Do you have to be put together and perfectly knowledgeable before you can be used by God to minister to others?
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul continues to tell the Corinthians why he presses on in gospel ministry despite his groaning because of the sinful world pushing in on him. From a thoroughly gospel-centered perspective, he tells them that he continues on because of the hope that awaits after death. Referring to the body as a tent, he looks to his heavenly home where he expects to receive a building from God, a home free from the burdens and vulnerabilities of this world, a home where mortality is swallowed up by eternal life. His hopeful expectation is one reason he continues to press on.
As Christians, we should have the same hope, and it should cause us to press on in ministry just as it did Paul. But how can we be sure that we have a heavenly home awaiting us? There are several reasons. I’ll offer two and expand on the second more thoroughly.
- (1) We can be sure we have a heavenly home because the all-sovereign promising keeping God has “prepared us for this very thing” (2 Cor 5:5a). Having prepared us for it, we can be sure God will bring us to our heavenly home. God’s track record is flawless, and His ability to accomplish His purposes is unquestionable.
- (2) We can also be sure we have a heavenly home awaiting us because God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:5b).
The second idea – God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee – raises an interesting and important question, how do we know if we have the Spirit?
How do we know if we have the Spirit?
When you look through Scripture, you find several tests that can be administered to discover if you have the Spirit or not, and, therefore, assurance of eternal life.
(1) Do you believe God is your Father?
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Ro 8:15–16)
(2) Do you look forward to your redemption and the return of Christ?
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Ro 8:23)
(3) Do you accept, believe and understand the things of God, which are written in His Word?
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Co 2:12–14)
(4) Do you confess that Jesus is not only your Savior but also the Lord of your life?
“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12:3)
(5) Do you seek to live in unity with other Christians?
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:13)
(6) Do you fight against what the sinful nature wants?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Ga 5:16-21; 24)
(7) Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Ga 5:22-23; 25)
Your answers to the above questions will reveal whether you have the Spirit or not.
Question for Reflection
- Do you believe that you have the Spirit?
The Scriptures regarding the Holy Spirit are informed by leader questions over 2 Corinthians 5 in 2 Corinthians 1-7: True Discipleship by James Hughes
In my last post, I encouraged you to consistently feed on God’s Word. I know that can be difficult. Other things are always vying for our attention each and everyday. So how can we consistently feed on God’s Word?
How can we consistently feed on God’s Word?
(1) We should practice the spiritual disciplines
If you aren’t familiar, the term Spiritual disciplines, refers to our daily efforts to intake God’s Word and meet with Him in prayer. We can do that in a number of ways:
- Discussing with others
- Attending Bible studies
These are all ways for us to daily get into God’s Word and pray. The hard part is doing it daily. That is where the discipline part comes in because it takes effort and work to get into God’s Word on a daily basis. We know we need to practice the spiritual disciplines, we just don’t do it.
How can we get to a place where we are consistent in getting into the Word and praying?
Let me offer a few suggestions.
(1) Use a plan
You don’t build a house or start a business without a plan, nor should you practice the spiritual disciplines without a plan. We have to know where we are going and how we are going to get there, which is why a Scripture reading plan is crucial. Not only does it help provide direction, but it helps you track your progress, so that you know you are on target.
(2) Schedule a Meeting
Along with a reading plan, it is a good idea to plan when you are going to meet with God and put it on your calendar just like you would any other meeting. I find the appointments I schedule are the ones that usually happen.
(3) Pick a place
Along with scheduling a time, it’s probably a good idea to schedule a place to have your meeting. When thinking about the place, I encourage you to pick a place that you can sit, read, and pray without distraction or discomfort. For me, that’s usually the kitchen table if the kids aren’t up, my office or the back porch. Those are quiet, distraction free places that are comfortable.
(4) Change it up
Don’t use the same Bible reading method or plan year in and year out. Instead, change it up. Use a read through the Bible plan one year, camp in a book the next, or select a specific topic of study.
But don’t just change up your plan, try changing up the version you read as well. A different translation can help you discover things you may not have seen before. And that can help keep things fresh.
(5) Meet with a group
Studying together is a great way to get more out of your daily devotions. I am in a study group that meets every Friday morning — our Men’s Breakfast. It has been a blessing to me. As we have worked our way through several books of the Bible, I have discovered things about God’s Word that I would not have on my own.
And meeting with those guys every week also helps keeps me on track. I know I have to be prepared on Friday. Having that deadline helps me to be consistent.
So those are just a few ways you can practice the spiritual disciplines more regularly. Hopefully, one or several of those will help you to be more consistent in feeding on God’s Word.
Along with practicing the spiritual disciplines, if we want to constantly feed on God’s Word,
(2) We must set our hope on Christ
That is what kept the apostle Paul going, and that is what should keep us going. Look at what he says in verse 10,
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Ti 4:10)
Paul tells us to set our hope on God because he knows the ways of the world are completely bankrupt. Jesus is the One who gives us hope. He is the One who saves, sanctifies, and satisfies.
Knowing that Jesus is our only hope should drive us to want to know Him and to live according to His ways. The way we grow in our knowledge of Jesus, the way we come to know how He wants us to live, the way we are motivated to keep pressing on is by reading His Word. So our hope in Christ, then, should drive us to feed on God’s Word. As we feed on His Word, we should grow in godliness.
Knowing that, then, should drive us to intake God’s Word on a daily basis. I encourage you to make a commitment today to read, study, meditate on, memorize, and pray God’s Word. That’s the only way we are going to grow in godliness — in our devotion, respect, and desire for God — so let’s commit ourselves to feasting on the meat of God’s Word daily so we will be a people who are consistently growing.
Question for Reflection?
- What tactics do you use to make sure you are consistently feeding on God’s Word?
Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?