Growing up I knew about Billy Graham. It seems almost everyone knew of his numerous and large evangelistic crusades in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I don’t know that I had great deal of respect for him because I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus during this time; I did not know much about God, much less about evangelists who were doing God’s work. With this as a backdrop, when I began to blog on his book in June of 2018, I did not know what to expect. When I started commenting on his book The Holy Spirit, I did not intend to admire Billy Graham as much as I have grown to admire him. I did not intend to write so long on his book. I just figured his book was a lightweight attempt to explain the Holy Spirit. I soon found that my assumption was very wrong. It seemed like every page or two caused me to think, to learn and to grow. Every page or two gave me a chance to comment. Well here it is, eleven months later and I feel like I have to say good bye to a friend as I write my last post on his book. I have run out of pages.
Graham has taught me so much about The Helper, The Holy Spirit that all Christians have when we give our lives to Jesus Christ. He has taught me that to grow as a Christian, you have to call upon the Holy Spirit. If we take our lives seriously and we respond to God’s Word, we have to take seriously the Apostle Paul’s urging of Timothy to pursue righteousness: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” The question we all have to face is how do we pursue righteousness? Are we pursuing righteousness with half effort? Have we decided that the world’s pursuits are more important than God’s? I don’t mean to be obscure, but a fourteenth century English monk* may have said it best: “Every man fights immortality and physical desires throughout his life; bad men do not fight at all except against God…They make a truce with sin.”
We can’t wage this fight alone. We can’t will ourselves to be righteous. It takes real spiritual help to wage this war and that help comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. The help is there for all Christians if we just listen and respond.
Graham says the first step is to admit our spiritual poverty. Admitting poverty in any part of life is hard; we want people to think we have all that we need. Graham cites the Laodicean Christians who declared “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” Little did they know how wretched and miserable they were. Maybe we have sins that are blocking the Holy Spirit. We need to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word and see if we need help with those sins. The Holy Spirit will reveal to us every sin that is hindering us. For sins that are hard for us to determine, it is so easy to deny those problems even exist but those problems can be the root of dangerous habits over time. Maybe we are neglecting things that need to be done, not dealing with our responsibilities. Whatever our concerns, we have to lay them honestly before God. The Holy Spirit can help handle all of our problems over time as we strive to live a righteous life.
The next thing we have to do is confess and repent. All of us know that confession and repentance are necessary when we sin but the big question is what will we do as follow-up? Are we going to turn from our sin and seek to be obedient to God? Many times in my life I have confessed my sin, only to return to it at a later time. Then I find myself in a sin-confess-repent, sin-confess-repent cycle. How do we get out of this situation? The key is to sin, confess, repent and obey. Confession does little good if you don’t follow it with some action. God promises us in John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from righteousness.” God’s forgiveness is what I seek daily; the action ideas that I need to perform to walk away from my sin come directly from the Holy Spirit.
The last step is breakthrough. Revival in your life can come as you find yourself unable to tolerate sin any more. If you are truly listening to the Holy Spirit, you have a new hunger for more righteous living. One of my favorite quotes comes from Pastor John Piper who says that man can come to love God more than sin. God wants to touch us, God wants to use us as His servants and we of course, we want to live a life of freedom, a life of victory. Sadly, if we never have a breakthrough, we may live a life that is ineffective or lukewarm. God does not intend that for us. He wants us to open our lives to the recreating power of the Holy Spirit. Graham says it this way: “No person can seek sincerely the cleansing and blessing of the Holy Spirit and remain the same afterward.”
If you want to exhibit the gifts of the Holy Spirit, start listening to the Holy Spirit in your life. If you want to produce fruit of the Holy Spirit, start acting on the urgings of the Holy Spirit in your life. If you truly believe in Jesus, you need to prepare to be used. A wise older man in my intercessory prayer group at church told me one day that he awakes every morning saying the same prayer. His faith is so strong. He says “Holy Spirit, show me what you want me to do today.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had the courage to pray that prayer?
Wouldn’t God be happy if we then did what He asked us to do?