Since I have been involved with Cru as both a student and staff, I’ve read a number of applications for a variety of things, including small group leader applications, summer mission applications, staff/intern applications, and even applications to sing in our campus worship band. One question that is usually asked on these applications is, “What is your understanding of the Spirit-directed life?”
It’s always interesting to see what people write down to answer this question, and it usually ends up being a confusing paragraph on a divine leading from God or some sort of “burning in the bosom” on what the Lord is directing them to do. Now, I don’t know exactly how heartburn or pectoral muscles come into play when the Spirit of God is working in someone’s life, but the one thing that has become quite clear to me is that many students don’t know what it means to live the Spirit-filled life.
One of the reasons so many Christians tank in their faith is that they are trying to live the Christian life on their own power. They’re living as if to say, “Hey, Jesus. Thanks so much for what you did for me on the cross, and great job, by the way. I appreciate it, but I’ll go ahead and take it from here.”
We can never be so arrogant as to believe we have it all together enough to do it on our own. We are cracked pots that have no power whatsoever to bring about supernatural change in our lives, let alone the lives of others. It is the power living inside us that ushers in change and healing and growth; it’s the power of the Holy Spirit.
A branch on an apple tree is a good example. The role of an apple tree branch is to bear the fruit of apples, not to produce them—that’s the trunk’s job. The branch simply stays connected to its source of life and allows the trunk to produce the fruit through it. As the branch stays fastened to the trunk, life-giving sap runs through the trunk into the branch and produces apple after apple. If the branch were to be cut off from the trunk, it would wither up and any fruit on it would die. It’s simply not possible for an apple tree branch to produce apples on its own because it must be affixed to the trunk and have sap running through it in order to make the fruit possible.
The same holds true spiritually. Our job as a branch is to stay connected to the trunk of Jesus and allow the sap of the Holy Spirit to run in and through us to produce the powerful fruit of the Christian life. So how do we stay attached? Good question. Let me answer that question with another question: how did you come to Christ? The answer is faith.
You came to Christ by faith, and you walk with God by faith. Attempts to improve on your sinful nature, in hope that if you put more energy into it you might get better over time, always come up short. After many years of trying, I have never been able to upgrade my flesh—it’s still the same sinful mess that it was the day I became a Christian. Remember, your job is to bear fruit, not produce it.
And as we live a life of faith, something changes in our hearts to the point where we find ourselves longing to be obedient to the Lord. It’s the inverted principles of the kingdom of God that start to make sense. Everything in this world says, “Do to get,” while our gracious Heavenly Father says, “Take it for free.” As a result of this glorious gift, obedience should be our knee jerk reaction. When we walk by faith and allow the sap of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, compliance to God’s call for holiness is the natural result.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? To the world (and our flesh for that matter), walking in the power of the Holy Spirit makes no sense whatsoever, but in reality, the Spirit-filled life is the essence by which the Christian survives and thrives. I promise you this: if you are living the Spirit-directed life, it will be impossible to drop-kick your relationship with God.