Thursday, February 27, 2014

In the Power of the Spirit

  Life of Christ 33

          Jesus is God. Scripture is clear and emphatic about that, and I believe that strongly. It is one of the cardinal doctrines of the faith. But having said that, it is also true that He laid aside some aspects of His Deity when He clothed Himself in human form. For instance, God is omnipresent, but Jesus wasn't. Jesus, of course, was still God, but He voluntarily limited Himself in some respects, in His first advent. The reason I bring this up is that so many people assume, wrongly I believe, that Jesus did what He did and was Who He was because He was God. Please don't hang me here, but what inevitably follows is something like this: 'Well, sure, Jesus was holy; after all, He was God. Sure, Jesus could forgive seventy times seven; after all, He was God. Sure, Jesus preached powerful sermons that changed lives; after all, He was God. Sure, Jesus was spiritually mature at 12; after all, He was God.' In essence, then, the precious and vital doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ becomes little more than an excuse for why He was so much closer and useful to God than we are.
          I wish you could see the strength of feeling I have as I type this about the importance of what I am about to communicate here. Everything about Jesus Christ is worth considering and learning from, but today's point is so practical and helpful when it comes to how we live out Jesus Christ in our daily lives. Jesus didn't do what He did in His own power as God; He did it all in the power of the Holy Spirit.
          At this point, Jesus has just returned to Galilee after attending that first Passover in Judea. He had preached a bit there, and did some miracles, but He has not yet preached a sermon of any kind that Scripture records. He is about to launch this aspect of His ministry in Galilee, accompany it with miracles, and continue to gather about Himself disciples. He will maintain this approach for many months before venturing back into the lion's den of Judea. At this key juncture, this hinge pivot in the life of Christ, that will see Him rise from obscurity to the heights of fame, Scripture records this verse in the transition: 'And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went a fame of him through all the regions round about' (Luke 4.14). In fact, the very first story covered, His return visit to His home synagogue of Nazareth, which we will cover in the next post, finds Jesus reading from Isaiah 61, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,' (Luke 4.18).

          Why is it so critical to understand that Jesus did what He did in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than simply as deity Himself? Because Jesus is, in all things, our example, including in how He lived His life. I believe He purposely chose to limit Himself for this reason, amongst others, so that He could exemplify how we are to live the Christian life. Think of it this way: would it be fair or reasonable for me to play tennis with four arms and command you to do just as well as I with only two? Of course not, but that is essentially what so many picture Jesus Christ as doing. He commands us to live holy, to serve the Lord, to pray, to witness, to love God with everything we have, etc. and He exemplifies these things perfectly – but He didn't do it with four arms; He did it with two just like you and I. 'He was in all points tempted like as we are' (Hebrews 4.15), and that word tempted means tested. I realize He did not have a sin nature, but that aside, He lived His life with the same set of spiritual tools that I have.
          The same Holy Spirit that empowered Him indwells you, if you are a child of God, and can empower you to accomplish God's will in your life just as it empowered Him to accomplish God's will in His life. Paul phrased it this way in the critical chapter of Romans 8, 'But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if he live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' The most amazing miracle of His life was His resurrection, and that resurrection was accomplished the same way He lived the rest of His life – in the power of the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit, and thus the same power, is available to you and I today.
          Does God call you to quit an addictive sin and live holy? Does God call you to love your wife like Christ loves the church? Does God call you to reverence your husband? Does God call you to honor your parents? Does God call you to live pure in your mind? Does God call you to a life of contentment? Does God call you to tell the truth? Does God call you to praise Him in difficult circumstances? Does God call you to witness to the lost? Does God call you to fervent prayer? Does God call you to separation from the world? …then He gives you the power to do it!
          Jesus is our example. He lived a sinless life, perfectly pleasing to His Heavenly Father, not because He was God, although He was, but because He yielded Himself every moment to the Holy Spirit.

          The self-help industry makes billions offering people that one new thing they need in order to finally get it all together. Just buy this book, or enroll in this class, or take this seminar, or undergo this training, or embrace this philosophy and your life and career will be wonderful, they say. The truth is that you already have all that you need to become what you need to become. You have the Word of God. You have the Holy Spirit. That is how Jesus did what He did, and it is how you and I need to do what are called to do as well.   

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