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Your Spiritual Relationship: Jesus as the Spirit of God 


Life is more than what you see.  It stretches out beyond the visible, tangible or even intellectual into a realm we simply know as spiritual.  Well-rehearsed terms like “national spirit,” “school spirit,” or “the spirit of the law” indicate that some concept of spirituality is widespread.  A spiritual presence permeates the human existence that gives meaning and fullness to all of life.

The spiritual nature of God (as opposed to a physical being or mass) defines and governs our relationship with Him.  From the beginning, the lack of an image or sacred icon became one of the great distinctions between Judeo-Christian faith and most other religions.  We worship the true God as a spiritual being, a being with no definite form or location.  Both John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12 state that no man has seen God at any time.  Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24. This truth is often problematic to the carnal mind because humans gravitate toward what they see in a literal sense.  In fact, some people are more apt to worship a grotesque or ridiculous-looking image that they can see rather than a spirit that they cannot see.  That was the case when Aaron, Moses’ brother, led the Israelites to worship the golden calf. (Exodus 32:4) When Christ came, His disciples knew Him both in the flesh and in the Spirit, but after the ascension at Bethany, no one could know Him according to the flesh.  Paul explains this in his epistle to the Corinthians.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17. If we are going to have a relationship with Jesus Christ today, we must search Him out in the realm of the Spirit. 

The advent of the Holy Spirit was no surprise to the primitive church.  They understood that the prophets of the Old Testament foresaw it and prepared the church for it.  Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high. Isaiah 32:15. Ezekiel wrote, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26-27. Simon Peter preached the first message of the church based on the prophecy of Joel. And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. Joel 2:28-29. 

It is unfortunate that so many Christians have a tentative approach to a relationship with the Spirit of God.  Although well schooled in the principles of the Scriptures and the tenets of faith, many believers have not pursued a personal interaction with the Spirit.  As mentioned in the preface to this book, mainstream Christianity has traditionally avoided a visceral, spiritual experience.  Some leaders have openly discouraged Pentecostal-style worship, believing that it leads to inappropriate displays of emotion.  This fear, however, has effectively choked out the operation of the Holy Spirit.  Paul warned the Thessalonians, Do not quench the Spirit,” and “Do not despise prophecies.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20.  He told Timothy to look out for empty formalism.  Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2 Timothy 3:5 (NKJV) There was a substantial reason for these admonitions.  If believers were not spiritually minded—that is if they were not familiar with spiritual operations—then the work of the church would falter and eventually fail. 

It is impossible to understand the upsurge of the early church apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.   Jesus told His disciples to proceed directly from Bethany to the Upper Room to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8. The second chapter of Acts credits the Holy Spirit for the inauguration of the church and the ensuing revival.  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. Acts 2:36-39.  Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, places exclusive emphasis on the Spirit of God in the formation of the early church.  Indeed, the entire book of Acts could have been named “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” instead of the Acts of the Apostles. 

In light of these accounts, one must be amazed that in subsequent years, the Galatian believers thought they could succeed by human resourcefulness rather than the power of God’s Spirit. The Apostle soundly rebuked them for their error.  “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:2-3.  This problem must have been the reason why Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” In writing to the Romans and the Corinthians, Paul’s primary theme was the total dependence of the church on the Holy Spirit. It is without question that every believer should be filled with the Spirit, be led by the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. 

Let us focus on three major factors that determine the quality of our relationship with Jesus Christ as He interacts with us through His Spirit.  First, we must be baptized with the Spirit.  Second, we must be led by the Spirit.  Last, we must learn to walk in the Spirit.  The Scriptures clearly tell us that the Spirit of God is expected to be a part of a believer’s life, but He is also indispensable to the real operation of the church. 

Believers Must Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit 

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was a standard occurrence in the early church. After the initial outpouring, the first instance we must look at is the Samarian revival.  Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:14-17.  When these disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit at or before baptism, the apostles considered it unacceptable.  Two things need to be noted here.  First, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was an expected experience; second, the experience was to be publically observed and acknowledged.  The apostles’ insistence on this public experience underscores the established doctrine that all believers must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 2:4,38). 

This doctrine also inspired the question that the Apostle Paul put to certain disciples at Ephesus.  And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:1-2.  The very fact that Paul asked this question raises it to a level of great importance.  He knew that the indwelling Spirit in each believer was the only workable connection to the operation of the Spirit.  In other words, we cannot worship God in the Spirit unless we have received His Spirit.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:13. This phrase, all have been made to drink into one Spirit, was not presumed to be automatic; otherwise, specific instances of individuals filled with the Spirit would be irrelevant.  

Having said this, no one should think that the mandatory aspect provides the only motive for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The real reason is two-fold.  First, it is a joyful experience. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Romans 14:17.   Second, it equips us to fight a spiritual enemy.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12. The companion verse is self-explanatory. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6. The final appeal is that we must be filled with the Spirit.  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18. 

We Must Be Led by the Spirit 

After receiving the Spirit, the Bible further instructs us to be led by the Spirit.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14. The church relies on the leadership of the Holy Spirit for direction in God’s work as well as in matters of life.  There is a beautiful illustration of this fact in one of the missionary journeys of Paul.  Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.  After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10.  The directions for Paul’s journeys came through the agency of the Holy Spirit. 

To be led of God calls for a medium of communication.  Under the old covenant, God spoke to his servants in an audible voice.  Today, God speaks to us through His Word and His Spirit.  Thus, our sensitivity to the Spirit of God is the channel through which we can hear His voice.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12. Prayer is a primary avenue of our communication with God. The Spirit is intimately involved in effectual praying, as is mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Romans 8:26. Jude references prayer in his letter as a spiritual exercise. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.  Jude 1:20. 

Paul delves in depth into the spiritual leadership area with his teaching about the nine gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians.  He opens the discussion with an interesting statement.  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. 1 Corinthians 12:1. The ignorance to which Paul refers may have been due to pagan influences or false teaching.  It may also have resulted from abuse of the gifts or fear that they would be wrongly used.  Perhaps so many Corinthian believers decided that too much confusion surrounded the operation of the gifts that the leaders shut down the expression of spiritual gifts altogether.  Whatever the reason, Paul was determined to enlighten them about the use of the gifts because he knew that the church could not flourish without them.  

The apostle identified these gifts as the way the church is Spirit-led.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.   1 Corinthians 12:7. While the spiritual gifts are resident in the church, they can only operate through Spirit-filled individuals.  The church must be mature enough to allow such individuals to be used in the gifts without jealousy, pride or unwarranted adulation.  The lesson is clear: we must recognize that God uses certain ones to be spokespersons for divine messages or acts and not put such people on a pedestal, as it were.  It is not the superiority of the person involved, but the Spirit of God who uses the person as a vessel to deliver a message or to be the conduit through which flows the power of God. 

We Must Learn to Walk in the Spirit 

Finally, we come to our daily walk with Jesus, an aspect that involves each believer’s personal discipleship.  This feature may be the most critical part of our bond with Him because it serves as the basis for every other facet of the relationship.   As we have shown before, God is a Spirit, thus making our walk with Him a serious matter of the heart and soul.  We do not easily succeed at this endeavor.  We must learn things like submission, humility, deprivation and even crucifixion of the carnal nature.  Once we understand the dynamics, our personal walk fuels the whole of our relationship with Christ. 

For us to understand how this works, we must view the flesh as a powerful, but insidious and subversive force.  Paul issues a catalog of behaviors to defines the flesh. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21.  Other passages in the New Testament list similar behaviors.  It is obvious that these sins contradict the righteousness of the Spirit of God, and, therefore, must be overcome. 

Overcoming the flesh, however, draws the battle lines for us because the flesh does not surrender without a huge fight.  Paul sheds light on this struggle in his epistle to the Romans.  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Romans 7:13-19.  The dilemma is this:  we want to do right, but the flesh counters our every attempt to change.  It’s not the fault of the law of God—His laws are perfect.  The problem lies in our sinful flesh.  It is self-willed, incorrigible, and determined to rebel against any opponent. 

The answer to this dilemma is the same for us symbolically as it was for Christ literally—crucifixion. Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.   Colossians 3:5-8.  To the Romans, Paul gives the reason for the crucified life.  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. Romans 8:13. To those who grant liberty to the flesh, spiritual death awaits; but those who crucify the flesh set their spirit free. 

It is at this point of death to the fleshly nature that our relationship with Christ begins to flourish. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1. The flesh brings condemnation, but walking in the Spirit ushers in life and liberty.  Paul elaborates further:  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.   Romans 8:5-6. 

So, the question now becomes how?  How does one walk in the Spirit?  Let’s illustrate by using a familiar picture.  If you are going out for a stroll in unfamiliar territory, you take note of the terrain.  Is it hilly?  Rocky?  Grassy? Paved?  Are there any hazards or dangerous places to avoid?  Are there signs to follow?  What about the traffic?  Do you need a companion to walk with you?  Spiritually, these same conditions exist in walking with Christ.  If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3.  Walking in the Spirit presents challenges to your flesh, but the Spirit lifts you up to a victorious plane of living.  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18. 

We must define the essence of your relationship to Jesus Christ as spiritual.  Give yourself totally to a spiritual pursuit because that is the realm in which Christ lives today.  Paul sums it up this way.   So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:8-11.

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