Take the Next Step with the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-25

We have been thinking about following Jesus – what it means to be a true disciple.

And we have thought about the different NEXT STEPS which God may have for us to take in our walk with him.

Growing in our relationship with God
Growing in knowledge and understanding
Growing in witness and service
Growing in the image of Christ
Growing by deeper fellowship
Growing in victory
Growing in passion

10 Ways God wants to bless us

Growing by meeting together
1. All together in CHURCH
2. All together in HOME GROUPS
3. All together in SPECIAL EVENTS

Growing in 2s and 3s
4. 2s and 3s for NEW CHRISTIANS
5. 2s and 3s for ALL CHRISTIANS
6. 2s and 3s in FAN THE FLAME

Growing as Individuals
7. Individuals – PQR Time
8. Individuals – Workshops and Courses

Growing by being equipped
10. Equipped by the Pastor-Teacher

There’s an old expression – to “put yourself in the way of blessing.” It means to make a decision to be in places where God can bless you! The 10 ways “God wants to bless you” are simply ways we can “put ourselves in the way of blessing” – channels through which God’s blessing can come to us.

The “10 Ways God wants to bless us” can help us to grow in many areas
Growing in knowledge and understanding
Growing in witness and service
Growing by deeper fellowship

But the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that there are some aspects of Christian life and growth where the 10 ways are only the first step! They only open the door to blessing – they are ways we can seek God’s blessing, but they don’t guarantee that blessing.

I’m thinking about Growing in the image of Christ – Growing in Christian Character – growing more holy – more like Christ
I’m thinking about Growing in victory – just having more strength to live life from day to day – experiencing more joy and peace
I’m thinking about Growing in passion and zeal and spiritual fervour – There is a difference between being a believer and being a spiritually infectious enthusiast!
I’m thinking about growing in our relationship with God – knowing God better!

The “10 ways God wants to bless us” help us in all these aspects of Christian growth. A regular diet of sermons and Homegroups and personal prayer and reading and study and meeting in 2s and 3s is essential for healthy Christian life and growth. But in many areas of Christian living the reality is that we don’t so much grow slowly and gradually. Most Christians would say that our experience has been that we grow in things like victory and joy and peace and passion and zeal in occasional big jumps. We can look back over our Christian lives and recognise that certain occasions and experiences have been absolutely central to our growth in grace.

Like for me the time in Borrowdale a month or so before I became a Christian when I looked up to beauty of the stars and realised for the first time that God existed. Or the night I actually invited God into my life when I prayed “God change me”. Or the evening meeting at the Keswick convention when I first recognised the demands that Jesus the Lord makes on my life of absolute surrender and obedience, and the sense of joy and peace which filled my life for weeks afterwards. Or the day that God miraculously healed my back of a sporting injury. Or the evening in my own PQR time when I was reading Isaiah 43 and was totally overwhelmed by the love God has for me. Or the evening service which began at 6.30 and ended at 10 where Jackie Pullinger was speaking and I first began speaking in tongues. I could go on.

The point is that as well as the continual growth in grace which comes from the regular blessings, God has times when he wants to meet us in special ways. Times he wants to lift us up higher, to speak to us more clearly, to touch our lives with especial power. Those times may come to us in sermons or worship times. They may come at special events like Spring Harvest or Leading Edge or the Keswick Convention. They may come in Home Groups or in 2s or 3s or in meetings with our minister. They may come when we are praying and reading and seeking God alone. Or sometimes God may break into our lives when we least expect it – while we are in the middle of our work, or in the bath, or asleep.

Whenever God does want to meet us to bless us in special ways we still have a choice. To accept the blessing, or reject it. The apostle Paul says this to the Galatians:
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Keep in step with the Spirit. Paul is talking about our ordinary everyday lives of faith and obedience. But I also believe that means being open to those special times of blessing. Ready and longing for God to surprise us and take us on and lift us higher. Longing especially for God to draw us closer to himself. Because of course blessings like joy and peace and passion and zeal and victory don’t come to us by themselves. They are gifts which only come as grow to know the Giver. If we are just seeking these blessings we will only ever be disappointed. Because these blessings only come as we grow to know the One who blesses. What we are really seeking is God Himself. Seeking the Father who loves us – the Son who died for us – the Holy Spirit who lives inside us to make all the blessings of salvation real to us.

Keep in step with the Spirit. Part of what that means for many of us is that the next step for us will be to take the Next Step God has planned for us in our experience of Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. To allow God to break into our lives in new ways and move us on in our Christian lives.

What would it mean to take the next step with the Holy Spirit? It will be different for each of us.

2 Tim 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
7 For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us afraid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control. (GNB)

A Spirit of POWER –
For some people taking the next step with the Holy Spirit will mean opening our lives to the awesome power of Almighty God! It will mean inviting God to even work miracles in our lives. Our God is a supernatural God! So often we only expect Him to work in “natural” ways.
God is able, and indeed longs `to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’ (Ephesians 3:20).
`He longs to do much more than our faith has yet allowed,
To thrill us and surprise us with His sovereign power.’
For some Christians in the last 30 years of charismatic renewal, signs and wonders and what was called “the Toronto blessing” experiencing that Spirit of Power has been a completely overwhelming experience!

A Spirit of LOVE –
For some people taking the next step with the Holy Spirit will mean opening our lives to the Holy Spirit who comes to make us like Christ. To allow the Holy Spirit to give us a fresh experience, maybe an absolutely overwhelming experience of God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

For some people taking the next step with the Holy Spirit will mean allowing God to break into our lives and make us holy – to set us free from all with the sins which keep us away from God.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
All our human effort in repentance will not set us free from these or any other of the sins we may indulge in! We need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Christ which saves from the gutter-most to the uttermost!

Fan into flame THE GIFT OF GOD –
For some people taking the next step with the Holy Spirit will mean fanning into flame the gift of God. Opening our lives to the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Gifts. It will mean opening our mouths to speak God’s messages in the gift of prophecy. Or it will mean reviving or even exercising for the first time the gift of speaking in tongues as a personal prayer language.

If all this talk of power and holiness and spiritual gifts is scary – it should not be. As Paul says, we have not received a spirit of timidity, a spirit which makes us afraid. We need never be afraid of the Spirit who is Love.

Keep in step with the Spirit. Take the next step with the Spirit.

It was the great evangelist Moody who said “I am filled with the spirit, but I leak” – we all need our spiritual batteries recharging sometimes. We all need to be filled afresh with the Spirit of God. We all need to fan the flame of the Spirit in our lives. So how can we open ourselves to taking the Next Step in the Spirit? First of all, we have to WANT to move on with God in such ways.

“Before we can be filled with the Spirit, the desire to be filled must be all-consuming. It must be for the time the biggest thing in the life, so acute, so intrusive as to crowd out everything else. The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want.” A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)

Whenever opportunities come along for God to bless us, to take us the Next Step in the Spirit, we will always have a choice. To accept the blessing. Or to resist it.

Somebody has said that the rain of God’s blessing starts to fall we each have an umbrella – and we each have a choice. We can hold the umbrella over our heads so the rain of God’s blessing doesn’t land on us. Or we can hold the umbrella upside down to catch as much of the blessing as possible! Which way up is your umbrella?

As I said, we can put ourselves in the way of blessing by using “the 10 Ways God wants to bless us!” But then there are specific things we can do to open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit.

You may have seen the film, Castaway, with Tom Hanks as a kind of modern Robinson Crusoe, stranded alone on a desert island in the middle of the ocean. Fairly early on he makes himself a boat out of trees and tries desperately to paddle out to sea. But the island is surrounded by a coral reef and however hard he tries to row, the waves over the reef push him back, until in the end the boat turns over and he is badly injured on the coral. Many attempts to row out to sea end in disaster.

But then one day a piece of wreckage comes to shore and the castaway sees how he can use it. He changes the design of his boat. He rows out to the reef again but instead of trying to row against the waves he hoists the wreckage as a sail. The wind catches the sail and blows the boat past the waves out to sea and eventual rescue. At the end of the film the castaway is telling his story to a friend. “I was trapped on the island,” he says, “until one day God gave me a sail.”

Many Christians spend all their lives rowing hard trying to go somewhere new with God. But all the time the waves of life push them back. Sometimes they even fall overboard and the coral hurts! But God has given us a sail – or a number of sails. What we need to do is hoist the sails and let the wind of the Spirit carry us where God wants us to go.

And what are these sails that will open our lives to the wind of the Spirit? Nothing new here, no surprises. Just simple things. The sail of obedience. Conscientiously doing what God has already told us he wants us to do. The sail of faith. Trusting God to work in our lives, stepping out in faith and inviting God to surprise us. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus – but to trust and obey. Then there is the sail of worship. Offering God the first and the best in our worship to Him and inviting Him to break in and surprise us.
And finally there is the sail of prayer. Not a shopping list of asking prayers but time spent seeking God’s face in listening prayer. If we want God to surprise us, we need to spend time seeking Him in prayer.

The God of surprises is longing to surprise us. We need to stop rowing frantically to battle the waves and instead to just hoist the sails – sails of obedience and faith and worship. Above all the sail of prayer.
`He longs to do much more than our faith has yet allowed,
To thrill us and surprise us with His sovereign power.’

God longs to do much more than we ask for or even imagine. May God help each and every one of us to be ready to take the Next Step with the Holy Spirit!

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