Baby Steps on Steroids
Jesus’ ministry on earth began with the thundering approval and confirmation of his Father’s voice, “This is my son whom I love, you bring me great joy!” And as it began for Jesus, so it begins for us. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Christ (the gospel) we too now live with our Father’s approval and a new identity.
But the good news doesn’t end there. We are not made new creations, given a new identity, and then shoved out the door and told to go and live this out under our own strength, power, and wisdom. God does not expect us to all of a sudden become perfect, super-Christians—always wise, always gentle, and loving miraculously overnight.
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The Bible compares this new life to taking a walk, one step at a time, each new area of trust in God connected to the next, as God himself matures us on a journey in the footsteps of Jesus. As we believe more and more deeply what is now true of us in Christ, we experience that we have been made new, inside and out. It’s God’s work, not ours’!
“It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us,and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.”[i]
We are not filled with an emotional feeling, a hunch, or more zing. We are filled with a person.
Click to Tweet: “We are not filled with an emotional feeling, a hunch, or more zing. We are filled with a person.” @caesarkal
For most of my early life as a Christian, I never picked up that Jesus’ earthly ministry was guided completely by the Holy Spirit. I had always thought, “Well, Jesus is both God and man, so he knows what’s up and just does everything perfectly, naturally.”
Well, sort of.
It’s true that Jesus is both God and man, and that he lived his life without ever sinning. But as a human, like you and me, he fully submitted to and was guided by the Spirit. His life is a picture of the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in man.
Jesus was born by the work of the Spirit;
Jesus was led by the Spirit to suffer temptation and come out spotless;
Jesus was empowered by the Spirit to do the ministry he did;
Jesus was full of wisdom and knowledge by the Holy Spirit;
Jesus spoke only the words given him by the Spirit;
Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit.[ii]
Wouldn’t it be great if we had this same Spirit living inside of us, guiding, empowering, and giving us words to say (or not say)?
Oh, wait! We do.
“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”[iii]
The same power that guided Jesus’ life and raised him from the dead now lives in us.
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That’s pretty powerful!
So I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if the Spirit was powerful enough to raise Jesus, and that the very same Spirit now lives in and empowers us, we will have enough strength to overcome our old bad temper, a hard day at work, disobedient kids, an argument with our spouse, hurts and shattered dreams, lack of love for the lost, and on and on.
See what I mean?
The Power’s On
Last year, during a particularly busy time in my life, when I was feeling increasingly exhausted, I started to pray, asking the Spirit for strength to get through the day. Usually, around 7 or 8 pm, when faced with one more meeting, phone call, or invitation to hang out in community, my personal desire was to curl up on the couch and just vegetate in front of the television before going to bed.
But I noticed that if I prayed to the Spirit for strength, and a good attitude to go along with it, he was always faithful to give me what I needed to finish the day and that “one last thing” I needed to do.
Click to Tweet: “To try and muster up this new life is not our job; it is the work of the Holy Spirit.” @caesarkal
Then it dawned on me. Duh! Why do I wait until the end of my day, the end of my strength—the end of my rope—to ask the Spirit for strength? Why not do that in the mornings, first thing when I wake up?
So I started asking, and guess what happened? My day started in his strength and grace, and continued on this way. Not perfectly, because sometimes I would forget to ask and receive. But things began to change because of this. God began to cultivate in me a moment-by-moment dependency on the Spirit that continues to grow today. It turns out that the old way of trying to live my life—doing many “good things” in my own strength—was actually sinful.
In the Bible, the Israelites had seen God’s strength, power and provision over and over again, but returned to worshipping false idols (anything that we trust in that is not God). Even “good things” like giving money to the poor or serving widows and acts of worship were done in their own strength and faith in their abilities.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”[iv]
The filthy rags mentioned in this verse are the Bible’s way of referencing menstrual cloths. Today we call them tampons. What the prophet Isaiah was reminding them, and us, is that even our ministry, worship, and hard work—when it is not dependent on faith in God and his strength—is really just a big stack of used tampons piled up before him.
None of us want that!
To try and muster up this new life is not our job; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. We can no more affectively live out our new identity than we can save our self from sin and death.
God saved us. God transformed us. God empowers our lives for his mission.
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*This article is an excerpt from Caesar’s new book titled, Transformed: A New Way of Being Christian. CLICK HERE to get it.
What if Christianity were less about doing and more about being? In Transformed, author Caesar Kalinowski shows you that when you became a Christian everything about you changed in an instant. You received a new identity based on who Jesus is, not on who you were. As a believer, you literally become part of God’s family of missionary servants. This is who you are—not what you do.
Drawing on stories from Caesar’s own journey and life in community, Transformed looks realistically at the identity you have been given in Christ and how it reshapes everything about you. Set free from performance-driven spirituality and guilt, you will draw closer to God, allowing him to radically change the well-worn rhythms and patterns of your every day life and transform your relationships from the inside out. Transformed is for those who yearn for a deeper, more authentic faith, one that empowers you to live out of the truth of who God now says you are.