So Christ has made us free. Now make sure that you stay free and don’t get all tied up again in the chains of slavery to Jewish laws and ceremonies (Gal. 5:1, TLB).
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36, NIV).
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [he has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of a calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7, AMP).
Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is known as “The Christian Magna Carta.” This book about the freedom of the Spirit in Christ is to New Testament believers what the Magna Carta meant to the British in the thirteenth century. The king of England was slow to articulate the freedoms that the British people were calling for. The English barons pressured King John to assent and then declare a “Fundamental Guarantee of Rights and Privileges of the English Peoples.” The American Bill of Rights, the basic part of the American Constitution of 1776, was the American counterpart of the British Magna Carta of 1213.
The book of Galatians is Paul’s call to believers to exercise the freedom that Christ purchased for us in His death by crucifixion on the cross. Most of his readers at that time would have been Jewish believers who had known the bondage of the Jewish Law and ceremonies. Paul urged them to maintain the freedom Christ had brought and to not fall back into the bondage to laws and ceremonies. He reminded them that they have been given the Holy Spirit. So he asked them, Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?
I am greatly saddened when I am called to lead a church in revival when I sense so much bondage—apathy, indifference, anger, murmuring, criticism, negativism. So many leaders decry the deadness of their churches, but their efforts to fire up the atmosphere are futile and usually only worsen the condition.
Why are so many Christian believers in bondage? I believe the apostle Paul is telling us in the book of Galatians that it is due to our lack of responding to the Holy Spirit. We are given the Holy Spirit when we are born again (Acts 2:38, Eph. 1:13). But we are also commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Born-again believers will not miss the fullness of the Spirit as long as they consistently walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), are led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18) and if by the Spirit they deny themselves fleshly desires (Rom. 8:13).
We are warned to grieve not the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). As He helps us develop a sensitivity to both His constraints and restraints, we will learn how to please Him. We must learn to trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to resist the temptation to yield to sins of prayerlessness and inappropriate expressions as well as human weaknesses that we don’t normally consider to be sins. Yes, I believe there is a difference between weaknesses and sins. But I have learned that if I want to experience freedom in the Spirit in my Christian life, I must confess every act of falling short of God’s glory as sin and know that I am mercifully forgiven and restored in fellowship with Him. Then I am enabled to continue rejoicing in God’s gracious forgiveness and cleansing and move onward and upward in His glorious freedom. Early each morning, I find myself praying, “O God, help me this day to walk in sweet fellowship with Your ungrieved Holy Spirit!”
We do need to remember that grieving the Holy Spirit is not inevitable. Just because so many Christians grieve the Spirit doesn’t mean we have to. If we are prayerfully watchful, we’ll catch the Spirit’s signals when we are being tested by the enemy to be drawn into a stream of consciousness that will lead to our being tempted to say or do something that will grieve the Spirit.
Believers who grieve the Spirit cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is simply allowing the Holy Spirit to reproduce the character of our Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives. These gifts of His fruit borne in us are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Christians who grieve the Holy Spirit cannot pray in the Spirit. We are commanded to pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication (Eph. 6:18). This command is impossible to obey when we are disobedient, careless and insensitive to the Spirit. This means that we are not prepared to allow the Spirit to help us know what to pray for, how to pray, or even care passionately about getting YES answers in our praying. Therefore we just drift along and wonder why God seems so absent or far away in our lives.
Christians who live in bondage do not obey the Lord’s assignment as his witnesses. They aren’t filled with love for the lost person who needs to hear about God’s love. They aren’t ready to ask the Spirit for the passion, boldness and wisdom required to give a witness and lead a person to Christ.
Christians in bondage seldom fill their day with praise. We should begin the day with praise and worship, even if it is only for a minute. How can we go on into daily activities hour after hour without passionate, sincere praise to God for who He is and what He does in our lives and in our families?
As a revivalist I often begin the first night’s service facing an audience with empty, cold hearts. But because of the prayers of a concerned pastor, a few prayer warriors in the church and many heavy-lifting prayer partners all over the world, the Presence of God comes on the service. As I obey the Spirit and preach the Word, the Spirit honors us with His Presence, resulting in some of the empty hearts feeling and hearing a call of the Spirit they’ve not heard in a long time. As they come to the altars, I hear many of them praying thus:
“Oh, God! I thank You for speaking to my heart tonight! It’s been so long since my heart has been stirred. I didn’t realize until a few minutes ago that I’d drifted so far from you, had grown so empty, so cold, so hard. Lord, I’ve been critical of my brothers and sisters and the staff here, not realizing it was my emptiness and my bondage that is the problem in the church. Please forgive me. Give me a new heartwarming and a fresh filling of the Spirit. Help me to get back to praying, worshiping, praising, giving, witnessing and serving you! Lord, restore my joy! Bring back the ring in my testimony.
Fill me with holy fire. Bring back the glory of Your presence in my heart so that my loved ones, my extended family and my neighbors will know that Jesus is real to me!
Thank you, Lord for hearing my prayer and giving me the assurance that I’m now in sweet fellowship with you again!”
Dear brother, dear sister, are you free in Jesus Christ? Do you know joy unspeakable and full of glory? How much do you know about the fullness of the Holy Spirit and fire? God wants you to have victory over sin, but He also wants you to have victory over coldness and hardness of heart. He wants you to be alive, not a spiritual deadhead. Get the hymnal out and pray the old hymn by Haldor Lillenas and pray the song “Glorious Freedom.” Then receive that “freedom from envy, hatred and strife, freedom from vain and worldly ambition, freedom from all that saddens your life.” Receive from the Holy Spirit that “freedom from love and glitter of gold, freedom from evil temper and anger, glorious freedom, rapture untold!” Receive that “freedom from fear with all of its torments, freedom from care with all of its pain, freedom in Christ your blessed Redeemer, He who will rend your fetters in twain.”
God is calling you to freedom.
Freedom in worship and praise.
Freedom to prevail in prayer.
Freedom to give generously.
Freedom to live in holiness and power.
Freedom to grasp the dimensions of divine love.
Freedom to enjoy the Word of God.
Freedom to live with joy in light of His return.
Freedom to anticipate with great rejoicing the eternal Presence of God.
Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins, to purchase for us a freedom from sin, a life of holiness and power, a heritage of the kingdom of God—sonship, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. In humility, let us come before the Lord with a hungry heart and a passionate faith to know the freedom to which we have been born anew!
Only then shall we be enabled to walk in unbroken fellowship with an ungrieved Holy Spirit and experience the dimensions of divine love in this life, preparing us for the life to come!
An Update on the Book ESTELLE
As I come to the end of nearly three years of writing, and my wife, Shirley, and I come to the end of several months of editing, it appears that within a week we’ll be ready to send off the thirteen chapters and 309 pages of ESTELLE to a publisher in the Nashville, Tennessee, area.
We ask our prayer partners and readers to pray for the process and a wide distribution of this work meant to cast a compelling vision for revival wherever God’s people will meet God’s terms for a mighty spiritual awakening.
We expect to be able to offer the book to our readers in the coming Winter Journal at a fair price.