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No Holy Spirit makes Christianity hard to swallow

17 May

Yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of having to eat a gluten-free biscuit (“cookie”, for American readers). It started off okay, as it was sweet and crunchy, but by the time it came to swallow, it was sticking to my teeth like sawdust. I had to eat a handful of raisins just to dislodge the clumps of biscuit that were still sticking to my teeth.

Gluten in flour acts as a kind of lubricant in bread, cookies and cakes. It gives the baked dough a bouncier consistency, and this makes food more appealing to look at and to handle, as well as much more pleasant to chew and easier to swallow.

Of course, some people cannot eat gluten and have no choice but to eat gluten-free. My mother has had to eat a gluten-free diet for some 30 years. Her allergy to wheat gluten means that if she resumes eating gluten, it brings on an uncomfortable skin-rash. But, given the choice, she would go back to eating normal food, with the gluten left in, in a heartbeat.

It strikes me that the power of the Holy Spirit is a bit like gluten. Christian life is so much more bouncy, so much more enjoyable, when one is full of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy…” (Galatians 5:22) Joy and the overflowing life given by the Spirit (John 7:38) not only make our own lives as followers of Christ into the abundant and rich experience Jesus said it would be (“I have come that you may have life in all its fullness” – see John 10:10). Being filled with the Spirit also makes us more palatable to the world. If Christianity is all “Do this; don’t do that,” it can seem dry, lifeless, as hard to swallow as sawdust or those dry crumbs of biscuit that stuck to my teeth. The Spirit-filled life is one of power to do the works of the kingdom of God (Acts 1:8); ability to overcome the traps set by the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16); release from the death-grip of the world (Romans 8:11-14). These are the things the world is crying out for; answers to its problems and keys to its prison cell.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit some twenty years ago immediately transformed my life as a Christian. I was almost 16 years old, and had been saved for six years, having grown up in a church that did not talk about the baptism or gifts of the Spirit. My faith had consistency: I knew I was saved, but it was a dry faith. One could get tired of trying to swallow it. When I got filled with the Spirit and began praying in tongues, all of that changed. His power not only brought me into a new dimension of relating to God; it brought a bounce and a liveliness that had been missing before. Passion was there, along with boldness, focus and a sense of being fully involved in God’s purposes. No longer did Christianity stick in my teeth: it became ever more a delight and, as I began leading people to faith in Jesus, it was clear that the Spirit in me was making the gospel appetising to other people too.

Sometimes we ask what is missing from our Christianity. Since I got filled with the Spirit, I no longer have to ask that question: I have found God’s gluten, the missing ingredient that was needed to provide the “bounce”. Yet some of us seem to be allergic to the answer: the mention of the Holy Spirit and gifts like tongues and prophecy brings us out in a rash. But when we take Jesus at His word and receive the Holy Spirit, not only do we find that there is no allergic reaction; the Spirit brings us life!

Find out here how to be filled with the Spirit today.

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