For nearly two months, the Alameda Church of Christ has been studying the role of the Holy Spirit from the pulpit and a Wednesday night Bible class. It has been a fascinating conversation that has been well-received and appreciated by many. Admittedly, the work of the Spirit can be difficult to measure but the thing to remember is that the role of the Spirit is to make much of Jesus and to help us make much of Jesus also. Years ago, Donald Whitney wrote about this work of the Spirit:
Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, His presence creates a hunger for holiness. His office is to magnify Christ, and it is He who gives the believer a desire to be like Christ. The natural man has no such passion. But in the Christian, the Spirit of God begins to carry out the will of God to make the child of God like the Son of God (Romans 8:29). And he who began this good work in the life of the believer “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
So it is the role of the Holy Spirit to produce within us the desire and the power for the Disciplines that lead to Godliness. That He develops this in every believer is evident from 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Therefore, whether or not your natural temperament or personality inclines toward orderly and disciplined habits, the presence of the Holy Spirit within you equips you with enough of a supernatural “spirit of…self-discipline” for you to obey the command to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.”
That’s why even though there are days when you are tempted to quit Christianity altogether, or to give up on the people of God, or to abandon the Spiritual Disciplines as a waste of time, you still hang in there. It is the Holy Spirit who is causing you to persevere. In those times when you are lazy and have no enthusiasm for any Spiritual Discipline, or when you haven’t practiced a particular Discipline as you habitually do, it is the Holy Spirit who prompts you to pick it up in spite of your feelings. Left to yourself you would have forsaken these means of sustaining grace long ago, but the Holy Spirit preserves you by granting to you the grace to persevere in them.
Self-control, according to Galatians 5:23, is a direct product, or “fruit,” of the Spirit’s control in a believer’s life. And when the Christian expresses this Spirit-produced self-control by the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines, the result is progress in godliness.
The Bible doesn’t explain the mechanics of the mystery of the Spirit’s ministry to us. How prayer (or the practice of any other Spiritual Discipline) is prompted and produced by Him on the one hand, and yet on the other hand is our responsibility, is unfathomable. But these two things are clear: (1) He will be ever faithful to help each of God’s elect to persevere to the end in those things which will make us like Christ, and (2) we must not harden our hearts, but instead respond to His promptings if we would be godly.