The Spirit-led Man

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 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ ”(Luke 3:21-22)

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” (Luke 4:1)

“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” (Luke 4:14-15)

Is the Holy Spirit an Optional Extra?

Sometimes people speak about living their life in the power of the Spirit as if it were an optional extra. Take it or leave it.

It’s as if they think that some fly Business Class whilst most fly Coach, but we all get to the same destination.

Well, whereas it is certainly true that there are those further on than us – more committed, more prayerful, more obedient- it is not true that you can manage without the Holy Spirit.

Because Jesus didn’t.

Paul even said “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9). If you are a follower of Christ, then you are marked by the “Spirit of Christ.” You live the way that He did, with the same attitudes, aspirations and intentionality that He had. And you operate from the same power-source.

This is what is indicated by the verses quoted above. Luke carefully notes the “differentness” of Jesus (“You are my Son”) whilst at the same time underlining his “sameness” to us. We too need to be baptised, commissioned, empowered, filled and led by the Holy Spirit.

No, it’s not an Optional Extra. It’s our normal operating mode. It’s the Jesus-way. It’s the human way.

And just to make sure that we notice that, Luke inserts a long genealogy (at the end of chapter 3). It’s different to Matthew’s in that it goes back -way back – to Adam. Matthew wanted to connect Jesus to David and Abraham and thus to underline His Jewishness and his royalty. Luke wants to underline His humanity and His universality.

And then Luke takes it one step further: that Adam was “the son of God.” And we realise that not only are we connected to Jesus by reason of our humanity, but we are also connected by reason of our divine origins.

No matter how disfigured and marred it is, we have upon us the image of God.

Is living in the Spirit “easy”?

Another misconception that some people have about living their lives under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit is that it’s all easy and automatic. As if you just switch on the power and do The Stuff.

These verses teach otherwise. They remind us that the first thing that the Holy Spirit did with the newly baptised Jesus was to send Him into war!

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” (Luke 4:1)

The story of the Temptations of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13) is important. Remember that we only know about it, obviously, because Jesus spoke of it to His disciples. And-equally obviously- He spoke of it to teach His followers how to deal with temptations themselves (“Lord, teach us to pray…. Pray… Lead us not into temptation…”). Here’s the passage:

 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’  Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone.”’

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.   If you worship me, it will all be yours.’

 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’

 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here.   For it is written: ‘“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

 Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’  When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

How do I face temptations?

The passage in Luke 4 is quite stylized and carefully worded to teach about the nature of temptation itself. We can be tempted in body (with physical desires like hunger), soul (with personal desires like ambition for power and prestige) and spirit (with spiritual desires that mistake God’s calling on our lives). And Jesus pioneers the route for us, showing us how it’s done. The first Adam failed in his time of temptation. The second Adam wins through!

And His strategy is straightforward. We are called to operate 1) In the power of the Spirit; and 2) in the Word of God. Ezekiel had prophesied: I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” God fills us with His Spirit to enable our obedience. We simply can’t manage without the Spirit’s empowering!

But how do we know the way to turn? Sometimes our choices are in grey zones where we are confused and uncertain. Some of what the Devil said had a kind of reasonableness about it, after all! Jesus was hungry; He was called to authority and power; and He was the Messiah…

But Jesus countered doubt and confusion with the word of God. And every insidious suggestion to shortcut what God was doing was met and countered from a heart and mind thoroughly prepared and filled with the Word of God.

Lord, teach me to be “Always be ready to give an answer…” Help me to spend plenty of time reflecting on the Word of God until it becomes part of the way I deal with the stuff that comes at me in my life. And Lord, fill me -keep filling me! -with the Holy Spirit, so I am empowered to be obedient. Lead me not into temptation – I’d rather just stay clear altogether, Lord! – but when the fight is on, deliver me from the evil one.

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