“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 NASB
Luke described two ways that the Holy Spirit would change Mary’s life. First, the angel told her that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” She would experience the presence of the Spirit in new ways.
Second, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The Greek word here literally means to throw a shadow. To be enveloped as by a cloud. This was the same word that Luke used when describing the experience Jesus had during the transfiguration, when “a cloud formed and began to overshadow them.”
These examples help us see how the Spirit envelopes our lives, overtaking us in ways so overwhelming that we are capable of doing extraordinary things. These changes can take place at any time, in any place. As happened to Mary, we suddenly can be overwhelmed by His presence. Caught up into a spiritual dimension, empowered, changed.
The human mind can find it difficult to comprehend the dimension of the Spirit. But everything changes for those who understand the realm of the Spirit. Who realize that the Spirit operates in a different dimension. How He can change circumstances and enable “normal” people to do extraordinary things.
As a result of this kind of transformation, God’s Spirit can give us insights that are not our own. We can be inspired or supernaturally receive revelations about our own lives, or world conditions. At times like this, others may be tempted to think that we are special. But the fact is that we simply are vessels of His Spirit.
Ask God to help you be sensitive to the work of the Spirit in your life. Be ready for His transforming power anytime, day or night. And remember that through Him, there are no limits.
The Holy Spirit – A Heart Changer
Scripture Reading — Ezekiel 36:24-32
“I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” — Ezekiel 36:27
Hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, God’s prophet Ezekiel addressed the exiles of Israel with promises of change and improvement. The Lord would replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. The giving of God’s Spirit would move the people to live obediently, careful to do things God’s way. The gift of God’s Spirit would lead to repentance.
Four hundred years ago, church leaders gathered at the Synod of Dort to describe the Holy Spirit’s work in our conversion, from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ. Their words echo the passage we have read in Ezekiel today. “The regenerating Spirit,” they wrote, “… penetrates into the inmost being, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart … God activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.”
The Spirit of God helps people to discern and understand the truth of the good news of salvation. The closed, hardened heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh. And even though “in this life believers cannot fully understand the way this work occurs,” we can be assured that by God’s grace we do believe with our hearts and love our Savior.
Is God’s promise alive and well in your heart?
Living with a Christlike Heart
SEPTEMBER 30, 2019
“The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’” Acts 16:27-28 (NIV)
It was a rare retreat I really wanted to attend. Healthy meals and exercise, plus chapel services
sounded like a reset I needed. But there was a problem: It was five days long.
That would be five days my husband James would need to watch our three kids and work, while I was relaxing (and occasionally sweating) in retreat mode. It seemed a lot to ask, but I decided to ask anyway. James said he would; he made the sacrifice so I could go refuel at the retreat.
He chose to put me first and allow his calendar to be rearranged for my benefit.
In the Bible, we find many stories of men and women sacrificing for someone else’s good, like Paul and Silas and the radically sacrificial choice they made in Acts 16. Ministering in the city of Philippi, Paul commanded a spirit of divination to depart from a fortune-telling slave. This woman brought tremendous profit, so her outraged masters seized Paul and Silas and reported them to the authorities. Paul and Silas were hastily beaten without a hearing, lashed with many stripes, and thrown in the inner prison.
Yet in that stinky, filthy prison, with bruised and bloodied bodies, Paul and Silas sang praise to God at midnight. Praise! Acts 16:26 says suddenly there was a great earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison. The prison doors flung open and every prisoner’s chains came loose. Can you imagine such a dramatic scene?
Our key verse says, “The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’”
Under Roman law, any guard who allowed a prisoner to escape was liable for the same penalty the prisoner received. If the prisoners escaped, the guard would be executed. When the jailer saw every person in the prison free from their chains, he figured his best option was to take his own life.
As a prisoner, what would you have done?
I might have interpreted that whole “earthquake, prison-doors-open” miracle as my cue to escape. But Paul doesn’t think about his own safety. He thinks of the jailer, and he shouts, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
This Christlike attitude stuns the jailer, who goes from trying to take his own life one moment to finding eternal life through Jesus Christ the next.
The jailer immediately called for lights and rushed in, confirming none of the prisoners escaped. Then he fell trembling before Paul and Silas. Verse 30 says the jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul and Silas put the needs of the jailer ahead of their own. They didn’t run and escape to save their own skin; they stayed and shared the good news of Jesus Christ. God used them to bring salvation to the jailer and his whole household.
When we put other people ahead of ourselves, considering their needs, hopes and dreams, we become more like Christ. It might be as small as watching someone’s kids or as big as giving money sacrificially or forgiving a spouse. In this selfie-driven, social media culture, life can easily revolve around me, myself and I. But in God’s Kingdom, the focus is “What can I do for you?” That’s exactly what Paul demonstrated when he chose to save the jailer’s life in Philippi.
The Need for a Comforter
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v. 9).
– Joshua 1
When He commissioned Joshua to conquer the land of promise, God repeatedly told him not be afraid (Joshua 1). Joshua did not need to fear because God was going to be with him every step of the way. It is significant that the command most frequently found on the lips of Jesus Christ was “Fear not.” Men are prone to fear because they live under the shadow of death. Even more, because Christians are called to bear witness to their Lord, knowing that such witness will bring them the disfavor of men, there is reason to fear.
In our affluent society we have too many who will neither take a stand nor expose themselves to situations which cause one to be afraid. We do not often experience fear because we have insulated ourselves from the distresses of life by our prosperity. We are not afraid because we fail quite often to stand up for Christ, and thus don’t frequently encounter opposition. If we are going to see any kind of reformation and revival in our day, we need to become a people who understand reality, who know what fear is, and who have learned true courage in the face of that fear. The greatest gift Jesus sent to His church was the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, Jesus described the Spirit as “another Comforter.” Jesus Himself is our first Comforter, and the Spirit is another. If we are really involved in the battle, we know we need all the comfort and reassurance we can get. If we are truly involved in the work we shall know discouragement, and we shall need all the encouragement we can get.
What is comfort? In modern English, comfort means consolation. The idea would be that God comes to console us and bind up our wounds after the battle. While this is true enough, it is not the meaning of the Greek term found in John 14:16. Comfort is derived from the Latin cum and forte, meaning “with strength.” The Comforter comes not to console us after the battle, but with strength and power to fortify us before and in the midst of the battle.