The Spirit’s Role in Your New Year
By now, most of us have put away the decorations, set aside holiday CDs, and already enjoyed the presents we received at Christmas. Eleven months from now it all starts again. The shopping, the planning, and those treasured passages that tell the story of the coming of Christ.
Well into January, one lesson from Christmas is still stirring in my heart with fresh conviction and profound relevance. While I’ve read it many times in previous years, I can’t shake it in these early weeks of 2013. There is a little phrase found in the angel’s explanation to Joseph of Mary’s pregnancy. It says, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
It strikes me that the things that are eternal and of ultimate kingdom significance are always conceived by the Holy Spirit. So I wonder as I enter 2013, how much of what I think, say, and do will be conceived by the Holy Spirit? How much will simply reflect the effort of the flesh or self-will?
The Spirit Conceives Creation
Before time began, Genesis 1:2 states that “the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Psalm 33:6 tells us, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Job 26:13 confirms, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens.” The power of the Spirit conceived creation.
Jesus Features the Spirit’s Leading Role
In His conception, life, and ministry, Jesus demonstrates the primacy of the Spirit. At the inauguration of this public ministry, while being baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove (Luke 3:22). Before His first public teaching appearance our Lord goes to the wilderness for 40 days, “being filled with the Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1). After this season of prayer, fasting, and spiritual testing, He “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (Luke 4:14). Jesus’ first public teaching began with these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18). Jesus’ ministry was conceived in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Church Birthed & Expanded by the Spirit
Jesus’ final words to His disciples indicated they would have the same experience as the church began. He told them to go nowhere and do nothing until the Promise (Spirit) of the Father endued them with power for supernatural witness (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). At Pentecost, the Spirit birthed the church. The next wave of Gospel expansion to the nations was launched from Antioch when the Holy Spirit called and sent out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-4). Throughout the book of Acts (properly called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”) the Holy Spirit births supernatural boldness, extraordinary preaching, and unmistakable guidance.
Your Faith – Birthed by the Spirit
The famous conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus has defined the essence of the conception of our own life in Christ. Jesus declares that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must be ”born again” (John 3:3). Then, Jesus makes this definitive statement: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Whatever is not conceived by the Spirit is flesh.
Your Faith – Still Conceived by the Holy Spirit?
Now, Paul’s penetrating words to the believers in Galatia carry great challenge: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). We all know how easy it is to slip into patterns of reliance on our flesh (whether it be our acquired earthly wisdom, our religious works, or just an independence from the Lord’s provision).
Still, the Holy Spirit wants to birth so much that is supernatural and satisfying in our lives.
- The Spirit’s resurrection power can work in and through us to produce a full and victorious life (Romans 8:11).
- The Spirit wants to lead us daily and moment-by-moment as children of God (Romans 8:14).
- The Spirit wants to impart the fullness of God’s wisdom to us (1 Corinthians 2:12).
- The Spirit wants to bring us into a transforming intimacy with Christ, from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- The Spirit wants us to live in His power so that we do not fulfill the lusts of our flesh (Galatians 5:16-17 & 25).
- The Spirit wants to impart the fullness of the fruit of His character in and through us (Galatians 5:22 & 23).
- The Spirit wants to speak to His church to impart direction and power for His service (a message give to all seven of the churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3).
In light of all of these promises, each of us must ask: Is my day conceived by the Holy Spirit? Are my decisions conceived by the Holy Spirit? Are my ministry efforts conceived by the Holy Spirit? Are my aspirations conceived by the Holy Spirit?
Yes. But How?
So, how do we know what is conceived by the Spirit vs. the flesh? Radical reliance on the Spirit and recognition of His supreme power through abiding prayer is essential. Jesus’ reliance on the Holy Spirit was demonstrated by 40 days of prayer. The early church spent days in prayer prior to Pentecost. The leaders in Antioch fasted and ministered to the Lord in extended fashion. The avenue of believing faith and being born again? Prayer. We cannot presume on the Holy Spirit and think that we can be perfected by the flesh. We must pray.
Recently my son, an avid hunter, sat in his deer stand with his scope set and muzzleloader locked on a large eight-point buck. As his heart raced with excitement he pulled the trigger. Nothing. The buck was startled and escaped with his life. As it turns out, my son had all the vital elements for an effective shot except for one essential ingredient. He had the gun, the black gunpowder, and the bullet. Unfortunately, he forgot to load the primer, which allows the hammer to ignite the powder and propel the bullet. One missing ingredient led to a fruitless effort.
God has entrusted us with the “bullet” of the Gospel message. We have the “gunpowder” of the Holy Spirit. We have the “hammer” of our human decision. Without the “primer” of prayer our efforts may be superficial, even meaningless. We must be sure that a holy, heart-felt abiding through prayer will give birth to a fresh work of the Spirit – every day.
Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.