The Higher Law of the Spirit
“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Most of us are very familiar with the force of gravity or gravitation in our everyday life. Gravity is what keeps us stable as we walk, run, or make any other bodily motions. Gravity orients us as to where “up” is and where “down” is. Without gravity acting upon us, we would be like the astronauts in their spaceship that orbits around the earth’s stratosphere, where there is “zero gravity.” You’ve probably seen videos or movies of astronauts floating or walking so lightly and clumsily inside their spaceship.
If we’re sensible, as I assume most people are, we would respect the law of gravity as a real force. Thus we don’t horse around while we are standing on a window ledge on the 20th floor of a building — unless we are thinking of suicide, as some have thought and done.
Several years ago I heard a story about a man who joined a trek on a mountain 5,000-feet above sea level. Along the way the trekkers had to negotiate a narrow path on a mountain ridge where a cliff was on the right side and another on the left. The man became so terrified at that point that he turned pale, crawling on all four instead of walking upright, deathly afraid he might roll down either cliff. He had much “respect” for gravity!
In the news years ago also, a young man lost his life because a “friend” had no respect for gravity and the value of human life and pushed him to his death into a dirty estero or canal.
A “downward pull”
The late pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, compared our human carnal nature to a “downward pull” — much like the pull of gravity (or gravitational force) upon objects on this our planet. I believe we can learn some vital spiritual lessons from the fact that there is a higher law — the law of aerodynamics that enables us to overcome the law of gravity — lessons that can help us in our struggle against the downward pull of our flesh. I hope that this article will help and encourage us in our spiritual calling as “overcomers.”
We very well know that an object that we throw comes down because the force of gravity pulls it to the ground or some floor. In the same manner, there is a “law” — like the law of gravity — which exerts a pull on us human beings to sin or break the law of God.
The apostle Paul called this “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2) which is in our human bodily “members” — our “flesh.” Paul describes our dilemma this way: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me [KJV, ‘my members’]” (Romans 7:18-20).
Like some law of gravity, our human flesh makes it impossible for us to ever do good and keep away from evil. Despite the fact that our carnal mind (Paul calls it “the law of my mind” or the “inward man”) delights in the law of God and wills to do good and wills not to do evil (Romans 7:22-23), it is just powerless to fulfill this. [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]
Paul concluded: “For to be carnally minded is death….because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Romans 8:6-7).
How, then, can we wretched human beings be freed from sin — or from the law of sin and death in our bodily members? Paul expressed powerfully, for each of us, what our human dilemma is, and its solution: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25)!
As the first of God’s feasts portrays, Jesus’ death (and resurrection!) has paid the penalty for sin — death — that we sinners deserve. [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 1 and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.] This is what Passover is about. We cannot ever earn our pardon — our being justified or made righteous and just — by anything we do. Only the “finished work” of Jesus on the cross and in the empty tomb can justify us [see: Freed From Bondage]. We cannot add to this work by anything we might do or pay or say. Our justification is a free gift given us on our faith and repentance made possible through God’s calling and God’s Spirit.
Once justified through Christ, however, we need to overcome sin in our lives. As pictured by God’s Feast of Unleavened Bread, we need to put away sin like some kind of leaven in our lives (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). Sin — or the law of sin and death in our members — is a formidable force, much like the great and high walls of Jericho which, in the eyes of the Israelites, reached up to heaven. A seemingly impossible challenge to surmount!
But just as God made sure the Israelites had the Ark of the Covenant — where His presence was — and thus He was with them in their seven-day march around the walls of Jericho, so our only hope to ever overcome the law of sin and death in our members is to have God’s presence with us, and in us! That is the only way by which we can topple our “walls of Jericho” — the sin in our members. [See: Breaking Down Our “Walls of Jericho.”]
Decades ago the great U.S. Army general, the late Douglas MacArthur, made a remarkable comment about our human dilemma in the face of insolvable wars among nations. He said that what humans need is a “spiritual recrudescence” if we are to stop wars.
The rather big word “recrudescence” simply means “becoming raw again” — in other words, becoming fresh again or “refreshed.” In computer language, a “refresh” button (which shows two inverse arrows like the recycle sign) is clicked on if the user encounters a glitch. The refresh button enables the user to go back to his previous operation, in the hope that the glitch will right itself up.
The apostle Peter told his Jewish audience: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
General MacArthur termed the remedy to the human condition as a “theological” one. He explained: “It must be of the Spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
The higher law of the Spirit
God’s Feast of Pentecost, in 31 A.D., was the day in which Jesus, as He had promised, imbued or endued His disciples with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This was ten days after Jesus had bodily ascended to heaven in the sight of His disciples on Mount Olivet. On that Day of Pentecost God poured out His Holy Spirit on the disciples in Jerusalem. We read about that in Acts 2.
Before this power was given, the disciples had been with the resurrected Christ for 40 days before His ascension, being taught by Him more about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). When the disciples eventually received the power of the Holy Spirit, they were able to become as Jesus told them — “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end [or ends, KJV] of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
God’s Spirit which they received gave them power to do the work God called them to do. Before then, they were powerless and hid themselves “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). But now they had courage and boldness to face the Jews and other people. They had power to obey — and to teach others — “all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). [See: A Great Omission in Doing the ” Great Commission.”]
Paul put it this way: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). He added: “…by the Spirit you put to death the [sinful] deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).
It is that Spirit promised long ago by God, in Ezekiel 36:26-27 — “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
Thus, with God’s Spirit placed on the people of God, there goes on a “battle of the minds” — the carnal mind and the spiritual mind. As Galatians 5:16-17 puts it: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things [the sinful things, that is] that you wish.”
Lessons from the law of aerodynamics
Like the struggle between the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, there is also a struggle between the law of gravity and the higher law of aerodynamics. We can glean some pretty good and powerful lessons from the law of aerodynamics that we can apply in combating the pull of our human flesh — the law of sin and death.
There are several aspects of aerodynamics that enable birds, bats, other flying creatures and airplanes to overcome the pull of gravity and to thus fly in the air — and remain there for some time.
1. Streamlined and light body.
Before people invented airplanes or “flying machines,” as these were called earlier, they pondered what kind of body birds have that enable them to fly. Have you noticed why birds are shaped they way they are? They have a beak that is pointed at the tip and expands like a cone into the “face,” and a posterior that is tapered. They also have sleek feathers. For what purpose? To minimize the effect of “drag” as a bird flies in the air — or as fish (which also has a streamlined body) swims in the water. This drag effect slows down the forward movement of the bird or the fish because there is more force in the air [or the water] to overcome or resist when the body is not streamlined.
With this knowledge, airplane builders make the plane body also streamlined as are the bodies or birds — or fish, for that matter. [The same principle goes with building ships or boats.] This way airplanes can achieve greater speed in flight and greater economy in fuel use.
Besides a streamlined body, there is also the matter of the weight of the bird’s body. God has designed the bird’s bones to be porous — that is, a good portion of the bones have “bubbles,” if you please, that reduce the weight of the bones that would otherwise be heavier if they were solid like the bones of cows and other land animals, as well as human beings.
In a similar manner, airplanes and other aircraft are made of light but strong materials like aluminum, fiberglass, and the like. This way they are able to fly and even carry people, luggage and cargo according to the aircraft’s design.
How does this relate to our spiritual lives?
a. Spiritual streamlining.
The essence of spiritual streamlining is to knock out shapes in our lives that tend to be a “drag” in our spiritual “flight” — our struggle to overcome sin, which is like the downward pull of gravity. Following the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s maxim, Herbert W. Armstrong exhorted members of the Worldwide Church of God to “Simplify, simplify, simplify!” How do we do that? By simply setting our priorities straight. In Matthew 6:25-27, 31-34 Jesus commands: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
Needless worry is a great drag in our lives. In fact worry makes life complicated! Look at all the anxious hours, the sleepless nights fretting over what might happen or could be. Studies show that about 90% of what people worry about never happen! What a waste of time and night sweat! What joys and pleasures missed! Now, this is not to say that we should never worry at all or have any concern for some peril or danger in life. It’s a matter of focusing rather on the more important aspects of life.
Notice the next verses (26-27): “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns [what most people are occupied with — the chores of daily living in order to survive]; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” [See: Of Birds and Men.]
Jesus continued in Verses 31-34: “Therefore do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
b. Traveling light.
Besides worry, other things can weigh heavily on our minds and pull us down. Notice Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [this is referring to the men and women of faith who have now become a part of the “general assembly” — not of elders — but of “the firstborn who are registered in heaven,” Verse 23 — they form a kind of “cloud” to serve as a “witness” and encouragement to God’s people who are still alive]…let us lay aside every weight…”
When we are burdened and weighed down by all kinds of concerns, it is reassuring to realize that we are not alone. There are many who have gone before us and whose spirits are now safely kept, awaiting the resurrection at Christ’s return. [See: What Happens to Man After Death?] By looking at how God intervened in the lives of these saints through their faith, we find it easier to lay aside every weight that often burdens us.
What are some of the “weights” that we need to lay aside in our lives?
- Cares of this world.
We should always remember Christ’s “Parable of the Sower” and the seeds that fell on different kinds of soil (Matthew 13). You have probably heard sermons or read articles about this parable. Jesus explained the meaning of the seed that was sown among thorns as God’s Word received by one who allows the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” to choke the Word so that the person fails to bear spiritual fruit (Verse 22). The “cares of this world” could include a number of things that occupy or obsess the mind and heart: wealth or “fortune” — the “toys” (goods) people accumulate to entertain themselves and make them feel important or “successful.” Some strive for fame at any cost.
It is not God’s intent that we become poor or destitute in life. Again, it’s a matter or priorities — how we balance our life and activities. We should periodically check ourselves to see whether we are spending most or all of our time on the pursuit of our daily creature needs — food, clothing, shelter, and a bit of luxury — to the exclusion of, or skimping on, our personal time with God through prayer and the study of His Word and meditating on it, as well as our time to worship and fellowship with God’s people during His Sabbaths and feast days.
When we put our treasure on earth instead of in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21) — or in God’s kingdom — we are burdening ourselves with earthly goods that could make us vulnerable to the pulls of our flesh and of this world. This could hinder us from “taking off” easily — from becoming overcomers.
- Guilt and shame.
Despite the fact that God has already forgiven us of our sin through the precious blood and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, some people still feel guilty about their past sins. They say, “I can’t forgive myself.” They might be thinking that it makes them look humble and meek. Early in my spiritual journey in the Church of God, I had felt that way. It took the regional director of the Worldwide Church of God in the Philippines, Arthur W. Docken, to drive sense into me. He said: “You must be greater than God, because God can forgive you, but you cannot forgive yourself!” Oh, how I felt much lighter after that!
When God forgives our sins, He erases it completely from our “debit” column in His “book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16). [See: God’s “Book of Remembrance” and Does God Have Amnesia?] Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Let’s not allow our past sins that have been forgiven by God to weigh us down. Let’s not allow Satan, the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:9-10), to let those forgiven sins haunt us with needless guilt. Rather, let’s totally accept God’s forgiveness with thanksgiving and joy — and humility. It will lighten our life’s load if we do!
- Skeletons in our closet.
Past and on-going sins that we have not confronted and have not asked God’s forgiveness for them can weigh us down. As the latter part of Hebrews 12:1 says, we are to lay aside also “the sin which so easily ensnares us.” We can be caught in a trap — even a vicious cycle — of sins that we fail to face and confess before God. It is ingrained in our human nature to sweep our sins, as it were, under the rug instead of “fessing” up to them. We got it from our first parents, Adam and Eve, who blamed others but themselves for their failure. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”! and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]
Israel’s King David, a man after God’s own heart, was a man who admitted that his sins were more numerous than the hairs on his head (Psalm 40:12). How was he able to cope with this burden? In an earlier psalm (Psalm 32:1-4) David contemplated the blessedness of being forgiven: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit [being honest to God and to oneself]. When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heaven upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.”
When David just ignored his sins, it took a toll on his peace of mind and his health. He said his “bones grew old.” Those who have studied human anatomy and physiology understand that our blood cells are being produced in our bones. And when something goes wrong with the process, as when stress strikes — such as through shame, grief, or envy — there are less blood cells going around the body, and the person feels “dried up,” weak and anemic (see Proverbs 12:4; 14:30; Psalm 31:10; and 38:3).
David continued in his contemplation: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).
The gospel or “good news” of God’s grace and mercy is that, in Christ, God has forgiven our sins. All we need to do is to humbly and sincerely confess our sins to God — our transgressions of His holy law. 1 John 1:9 assures us: “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
David ended his psalm with this triumphant note: “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked [those who do not confess their sins and repent of them]; but he who trusts in the LORD [who confesses his sins and asks for God’s forgiveness], mercy shall surround him [he shall be forgiven]. [Therefore, be] glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” Once forgiven of our sins, we become righteous and upright through Christ!
Result? We find “rest” to our souls from the heavy burden of sin that we bore. In its place, Jesus gives us His yoke and burden which are easy and light (Matthew 11:30)! Instead of sorrow, we have joy! Interesting, how good news affects our bones, and with it our health. Notice Proverbs 15:30 — “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.” With God’s grace and mercy our lives become truly “streamlined” and we would be unencumbered with unnecessary load so that we can rise above our mere humanity.
2. Attitude and lift.
We speak of a person having an “attitude” by the “body language” he shows. By his attitude we know where the person is going — what his behavior will be. An author has combined this connection in a word he coined: “behavitude.” More often than not, our behavior is shaped by our attitude.
What is the “attitude” of an airplane?
The “attitude” of an aircraft is it orientation — its bodily position in relation to the earth’s surface (or gravity, if you please) — and up in space. How the airplane is positioned (specifically its nose and wings) determines where it is going. Have you wondered why, at rest or before taking off on the runway, the plane is positioned with its body and wings at a certain tilt, or at a specified angle?
As the aircraft moves along the runway, the lower surface of the wings deflects the air and causes a force (“aerodynamic”) to lift the aircraft and hold it up in the air. The “lift” is helped by the “camber” or curvature of the wings or airfoils — much like the wings of birds have the sort of concave hollow under their outspread wings. It is this lift that enables the aircraft to overcome the pull of gravity on the plane and make it fly.
While the aircraft is up in the air, there is also another matter that affects the speed and the height or altitude of the aircraft. This is called the “angle of attack.” By maneuvering the slats (hinged sections near the front tip of the wings) and the flaps (hinged sections at the back of the wings) of the aircraft, the pilot can cause the plane to be at a certain angle in relation to the current of the air. This angle determines the “attitude” of the aircraft, and it can bring the aircraft up or down, or keep it steady.
How does this relate to our spiritual lives?
a. The attitude God is looking for.
Before we can ever hope to be regarded by God, there is one basic and fundamental attitude that He looks for in us. And that is the attitude of humility. Isaiah 66:1-2 has God telling us: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build for Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all these things My hand has made, and all those things exist…But on this one I will look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My word.”
The word “poor” is translated from the Hebrew ani, which (according to Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible) means “poor, oppressed.” In other passages of the Old Testament the word ani is translated as “afflicted” and “lowly.” It is the attitude of one who realizes that he has been “oppressed” — by our sinful human nature and especially by the devil. [The apostle Peter, in Acts 10:38, describes the work of Christ as one in which He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil…”]. It is the attitude of one who has sunk to the bottom — so low, so helpless, that he can only look nowhere but up!
Micah 6:8 also revealed humility as one of the basic things God requires of us: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” The word “humbly” is rendered from the Hebrew word tsana. Notice how the “-ana” in that word is obviously related to the word ani as explained earlier.
Like the up-tilted attitude of the airplane’s wings, the attitude of a humble person is one that looks up to God and pins on Him his trust and hope for salvation. In contrast, a person who is not humble does not look to God nor acknowledge his need for Him. That person instead trusts in his own power, wealth, beauty, intelligence and other abilities, and his own way. That proud person may even say, “Who is God?” and deny God’s existence.
But, as Peter (in 1 Peter 5:5) quotes Proverbs 3:34, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Then in Verses 6 and 7 Peter exhorts: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you [lift you up!] in due time, casting all your care upon Him [trusting in God for all our needs instead of relying on material things], for He cares for you.”
In the same manner that the airplane’s attitude depends on the pilot’s maneuvering the joystick or whatever other controls the plane has, so also we can control and direct our attitude. And we can always ask God to help us have the proper attitudes.
b. Up, up and away!
With our attitude of humble trust and faith in God, He enables us to surmount our human weaknesses. He will help us soar like the eagle. Isaiah 40:25-26 promises: “‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.” Continuing on Verses 29-31: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on [trust in] the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles…“
An airplane may have the proper streamlined and light body, the proper tilt and camber of its wings and all the other components — the flaps and the wheels and propeller (as in the case with light planes) — and the right attitude. But without power the airplane cannot fly. This is that power that comes from the airplane’s engine or motor. [“Motor” comes from the Latin root for our word “motion” and “motility” — the action or capability to move.]
The airplane’s engine gets the aircraft to move on the runway. As the airplane gathers speed while the propeller (or jet, as the case may be) turns or churns, thus reducing the air pressure before the aircraft and leaving a higher pressure behind it, it receives a “thrust” which, combined with the action of the air stream stirred by the propeller or jet and the air pressure on the up-tilted wings, lifts the aircraft and gets it flying.
In our case as humans, what is our “motor?” As a pilot is in command or his aircraft (especially the plane’s engine) so each person is in command of his or her being — body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23) — one’s “motor,” what makes one move.
Interestingly, in Acts 17:28 the apostle Paul put it this way to his Gentile audience in Athens: “…for in Him [God] we live and move and have our being.” God has given each of us our lives — our existence — to start with. Except for Adam and Eve, we all started out as helpless babies. After we come of age, we next have to “make our move.” We have to live our lives in a certain way. Then we will have our “being” — we either become true children of God or remain as children of the devil. [See: Are We All God’s Children?]
Many who call themselves Christians think that a Christian needs only to have faith in God. That one doesn’t need to make any moves — do any works. They say, a Christian needs simply to “give his heart to the Lord,” and the Lord will make all the moves for the Christian; that a Christian doesn’t need to lift a finger, or else he is adding to the “finished work” of Christ. However, this fails to take the whole counsel of God’s Word, as the apostle Paul set the example (Acts 20:27). [See: Being and Doing, God’s Spirit and Obedience, Saved for Good Works and The Whole Counsel of God.]
In the final judgment, it is “those who have done good” who will hear Jesus’ voice and will “come forth…to the resurrection of [everlasting] life” (John 5:28-29). Revelation 22:14 says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, [so] that they may have the right to the tree of life [may live forever], and may enter through the gates of the city [the Holy City, the New Jerusalem].”
Interesting what Jesus said about the people who enter God’s kingdom: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). This ties in with what Jesus said earlier about those who find everlasting life: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Because the gate to God’s kingdom is narrow, one has to thrust oneself in order to get in!
The role of the Holy Spirit
So, where does the Spirit of God and of Christ come in here? As we have seen in the three main components in flying an aircraft, much of these depends on man’s work or devising. Man manufactures the aircraft so it operates well, and the trained pilot sits at the cockpit and revs up the engine in readiness for flight. But without air a plane would be a mere plane — not an airplane!
Without the pressure of air in our atmosphere — as otherwise in a vacuum — it would be difficult if not impossible for an aircraft to fly!
So it is with our Christian lives. Jesus compared God’s Spirit to “wind” (John 3:8; Acts 2:2 pictures the coming of God’s Spirit to Jesus’ disciples as “a rushing mighty wind”). “Spirit” in Greek is pneuma, from which we derive the word “pneumatic” — pertaining to air or wind.
Without God’s Spirit in us helping us to make our moves, we would be “earth-bound” — imprisoned and enslaved in our sins. We would be stuck with a “carnal mind” which, as Paul describes it in Romans 8:7, is “enmity against God….not subject to the law or God, nor indeed can be.” Without God’s Spirit we cannot overcome the downward pull of our sinful flesh. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
The Spirit that God has given to His elect, as Paul wrote to his student Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7), is not “…a spirit of fear [timidity or cowardice], but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Paul also said, in Galatians 5:23, that one of the aspects of the “fruit of the Spirit” is “self-control.” This is not self-control in the sense of the ascetics and the mystics, but a self-control that is borne out of one’s connection with God through Christ and His Spirit. “In Him [not outside of or apart from Him], we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Stirring up the Spirit
For those who already have God’s Spirit, Paul admonishes us as he admonished Timothy: “…stir up the gift of God [God’s Spirit] which is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:5). And one great way to do that is to actively engage oneself with God’s Word. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). When we understand God’s Word rightly, we will see that Jesus’ words are not merely those in the New Testament but in the entire Holy Bible — including the Old Testament! [See: The True Christ and The Law of Christ.]
When we humbly allow God’s Word to convict us personally of our sins and lead us to true repentance and growth in Christ-likeness, we — as it were — stir up the Spirit of God in such a way that we are enabled to rise above our mere humanity. We would be able to overcome the downward pull of our human nature. God’s Spirit would give us the “lift” much like the stirred-up (deflected) air lifts up an airplane.
As we do, we will soar above our human nature to where the “eagles” are — where the spirits of just men (and women) “made perfect” who have gone before us are kept — to “Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22, 23). This is not talking about literally going to heaven bodily, but having an attitude that is heavenly, not earthly. [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]
For those who may not have God’s Spirit yet, take encouragement from Jesus’ words: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Just be sure that you ask in the right spirit and attitude. “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks [Jesus Christ]. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who [now] speaks from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).
Since the beginning of human civilization up to today, God has spoken to mankind through those whom He has especially called and sent as His messengers — chief of whom is Jesus Christ Himself. [See: About Pool of Siloam.] In the midst of a plethora of false prophets, you need to make sure you are hearing — and heeding — only those whom God has truly sent! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.]
It is through the Word of Christ — and His Word as His faithful servants have preached it — that we are able to avail ourselves of God’s Spirit (John 6:63). And that Spirit, rightly used in our lives, will lift us from our carnal, earthly humanity into a truly spiritual and holy life in Christ that will ensure our “happy landing” in God’s glorious, heavenly kingdom.
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.