Living Victoriously

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

If a believer is to live a victorious (successful) Christian life—one that empowers him or her to avoid excesses of the flesh, to enjoy more of God’s peace, and to be strengthened to live an abundant life that glorifies the Lord—it is absolutely essential to depend upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

Dwight L. Moody once illustrated this truth as follows: “Tell me,” he said to his audience, “how can I get the air out of this glass?” One man said, “Suck it out with a pump.” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After many impossible suggestions, Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to show that victory in the Christian life is not by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but rather being filled with the Spirit (Al Bryant, comp. ed., Worship Services [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1992] 59).

To live a life pleasing to the Lord God is vastly superior to any other. The joy of living a life devoted to God—by grace through faith in Christ—is recognizing that the Lord’s divine commands are always satisfied with His divine provisions. Sometimes, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” may be overwhelming, but the Holy Spirit—who abides within every believer—is greater than those sinful enticements (cf. 1 John 2:16; 4:4). Scripture teaches that if you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Victory is by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Deity of the Spirit
If one is to remain faithful to the Word of God, one must confess that the Bible is unequivocal in its assertion that there is one God. Also, that there are three distinct personalities in the Old and New Testaments, who all possess the attributes, character, and nature of deity. The English word “trinity” is derived from the Latin trinitas, which means “three.” The word does not appear in the Bible; rather, it is a theological term for the one true God, who is self-revealed within the Bible as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Scripture reveals there is only one God (Deut 6:4; Isa 43:10; 1 Cor 8:6). The true God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct, eternal, equal Persons, yet one Being. The Father is God (Rom 1:7; Eph 4:6), the Son is God (John 1:1; 20:28; Tit 2:13), and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; John 14:26; Heb 9:14). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united in the Godhead; thus, they have the same substance but are distinct in subsistence (Matt 3:16-17; John 14:16).

The present article will examine how the Holy Spirit empowers the believer in his/her battle with the “flesh.” Some New Testament expressions and texts will be noted, which reveal specific information regarding how the third member of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, accomplishes His work in the life of the believer.

The Leading of the Spirit
(Gal 5:16-17) The biblical expression “against the flesh” describes an aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work within the believer. The “desire” of the flesh is contrary to the Spirit’s work. The word translated “desire” is the Greek word epithumian, and indicates a “craving” that can be either good or evil. The “desire” of the flesh (v. 17) is to oppose the command to “not carry out the desire” (v. 16), and thus indicates what is sinful. When “desire” is used in reference to the Holy Spirit, it indicates what is good, because the intent is for the will of God to be accomplished.

The truth that the Holy Spirit is “against the flesh” indicates a tension (struggle) that exists within the life of the believer. Being “led by the Spirit” involves God’s work in creating a resistance to the desires of the flesh (viz. tendencies that remain from one’s prior unregenerate state). One aspect of the Spirit’s leading “against the flesh” is convicting the believer that a particular desire of the flesh is indeed sin (John 16:8). When the flesh resists the Spirit’s leading, this results in somewhat of an impasse. Effectually, the flesh’s desire prevents the believer, “so that you may not do the things that you please” (as a new creation in Christ). If the Holy Spirit did not provide conviction “against the flesh,” the believer would experience the precise condition described in Romans 7:14-24. This entails desperately wanting “the good,” yet not being able “to do good.”

The Empowering of the Spirit
(Rom 8:1-14; Eph 5:18-21) The impasse between the flesh and the Spirit can be overcome by walking according to the Spirit. “Walk” is a metaphor for one’s lifestyle. To “walk” in the Spirit means depending upon the Holy Spirit, so He will empower your actions and determination. Consequently, it will be possible to defy “the things of the flesh” and fulfill “the requirement of the Law” (viz. doing God’s will). To walk in the Spirit is to live (purposely) relying upon God to empower you in persevering “to do good.”

The Holy Bible commands believers to “be filled with the Spirit,” which means to be controlled or influenced by God. Ephesians 5:18-21 implies that being filled with the Spirit is a quality of life, as opposed to a solitary, mystical experience. When the day of Pentecost arrived, the disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” in connection with the baptism of the Spirit. Spirit baptism is not commanded in Scripture (since it is a sovereign work of God in response to our faith and repentance, leading to conversion: the “new birth”), and thus it is a solitary event in the life of a believer. However, “filling” by the Spirit is commanded and is to be characteristic of the believer’s life.

Spirit baptism is the work of Jesus Christ whereby the church receives and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, which incorporates it into one body of Christ and identifies it with the Lord’s death and resurrection (John 14:16-17; Rom 6:1-11; 1 Cor 6:19; 12:13). At the ascension of Christ (ca. spring, AD 30-33), the baptism of the Holy Spirit was still future (Acts 1:5). Pentecost (2:1-36) was the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise (cf. 11:15-16).

Another phrase related to the empowering of the Spirit involves “the mind set on the Spirit” (Rom 8:5-6). The expression indicates that we are significantly affected by our mental attitude. The believer’s determination is to allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish the will of God in our lives. “Being led by the Spirit of God” involves “putting to death the deeds of the body” (vv. 13-14), which means rejecting sinful impulses and submitting instead to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The Illumination of the Spirit
(1 Cor 2:6-16; 1 John 2:20-21) The Holy Spirit guides the believer with the Word of God by illuminating (making understandable) the Bible. First Corinthians 2:6-16 indicates that the Holy Spirit reveals “the thoughts of God” and enables the believer (“he who is spiritual”) to appraise “all things.” First John 2:20-21 explains that believers will “know the truth” when it is proclaimed, because they “have an anointing from the Holy One.” The believer is able to know the truth or will of God as it is revealed in the Holy Bible. The Holy Spirit guides the believer in every decision that needs to be made, by His work of revealing “God’s wisdom” in the Bible. He then makes that spiritual truth and wisdom understandable.

Those whom the Spirit enlightens welcome God’s wisdom (1 Cor 2:10-11). The means by which God provides the knowledge of His thoughts is the Holy Spirit, who is the only One who completely understands the mind of God. The thoughts of God would be impossible to know without the working of the Holy Spirit. It was His task to supervise the writing of the Scriptures. The Bible is a record of the thoughts of God, and those who study it are able to know all the things that God has “freely given” (2:12).

The spiritual (mature) person is controlled by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:6-8), and thus enjoys the special privilege of being able to appraise all things. This means they can examine all things carefully and distinguish what is important. Someone who has “the mind of Christ” is able to make the right decisions concerning life. The wisdom needed today for life decisions is available through God’s revelation (the Bible).

The Fruit of the Spirit
(Gal 5:22-23) The familiar passage of Scripture that lists “the fruit of the Spirit” immediately follows the section explaining how to “walk by the Spirit” (vv. 16-21). The believer walks by the Spirit when he/she obeys God, as opposed to heeding the desires of the flesh. The results of being led by the Spirit include: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Dependence upon the Holy Spirit is the means by which the “fruit” is cultivated, and how it attains maturity in the believer’s life. When people walk by the Spirit, they assent to the Holy Spirit’s power to change the behaviors of their sinful character and transform them into the image of Jesus, so that they are even able to “have the mind of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 2:16).

“The fruit of the Spirit” is essentially the Christlikeness that is to be manifested in the life of a believer. The nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit should be understood as a whole (Gal 5:22-23). A person is not entirely under the control of the Holy Spirit unless there is evidence of all elements of the fruit. A person’s life is defective when one or more aspects of the fruit are absent, because Christ died to provide freedom from “the flesh with its passions and desires” (v. 24). The flesh is “crucified” when a person trusts in what Christ did for him/her on the cross, and becomes identified with Him. The Holy Spirit is the believer’s strength for living a life of victory to the glory of God (vv. 25-26).

Midnight Call - 02/2022

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