You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. … For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:9, 14)
Said George: “You know we are on a wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we could do with, but only of the things that we can’t do without.” -Three Men in a Boat: To say nothing of the Dog, by Jerome K. Jerome. To understand Paul’s take on the Holy Spirit, we first need a lesson in filters. In your car, an air-intake system feeds the engine’s compressors. That system takes in both air and everything floating in it—pollen, bugs, dirt, everything. That’s why we need an air filter. It prevents all those fragments from clogging the engine.
What works for car engines works for spiritual engines, too. We also have an intake system, complete with filters that decide what we take in and what we filter out. For instance, if I believe in reincarnation, then my experience of the natural world will filter through that belief. Childhood wounds will filter adult conversations and relationships. Our filters determine what gets to our “engines.”
This is why Paul makes such a strong case for the Spirit-filtered life as he describes the marks of this life in Romans 8. This is the shape of a life controlled by (filtered by) the Spirit of God:
- We begin to think more of God than ourselves. It doesn’t happen overnight, but over time our worldview changes. We begin to see a bigger picture. We filter more and more of our decisions through God’s values and God’s desires. Our choices take on a less selfish, more Kingdom-minded quality.
- We will still experience the limits of sin. That’s what makes the life-changing message of forgiveness just as important for a Spirit-filled person as it does for one who just got saved. Spirit-filtered people value the practices of confession and repentance because they keep our spiritual engines running smoothly. We take time daily to pray with Paul, “Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Spirit-filled people are not perfectionists, but we energetically pursue the practice of perfect love—the ultimate mark of the Holy Spirit.
- We experience life on God’s terms. I once heard a personal trainer tell her new client during their first work-out together, “You are now a person with a routine.” I like that. Spirit-filtered people are people with a spiritual routine. We experience life on God’s terms and our calendars and checkbooks are filtered through the pleasures of God.
- God will do the same thing in us that he did in Jesus. Jesus said we would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us (Acts 1:8), and that we’d do the things he did and more (John 14:12). Under the authority of the Holy Spirit, we have power to cast out demons, cure diseases, preach the gospel and heal the sick (Luke 9:1). Spirit-filtered people take that authority seriously.
- We are delivered from the dead life and into son/daughter status. Because he lives, we live. A Spirit-filtered person does not interpret his experiences through the lens of death and rejection but through life and acceptance. After all, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; he came to make dead people live.
- Our body will be as alive as Christ’s. Everything we believe—our entire worldview as followers of Jesus – depends on the fact of Jesus being in the presence of God in the flesh on our behalf right now. Our flesh in heaven is a sure pledge that God is at peace with all who believe. And God’s Spirit in us is our assurance of His plan to give us access to all the powers of Heaven. We are as alive as Christ, right now, in the spiritual realm.
Where these marks are present in a follower of Jesus, life is different. We begin to see financial strain not as a roadblock but as a miracle in the making. Mistakes no longer define us because they have been filtered through forgiveness. Our stories of shame and guilt become a testament to grace. Brokenness becomes a pathway to peace. Death is a doorway to glory.
The Spirit-filtered life is characterized by an other-worldly perspective. This leaves us with a burning question: does my life reflect that perspective? What filters the things that flow into my spiritual engine? How do I interpret my experiences—as one bound by the spirits of this dark world, or as one led by the Spirit of God?
May you experience the pure joy and deep peace of a life filtered by the Holy Spirit.
Read part 1, “When God Moves We Move”
Read part 2, “The Rock, the Ripples, and the River”
Read part 4, “Claiming Our Inheritance”