Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

IF YOU HAVEN’T READ PART 1 of this two part reading, please do so now.

3.  THE RESIDENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Paul wrote, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself,for God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20a NLT).

When Jesus was speaking to the religious leader, Nicodemus (John 3), He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God … I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.  So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again (John 3:3, 5-7 NLT selected).’”

The Holy Spirit of God doesn’t take up residency unless you give Christ an invitation, i.e., you open the door of your heart and invite Him in. (See Revelation 3:20) Jesus Christ will not barge into your life or mine and just take over.

So many of us are driven by our feelings.  Feelings can be our greatest strength or our greatest weakness.  I am a feeler, and when I’m not on my toes I can be ruled by my feelings and ignore the cold, hard facts.  God’s truth can give way to my feelings.

The facts, when it comes to having life in the Spirit and following the will of my Master and Lord, Jesus, center around this idea: I must begin to transform my natural, human nature by obedience to Him … whether I feel like it or not.  I must be obedient to the leading and help and encouragement that comes from Christ and the Holy Spirit.  They make the Word of God come alive in me as I “… work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

To be clear, and in case you’re wondering, I know I cannot save myself.  That is, I cannot rid myself of the sin that separates me from a Holy God just because I wish it so, or because I work at being a better person (so I come to believe I deserve to enter His presence based on my “works”).   

The facts about our salvation are clearly stated in Ephesians 2, “God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”  (Eph. 2:8,9)

The salvation piece of our eternal spiritual life is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are born again when we come to believe that Jesus died on the Cross to redeem us from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (separation from God according to Romans 3:23, 6:23), and when we confess (speak) that we are deliberately turning away from a life of sin in order to live for Christ, and when we confess that Jesus not only died but was resurrected from the dead, we are saved (Romans 10:9, 10). Period.  Exclamation mark!

 Hallelujah!

But your followership and my followership is on you and me.  God doesn’t make us live righteously.  We are declared righteous (right with God) when we come to faith in Jesus, but we live righteously by purposefully obeying Him and His Word every day.  As the scripture says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” and “Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (see Psalm 119:105, and 119:11)

4.  TRANSFORMATIONAL LOVE

Jesus made this idea of living righteously crystal clear, and it all centers around LOVE!  Our love for God, our love for others, and our love for ourselves.

Transformational LOVE is described so beautifully as the Apostle John recalls the words of Jesus in his Gospel

(See the blogs: “Love in Our Day,” March 12, 2021, and “Agapā At An Execution,” March 13, 2021, lowellequalls.com.)

  • “So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34 NLT).
  • “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).
  • “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NLT).
  • “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21 NLT).
  •  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10 NLT).
  • “This is my commandment:  Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 15:12 NLT).
  • “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17 NLT)

You and I build our spiritual lives upon the foundation of AGAPĀ LOVE. We shared what agapā was in the previous two messages, March 7thand 14th.

Agapā, in a Christian context, means “unconditional, self-sacrificing love … the kind of love that will endure, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

Apapā is the word used in John 3:16, “For God so loved (agapāsen) the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Agapā is the LOVE that took Jesus to the Cross!

Our Lord, when asked what the greatest commandment was, gave this answer.  He said:

“‘You must AGAPĀ the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘AGAPĀ your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Love transforms us.  Love changes us.  Love for God and His Word transforms and changes us.  And equally, love for others transforms and changes us.  But not just any love.  The love that transforms us is unconditional and self-sacrificing.

That truth is the reason I have been defeated in spiritual battle.  I loved myself, and in doing so opened the door of my heart to the deceptions and lies of the enemy.

Getting personal, my “go-to” response to life’s challenges WAS to withdraw, to pull away from God and away from others.  Rather than living out the commandments of Jesus, I protected my SELF.  It didn’t matter who I hurt or damaged, I elevated SELF.  My SELF was in control.  And as a result, people around me were damaged, and my relationship with God was filled with guilt and shame.  I was a SELFISH CHILD!

When SELF is on the throne, life seems perfect, but THE TRUTH is, when I’m in control 

  • my life is lonely, 
  • my life becomes depressing and shameful, 
  • and my life exhibits the ugly traits of my human nature described in Galatians 5:19-21

19 When you (I) follow the desires of your (my) sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.

When I lived for SELF, I would practice many of these listed sins.  I repeat:  I hurt my family first, my fellow believers second, but most importantly, I put barriers and walls up between me and God.  I couldn’t pray.  I lived a lie.  I was a hypocrite.

I want to live a transformed life!

When Jesus is on the throne of my lifeand your lifeGalatians 5:22-24 becomes a reality:

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there.  25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 

What a difference, eh?  Pretty attractive, don’t you think?

We were created by God to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, NOT the fruit of our sinful nature.

When you and I are living our lives humbly loving God, sweetly loving others, and purposefully nailing our sinful nature to the Cross, you and I experience REAL LIFE!  FREEDOM!  A TASTE OF HEAVEN here on earth … but only a taste.  (Heaven is even better!)

But that’s a future waiting to be revealed.

TODAY, begin a new walk with God, and like never before, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  See what happens.  I wager you’ll live a transformed life!

(See February 27, 2021 blog, “Foundations – Choosing a Way to Live Life” at lowellequalls.com.)

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