Can We Follow Jesus?

“I am the Light of the World; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Jn. 8:12 NASB

“If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].” Lk. 9:23 AMP

If we follow Jesus then, we must be walking in the light, i.e. not in the ways of this world; and that’s a tall order:

…present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]. Rm. 12:1, 2. AMP

The keyword in the above scripture, is ‘holy.’ If we are to follow Jesus, we must do our best to walk as He walked. Christ walked ‘sinless,’ and He was the only person to have ever done so. 

In the Hebrew, ‘holy’ means to be ‘set apart,’ dedicated to sacred purposes,’ morally pure,’ and ‘sinless.’ Other than Jesus, (and His Father), do you know anyone else who is like that? Neither do I. Yet, what does God ask of us?

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thess. 4:7 ESV

…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… E[h. 1:4 NKJV

What’s the problem? Our sin nature. We focus on overcoming it, but we can’t do it on our own strength. 

Sometimes, we look at some of our sins as being just little trangressions that don’t count. And yet, God Himself cannot brook the presence of any sin; and He demands that in order to come into HIs presence, we must be sinless. Is that possible? Can we conform to the image of God and His Son? 

…both Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one..” Rm. 3:9, 10. NASB

Yet, what is the defining demand that is laid upon us?

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord. Heb. 12:14 CSB

Okay. God never asks anything of us, that is not possible to achieve. To be holy is to be steeped in continual righteousness. How does that work out for us from our own efforts?

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags… Is. 64:6 NKJV

So, we cannot do it on our own. We need Jesus:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship which Him by His gracious lovingkindness]. 2 Cor. 5;21 AMP

It is the only way that we can come to the Father:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jn. 14:6 NKJV

Again, we can’t do it by ourselves. Why? because salvation isn’t achieved by works, but by the grace of God through Christ. (Eph. 2:8, 9.; Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:5) 

Why do we need Jesus? Because our sin persists. Praise God for His intervention:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed… Rm. 3:23 – 25. NKJV

However, we are not without responsibility:

For if we deliberately go on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. Heb. 10:26, 27. CSB

We must do our best not to willfully sin, we must adopt new attitudes – those which promote living a life that pleases God. Part of that includes having faith in Him and His Son:

And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gn. 15:6 NKJV

When we do sin, (and that will be more often that we like), we must approach our Savior immediately with confession and sincere repentance. That way, we can remain in a justified, sanctified state, where God can use us for His higher purposes:

So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:21 CSB

This way, we can remain in adherence to the will of God. 

In addition, we must be on the alert for the devil’s attacks. The more we seek God and His will, the greater Satan will come against us – trying to get us to believe that we aren’t good Christians, and that we are not really saved. 

The way to get around that is to examine everything that you do, and ask yourself, “Does what I am doing conform to God’s will?”

It is common to be discouraged because we tend to cling to our ‘favorite’ sins. Just because we have accepted Christ, does not mean that Satan is giving up on us. He wants as many of God’s children as he can get, to join him in the lake of fire.

We must find our strength to resist him by focusing on what God has done:

For He has rescued us and drawn us to Himself from the dominion of darkness and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son… Col. 1:13 AMP

Yet our sinful nature still resides within us – creating an ongoing war between the spirit and the flesh: 

“If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it.” Gn. 4:7 AMP

In our pre-saved life, we developed a propensity, a predisposition to sin. We chose and still choose to sin. It’s not something that we can’t help; it is a willful act. We can also willfully choose not to, because God has given us an ‘out.’ We just have to be aware and look for it:

No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word – He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy]. 1 Cor. 10:13 AMP

Realize that in spite of our salvation, our sin nature is not going away:

“…the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward.” Gn. 8:21 CSB 

But we can call upon the Holy Spirit, who now lives in us, to expose those rebellious urges so that we can do our best, (with Jesus), to overcome our insatiable flesh. The other thing we can do is to avoid the encounters where we are vulnerable. 

Satan is the great deceiver. He wants you to be ‘cocky,’ filled with a phantom confidence that you can coexist with your favorite sin, that you have it ‘handled.’ Never.

For whatever reason, this struggle against temptation is a battle God has seen fit that we all wage. Yet, as we’ve seen, it is a series of skirmishes that have the potential for victory. We can call upon the entire Godhead to deliver us before the damage is done. 

“Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him; I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no never].” Ps. 91:14 AMP

Because He Himself [in HIs humanity] has suffered in being tempted, He is able to help and provide immediate assistance to those who are being tempted and exposed to suffering. Heb. 2:18 AMP

But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. Gal. 5:16 AMP

We are in battle with the world. To prevail, we need to arm ourselves with a continual immersion in the word of God and exercise prayer to be able to resist the prince of the power of the air and his realm. 

Before you engage in any questionable activity, ask yourself 4 questions (from The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges):

1. Is it helpful – physically, spiritually and mentally?

2. Does it bring me under its power?

3. Does it hurt others?

4. Does it glorify God?

You would surely be able to qualify if something is potentially sinful by engaging in this inquiry. 

Sin is not going to give up; and you will fall from time to time. Yet, we can work on putting on behaviors that are contrary to the nature of our favorite sins. Learn to say ‘no.’ Stay away from environments, habits and people who entice you. Cleanse your thoughts. 

You are what you think:

For as he thinks within himself, so is he. Pr. 23:7 NASB

…if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. Phil. 4:8 CSB

And then, act those thoughts out. Go on the offensive. Make no exceptions. You can walk a holy walk of obedience to your God. Let others know that you are a Christian. It puts you on the spot for God, and that’s a good thing.

You were chosen for this. Yes, you can follow Jesus…

…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth… 2 Thess. 2:13 NKJV

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Cor. 7:1 ESV

Goodnight and God bless

Are You Baptized in the Spirit?

Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jn. 3:5 CSB

Jesus told Nicodemus that a water baptism was required. It is a symbolic enactment of being born again. The immersion signifies burying your old sinful self, and the ascension from the water implies your new birth as a cleansed holy child of God by the cleansing blood of Christ. It does not sanctify you, but it is a public declaration of your discipleship to Jesus that God requires for you to enter His kingdom – baptized in the name of Jesus for remission of sins.

But what’s Jesus talking about when He refers to being ‘born of the Spirit?’ It is synonymous with being ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit’ or ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ We are first introduced to this concept by John the Baptist as he was baptizing, prior to the inauguration of Christ’s ministry:

“As for me, I baptize you with water because of [your] repentance [that is, because you are willing to change your inner self – your old way of thinking, regret your sin and live a changed life], but He (the Messiah) who is coming after me is mightier [more powerful, more noble] than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove [even as His slave]; He will baptize you [who truly repent] with the Holy Spirit and [you who remain unrepentant] with fire (judgment).” Mt. 3:11 AMP

Obviously, it includes the endowment of the Holy Spirit. The believer generally seeks this out after the water baptism, commonly facilitated by the prayers of a church elder. Some churches expect the receiver to begin talking in tongues. We’ll come back to that. Others are content to accept the prayers and claim their Holy Spirit baptism. However, the Bible suggests repeatedly that this Spirit baptism does involve a ‘certain ‘experience.’ It is also said to be the time when whatever gifts of the Spirit are conveyed upon the believer as an enhancement for their part in advancing the kingdom.

It is a volitional request to the Holy Spirit to dwell within in us and have free and total reign over our spirit. Jesus attested to the Holy Spirit baptism as an event of great change:

“I am sending the Promise of My Father [the Holy Spirit] upon you; but you are to remain in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed (fully equipped) with power from on high.” Lk. 24:49 AMP

Indeed, the first time the Holy Spirit manifested upon the first church, all the recipients did speak in tongues – declaring the gospel in multiple languages in an environment filled with travelers from other nations. Thus, the church was advancing the kingdom.  

But, don’t get hung up on speaking in tongues. Everyone receives different gifts from the Holy Spirit:

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers}. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4 – 7. AMP

It is the Holy Spirit who determines what gift(s) that you get. Be content with that:

But the one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Cor. 12:11 NASB

The most important thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit, who even know what God thinks (1 Cor 2:10, 11.), gives you the gift that best serves you in serving God:

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NASB

The Bible tells us that the apostle Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit on multiple occasions when he was advancing the kingdom. Some biblical scholars suggest then that we should pray for that filling before every use of our ‘gifts’ to do God’s work – not because He’s not there, it’s to petition His power:

Don’t neglect the spiritual gift within you, [that special endowment] which was intentionally bestowed upon you [by the Holy Spirit] through prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands on you…Practice and work hard on these things; be absorbed in them… ! Tim. 4:14, 15. AMP

So now we’re ready. What must happen to receive this Holy Spirit baptism? Let’s go back to Peter again:

[This process is a paraphrase of a 1910 book entitled The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by R. A. Torrey, that inspired this post and the two others before it. If you’re interested in an in-depth exposition, it is a FREE read online at The Project Gutenberg; (Gutenberg.org)].

“Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 CSB

The framework within your repentance* and confession must rest then, is your faith in who Christ is, and the salvation He provided on the cross, which also positions you to receive the Holy Spirit. *And the repentance must be your best attempt to avoid allsins, for the Holy Spiritbaptism to take place. So, ask God to reveal any sin that you may be clinging to, so that you may walk in your best obedience, coming from your greatest effort to surrender to His will.

Next, you must have a sincere yearning for a Holy Spirit baptism, coming from your realization that you need it:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, who those who believed in Him were to receive… Jn. 7:37 – 39. NASB

Yes, we do receive the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus, but the Holy Spirit baptism, as we have looked at, is an additional aspect, whereby the Spirit fills you with your spiritual gifts to forward the kingdom. For this to happen, you petition God in prayer:

When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31 CSB

Lastly, (but concurrently through the whole process), we must apply our faith in the receiving of our prayerful appeal:

This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him. 1 Jn. 5:14 – 15. AMP

You’ve met all the requirements. As with your faith in your salvation, even though you may not feel any different, so it may be with your Holy Spirit baptism. For myself, that was the case; and yet, within months afterwards, I began to discern that I was gaining a gift of ‘teaching’ the word of God, (Eph. 4:11-13), writing and coming back to re-read it, knowing that I couldn’t have written that by  myself. Your gift will manifest when it is time. No one has the exact same experience. You were promised your Spirit baptism, you will receive it…

Goodnight and God bless.