The Spirit Principles
(I was thinking the other day I never posted the 6th blog in The Abundant Life series. Sorry about that. Here’s the last one.)
Lawrence J Peter, author of the famous and now forgotten business textbook called The Peter Principle said this, “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” In other words, we keep getting promoted because we are doing a good job until finally we are promoted to a job that is just more than we can handle. There we stay, dissatisfied and unfulfilled, until we are fired, we die, or we are demoted back down to something we can handle. Now that’s encouraging. It may even be true. I’ve sure advanced a few times (like now) way beyond my abilities.
But maybe there is another way of looking at it. Maybe I become increasingly less dependent on my own abilities and ever more dependent on the Holy Spirit in my life. Maybe one day I wake up and realize that He was driving the boat all along and I have only been along for this marvelous ride. Maybe the principle I need to follow is the one modeled by that other guy named Peter who stuck his foot in his mouth every time he leaned on his own resources but changed the world on the day he finally trusted the Holy Spirit of God.
Acts 2:38, Peter who has failed, fallen, and really fouled up, denied Christ, ran from adversity, been hiding in an upper room for 40 days, steps out in front of the crowd in Jerusalem and says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Do you get the impact of that? This mob is the very group that yelled for Christ to be crucified a few weeks earlier. They are the same guys than ran through the streets with torches looking for more Galilean followers to string up. And now, in their face Peter says, “This Jesus whom YOU CRUCIFIED is both Lord and Christ.” And 3000 of them are saved. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Promoted Beyond Your Ability. Of course, he was. Peter couldn’t have confronted that crowd on his own. The Holy Spirit did it in him.
We have been talking for 5 weeks now about the abundant life, the life that is more than we are living, greater than we can imagine, and available to us when we really surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit in us. On this final day I want to suggest some principles to live by, I call them the Spirit Principles. These are the things that I think come out of a life dead to self and alive in Christ. Do I do these things well everyday? Nope. Do I think it’s even possible for me to accomplish any of this? Nope. But when the Spirit is set free to work in me, and when I set my heart toward the Spirit Principles, God does things in me that….well, are just way beyond my pay grade.
The first word is PURITY. Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” The Bible is chock full of reminders that we live by grace. We are saved by faith. We are seen by God through the blood of Jesus and our “goodness” is not of ourselves but comes from Him.
It is just as full of calls to holiness, holy living, righteousness and commands to live pure and Godly lives. It seems to me there is a principle here. In every area of life there is a price to be paid for greatness. I’m not talking about some legalistic duty or obligation to live a certain way. Christ has already taken care of that. But for those of us who desire to be sold out, on fire, devil defeatin’, Jesus freaks, tend to go the extra mile, pay the greater price, make the deeper commitment. Not because we have to but because, by the Spirit living in us, we want to. It’s true in all arenas. Michael Jordan in basketball, Luciano Pavorotti in singing, Mother Teresa in charity, Billy Graham in evangelism, Doris Courtney in playing the piano (she told me to say that one). People who have done great things have gone beyond their gifts, wonderful as they might have been, and paid the price for greatness. Let me be blunt. I don’t usually do it well but my desire is to be great for God.
Second word, POWER. Having said you have to pay the price let me remind you that that is not enough. You can’t do it on your own. Christ in you, now that’s another story. II Timothy 1:7 says. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Listen, when you answer the call of God to use your life for His glory you can be sure that He has and will put everything in you that you need. You got the power. (Something in me wants to say, “Can I get a WITNESSSSSSS?) Here’s the principle. The power of God within us is ALWAYS greater than the circumstance of life around us.
You see part of the reason that I fail to pay the price is that I get overwhelmed. I give up. I’m defeated before I begin. I wrestled in high school. Once when I was in the 9th grade I went to the district level and wrestled a kid that was a 4th year senior. (It seemed like that to me.) He must have been 26 or something. All I know is when he grabbed me the first time his chin hit my chest and he had stubble, a two day bristle. I remember thinking, “He’s got a beard. I’m a kid and I’m wrestling a grown man. He will kill me.” And you know what? He did. I was beat before I started. Listen, we fight a defeated foe. We have the power, not him, and we can’t lose.
That leads me to the 3rd principle. Great people are captivated by noble desires. The word here is PASSION. The Holy Spirit, among other things places a vision within us that moves and motivates all we do. If you don’t have that in you go back to number 1. Start living the life and I promise you God will begin to set a fire in you that won’t be put out.
My young friend Renee Chambers is a hero to me. God put a vision in her to work with at risk teens in our community. She went out to California and enrolled in an apprenticeship to equip herself to follow her dream. After just a couple of months they cancelled the program. So what? Renee did not and has not quit. She has fought and scratched and stayed faithful. She has moved from office to office and printed out flyers with her own money. She has the power and the passion that can only come from the Holy Spirit and today she heads a strong, effective ministry in our town called SOZO. Here’s what Joel said about the Holy Spirit in 2:28, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams and your young men (and women) will see visions.” That will put some passion in you.
Well, I’ve got to quit so let me give you one more. (There were seven in the original lesson I taught. Make me write a book about these.) Word number four is PURPOSE. And the principle is this. A great life is a life lived on purpose.
I’m almost back to principle # 1. You don’t stumble in to being significant for Jesus. You don’t accidentally live a life of surrender and sacrifice and super-natural influence. Remember, all of the power comes from Him. Everything we do we do in and through and because of Him. Apart from Him we can do NOTHING. BUT…we start. We decide. We move. We make up our minds. We determine. WE DO WHAT WE DO FOR CHRIST ON PURPOSE. Paul says things like, “Make it your aim.” “Let this be your goal.” And in my life verse, Philippians 3:10, “I want to KNOW Christ…” Then, “I press on.” There is purpose there.
We are people of grace. Our old selves have died. We have been crucified with Christ. But we have in us the ability, and hopefully the desire, to set our steps toward Godliness and spiritual greatness. And that only happens on purpose. My father-in-law is one of those Godly and great men. Never accomplished a lot from the worlds perspective but he has been such a man of God that his life has influenced generations of men and women for Christ. He is a saint in every sense of the word. I have heard him pray hundreds of time down through the years. He prays as he lives, directed by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, full of the Holy Spirit. I don’t believe I have ever heard him pray when he did not say this, “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” That is a great life. That is a principle worth living by.