Summary: The tension between the flesh and the Spirit is tremendous. Too often human pride and independence crowd God's Holy Spirit to the margins of daily thought and action. Unity and evangelism should be the hallmark of our churches today.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN
Someone has said, “You will never truly know the power of God until you need the power of God.” I think that statement equally applies to God’s Holy Spirit. As we mentioned earlier in this series, too often Christians and churches do not seek nor even rely on God’s Spirit in daily living.
American independence has taught us to “do it yourself” and then if you encounter problems ask for help. But, that is not God’s plan nor preference.
Also, our restoration heritage, with men like Alexander Campbell and his Baconian rationalism has steeped us in mentally formulating our rules of thinking. Since Campbell’s death, our fellowship has largely followed tradition at the expense of seeking the heart of Christ in our thinking and actions.
Barton W. Stone, a pioneer in the American Restoration Movement, believed in and was led more by the Holy Spirit than any other person, I suppose. The Cane Ridge meeting was a Communion like no other. On Friday, August 6, 1801 an estimated 20,000 people rode or walked into the remote outpost of Cane Ridge, KY. Men, women and children moved from one preaching venue to another, watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, and falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.
The Cane Ridge Communion quickly became one of the best-reported events in American history, and according to Vanderbilt historian Paul Conkin, “arguably … the most important religious gathering in all of American history.” It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life. For decades the prayer of camp meetings and revivals across the land was “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge .”
The unusual events of Cane Ridge fanned the flames of what was known in America as the Great Awakening. What was it about Cane Ridge that gripped the imagination? Exactly what happened? . . . Europeans visiting the American wilderness and encountering a revival firsthand were convinced that Americans had gone mad. But the excitement was evident far beyond the emotional fervor of the camp meetings.
For a brief period from 1832-1849 there was both an appeal for unity and an effort to have unity between all religious beliefs. There was an increased interest in the Bible, evangelism and conversion. However, the appeal for unity led to heated debates and schisms. Disagreements become so sharp that divisions occurred down party lines and creeds became more important that the appeal to God’s Word.
In recent days, water-boarding is back in the news. I find it interesting that a form of this was used in the early days of religion in this country. Here is a picture of what happened to those who disagreed with another parties views.
In the very appeal for and attempt at unity, religious denomination flourished and unity and the Holy Spirit got pushed to the outer margins of religious thought and practice.
So, today, on one extreme you have those who fervently practice what we call Pentecostalism and on the opposite extreme those who embrace only God’s Word as their model for thought and practice.
The Bible does teach us that the Holy Spirit is active in a believer’s life. Most agree that we are given the Holy Spirit at baptism, however there are various thoughts on even that topic. The works of the Holy Spirit in relation to a Christian are many .
The conversion of a person from a life of self-centered sin to a life-giving daily walk with Jesus is the pivot point. In Romans 8:5-10 NCV we read, “Those who live following their sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things the Spirit wants them to do. If people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, there is death. But if their thinking is controlled by the Spirit, there is life and peace. When people’s thinking is controlled by the sinful self, they are against God, because they refuse to obey God’s law and really are not even able to obey God’s law. Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God. But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But the person who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ. Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God.”
And in John 6:63 NLT we read, “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” So, a key question for us today is, Are we leading our lives – or – are we being led by God’s Spirit?