As we talked on Sunday about our life in the Spirit in Romans 8:5-11, I was reminded about the first teaching I can remember of the Spirit-filled life. I was a 15 year old, who reluctantly went to my church’s youth camp in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN. While I was involved in the regular activities of my church, I didn’t participate in the extras (youth choir, youth trips, etc.) because I was more of a band geek, not very athletic and somewhat introverted. I thought I would be out of my comfort zone at camp, but since our pastor, Herb Hodges, was leading the teaching sessions, my parents encouraged me to go.
In his sessions, I remember Herb teaching with a chalk board – writing outlines, Greek words and drawing illustrations. One of those sessions portrayed three circles, each with a chair [throne] in the middle. We were told that the circles represented three different types of people – the non-Christian, the Christian and the carnal Christian. Each illustration had an “S” for self and a cross to represent Christ. Additionally, small dots within the circle represented the various decisions and activities of life.
The first circle had the “S” on the chair with Christ outside of the circle. The dots inside the circle were in disarray, representing a life that was out of control. This depicted the life of the unsaved, who was living the self-directed life. Whether out of ignorance or rebelliousness, this individual had not yielded his life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the dots inside the circle were in disarray, representing the inability of man to really control life under his own power.
The second circle was one in which Jesus sat on the throne and self was at the feet of the throne. In this circle, the dots were in an orderly form, representing the life of a Christian under the control of the Spirit.
The final circle pictured Christ still in the circle, but He had been dethroned by the “S”. Once again, the dots were in disarray…a life in chaos without the controlling nature of the Spirit of Christ on the throne. The carnal believer, one walking in his own power and self-direction, but nevertheless saved, was represented by this circle.
When pressed with the question, “Which circle best represents you?”, I knew that it was not the Spirit-filled believer. In fact, I was not even sure that I had ever really experienced salvation. I made a decision that night to have Christ on the throne of my life and to seek the life of obedience to Christ through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, filling my life. This teaching revolutionized my understanding of God’s expectations for me. I was no longer under the impression that I was on my own when it came to living for Christ. He had given me His help and power if I would only choose against myself and choose Him.
Youth camp provided some additional dividends. I made connections with some older youth beyond by own grade, who accepted me and provided me with some of the important accountability touches that were needed outside the church setting. Did I (and, do I) still blow it at times? Yes! But, praise the Lord, He is faithful in forgiving, restoring and enabling His children to follow after Him!
- On the night before His death Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He explained the role, which the Spirit would have in the life of believers. Read through John 14-16 and write down what each chapter says about the function of the Spirit.
- Ephesians 5:18 is often used as an admonition to avoid the use of alcohol. It is more an issue of control. You are going to be controlled by something or Somebody. Are you going to be controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit, or are you going to be controlled by a substance, a hurt, a hang-up or a habit? Think about your life. What or who is in control right now?
- Galatians 5:16-25 is a great passage to contrast between the sinful nature and the life in the Spirit. Compare the lists and consider which best describes your life. Ask God to begin to manifest more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life as you keep in step with the Spirit.
1 This was not original with Herb, but is published by Campus Crusade for Christ. Here is a link to the online version (and illustrations) of Have You Made the Wonderful Discovery of the Spirit-Filled Life? You would be wise to master such illustrations, enabling you to have “napkin drawings” with family and friends at the dinner or restaurant table as God directs the conversation to spiritual matters.
2 Having made a profession of faith at age 7, I did not have the intellectual capacity to understand the more abstract concepts of the Lordship of Christ and its implications for my life. So, as a 15 year old, those concepts were now connecting and resonating in my mind and heart. Looking back from adulthood, I believe my early conversion was valid, and I committed as much as I knew of Chuck to as much as I knew of God at age 7 (which at the time was more of the saving role of Christ). Due to a lack of understanding (or the lack of teaching), I thought I was on my own to live in obedience to God by rule keeping and will power. What a relief to experience the life of the Spirit!