Throughout scripture, the love of God for His people is declared over and over again. Not only is His love for us proclaimed, but His love was made manifest on the cross of Calvary. No greater love has ever been known, nor will any act of love ever compare.
We know this. We sing about His great love. We teach about it in Sunday School. We hear our pastors rightly boast of this amazing love. Yet, how often do we find ourselves living outside of the realization of God’s love and the fullness of His Holy Spirit?
As born-again believers, we have been equipped with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the fruit He bears within us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23) These qualities will become more prevalent within us as we submit ourselves to God’s sanctifying power.
However, many of us are not living with full awareness of the Holy Spirit within us. We suppress and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we let our sin nature rule over us or we let the circumstances of a fallen world beat us down.
It is my desire that this book will help us recognize this vicious cycle, guard against it and learn how to live full on a consistent basis.
Chapter 1: Circuit Overload
Everyone and everything has a threshold; a physical, mental, structural limit or a combination of these things that can be withstood before breaking or blowing.
My kitchen breaker exceeds its electrical threshold almost every morning. My sleepy crusted eyes open to the dreaded sound of my annoying alarm. I may hit snooze a few times. The crick in my neck tells of the curly headed toddler who made her way into my bed during the night. I say a quick prayer of thanks that my alarm didn’t wake the sleeping cherub. My early years of playing the game Twister come to mind as I twist my body into weird angles as I maneuver out of bed so as to not wake little miss and her daddy. I blindly make my way down the hallway, and stub my toe on the table that I promise you, keeps moving during the night. For the love- I need my coffee!!
I pour some milk in a coffee cup and proceed to heat it in the microwave before I froth it. And that is when it happens. I sometimes forget that I can’t have the microwave, espresso machine, and desk lamp all on at the same time or the breaker will blow. You would think that I would know this after two years of renting this house. But no- it still happens quite frequently, I’m afraid.
On the mornings that I am disciplined and resist the oh-so-tempting snooze button, the sun has not yet kissed the horizon. If that happens to be on a morning that I blow the breaker, I have to go into our backyard in the dark to flip the breaker switch. I pray the whole time that God would protect me from the spider webs, snakes, and the possum that lives in our backyard. I flip the switch and all is well again. I can have my beloved espresso.
And so goes my life. I’m trekking along, surrounded by the knowledge of God’s love and feeling it deep down in my heart and soul. I’m passing it on to others and I’m aware of the Spirit’s power within me. But then somewhere along the way, I let my guard down. I allow things in that suppress the fullness of God’s love and His Sprit. Sometimes, the general circumstances of living in a fallen world leave me depleted and I lose focus on God’s power within me. My threshold becomes weak. Before long, my circuit experiences overload and I blow.
Turn Some Things Off
What do I do when this happens? In the same way that I have to turn off my desk lamp to reduce the electrical load, I have to take a look at my life and determine what is causing my circuit to overload and turn it off.
Often or not, it’s more than one thing that needs to be turned off. Sin is like that isn’t it? Sin feeds off of sin. Once we let one sin take up residence in our souls, sin’s mother, father and brother are soon to follow. The more we let in, the harder it is to put a stop to it. We form emotional and physical bonds to our sin. Even when we recognize and discern its power to destroy us, we have a hard time kicking it to the curb. How do we guard against this?
Do Not Underestimate the Enemy
Take a moment to read 1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV):
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
The first thing we me must acknowledge when seeking to overcome our sin, is that we will not ever fully overcome it while alive on earth. But that doesn’t mean that we should raise our white flag of surrender. We have all been given a mission by God while we have air in our lungs to be kingdom advancers. And that is why we must absolutely wage war against the enemy who loves nothing more than to distract us from our God given calling.
What we perceive to be going on in our world around us is only part of the story. There is a spiritual dimension that exerts powerful and direct influence on us. The apostle Paul describes it this way:
“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)(ESV)
Satan knows our weaknesses and how to tempt us. He knows exactly which fruit to dangle in front of our face. He knows how to disguise it as something good. But even good things are sinful if we accept and seek after them in disobedience to God. I know this all too well.
Jordan and I were just babies in the ministry and had only been married for two short years when we bought our first home. We had just moved to a new town, our firstborn had just turned one, and we were pregnant with our second son. We were so ready to have a place of our own and to be settled that we jumped into a house that seemed really good at the time. We didn’t pray much about it or even really think too hard about the decision. We just saw it as good and jumped. We lived in that home for 9 short months before we had to move again. We spent over two years trying to sell it before we went through the excruciating process of applying for a short sale. We finally sold it, but we had to wait another two years for the short sale to come off of our record before we could begin looking for another home to buy. So you see, chasing after something just because it is good, can leave you with very bad consequences.
Sometimes the consequences are not as obvious as my experience stated above, but large or small, sin always has this effect: We let it in and it has to compete with God for our love, relationship, and devotion. Sin overloads our circuit. It creeps in and we distance ourselves from God. We stop living with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We stop living fully aware of the Holy Spirit within us.
Strengthen my Threshold
Obviously, there are things in this life that are not always brought on by our own individual sins necessarily, but are a result of living in a fallen world. In a sense, Adam’s sin is also our sin and we have to deal with the consequences daily. And the consequence of a fallen world means that bad things happen that we have no control over. No matter how strong of a Christian we are, we will be affected by tragedy and misfortune. We will talk about this more in a later chapter, but it’s never too soon to start strengthening our threshold to be able to withstand such travesties in this life.
The only way to strengthen our threshold is to look to the Creator of strength. Dig deep into His Word, which is the Sword of the Spirit. Having strength also means being able to defend against our enemies, so take up your sword. Meditate on it day and night. Doing so, will guard against the very sins that overload your circuit and will strengthen your threshold to withstand the travesties of living in a fallen world.
Self Reflection and Group Discussion:
1. Generally speaking, what sins do you think American Christians most struggle with? What sins in your own life are you letting overload your circuit?
2. How many of these things seem like “good” things but aren’t exactly reaping “good” benefits?
3. What can you do to guard against the things that overload your circuit?
4. Have you ever gone through motions of the Christian walk but not really felt a deep connection with God? How did you get to that place? How did you come out of it?
5. How often do you find yourself “performing” instead of really living a life sold out for Christ? How do you stop the performance?
6. Read Galatians 5:22-23. When you read about the fruits of the spirit, how do you compare? Which of the fruits do you recognize as your stronger areas? Which are your weakest?
7. How can you strengthen your threshold to withstand the travesties of living in a fallen world?
8. How much time do you spend in God’s word, the source of your strength?
9. How much time do you spend in prayer?