NEW YEAR, NEW MERCIES (Day 7)
Every day you need it. You and I simply can’t live without it. What is it? The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know where I was when the memo went out. I’m not sure why I missed the discussion. I can’t explain why I had this miserable gap in my understanding of the gospel. I can’t tell you why this item was missing in my theological outline, but it was, and the fact that it was missing made my Christian life pretty miserable.
Here was my functional theology of my life as a child of God: I knew that by grace I had been granted God’s forgiveness and I knew that I had been graced with an all-inclusive pass into eternity, but I thought that between now and then, my job was to just gut it out. It was my responsibility to identify sin, to cut it out of my life, and to give myself to living in a much better, more biblical way. I tried this, trust me; I tried it and found it didn’t work. I messed up again and again. It seemed that I failed more times than I succeeded. I became more and more frustrated and discouraged. It felt as if I had been drafted into a game that I had no ability to play, by someone who kept perfect score. I can remember the moment in college when it all came to a head. It was six o’clock in the morning, as I was having the devotions that I really didn’t want to have, when I finally put my head down on my desk and cried, “I can’t do what you’re asking me to do!” Then I read the next chapter in my daily Bible reading, and by God’s grace it was Romans 8.
I read that chapter over and over, including these words: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (v. 13). They were like fireworks going off in my head. God knew that my need as a sinner was so great that it was not enough for Him to just forgive me; He had to come and live inside me or I would not be what I had been re-created to be or do what I had been reborn to do.
I need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit living inside me because sin kidnaps the desires of my heart, blinds my eyes, and weakens my knees. My problem is not just the guilt of sin; it’s the inability of sin as well. So God graces His children with the convicting, sight-giving, desire-producing, and strength-affording presence of the Spirit. It can’t be said any better than Paul says it at the end of his discussion of the gift of the Spirit: “He gives life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11, my paraphrase).