As a Christian, how do you obey God? How do you bring about growth and change in your character?
Think about an area in which you have wanted to obey Christ. Maybe you wanted to love someone, or forgive someone, or be more patient. So what did you do?
For years what I did was try harder. I tried to reach out in love... tried to feel forgiving... tried to be more patient. But that was outside change at best.
But as I look back I can see two glaring problems. Often it just didn’t work. I would try to love, forgive, be patient, but nothing would change. But even when it seemed to work, all that changed was my outer actions, and not my heart.
But then I made a discovery that has transformed how I obey. Paul describes it in Romans 8:13, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."
Notice — we put to death the deeds of the body. One moment the deeds of the body were alive. The next moment they are dead. What happened? I killed them. So my will-power is involved. I do something. But it’s not just my will-power that’s involved.
I do this by the Spirit. The only way I can put to death the deeds of the body is by the Spirit.
If I said you were to heat the house by solar heating, you would do it a certain way - by solar heating. Same with how we put to death the deeds of the body. We do it a certain way - by the Spirit.
What does that mean? There’s four crucial parts:
1. First, understand the work of the Spirit
The main work of the Spirit is to help us see and feel the all-satisfying love of Christ (See John 16:14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). When our hearts are satisfied in Christ — we will love, forgive, and be patient.
But that’s the problem. The reason I’m not loving, forgiving, and patient is because my heart is not satisfied in Christ.
So what can I do to experience this work of the Spirit?
2. Second, pray for the work of the Spirit
In Luke 11:13 Jesus promises that when we ask the Father He will increase the work of the Spirit in us.
So come to the Father in Jesus’ name, trusting that because of Christ’s death the Father welcomes you, loves you, and will answer your prayer.
And then pray earnestly for more of the work of the Spirit in your heart.
3. Third, wield the sword of the Spirit
The weapon the Spirit uses to do His work is a sword: the Word of God (See Ephesians 6:17).
He will use the Word like a sword. As He reveals Jesus to you, the love and power and majesty of Jesus will kill pride, bitterness, frustration, and unbelief.
So open up your Bible, and pray over powerful Scriptures until you feel the Spirit changing your heart.
4. Fourth, step out in reliance on the Spirit.
When your heart is feeling peace and joy in Christ, you will be loving, forgiving, and patient. It won’t just be outer actions, it will be from the heart.
But what if you need to step out and love someone before your heart is fully changed?
Then confess to God your lack of love, ask Him for help, and go ahead and love them, relying on the Spirit to fully change your heart and enable you to obey. He will.