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Are You In Step with the Holy Spirit?, Part 2

From the series The Holy Spirit

How does the spiritual life work? How do you grow spiritually? In this message, Chip gives four key concepts that will revolutionize your view and understanding of this thing called the “spiritual life.”

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Message Transcript

Faithfulness is a character quality of trustworthiness, dependability, one who keeps his promises, follows through on the tasks we say we’ll do.

Proverbs 20 verse 6 says, “Many a man proclaims his own faithfulness but a faithful man who can find?”

People, by and large, all of us included, can be flakey, right? Faithfulness is you say you’re going to be there, you’re there. You say you’re going to take care of it, you do it. You say the check is in the mail, the check is in the mail.

I’ll tell you what, it’s a powerful, powerful quality. It’s very difficult for all of us. Supernaturally, God does that.

Gentleness is power under control. It’s not weakness. This is the picture, it was used in the ancient Greek language of a huge, powerful stallion and when the stallion was broke and they would put the bit in its mouth and then you could guide this huge, powerful horse.

The Greek word for this powerful horse under control was “meek.” That’s the translation we get.

See, it’s not that Christians are weak… there’s power, under control. You don’t have to show off. You don’t have to have your way. You don’t have to blow people out. You don’t have to embarrass them even though you may have the position and the power to do that at times. There’s a gentleness.

And finally, self-control is the mastery of your tongue, your thoughts, your passions, and your appetites through delayed gratification. It’s supernatural. The Spirit of God, part of what the Spirit does is He gives us self-control.

Self-control in our eating, self-control in our speech, self-control in…I don’t know about you, now it took years for me, I don’t particularly like, in my earlier life, getting up in the morning and meeting with God, and spending time and reading my Bible, and praying specifically, and jotting a few things down in a journal.

I don’t particularly like, in some seasons of my life, realizing that, if I eat that not good things happen so I need to eat more of this good stuff. Or working out two or three times a week.

If we did a survey of all the Christians in America would we see people who are characterized by self-control? In our eating, in our speech, in our activities, in our disciplines? Would we see people whose parents are teaching their kids self-control?

It’s the fruit of the Spirit. When there’s not self-control in your life that means the flesh is winning, not the Spirit. That means you’re not keeping in step with the Spirit.

When you’re keeping in step with the Spirit all Jesus wants you to know is you will have the characteristics of Jesus. And the characteristics or fruit, spiritual fruit of Jesus, isn’t activities, it’s not just external ministry. The characteristics of Jesus is you become a more loving, joyful, peaceful, gentle, patient, kind, good person who is faithful and under self-control. Does that make sense?

And by the way, that’s the agenda. That’s different than going to church three times a week. That’s different than knowing a thousand Bible verses.

I got news. I’ve met people that know ten thousand Bible verses and they’re the most unloving people I’ve ever met. I don’t think they’re very spiritual. And guess what? Neither does God.

We don’t measure our spiritual progress by spiritual activity. We don’t measure it by knowledge, we don’t measure it by gifts. All those things are parts and pieces of what the Spirit of God wants to use but according to Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and your neighbor like yourself. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it. Love your neighbor.”

When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, you know, spiritual maturity, spiritual fruit, are you ready? It’s going to get, like, really simple. “Did you love these people and did you love Me?” Right? Is that biblical or not?

Let me ask you: Is that what you’re measuring? Is that what you’re measuring with your kids? Is that what you’re measuring with your discipleship groups? Is that the focus of your church life? Because that’s God’s. That’s the Holy Spirit’s agenda: To make you like His Son.

Well let’s look at how is spiritual fruit developed and then we just walk through. It begins with the conviction of the Spirit. John 16, He said, “When a Spirit, when He comes, will convict of sin and righteousness and judgment.”

So, He convicts you of bitterness, He convicts me of an attitude here, it convicts someone of self-control over there. He convicts, He convicts us of our sin. Because those close the vents. Sin closes the vents of the influence of the Holy Spirit in areas of our life.

And the very first thing He does is He convicts us of our need of a Savior. And then there’s a spiritual birth. And who does that? By the washing of regeneration, renewing of the Spirit. So the new birth comes from the Spirit.

And then you begin to what? You begin to be nurtured as a little baby, 1 Peter 2 says, “Like newborn babies long for the pure milk of God’s Word, thereby it you will grow.”

And through the Body. 1 Thessalonians there Paul describes himself what? He says, “I loved you, Thessalonians, like a father, exhorting, encouraging, and imploring, and I nurtured you like a mother does children.”

And so in order for this to happen, the Spirit works and He convicts us, we respond to that, we’re born again, then we begin to what? We need the pure milk of God’s Word, and as we get into God’s Word we begin to grow. And then we need the Body. We need people who love God and will love us.

The the Holy Spirit doesn’t hug you. He’s inside of someone that’ll hug you. The Holy Spirit doesn’t buy lunch for you. The Holy Spirit doesn’t listen for two hours when you have a problem. But He does it inside the body of another believer. And so you’ve got to hang with people and talk with them and do life with them.

And then you abide in Christ, John 15. So in your journey personally you begin to develop time in God’s Word. And not just, two chapters a day keeps the devil away. It’s relational. Well, haven’t we all fallen into that? You know? “Okay, man, okay my little program says, okay, chapters 8 and 9. Man, I’ve got to really get going. I’m glad I took that speed reading course. 1, 2, chapters 8 and 9! Catch you later, Lord!”

In some measure don’t we do that a lot? Versus, “Lord, I’m running a little behind this morning and I might have to skip part of my breakfast or, but I’d really like to hear from You and I’m going to read the first couple paragraphs and will You speak to me? And then I’m going sit here quietly and I want to listen. And then I think before I go on there’s some people that I’m responsible for and I want to ask very specifically for them today.

“And then, about that meeting at nine o’clock, I don’t know if the house is going to close at one at that meeting, and You told me I needed to call this guy and apologize to him and I am not looking forward to that, so will You, will you help me with those things?”

Don’t you think that’s what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do? And you get into His Word, and you talk to Him, and you cultivate that. And what I can tell you, as you do and as you cultivate it, it will become a joy instead of duty.

I literally had to have someone drag me out of bed, too long of a story to tell you but, I mean, literally drag me. And I just couldn’t get up and meet with God but I wanted to. And then after three or four years it was kind of drudgery but, I did it and I was learning and growing and, and then you know what? It’s like everything else. Once there is a rhythm, now I just, best part of every day. I wonder what God’s going to say to me this morning.

It’s a priority. And you can actually make it fun, for me, I just make the best coffee I can and I have a little spot and, I’ve got a little game plan and, depending on where I think God’s speaking to me, sometimes I journal and get my mind clear and other times I read and sometimes, like, I’ve been in Jeremiah 1 and I’ve read Jeremiah chapter 1 along with anything else I’ve been reading because God’s speaking to me I’ve read it, like, every day for a month.

Because there’s just, like, a few of these verses. And I’m not even sure what all they mean. It’s developmental. It’s in your time with Him and it’s through relationships.

And then you walk in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16 through 18 there. It says, “Set your mind on the things of the Spirit” and he talks about how, you walk in the Spirit, you read some books that are hard, you study some passages, and it’s, they don’t just fly off the page all the time.

And you become a student of God’s Word. And then you become a spiritual adult. And when you’re a spiritual adult, that fruit that we talked about in Galatians 5:22 through 26 begins to characterize your life.

And I love the test of maturity at the end there in Ephesians. After he says the apostles and prophets and how we’re all to be spiritually mature then he says, “As a result,” what he says is the real test of spiritual maturity or fruit of Christlikeness is, is doctrinal purity and relational connection from the heart. “As a result, therefore, we’re no longer children tossed here and there by every wave of doctrine, by craftiness and deceitful speaking. But speaking the truth in love, we grow up into all aspects into the Head, who is the Head, even Christ, by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.”

He says when you’re spiritually mature the evidence is you’re not a child tossed around by this fad, or that fad, or this teacher, or you heard that. You know the truth. And you speak the truth in love. You have relationships where you confront issues but you do it with a kind heart. You deal with things. You don’t bury them, you don’t blame people.

That’s the kind of Christian God wants us to make. And that’s the goal of the Holy Spirit. That’s what He’s trying to produce. And that’s what He wants to produce in you and that’s what He wants to produce in me.

I just jotted down, “How does the spiritual life work?” And what I really wanted to do is just give you an overview.  It says, “Four key concepts.” And right above that why don’t you write, “Howard Hendricks’ Summary.” Because when you steal people’s material word for word you should probably be very specific about how the Spirit works.

And I have to tell you this has been my passion. I didn’t grow up as a Christian so I never opened the Bible and so I started reading a lot of books and there was this group that kind of said this, and this group that said that, and I’ve read all kind of books on the spiritual life, and the surrendered life, and the second life, and old books and new books.

And at times, “Okay, I think the whole spiritual life, the way you stay in the Spirit is you, sort of, put your tongue like this and then you sort of…” And then I’d, sort of, “Oh, gosh. I felt so filled for about twenty minutes.” And then something happened, you know?

And so, I’ve just really been on this journey to know, I really want the Spirit of God to fill me and transform me.

And I remember sitting down with Prof. Hendricks and he said, “You know, the spiritual life has four component parts.” And he went through these. And I just have to tell you that every good book and anything that I’ve ever read anywhere actually just fits in to this very simple understanding of how the Spirit of God takes the Word of God, in the community of God’s people, as you respond in faith and obedience, and actually will produce the life of Jesus that is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, and filled with self-control.

And so let me just walk through it. It’s very, very, been very helpful to me. Spirituality is the life of Christ. Ephesians 3:16 and 17, the apostle Paul, it says, “I pray that out of His glorious riches you may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Paul prays. “I want you to be strengthened in your inner being so that the riches of Christ, that His life could dwell in your hearts,” and notice your part, “by faith.”

For him, remember Philippians 1:21 when Paul thought maybe he was going to die, wasn’t sure. “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” See, spirituality isn’t activity, it’s not knowledge, it’s not going to church, it’s not… It’s the life of Christ. It’s His life.

And I’ll never forget the day someone told me: The Christian life is not hard. And I remember thinking, “Well, he’s not living the same Christian life I am.” And then he added, “It’s impossible.” And all of a sudden I got it. It’s not hard. The only one that can live the Christian life is Jesus. And He lives in you. So your responsibility is to learn how to abide, and stay in step with the Spirit, so that the life of Christ is produced in and through you.

It’s not that there’s not anything you do. But you can’t try hard enough to be loving and kind and good. So, spirituality is the life of Christ.

Concept number two, spirituality is the life of Christ reproduced in the believer. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man, if any woman, is in Christ you’re a new creation.” Process. “The old things pass away, behold, all things are becoming new.”

Or the way the apostle Paul would put it is this: Okay, it’s the life of Christ reproduced in the life of the believer. Now think of all the knowledge the apostle Paul had. Think of all the, I mean, he was at the top of the game as a Pharisee. Probably had nearly all the Old Testament memorized. He was under the best teacher of the day.

And after all of his great learning then walking with Jesus he describes his life. He says, “I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives within me and in this life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

That’s, that’s his theology. I died with Christ. I’m connected to Him. I was resurrected with Him. And the life that I now live, I live by faith, trusting His Word, in the community of God’s people, keeping in step with the Spirit.

And did you notice? “Who loved me.” His view of His heavenly Father was kind and good. When he said, “Paul, I want you to go there. Paul, I want you to go there. Paul, you’re going to have to suffer for Me.”

It was like, comes from the hand of a good God. There was a joy. I mean he and Silas are in that jail, what are they doing? They’re singing. See that’s the Spirit. The world desperately needs to see Christians whose lives don’t make sense unless there’s something supernatural happening inside of them. And the supernatural happening inside of us, is the Spirit of God when He’s influencing and controlling.

And so spirituality is the life of Christ. Spirituality is the life of Christ, reproduced in the believer. And then spirituality is the life of Christ, reproduced in the life of the believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul would say in Galatians 5 verse 16, “So I say walk or live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Just keep in step with the Spirit. In verse 25 he says, “Since we live by the Spirit let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

What would happen if you saw your life, rather than a list of duties to perform, as an adventure that you’re on? You know, instead of, “Okay I’m a Christian and now I’ve got to read my Bible, now I’ve got to pray and my mind wanders and that’s a dumb. Now I’ve got to give at least ten percent, just to even stay in the game. And I’ve got to get on one of those short-term things, they’re always harping on me, go on the, I’ve got to be involved in ministry. Got to be involved. Oh you’ve got to be in a small group. Oh I’ve got to go to that class!

“Uh, what else do I’ve got to do? I don’t know. Oh yeah, read Christian books. I’ve got to read some Christian books, you know? And I’m not supposed to do so much of that. I should start doing that. I’m, uh. I’m spending way too much time on the computer. Oh, X I’m, well maybe waste too much time on the TV. I think I’m supposed to…”

Does this sound remotely similar to your life? That’s insane. That’s insane. And can I tell you, stupid and ungodly as well? And it’s not like we’re burning up the track out there like people going, “Whoa! If that’s the Christian life I’d like to get some of that! I’m not very busy, I don’t have anything to do, I’d like to get, like, ten other activities to feel guilty about. That’d be pretty cool.

That’s, like, completely different than, “I’ve been resurrected by the living God, and I have a purpose, and He created all that there is, and He has a purpose for me, and He wants to talk to me today. That’s a lot different than, “I’m going to read my Bible.”

And I’m not sure what He wants me to do but guess what. If I don’t read my Bible today, please lean back so this doesn’t hurt some of you, He doesn’t love me any less and He doesn’t love me any more. I missed out, probably, on something He wanted to say, but He’s my Father, He’s my Abba, He loves me.

And if I would learn to practice the presence of God, then, of course, I’m going to have time to pray, and I have to have some disciplines and accountability, and people help me, but accountability isn’t people haranguing me to become something I don’t really want to become, who I wish they’d get off my back but I feel guilty if I don’t ask them to harangue me.

Accountability is asking people who love me and that I love, “Will you help me keep my commitments to God because I really want to. But I’m just in this body of flesh that’s lazy and deceived and I’m in denial. And I just need some brothers or some couples to do life with in a way to help me. Because I’m on this adventure.”

And He’s going to speak to me and it’s exciting. And it’s an adventure that’s just for me. And He’s going to have me do something and there’s a place where I fit where no one else quite fits.

And He’ll show me how much to read and He’ll show me whether to do this or not do that. I don’t have to listen to everybody in all the world who tells me all the things I need to do as a Christian. I need to keep in step with the Spirit in this adventure.

And what I really need to test is am I becoming more loving? Do I have greater joy? Is there a sense of greater peace? Do I have a higher and more holy view of God? Am I experiencing His love? Am I finding myself reaching out and loving people that I think, I would never love them. This must be the Holy Spirit, you know?

And all this, you know something? When people rub up next to people on an adventure with God, who is leading, and speaking, and then guess what. Every day is like, are you ready for this? “I don’t know what to do, Lord.” And He’ll whisper, “I do. I do. Would you like to know?” And He’ll show you. This sense of expectation.

What if every single day you realize He’s going to do something supernatural, out of the box. Wonder where it is?

A lot of us go through the Christianity, “I bent my knees, I read my Bible, said my prayers, I went to my group. Read my Bible, said my prayers, went to my group. What is that? Oh, God, I’m sorry. I don’t have time for you. Read my Bible, say my…”

We just go through this deal like…

Can you imagine what it would be like to walk on a dusty road with Jesus? And you get up every day, “James, where are we going?” “I don’t know.” “Did the Lord tell you?” “No, he didn’t tell me either.” “So what are we going to do?” “If He gets up and walks I think we’re going to follow Him.”

Might be healing-little-girl-day. Might be mountaintop-Moses-and-the-boys-are- going-to-show-up. I don’t know but just let’s follow Him!

That’s for us. Jesus said you have more capability and more access to follow Him than they did on a dusty road. The Christian life, spirituality, is the life of Christ, reproduced in the believe, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and finally, in obedience to the Word of God.

Your spiritual diet will determine your spiritual growth. Jesus said in John 8:31, “To those Jews who had believed on Him you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Free. Free from legalism, free from other people’s expectations, free from sin, free from bad habits, free from your lack of self of control, free from a warped view of God.

And Jesus’ brother would remind us that when you understand spirituality is the life of Christ, and it’s the life of Christ reproduced in the believer, and it’s the life of Christ reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit in response, by faith, to the Word of God then Jesus’ brother James would say, “When you hear that from the truth of God’s Word and you walk away nodding and saying, ‘That’s true’ without doing it,” he says you become an ineffectual hearer but the progress of the faith is only in doers of God’s Word.

What does God say to you, what would be the next baby step for you to be in step with the Spirit? This isn’t one of those messages where, “Oh my lands! My whole life needs to change!” Well, it may. But it’s, Paul said, “Keep in step.” That means one step. And if you respond to the life that God gives you guess what, when you get up tomorrow if you say, “Lord, what’s step two?” He’ll tell you.

What’s just the next step?