It is interesting what Christians fight over—what it is that divides God’s people into different groups and denominations. I can’t imagine that Jesus intended his followers be divided over anything, but here we are 2,000 years later with approximately 41,000 Christian denominations, according to Wikipedia.
One of the areas of dispute is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Some groups believe that the presence of Christ’s Spirit—known as the Holy Spirit—comes into an individual at the time of conversion. Others believe it comes with an experience known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, with many other opinions landing somewhere in between. There is also a great deal of controversy on how much of this Spirit is granted to the believer.
Personally, I believe the real argument is not if He comes, how He comes, or when He comes. The scripture is clear on the issue that He does come! The real argument is more clearly found in our capacity to recognize His presence and the ability to draw upon that source of power once He is within us.
The fact is that if we are full of the world, we have little capacity for the presence of God. If we are consumed and controlled by “self” (the fleshly nature we inherited from the fall), we have little ability to access the Spirit within. Therefore, our faith is small, our strength is small, and our results will be small.
If that describes us, we will not know the power of His Spirit even though He dwells inside us. We will not be able to utilize this power when we need it, but will be overpowered by our fleshly nature. This applies to even those who have a great experience when being filled with the Spirit. It’s what we do with the Indwelling Christ that matters.
Jesus clearly said, “To Him that overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life.”1 Ever wonder what He meant by this? Overcome what? Could it be those who overcome their “self” –Satan’s representative in every human being? Those who deny their “self”? Those who crucify their “self” and put “self” to death? Those who overcome the power of “self” and allow Christ to reign in their lives? Could that be the overcomers Jesus is talking about? If so, then am I an overcomer?
I fully believe that it is this “self” we must overcome—and not the devil, his works, or even the world. Jesus did that!2 We have one thing to overcome in our individual lives and that is the “self” that sits on the throne of our hearts and rules what we do, what we say, how we act and react, how we spend our time, what we love, and what appeals to us. But Christ will not unseat my “self”—I must do it!
It is time the truth about “self” be revealed to our own hearts. We yield to its persuasion over us; we act as if it has some right to exert its ugly behavior as some honorable entity that doesn’t have to please God or adhere to His commands. After all, it’s “me” and I can’t help being “me!” Did I mention that “self” comes directly from the “father of lies?”3
We have been lied to long enough. Unless we face this truth, we will be deceived about who “self” is. Self is our enemy. Self is God’s enemy. We must not protect our self, not if we want to eat of the tree of life.
This might be a good time for a “self” test. Do my actions, words, thoughts, behaviors, desires, and loves line up with that taught and modeled by Jesus, or am I mostly doing my own thing? I can explain it away all I want, rationalize all I must, justify myself, my rights over and over, but when I stand before the Lord will my arguments hold up?
I do not want to wait until that day to figure out that I might be of the world and not really a follower of Christ at all. Like it or not, I best get on with doing what Jesus said to do: deny my “self.”4
Whatever you do, don’t forget this all-important fact: He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell inside me to help me do that very thing. Come on, Jesus Followers, let’s figure out this mystery of the gospel—Christ in me, the hope of glory.5 ~ Janie Kellogg
1Revelation 2:7; 2John 16:33; 3John 8:44; 4Matthew 16:24; 5Colossians 1:27