A medical doctor approached me with great excitement at the conclusion of our training conference. He was overflowing with joy and excitement.
“Since I have learned how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and walk in His power, the Christian life has become a great adventure for me!” he exclaimed. “Now, I want to experience this same adventure with Christ.”
Would you like to know how to enjoy what this man and millions of other Christians have experienced? You too can know the adventure of a full, abundant, purposeful and fruitful life in Christ!
If you have been living in spiritual defeat — powerless and fruitless, wondering if there is any validity to the Christian life — there is hope for you! What greater promise could Christ offer to the Christian than the assurance that he can walk daily in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and experience an abundant and fruitful life of purpose and adventure? Here is His promise:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.
You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it. (John 14:12-15, New International Version 1984)
Certain basic spiritual truths, when understood and experienced by faith, bring revolutionary spiritual benefits. These proven principles can help you to be more consistent in your walk with God and be more effective in your witness for our dear Savior.
The Christian life, properly understood, is not complex nor difficult. As a matter of fact, the Christian life is very simple. It is so simple that we stumble over the very simplicity of it, and yet it is so difficult that no one can live it! This paradox occurs because the Christian life is a supernatural life. The only one who can help us live this abundant life is the Lord Jesus Christ who empowers us with His Holy Spirit.
One of the most important truths of Scripture, the understanding and application of which has enriched my life as has no other truth, is a concept which I like to call “spiritual breathing.” This concept has been shared with millions — with revolutionary results — through our literature and various training conferences and seminars.
As you walk in the Spirit by faith, practicing spiritual breathing, you need never again live in spiritual defeat. Spiritual breathing, like physical breathing, is a process of exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure, an exercise in faith that enables you to experience God’s love and forgiveness and walk in the Spirit as a way of life.
The moment you invited Christ into your life as Savior and Lord, you experienced a spiritual birth. You became a child of God and you were filled with the Holy Spirit. God forgave your sins — past, present and future — making you righteous, holy and acceptable in His sight because of Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross. You were given the power to live a holy life and to be a fruitful witness for God.
But the average Christian does not understand this concept of spiritual breathing as an exercise of faith and, as a result, lives on a spiritual roller coaster. Believers go from one emotional experience to another, living most of their lives as worldly Christians, controlling their own lives — frustrated and fruitless.
If this is your experience, spiritual breathing will enable you to get off this emotional roller coaster and enjoy the Christian life that the Lord Jesus promised to you when He said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV 1984). As an exercise in faith, spiritual breathing will make it possible for you to continue to experience God’s love and forgiveness and the power and control of the Holy Spirit as a way of life.
If you sin by committing a deliberate act of disobedience, breathe spiritually. Exhale by confession. God’s Word promises in John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV 1984). In the Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word “confess” (“homologeo”) means to “agree with” or to “say along with.” Such agreement involves at least three considerations.
First, you acknowledge that your sin or sins — which should be named to God specifically — are wrong and are therefore grievous to Him.
Second, you acknowledge that God has already forgiven you through Christ’s death on the cross for your sins.
Third, you repent, which means that you change your attitude toward your sin. The power of the Holy Spirit will enable you to change both your attitude and conduct. Instead of doing what your old sinful nature — your flesh — wants to do, you can do what God wants you to do.
Now inhale by appropriating the fullness of God’s Spirit by faith. Trust Him to control and empower you according to His command to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, NIV 1984), which actually means to be constantly and continually controlled and empowered with the Holy Spirit.
According to His promise (1 John 5:14-15), God hears you and grants your request because you pray according to His will. I encourage you to continue to claim his love, forgiveness and power by faith and continue to have fellowship with Him moment by moment.
You can get off your spiritual roller coaster, cease to be a worldly or carnal Christian, and become a Spirit-filled believer by practicing spiritual breathing. If you are breathing and inhaling by appropriating the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith — you are a Spirit-filled Christian.
You become a worldly Christian again when you develop (over time) an attitude of unbelief — when you set your heart against believing the promises of 1 John 1:9 and 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV 1984):
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
You do not become carnal simply by committing one sin — or a dozen or a hundred sins — provided that you sincerely continue to breathe spiritually. You will become worldly only when you develop an attitude of unbelief and refuse to breathe spiritually.
You can know right now that you are filled with the Holy Spirit. Through the practice of spiritual breathing, you can go through life assured of His fullness. Simply keep short accounts with God. Do not let sins accumulate.
If you try to live the Christian life by your own fleshly effort, it becomes complex, difficult, and even impossible to live. But when you invite the Lord Jesus to direct your life, when you know the reality of having been crucified with Christ and raised with Him by faith as a way of life, when you walk in the light as God is in the light in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus simply lives His abundant life within you in all of His resurrection power.
I am not suggesting that the Christian who walks in the fullness of the Spirit will have no difficulties. Problems of poor health, loss of loved ones, financial needs and other such experiences are common to all people. However, many of our misfortunes are self-imposed because of our own worldly, selfish actions. The spiritual person is spared most of these self-imposed hardships. But when the problems do come, the spiritual person can face them with a calm, confident attitude by being aware of God’s resources, which are available to deal with adversity.
This is not simply a matter of positive thinking. We are instructed to cast our cares upon the Lord Jesus because He cares for us. The spiritual person knows the trustworthiness of God from experience. The Lord becomes the problem-solver, and the trials and burdens of this world are no longer too great for us when He is carrying the load.
This was at the heart of the apostle Paul’s moment-by-moment experience:
I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, Living Bible)
There is a throne, a control center — the intersection of one’s intellect, will and emotion — in every life. And either self or Christ is on that throne. Let me illustrate.
I like to plan as far in advance as possible, especially for key events. But occasionally I get so busy with the many details of our worldwide ministry that an important item slips through.
With a key conference just a couple of weeks away, I had just realized the need for a set of printed materials that would be a tremendous benefit to the conferees.
As I shared the urgency with the department director responsible for this need, he responded, “Bill, we’re full up already. Two weeks just isn’t enough time.”
I became impatient. Could my associate not see that we are in a war for souls, that we must seize opportunities when they arise and not limit our efforts to 8-to-5 workdays? I made my point clear to him.
“But if we had more notice ... ” he protested, “There just is no way we can squeeze in such a huge job with so little time. There’s the writing, then the design and typesetting and artwork, then the printing.”
It seemed obvious that he did not share my burden for the upcoming event. I pressed my point. “Look, this is an important international conference,” I said firmly, my voice rising, “and this is no time for ‘business as usual.’ Please find a way to finish this project in time for the conference, even if you have to work around the clock.”
I could tell my colleague was frustrated. But, I reasoned, we need those printed materials. Whatever it takes, we need them.
Within a few moments after our conversation, I sensed the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Yes, even in our well-intended service to the Lord, we can stumble — and in the name of godliness I had offended a dear brother in Christ. I had failed to give him and his staff the benefit of the doubt — failed to take into account the tough workload they already were facing each day. Instead of asking him to think through the possibilities with me and helping him rearrange his priorities to accommodate the new task, I had virtually ordered him to get the project done and shown little appreciation for the many late evenings his team was already devoting to their work. I had reacted impatiently rather than in a spirit of love, understanding and teamwork.
At this point I had a choice to make.
On the one hand, I could let it go. After all, does the head of a large organization not have the right to ramrod projects through when necessary? Did the end (the strategic international conference) not justify the means (getting the job done no matter what it takes)? And did my associate’s hesitant attitude not warrant a stern talking-to about the urgency of the hour?
By all human standards, I probably could have justified letting the incident go. But deep inside I would have been restless and uncomfortable as the Holy Spirit continued to point out the sin to me, and God would not have blessed my efforts on His behalf as long as this sin remained unconfessed. On top of that, several of my dear co-workers would have continued to hurt as a result of my calloused attitude.
On the other hand, I could deal with the problem by taking scriptural action to clear the slate. The unrest in my conscience was the Holy Spirit cross-examining me as I tried to rationalize my behavior. What I had thought was forceful leadership He was identifying as the sins of impatience and unjustifiable anger.
I knew that taking scriptural action was the only choice I could make that would please my Lord. I confessed my sin to Him and appropriated His forgiveness.
Then came the toughest part.
I drove down to the office complex where my associate and his team were located and asked their forgiveness. We cried and laughed and prayed together, sensing a fresh outpouring of God’s love in our midst. Then we talked through our mutual needs and found a way — as teammates — to rearrange priorities and accomplish the task — on time!
That is what the Christian life is all about — just keeping Christ on the throne. You do this when you understand how to walk in the control and power of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit came for the express purpose of glorifying Christ by enabling the believer to live a holy life and to be a fruitful witness for our dear Savior.
As I have said previously, to be sure you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you need to remember two important words: command and promise. The command is found in Ephesians 5:18:
Be filled ... with the Holy Spirit and controlled by him. (TLB)
And the promise is found in 1 John 5:14-15:
We are sure of this, that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with His will. And if we really know He is listening ... then we can be sure that He will answer us. (TLB)
On the authority of God’s command you know that you are praying according to His will when you ask Him to fill you — to control and empower you. Therefore, you can expect him to fill and empower you on the basis of His command and promise provided that you genuinely desire to be filled and trust him to fill you.
Remember that the Holy Spirit already dwells within you if you are a believer. You do not have to ask Him to come into your life; He is already indwelling you. Your body was a temple of God from the moment you became a Christian. So you simply say to Him, “I surrender my life to You, and by faith I claim Your fullness and power.”
Then continue to breathe spiritually, exhaling whenever the Holy Spirit reveals sin that you need to confess and inhaling as you go on walking in the fullness and control of the Spirit by faith. Some Christians breathe spiritually faster and more often than others.
Do not depend upon feelings. Tied as they are to your ever-changing circumstances, feelings are unreliable in evaluating your relationship with God. The unchanging promises of God’s Word, not your feelings, are your authority. The Christian is to live by faith, trusting in the trustworthiness of God Himself and His Word. A train is a good illustration of the relationship between fact, faith and feeling.
Let us call the train engine “fact” — the fact of God’s promises found in His Word. The fuel car we will call “faith” — your trust in God and His Word. The caboose we will call “feelings.”
As fuel flows into the engine, the train runs. It would be futile and, of course, ridiculous to attempt to pull the train by the caboose. In the same way, you, as a Christian, should not depend upon feelings or emotion to live a Spirit-filled life. Rather, God wants you to simply place your faith in his trustworthiness and the promises of His Word.
Feelings are like the caboose – they are important but are designed to follow a life of faith and obedience. Jesus promised all who obey Him, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (John 14:21, NIV 1984). So, you can expect to have a valid emotional relationship with our Lord when you trust and obey Him. But you should never depend on feelings or seek after an emotional experience. The very act of looking for an emotional experience is a denial of the concept of faith, and whatever is not of faith is sin.
To summarize then, you can know that you are filled with the Holy Spirit by trusting in God — His command and promise — and you can go through life with that assurance.
© 1999 Bill Bright, © 2009 Bright Media Foundation and Campus Crusade for Christ International. All rights reserved. Adapted from Bill Bright How You Can Walk in the Spirit, Transferable Concept 4 (Peachtree City, GA: Cru).
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