Ethics, The Holy Spirit, and You

Of all the people living on the earth, Christians should be the most ethical. When you read the Bible, it becomes obvious this is what God wants, and He wants this for different reasons. First, the more ethical we live, the happier we will be. Imagine how good it would feel to never have a “guilty conscience” again! Second, the more ethical we live, the better witness we have. When a person “practices what they preach,” they can more effectively share their faith with others because they will have confidence; their words will ring true, not hollow. Third, the more ethical we live, the more accurate we replicate Christ in our lives. After all, we do bear His Name! We ought to try living as He lived. And fourth, we really have no excuse to not live ethically. The old saws, “the devil made me do it,” or, “God isn’t finished with me yet,” should be expunged from Christian vocabulary because they give the impression Christians are finding ways to excuse their sin, and Christians should never try to excuse their sin!

Living ethically, expected of us by God, can be done right here, right now. We don’t have to wait for the Second Coming and the Millennial reign of Christ to be the most ethical people on earth. Within every believer is a reservoir of dynamic, unlimited, and Divine power waiting to be accessed, guaranteed to give you the supernatural ability to live as Christ did. The Holy Spirit stands ready to help YOU live ethically; all we have to do is yield to that Spirit.

That sounds so easy, and it’s easier to write than to do. The fact is, the wants and the flesh are often at war with the demands of the Spirit. When push comes to shove, we need the Holy Spirit to give us the “gumption” to strike down the flesh. No less a person than the Apostle Paul struggled with this very issue:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. (Romans 7:21—23)

1. A life transformed

(a) A new perspective, John 16:8

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…

It’s interesting that Christians almost always think of the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter,” yet here Jesus seems to indicate that a primary purpose Holy Spirit is to show to the world what sin is, what righteousness is, and why they, as sinners, are living in a way unacceptable to God. Like they say, “you can’t see the forest for the trees,” so a sinner who is living in sin continually has no idea how sinful he may be. It’s the job or ministry of the Holy Spirit to show him, but how does the Spirit do that?

In the life of the believer, He has the same ministry, but He does it from the inside out. That is, the Holy Spirit convicts the believer of sin; He brings it to our attention and puts us in the position of having to make the choice: Do I sin? Or do I turn away with the help of the Spirit? This is the beginning of ethical living for the believer—simply listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit. For the unbeliever, no such ministry exists. The Holy Spirit does not indwell an unbeliever and they are oblivious to His existence. The Holy Spirit fulfills this aspect of His ministry—showing the sinner what sin is and what righteousness is—through US; through the CHURCH. Think of the implications of that, and think of the responsibility we have as believers! When we choose to sin and rebel against the leading of the Holy Spirit, not only do we harm ourselves, but we literally quench the Holy Spirit and, possibly, harm the sinner who should have been helped by our obedience, but instead sees us behaving just like him!

This is a whole new perspective on obedience! We obey, not only for our sake but also for the sake the unbeliever, who is lost in his sins, has no choice but to sin, but can see us and therefore can see a way out of his lost state. At the very least, when we live in obedience, it can cause an unbeliever to stop and question his behavior and maybe, Lord willing, cause him to ask why we live the way we do, thus opening the door for us to share our faith.

(b) A new owner, 1 Corinthians 6:19—20

When we consider what happened at our conversion, living ethically becomes an urgency, not an option. Thanks to the work of Christ, we have been gloriously and permanently set free from sin’s hold on us. Once we were slaves to sin, but now we are “dead to sin,” it no longer has a claim on us in any way. Sin has no claim on our minds—we don’t have to sin in our thoughts. Sin has no claim on our time—we don’t have to spend our free time sinning. Sin has no claim on our talents—we can use them to glorify God. In short, we are now free in the purest sense, to pursue righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy in the Lord. And yet, with this freedom, which sinners cannot experience, by the way—we are called to live by certain “rules of conduct” based on the fact that we, though free from sin, are now owned by Someone else:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Paul wrote that in the context of sexual sin. But the principle of “honoring God with our bodies” extends to every aspect of our lives. Since ownership of our bodies transfered to Jesus at our conversion, for us to return to our old way of life would be a violation of that spiritual transaction. Therefore, ethical living is the best way to honor Jesus Christ, both as our Savior but also as our new Master.

2. Spirit controlled living

(a) Thinking new thoughts, Romans 8:1—9

For many believers, verse one of this group of verses stands out as one of their favorites:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

The profound truth of that verse is life-changing. If we are in Christ, we can never be condemned for our sins; there is no other way to interpret that. Simple and straight forward, this verse further illustrates the magnitude of what Jesus did for us. He saved us from our sins in every way—He separated us from them; they are no longer attached to us and God will no longer associate them with us. Yet there are many forces in the world around us determined to draw us back into a life of sin in an attempt to undo what Christ did. Think about it: the media, our careers, our friends, even our family members can be used by Satan to that end. How do we fight all of these forces? Like so much of what we do, it all begins between our ears:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)

This describes a whole new way of thinking; a way of thinking based on what the Holy Spirit wants, not on what we want. We flippantly use the phrase “led by the Spirit” as a way to describe living according to the will of God, but rarely do we stop to wonder where we get that information. Just where do we discover what the Spirit desires for us? If we believe that the Word of God is God’s final Word to us, then we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God, discover what it says, then—and only then—can we be led by the Spirit. From time-to-time in our immaturity, the Holy Spirit will come to us and supernaturally move us along a desired path, but the longer we serve the Lord, the more we are expected to know His Word. There is no way around the Bible! It must be the focal point of our new way of living.

(b) Living a new way, Romans 8:12—14

At first glance, verse 12 seems like a downer when we compare it to verse one:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature…

Nobody likes to talk about “obligations,” but here it is in black and white: Christians, as free as we may be in Christ, have a sacred obligation NOT to live according to the “sinful nature.” We sometimes joke about Christians who seem to be “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good,” because their lives seem to be so different from ours. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been sects that sought to live separate from the rest of the world to the point where they lived in small communities, cut off from society. Is this what the Bible teaches? No; living a new way means living IN the world in such a way as our new lives become obvious to those who see us. Living a life of separation does not mean literal separation from everybody, but spiritual separation from sin and the forces that seek to tempt us to sin.

Our obligation is to get a handle on our sinful nature and live contrary to it! Coming to Christ does not make us robots; it does not remove our ability to choose; it does not mean that we forfeit the ability to think and reason and question. In fact, coming to Christ sets us free to do all those things in a way untainted by sin. But our obligation is live according to the Spirit; God wants us to choose to live that way; He does not force it on us. And God has given us something to help us make that choice: the fruit of the Spirit.

3. The fruit of the Spirit

(a) No conflict, Galatians 5:17, 19—21

Christians have been redeemed—they have been “bought back” from the world. Some Christians think this redemption is all about their souls. To them, redemption is all about going to heaven when they die. They couldn’t be more short-sighted. While it is true our souls have been redeemed, our redemption includes all we are are: our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our temperaments, and our natures. Because our whole being has been bought by God, every time we make an unethical choice, every time we conspire to sin, we are thrown into a conflict. Paul understood this conflict well:

For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:17)

The last phrase of that verse says it all: we are not free to do whatever we want. This stands in contrast to the attitude of the world today, that tells us we should do whatever makes us happy, or whatever makes us feel good. The attitude today is “I deserve to be happy.” In fact, Paul makes it very clear how dangerous that attitude is in verse 21:

I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There should be no conflict, but when we feel it, we know we are in the wrong. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, even though it makes us uncomfortable, is essential in keeping us on track so that we will ultimately prevail and inherit the Kingdom of God.

(b) Live by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16, 22—25

To help end the conflict, we have the fruit of the Spirit. The key to ethical living is allowing the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives. Paul makes it crystal clear that if we are walking by the Spirit—paying attention to what the Holy Spirit wants for us—then we will NOT give in to our sinful natures. Furthermore, walking in the Spirit is no mystery for we have a list of how to do it! We call this list “the fruit of the Spirit,” and if you are doing your best live according to this list, then you will be living ethically. Contrary to what some may think, the fruit of Spirit is for all Christians, not just the so-called “super saints!” The fruit of the Spirit should be the norm for all believers.

The thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that there is ONE fruit with many parts. This indicates that all the “virtues” are linked together to make up that ONE fruit. The implication is a bit startling: all Christians are expected to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in its entirety. Yes, each piece of the Spirit’s fruit should be seen in our lives. That requires a lot of work. For some of us, certain pieces of the fruit of the Spirit will come easy, others will be hard to manifest. But it is our privilege to cultivate a life a where the whole fruit of the Spirit may be seen all the time. This can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us on an ongoing basis.

When we start living like that, we will be living in the ethical way God desires.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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