Over the years, I have talked to many Christians who have expressed concerns about struggling how to live for God. They have expressed struggles with temptation, trying to do the right thing but reverting back to their old nature and trying so hard to do the right thing but growing weary of the fight.
When we begin to follow Jesus, he never intended for us to do this on our own. The Bible is clear that we cannot save ourselves. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
We cannot continue to save ourselves day by day as we follow Christ. Jesus knew that we could not do it alone and He promised His disciples and us, He would not leave us as orphans, as in John 14:18. He promised the Holy Spirit would help us.
The idea of the Holy Spirit seems a bit mysterious for many people. You may hear strange teachings about the Holy Spirit and think it is something that, maybe, scares you or keeps you from desiring to learn more about him. Read what Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit in John 14-16 to help your understanding.
Sunday, May 23 is celebrated in the church as the Day of Pentecost. It was an Old Testament feast celebrating first fruits. But in the New Testament, it has come to mean the day when the Holy Spirit filled the hearts and lives of all the followers of Jesus. And it celebrates that it’s been that way ever since. The Holy Spirit still fills the hearts in the lives of all believers.
The teaching of scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit in our lives does several things in us. It purifies our hearts, which means that he helps us to be completely devoted to God. We don’t have to do it on our own. He also empowers us to live a life pleasing to God and to be a witness for Him in the world, both in how we live, and in what we say. The scripture also teaches in several places that the Holy Spirit gifts us with abilities to build up the church, such as encouragement, teaching, giving, etc. That is a discussion for a later time.
The emphasis that I want to make in this brief article is that because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, he helps us overcome our old nature, old habits, old sins and our struggles to do the right thing all the time. The apostle Paul, in Romans 7, discusses the struggle that he had, which many people can identify. But then he gives the answer in Romans 8:1, “But now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” What that means is that through Christ Jesus we live a life, not of condemnation, but a victory in him. You don’t become perfect saints immediately, but we do continue to grow spiritually in Christ to where the desire of our heart is to live more like Jesus every day.
One of the blessings of Pentecost is that God has given his spirit, the spirit of Jesus, to live in each and every one of us every day. His powerful presence lives in us. That is amazing! And because He lives in us, He is purifying us day by day. And we are growing mature in him.
The Apostle Paul expressed this sentiment to one of his churches, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” in Philippians 1:6. I believe that is true today in your life as well. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus will bring his good work in you to completion!
• The Rev. Dan Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. ”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.