My web browser is full of surprises. There are some blogs I’ve followed regularly for over a year and suddenly I can’t go there anymore. Then suddenly I can. Then I can’t. This morning an e-mail popped into my inbox – the first few lines of a post from my friend Bill. Though I haven’t been able to go there for months, I clicked to read the rest of the article – and my browser actually co-operated. Awesome!
While it was in such a good mood, I clicked on and read his previous post:
The windmill analogy is great. “The Holy Spirit,” Jesus says, “is like the wind that blows.” We can’t see Him, but we hear Him whispering in our ear, we feel Him guiding us according to the will of God. And like a windmill, the Holy Spirit is a source of light and power. As He convicts us of right and wrong, as we heed what He is telling us, the Holy Spirit generates within us the power to change.
For some people, sanctification involves overcoming addiction, or a bad habit. Like repeating all the foul language we hear all around us, or taking the name of the Lord in vain. It’s done so often and so casually in our culture that we never stop to think about it. Then one day the Spirit points out to us that our casual, “Oh, Gee!” is, in fact, taking the name of the Lord Jesus in vain. He encourages us to think about all those “little exclamations” we utter. “Let your speech be always with grace” (Colossians 4:6) is a tall order – but He’s there to help us.
For some it’s an addiction we must overcome and He comes through with power to resist temptation. And for all of us it’s getting through what our culture teaches us, that which has become so deeply embedded in our understanding it takes the Holy Spirit to dig it out and say, “This is NOT of God.”
Satan has really had his way with North American culture in the last century. For example, how often have you heard this thought? “There are two subjects you should never discuss: religion and politics.” Thus being religious (or righteous) and talking about religion (or purity or sin or the Lord’s commandments or the Holy Spirit) have become serious taboos in our society. But if we want to serve the Lord, we have to break through those cultural barriers.
And there are others, more subtle yet. I grew up in the 60’s, where the “love generation promoted the idea, “Schedules are bondage. Spontaneity is freedom.” I never thought I was that much affected by this attitude until one day when I was struggling with too many irons in the fire and so little order. (Personality plays in here, too, I’ll admit.)
By this time I was in my late 30s. I was talking on the phone to a Christian sister and mentioned my struggle with this. I admitted to her that “Something will have to change in me before I’ll ever achieve order.” I ended the call – and just as I hung up the phone the Holy Spirit said very clearly, “Really, you despise order.”
I gasped! Despise order? Me? I was floored! But He finally had my attention and He gently opened my eyes, taking me back to that thinking I’d absorbed as a teen without ever realizing it. Freedom was THE goal of life. Away with schedules, rules, etc. Remember the Mamas & Papas telling us: “You gotta go where you wanna go and do what you wanna do…”
I began to realize the anti-Gospel aspect of that thinking, because this kind of freedom actually leads to bondage in the end. You never accomplish anything worthwhile; you’ll never find a home or settle down. You will never mature – and maturity wasn’t thought of very highly, either! Your life will end as one big pile of “Unfinished projects.” (Which was pretty much true for me at that moment!)
This revelation didn’t change my personality and I still struggle to overcome the habits I’ve formed in my first thirty years, but at least I saw that I really needed to change – that I was heading in the wrong direction and needed to turn around. Without the Holy Spirit’s help I’d never have been able to dig that deep and identify the root of the problem.
I fear our “If it feels good, do it,” society has sold us a bill of goods, to quote a cliché. Or maybe sold us into the shackles of slavery to our feelings? Jesus came to set us free – by giving us His “rules” that actually work for our good. I’ve experienced different revelations like this – I call them “falling gems from heaven” – that have shown me how my culture has shaped my thinking deep within, and how out of sync it is with God’s ways.
That’s the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit I have learned to understand and appreciate.