cannot submit to the reality of Jesus Christ’s life on Earth and continued presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, then we must submit to the fact that our problems will remain.

Faith in Jesus Christ is all encompassing.  There is no halfway.  There is no 50 percent.  Faith in Jesus Christ establishes truths that must be foundational, never decorative or supplemental.  These truths include complete submission to his life and death on the cross, complete submission to his resurrection and life in our present age through the Holy Spirit, complete submission to the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit to transform us from sin and self-indulgence to righteous passion and service in the likeness of Jesus Christ.  These truths must be held if the obstacles they promise to overcome shall be in fact overcome. Pretending to take medicine will only result in pretending to be healed.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Peter 1

Devotional

bibleRead 2 Peter 1:3-11

Projects usually have an estimated time of completion, and ultimately are completed.  A destination has an estimated time of arrival, and can ultimately be reached.   The transformation of an individual from sinful indifference toward Jesus Christ to a life forgiven and overcome by his spirit is neither a job that we work to complete nor a destination at which we arrive in this lifetime.  The process of spiritual transformation that occurs in a person through the work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing.  It never ends as long as life remains.  It is not gained by striving, and we do not enjoy the completed work in this life.  We are often unaware of the process of this work, although we continue to participate in throughout our lives.  The complexity of taking a sinful heart of man and recreating the holy heart of Jesus Christ in a person takes persistence, trust and time.  While there is nothing that we can offer God in the actual rewiring of our heart into one compatible with his, we are not absent or excluded from the process.  On the contrary, we are essential in this radical transformation.

Our role is not to produce the change.  Our role is to present the opportunity for change.  Our role is to give the Holy Spirit every opportunity to work out our salvation and rework the tendencies and desires of our heart.  In this role we cannot afford to be complacent or inattentive.  We must never assume that the work has been done.  We must never lose the heightened awareness of potential opportunities for change.  We must never assume that the destination has been reached.  If we ever find ourselves believing these lies we can be sure that we have effectively brought our transformation to a complete stop.  As we change and grow into the life of Jesus Christ we must not waste time trying to calculate the progress made or the progress to be made.  As we are transformed we must be aware of only one thing: that our work is not done and we are not there yet.

So, until then, until we breathe our last, our goal each and every day is to seek out opportunities for the Holy Spirit to reveal more of the spirit of Christ in us.  This search for opportunity will contradict our opinions, our plans and our preferences.  It will press us in ways that we are not used to being pressed.  However, in these moments where our heart and character are pushed into discomfort, the spirit of Christ will be able to reveal itself and prove the promises of Christ that we all can change, and we will all be made like him.  A disciple’s heart is never satisfied, content with ground already travelled.  A disciple’s heart is daily hungry for more. More intimacy with the life of Christ. More transformation in his image.  To a disciple, the challenges of this world prove the transformation of our hearts in the way we hunger for everything other than what the world has to offer us.  As we race to close the distance between us and the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, we will become completely unaware of our surroundings and our progress.  We will forget the course.  We will forget the race.  We will forget the clock.  We will run further than we thought we could and longer than we had planned to run. We will arrive without realizing that we have.  The race will be a fading memory to, at the end, being with him forever without ever having to run again.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Peter 1

Devotional

Read 1 Peter 1:13-25bible

Nothing about the new life in Christ is realistic.  Everything about it pushes the standard limitations we place on what is possible.  Approaching the word of God and how it applies in this world is completely unrealistic from the reality established by the world we have been raised by.  Everything about the new life in Christ calls us to expect what our world teaches us to never expect.  The world leads us to believe that certain things are not to be expected, that certain things are out of the range of possibility, and certain things simply cannot be.  The concept of genuine selfless love for another is clouded by our belief that the limits of our human hearts can neither handle nor be expected to exhibit such unrealistic love.  The concept of complete abandonment to an authority that has the power to permanently change us from paralyzing insecurity to confidence and contentment is not realistically possible. We are wary of anything that might tempt us out of the real world and into a mere fantasy state.

There is no synchronicity between the new life in Christ and the life we were born into in this world.  The two lives are in a state of constant contradiction.  The more one is overcome by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the more one begins to perceive oneself as a “stranger” in this world.  A stranger that has a home somewhere else, but is nonetheless in this world with a job to do.  That job is not to reproduce or replicate the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others.  That job is to simply bear witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our own life.  One cannot simply share the expectations of the Gospel with another and expect that those expectations be received, followed and cherished.  Rather, they are completely unrealistic and should receive an adverse reaction.  If one is listening and understanding the implications of the words of the Gospel, these words are not liberating.  To begin with, they are crushing by the magnitude of what they expect from us.  They are unrealistic and impossible.  They should not be taken seriously— if the words are the only witness.

However, witnessing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the life of another suddenly opens the door of possibility.  The real-time power of the spirit of Christ in man is the only witness that can effectively lead a person from utter desperation in the face of the Gospel’s expectations to complete satisfaction and hope.  We are not meant to read the words of God as one reads literature.  Literature is from man and for man and thus will be received by man as man would naturally receive it.  The words of God are from God, for man. They will shake us, press us and ultimately change us.  Our expectations when standing in the presence of God must only be to expect something entirely different from ourselves.  However, what we should expect to find is beyond our reality and supernaturally good.

Tuesday Devotional: James 2

Devotional

bibleRead James 2:1-18

Submission is at the heart of obedience.  And contrary to popular belief, obedience does not limit or confine, as much as it potentially liberates.  The difference between an obedience that oppresses and an obedience that liberates is in the will of the one who obeys.  If the obedience is ultimately for the sole benefit of the leader at the expense of the one obeying, this obedience will only benefit one party.  If the obedience is for the greater good of the whole and both parties benefit from the obedience, then the obedience can be a means to liberate rather than imprison.  Everything about the life of a Christian revolves around this state of complete submission.  There is no life or union with Christ if there is no submission.  Along the road of discipleship exists only one shepherd with one voice, and the sheep that follow after and listen for that voice have only one choice once they hear it: submit to his authority, and follow. 

This, however, is not a submission or obedience that empowers the one giving directions, while burdening the one following.  The purpose of submission to the authority of God’s voice, spirit and will is his pure desire to free us from ourselves.  Left to our own devices we will recklessly and carelessly destroy everything that surrounds us.  Our human nature is not bent to serve others with the fervor with which we daily desire to serve ourselves.  The human heart has a tendency to overlook more far-reaching implications and consequences of our own actions in trade for more immediate gratification.  We are a horribly near-sighted and forgetful creation.  We learn and then we forget the lesson.  We hear and then forget what we heard.  We follow and then forget why we were following and whom we were following in the first place.

Along with all of this, we are predictably unstable.  We stand firm and then we collapse.  We know for certain and then question everything at hand.  In the presence of God’s word and the life given us in Jesus Christ, being in a state of near-sightedness, forgetfulness or instability is impossible.  The life renewed in Jesus Christ is the opposite of all of those things.  When we allow the words of Christ to enter into our lives, and when we completely submit to him, we are made aware of certain truths that are immovable and unshakable.  When wandering makes our direction unclear, our God leads us through the desert as a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke that is unmistakable and undeniable.

In these moments the reality of his presence in the desert of our confusion must not be taken lightly or overlooked.  The only way to miss the pillar or the cloud is if we choose to look another way or close our eyes.  Otherwise, it is there, it is real and it directs us where to go.  In times where we are tempted and our flesh prompts us to act as our old life would desire us to, the transforming power of the Spirit must receive our complete submission to turn from our old self and press forward, both with the spirit of Christ and the faith that the impossible transformation is complete in Jesus Christ.  In times of blessing, where we are overwhelmed with peace and joy in our lives, we must never forget that before we were, God already was.  We must never forget that it was his authority over creation that willed us into existence, and all of the blessings that we enjoy had their beginnings far before we ever knew we desired them.  We have been given simply because the authority of the Lord has willed us into a position to receive.  The submission and obedience required by God’s authority is not to establish a hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy.  He desires that we submit to him because if we submit to anything else, we will lose, and lose everything.  He is our protector and provider.  Submitting to his will results in our protection and provision forever, by the only one who has the means to provide what we need.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Timothy 2

Devotional

bibleRead 2 Timothy 2:1-13

God does not need man.  God desires man.  In order to accomplish his objectives in this world, God does not need us, but he wants our involvement so that we can witness him at work.  The involvement is not assistance, but participation.

We have a distorted perspective of our role in the works of God in this world.  We often bear witness to the works of God in our immediate surroundings and like to inflate our roles in the process.  We reason ourselves into believing that without our openness, or obedience, or righteousness, the outcome would not have been possible.  This is a lie.  The truth is that the healing or change to which we were made privy was prepared and put into effect long before God called us into the picture.  The truth is that God did not need us so much as he included us. The healing or change that we witnessed was as much for our benefit as witness-participants as for the person or situation being healed or changed.  God’s desire to include us ultimately had little to do with the person whose change we witnessed. It has everything to do with us seeing a powerful presentation of the Father and his majesty.  This was a moment we were meant to see, but not so that we could stake any claim in what we saw.  We were brought in to see what we saw so that we could tell the world about it.  Our involvement in the works of God in this world is for us, but is never by us.  God involves us in his work so that we can build our faith with the truth that God is for us and nothing can stand against us.  God desires for us to be involved in his work, and be about his business.  He does not desire to work in private or keep us at a distance.  He provides us every opportunity to see him work, though it would be easy for him to work alone and accomplish his goals in private. From the beginning he walked with us and invited us to work alongside him.  This is because he loves us. He knows that we can only be made complete when we know him to the point of knowing what he is capable of, and are completely overwhelmed by how efficiently and powerfully he works while still making time for his children.  He daily calls us into his work, not for us to help him finish, but merely for us to be with him while he works.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Thessalonians 4

Devotional

bibleRead 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

The process of sanctification is ongoing, and once begun, cannot stop.  The basis of sanctification is the radical departure from our sinful nature into the complete and holy nature of God the Father.  This process does not happen overnight nor does it happen without challenge and suffering.  This process is often slow and often arduous.  However, although each step is a painful tear from the world with which we have until this point been so comfortable and satisfied, each step also reveals more and more validation that the process is not only necessary but is ultimately liberating.  As we move closer and closer into a union with the spirit of Christ himself in our daily lives, we likewise move closer to the realization of the hope towards which we ultimately strive.  That hope is the realignment of this world as it is with how it was intended to be.  That hope is also the realignment of our spirit from its current state back to its created purpose.  This original creation was intended to be one with the Father in every aspect.

The process of sanctification cannot be rationed; it is always more.  To be merely content with where God has brought us “so far” is a loss.  Resigning to the fact that he can do little more with us is absolute failure.  The spirit born anew in Christ always strives to go farther and search deeper than before.  This desire for more does not arise out of a desire for mere activity.  It arises out of the realization that the more we align ourselves with the spirit of Christ the closer we will be to him.  This closeness is what produces the “wings of eagles and feet of deer” in us that allow us to soar above and beyond, or run gracefully through, the suffering of this world.  This closeness has the power to calm every storm.  The desire to do more and more with Christ is not just busywork.  The desire to do more and more is proximity.  The more we strive to be like him, the more will be one with him.