The average Christian continues to live in disobedience to God and is not filled with the Spirit for 2 reasons:
From the moment of your spiritual birth, you have the power to go on growing toward maturity in Christ. And yet, the average person, not understanding how to live by faith, lives on a spiritual roller coaster, rising and falling from one emotional experience to another.
In Romans 7:15,24 (New International Version 1984), Paul describes the predicament of the worldly, carnal Christian: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul describes a worldly, carnal believer as one who acts like a non-Christian. Although the worldly believer has received Christ, he also has allowed his flesh nature to reclaim the throne through sin. God still has possession of this person, and Christ is still in his life, but the individual has fallen into sin in one or more areas of his life.
Not yielded to God, the worldly believer is usually a miserable person — even more miserable than the non-Christian. He is in a period of stunted spiritual growth because he is not confessing and repenting of his sins, and Satan has succeeded in influencing and controlling him through the flesh.
Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth:
Dear brothers, I have been talking to you as though you were still just babies in the Christian life, who are not following the Lord, but your own desires; I cannot talk to you as I would to healthy Christians, who are filled with the Spirit. I have had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t digest anything stronger. And even now you still have to be fed on milk. For you are still only baby Christians, controlled by your own desires, not God’s. ... In fact, you are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord at all. (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Living Bible)
The worldly or carnal Christian certainly experiences the conviction of the Holy Spirit and will not continue in his sins indefinitely; otherwise, he is possibly not a Christian at all. But defeated and fruitless, he depends on self-effort to live the Christian life instead of drawing on the supernatural, inexhaustible resources of the Holy Spirit. Grasping self-interest in one hand and groping for God’s blessing with the other, this person fails again and again to live the Christian life in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.
Having experienced the joy and blessing of fellowship with God, he has lost present contact and does not know how to recapture that lost fellowship. Yet, the worldly believer can never be satisfied with that old way of life again, and in search of happiness and fulfillment, this person has become self-centered instead of Christ-centered.
As a result, he has become increasingly confused and frustrated and does not know what to do about it. He does not know how to live by faith, and instead he lives by feeling. The worldly Christian tries rather than trusts. He does not know how to stop being worldly nor how to become a spiritual Christian. The only one who can enable him to change is, of course, the Holy Spirit.
The Christian life is a miraculous and supernatural life. Christianity is not what you do for God, but what He does for you. Apart from faith in Christ, you cannot become a Christian, and apart from moment by moment faith or dependence on Him, you cannot live the Christian life. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, Christ lives His supernatural life in and through you.
But the average Christian does not understand how to draw upon the resurrection resources of Christ by faith. As a result, the worldly believer lives in spiritual poverty, not knowing or experiencing his great riches and resources, which are his heritage in Christ.
An old Scottish woman lived in the most impoverished conditions in her hometown. Years before, her son had immigrated to America. There he had become a very successful businessman but had never found time to return home to visit his mother.
One day, a friend sat talking with the old lady in her sparsely furnished cottage.
“Doesn’t your son ever send you money to help with your needs?” she inquired.
“No,” the woman shook her head sadly. “He does write me nice letters, though. And he sends me the most interesting pictures!”
The listener was annoyed, realizing that the son was quite wealthy. But instead of speaking her mind, she simply said, “May I see the pictures?”
The aged mother proudly brought them out of a drawer. To her visitor’s amazement, they were not pictures at all. They were valuable banknotes from America amounting to thousands of dollars. For decades, the Scottish mother had been needlessly living in poverty. The problem? She did not know the value of those “interesting pictures.” She owned the banknotes, but she did not possess them.
In West Texas is a famous oil field known as the Yates Pool. During the Depression, this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates was not able to make enough money on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, had to live on government subsidy.
Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would be able to pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told Mr. Yates that there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, thirty years after the discovery, a government test on one of the wells showed that it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day.
And Mr. Yates owned it all! The day he purchased the land he received the oil and mineral rights. Yet he was living on relief — a multi-millionaire living in poverty! The problem? He did not know the oil was there. He owned it, but he did not possess it.
I do not know of better illustrations of the Christian life than these. The moment you become children of God through faith in Christ, you become an heir of God, and all of His resources are made available to you. Everything you need — including wisdom, love, power — to be a man or woman of God and to be fruitful witnesses for Christ is available to you.
But most Christians continue to live in self-imposed spiritual poverty because they do not know how to appropriate from God those spiritual resources which are already theirs. Like the old Scottish mother before she knew the “interesting pictures” were valuable banknotes and like Mr. Yates and his ocean of oil, they live in ignorance of their vast riches.
© 1999 Bill Bright, © 2009 Bright Media Foundation and Campus Crusade for Christ International. All rights reserved. Adapted from Bill Bright, “How You Can Be Filled With The Holy Spirit,” Transferable Concept 3 (Peachtree City, GA; Cru).
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