The average Christian continues to live in disobedience to God and is not filled with the Spirit for two reasons:
1. A lack of knowledge
From the moment of your spiritual birth, you have the power to go on growing toward maturity in Christ. And yet, the average person, not understanding how to live by faith, lives on a spiritual roller coaster, rising and falling from one emotional experience to another.
In Romans 7, Paul describes the predicament of the worldly, carnal Christian, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul describes a worldly, carnal believer as one who acts like a non Christian. Although the worldly believer has received Christ, he also has allowed his Flesh nature to reclaim the throne through sin. God still has possession of this person, and Christ is still in his life, but the individual has fallen into sin in one or more areas of his life.
Not yielded to God, the worldly believer is usually a miserable person - even more miserable than the non-Christian. He is in a period of stunted spiritual growth because he is not confessing and repenting of his sins, and Satan has succeeded in influencing and con trolling him through the Flesh.
Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth:
Dear brothers, I have been talking to you as though you were still just babies in the Christian life, who are not following the Lord, but your own desires; I cannot talk to you as I would to healthy Christians, who are filled with the Spirit. I have had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn't digest anything stronger. And even now you still have to be fed on milk. For you are still only baby Christians, controlled by your own desires, not God's ...In fact, you are acting like people who don't belong to the Lord at all.
The worldly or carnal Christian certainly experiences the conviction of the Holy Spirit and will not continue in his sins indefinitely; otherwise, he is possibly not a Christian at all. But defeated and fruitless, he depends on self effort to live the Christian life instead of drawing on the supernatural, inexhaustible resources of the Holy Spirit. Grasping self interest in one hand and groping for God's blessing with the other, this person fails again and again to live the Christian life in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.
Having experienced the joy and blessing of fellowship with God, he has lost present contact and does not know how to recapture that lost fellowship. Yet, the worldly believer can never be satisfied with that old way of life again, and in search for happiness and fulfillment, this person has become self-centered instead of Christ-centered.
As a result, he has become increasingly confused and frustrated and does not know what to do about it. He does not know how to live by faith - instead he lives by feeling. The worldly Christian tries rather than trusts. He does not know how to stop being worldly nor how to become a spiritual Christian. The only one who can enable him to change is, of course, the Holy Spirit.
The Christian life is a miraculous and supernatural life. Christianity is not what you do for God, but what He does for you. Apart from faith in Christ, you cannot become a Christian, and apart from moment by moment faith or dependence on Him, you cannot live the Christian life. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, Christ lives His supernatural life in and through you.
But the average Christian does not understand how to draw upon the resurrection resources of Christ by faith. As a result, the worldly believer lives in spiritual poverty, not knowing or experiencing his great riches and resources which are his heritage in Christ.
An old Scottish woman lived in the most impoverished conditions in her hometown. Years before, her son had emigrated to America. There he had become a very successful businessman but had never found time to return home to visit his mother.
One day a friend sat talking with the old lady in her sparsely furnished cottage.
"Doesn't your son ever send you money to help with your needs?" she inquired.
"No," the woman shook her head sadly. "He does write me nice letters, though. And he sends me the most interesting pictures!"
The listener was annoyed, realizing that the son was quite wealthy. But instead of speaking her mind, she simply said, "May I see the pictures?"
The aged mother proudly brought them out of a drawer. To her visitor's amazement, they were not pictures at all. They were valuable bank notes from America amounting to thousands of dollars. For decades, the Scottish mother had been needlessly living in poverty. The problem? She did not know the value of those "interesting pictures." She owned the bank notes, but she did not possess them.
In West Texas is a famous oil field known as the Yates Pool. During the Depression, this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates was not able to make enough money on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch. With little money for clothes or food, his family, like many others, had to live on government subsidy.
Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would be able to pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told Mr. Yates that there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, thirty years after the discovery, a government test on one of the wells showed that it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day.
And Mr. Yates owned it all! The day he purchased the land he received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he was living on relief. A multi-millionaire living in poverty! The problem? He did not know the oil was there. He owned it, but he did not possess it.
I do not know of better illustrations of the Christian life than these. The moment you become children of God through faith in Christ, you become an heir of God, and all of His resources are made available to you. Everything you need - including wisdom, love, power - to be a man or woman of God and to be fruitful witnesses for Christ is available to you.
But most Christians continue to live in self-imposed spiritual poverty because they do not know how to appropriate from God those spiritual resources which are already theirs. Like the old Scottish mother before she knew the "interesting pictures" were valuable bank notes and Mr. Yates and his vast ocean of oil, they live in ignorance of their vast riches.
Lack of knowledge is not the only reason that Christians are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Many of them basically do not believe in God's trustworthiness and are afraid to relinquish the control of their lives to the Holy Spirit for fear that God will require the impossible from them - that He will change their plans, ask them to give away their wealth, take all the fun from their lives, make them endure tragedies, or something similar.
An outstanding young minister, a seminary honor graduate, once told me, "I have never surrendered my life to Christ because I have been afraid of what He will do to me." Then he told me how, years before, he had had a premonition that, if he were to commit his life to Christ, his parents would be killed in a tragic accident. He was afraid to say "Yes" to God for fear his parents would lose their lives - God's test for him to determine the genuineness of his commitment.
Now does that sound like a loving Father? Who do you think put that idea into his mind? Certainly not God. It was Satan saying, as he said to Adam and Eve centuries ago, "You can't trust God." But I say you can trust God! He loves you and is worthy of your trust.
Suppose your child were to say to you, "Daddy, Mommy, I love you and have decided that I will do anything you want me to do from now on as long I we live." What would be your response?
If you were to respond to your child's expression of trust in you as many believe God will respond when they surrender their lives to Him, you would grab your child by the shoulders, glare at them sternly and say, "I have just been waiting for this. I am going to make you regret this decision for as long as you live. I am going to take away everything you like and make you do what you hate. I am committed to making your life miserable."
Of course you would not respond like that to your child's trust in you. I expect, instead, you would put your arms around your little child and say, "I love you, too, and I deeply appreciate this expression of your love for me. It is the greatest gift which you could give me."
God has proven over and over again that He is a loving God. He is worthy of your trust. Jesus assures you, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!"
Many people come to me for counsel concerning God's will for their lives. Often they are fearful of what God will ask them to do. Usually I ask them, "Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that He has a wonderful plan for your life? Does He have the power to guide and bless your life if you place your trust in Him?" As a rule, the answers are in the affirmative. I then ask them, "Are you willing to trust Him right now to direct and empower you to live a holy life and to be a fruitful witness for Christ?" By this time most of them are ready to say "Yes" to Him without reservation. They have begun to recognize that their feelings of doubt have been placed there by the enemy of their souls.
When you give your life to Christ, you need not worry about what is going to happen to you. Maybe you are afraid that He will take away your pleasures, cause you to leave your business or profession, take away your wealth, or terminate a friendship or love affair. You may fear that He will send you, as a missionary, to some remote part of the world where you will lose your life for Him.
He may indeed ask you to do one or more of these things, and again He may not. If He does, you will rejoice in the privilege, for God always blesses those who trust and obey Him. The happiest people I meet are not those who have all the best of what this world has to offer - or those who have achieved great success in their professions - or those who are in great positions of power and influence. The happiest people I meet are those who have learned to totally trust and obey God in their lives no matter their circumstances.
You can trust God. If He leads you to give up anything, He will give you more of His blessing in return than you will ever receive apart from His grace. God alone is worthy of your trust. I invite you to come freely to Christ and say, "Lord, here I am. Take my life, and use me for Your glory."
As God reminds us in 1 John 4:18, "We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us, and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us." The word of God and the experiences of multitudes through the centuries give unqualified assurance that you can trust God with your life, your all.