Death to self in order to have life. This idea of dying to self has intrigued me throughout my walk with Christ - how exactly does one die to self? What does that even mean? The more time I spend with these thoughts running through my mind on the Holy Spirit the more often the veil lifts and I get glimpses. I feel like a young baby that is just being shown enough to encourage the next step. God is so incredibly faithful and patient. He speaks only when we are ready to listen and He says only what we are able to comprehend. I've wanted and struggled and yearned for answers my entire life, and now that I am comfortable with no answers, God begins to reveal himself. It is as if He knew that only when I was comfortable with the mystery could I begin to appreciate the revelations. John 12:24 says: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. For me, to die to self is The Challenge. My obedience only makes it more difficult. The closer I get to living a life pleasing to God the more confidant I feel in my ability to make good choices and decisions. The more confidant I have in my own abilities, the less likely I am to consciously and consistently turn to God for answers. It's this paradox of growing closer to God but forgetting to acknowledge God. It's the difference between ending a day - a fine day - tense and frustrated, or ending a day with peace and contentment. When I take the time to slow down and be led by the Spirit I am at peace. When I rush through my days without thought, mindlessly making choices and decisions, I end up feeling so....alone. In Galations 5:22,23 we learn "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." So I can get a good idea of how well I am being led by the Spirit of God verses being led by myself by taking stock and evaluating how much of the fruit of the Spirit is present in my life. Love: affection, fondness, passion Joy: feeling great pleasure and happiness Peace: Quiet and tranquility - freedom from disturbance Forbearance: Patient self control; restraint and tolerance Kindness: Being friendly, generous, and considerate Goodness: The quality of being desired and approved of Faithfullness: The quality of being loyal and steadfast Gentleness: True humility that does not consider itself too good or too exalted for humble tasks Self-Control: Controlling your impulses, the act of denying yourself The first three are things I get to partake of - things that I feel and appreciate. The remaining six are things that benefit those I come into contact with. When I spend time with other Christians - I can sense the Spirit within them. I've heard people speak who have been to Africa or other parts of the world with very different cultures and languages but they talk about how Christians are the same no matter where you are and it is this, isn't it? This shared Spirit bearing the same fruit whether you are faithfully following from affluent America, or following from the slums of Calcutta - the Spirit that is within us is identical. I believe the only way to show someone why I believe in Christ and why my faith is such an integral part of my life is to have evidence of these characteristics. These are the qualities that drew people to Christ. These are the characteristics of Christ! That is just so cool. Even now - neck deep in writing about the Spirit, it is so easy to forget that this Spirit we speak of - it is the same Spirit that was in Jesus when He walked among us. It is the Spirit of God - the great I Am. Living in me. Broken, short tempered, sinful me. I can die to all of my failings and let this perfect Spirit shine through me. How awesome is that? So that is what I will be working on from now until I get to go home - living mindfully. Living with a listening heart, ever mindful of the Spirit available to me. Listening to the quiet whispers and the gentle leadership. It reminds me of the ancient cathedrals that took hundreds of years to build. People would spend their entire lives building this amazing cathedral - knowing they would never see it's completion. I'm a lot like that. No one on this side of heaven will ever get to see me live mindfully, consistently. It just won't be done in time. I am building a temple - one that will take my entire life to build. The difference though is one day we will see each other in our beautiful and fulfilled completion.
I have fluctuated between excited, relieved, and scared as I've delved deeper into what it means to be a temple to the Holy Spirit of God. It is really quite intimidating if you think about it. It's kind of like having company - ALL THE TIME. I like having company, actually, I love having company. I enjoy the anticipation, the preparation, the actual event, and then the remembering. It is great fun. But what isn't fun is to have company all the time - even if you love them. Sometimes, you just want to let your hair down, have a PJ day in front of the TV and eat food that's bad for you - but you never do that in front of company. That's kind of how one could feel about the Holy Spirit. One like me. On the one hand - I love it. I love feeling that closeness and connectedness. I love the comfort of feeling like I can trust the Spirit to help me on hard days and guide me when I need to make a decision. I love the idea of worshipping with the Spirit of God - it is a wholly new experience to go take the Spirit of God to church. It's even helped my parenting and my patience. I don't think the Spirit appreciates yelling, even if it is at a toddler that has driven me to the brink of madness and STILL won't do...whatever. Actually, I think the Spirit especially doesn't like yelling at toddlers. Sigh. But on the other hand, there have been times when I have started to read something, say something, think something, that is a lot like junk food for the brain. I know there isn't any value but I so enjoyed it - before. Now it feels like I've walked into the living room in my old sweats and my hair ratted from the night before, carrying a tub of Ben & Jerry's and burping on the way - only to find my new neighbors sitting on my couch ready to visit. Awkward. So I've passed up on a few TV programs, I've let a few new books that are all the rage go by, I've held my tongue when I wanted to speak. The difference though is that I'm not resenting it. I'm feeling good about it. While I may resent those new neighbors showing up unannounced, I find I'm managing this 'All The Time Company' with much more appreciation. Sure there are times when I want to do something and I think, 'Ah - it's not going to hurt anything. It's not a big deal' - but it would and it is. It would hurt me and right now God is showing that to me by heightening my sensitivity to the Spirit within me. He is stretching me by leaps and bounds in this area. And the more time I spend being aware of His presence, the less it feels like having company and the more it feels like a marriage. You know the Bible speaks of us as the bride. I love these analogies that help us to understand our relationship. Bless Greg's heart - I would have been ok walking out with my Ben & Jerry's with him on the couch. We are one - he is a part of me. He isn't company. And so it becomes with the Spirit - a joining and learning. Much like you learn to live with your husband or wife, you learn to live with the Spirit. And in small ways God uses a blessed marriage to help us grow into our ideal selves, so it is with the Spirit in large ways. Iron sharpens iron - the rub of living with Holy Spirit of God will inevitably mold you into a better self. I manifest a calm spirit because I believe the Spirit within me appreciates an even keel. I straighten my thoughts and try to focus on the beauty of this world, for that is a part of the Spirit and is pleasing. I take care of my health through eating right and exercising because I know that to fail in this area draws my focus inward to my self and away from the Spirit. In all ways I work to honor the Spirit within me. It is hard and I fail often, but the Spirit is full of grace and forgiveness and we start again. 20120808-191355.jpg
So, the big reveal. Here is how God finally got me to understand how hugely important the Spirit is. There was the age of God - creation, the fall, the time until...The age of Jesus - and the ultimate salvation....and now we live in the age of the Spirit. These three different periods of time are differentiated by how we access God. We started out as friends, then we were seperated, then we were reunited for a brief time in the flesh, and now we are deeply connected in the Spirit until God returns to take us back to the new creation. I kinda got that...kinda. But then a veil was lifted... Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. We are marked by the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. Sealed. A seal is to remain until it is delivered to the one for whom it was sealed. A seal is the mark of importance and insures the safety of the message. I am sealed by the Spirit of God. I was listening to a sermon online and the teacher was talking about the old testament temple and the fact that the Jewish people had to go to the temple to worship and give sacrifice, but today we are the temple so we don't have that distance between us. At first I just thought, "Yes, that's right, that's nice." But then I thought - What does that really mean? What do I know about the temple? What does it mean to be a temple? How is being a temple now related to the Jewish temple's of old? If I think about the temple as it is discussed in the bible I remember a few things. One, there is a LOT of details in the bible about how things should be made for the temple....a lot of details. So much that I normally just skim those sections because I always kind of figured, unless I was getting ready to build it, it was really more than I needed to know, until now. Suddenly I appreciated the meticulous nature of God's instructions for his temple. I saw a foreshadowing in how I was to really think about my body as a temple. It means that I am a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. That is a big big deal. God is very precise about where He resides. It is important. The importance of the temple - the lives dedicated to it's creation - the lives fought to protect it. The temple was important to God's people because it was important to God. Secondly - God takes the holiness of the temple very seriously. Defiling the temple in the old testament resulted in death. Just last year when I read the accounting of the young man who touched the ark and was killed immediately - I turned to Greg and said - that just doesn't seem fair. I still don't entirely understand it, but I think it is something like this. God and sin cannot co-exist in the same space. To enter into the Holy of Holies or to touch where God's Spirit resides with something sinful results in death. At that time there was no redemption available as of yet - we were all unsealed sinners. Thirdly - The splitting of the curtain when Jesus died. It was the final destruction of the old way of relating to God. At that moment our bodies were transformed into these potential temples. As I thought through those three things it dawned on me - Jesus doesn't live in my heart and the Spirit doesn't just help me make good decisions. Jesus is seated on the right hand of God, today, right now. Not in my heart. The world started with God working on a relationship with us. Then it moved to Jesus sacrificing His life to redeem us. Today the Holy Spirit is available to provide a relationship with both God and Jesus. The Holy Spirit doesn't walk beside me or sit on my shoulder like Jiminy Cricket. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior - the Holy Spirit indwelled my body. I was given the gift of the Holy Spirit. From my head to my toes and fingertip to fingertip - I am a temple to the Holy Spirit of the creater of All Things. The great I Am. Sealed for delivery to God. And that is why everything I do can be an act of worship. That's why the way I treat my children, my co-workers, the thoughts I have in the dead of night, the books I read, the movies I watch - all are acts of worship. I had heard that before but I thought of it more along the lines that God would be pleased with your activities when they were not sinful. I had not thought of it as the Spirit actively living my life within me. Seeing what I see, speaking what I speak, thinking what I think. Everything I do honors that Spirit within me. Or it is a defilement, a revulsion. The Spirit is in every breath you take, every thought, and every movement. When we do things outside the will of God - well, I haven't quite figured out what happens. I do know that the thought of doing something that is sinful takes on a different feeling with this understanding of the Spirit. The beautiful thing - what makes my heart sing - is the idea that I really can worship God all day every day without a hymnal. I'm not that great of a singer and there is alot to do when you are a mom, wife, daughter, friend, employee, etc etc etc. Non stop prayer and worship sounds wonderful but, until last week, totally unreasonable. The understanding has made what was already, for me, a personal relationship and turned it into something more. Something more beautiful. Something more intimidating. Something more Awesome. We serve such an incredible and brilliant God. So tell me - does this make sense to you? How do you think of the Holy Spirit? 20120801-202828.jpg
20120801-202935.jpg I'm learning how to be comfortable writing about my faith. I'm learning. It isn't easy. There are two big fears that I have: What is revealed to me will be obvious to everyone else and I will be thought of as an immature and simple minded christian, OR, I will be completely wrong and either influence people to believe something that is not true or later look back at what I've written and be embarrased. So, really there is only one thing to be worried about - that I'll influence someone to believe something that isn't true. The rest is pride and it just has no place in writing. You can't be both prideful and honest. The influencing though - I can only say that I don't write these things lightly. I do research scripture and I pray before I write. So with that said I am going to start a multi part series on the Holy Spirit. God is really working on me about the Holy Spirit. I wrote previously about not holding the Spirit in the same regard as Jesus and God and how God had started nudging me down the path of understanding. Since then I've been bombarded by scripture, podcasts, songs, and seemingly random conversations all centering on the Spirit of God. It's been a little freaky. So I want to start at the beginning of my spiritual journey - back when I was just a little kid, going to church to play, and learning who Jesus was. My learning started out with the very simple concept of asking Jesus to live in my heart. You learn that Jesus died for you, He loves you, and if you ask Him, He will come to live in your heart. Somehow (hello Spirit) this makes sense to kids and they are open to it. I was and I did and He did. Then you are introduced to God who is everywhere and sees everything. In my upbringing this was usually presented as a kind of threat to keep you in line because God can "see everything you do". Then there was the Holy Spirit. Honestly I don't remember a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit except that it will help guide you and make good decisions. So I've always kind of thought of Jesus living in my 'heart' - not the physical heart - but the nice little place inside of me that loves my family and puppies and ice cream. Jesus hangs out there with all my good thoughts and warm feelings. I have God in heaven, Jesus in my heart, and the Holy Spirit helping me to do good things. Oh, and by the way, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same - which was a concept I just said 'ok' to and went on because that is beyond my comprehensive abilities. The problem with this idea, for me, is that Jesus and the Spirit were really just in the good things I did. The weren't really around if I did something bad - because I was ignoring the Spirit and Jesus was tucked away with all my good deeds in my heart. I really only had God to deal with who could see everything and I would repent just as soon as I was done and get back on good standing. Not great theology - but I didn't put a lot of thought into it either. And even as I matured in my faith and took steps to really deepen my relationship with the Three of Them - it was really just about the Two of Them. A deep affection and appreciation for Jesus and salvation, coupled with a healthy fear of God. And somewhere in the background lurks the Spirit reminding me to complete my bible reading and not be an angry driver. God decided to really work me over the past few weeks and reveal what the Spirit is all about - and it has really made my head hurt and my heart sing. Over the next few weeks I'm going to try and explain to myself all of these thoughts swirling about in my head and I invite you along. Next we will talk about our bodies as a temple and how God finally helped me figure out why all those details were included in the Old Testament - well, at least one reason.
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