Devotion #47

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.

Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

On our own, we cannot be like Jesus in our marriages—not for any length of time, at least. On our own, we cannot love unconditionally or forgive completely. We cannot let go of the desires of our hearts, we cannot put the needs of our spouses before our own, we cannot let go of the anger or frustration, we cannot demonstrate true joy and peace—not really, not continually, not without the Spirit. We simply can’t will ourselves to change our sinful patterns or to choose the right response in our flesh. Sure, in those easy moments we can choose to do good or respond kindly, but when our hearts are squeezed, we will respond in our flesh. When surprised with difficult news, we will respond with fear or anger. When we’re tired at the end of a long day, we will be short with our spouses. When we’re feeling low or defeated, we’ll look to our vices to fill us—whether it’s shopping, alcohol, or the attention of someone outside our marriage. It is only through the work of the Spirit living in us that we are able to realize a sustained change in our behavior. When we yield to the Spirit, we see responses that are gentle and patient, that are kind and loving, that are forgiving and full of grace. 

So how do we fill ourselves with the Spirit? So many of us believe we need to work at it—that somehow if we are good enough, we will be filled with the Spirit. We think we can will ourselves to be better people—we see a list of the fruits of the Spirit, and we determine to do more of those things. We’re going to be more loving, more patient, more kind. We’re going to choose more gentle words and show more self-control. We look at the list of who we should be, and we decide to make some changes to our behavior. But then we fail. And suddenly we find ourselves back in the pit, kicking ourselves because we failed again. We grow frustrated because we continue to ask for forgiveness for the same sins over and over again. 

We can talk till we’re blue in the face, we can serve till we drop, we can try our absolute best, but until we let Jesus reign in us through His Spirit, we are going to end up exhausted trying to live in this broken world in our own power. I don’t know if that truth hits you in the same way it hit me, but I grew tired of feeling exhausted. It was that feeling that finally drove me to the point of truly listening and learning about the availability of His Spirit to me. While I am still learning how to let go, I have known strength when I should be exhausted, peace when I should feel chaotic, joy when my heart should be aching. I know what it means to be filled with the Spirit.  

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 ESV

You may wonder why scripture would make such a negative reference as drunkenness when speaking of the Holy Spirit, but I think it’s because it’s such a familiar analogy for many of us. Most people have experienced drunkenness or have seen the impact on other people, and understand how consuming it can be.

Similarly, being filled with the Spirit is being consumed by a power greater than our own. Even though the illustration or comparison to being drunk is negative, it is a powerful one that we all understand. When we’re filled with anger or jealousy, we can’t think of anything other than that emotion. When we’re filled with joy, like at the birth of a child, we cannot think of anything else because we’re so consumed with the emotion. This is what it means to be consumed or filled—the Spirit is to have all of me, as drunkenness would have all of me, or an emotion like anger or joy would have all of me. 

When we are consumed by one of these strong emotions, or by drunkenness, we can’t hide it. It’s evident to everyone around us. We’re so filled with rage, or joy, that it spills out of us onto the people around us. We can’t contain it—we want everyone around us to experience the emotion that we’re feeling. That’s the way we are to be consumed by the Spirit—so much so that it spills out of us and onto the people around us. How often are you consumed by the Spirit, and how often does it spill out on to your spouse?

In all honesty, I can say there have been plenty of moments in my life where I have felt consumed by the Spirit—in my quiet time with Him, as I’m serving Him, in small group or at service, during worship—but those are moments. God wants us in a place where we are consumed by His Spirit ALL of the time. He is forever refining us toward that end. 

Every trial we face, every struggle we have, is moving us closer to the place where we are consumed by His Spirit in all that we do—not consumed by our jobs, not consumed by our children, or our trials, not consumed by our emotions or our relationships or our stuff—consumed by the Holy Spirit. God places regular tests of faith in front of His children, with the sole purpose of growing His Spirit in you. 

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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