I went out on my deck this morning knowing that I wanted to write a good blog post this week. I know my last post of Chapter Nine from The Cross of Christ finished that chapter so now it was time to turn to Stott’s book Basic Christianity. The topic of chapter 8 in Basic “The Salvation of Christ” with the subtopic “The Spirit of Christ.”
Then I heard, felt and saw the rustling of the wind in the trees…
I know that many Christians are taught that the “Spirit of Christ” (the Holy Spirit) is like the wind. John 3: 8 says “the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.”
I recall my reading about the members of the early church gathered in the upper room, fifty days after Jesus was raised from the grave. “And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them cloven tongues as of fire and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance” [Acts 2:1].
When I read Stott’s account of the “Spirit” of Christ for the first time many years ago, I was seeking answers to key questions. I knew I needed help. I knew I had spent years climbing the so-called “ladder of success” only to get to the top of that ladder leaving my wife and child behind. I had a reckoning. No amount of worldly success was worth the loss of my family. Losing them meant losing everything for me. My course correction was Jesus Christ.
Ok, I made my public profession of faith. I would imagine that anyone who saw me at that time would say that this “guy” needed help. I was a humbled man. My life had come apart at the seams and I did not know what to do or where to go. I had a new strong support group, men who also knew Jesus. Like many men, I lacked training in how to be a man of God. I really did not have a clue about how to live a Christian life.
But I did have one very important thing.
I had the Holy Spirit.
“Jesus answered him [Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” [John 31: 3]. Well I felt I was born again. I wanted to live my life for Christ. That was certainly a new goal for me, but how was I to do this? My “old man” was a man of this world, bonded to lustful desires for power, money and recognition. Work came first, family was way down the line and God was something I just did not have any time for at all. I needed my Sunday mornings for work. The whole world was centered around me. Now the rubble of the past was cleared away and I had a new start, a new life. My “old man” was stuffed in the bag and slung over my shoulder. A new man stepped forward, a new man forgiven by God, a God whose Son understood what it felt like to be a human. He had temptations but He did not give into those. My, what a goal; to lead a sinless life like Christ!
I could not do it. I had the desire but I could not eradicate the old habits. Stott writes “The cause of our sins, therefore is our sin, our inherited nature which is perverted and self-centered. As Jesus put it, our sins come from within, out of our ‘heart’” . The cause of our sin is rooted in the “original” self-centered sin of Adam and Eve. Try as hard as I could, the “old man” kept coming out of the bag.
I had mentors tell me don’t despise the day of small beginnings, don’t say I’ll never be any different. Don’t say I’m always going to be in bondage to sin. I will never be free.
They said thank God for the desire you have, the desire to break from old sinful habits. Thank God for The Holy Spirit that now resides within you.
That was a revelation!
As Stott writes I felt I was a “New Creation—a new heart, a new nature, a new birth.” I had begun the inward change brought about by a new righteous attitude. I found out this does not happen instantly. It is a process that begins with being saved. It is a process that is never completed. Christ lived a sinless life but we don’t have what it takes to live that kind of life. God and His Son Jesus extend grace to us and the best new title we can have is “sinner saved by grace.” That is what we will be from the moment we are saved until the moment we go to meet God in heaven. We will never totally conquer sin because of that inherited sin nature but we can try and I believe the Lord appreciates good efforts. His Son knows what powerful forces push and pull us away from total dedication to God.
God is still changing me to this very day. He is on my mind all the time. Life is not easy for me as it is not easy for everyone. I have my good times and my bad times. Problems come and go. Victories have occurred and then they pass. Second Corinthians 3: 18 says that God changes us “from glory to glory.” Even though Satan is always there to trip us up, Jesus has come “to give life and all it fullness” [John 10: 10]. God does not want us mired in sinful life patterns; He wants much more for us. He wants us to worship Him and produce good fruit in our lives.
I know it may be confusing for new Christians to hear Jesus compare a righteous person to a tree but the metaphor is a good one. “Every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” [Matthew 7: 17-18]. Inward change is the process brought about by the Holy Spirit but outward change is the result of this work. People can evidence a new you by your new behavior. The Holy Spirit can “make a sour person sweet, a proud person humble or a selfish person unselfish” [98-99].
Stott spends four pages on the “Spirit of Christ” and even though he does a good job of introducing the idea, there is much more that could be explained. More was explained on St. John Studies from June 15, 2018 to April 18, 2019. I dedicated weekly posts to Billy Graham’s book The Holy Spirit, an extensive discussion of the Third Person of The Trinity.
Even though over the years I have learned a lot about the Holy Spirit and I have personally experienced the power of The Holy Spirit, I continue to be fascinated by God’s guidance through The Holy Spirit. I will never totally understand God’s presence in me but I truly appreciate it.
Even though it is like the wind (“you heard its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going”) it is there. It provides counsel, comfort, knowledge truth, life, wisdom among many other things.
All the things we need to go “from glory to glory.”
*I usually try to write a post on Thursday but I have been attending to my mother. Today is the first time I have had to post my comments. She has cancer and now has covid. If anyone reads this and wants to, please pray for Patsy Carter, my Mom.