My name is Randy Meulman and I put this message together because the Lord has opened my eyes to an issue I believe is of great concern. I believe there are a lot of Christians who are missing out on the abundant life that Jesus promised. Life, which is full of joy and hope, full of love and energy. Life is that force that sets our spirits free, free to be the people the Lord created us to be. Growing in love and life is our purpose for being here. And if we're not growing we are stagnant and our spirits die. Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. What does He have to say about the most important truth in our Christian life? But before we hear from Jesus, I want to ask you a question that's kind of a test question. Since Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith - what could be better than having Him over to our houses for dinner tonight. Jesus, Himself, right there at our sides, asking Him questions, learning from Him, and interacting with Him. Let me ask the question again, what could be better than having Jesus over to your house for dinner. Do you know the answer? Those who know about the abundant life He promised know the answer. Jesus himself gave us the answer.
When talking with his disciples, Jesus said it would be better for them that He go away because He would send the Comforter to them. Of course, we know that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, but still, how can this be? How can having the Spirit of Jesus in your life be better than actually having Jesus sitting right there next to you?
Let's back up for a moment. Most of us know that Jesus came to Earth and died for our sins and rose again from the dead. And the reason He did this was because we were hopelessly lost. The world in which we live is growing dark, and it's going to grow much darker because life separated from God leads to death. And if you're a Christian, you know this to be true. In reality, Jesus came to create a new race of people, a race of people intimately connected to God in love. And this new creation only comes about through resurrection, which begins the day we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
How does this resurrection process work? When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, does that mean we are suddenly ushered into heaven on earth? Well, yes and no. I know there was a moment of joy that touched my life the moment I accepted Jesus - it was a glorious touch of Heaven. But there were, and still are, a lot of things in my life that had and have to go. Choices have to be made. God is not a bully and He is not going to force us to change those destructive things that plague our lives. Sin, missing the mark, failure, choices that lead to death, whatever you want to call it.
Have you ever heard it said that God can have nothing to do with sin? Well, if you're a sinner like me, that means God can have nothing to do with me. So, if I truly want to relate to God, I must either live in denial or pretend I'm somebody I'm not. Of course nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth. Jesus took on the sins of the entire world, swallowed sin up, and came out the other side. It seems obvious that God is the only one who has solutions for our sins. And since God is the only One who can deal with our sins we need to be honest with Him You will never understand or participate in what it really means to be intimate with God if you cannot be totally honest with Him. Honest about your darkest secrets - those choices that keep you from the abundant life.
So what does all of this have to do with the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity? First of all, you cannot live the Christian life apart from the Spirit. You cannot create the new you. Think about this. You and I, in and of ourselves, cannot produce one single fruit of the Spirit-- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and so the list goes. Not one! Most of the time, we take these Christian words for granted because the Lord has worked in our lives. We love our children. We love our parents. We love close friends and people who hold similar values to our own. But have you ever tried loving the unlovable? What about that person at work you just can't stand? Try producing joy in your life when you're bored or depressed. Try producing peace when everything around you is crumbling. Try getting rid of the fear in your life when you are terrified. Try healing those childhood hurts that still plague your life. That's why it's called the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruit of the flesh.
Ok, but still, how is having the Holy Spirit in our life better than having Jesus over for dinner? Remember when Jesus said, "I tell you if a man even looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has already committed adultery with her." Pretty hard statement. So, for the sake of illustration, let's say you're a man and you're wrestling with lust for a woman, pornography, or whatever it may be. And while Jesus is over at your house for dinner, He calls you down on this, because He knows this is damaging your marriage. Read the gospels. Jesus called a lot of people down on lots of issues, and especially the religious community. What are you going to do? I can tell you one thing for certain--apart from the Holy Spirit, you are going to fail. Every guy listening to this knows exactly what I'm talking about.
Try applying the truths found in the Bible without the leading of the Holy Spirit. Try keeping all of God's Commandments. You can't do it. And if you try, you will either live in defeat, or you will create false appearances and self-deception like most of us have done. And that is why we have so much denial in so many Christian circles - trying to live the Christian life apart from the Spirit is impossible.
Jesus did not keep the Commandments because He mustered up the will power on His own. He kept the Commandments because He was in relationship with His Father. And we now have that same Spirit living in us. Life is about love. Life is about the power to change and not to muster it up in the flesh, which only produces failure. The Spirit of God has come to set us free. Yet the Spirit will never violate you or force you to submit to Him. Never. That is also why it's so easy to miss the working of the Spirit in our lives, because He is not going to bully us or shout at us. And this is also the reason we are such messes and live in defeat. We are powerless to create the new us. Make all the New Year's resolutions you want, but if you're an obese person who can't stop eating, you know what I'm talking about. Or maybe you like to gossip. How easy is it to stop? Perhaps you like judging your neighbor and taking the speck out of his eye while ignoring the log in your own. In reality, each of us is a mess. But, and this what it means to be a Christian, the Spirit of God can guide and deliver you if that's what you really want. The Spirit gives you the power to change and actually resides in you and that's why Jesus said it would be better than having Him over for dinner and sitting next to you.
Don't think for a moment that you're going to feel more righteous as you get to know the Lord. You're going to become more and more alive and free in your Spirit, but as to feeling righteous, you're going to get worse in your own mind. The apostle Paul is a good example of what I'm talking about. When Paul was a Pharisee, he viewed himself as the most righteous man alive. Number one. Numero uno. After meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, and later when he started his ministry, he viewed himself as the least of the apostles. During the middle of his ministry, he viewed himself as the least of the saints. I think there were about 5,000 Christians at that time. At the end of his life, Paul called himself the chief of sinners. Worst person who ever lived. It sounds like Paul was getting worse, doesn't it? And yet, Paul's goal was to obtain the resurrection, and I don't mean after he physically died as that was a given with Paul. I'm talking about living the resurrected life while he still walked on this Earth. There is something about being transformed by the Spirit of God that stamps out all self-righteousness and attitudes of moral superiority.
For a good portion of my Christian life, I could not identify with Jesus' words promising that a joyful and abundant life awaits those who follow Him. My life had all of the outward markings of a solid Christian walk - taking up the cross so to speak - which by all appearances should have produced the joy and abundance that Jesus spoke of. After a seriously troubled and wild youth, I became a born-again Christian at the age of 19. In my late 20's, I went to a highly regarded theological seminary and gave myself over to studying and memorizing a great deal of the Bible. I joined an evangelical organization and witnessed to many people. I gave over 20% of my income to Christian organizations. I visited prisoners and their families. I opened my home to the downtrodden. I lead Bible studies, I lead prayer groups, and I lead people to Christ. Sounds pretty good and Christian, don't you think? But, something was wrong. Joy eluded me. Life eluded me. Abundance was just a concept. I was not truly alive on the inside, but I didn't have a clue what the problem was. As I'm sure some of you can relate to, I tried to solve the riddle by giving myself over even more to the Christian call as I understood it. Yet the answer did not lie in the area of more service or more activity, it was found in the gentle person of the Holy Spirit. Christian activities apart from the Holy Spirit do not produce the resurrected life. In my own life, all the energy and effort I expended trying to please God, resulted in a death and emptiness in my spirit.
How does saying yes to the Spirit look in a person's life today? I know it's different for each of us, but one of the ways it works in me is in my relationship with my wife. I'm absolutely in love with her, but that doesn't mean we are on the same page when it comes to how we see everything. Both of us are very strong willed individuals, and submitting to someone else's perspective, especially when we think we are right--well, it's just not happening. I really don't know of any people who have a better marriage than we do, but, the fact remains, that if Deborah and I were not submitted to the Lord, we wouldn't be married. Whenever we have a major disagreement, we get down on our knees and we submit our wills to the Lord and humbly ask Him to sort things out. This is not fun, nor is it something we want to do, nor is the ensuing process easy. As a matter of fact, it's often the last thing I want to do. But, if we didn't do it, our marriage would be destroyed. And every time we submit our wills to the Lord, without any exception, He shows up--sometimes immediately, sometimes after a few hours, but He always shows up.
This process isn't nice and tidy. This isn't about a Christian belief system or theological doctrine. This isn't about Bible study or family counseling. This process involves the living God showing up. There are times that I just know I'm right and the Holy Spirit reveals to me the error in my thinking.
And though the Spirit always deals with us in love, often when He exposes the error in us, it's not a fun thing. I know when I find out I'm the culprit in a glitch in our marriage - you know, being the "bad guy" - I just hate it, because I don't like being wrong. It's much easier for me to be sweet and forgiving when my wife is wrong. Sometimes it's a bit disorienting, thinking you are right when, in fact, you are wrong. It's like the Spirit of Christ shines a light into a darkened room of my life. The best way I can describe the transformation that occurs in me is that the self-righteous attitude in me - my flesh, which is disconnected from God's love - is put to death and replaced by His Spirit of love and life. God is actually creating something new in me. But, you have to say yes to the Lord. You have to be open to His leading.
You don't need a lot of information to be intimate with the Lord. All you need is the willingness to be honest and the desire to be transformed. Some of the most miraculous experiences I've had with the Holy Spirit, and I mean miraculous, were in those early days when I knew very little about Him. The Holy Spirit takes you where you are in your walk with Jesus. If your life is a complete mess, so be it, it doesn't matter. The Lord will help you sort things out if you ask Him. And then He will give you the power to change.
I don't want to make this sound simplistic because sometimes it can be confusing. The other day I went fishing and I was going through some difficult personal struggles. Normally, I'm full of energy, joy and passion, with a real sense of well-being, but not that day. I was struggling with myself and with demonic forces - I felt like a bear with a thorn in its paw. So, I asked the Lord, "Why do I have to go through this?" Struggling like that was so frustrating and didn't make sense to me at the time. You know what the Lord said to me? "To make room for another Person." He was talking about the Holy Spirit. Struggling and suffering is not easy for anyone. But before resurrection there is death. This is about a new creation. And this could be the most important thing I have to say - the next time you're fighting depression, boredom or temptation, ask the Lord to deliver you from yourself. Tell Him, "I can't do this Lord. Deliver me from myself and create in me the person You created me to be." For so many years, I tried to perform for God. Like Paul before his conversion, I was a Pharisee. And like Paul, there are not many people who are willing to take it as far as I did. I was a true zealot. I had memorized over 50 chapters of the Bible, key verses, and could recite chapter and verse. I was an expert in evangelism and Christian apologetics and lost very few debates - even with my professors when I was in college. I went to seminary, was a full-time Christian worker and recruited lots of people under the guise of discipleship. There are missionaries around the world today because of those efforts, yet all of it was in the flesh. Christian activities apart from the Spirit of God are dead. I don't care what they are. I can remember visiting an out-of-state church where the music team was a group of ordinary people. Ordinary people who invited the Holy Spirit to show up. When I went into the church, I could feel the Glory of God. I'm an ex-marine and I'm not the type of person who puts his hands up for anything. Well, my hands automatically went up - I couldn't help it. The Spirit permeated that room. It doesn't matter what activity we're doing. From evangelism to bible study, if the Spirit is not in it, it's dead. Have you ever noticed that when the Lord does something significant in your life--you know what I mean, one of those life-changing, soul-deep experiences-- suddenly, your new-found spiritual truth is all you can see. Well, that's how I am about the Comforter when it comes to living the Christian life. Frankly, given Jesus' statements about the Holy Spirit, I find it shocking how many believers really don't have a functional and intimate relationship with Him. And that's why I want to encourage Christians everywhere to pursue a relationship with our Lord. And the way that is done is through the Spirit who wants to set you free.
Now I want to share a few observations about the process, observations that have been true for me and may be helpful for you. First, it could be messy. For so many years, I had ideas about God that in actuality had nothing to do with God. All of that wasted energy and effort - all because I wanted God to be pleased with me. And when the Spirit revealed to me that everything I tried to do was already done in Jesus, I became very angry. All those wasted years in religion. For you see being separated from God is the result of sin and the Spirit brings us back into relationship. That's why Jesus said to the religious people of His day that all their righteousness was as filthy rags. If you've been a self-righteous person and sacrificed a lot in the flesh, anger will likely be involved. I know it sure was for me. Next, as you grow, your relationship changes. For many years, I ranted and raved to God about the utter lack of well-being in my life. And the Lord let me do this ranting and raving. Then a couple of years ago, I was wrestling with the Lord about a friend of mine and I started talking to the Lord in my sharp aggressive way. In the middle of my speech, He stopped me flat and said, " I don't want you talking to Me that way any more. I've laid a basis in your life for you to trust Me." Now, I'm sure I had good intentions, for whatever it was that I was angry about, but the Lord's words stopped me in my tracks. And I knew He was right. So, it was kind of like, "O.K., I agree with you Lord, but I'm concerned.." And then He broke in again and said, "I'm very aware of what you are talking about and I'm far more concerned with this person than you are." Well, there was nothing else to say because I knew that was the truth. By the way, I don't yell at the Lord anymore. The point being, you have to be you, and God will be God. This is not a Christian idea or theology I'm talking about - this is a relationship with a real person, the living God. And God is not religious. If you want to see what God thinks about religion, study the life of Jesus in the gospels. The point is- you and the Lord have to work this out together and nobody can do it for you. Also, getting naked before the Lord is not all that easy, especially if you have been cloaking yourself in religion and your own personal goodness. Or at least it wasn't for me. And lastly, I want to say again, that it is very easy to miss the leading of the Spirit in our lives because the Lord will not shout at or bully us in any way. The more I understand the Lord, the more I understand His love. And love encourages you to choose.
There are lots of voices that come at us that are not from the Lord. Satan wears many faces and often appears as an angle of light. These are voices of fear and bondage. But when you really get to know the Lord and His voice you will find He is a God of life. And He is a good God. He is a gentle place of shelter. And He wants to set us free to experience that abundant life Jesus promised and secured with His death and resurrection. Then we look forward to the day when we will all be changed into the new creation - a new spirit, a new body, all sharing in the Glory of God. All made possible by Jesus in His death and resurrection through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In closing, I want to add that the life-changing work of the Holy Spirit in my own life resulted in me documenting my experiences in a small book entitled The Quest for Glory. For those of you who are interested and believe it may help you or a loved one to discover true intimacy with the Lord, you may download a free copy of the book from the website www.thequestforglory.com. Again no spaces -thequestforglory.com You can also purchase a hardcover copy for the cost of printing. This is a non-profit endeavor for me and I will not take one penny. I want this to be free and I want you to be free - free to be the person the Lord created you to be.
Well, I've asked for the Lord's guidance in helping me with this project - what I call the Holy Spirit showing up. I'm hoping the Lord will show up and touch you, but that's really between you and the Lord. If you don't know where to start tell Him you you don't know where to start and He will guide you in Love. I do hope the Lord blesses you. I hope He blesses you with the abundant life He promised. And for those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, ask the Lord if would have you share this message with a friend. He may bring someone's name to mind for you. May God bless you.