Summary: The Holy Spirit 1. Inwardly transforms us. 2. Spiritually empowers us. 3. Liberates us from the bondage of sin.
Earlier this month one of the country’s leading evangelical pastors finally admitted to using drugs and being involved in homosexual relationships. The irony was not only that Ted Haggard was a pastor of a 14,000 member church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, but that he had been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior. He has been fired from the church and removed from his position with the National Association of Evangelicals. The harm he has done to his family, his church and the reputation of Christians everywhere is beyond calculation. In an open letter to his church he admitted to the betrayal and horrible example he had set. He also admitted to being a “deceiver and a liar” and asked the church’s forgiveness. He knows he can never return to his church. He said, “There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.” These are very difficult days for the Haggard family and we need to be in prayer for them. But their most difficult days are ahead. The problem is that Haggard is not alone in his hypocrisy and moral collapse.
What happens to a person who is a Christian, but has gone over to the dark side? How does a person go from being a person who sincerely loves God and wants to do his will, to being someone who has a secret life that contradicts everything they believe in? Haggard said in his statement, “The public person I was wasn’t a lie; it was just incomplete.” I believe that is probably true. His public persona was truly what he believed and wanted to be. But that public image of who he was had been overtaken by another side of him which was dark and had become uncontrollable. He is in horrible bondage.
The more I know myself over the years, and the more honest I become with myself, the more I realize that I am capable of almost anything, if it were not for the grace of God. I may not go the direction of Ted Haggard, but apart from the gracious keeping power and restraining influence of the Holy Spirit of God I could sink just as far in some other direction. I think if you are honest with yourself you will see that the same thing is true for your life. It certainly was true for the life of the Apostle Paul. He wrote about this frightening part of himself that he had to continually submit to God. He said, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24).
How can we be rescued? I believe the Bible gives us the answer — and it is good news. It is the good news of the Holy Spirit. The first point I want to make this morning is: The Holy Spirit inwardly transforms us. There must be an inner change of heart and life, and this can only take place by the transforming power and presence of the Holy Spirit. All of the other world religions offer a set of moral laws or a new philosophy about life. The other religions of the world offer religious practices or mystical experiences. Only Christianity offers a transformation of who we are at the core of our being. Only Christianity talks about the indwelling experience of the Holy Spirit who cleanses, renews and regenerates us from the inside out. The Psalmist cried out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Paul tells us how this new heart comes about and how we can have a renewed spirit when he writes: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).
The Christian life is not a matter of trying to keep a moral code. If we think that it is, then we will most certainly fail. There must be the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. There must be a spiritual rebirth. If you see the Christian life as merely religious practice, then you have a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity and you will not be able to follow Christ no matter how hard you try. Paul said this about religious practice: “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). If you think that being a Christian is only about good theology, or a proper belief and understanding of the Bible and its doctrine, then you will not be able to live what you believe. You need the added dimension of the transforming inner presence of the Holy Spirit. If you think the Christian life is only about “being saved” and don’t understand the daily and moment by moment surrender to the will of God, living at the feet of Jesus, and living in the presence of the Holy Spirit, then you will not be able to last.