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The Spirit-Driven Life

When I was about four or five years old, my grandfather often took me to do errands with him in his red Chevy truck. He called it “boondoggling.” One day while we were boondoggling, my grandfather stopped at Richardson’s Dairy in Clarkston, Michigan. My mother had taken me to that store before, and I really liked it because it had a huge aisle with all kinds of candy. Whenever my mom took me to Richardson’s, she allowed me to pick out a penny candy (yes, I realize that was in a different century). I’d choose a small jawbreaker or sometimes a Tootsie Roll. She was a single parent so that’s all she could afford.

This time, however, my grandfather wanted to do something special for me. He said, “Lee, go pick something out. You can have anything you want.” As usual, I headed over to the penny side of the candy aisle. I reached out to pick up a little jawbreaker, but my grandfather stopped me. He said, “No, no, no, Lee. You don’t want that. Pick out something else.”

So, I scooted a little further down the aisle to the nickel candy section. I thought this was a big deal because I had just increased my vision by 500 percent! I was spying out Tootsie Pops and some similar candies, but before I could make a decision, my grandfather interrupted me again. “No, no, no, no, no, Lee! That’s not what you want. Pick out something else.”

Imagine my excitement as I slid even further down the aisle to the quarter candy. I was now in uncharted territory! I saw packs of Bubblicious, soft bubblegum. There were little paraffin wax bottle candies with flavored juice inside and Candy Dots with the pastel-colored buttons of sugar on paper. I thought, Woo! Now were talking! But that still wasn’t good enough for my grandfather. “No, no, no! You don’t want that. Pick out something else, Lee.”

By this point, I was confused. I looked up at him and asked, “Grandpa, what do I want?” Then he led me down to the end of the aisle, all the way to the other side, and helped me to pick out a Slo Poke Caramel Pop. To a little boy, it was humongous—big enough to row a kayak! I started drooling like a bullmastiff, and I carried that candy pop around for a week. My grandfather was happy because he knew what I really wanted. He knew what would make me the happiest, even though I was content on the penny side of the candy aisle because that’s all I knew from my previous experience.

Here’s my point: sometimes we as Christians live on the penny side of the aisle. We don’t know what we really want or, more importantly, what God wants for us. Because we lack understanding and experience, we are willing to settle for humdrum, boring lives as believers. We know Jesus has saved us. We trust we will go to heaven. We attend church and even try to tell people about what Jesus can do for them. To the best of our ability, we try to live in a way that is pleasing to God, but we are missing out on the one thing that will make all the difference in our lives. That one thing is living in partnership with Him through the Holy Spirit.

 

 

JESUS: OUR PATTERN

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus showed us how to be partners with God, as we are anointed by the Holy Spirit just as He was. Jesus is our model for how to be truly human. Other words to describe this relationship between His life and how we should live ours include pattern, prototype, and exemplar (which means “example”).

Jesus came not only to deliver us from sin, death, hell, and the devil but also to establish the pattern for how we should live as human beings in cooperation with the Father and through the Holy Spirit. Jesus shows us how to live beyond ourselves. Ours is a life of faith, which recognizes the reality of God’s supernatural activity in our present world. Jesus’ life and ministry show us how the Holy Spirit is at work in every single aspect of life, both His and ours.

When do we first see the Holy Spirit working in the life of Jesus? It was long before His public ministry began. In fact, it was at the very beginning of the New Testament—at Jesus’ conception. The Bible opens in Genesis 1 with the Spirit brooding over the water that covered the earth. In Matthew’s gospel, the Holy Spirit hovers once again, this time over the depth and waters of Mary’s womb (see Luke 1:35). Nine months later, Jesus, the Word who was present at Creation, becomes flesh at conception, is born into the world and lives among people just like us (see John 1:14).

We see the Holy Spirit present and at work not only at Jesus’ conception but also during His childhood and throughout His adult ministry. The Holy Spirit manifested at His baptism, for example. Jesus made an appearance at the Jordan River where His cousin John was baptizing people and calling them to turn away from sin (“Repent!”) in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

This location was the same place where the people of Israel crossed hundreds of years earlier as they passed into the Promised Land. This time, however, God didn’t split the Jordan for the people to cross; instead, He tore open the heavens, and the Holy Spirit came down. Jesus stepped into the water, John baptized Him, and the Spirit of God came down upon Jesus like a dove. At that moment, John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, because the Holy Spirit was the promised sign for which he had been looking. The Holy Spirit publicly anointed Jesus, inaugurating His ministry. Then, God the Father confirmed it, saying in a voice for all to hear, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

Luke’s gospel says Jesus left the Jordan River “full of the Holy Spirit” (4:1), and Mark’s gospel records that “the Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness” (1:12). There, the devil tempted Jesus for 40 days, after which Jesus returned from the wilderness with evidence that the power of the Holy Spirit was working in His life (Luke 4:14).

Next, Jesus attended the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth. He unfurled the scroll of Isaiah’s prophecy and began reading:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18–19; see also Isaiah 61:1–2).

As Jesus read, everyone in the synagogue understood that He was revealing the mission statement of His ministry. Then, setting the scroll aside, Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The Spirit of the Lord was in Him and upon Him to do good—to heal those who were sick and oppressed, to free those who were in prison, to give and restore sight and life. The apostle Peter confirms Jesus did all these things during His earthly life: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Jesus humbled Himself and became a human being like us (see Philippians 2:6-11). Since He is now and forever our pattern, we should also humble ourselves and become like Him. God didn’t create us to live according to the way the world works but according to the pattern of Jesus, who lived in absolute dependence on the Holy Spirit and in perfect obedience to the Father.

Jesus never tried to compartmentalize portions of His life by saying, “I will follow the Holy Spirit in most matters, but in these things, I just can’t do it.” Jesus didn’t occasionally check in with the Holy Spirit when trouble came or when it felt convenient. The Holy Spirit didn’t come upon Jesus every once in a while. No, Jesus’ life was intricately woven together with the Holy Spirit. Theirs was (and is) a true partnership.

Jesus gave us a model for our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He showed us how to walk in the Spirit’s power and anointing. Jesus taught us how to be led by the Spirit in our work just as He was in His. Our lives as Christians will never be boring or ordinary. No more status-quo Christianity for us.

No more settling for the penny side of the candy aisle. God is calling us right now to live supernatural lives. He wants us to live the adventure of the Holy Spirit-empowered life.

 

 

This article was extracted from Issue 7 (Fall 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.

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