Numerous Christians, including pastors, have told me they are continually harassed by former sins. They say, “if you only knew what I once did, you would understand why I’m so down. My sin still hangs over my head, and I battle constant guilt over it. I believe the Lord has forgiven me, that his blood is sufficient to cover my iniquity, but I don’t have the peace that comes from that knowledge.”
Others tell me, “I believe I’m forgiven, but my mind is continually bombarded with hellish thoughts. It can happen anywhere, even in church, and it makes me feel so unclean. I have a hard time believing I am pure in God’s sight.”
These believers forget that Satan also tempted Jesus with awful, ugly thoughts during his wilderness testing. Today, the devil sends little foxes into your life to make you think you’re hopeless, that God is mad at you. They inject thoughts into your mind meant to destroy your faith in the power of Christ’s blood over you.
Dear friend, you are not to listen to those mental invasions. You have to cut them off and cry, “Holy Spirit, I know you’re beside me. Help me!”
All who take up the cross and fight the good fight of faith are in a constant battle. We all face evil thoughts that come because of our past, because of rejection, or simply because we live in wicked, sensual times. Yet when we apply Christ’s blood to these roots of doubt, it reaches into every cell of our being, including our minds, and thoroughly cleanses us. That blood transfusion brings freedom and true rejoicing.
You are not alone in your struggle. He has sent you the Holy Spirit who knows how to deal with the enemy and free you from all bondage. He is the still, small voice that will guide and empower you through all your battles.
Pray with me: “Holy Spirit, I want to grow in spiritual fruitfulness. I want to be rid of all hypocrisy, and I want gentleness, patience and love. I know you love me in spite of my lack of these things. So, stand by me and help me. Amen.”
There is an old gospel song we used to sing that goes like this:
Send him on down, Lord, send him on down
Lord, let the Holy Ghost come on down
We need him, Lord, send him on down!
The truth is the Holy Spirit is already here. He came down from heaven at Pentecost, and he never left!
Jesus promised, “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17, NKJV).
Consider the phrase Jesus uses here: “But you know him.” Recently, as I read those words, I could not shake them off. I realized I really don’t know much about the Holy Spirit.
The church talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. We talk about being filled with the Spirit, living and walking in the Spirit, having the gifts of the Spirit, receiving the comfort of the Spirit. Yet it is possible to know all the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and still not know him. If I were to ask you, “Have you received the Holy Spirit?” how would you answer?
Some might say, “I received the Spirit when Jesus saved me. The Holy Spirit brought me into Christ’s kingdom.” Others would answer, “Yes, I have received the Spirit because I spoke with tongues when he came into my life. I pray in the Spirit, and tongues are evidence that I have received him.”
However, to receive the Spirit is more than a one-time experience. The word “receive” means “lay hold of that which is given.” It is to desire a greater knowledge of who the Spirit is and how he works in our lives. In fact, the Holy Spirit is not received by someone until he is allowed to take full control of that person’s temple. Pray for God to help you lay hold of his Spirit!
Moses had a disposition like many of us today, so there was only one way for him to stay in victory. He continually communed with the Lord. “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11, NKJV). I believe the secret to holiness is very simple: Stay close to Jesus! Keep looking into his face until you become like the image you behold.
“But you are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3). The Lord makes his dwelling with his people who are worshipping; and where the Lord is, victory follows.
Christ says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Don’t be afraid of failure. Keep going in spite of it. Worship God until victory comes! This may sound like an oversimplification, but the way past failure actually is simple.
When Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me,” he wasn’t speaking about self-flagellation. The cross is the Holy Spirit showing us how to live through the mind of Christ. It is a lifelong process of shedding our need for control and daily giving our will to God.
Say you’re a new Christian and are hit with a serious adversity, a life-threatening illness, tragedy or financial loss. Not only does it hit, but it begins to drag out. “This isn’t fair,” you might say. “I’m a little mad at God for allowing this to overtake my life.” We’re so full of questions and bereft of answers that we want to turn away. God seems insufficient and uninterested in our welfare.
Although we feel faithless, this is the time to stay faithful. These times of holding on to God rather than ourselves are when wisdom and maturity are established deep within us. This is the taking up of the cross of Christ.
Throughout our lives, giving up our own will and submitting to God will include seasons of heartache and soul-searching. There will be pressure from the enemy to pull away and reclaim our self-will. Satan wants nothing more than to separate us from the power of the cross. It is a certainty that we will become discouraged, tired, frustrated and sorely tempted.
Jesus addressed this on two fronts. “He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” (Luke 9:23-24, ESV). First, he said to take up his cross every day. Our life in Christ is renewed every morning and requires the nourishment of prayer and time in the Word. This helps us to be alert to the nudges of the Spirit as well as the subtle attacks of the enemy.
Second, Jesus reminds us that the Christ-life is a kingdom upside down: controlling your own life will cause you to lose it; giving your will over to the mind of Christ will save your soul. The reward is a life rich with wisdom and the gaining of an understanding of God that is only accessed through adversity. Not only that, it provides us with opportunities to lift up fellow men and women who also struggle with letting go.
God shows us how we can live without fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NKJV). In short, if we are living in fear, we are ignorant of perfect love. John is not saying, “Perfect love for God casts out all fear.” He is saying that perfect love begins with abundant and generous love for one another.
It is a fact beyond doubt that we love God, but consider what John says about perfect love earlier in the chapter. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). According to John, the first consideration of perfect love is unconditional love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
A Christian can say that he loves God, is doing the Lord’s will and is faithfully performing the work of the kingdom. Such a person may be a worshipper and even a teacher of the Word. However, if he holds a grudge or speaks against another, if he shuts out anyone in the body of Christ, he walks in darkness, and a spirit of death is on him. All life, all good works, are out of order in this person. Consider what John says of him: “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now” (1 John 2:9).
If you are interested in living a life without fear, John tells us we must first deal with our relationships in the body of Christ. Indeed, to partake of the perfect love that drives out all fear, this is the first step we must take: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
What is meant by this kind of love? It is more than forgiveness, much more. It means to forgive all transgressions toward us and then offer our fellowship. We are to esteem the ones who sinned against us as highly as we do other members of the body. When we let God’s love dwell in us and perfect us, all fear will be cast out.
“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:16-17, NKJV).
Note the last part of this passage. John tells us we are now living as the Lord lived, forgiving and loving our enemies. There is nothing left in us of revenge, grudges or racial prejudice, so we can now fully receive the love of God toward us.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).Do you see what John is saying? Our love for God is a given, but perfect love also means knowing and believing his love toward us.
There must be no fear or doubt in this love. If we doubt, we’ll live in torment: “Fear involves torment” (see 1 John 4:18). Believing in God’s love means knowing he is patient with our failures day in and day out. He hears our every cry, bottles every tear, feels our anguish of heart and is moved with compassion.
This aspect of God’s love is vividly illustrated in Exodus, where the Lord sought to reveal his loving nature to his people. He told Moses, “I am going to deliver Israel,” and scripture says, “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God” (Exodus 2:23).
“And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land…to a land flowing with milk and honey’” (Exodus 3:7-8).
Do you believe God sees your need just as he did with Israel? We often glibly say, “Christ is all,” yet when we face a crisis we succumb to fear. Let us embrace the knowledge that God never forsakes his children in their time of anguish, even when things seem absolutely hopeless. We can trust him!