For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8)
… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matt. 3:11)
Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24)
Our eternal God looked down on Adam’s depraved race of mortals, and His compassionate nature prompted His merciful and gracious offer of salvation: He would send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die an atoning death for our sins, and whoever would have faith (believe in; trust; rely upon; become totally dependent upon; hope in; commit one’s all to His care and keeping) in Him would not be lost but would be saved (John 3:16, free translation).
And according to the Bible, genuine faith in Jesus Christ would lead to a new-birth experience, a spiritual resurrection (regeneration), a fervent relationship with the Risen Savior that would be witnessed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And in responding to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the believer would deny self and ask for and receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Thus, genuine faith in Christ would lead to a fervent relationship with God, continuing in this would lead to the fruit of the Spirit (holiness, Christlikeness, power over sin, the world, the flesh and the devil).
Long before I heard of the Nicene Creed (an historical ecumenical expression of Christian faith in A.D. 325) I had already embraced all of its “I believes.” Because in the mercies and goodness of our Holy God, He sends the Holy Spirit to awaken the sinner to his/her lostness and the need of accepting His merciful provisions for our salvation. In His convicting Presence, the Holy Spirit communicates the faith to trust no longer in our good works or our good intentions; He actually inspires our confidence, our hope, our reliance upon Christ’s blood offering for our sin, at which time we begin to realize that Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal life, and then we personally place our faith in Him. Then the same Holy Spirit who worked within us in saving faith continues faithfully to work in us in sanctifying faith and serving faith. The apostle Paul declared, For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘the righteous will live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17, NIV).
Our Lord seeks more with us than a cold, casual relationship. He longs for a holy, spiritual relationship of love — God’s agape love pouring into us, and in that love, our fervently setting our affections back upon Him (Rom. 5:5; Col. 3:1-2, KJV). Many born-again believers today, like the Laodiceans, are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-16) or like the church in Ephesus, they have forsaken their first love for Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:4). Why this deplorable coldness, hardness and blindness of heart? In most cases, it is due to a wrong response to the Holy Spirit, Who is God’s gift to the believer for life, love and light. We are warned against grieving the Holy Spirit by ungodly conversation, lying, bitterness, unforgiveness, yielding to temptation, deceitfulness, unkindness, sexual immorality, drunkenness and ignoring the will of God (Eph. 4:20 – 5:18). We can violate the Holy Spirit also by quenching Him (I Thes. 5:19). Some translators render this passage, Do not put out the Spirit’s fire (NIV), meaning that we are not to stifle, suppress or smother the urges and inspirations and directions that He brings to our hearts and minds.
Rather, the believer is called to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11) and to keep being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18, free translation). Walking in the fullness of the Holy Spirit will keep our hearts warm and the spiritual fire burning so that we are enabled to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).
True Christian holiness is set forth in Paul’s listing of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As our spiritual fervor for Christ fades, the fruit of the Spirit (Christlikeness, Christian holiness), is absent from the tree (our profession). The flesh (our old nature, our remaining human weaknesses and infirmities even after Christ’s transforming grace) reasserts itself and our Savior is betrayed by our bearing the fruits of our sinful nature (Gal. 5:16:21).
In my book, The Spirit of Prayer, I quote from the late Dr. W. T. Purkiser, my beloved friend and mentor, his exposition on the fruit of the Spirit in which he states that “Paul means here that the fruit of the Spirit is love, period. What follows are the dimensions of love.” (see pp. 99-101). The following bold definitions of love introducing each brief paragraph are Dr. Purkiser’s; the comments are mine:
JOY is love singing. The Spirit-filled experience is more than some emotional manifestation; it is an inward purifying, uniting, healing of our redeemed heart in order that we might love God and others with an unconditional love. Such a life not only sings; such a life is in itself a song.
PEACE is love resting. The Holy Spirit gives God’s children rest (Heb. 4:9). Frantic and phobia-bound believers are a poor witness to their family and worldly friends.
PATIENCE is love enduring. Perseverance is the mind-set of the sanctified heart. Giving up is not an option. We are committed to stay the course, no matter what comes upon us.
KINDNESS is love sharing. Love must express itself, but it never wounds, bruises or destroys.
GOODNESS is love’s character. Goodness here means “Godliness,” the character of God — holiness.
FAITHFULNESS is love’s habit. As Christ was faithful to the Father, so we are called to be faithful to Christ. Faithfulness if required of a steward (I Cor. 4:2)
GENTELENESS is love’s touch. The Bible has more to say about nonviolence than we realize. The world needs to see those who have the loving touch of Jesus.
SELF-CONTROL is love in charge. The Spirit-empowered overcome “the works of the flesh.” As Paul wrote, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
The crying need of our day is for Christians with a genuine faith who are filled with the Spirit’s fire to go on to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
My Trip To Israel
It has been forty years since I’ve been in Israel. Given the conditions in the Middle East and the threat against that nation by the radical Muslims, when I was invited by Joel Rosenberg to join a group of prayer warriors to tour Israel and then devote our closing two days for a special Jerusalem Prayer Meeting, I felt the Lord wanted me to go. I prayed about it for a few days, told the Lord what finances I felt I could come up with, then asked Him to supply the rest. Within three days I had the amount I needed at that time. When notified of an increase in the airfare, my CHRISTIAN RENEWAL BOARD voted to care for the balance of the trip from New York to Israel. Recently, a dear brother offered to cover the expenses of my roundtrip from Bozeman to New York. I plan to leave Bozeman November 4, and should return before Thanksgiving. I shall be grateful for the prayers of our readers.