Thursday, August 10, 2017
How The Spirit-Filled Life Leads Christians To Be Focused On The Heavenly Father
Ephesians 5:1-2 "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
The great 18th century preacher George Whitfield made a comment once about the ignorance so-many Christian people had in his day about the benefits of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What we writes seems so true in so much of the American church today:
"Nothing has rendered the cross of Christ of less effect; nothing has been a greater stumbling-block and rock of offense to weak minds, that a supposition, now current among us, that most of what is contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ, was designed for the Lord's first and immediate followers, and consequently calculated but for one or two hundred years."
Whitfield later adds:
"Many now read the life, sufferings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the same manner as Caesar's commentaries, or the Conquests of Alexander are read: as things rather intended to afford matter for speculation, than to be acted over again in and by us."
When it comes to the Spirit-filled life, we find the Spirit's main purpose in bringing about a more vibrant awareness and experience of God in the believer's soul.
Jesus was in His ministry and life both Spirit-led and Father-focused
Whenever one studies the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, two immediate traits emerge. First and foremost, the Lord Jesus Christ, touching His humanity, was led by and filled with the Holy Spirit. The title "Christ" literally means "anointed one". In nearly 45 places we find references to Jesus mentioning, ministering and being empowered by the Holy Spirit. He not only lived by the Holy Spirit as a mark of His Messiahship, but more so to portray for us a true humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit - a heritage He has available to every Christian.
The second trait about the ministry and life of the Lord Jesus is how "Father-centered" He was in His thinking, emotions and decision making. We discover Jesus referring to the Heavenly Father nearly 70 times in the four Gospels. He called on Him in prayer, spent time with Him and never reckoned the timing of His decisions apart from the Father's will.
The Christian is called to be Spirit-filled and Father-focused
Is it possible for the Christian in their humanity to approximate this intense "Father-focused" lifestyle of Jesus Christ? Absolutely! Note the command urged upon every Christian in Ephesians 5:1, wherein we read: "be imitators of God". Wow! How can this be? Jesus states similarly in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48 - "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." It is very clear that I in my humanity am called to carry-out this command. Yet, I by myself cannot do it alone.
The Holy Spirit, Who is by very nature God, comes to indwell at salvation (1 Corinthians 3:16). This means then that by the Holy Spirit in me, I can imitate God in terms of His moral attributes (love, righteousness, holiness, goodness and all the rest). Theologians sometimes make a distinction between God's "incommunicable attributes" and "communicable attributes". The former are qualities not shared between God and other beings (such as omniscience, omnipresence). However, there are traits which God does share with people in a comparative sense (love, mercy, justice, etc.)
In a Christian, these communicable attributes become empowered by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the Christian acting, thinking and expressing in their emotions an approximation of God's very presence. Much like sunlight shining through stained-glass windows, the Spirit's power expresses itself through those communicable attributes of the believer's human soul. The result? Read Ephesians 5:2 - "and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
As we become more focused on the Father, we come to imitate Jesus. Why? Because of the Holy Spirit's work in the Christian life. The filling of the Holy Spirit is required if the Christian ever expects to be focused on the Heavenly Father.