Confession time. I went through some extreme trials during the last few months before we moved. But it's wasn't without its silver lining.
A subject God has been awakening in my heart for the last few years has been fully ignited and is now not just a mere subject to me, but a passion.
And it involves the Spirit of the Lord.
The Lord has really been showing me that it is not what people say that defines them. It is what they do. It's what they believe in principle, in action, in daily living, not just in words or a show in church. It's being real. Raw. Sold out to God in daily life, not in a fleshly show that rears its head where there is an audience. It's in the private, little acts of kindness, graciousness, and true religion.
True religion. As in, keeping oneself unspotted from the world's spirit of gossip, lies, perpetual hypocrisy, violence, bitterness, and backstabbing. (James 1:27)
In other words, true religion before God will involve a relationship with God, manifesting itself in a spirit of Christ-likeness. Not perfection, obviously, but in a spirit that is genuinely allowing Christ to flow, in a spirit that breathes grace and peace, in a spirit that demonstrates true charity.
To be candid, it's nothing short of a dishonor when someone claims a denomination or a church name...only to live a lifestyle that is at complete opposition to the holy fundamentals and principles the church upholds.
I'll use my own denomination (for lack of a better term) as an example. I'm Baptist. Folks in my circles are known for their strong stand on Scripture, their soundness of doctrine, their upright convictions. And, unfortunately, some Baptist circles are also known for a spirit of (dare I say it?) unkindness. Legalism. Gossip. And, in some cases, a lifestyle of hypocrisy, living one thing on a Sunday and another in the home.
Borrowing from Paul here... My brethren, these things shouldn't be.
I love theology and studying doctrine as much as anybody. I'm a Faith Bible Institute graduate married to a Bible college graduate with a Bachelor of Missions. I love doctrine. But, honestly, it can be way too easy to walk in the letter instead of the spirit of the law. (And I'm writing to myself as much as anybody.)
The simple truth is that we all can get hung up on doctrines or deep theological questions (which are good) and completely forget the spirit of the Lord.
So, not to throw out doctrine, but simply to ask: Where is the spirit of the Lord? Because, if we are fighting among ourselves and losing our vision to reach a lost world for Christ, our crisp Sunday attire and perfect doctrinal statement are clearly doing little good.
That would be an ouch for me. Maybe not you, but definitely for me.
The spirit of the Lord brings powerful, beautiful things into people's lives. And, every once in a while, it's good to do a little check up. Is His spirit present?
The spirit of the Lord is:
- Freedom. Oh, I LOVE this one! "...and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." -2 Corinthians 3:17. If God is ruling and reigning, there won't be battles over control. An artificial authority isn't going to try to dictate your life to you. You won't try to control someone else's life. There will be freedom - freedom in the finished work of Christ, from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), from chains of addiction and abuse, from dictatorship, from manipulation. Remember, it was our God who brought the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. It was our God who said "...the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath appointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound..."
- Love. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love! Charity. Read 1 Corinthians 13. That is the spirit of the Lord!
- Respect. When you have the spirit of the Lord, you have a fear (respect) for the Lord. And respect for the Lord will naturally flow out toward those He died for. There will be respect for individual decisions, for different opinions (provided they are not directly contrary to Scripture), for each person as a person.
- Truth. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth..." -John 16:13. Lies, half-truths, and deceit cannot abide where the Spirit of the Lord is present.
Obviously, those are just a few characteristics that are present when the Lord's Spirit is also present. But they are, oh, so important!
I suppose the whole nature of this post is to leave the thoughts given to us in the book of James. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? ...shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." Let's live out the doctrine we say we have. (Easy to say but hard to do, right?!)
Additionally, we become like those we hang out with. When choosing friends, a new church, or a ministerial position, it's good to make sure the disposition(s) in questions match the doctrine. A doctrinal statement can be squeaky clean and perfect, but if the Spirit of the Lord is missing, something is wrong. No one person or place or ministry is perfect, but those who love the Lord and want to help you love the Lord better will produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Have you thought of any characteristics that are present when the Lord's Spirit is? Share your thoughts in the comments! And, before I go, don't forget that Grace Triumphant is only $2.99 on Kindle! Download it now before the sale is over!
Adios Until Next Time!