Most of us would admit we rarely feel God’s grace at work in us. That is why we are prone to doubting that His presence abides in us. Paul addresses this dilemma for us in Galatians when he writes, “I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, ESV).
It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But we tend to take Paul’s counsel here as a hard command to be obeyed with striving. We grit our teeth and say, “I will walk in the Spirit today.” Then once we stumble we think we aren’t “being spiritual,” so we try even harder to walk in the Spirit. Suddenly we’re under the law again because we’ve turned to our fleshly ability rather than trusting that we are already in the Spirit.
Paul says, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). In other words, the Spirit of God abides in you, giving you access at all times to His grace, which empowers you. When Paul says, “Walk in the Spirit,” he means, “Walk under grace, not the law.”
Paul then shows us the result of a walk in the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Take note: These things don’t come about because of what we do. They are the fruit of the righteousness God has put in us — the result of His work in us.
You may not feel very loving at times, but love is in you because God put it there. You may not feel joy and peace, but God has implanted both deep within you. His Spirit is at work in you every hour of every day, to His great glory and to your deep blessing.
A fast and limited chronological reading of the text in Genesis 11 and 12 could lead a novice reader of the Bible to suppose that Abraham’s father was dead when God extended to him His divine hand of destiny. However, a simple study of the lifespan and ages of the historical figures involved, along with a rigorous analysis of the genealogies, shows us clearly that this wasn't the case at all.
Bible interpreters agree that Abraham had to leave the land of little and barrenness, and the comfort and compromise in which his father had been complacently lying, at a time when his father was living. He had to come out of his father’s house. Faith with a refusal is faith that will receive the supernatural because it is determined not to die in the land of little and obeys the call to “come out of your father's house” (see Genesis 12:1).
Dear reader, I am not speaking here of spiritual pride and arrogance or of the pretentious, condescending attitude that despises one’s elders or blames the past generations for all of our present challenges. We’re not called to compare ourselves with anyone and we are called to honor our fathers and mothers in the flesh and in the faith. We cherish our heritage, hold on to what is precious, and celebrate the good and the authentic testimony of so many who have walked before us.
However, I am convinced that faith with a desire to receive the supernatural must aspire to more than what has been the norm, more than what is around us or was before us. It refuses the mentality of mediocrity and of minimum required. Whatever the nature and limitation of your family history or spiritual background, God calls you to come out of your father’s house. Saul’s armor will not be sufficient to slay present-day giants. You must come out of your father’s house.
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
“By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. . . . By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).
Moses could have had all the gold and silver, the horses, the harem, all the luxuries and pleasures of materialistic Egypt! He was a prince in Egypt, from the royal court of Pharaoh. But he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.” And that decision cost him everything. He considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt, preferring to suffer with God’s people. Moses had his eyes on Jesus his Lord and not on the things of this world.
Does it pay to obey? Does it pay to heed God’s message? Compare these two men of the Bible: Solomon, looking over his life, said, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy. . . . Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought . . . and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Solomon went on to say in Ecclesiastes:
“Therefore I hated life” (2:17).
“[My] heart taketh not rest in the night” (2:23).
“I praised the dead . . . more than the living” (4:2).
“There is a sore evil . . . namely, riches kept for [my own] hurt” (5:13).
“I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands” (7:26).
But look at Moses: At one hundred and twenty years of age, his eyes were ablaze and all his physical forces were at full strength when God called him home. God personally took the body of Moses!
Here is God’s testimonial left to mankind concerning Moses: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh” (Deuteronomy 34:10-11).
It pays to obey!
Disobedience to God’s Word will eventually end up in a breakdown of morals and Christian character.
It all begins with an act of blatant disobedience to a clear word from God. Add to that a half-hearted conviction for sin, a half-hearted repentance, and you will end up like Solomon: an absolute degenerate! “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God. . . . For Solomon went after Ashtoreth . . . the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord. . . . And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:4-9). These words send chills up my spine!
Solomon was now gospel-hardened. The Word of God had no impact on him whatsoever. He was so pathetic! Where once he built a house for one strange woman, there now stood a huge harem. The daughter of Pharaoh had become but one of a thousand lovers! Solomon himself was now old and haggard, while God was silent and angry with him. He no longer prayed to God and he had no joy left. His heart was sick as he wrote pitiful prose about the vanity and uselessness of life. Jerusalem had become polluted with heathen temples, built with high taxes. The king drank heavily, bored by all his gorgeous houses and gardens. His heart was full of idolatry, the days of touching God but faint memories. “All is vanity—it’s all for nothing” (see Ecclesiastes 1:14).
Is this the same man who once prayed so eloquently at the temple dedication? “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man . . . which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven . . . and forgive . . . and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest . . . that they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (1 Kings 8:38-40).
So go ahead—cling to your idols! Justify your areas of disobedience and excuse your little sins! One day it will break out into a raging, uncontrollable fire of immorality and apostasy.
Solomon compartmentalized his life: half for God and half for his pleasures. The Word of God halfway convicted him. He experienced halfway sorrow, halfway repentance—with halfway changes! I don’t know what happened, but Solomon got halfway convicted about his heathen wife living in the holy place near the ark. So he decided to move her out—halfway across town! “Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David . . . because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come” (2 Chronicles 8:11).
The truth was that Solomon didn’t want to give her up! He knew in his heart it was all wrong and it was nagging him on the inside. I can hear him saying, “Yes, I’ve got to do something about this. I’m going to show the Lord I want to do the right thing.” But did he ship her back to Egypt?
Our churches today are filled with half-and-half Christians—halfway convicted by the Word and halfway repentant—making halfway changes in their lives. There is little of “trembling at the Word.” I hear so many who are still living in blatant sin, still doing the same old things. They say, “God knows I mean to do well. He sees my heart. I really love the Lord. I’ve made some changes and I’m doing better.” It’s not enough to mean well. We must do it!
Solomon had built the temple and had finished all his building projects. But he was still living in disobedience in these areas, seeing no danger in it. Yet God was so merciful that He continued answering his prayers. Solomon was still going up three times a year to offer sacrifices and was joyful and glad in the presence of the Lord.
I believe this is the most dangerous position a Christian can be in: His prayers are still getting through and there is joy and gladness. There remain, however, areas of disobedience where the Word is not the absolute authority, while the believer is blind to the deterioration taking place.
God again appeared to Solomon with a strong sermon, a powerful Word: “Walk in integrity. Obey My Word.” All the while, Solomon was slipping away from God, growing hard and insensitive to the Word, blinded by His blessings and mercies. How many Christians get blessed, feel God’s Spirit, get happy in Him, and say, “Everything’s all right because God is blessing me”?