Assurance that the Holy Spirit is at work in You
October 26, 2002
Sometimes, something happens in our life that causes us to wonder whether the Holy Spirit is even at work there. A seed of doubt is planted that can lead to lost sleep, mental machinations, even loss of faith. And it can happen very simply, sometimes, and does so because, by and large, each one of us carries a load of insecurity, and when we’re caused some insecurity, we wonder about the biggest and most important things in our lives.
Maybe someone speaks to you of how the Holy Spirit has ‘spoken’ to them. Maybe you say to yourself, “I’m not sure the Holy Spirit has spoken to me. What’s wrong with me? Am I even a Christian?” You might see someone worshipping in a different manner than you prefer to do. As one who wants to please God, the fact of a difference can be enough to set up some dissonance in your mind and spirit, which can cause you, again, to wonder whether, just maybe, someone else is more spiritual and you’re less. Sometimes someone will say something that doesn’t resonate as your experience in walking with God, and it causes you to wonder. For instance, here is something Mr. Catherwood said, during his sermon 2 weeks ago:
“Our journey (cheminement) is unique in church history. We have journeyed from Law to Grace, from Sinai to Zion. We have always respected Jesus and have tried to please Him. But, sadly, we also marginalized Him, left Him in the background. For years I was personally overwhelmed by the feeling of being unable to please God. We simply didn’t understand the role of the Savior in our denomination, or the concept of grace in the deepest sense.
There is a difference between the office of Savior and His reality as Lord. I accepted Jesus as Savior in l957 at the age of l7 and He has been my Savior ever since. But I only accepted Him as Lord in l996. That’s when I began to understand the full sufficiency (pleine suffisance) of His grace.”
This speaks of a dramatic event that came in his life, long after conversion, which he can define, and which has propelled him into a closer walk with God. And, after all, he IS a senior and long-time minister in our church, so what does this do to many of us but set up some wonderings. We might realize that we didn’t experience such, or that we might have accepted both the Saviour and Lordship of Jesus when we were converted. But, we might wonder whether we’ve missed something because, after all, here is Mr. Catherwood, or whoever you might name, who has explained a difference in their spiritual journey, from yours, or mine. You, or I, might feel, in ourselves, somewhat inadequate or incomplete, because this experience has not been ours. And, again, we wonder, perhaps, whether the Holy Spirit is working in our life?
We all need assurance, and the scriptures are filled with assurance. God’s greatest desire, for his children, is that they live in a state of assurance.
3 Jn. 2- prosperity, at the most important levels, is God’s desire for you, and me.
Jer. 29. 11- declares God’s great desire for Judah, even while in the midst of a troubled time. God wants assurance for His people and gives it in great measure.
Well, today, I want you to know that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, IS at work in your life. And I want you to understand this simply, and with such conviction that you don’t allow differences that you hear or see to shake that assurance. The kinds of situations I’ve outlined are not to shake your assurance about who you are and what is happening in you. There’s a miraculous ‘God thing’ going on in your life right now and it’s only the enemy- the hater of all that is of God and hater of all of God’s people- who works overtime to stir up doubts and questions to rob you and me of our assurance.
I want you to think of who you are. And I believe that the apostle Paul outlines for us this assurance- or the grounds for this assurance, that we can be settled in ourselves, as we leave here and return to the mission field of our life after this special time for worshipping God together.
We’re going to follow Paul’s line of thought in the letter to the early church at Rome. This was a church, young and in need of some confidence. Paul wrote to instill this in these spiritual ancestors of ours.
Ro. 4. 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24- esp. v. 24- do you believe in God who raised up Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus? (Jesus told us that through Him, we get to know the Father, and it’s through the working of the Holy Spirit in us that we get to know Jesus, and the Father, now. However, Jesus is the central figure of the matter.) I know you do. If you do, then God’s righteousness is imputed to you, and me. Each one of us has at least that measure of belief, do we not? Of course we do.
5.1- there’s peace with God that we have because of having been justified. Again, IF you believe ‘on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead’ (4.24), then God’s righteousness IS imputed to you. This is academic, at its most basic, but, moreso, this is reality of relationship in our lives! Peace isn’t something that comes easily to the world, in which we live, and it’s hard for us to accept, sometimes, just how ‘easy’ it is for us to have it. But it is. Jesus declared that he gave peace- Jn. 14. 26, 27! This is important and basic. You and I have access to peace that is unknown to those not attuned with God! This is an incredible gift!
v. 5- God’s love IS shed into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We’re building here. Do you believe on him who raised Jesus? Then, this is part of what happens in your life. It’s not a ‘maybe’ or a ‘perhaps’. It’s not dependent on ‘how good you are’ or ‘how serious’ you are, and the like. But it’s dependent on grace, not on law and works. (You might need to read the entirety of chapter 4 on this, and confirm that we’re dealing with something of grace, not works, here.) Who is Satan to work in you to make you believe that the Holy Spirit is not at work in your life? He is called the ‘accuser of the brethren’- Rev. 12.10- and he is not to be trusted. His messages must be put alongside scripture- not experience, but scripture- and the clear and true picture comes.
v. 8-9- Paul is speaking in the ‘present tense’ here. He’s not speaking in terms of maybe or perhaps, but of what has happened. This is certain and sure. This is reality. There’s the promise that having been loved and justified, we’re being saved. Sometimes, we focus on the ‘shall be saved’ as a future tense, but the reality is that Paul is declaring that since you’ve been justified, you will be saved- he’s not speaking of time frame as much as of simple fact. There’s no reason to doubt your salvation, unless you doubt God’s showing His love toward you, and unless you don’t believe in the one who raised up Jesus from the dead. It’s a simple equation- oh, so very simple- so simple that it’s hard for people to accept this.
8. 1- there is no condemnation to those in Jesus, and if we’re in Jesus, we ARE walking after the Spirit. I know that you look at yourself and you see all those areas where you fail and those sins you’ve committed even in the last day, and you get discouraged. But remember that your position in Christ is absolutely sure, even while you wrestle with your condition. God doesn’t condemn you. And because you ARE converted, you are walking after the Spirit rather than after the flesh. Oh, in actions, can you align more fully to the way Jesus lived? No doubt you can. But God looks at something entirely different than works. He looks at the Spirit, alive and well in your life, and that’s what He sees. He sees the Holy Spirit active and alive in YOU.
Let’s see a rather startling statement, then, that follows from this:
v. 9- you are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit dwells in you. Based on all that goes before in chapters 6 & 7, which we’ll not wade through today, this is a simple statement of fact. You look at your wretched inner condition and your inner battles, which sometimes aren’t nearly battles enough and you believe you are in the flesh. YOU ARE WRONG. God looks at the Spirit in you, which He gives to those who come to Him, and accept Jesus as their personal Saviour, which you’ve done, haven’t you? And He sees that you’re not being propelled by the flesh but by the Spirit. Oh, you overpower the Spirit, sometimes, and do wrong things. But that’s not where Godly focus falls! That’s where worldly and human focus falls, because we’re far too geared to performance and accomplishment. You have the Spirit of Christ, and therefore are one of God’s! I know you. I know that about you. I’ve seen this in you for over 3 years. This is the truth about you- the true picture about you.
v. 26, 27, 31, 35- this is the reality that exists in your life. The Holy Spirit IS at work in your life. Oh, your goal is to allow the Spirit free access, and because of many reasons, none of us does. We don’t yield enough. Because of family background, or ethnic background (large family), or past church experiences, or fear, or many other reasons, none of us yields enough and fully to the working of the Spirit. But that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work. He is and He’s more than able to do marvelous things in less than fully ideal circumstances. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t resist Him, of course. But even if you do, you’re only human and the Holy Spirit is God, so guess who will win?
I want you to be assured that you are in the Spirit. I want you to accept what scripture clearly says. Don’t allow ideas to get in the way. Don’t allow something to get in the way and to set up that horrible cycle of doubt in your life. Don’t give Satan a toehold in that way. You have accepted Jesus as your Saviour. When that occurs, He comes to you through the person of the Holy Spirit into your life. That’s that! You are no longer in the flesh but in the spirit, and you’ve been transferred from the earthly kingdom to the heavenly.
Now, why am I making a ‘deal’ of this today? I’ve shown some at the beginning and want to again, in some examples. We’re so easily intimidated and so easily feel inferior and insecure. It’s easy to say, ‘don’t’, but I know that doesn’t work that easily.
However, I want you to consider some things. Especially, I want you to remember that if the Holy Spirit is in you, and we’ve seen that He is, then you are free to accept others for who and how they are. I know the Holy Spirit is alive and well in each one of you. So, I expect to see the Holy Spirit in you, and I do. You need that same expectation as you are here with others. And, too, we have to understand that the Holy Spirit works within each one of us differently. God had to work differently with you, than with me, to bring each of us into His family. And He doesn’t treat us just the same. He works within our personalities and character, being careful with us.
What He wants is for us to yield to Him at work in us, and to learn from others, and to stand back and watch Him at work in each other, too. Don’t expect to see the exact same in each other.
Let’s think about some of what I said, in introduction today. Sometimes you might wonder when someone speaks of the Holy Spirit leading him or her to know or do something, and you might think of how you don’t think in those terms, for instance, and might feel insecure. However, you pray about decisions and seek God, and then might say, “I’ve decided….”, and in your mind, you never mean that as if you as some great and all-knowing person have made a certain decision. In your mind, the involvement of God is ‘understood’. Both of you are saying the same thing, because you’re both ‘in the Spirit’. You simply use different terminology. Be assured in yourself and then stand back and appreciate the way that someone else speaks and is being worked in by the Holy Spirit. This is not meant to make you feel insecure.
When we worship, we worship in different ways. Each one of us, here, is worshipping God when we come together and sing and pray and listen to a message. (Let me reiterate that the purpose of church is to worship God, not to learn, although we do learn and God does speak to us and outfit us for the work of the week ahead. But church is about God and others, not about ‘me’, OK? Let’s get that one straight. If you’re coming for what you can get, then chances are that you’ll go away disappointed a lot of the time. But if you’re here to offer to God, you’ll go away thankful for the opportunity and glad to have offered to Him.)
By personality, we’re all different from each other. Some of us are more openly emotional than others of us. That is a God thing, not a better than/worse than thing. When we worship, some worship deeply and inwardly, heart-to-heart with God, with little or no outward expression. Others do that, and, also, all outward expression, in the form of looking up, closing eyes to focus entirely on God and not on the person in front, raising a hand or hands, moving/dancing. Some are more outwardly expressive in their worship toward God. All are worshipping God! All have God’s Spirit at work and are responding to what the Spirit puts in them to do in worship. This is not something to feel insecure about.
I know how it is when someone around me does something differently than I do. My first thought is that it’s wrong. My second thought is that it’s different and maybe there’s something for me to learn from that person. So, I can stand back, watch, ask questions, and then decide whether to incorporate from that person’s experience. In some cases, I find some way to add to what I might believe, or know, or do. Sometimes, I do not. This is what we need to bring to our worship experiences. None of us needs to feel insecure because someone else is doing something differently than we are. We need to feel secure in where we are, as the Spirit is at work in me/us. (Now, if you are resisting the Spirit, as He speaks to you, then that’s something you and He must work out together.) But inwardly expressive and outwardly expressive are simply two ways of worshipping God, and there’s room for both here, without judgment and criticism, and without anyone feeling a need to question whether they’re maybe less spiritual because they do, or don’t do, such-and-such.
Let’s think about Mr. Catherwood’s statements. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar to him. Maybe you haven’t. I haven’t, for what it’s worth. Do you and I know that God is at work in us? Is He at work in me? Is He at work in you? The answer is ‘yes’. Consequently, God and the Holy Spirit are the ones to define what is your experience. If you’re to have some suddenly deepening experience and if you’re open to God in your life, you will. But don’t assume that each of us will have the same experience as we walk with God. We won’t. He works with each of us separately. So, please don’t be made insecure about your spiritual state because someone expresses an experience in their spiritual journey that is different from experiences in your journey. You have a different experience from Mr. Catherwood, as do I from you. Different is not better or worse. Different is…. different… and it’s all from God. Who is any of us, as the clay, to say to God how He must work in our lives? That would not be appropriate, as we know.
If we live with the assurance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can appreciate others more fully. As we interact with each other, and with other Christians, we don’t need to feel inferior or insecure when their experience is different from ours. They can learn from you and you can learn from them. Iron will sharpen iron, and God will have made you just a bit more like Him through the process. This is what He’s doing.
When you know who you are and Who is at work in you- the Holy Spirit person of God- then you don’t need to be shaken in any way by difference. You will be able to recognize the difference, and consider it, and can be led in what to do with it. This is what God wants. He’s not in the midst of making millions of yellow pencils with red erasers, like we might use in school. He’s working individually, from before conversion, until we enter the fullness of the Kingdom of God. May we grow in appreciating the individuality and, above all, appreciate that God is working in each of us. The Holy Spirit IS alive and well in you. Live with the confidence and assurance this scriptural truth brings to your life.