The Spirit Filled Life: The Spirit and the Flesh
The Christian faith finds in its roots the holy acts of confession, repentance and forgiveness. These disciplines are pathways to peace, healing and life. They are given as gifts to lead us to Jesus, not away from Him. Towards freedom and away from shame. Shame keeps us in cycles of trying to work everything out ourselves, often leading us to dead ends, repeated detrimental behaviours and unhealthy thinking. Yet, sometimes because of who we think God is, that is where we remain.
Dane Ortlund writes in his book ‘Gentle and Lowly’:
‘What would it be like for a friend to take our two hands and place them on the chest of the risen Lord Jesus Christ so that, like a stethoscope letting us hear the vigorous strength of a beating heart physically, our hands let us feel the vigorous strength of Christ’s deepest affections and longings?
We don’t have to wonder. Hebrews 4:15 is that friend. The fuller passage goes like this:
“…let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 14-16)
If our priest himself knew what our weaknesses felt like so that he was in deepest sympathy (meaning to co-suffer) with us, yet had never himself sinned, and so his heart head never turned in on himself in self pity or self absorption – that would be a priest truly able to deal gently with us… Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.’
Personal Reflection (10 minutes)
Read those verses again in Hebrews 15, and as you do, pray a simple prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to help those words bring wisdom to you.
Take some time to reflect on your own, thinking about these questions:
- Are there areas/patterns in my life that I am trying to ‘sort out’ on my own?
- Am I willing to acknowledge my weakness and draw near to grace, so that I can receive help in my time of need?
- What does that look like for me?
Group Discussion (10 minutes)
In groups, reflect together on Dane’s image of placing our hands on Jesus and feeling the vigorous strength of His deepest affections and longings. Discuss the following questions:
- What do we know about His deepest affections and longings?
- What has He told us about forgiveness?
- What is the fruit of a life that is being filled with the Holy Spirit, day in and day out?
Prayer (5-10 minutes)
To close, give thanks together, for the mercy, grace and help that Jesus gives us in our weakness.