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Christian character formation is the result of three kinds of work of the Holy Spirit:
1. Divine Dependence
2. Dramatic Dealings
3. Daily Discipline
These works are all motivated by the Holy Spirit and used by Him to transform our lives and ministries into the image of Christ. We need all three.
In this series, we explore the blessings and dangers associated with them, as well as the best intentional responses to them to facilitate them in our lives.
Today we discuss divine dependency.
Dependency is continuous walking in the Spirit. Just as Jesus lived in continuous inward fellowship with His Father, so we are to be continuously dependent on God. As we do this, the Holy Spirit changes us.
Living in constant inward fellowship with God means living minute by minute in the inward presence of the Lord Jesus by His Spirit. This does not necessarily involve emotions and feelings, but it is a spiritual consciousness of the presence of God, a lifestyle of drawing life, wisdom, peace, and strength from His life. A total dependence on God continuously looks at Him with the eyes of our hearts.
Jesus gave us a wonderful promise of abiding fellowship with God (John 14:21-23):
… He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him … My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
This is a promise of the manifestation (“show Myself”) and continuous presence (“Our home”) of God in our hearts. We can live in this continuous inward fellowship with Jesus by His Spirit. As we do this, we will draw from His strength and His wisdom in order to fulfill His purposes (John 15:4-5).
Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man abides in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.
Jesus lived in continuous fellowship with His Father, and through that fellowship He drew from, and lived by, His Father’s life.
Likewise, Paul lived in continuous fellowship with God by His Spirit. That fellowship was the source of all character and fruitfulness in his life and ministry:
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)
… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Rom. 8:37)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:10)
Moreover, this was the lifestyle that Paul taught others:
… being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father … (Col. 1:11-12)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7)
John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” lived in the abiding presence of God. Many decades after Jesus’ ascension, John wrote that “our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). John did not say that his fellowship “was” with God but that it “is” with God. He lived in continuous inward fellowship with God by the Holy Spirit, and out of that inward life John lived and ministered. The result was some of the greatest writings in the entire Bible about the Person of Jesus Christ as God, as well as the nature of the Christian life as union with God.
The Perils of Imbalance
All three works of the Spirit have potential dangers associated with them. If we are not balanced or we emphasize one over the others we will get into trouble. All three must be in balance.
In regards to dependency, looking inward for the Holy Spirit’s presence can be dangerous if it is not balanced out by the restraint of a disciplined walk in God and the corrective, purging influence of the dealings of God. When imbalance occurs and the inward walk takes first priority, the leader can fall into licentiousness, being led more by his emotions and feelings than by the Holy Spirit.
The other two works of the Spirit assist us in both discerning the voice of God and applying it to our contexts.
Facilitating the Work of the Holy Spirit
The emerging leader is wise to respond to the works of the Holy Spirit, because by them he or she will be transformed.
We can develop dependency by learning how to yield to the Spirit. This is known as the “practice of the presence of God.” We must learn to look for Him continuously, to recognize Him, to look at His face, to love Him inwardly, to be loved by Him, to talk to Him, to listen to His voice. The best book written on this subject is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
When we live in continuous inward dependency on God, our devotional times will be richer and more effective, our inward discipline of heart will be more focused, and we will grow in our ability to respond properly to both the positive and negative dealings of God in our lives (Rom. 8:35-39).
When we have all three in our lives there is balance and strength.
These three paths to transformation have nothing to do with human wealth, education, intelligence, physical strength or beauty, family, occupation, social status, religious status, or even the events of our lives in the past. They are not functions of human ability. They are the work of God’s grace in our lives. (1 Cor. 1:26-31)
If we walk on these three paths, God will transform our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit and we will be changed daily into Jesus’ image.