About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Returning To The Spirit


In a recent article I reminded us of our ever-present tendency as Christians to replace the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives with our own fallen human effort.  This was the problem the Apostle Paul addressed in his letter to the believers in Galatia .  He pointed out in Galatians 3:1 that it was utter foolishness for anyone to revert to human effort after beginning his life with Jesus in the Spirit.  How Paul encouraged these people to return to the gospel of grace and the power of the Spirit applies just as much to us as it did to Paul's readers. 


You can read Paul's letter to the Galatians for yourself but after calling his readers foolish he explained the difference between law and grace.  Obedience to a law of works saves no one.  Trusting your life to Jesus both saves you and keeps you saved.  Paul then maintained that Christian maturity as seen in the fruit of the Spirit cannot be attained apart from the Holy Spirit.   He went as far to say that if anyone forsakes the gospel of grace and the Holy Spirit he would be alienating himself from Christ (Galatians 5:4).  However you interpret that, it sounds pretty serious to me.  


In my opinion, today's Evangelical Christianity is riddled with humanism more than most realize, much of which is borrowed from the non-Biblical culture in which we live.  If we are to depart from our humanistic ways we must first recognize its existence and admit to its influence.  This may be difficult.  We are so entrenched in human effort that we fail to realize its impact on us as individuals and on us as the church.  Departing from human effort would mean a drastic change to our lives and to the life of the church.  For example, if a Sunday school teacher is not called by God to teach children and does not have the God given ability to do so, then he or she should not be a Sunday school teacher.  You can imagine the strain this might place on some local congregations.  If there is no one called and enabled by the Spirit to a ministry, you don't arbitrarily appoint someone to that ministry.  Of course, if all those in the congregation were living life in the Spirit, I'm sure the Spirit would call and enable someone to that ministry.     


Attempting to work out our salvation as Paul encouraged us to do in Philippians 2:12 apart from the power of the Holy Spirit is not only unbiblical, it's ineffective in accomplishing God's will.  We, therefore, must be sure we have the Spirit of God residing in us as individuals and then submit to His leadership.  He will point his finger of conviction on our lives and He, with our cooperation, will enable us to depart from human effort to live life in the Spirit.  The same applies to the local expression of church.  There is no departure from humanism in the church without returning to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.            


Why the believers in Galatia were departing from the gospel of grace and the power of the Spirit was a satanic attack, as seems to be implied when Paul told them they were being bewitched.  That might well be the case in today's Evangelical Church .  It only makes Biblical sense that if the devil can remove the work of the Spirit in our lives, he will have succeeded in disabling the church. 


"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build" (Psalm 127:1).  Whether it's the house of your life or the house of the church, without the Spirit's enabling, it's just fallen and depraved human effort.   

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