T OM W O Y T H A L M I N I S T R I ES
The Life of the Spirit
“And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).
All throughout His childhood and young adulthood, Jesus worked as a carpenter in His small hometown of Nazareth. Most in town probably knew of His father’s business as a place where they could go to receive quality “new construction” or “home improvement” work, and no doubt the family business led the trade in integrity, honesty and excellence. Furthermore, every Sabbath day, Jesus served faithfully on the “ministry team,” and would stand up and read from the scriptures. He and His family were highly respected by all of those in the synagogue and in the community, but there came a day when all of that was to change.
Jesus was born for a specific reason. Everything leading up to this moment was in preparation for His eternal destiny, the very reason for which He had been born. It was a Sabbath day like any other, and Jesus had been given the honor of conducting the weekly scripture reading, and so He did. He read Isaiah 61:1-2, and then continued… “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears…” (Luke 4:16-30). His favor with the community would end. Why? Because He had stepped out of the religious box that had been carefully constructed for Him, and dared to obey the plan and will of the Father. Indeed, this was the beginning of the “rebellion” and “insurrection” of the man whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus came to the earth for several reasons. He came to die on a cross, to be resurrected, and provide a way for sinful man to be reconciled to God, but He also came in order to demonstrate the life of the Spirit. Jesus did many things that confused His disciples and enraged the religious order of His day. He was unpredictable and strange in the eyes of most; in fact, even His own mother, at one point, sent to have Him silenced because they thought he had gone mad (Mark 3:21, 31-35). Religious tradition, structure and control, and the ways of the Spirit are in direct opposition to one another. They are “opposing forces” which can never be reconciled.
God hates religion and everything associated with it. It is an abominable evil which has likely damned more souls than gambling, prostitution, adultery, lying, stealing, alcohol and drug addiction, and every other tactic of Satan combined. Religious control is any doctrinal idea, administrative structure, emotional guilt or pressure, or any set of laws and regulations that hinder the full expression of a Spirit-led life, and blind men to the truth (Luke 6:39).
Men and women of God throughout both the Old and New Testaments did many “strange” things that were ridiculed and mocked in their day, even by those who were called by the name of the Lord. Abraham packed up and left the home of his nativity after coming in one day and telling his family that a God (whom nobody had ever really heard of) appeared to him, and told him to pack up and go somewhere (Genesis 12:1, Hebrews 11:8). Can you hear them? “Where are you going, Abram?” “Well… I’m not sure… I’m just going.” We picture it so nicely… “Alright Abram, we understand perfectly,” “Let us help you pack your things…”
Noah spent one hundred years building a huge boat, and we say, “Isn’t that wonderful?” We read the children’s books with Noah and his family cheerfully building the ark, with all the smiling animals just waiting to get onboard, and we never understand what they had to endure. They were part of a community, and they were mocked, ridiculed and scorned. David, who was destined to be king of Israel, was for many years a vagabond. The present king, King Saul, had become enraged one night because David didn’t show up for dinner and conform to the proper protocol of the day (I Samuel 20). But David knew his destiny; He knew what he needed to do in order to protect what God had deposited in him and had spoken over his life.
Those who follow after the Spirit are many times labeled as “rebellious,” “stubborn,” or “non-conformists” by many in the church (just make sure that you’re not actually guilty). But you are never rebellious for walking in obedience to God, no matter who you disagree with. God is raising up people who will forsake their reputations and follow unashamedly after the Spirit. He desires to do some very unusual and powerful things in the earth, but he needs this type of obedience in order to accomplish His purpose. Few are actually willing to follow this path because of the cost involved, and because of religious pressure to conform (Matthew 7:14).
Ultimately, the problem is not with religious people, or even the devil, but the problem lies within our own hearts. God wants us free from the filthy idols that would snare us and cause us to stumble. Peter cried out to Jesus, “Though all of these others forsake you, I will never!” “I will follow you wherever you go!” Peter grew all the more adamant, but Jesus knew what was in his heart, and so did the devil (Mark 14:27-31). He knew that there was a snare (Proverbs 29:25), something that would trip him up, and it did.
A religious atmosphere brings a false sense of comfort. It lulls a person into believing that because they are “serving” in some capacity and performing religious duties, that they are alright with God, when in fact they are in disobedience to the Spirit of God (Revelation 21:8). Jonah was a man who had a call of God upon his life, but he ran, and got aboard a boat to hide from God. There are many “Jonahs” hiding out in our churches, comforting themselves with “good deeds” while burying their God-given talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
When we live the life of the Spirit, our yoke becomes easy and our burden light, and there is rest for our souls (Matthew 28:11-30, Hebrews 4:10). Even though others may not understand, and persecution may be directed toward us, there is a deep, abiding peace in our hearts. Walking in the Spirit gives place to the God-given talents and their fruitfulness in our lives.