Guests: Bruce Johanson, Carl Cosaert and Zdravko Stefanovic
Key Text: John 6:63
The lesson this weeks is built on the biblical idea that human beings, left in their natural state, are far from God and bent toward going away from Him. Left this way, humans will go to their own destruction. In contra-distinction to this, is the work of the Holy Spirit who is precisely commissioned to reverse this tendency and to work for the redemption of humanity. If we pay attention to the Holy Spirit, the tendency to go away from God will be reversed, and we will draw near to Him.. An unbeliever will be transformed into a believer, and that believer will grow to become one who partakes of the divine nature. The life of Christ will take up residence in the person, and they will be new. This life is through the ‘Spirit.
The first step in the process toward God involves one of two things, or, perhaps, both of them. There comes over the person who is away from God the clear sense that they are sinners. This does not mean they think of the wrongs they have done as much as it means they sense there is something inherently wrong with them and their living, that there is a deep-seated malady that has bent them away from God and toward wrong and sin. This is a problem no human can cure, an they sense it. They come to see themselves as sinners, not in the sense of some worthless wrong-goer, but as one who needs help if they are to live as they ought. They sense a need for a Savior. Only a Savior can remedy the problem they have. At the same time, there may be the realization of the existence God and of His great love and care for people. There is no fear of God, at least not in the sense of being rejected or judged. The desire to be distant from God evaporates and in its place there grows a longing to come close to God, to be near Him, under His care. The combination of these two things – a sense of Sin, and a sense of a loving Savior – causes the person who has insisted on autonomy up to this point, to capitulate and ask for God’s intervention in their lives. To use an old phrase, they “surrender.” In more modern terms, they give up living to themselves and they turn and start living toward God. They are given new life. This is the beginning of life through the Spirit.
The Bible is plain that at some point, – conversion – the location of the Spirit changes. Now, this may not be a literal description of things, but the language indicates the Spirit moves from outside the sinner to inside him or her. In other words, the Spirit takes up resident “in us.” (Romans 8:6-11).
This concept is beautiful. The Spirit, one He gains access to a life, moves in to live in and with the believer. The presumption is that the connection to the Spirit is now intimate and immediate. One of the effects of this entering by the Spirit is that a person obtains a sense of assurance of salvation. This is not an assurance that leads to some kind of brash bravado, but to a gentle assurance that all is well between them and God.
To put this in terms the Apostle Paul used, flesh gives way to spirit. The flesh (which is Paul’s way of talking about natural human nature) is replaced a the center of life, by spirit. The believer get new life. This new life is lived in tension with the old, and a battle goes on in the life of the believer. Each day, each occasion, one element prospers to the expense of the other. The goal is to let the spirit side prevail over the flesh side. Believers must understand they will live in this tension until this life is over. One of the main purpose of devotional exercises is to keep this process going in the right direction. The fleshly side of humans must be held in check, and devotional times are a key ingredient in performing the task of taming the soul. Victory in a complete sense will not be had in this life.
So the believer faces the prospect of being born again, by the Spirit, then living daily in such a manner that the new transcends the old. It raised up over it and pushes it aside. But the old man in all of us is never fully displaced until the resurrection.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some of the devotional practices that help tame the human side of your soul?