[Before I start I want to acknowledge a few things. First, if you read my blogs weekly, this content may sound familiar. I wrote a series on the Holy Spirit last summer and most of the content from this blog comes from that series. Also, I recognize that there is a lot of content in this blog, I attempted to summarize four blog’s into one. I feel like it is important content to share and truly is the key to experiencing peace, joy and hope regardless of circumstances. I would encourage you to go back and read the whole series. But in light of recent events, I feel compelled to wrap up this series and address our current situation.]
The question I left us with last week was, if the Holy Spirit dwells in us and He is the key to peace, hope and Joy – why don’t we always feel that way?
I know, you want to stop reading. I said I was going to talk about the Holy Spirit. No one likes to talk about sin. We ignore it because we don’t understand it. We don’t talk about it because it brings too much shame. We feel above it because our hearts are filled with pride.
It wasn’t until I dug deeper into the Holy Spirit’s role in my life that I began to understand sin in a convicting, life altering way.
I shifted my perspective from sin being a list of the do’s and don’ts to being the barrier keeping me from experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
I started to look at sin like a muscle knot.
We have all had a muscle knot before. We do something physically we shouldn’t or do something in a way we shouldn’t and our muscle fibers tense up and adhere to each other. When that happens, blood flow is restricted. A knot keeps the blood and nutrients from flowing freely through your body.
If sin is the muscle knot of tensed up fibers, the Holy Spirit is the blood supply. Just as blood brings life to all parts of the body, the Holy Spirit brings life to us.
What if we started to look at sin, instead of a list of dos and don’ts, as a knot that is keeping the Holy Spirit from giving us the fullest life intended for us? What if we looked at the pain caused by the knot as a signal that things aren’t right, that we need to adjust something? What if we looked at sin as God’s way of telling us that he has more and better things for us? What if he is trying to say that if we worked through the knot, we would experience more of him?
When I began to look at sin this way, I felt motivated. I felt motivated to change. I felt compelled to dig deep into those knots. I stopped ignoring the pain and tried to get to the root of the problem. I was motivated because it was no longer a list of the do’s and don’ts, it was the key to unleashing of the Holy Spirit in my life.
When I became a more serious runner I started using a foam roller. A foam roller is a device that is designed to massage out knots. You press the point of pain on the roller. And you gently roll back and forth on the roller. Though it is the smallest of movements, it is so painful. The longer you do it, the less it hurts and the less knots you have. The blood is allowed to bring life to the whole body, the way it was intended.
So let me share a few ‘foam roller techniques’ with you. These are ways I have found in my own life which when practiced regularly cause the knots of sin to dissipate and the life of the Spirit of God to freely flow through my veins.
(I wrote a blog post dedicated to each one of these techniques, if you are interested in going deeper – click on the links.)
First technique: We need to die.
John 3:30 says “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” Less of us means more of the Holy Spirit.
How do we become less?
We need to die to our dreams, plans, desires and ideas. None of these things are bad within themselves, but they become problematic when they get in the way of God’s dreams, plans, desires and ideas.
Let me give you an example.
I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs, but four years ago I was offered my dream job. I felt like it was the job God created just for me. It lined up with my passions and gifts. I was good at it and I wasn’t the only one who thought that. It was a no brainer, of course I would take the job. But I didn’t feel any peace. I would take one step towards saying yes and would be met with confusion. I would rework a scenario in my mind to make sense of it all, move forward and again be met with chaos. I really wanted that job. The job was in ministry so of course God would want me to have that job, right? As you can probably sense, the job didn’t work out and I was really upset about it.
What I needed to do was die to myself, my ideas, my dreams (that I felt were from God), but instead I pushed and I pushed. I said things I didn’t mean and burned bridges in the process.
It took me a while to finally surrender that dream, but you know what happened when I did? I finally felt peace, the peace that passes all understanding. I didn’t feel confused anymore. I had a clear picture about what God had for me. It wasn’t the picture I would have painted, but I would have it no other way. And as I continue on this journey to die to myself, to my ideas, my passions and my dreams, I’m experiencing unprecedented growth in my faith and in my relationships.
I needed to become less, so he could become more.
Where do we start?
Start in the morning by surrendering your day to God. Lay down your ideas, dreams and plans before him. Be open to divine interruptions throughout the day. Keep this question in the front of your mind “Is this you God or me?” If you aren’t sure if it is God that is nudging you, error on the side of obedience. I believe that if you have pure heart, God will bless your efforts.
Second technique: Repentance.
Matthew 4:17 tells us “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.’” It struck me that according to Matthew when Jesus began his public ministry, his first words were “repent”. I think that should cause us to pause and take note. This might be important.
What does it mean to repent?
The biblical definition of repentance is “to turn from sin and turn towards God. It is a change in direction.”
As I started digging deeper into that definition, I felt like God impressed on my heart….
Repentance starts with saying I’m sorry.
Even as I type these words, I resist. Those words are often spoken without much meaning or attention. I often find myself saying to Bryan, “Stop saying you’re sorry, just change your behavior “ (we don’t mince words in our house). But as I continued to meditate on those words, I was reminded-sometimes you have to fake until you make it. You have to start somewhere and in this case I have found that it had to start with words.
It is not the words themselves that begin to change us, it is what the words start doing our brain, and with that, our heart. Science tells us that we can literally change the way we think by doing the same thing over and over again.
It’s called Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training and practice. New thinking changes brain structure and function. With each repetition of a thought, emotion or word, we reinforce this new pathway. It’s like a hiking path. The first time that we try to blaze a new path, it is full of weeds and grass. It’s hard to navigate. Then the next time we try it, it’s not quite as bad. There are some weeds and brush to push aside, but the path is more clear and easy to navigate. Before we know it, the path is clear and easy to walk on.
So start with words. Go to the Lord and say you are sorry. And then do it again and again and again until you blaze a new path.
Then practice the act of turning.
After you apologize to God, try physically turning the other direction and take a few steps forward. As I stated in the definition, repentance isn’t just about apologizing – it’s about turning from sin and turning toward God. Just see how it feels. I think, over time, you will really notice that a physical turn can make a significant shift in your heart and mind.
In my experience, as we practice these two techniques, we will become less and He will become more. The knots of sin will be massaged out and the Holy Spirit will have the ability to flow freely throughout our body. As a result, we will experience the fruit of the spirit.
“the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….” Galatians 5:22-23
The fruit of the Holy Spirit serves as a Litmus test. A litmus test is a way to prove or measure something. I believe what Jesus is saying to us in Galatians 5 is (paraphrase mine) “Do you want to know if you are filled with the Holy Spirit? Ask yourself, are you loving? Are you joyful? Are you peaceful?….if not, come to me, let’s examine your heart. I think we have some foam rolling to do”
Become there is more,