I was born June 18, 1956. I was born again when I was around 8 years old at the First Christian Church of Melbourne, Florida. I was a young kid but wanted to follow Jesus. I was reborn again 45 years ago at 12 years old….it was 1968. At this time I started to follow Christ and started to understand religion, but did not fully understand a relationship with Jesus. Soon after, in response to ugly Christians and racism…….I departed “the kingdom” and struck out on my own. For me, the journey began again a couple of years later and then in May of 2006 when I was reborn again. At this point I understood and sought a relationship with Jesus. At this point I became a relational follower of Christ.
Why do I tell you this? Because we are all on a journey and you may have such milestones in your life yet not understand their significance.
Here, I believe, is the significance of such milestones: God, indeed, Jesus, wants our heart. Just like I want my grandson’s hearts. He wants us to grow, find fulfillment in life and He gives us the wisdom to do so. He doesn’t want blind followers….Jesus wants our hearts. These milestones are steps on a journey. Let me explain a little further.
I want to point out that there is a significant difference between salvation (eternal life) and living in the kingdom of heaven right here and now (which of course extends into eternity). Here, I want to speak about the latter as well as the role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.
Remember that Jesus promised that helper, the Holy Spirit. In Greek the word is “parakletos“.
John 14:15-21 (TNIV, Jesus speaking and promising the Holy Spirit)
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate [parakletos] to help you and be with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” [BOLD highlight added]
Here is the key……..we can have helpers in life….BUT WE…must accept the help in order to be helped.
Maybe you can see yourself in some of my journey and maybe it will help you better understand yours.
When I was around 8 years old, the Holy Spirit came into my life and I was born again. This, I guess, would be my point of salvation (eternal life). I accepted that Jesus was my Savior. However, as I look back…I am not sure I accepted his help fully.
At 12 years old I was reborn while attending a Baptist church in West Melbourne, Florida. I started to understand religion! But I was still not understanding a true daily relationship with Christ. Christians and racism in the church (human things), indeed…..”religion”, let me down. I professed to be an atheist because God, I knew, was not a hypocrite! I still had the Holy Spirit in my life, I believe, even as I professed not to believe in God. Indeed, over time, I simply could not ignore His presence in my life. BUT, I wasn’t accepting His wisdom nor applying it to my life. I started asking God for His presence in my life. I started seeking his wisdom and I started knocking on the door that only Jesus would answer. And He did. The journey began to become a magical mystery tour….I was following Jesus more and more.
Then in 2006……..I was reborn again, totally accepting the Holy Spirit in my life and trusting His presence, His wisdom and His guiding! At this point I really started understanding and living in relationship with God, indeed, with Jesus.
When we accept Jesus into our life, God’s Holy Spirit is there, just like He was there at Christ’ birth. Without the Holy Spirit –present in our hearts– there can be no Spiritual birth. God’s Spirit gives us strength to learn and grow spiritually. “Entering the kingdom of heaven” comes when we accept Jesus as our savior and choose to follow Him, not simply when we die.
John 3:5-6 (TNIV)
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Matthew 12:28 (NET, Jesus is speaking)
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you.
Let me point out here that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are synonymous…one and the same. This kingdom is a major theme that Jesus spoke to us about. It’s a realm in which Jesus rules and if you truly place your trust daily in Jesus….you are in that kingdom. Jesus points out above that the kingdom is here and is upon us. This is not simply a place we go after death, though the kingdom of heaven does extend into eternity.
In all my journey described above and probably in yours, it was only when I accepted the help of the Holy Spirit that I moved forward to find true fulfillment. The more I listed…..the easier the journey got. However…..there were still many obstacles…but the Holy Spirit gave me strength to overcome those obstacles (pain, death of people around, me divorce, addiction…..the list goes on).
The Holy Spirit gives us power….the power to love, the power to serve others and…the power to suffer. As I look around me, ALL people suffer in one way or another. All of us have been hurt, let down, or even worse. I like to say that we are ALL broken in some way. The difference is that as we follow Jesus (not just believe in him and believe that He was/is real), we enter that kingdom and have the power to get through that suffering.
This may not sound like a message you want to hear….”the power to suffer”. The truth is….without the Holy Spirit…we suffer and often don’t get through. Do you want the power to walk through the trials in your life rather than be beat down? Do you want the power to survive the trials in your life with growth rather than constantly watching the hole you’re digging get bigger? We get through this suffering with the power OF love…. and the power TO love others as ourselves through serving. In the end, we are loved, we are served and we make it through the suffering. This is the upside down truth of Jesus.
My prayer is that as you look at your life, you too will see milestones….milestones of your walk with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. The Holy Spirit is not magical…He is God’s Spirit in your heart, indeed, the Spirit of Jesus in your heart! My prayer is that you will increasingly learn to trust in His guidance and to apply His wisdom to your life. May the Spirit of our Father, indeed, may the Spirit of Jesus Christ reign in your heart every moment of every day and may you live in the house of the Lord…..may you live in the Kingdom of God, indeed, the kingdom of heaven for ever and ever…..Amen!