The power of God is the Spirit of God. If we have the Spirit, we obtain the power of God within ourselves. Without the Spirit, we are in the flesh, the natural self, and we end up pursuing the weaknesses of the flesh—greed, fear, anger and desire. Because that is our natural state, where we end up if we are left to our own devices. Not because we are bad people but because these are extremes of how God built us. He created us to rule, to make order, to create equity and to love. But our emotions go to extremes and our justice becomes judgment, our order becomes control and our caution becomes anxiety. That’s just how we roll.
To have balance, we need the Holy Spirit. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, the natural outcome of living in the Spirit. And love is the true balance. Some will say that compassion or self-sacrifice is an extreme, but in reality they are extremes because our society has become so imbalanced toward judgment or hatred, that these reactions are there to create balance in the world. The true center is love. The true balance is care for all, no matter what they’ve done to you. And the Spirit is in the world to direct us to that true balance. To help us rejoice in others, no matter what they’ve done to us. To help us have self-control so we do not hurt others. To help us have mercy so that others may reach their true balance.
If we do not have the Spirit, we will tend to drift. This doesn’t mean that we won’t pursue love, but we will find it difficult, almost impossible, to have love as our center. If we are in the Spirit, living in the Spirit, we have the power to release, the energy to delve into love. Outside of the Spirit, we are pursuing love on our own, and we inevitably create laws that we demand everyone follow. This is a warped love. True love has the power to be flexible, to see the world through other’s eyes. And that only comes through the power of the Spirit.
So how do we obtain the Spirit? How do we obtain this power of loving that so eludes us?
Asking for the Spirit
If we desire the Spirit, we must ask for the Spirit. “Ask and you shall receive… How much more will the Father give the Spirit to those who ask?” The Spirit comes by asking, and the Father freely gives. The Father always wants to give what we truly need, and He knows that we need the Spirit more than anything else. The Spirit makes us who the Father wants us to be, and so the Spirit is the one gift the Father gives freely, if we would but ask. But we need to ask. Because if we think that we can live independently, without the Father’s help, the Father will allow us to live that way. It isn’t what He wants, but he will let us do that. But if we ask for the Father’s help, then He will gladly give it, He will gladly give us the Spirit.
The Kingdom of God
We are living in the wrong nation if we want to live in the Spirit. Our nation doesn’t work by love, it works by pursuing greed and anger. In living in this nation, we might have experiences of the Spirit, but they will be short-lived, temporary highlights of our life. The only way to live in the Spirit is to immigrate to a different nation, a nation that is empowered only by the Spirit. This nation is called the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is the King. To be a part of this nation, one does not need to be a Christian necessarily. Rather, one must be committed to Jesus as the King. To immigrate to Jesus’ nation is to receive the Spirit as a gift, daily. Those who only live as Christians do not experience this, and often they do not recognize the Spirit when he comes. But those who love Jesus recognize the Spirit and seek to live in the Spirit, even as Jesus did. They know that the Spirit isn’t miracles (although he sometimes uses miracles), isn’t doctrine (although he encourages faith and trust), isn’t correct practice (although he guides to right action), but love. And those who dwell in the kingdom encourage others to the Holy Spirit of love as well.
Listening to Jesus
Jesus lived life in the Spirit to the full. If we want to see what a life in the Spirit looks like, we need to experience Jesus’ life. Jesus is the model. Jesus is also the one who explains. He lets us know how to pursue the Spirit and how to be empowered to love. But most important of all, Jesus lets us know what love looks like. There are many things that claim to be “love”. There are many people who claim to be lovers. But the Father’s love is the love of Jesus. Jesus came to show us love, to define love through his words and his deeds. The more we listen to Jesus, the more we observe him, the better we understand what love is, and the easier we find it is to reject the cheap substitutes.
In order to live in the Spirit, it is not enough for us to pursue love, we must be rid of the things that keep us away from love. The Spirit will lead us to what these things are. In fact, the Spirit speaks to us all the time about avoiding the things that squeeze love out of our hearts, that limits our mercy and compassion and sacrifice. If we keep the things that destroy our love, then the Spirit cannot do the work that he wants to do in us. Be rid of those things, those actions, those pursuits that limit the Spirit of love.
Trusting the Spirit
More than likely, the Spirit has already been speaking to us. Perhaps we can remember the last thing the Spirit told you. Perhaps the Spirit is pleading with us to be rid of something. Perhaps the Spirit is compelling us to make a step that is difficult to make. Perhaps the Spirit is encouraging us to do something we just haven’t gotten around to. Whatever it is, listen to the Spirit, do it. Often the Spirit will withdraw until we show that we are ready to walk with him. Living with the Spirit is like any other intimate relationship, it is a companionship of trust. If we show that we trust the Spirit, then the Spirit will open up more to us. If we do not trust the Spirit, then we limit our relationship with the Spirit. But if we listen to the Spirit, then we can pursue our relationship with love.
Practice Your Joy in the Father
Each of us has something that helps us experience joy in the Father. For some, it is experiencing the Father’s creation, for others it is participating with the Father in growing His creation. For some, it is embedding oneself in music, for others it is reading God’s word. For some it is the ecstasy of grateful prayer, for others it is the hard work of interceding. For some, joy is found with the poor, for others, joy is found in dancing. There are many, many ways to experience the joy of the Father, and each of us have different ways to do that. To be enlivened in the Spirit is often found through joyful express of being with the Father. Be aware of pursuits that take us away from love. If our expression limits our capacity to love, then we do not have the full joy the Father wants us to have. But if our expression is a part of love, is a partner with love, then the Spirit fills us to the full and overflowing to all around us.
As in any relationship, we must take time to listen. If we are constantly busy, constantly distracted, constantly talking, then we cannot hear the Spirit. If we do not hear, we cannot experience the voice of the Spirit. If we do not pause, we will never experience the peace of the Spirit out of which flows love. The Spirit wants us to do acts of love, but the Spirit also pleads with us to stop all acts and just rest in him. After working hard in the Spirit, to rest in the Spirit is like experiencing beauty in our soul. It is awe-inspiring, powerful, and deep. It is not always easy to find time for this. If you have small children or constant daily distractions, we may not have an opportunity for this silence. But if you can, pursue it. This deep peace isn’t to be our lives, but it is meant for a respite, an enlivening so we can continue to pursue the life of love in the Spirit.