During my alone time with God, with the house very quiet, and the sun yet to spill light across the sky, I ask the Lord to examine and test my heart. In quiet solitude, He is generous with His love and wisdom for the day. With a healthy dose of the Word, a cup of black coffee, and His Holy Spirit walking in me, I know the Lord will strengthen and prepare me for all encounters, great or small.
These encounters with God, especially at Easter, bring to mind all manner of memories. It was during some alone time with our oldest grandchild, three years ago, when he responded to my question about the meaning of Easter. Playing pirates in the bathtub he said, “Nana, that’s when we take Jesus off the cross, and then after Easter, we put him back on.” Not exactly what I expected him to say.
His innocent words should cause us to pause and examine our lives for evidence of His impact on our lives. Ask yourself this question, “When people look at you, do they see Jesus, or is there too much of you to see Him?” Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to empower us with courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability and authority? Most importantly, are we living the abundant life described by Jesus in John 10:10? These answers produce evidence of our faith, and whether or not we have surrendered fully to Him.
The Word of God tells us we cannot function as a Christian without His spirit. Romans 8:9 directs us, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)
The early Christians, the pioneers of the faith, endured grueling circumstances under the governance of the Romans. They lived moment to moment under a regime that did not tolerate or allow the Christians freedom to worship. When we read Luke’s account of this period of time, in the Book of Acts, we discover people fully devoted to Jesus Christ. They sacrificed all possessions, all worldly ambitions, and even life itself, to willingly live a fully sacrificial life for Christ.
How could these new Christians live so courageously, so unselfishly? In Acts 1:8 we learn the answer, “But I promise you this—the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be filled with power. And you will be my messengers to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, the distant provinces—even to the remotest places on earth!” They did not do these great things alone; it was Christ living within their hearts helping them! This is how these Christians became a walking, talking, New Testament.
Embracing your Christian walk half-heartedly just will not work with the Lord Jesus. There are places in the world today that are experiencing life like the early Christians. They are living in environments which are not conducive to safety and security for Christians. In fact, many live in constant fear, and are chased from their homes for their faith. This requires full devotion to Jesus Christ, totally dying to self for strength from the forces of evil. And yet, loving, forgiving, and praying for those persecuting you.
Dear friends let me remind you of Paul’s writings in Ephesians 4:30-32, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” What a loving God we serve to allow us to grieve his Holy Spirit and not face immediate consequences. Forgiveness is the KEY!
Our circumstances can be a fine excuse to not forgive. Pick your poison; there are racial divisions, unfair financial situations, families filled with all kinds of abuses, and of course, how can we overlook our political divisions. While these can be reprehensible, failing to forgive will poison your life, not your opposition!
For some, they easily understand reading the Word and the power of forgiveness leaps from the pages. For others it is not as clear. While attending the National Religious Broadcasters Convention last month, we watched a trailer for “Paul, Apostle of Christ”, and the screening of “I can only imagine.” I had already read Acts, and Paul’s letters in the Bible, but seeing the early Christians, and their desperate situation under Nero’s rule, brought loving our enemies, and forgiveness, to new higher levels of understanding.
The story centers around Paul’s last days on death row, and Luke sneaking into prison to encourage his brother in Christ. Luke is the bravest of journalists, risking his own life, to record Paul’s words for God’s Kingdom purposes. While Paul is historical, “I can only imagine”, is modern, but a common thread is woven through both, “We must allow God to have complete control to love and forgive. It is supernatural!”
The Holy Spirit which filled the early Christians is the same Holy Spirit today. We must be poured out completely to experience the fullness of Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 5:24-25, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Shaped by FAITH Prayer
Lord, we yearn to walk by Your Spirit and not in our own flesh. You already know Lord, that our life can be messy, as we find ourselves tripping over our own attitudes and judgments. Show us what needs to change inside of our own heart. Help us to make the necessary heart changes so that we can forgive others. Forgive us Lord when we hold onto offensive and hold grudges. We desperately need Your help to release these messy things into Your care. Our desire is to walk by Your Spirit. Teach us, show us, and mature us up Lord. Thank You for always forgiving us. Thank You for always loving us more than we deserve. We desire to love others, show us how to look past the person and into the heart of who You created them to be. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.