The Holy Spirit, New Shoes, And An Honest Spiritual Evaluation

I bought a new pair of running shoes Monday. My old ones were pretty worn out and I begin to experience some discomfort. Buying these new shoes reminded me of the story my parents always tell about buying me new tennis shoes growing up.

I usually got two new pairs of shoes at the beginning of each school year and I absolutely loved going to pick them out. Whenever we got home, I would put on the new shoes and beg my parents to come watch me run down our driveway. You see, I had this grand illusion that my new shoes made me run faster. If you have ever seen me run, you would know that running fast is not my specialty. In fact, my grandfather would say, “Michael, you run hard but you just run in the same place too long!”

As my mind was wondering back in time, I was struck by a thought. We, as believers, have the same tendency in our spiritual lives. We believe that a new Bible reading program or a new worship CD will magically enhance our spiritual growth. If we can just get to this conference or go hear this celebrity pastor speak, then we will take leaps and bounds in our Christian life.

The only problem is that this is an illusion. I fully believe Bible reading programs, worship CD’s, conferences, and celebrity pastors can be beneficial tools in our lives. Here is my concern: We are prone to believe these things will make us grow spiritually, in the same way I thought new shoes would make me run faster.

We often lose sight of the fact that apart from the Holy Spirit working in our lives, these tools will have little value for us at all. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as our helper (paraclete) and Scripture emphasizes that the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is expansive. Consider that it is the Spirit, which dwells within us and guides us into all truth (John 14:26), intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27), produces fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23), gives us spiritual gifts (Ephesians 2:8), empowers us and gives us boldness to tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 3:16, 1 Timothy 3:13).

While these tools may be useful in our lives, the true power of spiritual growth rests with the work of the Holy Spirit. I know I often find myself focusing much more attention on the tools than on the Spirit’s work. In a real sense the tools become nothing less than gods in my life.

So what do we do? How do we approach these “tools” knowing that true spiritual growth comes from the Holy Spirit at work within us? Here are a few practical things I was reminded of:

1. We need to be filled with the Spirit. Even though the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, we are reminded that we need to be filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is a continual action verb – the Spirit should continually fill us. By this, Paul means that the Spirit should control us. Consciously we make the decision to yield our will and desires to His will and work in our life. When we are Spirit-filled we can be assured that the tools described above are best understood and appropriated. We will hear, read, and apply things that the Spirit deems most important instead of deciding what we, in our flesh, deem as most important. Whenever we read Scripture, worship, attend a conference, or hear the Word of God preached, we should be conscious to yield ourselves to the Spirit and give him free reign to work in our lives.

2. We should not grieve the Spirit. Sin in our lives grieves the Holy Spirit. John Wesley shined light on this passage when he wrote, “Do not force Him to withdraw from you, as a friend does whom you grieve by unkind behavior.” Sin that is not repented of and not confessed should not be in the life of a believer and when it is, we are assured that the work of the Holy Spirit is stifled. We must beware of our tendency to compartmentalize our lives in such a way that we allow sin, that has not been confessed and turned from, to remain in our lives while at the same time attempting to grow spiritually.

*Let’s use the available tools but remind ourselves, daily, that our greatest need is for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives!

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2 comments

  1. Michael, how does Mark 16:17 fit into the Holy Spirit equation. If we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit then shouldn’t we be doing these things? I get that we are not literally being told to “pick up snakes..etc” but in reality shouldn’t we as believers be continuing to bring Jesus to the to the world through signs and wonders as well as testimony? Perhaps as modern day Christians we haven’t been taught the true value of praying in the Spirit or the power in the blood of Jesus. Just asking. (smiles to you)

    1. I certainly believe that a great deal of the contemporary church has missed seeing the Holy Spirit at work. Here are the two reasons why I think this is the case:

      1. We ignore the work of the Holy Spirit.
      By this I mean that we marginalize his work in our lives and in the church. Francis Chan addressed this in his book Forgotten God. He said that there is one question that he cannot get around, “If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside him or her and the person who does not?”

      2. We focus more on the signs and wonders and less on Christ.
      Francis Chan summed it up like this, “A lot of people want to talk about supernatural thinks like miracles, healing, or prophecy. But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst. Scripture emphasizes that we should desire fruit, that we should concern ourselves with becoming more like His Son. God wants us to seek to listen to His Spirit and to obey. The point of it all was never the miracles in and of themselves. Those came when they were unexpected, when people were faithful and focused on serving and loving others. God wants us to trust Him to provide miracles when He sees fit. He doesn’t just dole them out mechanically, as if we can put in a quarter, pray the right prayer, and out comes a miracle. Miracles are never an end in themselves; they are always a means to point to and accomplish something greater. I’d love to witness more miracles. But when we make miracles the focus of our energy and pursuit, we ignore the priorities God tells us to pursue and we impose our own desires upon God. Sometimes we even resemble Satan, who told Jesus to jump off of the temple and perform a miracle. Of course God the Father could have saved Jesus from harm had He jumped, but Jesus refused to test His Father (Matt. 4:7) by ‘making’ Him perform a miracle.”

      I think we lack a balanced understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Either we ignore him and go throughout life almost scared of what might happen if we lived our life filled with the Spirit or we place to great an emphasis on what the Spirit can do for us (signs and wonders) that we become like Simon the magician described in Acts 8. I think a balanced, biblical understanding of the Spirit is needed!

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