This past week at church we saw God working and folks making commitments. Today as I pray for these folks I am reminded of a key obstacle to success. My reminder came by way of yesterday’s struggle to connect with God. Many moments passed in my morning discipleship before I ever had a sense of assurance, of joy, or connectedness with God. I could not understand why my commitment to the things of God was so immobilized.
Often I have made commitments and failed. I have made a follow up commitments, and failed at those one too. The successes have come when one key ingredient is at hand. Whether it is the renewing of the mind, overcoming sin, or joy in the Lord that lasts, they all come only by the Holy Spirit. My disconnectedness with God was all in the fact that my Bible time was being done in the flesh. It was an attempt to either appease God or demonstrate my worthiness to Him. It may have even be some other issue of the heart. But regardless, I needed to be in the Spirit for any entrance to His presence.
John 6:63 teaches that the flesh profits nothing. If I make a mental commitment it is fleshly. If I am under conviction by the Holy Spirit, not a group mentality or a sense of duty, then my success rate increases exponentially. You see, by the Spirit God gets the glory. By my efforts it is merely a fleshly ordeal. Truly the flesh profits nothing. But if by the Spirit I am putting to death the deeds of the flesh, He gets the glory. And that is how it works. If God is central, set up to receive glory they the odds are in His favor, and thusly ours. It is a submissive appeal to God based upon His glory and being, not my worth or deeds.
John 14 through 17 teaches us much about abiding in the Spirit. We also see this in Romans 8 and Galatians 5. We must seek the Spirit. At Jesus ascension in Acts we are told the disciples needed to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to act. When troubles came the church turned to the word of God and prayed. As a matter of fact, they never acted until God, by His Spirit, led them to act specifically.
A quick survey of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament will quickly reveal our need for abiding in Him. Success and growth will never come apart from Him. Neither will God’s glory, worship, or the faith that marks us as His. The listening to sermons, memorization and reading of scripture, and even prayer becomes an exercise in aggravation if we do not have the Spirit. We try and “it doesn’t work”. It does not work my friend for you or for me if it is done in the flesh. It only promotes dry lifeless religious formality. But in the Holy Spirit the simplest verse or uttered prayer can connect us to Almighty God.
So before we set about an action plan for achievement, let us first seek to abide in the Spirit. For it can even become an idolatry of our systems and methods to live “as Christians” if we do not abide in Him.