June 16, 2017

I need God because . . .

As a new Christian, I had a decent IQ and felt capable of doing whatever God asked of me. Of course, I had to ‘unlearn’ that and realize the truth of verses like these:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, emphasis mine)

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, emphasis mine)

Living for Christ in obedience and fruitfulness requires His help. This is just as He said to the disciples.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me . . . .” (John 16:7–9)

The Holy Spirit is that helper. I’m thinking this morning of what the Holy Spirit does that I cannot do, particularly that He convicts the world of sin. I cannot do this.

How often do Christians err in this very thing? I know I have learned the hard way that telling someone they are a sinner does little to open their eyes. In fact, it usually brings out resentment and self-defense — unless the Holy Spirit is using me to say it. When the Holy Spirit is in the conversation, everything changes.

I remember talking to my Dad about a spiritual matter, not telling him that he was a sinner, but something else. As I talked, I notice that he was listening to me and at the same time had his ears turned to someone else — but there was no one there. It took me a few minutes to realize that the Holy Spirit was also speaking to him. I remember that day because it was the most intimate conversation I’d ever had with my father.

Christians sometimes make fun of a “turn or burn” message, and rightly so. While God could (and has) used fire and brimstone warnings, He seldom asks His people to speak harsh proclamations. An example of His softer messages is when He used the queries of our five-year-old son to convict my husband. Another is the reading of the psalms that opened the heart of a neighbor.

This Holy Spirit power is not about the words used or even the person who speaks them. The Holy Spirit can convict people of sin by speaking into their minds without anyone else there. He can use books, birds, a sunrise, anything to grab our attention and open our hearts to the reality of our spiritual needs, including forgiveness.

Jesus named a specific sin in the above verses from John. It is the only one that can keep even the cleanest-living person out of the kingdom of God. He said, “of sin because they do not believe in me.” This tells me that people can feel guilty of all sorts of ungodly behavior yet not be aware of the guilt of unbelief. Most people assume that their lack of faith is not actually a sin.

The point is, I cannot convince anyone of these things. I can say the words, even plead with people, but unless the Holy Spirit is helping me, my efforts are at best useless, and at worst off-putting.

Jesus, You know that I am weak, useless, undiscerning, and without grace or wisdom on my own. Only the Spirit of God can soften hearts and open blind eyes. You did that for me — without another person present and still do it as I seek to follow You. I know Your mighty power but also Your gentle way of telling me that that every time I sin it is because I am not trusting You.

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