Obey the Spirit

The last thing authentic, spirit-filled believers should be is bored in their faith. Are you tired of going through the motions? Tired of trying to work out your faith in your own strength?
 
See John 6:63. The Holy Spirit is not merely helpful. He is our only hope. Unfortunately for most Christians, there is a huge gap between what the Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit and how we actually live each and every day.
 
The degree to which you ignore the Spirit is directly related to the degree of dissatisfaction you feel with your Christian life. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God. See Galatians 3:2-3.
 
Because our salvation was a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, so our spiritual living must also be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. 
 
When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a living a life of obedience to the Holy Spirit and a dependence upon Him. We don’t live to ourselves. As born-again, followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit fills our lives. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; John 14:15-17; John 16:7.
 
Take a moment and ask yourself this question: When was the last time I undeniably saw the Spirit of God at work in and around me? God the Holy Spirit wants to be vitally present in and through His people — but obedience is the key!
 

Resolution #6: This year, I will obey the Spirit and allow His power to fill my life and fuel my faith.

 
Being a Christian does not necessarily guarantee that a person lives a life controlled by the Spirit. Read: Galatians 5:16–25.
 
The truth is that you have been, are now, and will obey something. Obedience to the flesh leads to self-defeating behaviors that destroy your faith. Obedience to the Holy Spirit produces something entirely different. Rather than behaviors and attitudes that defeat us, obedience to the Spirit produces characteristics and attitudes that improve our life, our faith and our interaction with others.
 
The fact that Paul commands us to “walk by the Spirit” implies that many believers are not. It is not that they don’t have the Holy Spirit, but rather they are not choosing to obey, to walk by the Spirit.
 
The Spirit’s transforming work in us is not done apart from human cooperation. Sadly, there are too many believers today who profess faith in Christ but who haven’t surrendered themselves to the control of the Spirit. So how do we obey the Spirit?
 
The irony of Spirit-filled living is that we have to give up power in order to gain a greater power.
 

To walk in the Spirit means obeying His initial promptings.

 
You do it by going through each day aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence with you. You submit to Him as you feel Him pulling you in a certain direction or tugging at your heart to take a particular course of action, even if you don’t quite understand why.
 
Begin each day with a prayer: “Father, I want You to guide me and lead me today by Your Spirit. Speak to my heart. Keep me sensitive to Your promptings and to what is happening around me in the lives of those I meet. Use me today for Your purposes. Today, I choose to obey the Spirit.”
 
If you yield to and obey the Holy Spirit and depend on His ability rather than your own, He will enable you not only to live a life that is pleasing to Christ but also to experience God in ways you never thought possible.
 

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Forgive Freely

Read: Matthew 18:21-35.
 
What was wrong with this man? The same thing that is wrong with many professing Christians: They have received forgiveness, but they have not really experienced forgiveness deep in their hearts. Therefore, they are unable to share forgiveness with those who have wronged them. In other words, it is not enough to receive God’s forgiveness, or even the forgiveness of others. We must experience that forgiveness in our hearts so that it humbles us and makes us gentle and forgiving toward others. We are in very spiritually dangerous territory when we choose not to forgive others in the same manner as God has forgiven us.
 
See Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Colossians 3:13. The quality and quantity of the forgiveness that God freely gave us determines the quality and quantity of forgiveness that I should freely give to others.

Resolution #4: This year, I will forgive freely and not allow unforgiveness to poison and imprison my heart.

  So how to I resolve to forgive freely? What does it look like to forgive this way?

To forgive freely involves canceling a debt.

When you forgive someone, you also cancel a debt. But, more specifically, you make a conscious choice to absorb the cost yourself. You choose not to make the offender pay for the offense. By forfeiting your right to collect, you make at least three promises.

  1. You promise that you will not bring up the debt to use it as leverage.
  2. You promise that you will not bring up the offense to others and slander the person who sinned against you.
  3. You promise not to dwell on the offense yourself.

To forgive freely is costly, but withholding forgiveness is more costly.

No matter how you spin it, forgiveness is costly. But the parable shows us that not forgiving also has a price, and it is higher than the price forgiveness demands. In addition, holding onto an offense will make you a bitter and unloving person, and you will inevitably damage all your relationships. No matter which way you choose, you will pay a price. Which price are you willing to pay?

To forgive freely is an event and a process.

We’re tempted to think that once we have forgiven someone, we’re done. But forgiving someone is not just a past event. Even if you have forgiven someone for something they have done in the past, you need to be careful that you don’t slip into bitterness some time in the future. You need to keep practicing forgiveness every time you see them or think of them.

To forgive freely is not the same as forgetting.

Too often people say that the evidence of having truly forgiven someone is to forget what he has done to you. But our minds don’t function this way, and our ability to remember is powerful. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it.

To forgive freely means dealing with the sin in a redemptive way.

Does it seem as if forgiveness means you should just let people sin against you? The Bible never says, “Make it easy for others to sin against you.” Instead, it provides a way to deal with sin in redemptive ways.
 

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Dream Again

When was the last time your were inspired by a dream? Do you have a dream or have you settled for your reality routine? It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are on right now, your heart should be captivated by a dream of how to serve God and accomplish something for his kingdom. Biblical Example: Jesus’ Disciples. Once the disciples learned that Jesus rose from the dead, the dream began to awake in their hearts. When your Lord does the impossible, it changes the boundaries of the possible. With this seemingly impossible resurrection fresh in their minds, Jesus commissions them to do something seemingly impossible. See Matthew 28:18-20. Within the first hundred years, the church nearly reached the goal of spreading the gospel in the known world. How? These 11 followers of Jesus became Holy Spirit empowered and mission-minded dreamers. Think about it! These men didn’t have to seize their God-given, Christ-commissioned dreams. But they chose to DREAM AGAIN.

Resolution #3: This year, I will learn to dream again, believing that God wants to do something great in me and through me.

See Ephesians 3:20–21.

To dream again, God must be the source of the origin and the fulfillment of your dream.

There have been many dreams pursued by people that do not even factor in God. Perhaps you have found yourself pursuing a dream that leaves you chasing after the wrong things. See Isaiah 65:2.
 
Dreams are not about your self-self-fulfillment or self-actualization. Biblical Example: Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50). This story is a prime example of the fact that God is the source of the origin and the fulfillment of Joseph’s dream. I am sure we all have dreams we have pursued (graduation, marriage, career, house). While nothing is wrong with these dreams, I would consider these secondary dreams.
 
Our primary dream, as followers of Christ, should have something to do with Christ’s mission. Has God birthed a dream in your heart that is in line with His mission? By definition, a God-sized dream will be beyond your ability, beyond your resources. Unless God does it, it’s can’t be done. And that is precisely how God gets the glory.
 
See John 14:12. What would you do if Jesus came to you in a vision tomorrow morning, stood at the foot of your bed, and said:” “I will make available to you all the resources you need. Now dream a great dream that is worthy of my.” How would you respond to him?

To dream again, you must stop living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.

Most of us spend our lives running away from the things we’re afraid of. We forfeit our dreams on the altar of fear. At the end of our lives, our greatest regrets will be the God-ordained opportunities we left on the table, the God-given passions we didn’t pursue, and the God-sized dreams we didn’t go after because we let fear dictate our decisions.

To dream again, you must believe God is real and then live like it.

To dream big dreams again, we need to know where our security is. If we find security in the people we already know, the place we already live, or the position we’ve already grown comfortable in, we may never realize our dream. You are one dream away from a totally different year…and life. But, of course, you will have to pursue it.

To dream again, you must refuse the tendency to simply repeat history.

Without a dream, we will likely just repeat what we did last year. A dream has the power to disrupt the routine. Most of us stop living out of imagination and start living out of memory. Instead of creating the future, we start repeating the past.

To dream again, you must refuse the comfort of just breaking even.

There is a brand of religiosity that seems satisfied with breaking even — don’t do this, don’t do that, and you’ll be okay. The problem with that is this: you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right.
 
What dream has God placed in your heart? If you don’t have one, take time this year to seek God and learn to dream again.
 
 

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Guard My Thoughts

 
See Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV). Whether we like it or not, what we think influences what we do. Beneath the emotions we want to improve and the behavior we want to correct is a pattern of thinking that needs to change.

Resolution #1: This year, I will guard my thoughts carefully knowing they influence my attitudes and actions.

 
If you want your life to dramatically change — to get out of a rut of destructive emotions or bad habits — it all begins with what goes into your mind.
 
See Philippians 4:8. This verse challenges us to consider the quality of our thoughts and take into account its character and realize its potential influence in your life.
 
This verse reminds us to get your thoughts right and the emotions, behaviors, and consequences of peace will follow. See Philippians 4:7.
 
Guard your thoughts about God. What are your thoughts when you think about God? Psalm 139 is a good place to start. What you think about God will certainly impact how you choose to believe and live for Him.
 
Guard your thoughts about yourself. It seems unspiritual to think about yourself at all, doesn’t it? But unless you understand something about yourself, you can’t really understand God’s love for you. You need to understand just how much you need his mercy, and you need to understand just how much of it he has given (Zephaniah 3:17).
 
Guard your thoughts about others. How does God look at people? See 1 Samuel 16:7. What do you think would happen to your relationships at home, work, school, community if you began to see people as God sees them?
 
Guard your thoughts about life. Life isn’t about acquiring, impression, using, hoarding or exploiting. It’s about discovering God’s purpose and plan. It’s about taking up your cross and following Jesus (Luke 9:23-25). You lose your life (as the world would define it) in the process but you gain the abundant life Christ promised.

Guard your thoughts about the future. Can you imagine living life without fear and anxiety, without worry about what tomorrow will bring? You can live that way if you believe what God has promised in Jeremiah 29:11; Matt 6:33. You have a promise that God is in control of today and tomorrow. This doesn’t mean your life will be problem-free, but it does mean that you don’t have to worry about whether those problems will overthrow God’s purpose for you.
 
Guard your thoughts about the past. For a lot of people, their past has hijacked their future. They have a hard time letting their mistakes, sins, and failures go. Paul encourages us to forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead — press on toward the goal (Phil. 3:13-14).
 
Guard your thoughts about challenges. Too often, we let adversity get us down, turn us into a victim, and make us angry at God. We have plenty of unhealthy ways to address the challenges of our lives. See James 1:2-4. That’s a very different way to think about our challenges. But if we let this passage guide us as we face a challenge, our emotions, behaviors, and consequences will look much different than if our minds follow their natural, unhealthy course.
 
This new, resolved way of thinking won’t happen overnight. It’s taken several years to develop your current thinking habits. But in the same way that you developed those unhealthy thought patterns (overtime and with consistency) that’s how your new thinking habits will occur.
 
Start each day with Scripture, focus on what is feeding your thought life, pay attention to your thoughts. What we think will determine the course of our life this year.
 

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