(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 17 May 2015)
My father was a disciplined air force officer. So he expected us to wake up early, greet him and even have our meals on time at the dining table. Those were integral to my being a son to my Dad.
Similarly, we have been trying to learn what it means to be a good son of our Heavenly Father. The two conditions to being a good child of God is that we believe in Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives and that we allow ourselves to be led by His Spirit.
WHAT DOES BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD MEAN?
1) It differentiates us from the world. When Joseph’s brothers met him in Egypt, they didn’t recognize him because he was dressed in Egyptian attire. But the Spirit of God in him set him apart from his countrymen. Daniel and his friends were captives in Babylon. They were later drafted into serving the Babylonian administration. However, Daniel chapter 6 testifies that there was an excellent spirit in him. Despite their situation, these young men were led by the Spirit of God and it set them apart in their lifestyle. Is there a difference between us and the world? We don’t have to wield Christian jargon and sport a holier-than-thou attitude. The Spirit of God living in us should reflect in a difference in our actions, words, conduct and relationships.
2) It’s not the reward of spiritual attainment. It is in fact the condition of spiritual attainment. Often we think that we have to reach a particular level in our walk with Jesus to be led by the Spirit. That’s not true. The only requirement to be led by the Spirit of God is to surrender our lives to Jesus and believe in Him as our Lord and Savior.
HOW CAN WE BE LED BY THE SPIRIT?
We can safely conclude that we are led by the Spirit of God when we are lead and influenced by the Word of God. The Psalmist says, ‘Your word I have hidden in my heart so that I might not sin against You’. Therefore it’s important for us to understand what the Word says about the different situations of our lives. We may go through the motions of reading the Bible intellectually but until it penetrates our lives and guides us, we can’t say that we are being led by the Spirit of God. For e.g., I know what the Word says about how my conduct should be with a person from the opposite sex. So when my wife Anjali is not around, I must trust the Word of God and obey what it says. That will be a reflection of my being led by the Spirit.
WHAT’S INFLUENCING OUR SPIRIT?
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer withHim,that we may also be glorified together. – Romans 8:12-17
The Bible says that there are two spirits that reside in a follower of Jesus – the Spirit of God and our spirit. It is God’s Spirit that should influence and guide our spirit every day. That’s reflected in the way we live and make decisions. However if we aren’t careful, it is easy to convince ourselves that associating with worldly elements will not affect us. But we couldn’t farther from the truth. For e.g., our youngsters get into an unhealthy romantic relationship; its impact on their lives is long lasting. Walking away from it will not stop the emotional repercussions and it often takes them a long time to be completely healed. Similarly there may be nothing wrong in being fashionable but if it’s not indulged in moderately, we will soon find ourselves within its harsh clutches.
The Bible says that whoever has no rule over his spirit is like a city that is broken down with no walls. It’s normal to make mistakes but we cannot forever blame the drugs, drinks and bad company for our choices. We need to take control of our spirit. Our family or friend cannot deal with our spirit. It is our responsibility.
INTROSPECTION QUESTION #1: HOW DOES OUR SPIRIT HANDLE FAILURE?
Failure in life is inevitable. Every person goes through it at some point in their lives. But the way we respond to it is of paramount importance.
Genesis chapter 33 narrates an encounter between Esau and Jacob. These two twin brothers had always been at loggerheads with each other. Jacob cheated Esau out of his birth right as the older son. This angered Esau to no end and he wanted to kill Jacob. With the help of his mother, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban’s home and settled there.
Fast forward 20 years.
Jacob was now a rich man with wives and children. But his relation with his uncle soured and he decided to return home. While on his way, he got word that his brother was coming with his men to meet him. Jacob remembered his brother’s wrath and tried to appease him by sending his servants and family ahead. Esau kept approaching. Finally, Jacob came face to face with his brother and bowed before him in fear and trembling. To his surprise, Esau lifted him lifted up, hugged him and kissed him. Later Jacob offered Esau some of his riches but Esau refused it. He said that God had blessed him too and he was satisfied with that.
Somewhere along the 20 years of hurt, failure and loss, Esau took control of his spirit and let God lead him. Later Jacob testified that Esau’s face looked like God’s face. Esau wasn’t the chosen one and that must have stung him bad. But like him, we can take control of our spirit and respond to our failure well. Let our reaction to failure be – either we will win or we will learn.
For a long time, I struggled with stage fear. I’d be nervous and afraid of speaking in public. It took me a while to overcome it. The more I let the Spirit of God to help me overcome my fears and weaknesses, the more God used me for His glory.
INTROSPECTION QUESTION #2: HOW DOES OUR SPIRIT HANDLE SUCCESS?
Newlyweds live in their own sweet world of romance. They couldn’t be bothered about anything around them. It takes a couple of months for the heady euphoria to settle down and return to reality.
Being happy and successful isn’t wrong. But the way we respond during such time is very important. We need to guard our hearts to be humble and not let it affect us. Humility is not an outward expression but an inward character of Jesus in us. The water always flows from to bottom. The more we humble ourselves, the more we let the Spirit of God flow through us. When success comes our way, we must be careful to not forsake integrity, loyalty, faithfulness, and God’s Word.
CHECKPOINTS – WHO IS INCHARGE OF OUR SPIRIT?
1) Do we rebel or pay heed to correction? Do we blame others or do we accept our mistakes? The
quicker we take responsibility, the quicker we can take charge of our lives.
2) What kinds of relationships do we have and how deeply are we immersed in it? Let’s not be fooled that it wouldn’t affect us. Let’s guard our spirit from the harmful influences of our relationships.
3) Are we comfortable in our individuality and identity or do we yearn to be like celebrities and other popular figures? Moderate fashion and celebrity admirations are healthy. Let’s be careful to invest in our spirit and let it be renewed daily by God’s Spirit. That will help us rest in our identity.
We need to be sons of God who are led by the Spirit of God. It’s important therefore, for us to guard our spirits from the worldly influences. Our spirit is our responsibility.