“Search my heart and show me if there are any wicked ways in it”. This has become an integral part of my preparation for “Listening to Jesus”, so that I may confess and have any sinful barriers between us dealt with. Then a warning thought flashes through my mind; “this has almost become a rote, another step to complete before experiencing ‘the real thing’ – that encounter with Jesus. A red light blinks, everything must be fresh, meaningful and real”. The word “generosity” comes up – I am a bit shocked – then I admit that my so-called generosity is often driven by a legalistic obligation, without the generous spirit which should inhabit it and drive it. Then Jesus reminds me of a few of the other fruits of the Spirit: Joy, love, patience, kindness, gentleness peace – How am I doing? What about goodness, faithfulness, self-control?
My mind pans over my day. How is my interaction with those I come into contact with every day? Mostly this is my dear Emily, with whom I am in close contact most of the time. I think of my impatience sometimes when she can’t grasp when I am asking her to do something she was able to do yesterday. My lack of real gentleness when she isn’t responding like I want her to. My faithlessness when I sometimes dream of going off somewhere for a break with someone else. My joy- how much joy am I expressing and feeling in my present situation? And of course there is meekness – how do I feel about submitting to others that I perceive as less important than myself. And then the one I started with, my whole sense of generosity. Ultimately, how much of my behaviour reflects the true state of my heart?
Well folks I am baring my soul before you all, not to show myself off, but rather how easy it is to fool yourself that you are living a good, holy and sinless life.
I am not going to stop there because God continued to speak to me this morning. “Abide in Me and I will abide in you”. But what does this mean from a practical point of view? So I say to myself – when you are converted you are taken, by faith, into Jesus – I am now “in Him” and that gives me access to all the gifts that come with the Holy Spirit with which He has sealed me. So my walk with Jesus starts with me reminding myself of my new identity – a Christ-i(a)n and with this comes the presence of Jesus through His Spirit. The life I live now should arise from and demonstrate the Spirit’s work in me – ie the fruit of the Spirit and exactly that fruit arising from the transforming presence and power of God’s Spirit which I can access through faith. From that arises the power and reminder to be generous, arising from a generous, transformed spirit within me.
If I sit down and say I am now going try and become more generous, because that is what is expected of a real Christian, I am becoming a legalistic Christian who will only feel burdened and act out of conscience rather than a transformed nature. However if I remind myself of and live the life of abiding in Christ by faith, then through His power and the power of His Spirit, all the fruit of the Spirit will well up naturally. Will it happen automatically? To some extent yes, however we still have to make up our minds to “walk in the Spirit”. The important thing is the order in which things happen and are done. So many of us live with this feeling of guilt because we are falling short of what we believe we should be doing, rather than turning to Jesus and confessing our self-reliance and asking for a fresh filling and experience of the Spirit with His power to enable us to live this life with real joy. That is why it is called “Good News”.
My reading today is Luke 4:1-13. A very important passage as Jesus launches His new life as the “Anointed One”. Luke has just finished a number of stories on who Jesus is, with the summary “Son of God” 3:22 and also “son of Adam” 3:37. Mark says He was “driven” (ekbalo) by the Spirit into the wilderness, where Luke says He was led. The scene suggests a parallel to Adam’s experience in Gen ch 2. Except Jesus is in a desert, while Adam is in a garden. Both are allowed to be tempted by Satan. Jesus is seen here as setting about repairing the disaster of Adam’s failure. I found myself asking 5 questions as I read the passage. Here are the questions which I asked. I have not furnished the answers that I came up with as this is not a commentary. Maybe you can ponder them on your own and maybe you may even have more.
- Why did Luke describe Jesus as being “full of the Holy Spirit” vs 1? Surely as the Son of God He was always “full of the “Holy Spirit”
- Why was it so important that this was the first act He undertook in His formal ministry. Is this unique to Him or do we all face this at the outset of our Christian life?
- Why did He fast for 40 days? Is there an application for us here?
- What aspect of Jesus’ faith was the devil attacking in each of the temptations and how did Jesus deal with them?
- Was He only tempted 3 times during this 40 day period? (Heb 4:15).
So Friends, let us all set our course to “abide in Christ” every day of 2021 and be able to live a fruitful life in the Spirit, filled with joy. My readings for the next few days will be as follows if you want to read with me: 4:14-22, 4:23-30, 4:31-44, 5:1-11,5:12-26, 5:27-39. 6:1-11, 6:12-19, 6:20-29, 6:30-38, 6:39-49.