What’s Wrong With Me?

I AM THE PROBLEM

“I am only saying that true change, true life-giving change would have to start with the individual.  I was the very problem I had been protesting.  I wanted to make a sign that read, ‘I AM THE PROBLEM’”.*

Honesty, brutal honesty…we are not too great with that.  We would rather put up firewalls between ourselves and the actual truth; it is much easier to live that way.  We can kid ourselves that all is fine, but J.I. Packer says no, everything is not fine.

We have a problem in the Christian world, and the problem is us.

As Christians we like to think that we are people of God, at least people who know God’s Son on a one-to-one basis.   Jesus came to save us, to tear that curtain in the temple that divided us from God.  We are “the people” who know their God.

Too often we find ourselves lacking. 

We don’t provide much evidence to the world that we truly know our God.

Packer says to know God is to see Jesus as our Savior, to realize the power of His sacrifice on the cross, to meditate on the gift He has given us, to live a life based on His promises, to listen to The Holy Spirit and act on the Holy Spirit and to exercise our faith on a daily basis. 

The result: a life of “gaiety, goodness and unfetteredness” [Packer, 25].

Yet what behaviors do we exhibit to the world?

Far too often we get bogged down in past disappointments and present heartbreaks.  We hold on to the inevitable negative factors in life; we have a death grip on those negative factors so much that they become the “crosses” that we must bear.  We even find ourselves slipping into “bitterness, apathy and gloom” as we can’t let our disappointments go.  “We show the world …a sort of dried up stoicism, miles removed from the ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory’” which Peter took for granted in 1 Peter, 1:8” [Packer, 25].   That Scripture reads “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.”

Instead those around us watch us and say “poor souls; how they are suffering.”

Packer calls this “mock heroics.”

Honesty, brutal honesty…

I would rather not know this about Christians who really know God. The fact that they never spend time thinking about what might have been is a very high bar.  Their focus is on what they have gained, not what they have missed.  That seems too hard to do. It is much easier to think about what might have been, to mourn what might have been, to regret past acts, to dwell on the past.

Think, truly think about the following words from Paul in Philippians 3, 7-10.  Paul calls the things he has lost as rubbish or dung.  He has let them go.  “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for Christ…. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them all rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…. I want to know Christ.”

Maybe Christians should have a like attitude.  Let me think about it.   I love God because God first loved me.  I obey God because I love Him.  If I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return and I cannot obey Him.  I am not a perfect person; I fall short of obeying God often but His absolute love of me and His grace sustain me in my times of weakness.  I can’t make myself love God; my measly efforts at self-discipline have always failed over the years, but I can respond to the Holy Spirit voice of God calling me to a better life.   God wants me to do better and He is in the change business.  Step by step, I know God is changing me into a more righteous person. 

Where is the loss in that?

Yet here is Packer with his honesty, his brutal honesty.  “What normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure?  Yet this, in effect is what many of us do.  It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God” [Packer, 25].  When God calls me to a better life, I lose some habits that keep me from knowing Him.  I do sustain some losses, but what about the gains?

Just last night, I was talking to a Christian woman who was lamenting the fact that she spent so much money on a piece of yard art for her home landscape.  She paid fifty dollars for an object and then she saw the same object in another location for twenty dollars.  My reply to her lament was we all lose money from time to time, but if we kept accurate, life-long records, most of us make up for our losses with all the bargains we encounter.  We need not focus on the losses.  We probably have more gains over the long haul.  

My example is not that serious and of course my rebuke to her meant very little but maybe this serves as a simple way to understand what Packer means by his comments that to know God is not to focus on the “unpleasantness we have had or pleasantness we have not had.”  Being a Christian who knows God means all that does not matter to us.

Yet sadly, too often it does.

We just can’t get out of the way.

That is honesty, brutal honesty.  We like to talk about loving God, but our selfishness is always there.  We really are not interested in serving God; we would rather He serve us.  We want peace, we want to be reassured, we want the pleasure of a life well-lived but we can’t “get out of our own skin”.  If we could, we would see that the life that God offers us is gain, pure gain.

But we focus on what we have to give up in order to know God, in order to live the best life that we can live here on earth.

That is what the world sees and that is why many people who are not Christians have their doubts that Christians are the people who know their own God.

Maybe it is simple and it all goes back to Don Miller’s admission in the opening quote of this post.

“I AM THE PROBLEM”…

That is honesty, brutal honesty…

*from Don Miller  Blue Like Jazz

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Knowing About God, but Not Knowing God…

“Knowing versus knowing about” [J.I. Packer, Knowing God].  This section of Knowing God really means something to me and I am inclined to share.  Sometimes, I get very personal about what I am reading.  I sometimes pass along my experience as a way of explaining the author’s intent.

Packer says: “One can know a great deal about God without much knowledge of Him” that sounds so peculiar to me. 

How can one know a great deal about God and not know Him?

I have two experiences that illustrate: one from my life and one that I know from a friend who shared his experience with me.

As a very young man I found myself reading many books about the American Civil War and World War II.  To this day, I am still fascinated about what makes a person sacrifice so much for their beliefs, their country.  I would read those books and I would visualize the experiences of the soldiers, which would lead me to a fascination about the clothes that they wore, the weapons the used and even the ground they fought on.  I wanted to know as many specifics as I could about the lives of men at war.  I wanted to know about their sacrifice.  I would visit museums dedicated to both wars, I would take battleground tours.  For the Civil War, I even attended three reenactments.  There I got to see people living the time period as accurately as they could.  The more I could see the soldier’s experience, feel the soldier’s experience and smell the soldier’s experience, the better I began to understand.

Then came college.

I went off to college and had to declare a major, so naturally that major would be history.   I anticipated even greater in-depth knowledge about my “favorite” wars.  But much to my amazement, my classes were pretty dull because the reading assignments were dull and the lectures were dull.    Suddenly I was thrust into a world of historical experts commenting on the battles, explaining many views about the experience of warfare in general.   Their attitude was omniscient, having great knowledge of the generals, troop movements and the overall purpose for the conflict.   I no longer could visualize the soldier’s experience; he did not matter anymore.   Large movements of battalions, brigades and divisions were all that mattered.  The soldier became a speck in a much larger, more complex picture.

I knew a great deal about the American Civil War and World War II without much knowledge of the experience of the individual soldiers. 

They were lost.

I have a friend who struggled in life; it is not important to detail his struggles but to understand, he could not relate well to people due to anger, frustration and a desire to control others.  Then people came into his life who modeled the Christian lifestyle.   Slowly but surely he began to question them about their behavior and he began to learn about Christian beliefs.  Eventually he caught on in a big way and he fell in love with Jesus Christ.  He knew his life had taken a turn for the better and he made a lifetime commitment to Jesus.  I know him today, thirty-five years later and he is still living what I would call a righteous life, striving to do better in his service for his Lord and Master.

A few years after making his commitment, he decided to enroll in seminary.  While there, he did well in his classes but something happened.  As he tells it, “The more I learned about God, the further God was from me.”

To make a long story short, he left seminary training before completion of a degree.

I don’t advocate not learning about God.  Wouldn’t that be absurd on a blog dedicated to commenting on Christian literature?  I love discussing God, learning about Him and how to live a more righteous life.  Yet there can be a cost.

One runs the risk of moving further from the very personal experience of the exercise of one’s faith. 

To live a life with Christ is to live what Packer calls an “unfettered” life, a life that is open to the leading of The Holy Spirit.  He also says this: “those who have known God are rare among us—rarer perhaps than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known….a little knowledge of God [can be] worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.”

Packer knows that the Christian life is characterized by gaiety, goodness and just pure joy.  It is sometimes a simple response to God’s call, no overthinking, no head knowledge, just a heart that is open to the urging of The Holy Spirit.  God is not lost in the clutter of prideful Christian formulas that we can rattle off on command.  It does no good to point to the books we have read about God and no good to explain the theological perspectives we know.  It only matters that we are listening for His directions and when we hear them…

For the person who truly knows God the answer to His call is not “I will think about it Lord.”

Here is the right answer.

“yes…”

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Contemplating our Trip…

“The proper study of mankind is man.  The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead” [words from one of C.H. Spurgeon’s sermons].

As I have discussed in previous posts, J.I. Packer is taking us on a journey in his book Knowing God.  It will be a journey, but not in the sense of actually taking a trip.  Our trip could be called a walk, a step-by-step process that will result in us getting to know God better.  Knowing God better means that we should “enlarge our acquaintance” with God.  To make matters more complex, not only is He the subject of our study but He is also the Helper in our study.  At times God will lead us on this journey as He manifests Himself in our Holy Spirit.  It will be a meditative journey, a mental “trip” if you will.

As we begin to contemplate our “trip”, where will we find our starting point?

Packer points to the Westminster Catechism which answers the question “What is God?”  As he encourages us to think more than read, think about the following definition: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” 

Packer expounds on some aspects of this definition when he writes about the themes which set God apart from human beings.  God is a “deity” but what does that mean?  God exists on His own [He had no creator]; He has an infinite nature [never-ending].  God is eternal and unchangeable.  God created us but we have none of these qualities.  Despite what some egocentric people feel, they are not the center of the universe, God is.

God has special “powers.”   Packer lists His almightiness, His omniscience, and His omnipresence.  “Almighty God” is not a phrase that we should just toss off.  It means that God is the originator and ruler of the universe. Omniscience means that He knows all, with omnipresence meaning that He is present everywhere.

God has what Packer refers to as “perfections.”  God is Holy, which means sacred, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified, venerated.  He has love and mercy for man.   God is truthful.  God is faithful.  God is good, patient and just.  Not only does God have these qualities, but He has them to a perfect degree.

So we have what some like Charles Hodge* call the “best definition” of God ever penned by man.  We have three themes that stem from that definition: God’s deity, God’s powers and God’s perfections.  Now Packer says we are in a position to travel around the great mountain after looking at it from afar.   We know the mountain [God] dominates the landscape, but Packer intends us to climb that mountain. 

We will climb it with five basic truths.

1.God has spoken to man and He did that in His Word.  God gave us His Word to allow us to study it and grow wise.   He gave us His Word in order to save us.

2.God is Lord and King over the whole world.  His rule is for His own glory.  He displays His perfections in order that men “and angels” may worship Him.  We know this to be true.  God wants us to adore Him.

3.God is our Savior, active on earth in the form of Jesus Christ, who was sent to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin.  In this process, God wants to “adopt” us as His children; He wants to bless us as His children.

4.The Godhead is three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Saving mankind requires all three “persons” to work together.  Packer writes about the triune God this way:  the Father has proposed redemption to us.  Jesus Christ came to earth to secure redemption for us.  The Holy Spirit applies redemption in our lives by helping us act out redemption as we live on earth.  

5.Godliness is a quality He expects us to develop.  To develop it, we should trust Him and we should obey Him.  We should develop faith in Him.  We should learn to worship and praise Him.  He wants us to talk to Him through the medium of prayer.  He wants us to submit to Him and serve Him in our time here on this earth. 

Indeed J.I. Packer wants to take us on a journey.  At this point, I can safely say that the trip will be mentally challenging.  He wants us to know the qualities of God before we leave on our trip.  He wants us to have a roadmap of five truths before we start.

Why go on this trip?

Let’s go back to the second line of this post…

The proper study of a Christian is the Godhead.

 *Presbyterian theologian and principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878.

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Quality Over Quantity

“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows.…meditation is a lost art today.”  J.I. Packer,  Knowing God.

I would agree.

Meditating on truth, Scripture, the ways and purpose and promises of God takes a special focus.   It is a valuation of quality instead of quantity.  Let me explain.  I have been blessed to read the Bible from start to finish a few times.  Mostly I ploughed through the Word of God with the help of a Bible reading plan.  My goal was to finish, and the daily “assignments” led to my goal of completion.  Depending on what was going on in my life, I read my daily readings with more or less attention.  Of course some books of the Bible were easier to read than others.  Did I value every day’s reading?  I have to be truthful.  Sometimes I did not.  Did I complete my reading of the Bible?

I did.

Meditating on the Word of God is a very different approach than pushing through a book of the Bible or reading the whole Bible in a certain length of time. Packer is advocating meditating on God’s Word.   In fact he is lamenting the fact that most people do not even understand meditation of anything at all, much less meditation on the Word of God.

To meditate is to be present in the reading of God’s word and to meditate is not to be obsessed with covering “x” number of verses in a day’s time.  It is calling one’s mind into the process; thinking about the Scripture, dwelling on the Scripture and applying the Scripture to your life.  The focus is on our efforts to deeply understand God’s Word.

Now…

At the risk of alienating some readers who may misunderstand meditation, our minds usually work on the stories of our lives.   Stop and think about that.  My day is filled with thoughts about what I have to do in the future.   What is the next job I have to do?  What are the steps I have to complete in the process of doing that job?  Or sometimes we ruminate on the past.  This happened to me yesterday or I  may go backward in time for weeks, months or even years.  I struggle to concentrate on the now.  Let me be honest.  There are special, treasured, sacred moments in my life, moments I have dreamed about doing.  Sometimes I work on the stories of my life so much that I miss those special moments.  I need to stop thinking about the stories of my life and attend to what is right in front of me…especially if what is in front of me is the Word of God.

I am not a yoga expert, master of whatever.  I just practice yoga.  I have noticed that since I have become more serious about my practice, that concentrating on the present is an important part of yoga.   It is simple; you begin by attending to your breath, not letting the stories of your life invade your thinking.  Inhale as much as you can and exhale as much as you can.  Then try to make the inhale and exhale the same length.  Try to focus on breathing and stop thinking other thoughts.  The idea is to go from breathing to concentrating on the movement of the body as you assume poses that aid with flexibility.  Thinking about the future and past will only get in the way as you should try to “go to the edge” of what you can do now.   Will you move better in the future?  Maybe, if you continue.  Are you better now than you used to be?  What does that matter?  You are doing your practice to the best of your ability right now. 

Let’s stop for a moment and address this issue.  Is my mind being influenced by sinister Hindu spirits?  Some fear yoga because of it Eastern origins.  No, I am a Christian who is learning to meditate and learning to move with more flexibility, a positive thing for my sixty-seven year-old body.

Along the way I am learning to be present for myself, fully present on what is new and delightful in my life right now.  I attend to my thoughts and emotions.  When I really become present-centered, I let my heart lead me in life; my heart helps me to ascertain the best choices [to Christians some would call this being led by the Holy Spirit].  I want to learn to be fully present for each step of my spiritual growth, each step of my spiritual journey.

Packer writes that Holy meditation is “an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God….to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision…and to let His truth makes its full and proper impact of one’s mind and heart…the goal is a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.”

As we begin to understand what Packer advocates in his book Knowing God, he would rather we recognize the value of quality over quantity.  What is the aim of knowing God, “ a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in it infinity.”*

Recognize that He is here.

He is here…now.

*From C. H. Spurgeon

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Who Needs Theology?

Who needs theology?  In other words, who needs to study God?

J.I. Packer poses this question because he thinks that this may be today’s popular attitude toward the study of God.  Today, many just don’t find the study of God practical and relevant.

What good does it do to think about the God who made the world and the God who runs it?  Surely we have more rudimentary things to consider than the Godhead?  As I travel through life, it seems to me that most people just have enough trouble making enough money to live.  Many folks have problems with earthly relationships so why worry about our relationship with God?   Ruminating about God seems above our paygrade, so to speak. 

Added to the impractical and irrelevant nature of the study of God study is the current attitude about God in the world today.  People are even calling into question our image of God [not that we really know what God looks like].   The wizened man with the white hair and white beard that we saw on the childhood Sunday school classroom wall is not in fashion anymore.  In a recent popular movie, God was a woman.  In another conception, God was of African descent.  Many today doubt the existence of God, spawning movies that declare that “God is Not Dead”, arguing through the characters in the film that God is real and He exists today.  I have even been in some social situations where “God-talk” was discouraged, sometimes nonverbally and sometimes verbally.  Bring up God and eyeballs roll in the back of the head or someone will say “I did not know we were going to have church today!”

Some would say that talk about God has no aim except to puff up someone’s ego.  Knowledge of God can make one proud and conceited.  This kind of knowledge can “intoxicate” us making, us think we are better Christians because we have a grasp on God and others around us don’t.  This self-satisfied self-deception need not occur and I often wonder if this argument against theology is grounded in anti-intellectualism.  Truly some people don’t want others to know more than they do; better for all of us to be less intelligent than for someone to challenge us with their increased desire for knowledge.   That makes people who lack knowledge very insecure.

Let’s flip this argument around.  Packer uses the image of the pilgrim in the classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress to make his point.  On the road, the pilgrim puts his fingers in his ears and runs on down the road, crying “life, life, eternal life.”  He is trying to stop his ears so he won’t hear others telling him there is no road to knowledge about God.  Packer writes “anyone who is actually following a recognized road will not be too worried if the hears nontravelers telling each other that no such road exists.”  His ears are plugged.

Why study theology?

While the study of God may humble us because it is an infinite subject, it may also expand our minds and for most of us, expansion of our intellect is not a bad thing; it is a good thing.  Furthermore, Packer thinks the study of God is consoling.  God is the balm that we need for every wound we suffer.  In times of grief, God can comfort us.  After rest, God can invigorate us.  In times of weakness, God can give us guidance and strength we never knew we had. 

Packer writes that to not know God is to live as a stranger in a strange world.   “To live in this world without knowing about God whose world it is and who runs it [makes the world] a strange, mad, painful place and life in it is a disappointing and unpleasant business. …Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.  This way you can waste your life and lose your soul” [Packer, 19].

Citing the psalmist in Psalm 119, that person wants to know God for practical benefits.  He felt that the more he understood God, the more he would understand God’s truth.  The more he would be of service to God, the more God could lead him in his life.  “Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart.”

Truthfully Christians, we can present all the flimsy arguments against God we can think of but let’s go back to the opening question.  Who needs theology?  Who needs to study God?

Let’s be real…

We all do.

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A Book for Travelers…

What is the book Knowing God?

J.I. Packer calls it a “treatise on God” but not really.  He backs off that bold statement, saying at best it is “a string of beads: a series of small studies of great subjects.”

Then he launches into a story borrowed from another author, John McKay.  McKay says there are two kinds of people interested in Christianity today.  There is interest from what he calls “onlookers” and there is interest from what he calls “travelers.”

What is an onlooker?  He explains an onlooker as a “balconeer,” a term I have never heard before.  But balconeers are people who sit on a high front balcony of a Spanish house.  They wile away their day watching travelers go by on the road below.  They may comment critically on the way that travelers walk.  Oftentimes they talk and chat with the travelers, asking questions about the road, but they look on from afar.  Their problems are theoretical; they are going nowhere.  They just observe.

Then you have “travelers”.  Travelers face more practical problems.  They have to decide which way to go, how to travel, what to take, how to make the trip comfortably.  Their “skin is in the game” so to speak. 

Even though balconeers and travelers think a lot about the same area [the road], their problems are very different.   For instance, balconeers ponder man’s relationship to evil, how evil can exist at the same time that God has sovereign control of the world.  Travelers deal with evil also but they are concerned about mastering evil and how to bring some good out of it.    The balconeer may consider the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as One.  The traveler is not concerned about the theoretical nature of the Godhead; the traveler just wants to honor, love and trust the three Persons who are at work to bring him out of sin to glory. 

We could go on and on… but you get the point.

The balconeer is theoretical.

The traveler is practical.

Why open a book with a story like this?

J.I. Packer is trying to say that his book Knowing God is for travelers.

Another key question is why write a book about knowing God?

For an answer to that, Packer feels that the church today is fraught with weakness and ignorance of God.  That is the main problem with Christianity today.

First of all, Christians have conformed their thoughts about God to the modern spirit.  Even though Knowing God was written in 1973, what was true then is even more true today.  Packer says “the modern spirit spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God.”  The modern way of thinking is as follows: set God at a distance if not deny Him altogether.  God has become remote in the modern world.  Some Christians realize that Church does not fulfill the need for a real God, so they have decided to withdraw from church in order to pursue God on their own.  Christians who need help with the big ideas of life (judgement, eternity, greatness of the soul and even death) can’t find answers in the modern church because the church would rather downplay these topics in order to appeal to more pleasant ideas .

Secondly, skepticism has confused many Christians.  For three centuries now, naturalistic influences have become more popular in Western thinking and that has slowly begun to change Western theological consideration.  Many feel belief in God is an either-or proposition; either you believe that God is in control and you deny all attempts to explain the world in a scientific fashion or you believe that God is not in control and you doubt that God had anything to do with what Packer calls the “foundation facts” of life.  Examples include basic thoughts  like was Jesus a spiritual man?  Did the Gospel miracles really happen?  Was Jesus of the Gospels an imaginary figure or a real man?

Surely theologians of the day don’t suffer “weak” theology from such forces.

Packer says that the quantity and quality of theological books is better than ever, but even theologians [like pastors] are no longer interested in holding the church to the true realities of the Gospel.  [Maybe they will sell fewer books]. 

Then we have his book entitled Knowing God.  Packer is trying to give us all a way forward that will satisfy our longing for the Real God today.  He cites Jeremiah 6:16 “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls.”

That’s traveler talk, practical advice about how to walk with Jesus Christ.

When he quotes 2nd Corinthian 4:13, he is talking straight to the readers.  “I believe and therefore speak”.

Knowing God…

Do we really know Him?

I believe we are going to find out…

Travelers…

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Goodbye My Friend…

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?

*Richard Rolle

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