Cruising down the freeway toward Springfield, MO, I saw a flashing blue light in my rearview mirror. My stomach knotted up as I checked my speedometer -- I was definitely speeding.
"Lord," I prayed in desperation, "please cause the policeman to have mercy on me."
But when the large officer walked over to me, he did not even smile. "May I see your license?" he asked sternly.
I handed my ID to him through my open car window and nervously began to make excuses: "You see, I'm not used to my dad's big car and -- "
"Lady," he coldly interrupted, "your license is expired. Follow me to the Lebanon station, where you can pay your fines."
I started feeling angry, and as I followed the policeman to the station, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my bad attitude. You were guilty, He reminded me, and I care about every area of your life. But I still struggled with my attitude.
The fine came to $110, and worst of all, I only had $25 in cash. The station would not accept a personal check, and the officer said I couldn't leave until my fine was paid. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I fought to keep from crying. The police officer walked away and left me with the jail warden. The warden directed me to a pay phone located inside a jail cell and told me to call Visa. They would have to wire money to the local truck stop so I could pay my fine and leave.
The warden shut the cell door and locked it with a clank. Now I lost my composure and started crying. I felt like a criminal, and added to my shame was that I had dishonored God by breaking the law. As I called the Visa office, tears flooded down my cheeks. Along with them, my contact lens rushed out. "Ma'am," I blubbered into the receiver, "please don't hang up!"
Dropping to the floor of the jail cell, I groped around searching for my contact lens, my makeup streaming down my face.
Eventually, my money came, I paid my fine and I drove away. Looking back, it's funny to remember myself behind bars, crawling around the prison floor sobbing, looking for my lost contact lens. On the other hand, I think of the accident God may have saved me from because of my negligent driving -- I'm humbled and grateful. But I think God wanted my attention to teach me a bigger principle than just not to speed.
Because God loves us, He doesn't want to have our fellowship and communication with Him severed. But just as I had been locked away in the cell because I had broken the law, our sins against God separate us from Him. Yet we don't have to be out of touch with God for one minute. The key for me in experiencing God's presence and direction moment by moment is something called "spiritual breathing," which is a phrase coined by Bill Bright, the founder of Cru. Let me explain how it works.
Regular breathing has two parts: exhaling impure air and inhaling pure air. Spiritually, we become aware of an impure attitude or area of our life that displeases the Lord, so we need to "exhale," or, in other words, confess that sin to God. Confession means to agree with God that we have sinned and admit we now want to change: "If we confess our sin to God, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
The second part of spiritual breathing is, obviously, to "inhale." This refers to a prayer of willing surrender to God's control. Through prayer, we can ask the Holy Spirit to run our lives and take over. The key to the process of spiritual breathing lies in surrendering that control to God on a consistent and regular basis.
Have you ever been ticketed by God? Maybe you haven't been put behind bars by a policeman, but has the Holy Spirit ever arrested you, grabbing your attention concerning an area of your life that was violating God's laws? He did it because He loves you.
Is there something you need to bring before God to confess and repent of, or change your attitude about? He is waiting to forgive, cleanse and fill you with His Holy Spirit. You may wish to pray the following prayer to God, or just pray one in your own words:
"Dear Father, I need You. I admit that I have been in control of my life, and that, as a result, I have sinned against You. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ's death on the Cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take control of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You command me to be filled. You promise in Your Word that You would do it if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I now thank You for taking control of my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit."
It's important to understand that these are not magical words, guaranteed to fill you with the Holy Spirit. God releases His power to us through our faith in Him and in His Word, not because we put the right words together and say them with our mouths. Another thing to remember is, just like you need to breathe in and out all day long, you may find yourself regularly needing to confess your sin to God and give control back to Him.
That's OK! Be honest with Him and confess as often as you need to. Unless we consciously have clean hearts before God, He cannot fill us with His Holy Spirit. But as we daily surrender to Him, our heavenly Father unlocks our prison cell and sets us free. Believe me, life is much better on the other side of the bars.
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