Support GJCN.org

Help us grow!
Bible Top 1000

Getting started in the Christian Life – Basics 01

Basic Bible Doctrine

Lesson One

Getting Started in the Christian Life: The Filling of the Holy Spirit
by John McReynolds

 


W

elcome to the first lesson in a series we’re presenting called Basic Bible Doctrine.  This is a series of Bible studies that is primarily aimed at two groups of people: new Christians, but also Christians who have been in the faith for a while, and who want to go back and review the fundamentals of the faith.  This series will address the needs of both groups.

You can also read the full version of the study at ChristReport.com here.

However, this study isn’t for everybody.  There is one prerequisite to taking this course in Basic Bible Doctrine, and that is you must be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Now I’m not trying to be exclusivist or elitist or anything like that—there is a very practical reason for this.  If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you will get very little out of these studies—in fact they will probably make very little sense to you. 

Now there may be some who are reading this message, and you may not be sure whether you’re a Christian or not—you may not know for sure that you have personally received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. 

If this is your situation, let me urge you to go back to our home page and click on the link “Plan of Salvation”.  It will give you the information you need to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Then, after the question of your eternal salvation has been settled, you can come back here—in fact I urge you to do that, because as a new believer in Jesus Christ you need information with which to begin your new life in Christ.  And this is what we’re aiming to do with this course.

Now I’m going to ask you to do something that may seem a little strange to you.  What you’re going to do will show you how to get “plugged in” to God, so that you can begin building a relationship with Him.  There’s nothing weird or spooky about this, but it is the first thing you as a believer need to understand about living the Christian life.  What we are talking about here is prayer—the most fundamental prayer that can be prayed by a Christian.

What you’re going to do at the end of these brief instructions, is bow your head and close your eye.  In a public setting that gives you privacy.  But it’s a good idea to bow and close your eyes even when you’re in private, because it helps you to concentrate and focus.  However, bowing your head and closing your eyes are not mandatory—only helpful to most people.

What you are going to do now is communicate with God the Father silently in your mind   (if you’re alone you can speak verbally if it helps you form the words).  It shouldn’t surprise you to know the Father can hear your thoughts.  Now He’s not going to answer you back—at least not in a way that you can hear Him.  In fact you probably won’t notice any difference when you’re finished.  So what do I want you to communicate to God?

What I want you to do is think of all the sins you have committed since you accepted Christ as your Savior.  Don’t worry about the ones you committed before you were saved—they were cleansed the moment you believed in Christ.  It’s the ones you committed after you were saved that we’re concerned with here.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few sins or a whole boatload of them.  There may be so many that you just have to name them as categories, like lying, gossiping, stealing, lustful thoughts, adultery—there are all kinds of sins.  If it’s easier just try to remember the different kinds of sins you have committed.  And don’t worry about the one’s you can’t remember—just name the ones you can. 

Now, as you think of each of these sins or categories of sin, silently name them to God the Father.  That’s all—just name them.  You don’t have to do anything else to accomplish what we’re trying to do here.  You don’t have to do penance, or confess them to a priest or anybody else.  Just silently name them to God.  Now you’re not telling God anything He doesn’t already know—He knows each and every sin you’ve committed—He just wants you to acknowledge them to Him.

Now don’t worry if you can’t get them all named.  If you really want to have a relationship with God He’ll know what you’re doing and He will honor it.  During this moment of silent prayer just think of your sins and name them to God.  So now just bow your head and name all of your sins that you can remember.  Then come back here and I’ll follow up with a brief prayer.  Now let us pray…

Thank you, Father, for the privilege of being able to come before you confessing our sins and receiving Your forgiveness and cleansing.  Thank You for enabling us to understand Your words to us through the power of the Holy Spirit who fills us according to Your promise.  Now cause us to understand the things You have for us today, for we ask it in the name of Jesus Christ who shed His blood for us that we might have abundant life with You, not only in the heaven of our future, but also in this life as well, amen.

All right, that little exercise we just went through is technically known as “Confession of Sin”, or as one theologian has called it, “Rebound.” It is based on a specific promise of God that if we, as Christians, confess, admit, cite, or name our sins to God that He will forgive us and clean us up.  We’ll get into detail on this whole technique of Rebound in a later study.  For now it’s just important that we know how to do it—and why it is necessary.

Now I want us to go back to when you were first saved—when you were born again.  When you first accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior a lot of things happened.  You didn’t notice them at the time because they all happened in the spiritual realm.  Being newly born again—that is born spiritually—you had no way to make sense of what was going on around you in the spiritual realm, any more than a human baby can make sense of what’s going on when he or she is born into the physical realm.

What I want to do right now is to briefly go into one of the things that happened at the moment you were born again.  That thing is that you were filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  This event is known theologically as the Filling of the Holy Spirit, or the FHS as we abbreviate it.  So what is the FHS?

The FHS is essentially what empowers us to live the spiritual life that God has left us here to live on earth after salvation.  You may have noticed that God didn’t take you directly to heaven the moment you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.  That’s because He has a plan and purpose for you for the remaining years of your life on earth.

What God wants us to do as Christians on earth is to live an impossible life.  What do I mean “impossible”?  I mean impossible from the viewpoint of the world—from the viewpoint of unbelievers.  Now that I’ve gotten you really scratching your heads let me try to illustrate what I mean. 

Think back to just before you were saved—to just before you decided to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.  What motivated you to do that?  Probably part of it was because somehow you became aware of yourself as a sinner, and you saw yourself and your life as dirty and in need of cleansing.  But for some of you another part of it was someone you knew who was a Christian.  In the time before you accepted the Lord you would sometimes look at that person and think to yourself, “Wow, that is such a good person—never uptight, always at peace, never talks badly about other people or to other people—there is a peace and serenity there that I can’t explain—it doesn’t make sense, but I sure wish I had it!”

That’s what I’m talking about.  God wants Christians to be a witness to the lost world—the lost world of unbelievers out of which you were saved.  He wants you to be like that person you so admired—He wants your supernatural way of life to motivate some unbeliever to want the same thing you have.  That’s why He keeps us here after we’re saved, to live a supernatural life and be a witness to unbelievers.  How to live that supernatural life is mostly what we’re going to be studying for the rest of this course in basic Bible Doctrine.

Now just a couple of minutes ago I said it is the FHS that empowers or enables us to live this supernatural way of life.  I’m going to make an analogy here that will hopefully illustrate what I mean.  Most of us own or use or have access to a personal computer.  PC’s have revolutionized modern life.  We have access to information on a scale unprecedented in our parents’ lifetime.  I can write papers and books and make them look like they were professionally printed.  I can keep track of my finances and even conduct my banking without leaving my home.  We can communicate with each other by e-mail without filling out an envelope or licking a stamp. 

Now I know that the computer and computer technology has its down side as well, but we won’t mention that, mainly because it’ll spoil my analogy.

One thing I’m sure you’ve noticed is that in order for your computer to work it must have a source of power.  Unless it is plugged into a wall socket it won’t function.  Even battery powered laptops have to be charged up at some point.  And then it’s still not going to do what you want it to do unless you press the power button. 

Before you were saved you were like a computer in the box, sitting on the table—a collection of wires, cables, boxes, electronics, all just sitting there.  But then when you accepted the Lord He came in and set you up, and connected all the parts together, plugged all the cables into the right sockets.  And most importantly He plugged that power cord into His “wall socket” so that you could get some divine electricity into your life.

Now when you got your computer up and running you were loading programs and getting on the internet and just having a high old time of it.  And everything was going along fine, when all of a sudden you heard a rumble of thunder.  Oh Oh!  But it was fine, that computer screen didn’t even blink, and so you just went merrily along, until CRASH!  Here came a lightning flash and a big loud thunderclap, and out went your lights, and your computer screen went dark along with the rest of your house.

So now here you are, you’re saved—you’re plugged in to the power of God.  You’re tooling along in the filling of the Spirit—but then along comes a thunderstorm in your life.  You encounter some difficulty or some temptation, and then before you know it, BOOM!  A lightning bolt of sin completely knocks the power out of your spiritual life, and you are unable to do anything.

Now in our computer analogy, as you sit there staring at your dark computer screen the lights go back on.  But interestingly enough, your dark computer screen just keeps on staring at you.  Then you remember … you have to turn the computer back on!  So you reach over and push the power button and soon you’re back up and running.

So here you are, a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, but you’re out of fellowship.  At some point you realize that your spiritual life has lost its power source, and you realize it’s because of the lightning bolt of sin.  You can’t go back and undo the sin any more than you can undo a lightning bolt.  But God has provided you with a power button.  And you press that power button by claiming one of the great promises of God.

If you have a Bible I want you to turn to the little book of 1st John.  Now this is the first epistle or letter of John—not the Gospel of John.  First John is located almost at the back of the Bible.  If you turn to the back of your Bible you’ll find the Book of Revelation.  Find the beginning of Revelation, then turn back a few pages.  Eventually you’ll find 1st John.  When you get there we’ll be looking at chapter one. 

Remember that this is a course in Bible basics.  We have a textbook—the Christian Bible.  If you have a Bible but you don’t have it right at hand, you can put this down and go get it.  If you don’t have one you really need to get one as soon as possible, because everything we’re going to be studying is based in what we find in the Bible.  Don’t worry if you don’t have one right now—I’ve included the Scripture passages we’re going to be looking at.  But you really should get yourself a Bible as soon as possible.

All right, if you’ve found 1st John chapter 1, I want you to look down at verse 9.  Here’s what we see in the New International Version of the Bible:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Now, in case you’re not perfectly clear about what we’ve been talking about, let me try to clarify it.  When you are first saved you are in fellowship with God.  You are plugged into God’s power source.

But the first time you sin you’re immediately out of fellowship with God.  There is sin in your life and God cannot have fellowship with sin, and He will not have fellowship with you until you are cleansed of the sin.  This is a bad situation.  What makes it worse is that you can do absolutely nothing about it.  So you are completely stuck.  But again, God comes to your rescue.  This verse, 1st John 1:9 (First John, chapter 1, verse 9) says that if you’ll confess that sin, God will forgive you and clean you up, and you’re back in fellowship with Him.  More importantly you are plugged back in to the Divine power source. 

All right, a minute ago I mentioned this as a promise of God, and it is, but it is a very specific promise in that it is targeted toward a specific group of people—it’s not for everyone.  I mentioned this at the beginning of this lesson.  This verse—like this course—is for believers only.  Unbelievers can confess sin all day long and it will not get them any closer to God.  The issue for unbelievers is not sin, it is the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Jesus Christ settled the sin issue on the Cross when God the Father poured out on Him all the sins of the whole world, and then judged them all in Him on the Cross.  Jesus paid the penalty for those sins specifically so that when the unbeliever is brought face to face with God in this life the only issue that he has to decide is whether he will accept Jesus Christ as his substitute for payment of his sins.  If he does not then he will come face to face with God again in the next life,  and that meeting will have only one outcome—a very unpleasant one.

What I have just described in a nutshell is the doctrine of salvation by grace, which requires faith alone in Christ alone.  Today there is a tendency among many Christian groups to make repentance of sin a condition of salvation, but that’s not the clear teaching of Scripture.  The Bible makes it plain: salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone—Ephesians 2:8-9 (chapter 2, verses 8 and 9).  Now you may have a lot of questions and uncertainties about this—I would ask you to just set those aside for the time being—we will study this whole concept in greater detail later in this course.  But for now let’s look back at our verse.

The verse starts off with, “If we confess our sins…” In the original language of the New Testament, the word “confess” is the Greek word homologeo, and literally it means to “speak, name, or cite the same”.  Many preachers teach that this means to “speak the same as God thinks”, or to “agree with God about your sin”.  And while that is not an incorrect interpretation, it really doesn’t go far enough in explaining what the Apostle John was trying to tell us.  When one teaches from the original language, he has to interpret not just the vocabulary meaning of the word, he has to interpret the word in its historical context—he has to show the meaning of the word as it was used in the time in which it was written.

When this epistle was written in the first century AD the most common use of this word was as a technical legal term, and it meant to “cite or reference a past court case”.  If a legal precedent had been set, and a lawyer wished to base his case on it, he might cite “Jones versus Smith”. 

For the Christian, the past court case is “The Father versus the Human Race”, wherein Jesus represented all of fallen humanity.  In this case, all of the sins of every person who has ever been born—including you and me—was placed on Jesus while He was being judged on the Cross.  So the specific sin you are naming has already been judged and the penalty for that sin has already been paid by Jesus. 

So when you name your sins, you are in effect citing this monumental court case which was heard in the Supreme Court of Heaven, and the Father is obliged to regard your sin as already judged, and the penalty for it as already paid.

Next in 1st John 1: 9 we see “…he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…” God is faithful—he can be counted on to do the same thing every time.  He is just—God is justified in forgiving our sins because the penalty for the sin has already been paid by Jesus.  He will forgive our sins.  It is this forgiveness of sins that gets us back into fellowship with God and restores the Filling of the Holy Spirit.

Now the last part of the verse says, “…and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What in the world does that mean?  Think back to a few minutes ago when you were trying to remember your sins.  Do you think you remembered them all?  Probably not, especially if you have a memory like mine.  What about things you didn’t know were sins?  If you’re just getting started in the Christian life, there’s probably a bunch of sins you don’t know are sins yet.  I sure was surprised to learn about some sins I had never thought of as sins when I was a new believer!

Okay, the verse says “If we confess our sins…” But if we don’t know they’re sins, or if we’ve forgotten about them do they just remain unforgiven?  Well, we’d never even get to first base in the Christian life if that were the case.  God is aware that we are human and we have human weaknesses – Psa.  78:39.  So because He knows if our intent is to confess all our sins to Him, then He is justified to purify us of all unrighteousness.  That means He forgives the unknown, and even the forgotten sins too.  That all is covered under the concept of “all unrighteousness.” In the Greek the word translated “all” means “everything in a category.” The category is all the unrighteousness that you are guilty of, so that includes unknown and forgotten sins.  It does not, however, cover deliberately unnamed sins.  If you deliberately omit a sin you know you’ve committed, you are not forgiven, and you’re still out of fellowship. 

All right then, let’s summarize.  We’ll do this in points.  We’re going to summarize information we’ve already given, plus we’ll give you some information you haven’t gotten you, so be alert for those points. 

1) When you were first saved you were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

2) The FHS provides the spiritual energy to live the Christian way of life. 

3) When you sin you lose the FHS.  Now it’s important to note here that when you sin you do NOT lose your salvation.  Salvation is permanent according to the Gospel of John 10:27-30 and other passages.  Your salvation is eternally secure—and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. 

Just tuck that thought away in your mind and we’ll come back to it in a future lesson.  For now just remember that as a Christian—as a BAB—when you sin you loose the FHS, but you never loose your salvation.

4) God gives the solution for sin in your life in 1st John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

 

Sin in your life stops all spiritual progress.  It stops spiritual growth and prevents spiritual production and spiritual maturity.  If you stay in sin for long it will begin to reverse the spiritual progress you have made so far—it sets you back. 

But God gives you a way to bounce back from this condition—that’s why sometimes we refer to the use of 1st John 1:9 as “rebound.” Sometimes we’ll refer to it as “confession of sin” or “restoration to fellowship” and we’ll use acronyms like RTF or COS as a kind of shorthand. 

Whichever term is used it refers to the same thing.  Personally, I like “rebound”—it is descriptive of what happens in the spiritual life when you name your sins to God.

5) Rebound takes care of two categories of sin: known sins and unknown sins.  Known sins are the sins you remember and name.  Unknown sins are generally those sins that you aren’t aware of as sins—you haven’t learned that they were sins.  Also in this category are forgotten sins.  Now I want to issue a word of caution concerning forgotten sins, but I’ll take that up in the next point.

6) Keep short accounts with God.  This is one of those points I referred to a few minutes ago that is giving you some new information.  What do I mean by short accounts?  When you commit a sin you need to confess it to God as soon as you are aware you committed it—don’t wait.  Now I’m not talking about dropping on your knees and closing your eyes in public—just mentally, in your thoughts, acknowledge to God that you have committed that sin.  Don’t accumulate your sins and try to confess them all at the end of the day.

This ties in with that word of caution I referred to a moment ago.  Sometimes believers will get “caught up” in a sin.  For example, suppose you are indulging in a choice bit of gossip about someone, or you are ogling some particularly good looking member of the opposite sex and indulging in some impure thoughts about them, and you become aware that you’re sinning.  You may in effect say to yourself, “Wow, this sure is pleasant—I know it’s wrong, but I really don’t want to stop now.  I’ll just let this go on a while and I’ll rebound later.”

My friends, when you do that you are abusing God’s grace.  God does not take abuse of His grace lightly.  When you take that attitude toward a sin in progress, that attitude is itself a sin.  Sin has a tendency to occur in clusters, like a bunch of grapes.  You commit a sin, and if you don’t confess it right away pretty soon you have a whole bunch more related sins clustering along with it.  That’s the problem with unconfessed sin.  And if you delay rebound you tend to forget about the sins.

But, you might say, you just told us that God will take care of unconfessed sin!  Yes I did, and yes He does—but He still holds you accountable, and you are still liable for Divine discipline for those sins that you deliberately committed—such as deliberately delaying confession of sin.  Like I said, God does not take kindly to those who try to “milk the system.”

When you find yourself frequently in situations where you are naming sins and you know that there are clusters of sins that you have committed that have not been confessed, and they are so many and so long ago that you have lost track of them, my friends that is an indication that you are in trouble in your spiritual life.  You need to confess that you are guilty of abusing God’s grace and get back on track, and confess those sins as soon as you are aware of them—don’t delay.

There is a lot more that can be said about this whole issue of confession of sin, or rebound, but we’ll save that for a later study.  For today our goal was to equip you to be restored to a condition of fellowship with God, and to make sure you are filled with the Spirit so that as we progress in our studies in basic Bible doctrine you’ll have the Divine power you need to be able to understand these things and to grow spiritually and begin to apply them in your own spiritual life. 

So once again, 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This is a promise from God to us.  Every day when you sit down to study the Word, claim that promise to make sure you’re filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to look into God’s wonderful Word.

Let’s bow for a moment of prayer.

We’re grateful Heavenly Father, for these things that You have for us today.  May the Holy Spirit take these truths and build us up with them that we might begin to glorify Christ in our bodies, for it’s in His name we ask it, amen.