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Your relationship

How can a relationship with the Holy Spirit be nurtured?

By George O. Wood

Scottish playwright James Barrie dolefully commented on the difference between our expectations for life and the realities we actually experience: "The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, but instead writes another. And his saddest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it."

Such a statement reflects an attitude of disillusionment far from the promise of Jesus: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10, NIV).

Your relationship by George O. Wood

Spirit-led witnessing by Ken Horn

Questions and Answers about the Holy Spirit

How can we be sure the end result of our living parallels the statement of Jesus rather than that of James Barrie?

The Bible has clear answers.

Most of the time our concern for life has to do with living better here and now. But God has a more expansive view. He seeks to empower us to live eternally.

No matter how much money, power, health or success you have, it will not exempt you from dying. Only Jesus can give you resurrection-order life — whether you are wealthy or on welfare; whether you have great influence or none — regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. Life is not available outside of Jesus Christ.

So begin with Him. Confess your sin and need to Him (1 John 1:9). Ask Him to enter your life (Revelation 3:20). Believe on Him with your heart and confess Him as Lord with your mouth (Romans 10:8,9). Follow Him by being baptized in water and learning His way of life and thinking (Matthew 28:19). Commit yourself to be part of His church (Acts 2:42).

The Lord has a wonderful gift for you along with salvation: the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:4,38,39). You cannot live the Christian life under your own power, nor can you effectively witness to others about your newfound faith unless the Spirit of God enables you. The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to so overwhelm you with the presence of God that you will no longer dwell on your own weaknesses and inadequacies, but instead be filled with assurance and boldness.

Have you noticed how two persons accomplish the same job? Look at the difference between the 15th and 16th presidents of the United States. Immediately we recognize the 16th president as Abraham Lincoln, but are hard pressed to recall the name of the 15th. Why? Both held the same office and faced the crisis of a nation divided over the issue of slavery. What made the difference? One, Lincoln, had a personal enablement; the other didn’t. It wasn’t their constitutional powers which made the difference. Both exercised identical legal authority as president. It was a personal empowerment in Lincoln not possessed by the 15th president.

It is equally possible for us to live our Christian lives as that unremembered 15th president.

We have the office of being a Christian, but are devoid of the power. That is why we need the baptism in the Spirit and the ongoing filling of the Spirit to bring a song to our hearts, thanksgiving to our lips and proper relationships with others (Ephesians 5:18-21).

Have you given your life to the Lord? Have you received the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Are you continually full of the Spirit’s presence? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then ask the Lord to meet you at the level of the need you have right now. Seek a pastor or mature Christian to pray and counsel with you.

What comes after conversion, water baptism, the baptism in the Spirit, linkage and identification with the local church? How do we live empowered each day with strength to overcome the sadness and hurt of life and invigoration to challenge the monotony and humdrum of daily existence?

Here’s a checklist for daily use:

1. Have I opened the Bible today and let it speak to me?

Failing to take God’s Word into your life is like neglecting to eat. You become weak when you do not receive nourishment.

2. Have I prayed meaningfully today?

I use my hand as a prayer guide: the thumb represents persons who are nearest my heart; the index finger, those who are an example and point the way; the middle finger, those who are in places of temporal and spiritual authority; the next finger, my weakest, those in great need and vulnerability; and the little finger, me — the smallest and least.

3. Are sin, bitterness or unforgiveness a part of my life?

I need to practice daily spiritual cleansing and not let impurity build up and become caked into my life. Each night as I go to sleep I must seek to do so with a clear conscience (Ephesians 4:26).

4. Am I sensitive to how God may want to guide or use me today?

Peter prayed during the noon hour, and the Lord changed the destiny of Cornelius and his family because Peter opened himself to being guided of the Lord (Acts 10:9). I must not live so structured that I block out what God may want me to do. And when I know what He wants, I must obey.

5. Have I sought to help or encourage someone today whose need is greater than my own?

The Lord commended to us the example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). When I am emotionally expended or dealing with personal hurt and sorrow, I must rise above my concerns to enter in to the concerns of another. The Lord is my example. On His cross He focused on the needs of others for forgiveness, pardon and support.

6. Do I live, as Jesus taught, one day at a time (Matthew 6:11,25-34)?

I cannot be empowered to live the future unless I am empowered to live today. I must not daydream about how different today would be if I could order it so. God has given me today and seeks for me to glorify Him in it. If I am faithful in small responsibilities now, He will decide what my lot will be tomorrow.

7. Have I relinquished myself to His full control this day?

Sometimes hurtful things hit us and we feel diminished. How can we live to the full when we have taken a hard blow to the midsection and the air has been knocked out of us? We must change our focus from asking why to asking what now.

In Romans 8 Paul did not concentrate on the why, but the what. In so doing he reminded us that the future glory will be greater than any present suffering. The Holy Spirit is interceding for us even when we don’t have words because the pain is too great; God is always working for the good; nothing can separate us from the Lord. In such times I am empowered as I realize how much God loves me, guards me and cares for me. He has a stronger grip on me than I have on Him.

Out of this daily relationship with the Lord flows the quality of life in which we are empowered to be persons of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).

The other day I flew in a private plane. I took the co-pilot’s seat even though I don’t know how to fly a plane. I noticed that each time the pilot pulled on the stick, the identical stick for the copilot’s seat mimically moved in the same direction. The needles on my duplicate side of the instrument panel registered the same as those on his side.

Empowerment to live as a Christian is like flying in that co-pilot’s seat. As long as I don’t take the stick or the throttle, but let Him do the piloting, it’s a good and safe trip. It would be absurd for me to attempt to take controls from Him when He is on the plane. I must let Him move the controls and monitor the gauges. When the day comes that I know enough about flying, then He can monitor my progress; and if I fly the plane like He would, He will let me continue. But no matter how experienced I may become, I must always yield control to Him.

If I want to live empowered, then each day I will sit in my co-pilot’s seat, go through the checklist He asks of me, but make sure that I never attempt to fly the plane by myself or without His direction and approval. My empowerment comes from Him. So must yours.

By the way … in case you wondered … the name of our 15th president was James Buchanan.

George O. Wood, D.Th.P., is general secretary for the Assemblies of God.

From Chapter 16 of Questions and Answers about the Holy Spirit (Pentecostal Evangel Books, 2001).

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