Image via WikipediaA big name in Christendom falls away, embraces a sinful lifestyle, and in some "Christian" circles is applauded.
How can this be?
We've been discussing the excuses people rely on when they decide to embrace sin, such as "I was born this way" and "I feel so much closer to God now that I don't hate myself." We also got some invaluable insights on the struggle with sin from Puritan John Owen. But now we need to take some time to look at the most important factor in our growth.
The Holy Spirit. The third Person of the Trinity.
How does He help us?
To many, the mention of the Holy Spirit brings to mind such things as speaking in tongues, prophesying about the future, and other dramatic manifestations.
May I suggest to you that all of those things can be (and often are) counterfeited? I'm not saying they always are. But charlatans have known for years how to create temporary, showy effects on stage. Many pagan religions regularly practice "ecstatic speech." Prophesying (especially when it's vague, or when the "prophet" isn't held accountable for his accuracy) is practiced by everyone from psychics to sun-worshipers. None of these things are proof of the presence or influence of the Holy Spirit. Those things which cannot be faked by humans can be easily counterfeited by unholy spirits.
But not all of them.
How does the Holy Spirit really help us?
I have a friend, a dear sister in Christ, who was recently saved out of a heavily occultic lifestyle and demonic possession. The presence and work of the Holy Spirit in her life is a delight to see.
He's putting her through the fire.
She made a complete break with her occult past when she came to Christ. (I have seen a photo of her baptismal service, in which she burned the last of her Tarot cards. Remind you of anyone? See Acts 19:19.) She had supported her family through a very successful career as a psychic, and by teaching others to achieve the demonic counterfeits mentioned above, but that's not an option for her anymore. And without that income, life has become very, very hard. God has brought other trials into her life at the same time, the sorts of things that can drive a person to the breaking point.
Everything would be so much easier if she would return to her occult practices, use the "Law of Attraction" to bring the money in like she used to, and in every other way feed her flesh through Satan's power as she once did.
She is struggling. She longs to have nice things (don't we all?) But she said to me today, with joy in her voice, "Being a Christian is so freeing! I don't miss [the occult] at all. Not the least little bit."
That, my friends, is the help of the Holy Spirit. He hasn't made everything easy. He hasn't created a bed of roses. He hasn't instantly taken away all of her desires for the pleasures this world can afford.
He has made Jesus (the true Jesus of the Bible, not a New Age caricature of Him) a greater joy to her than what she has lost. He has given her a hunger for God's Word that keeps her reading it. He has given her a heart to obey.
Satan can't counterfeit that.
She doesn't see her growth as clearly as I do. That's often true. As someone else recently said to me, "Sometimes seeing the growth can hinder the growth." My friend will probably be amazed to know that she blessed me so much in our recent talk. But it was a blessing to me.
Do you remember when Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, and Mary came to visit her? The Holy Spirit caused Elizabeth's soul (and her baby) to leap for joy in recognition of the work that He was doing in Mary. That's how I felt, talking to my friend today. My soul leaped for joy at seeing His work in her.
I was also moved to repent of my own sinful, fleshly attitudes I'd been indulging today. Such repentance, too, is a gift of God, something He grants to us (2 Tim. 2:25), and it's a work of His Spirit in us. (See all entries on repentance)
At the beginning of this entry I asked how someone in Christian circles could fall away and be applauded by others who consider themselves Christians. I'm sure there are a multitude of reasons, but I would like to present one for very sober consideration.
Could it be that both the ones who fall, and the ones who applaud them, are deceived by a misunderstanding of the Spirit's work? Could they be basing their spiritual confidence on the presence of signs and wonders which Satan regularly counterfeits in their lives, while being completely unaware that they lack the Spirit's true working? I will never say that God can't or doesn't produce supernatural manifestations today. Of course He can, and of course He does. But so does Satan. And how do we know which is which?
I've already hinted at this, and I'll address it further in future entries, but now it's time for your comments. What spiritual activity can you see in your own life that you know is not a counterfeit, and on what do you base that confidence?
(Next post in this series: "A Genuine Work of the Spirit?")
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