A new life begins
What does a real Christian look like? I’m sure every Christian can remember, if not the exact moment then at least the general time when they became a Christian, and they were so excited about their new life in Christ. There was a deep sense of love and gratitude to God, who had so graciously saved them. There was even a lack of desire to sin; perhaps even a feeling of invincibility – nothing is going to stop us following Jesus now! However, in the course of time, the reality of life sets in and to our dismay there is indeed still a desire to sin. In fact, we find ourselves actually sinning! Even worse, we find that this indwelling sin is amazingly powerful. At this point, confusion and doubt sets in, perhaps even to the degree of doubting the conversion experience. People become disturbed, depressed and frustrated as they seek a seemingly elusive answer to their dilemma. Something just is not right…This was a picture on a birthday card given to my son on his thirteenth birthday. Small things may amuse small minds, but this picture intrigues me. It portrays to me what perhaps many of us Christians can be like. The picture is full of anomalies. There is the obvious, in that the boat is not on water so the frog is always going to struggle to row his boat. Perhaps that is why he looks so miserable. He can have the right rowing technique, even wear a life jacket, but he still is not going to go anywhere. But wait a moment. Are we not missing something even more obvious than that? Frogs do not row boats! He is in an unnatural environment. God did not make frogs to row boats. He designed them beautifully to live in environments like ponds, where they can live comfortably and safely in water and mud. God designed the frog that way; green as camouflage for his surroundings and powerful back legs to leap to escape danger or to catch insects. This frog is in an unnatural environment, and the picture conveys a sense of frustration and energy-sapping, fruitless activity. To me, this is like the Christian who is not living the Spirit-filled life.
Christians respond in various ways to the constant struggle they face with sin. Some people just simply give up and tolerate their sinful lifestyle; justifying it by calling it some illness or changing their theology so as to try and not feel so guilty. They compromise, and basically follow the ways of the world. Other people settle for a lukewarm kind of faith, deceiving themselves into thinking that all that is required is the “externals”; going to church, being a good person, tithing. They go through the motions of being a Christian and never deal seriously with lifestyle issues. They settle for mediocrity. Yet others, due to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, hate their sinful lifestyle. They desperately battle their sinful urges, trying everything; prayer, fasting, counselling, but seem to end up in an endless cycle of fighting, failure and frustration – not unlike our friend the frog! Then there are others who break through into genuine spiritual fullness and victory. They discover that God has already provided all that is ever needed to live the spiritual life. They come to discover the fullness of life that God intends for all of his children, and they begin to live their lives on a level that they never even thought possible. Which kind of person best describes you? Which kind of person best describes where you want to be?
The apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth describes three kinds of people, each determined by their relationship, or lack of it, with the Holy Spirit. The first is the unbeliever (1). This person does not have the indwelling Spirit of God and therefore cannot understand the things of God. Such a person does not even truly understand himself! This person is under Satan’s control and rejects all spiritual truth. It is impossible for this person to change his own condition (2). Second is the worldly believer (3). Paul labels such believers as babies. They still need to be bottle-fed. They cannot digest solid food. These Christians are worldly-minded and therefore act in a worldly manner. They act a lot like unbelievers. Such a person is dominated not by the Holy Spirit but by the sinful nature. Finally, there is the spiritual believer (4). The spiritual person is able to know God because it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the truth of God to him. Spiritual truth is not naturally understood by natural means or worldly wisdom; rather, it is taught by the Holy Spirit. Although every Christian has the Spirit of God, the spiritual Christian is one who has learned what it means to “walk in the Spirit.” Such a person is dominated by the Holy Spirit and keeps in step with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit plays such a vital role in our salvation and new life in Christ. Salvation does not mean being religious; knowing about God, getting baptised, joining a church, taking communion, having a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. We can do all these things and not be a Christian at all! Salvation is entirely the work of God. It is God the Holy Spirit who convicts me of my sin and need of a Saviour. It is God the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus as the One who died on the cross for my sin and rose again. It is God the Holy Spirit who brings me to a point where I either accept or reject this marvellous truth of the gospel. In accepting this truth, in committing my life to Christ, I am saved, born again, a child of God, a new creation (5) and it is the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in my life (6). From that moment on our spiritual lives are to be dependent upon him. We cannot live the Spirit-filled life in our own strength. It is the work of God alone! It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to follow Jesus. Therefore it is vital that we become rightly adjusted to him. We need to make ourselves available to him. We must keep in step with him. We must not grieve or quench him. We must not resist him. Our responsibility is to simply walk with him.
So in beginning this journey of the Spirit-filled life, ask yourselves the following questions. Has there been a point in your life when you have come to a real sense of need that you are a sinner before a holy God? When you have realised that Jesus alone could meet that need because of his death on the cross? When you have responded in faith and trusted in Jesus as your Saviour? When you have received that certainty of assurance?
“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
- 1 Corinthians 2:14; 1:18
- Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:4
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-4
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-12
- 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15
- Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Corinthians 6:19-