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8. Grace-Centered Living

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“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

How Are Christians Meant to Live?

God does not want believers to live by law, but by the Holy Spirit. Whether someone is living by law (God’s Law or man-made laws) or by grace is determined by two key issues:

1. The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God.
  • Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as her acceptance and works out of love and gratitude.

2. The issue of power: How you do what you do.

  • Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources.
  • Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit.

Life by the Holy Spirit is consistently presented in contrast to living by law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Galatians 5:18)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.... Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:6,17)

“For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:5-6)

Let’s explore what this looks like.

Day One Study

The Old Testament background of the ministry of the Holy Spirit

1. The Holy Spirit was active throughout history from creation until the New Testament age. Nehemiah recounts the role of the Spirit in the life of Israel as a nation. Read Nehemiah 9:19-20, 30. What was the Spirit’s role?

2. How did the Holy Spirit empower ("anoint") the following individuals for special service?

  • Exodus 35:30-36:1—
  • 1 Samuel 10:1,6-9—
  • 1 Samuel 16:12-13—

3. The anointing of the Holy Spirit on Old Testament believers was not promised to believers of that time nor promised to be permanent when given. (See 1 Samuel 16:14; Psalm 51:11.) However, the prophets spoke of a future day, the time of the New Covenant or Kingdom. Read Joel 2:28-30 and Ezekiel 36:24-28. What did God promise about his Spirit at that time?

The announcement of the Kingdom and the coming of the Spirit

4. What announcement did John the Baptist make in Mark 1:4, 7-8?

5. What did Jesus promise about the Spirit in the following verses?

  • John 3:1-10—
  • John 7:37-39—
  • Acts 1:3-8—

6. How were the promises fulfilled in Acts 2:1-21, 32-36?

Scriptural Insight: Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is God himself, the Third Person of the Trinity. He is described as possessing all the divine attributes and is referred to as God (Acts 5:3-4). It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a “force” or merely an impersonal attribute or influence of God. He is described as having all the elements of personality: intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), emotions (Eph. 4:30), and will (1 Cor. 12:11). Personal pronouns are used of him, such as “he” or “him” (John 16:7-8).

7. Graceful Living: Does the concept of the Holy Spirit’s existence seem like science fiction to you? Like something out of a movie, e.g. “the force is with you” from Star Wars? We often feel this way because his name is more like a title. We have God the Father (we can relate to “father”) and God the Son (whose name is Jesus, we can relate to “son” and “Jesus”). Paul often refers to the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ or God’s Spirit to help us relate to him. Be honest with God here. Let him know how you feel. Ask him to help you trust what he says in his Word about his Spirit’s presence in our world and in our lives.

Day Two Study

The relational ministry of the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that l am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?” (John 14:10). He then said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you (John 14:20). Authentic Christian living is when we live in the same relation to Jesus as he did with his father (faith, dependence). We trust; he supplies the life and power!

Your position in Christ is your:

  • Acceptance before God.
  • Assurance of salvation.
  • Identity.

Christ’s presence in you is:

  • Life (regeneration).
  • Power for living.
  • The basis of a relationship.
  • Promise and hope – the Holy Spirit is called a “deposit” or “down payment” on our salvation, giving assurance of the completion of his work. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

When a person hears the gospel and places her faith in Jesus Christ, several things happen instantaneously as a one-time event regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at these.

8. At the moment of salvation (when one believes), the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer is…

  • Titus 3:4-6—
  • Romans 8:9—
  • Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:4-7—
  • 1 Corinthians 12:13—
  • Ephesians 1:13-14—

9. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has established with believers a relationship to himself similar to the one he enjoyed with the Father. Read John 14:15-21, 26 and John 16:12-15. Describe the Spirit’s role in our relationship to Jesus.

From the Greek: The Greek word translated “Helper” or “Counselor” in John 14:16 is parakletos. Both of these English words have connotations that are absent from the Greek word. Helper connotes an inferior, which the Holy Spirit is not. Counselor can call to mind a camp counselor or a marriage counselor whereas a legal counselor is more in harmony with the Greek idea. In secular contexts parakletos often referred to a legal assistant, an advocate, or simply a helper (e.g., a witness or a representative in court). The verbal form of this word, parakaleo, literally means to call alongside and, therefore, to encourage or to strengthen.” (Dr. Tom Constable, Constables Notes on John, pages 219-220)

The Empowering Ministry of the Holy Spirit

From the beginning of our faith relationship with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit anoints us with God’s presence and power. We need both to live the kind of life Jesus intends for us to live. After this one-time work of the Spirit to establish God’s presence within us, he has an ongoing empowering ministry in the life of the believer.

10. According to the following verses, how is genuine Christian life to be lived?

  • Galatians 2:20—
  • Philippians 2:12-13—
  • Colossians 1:29—

11. Read the verses below about the Spirit’s empowering ministry to the believer. What does the Holy Spirit empower or enable the believer to do in order to live the genuine Christian life described above?

  • Acts 4:31—             
  • Romans 5:5—             
  • Romans 8:26-27—             
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9-16—             
  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11—             
  • Ephesians 3:14-19—             

The Holy Spirit is the means by which Christ is “with us” and “in us” (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20). Christ is in a glorified human body in heaven. He is with us by means of the Holy Spirit. To sum up: The ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit has been well expressed by scholar Gordon D. Fee in the phrase, Gods Empowering Presence.” (Gordon Fee, Gods Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul)

12. Graceful Living: Briefly describe a great need that God has met in your life or a remarkable thing that God has done in your life through his Spirit’s empowering presence in you.

Day Three Study

The Holy Spirit’s Unseen Presence

We cannot see the Holy Spirit inside of us. But, we know he is working inside us because we become aware of the evidence. These are some of the things the Spirit does for us:

  • He helps us understand what the Bible teaches. Has someone explained something to you about the Bible, and you understood what she was saying? That’s the Spirit inside of you helping you to understand. John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13
  • He gives us the words to tell others about Jesus and say that Jesus is God. Have you wanted to tell someone about Jesus but didn’t know what to say, then all of a sudden the words just popped into your head for you to tell that person about Jesus? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you prompting you with the right words to say. John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 12:3
  • He gives us assurance that we are Gods children. Have you ever felt really loved by God? That’s the Spirit inside of you letting you know for sure that you are God’s child, and He loves you. Romans 8:16
  • He makes us want to do what pleases God. Do you have a desire to please God with your life? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you giving you that desire. Romans 12:11; Jer. 33:31,33
  • He helps us to feel joy as we serve Jesus and when we do the right things. Have you ever felt really good when you chose to do the right thing or chose to be helpful? That’s the Holy Spirit inside of you letting you feel God’s pleasure. Romans 14:17-18
  • He makes us not want to do what doesnt please God. Have you ever felt something tugging at you inside when you were tempted to do something wrong? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you nudging you, reminding you what doesn’t please God so you can choose not to do that. We can ask him to let us know in our thinking or feelings when we are tempted to do something bad. He promises to do that. Galatians 5:16
  • He makes us to become more like Jesus, especially in loving other people. Have you ever started loving someone even more after you started praying for him/her? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you doing that. Galatians 5:22-23
  • He makes us want to sing praises to God, in our hearts and out loud, and be thankful for Gods goodness. Do you like to sing praises to God? Do you feel thankful to God for his goodness to you? That’s the Spirit living inside of you filling your heart with praise and thanksgiving to God. Ephesians 5:18-20
  • He prays for us when we need help or dont know how to pray. Have you ever had a huge problem and didn’t know what to ask God to do about it, but God took care of the problem anyway? That’s the Holy Spirit living inside of you working to take care of your need before you even ask. Romans 8:26-27

13. Graceful Living: Which of the evidences you just read have you recognized in your life? Thank God for specific ways and times his Spirit has worked in your life.

Walking by the Spirit

The New Testament encourages believers to “live by the Spirit” (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:16, 25) and be “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18). The Greek word Paul used here in Galatians 5:16 means to literally “walk”—a common idiom for how one conducts one’s life or how one behaves, in this case one’s faith walk. What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

Walking by the Spirit means walking in submission to and dependence on the Spirit. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” We exercise faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation. We exercise faith for our daily living out the life of Christ within us. This daily faith walk by the Spirit involves every area of life.

At the beginning of this lesson, we stated that you can recognize if you are living by law or living by the Spirit based on two areas:

1) The issue of motivation: Why you do what you do. Under law, a person works in order to earn the acceptance of God. Under grace, a person trusts in Jesus Christ as his acceptance, and works from love and gratitude. You know you are living by the Spirit when your response to God is to serve him out of your love for him and gratitude for what he has done for you.

2) The issue of power: How you do what you do. Under law, a person lives from his own power and resources. Under grace, a person lives by Christ’s life and power imparted by the Holy Spirit. You know you are living by the Spirit when you are stepping out in obedience to Gods Word, depending on God for the ability and power to do what he asks you to do, and trusting God with the results.

Think About It: The normal goal of human childrearing is to raise our children to become more independent of us over time. God’s goal is to raise his children to become more dependent on him over time.

14. Graceful Living: Think about different areas of your life—relationships, health, school, work, emotions, health, parenting, finances, other.

  • In which ones do you feel you are relying on your own power rather than the Spirit’s power?
  • Consider giving over those areas to your God where you are trusting in your own power and begin trusting in the Spirit’s power. Choose to live according to the Spirit and be led by the Spirit in those areas. Trust your God with the results and watch what happens!

Day Four Study

The filling of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit connects us with Christ so that he is with us and in us forever—God’s presence. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kind of life our God asks us to live—God’s power. He is God’s empowering presence. We are called to live by the Spirit, that is, to walk in submission to and dependence on the Spirit—by faith—daily.

18. Read Ephesians 5:18. What further instruction does Paul give? Why would the comparison to drunkenness be a good one?

What does it mean to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)? The contrast between being filled with wine and filled with the Spirit is obvious. Both forces are internal. “Be filled”/ “Be being kept filled by the Spirit” amounts to letting the Holy Spirit who indwells us control us completely. We do this by trusting and obeying him as his Word directs. The wine that fills a person controls every area of her life as long as that person consumes it. Drunkenness results in ungodly behavior. Likewise the believer who allows the Spirit to influence and direct his thinking and behavior will experience his control as long as she yield’s her will to the Spirit. This is our ongoing responsibility (present tense), and it is expected of every Christian, not optional.

Filling of the Spirit involves our yielding to God as God and yielding to his purposes and his truth. God fills what you open. Author Warren Wiersbe says this, “The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.” (Adapted from Dr. Constables Notes on Ephesians, page 61)

All that you learned in the Day Three Study regarding evidence of living by the Spirit would apply to evidence of being filled by the Spirit. Both result from yielding to and depending upon the Spirit’s empowering presence in your life, choosing God’s purposes and truth for your life. Both produce the characteristics of God’s life in yours.

15. In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul referred to four of the many results of the Spirit’s filling. What are they?

16. A parallel passage describing the same evidence of the Spirit’s filling is found in Colossians. Read Colossians 3:12-17. What are the evidences of being filled with the Spirit/living by the Spirit in each of the following verses?

  • Verse 12—
  • Verse 13—
  • Verse 14—
  • Verse 15—
  • Verse 16—
  • Verse 17—

Scriptural Insight: When he [Paul] speaks here [in Ephesians 5:18] of being with the Spirit and when he speaks in Colossians of being under the rule of the peace of Christ and indwelt by the “word of Christ,” he means to be under God’s control. The effect of this control is essentially the same in both passages: a happy, mutual encouragement to praise God and a healthy, mutual relationship with people.” (NIV Study Bible, note on Ephesians 5:18, page 1798)

17. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes similar evidences of living by the Spirit/being filled by the Spirit which he calls “fruit of the Spirit.”

  • What are they?
  • What similarities in this list do you see with what you discovered in Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:12-17?

Think About It: “We aren’t able to produce the Christian life—only Christ can produce it. We are to maintain a dependent, receiving attitude—the same attitude of availability that Jesus presented to his Father for 33 years. And Christ will produce the fruit of his life in us. Our response should be, ‘Lord, I can’t, but you can.’” (Bob George, Classic Christianity, page 177)

18. Graceful Living: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Living by faith is acting according to the Word of God, depending on Jesus Christ for the power, and trusting him with the results. From the evidences of living by the Spirit you discovered in the verses above, choose a few that you desire in your life. Now, ask Jesus Christ to produce these in you by saying for each one, “Lord Jesus, I can’t, but you can. I want you to do this in my life. I trust you to do this in my life.” Watch what he does!

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Curriculum, Discipleship, Spiritual Life, Women

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