Yesterday, we dove into one of the toughest passages in the New Testament. A married couple posing as more generous than they really are end up dropping dead under the judgment of God. It was a reminder to the early church (and to us) that Christianity is serious business and that we should never take the word of God lightly. Many of you responded with humble confession and requests for prayer and counsel. Now comes the hard work of figuring out what this challenge from God means in our every day life. What does it mean to be bold if I'm working in an office or staying home with children or going to class with 19 year olds. How do I manage my particular financial resources such that I live a life of generosity. The short answer is "pray about it."
This may seem cliche, but I'm serious. Praying about these things is the first step in getting any traction in these areas. We can't grow in boldness or generosity without the help of God's Spirit. And how do we acquire spiritual wisdom and power from the Holy Spirit? Pray. Jesus says it this way:
Look at how Jesus intertwines the promise of doing great works in the power of the Holy Spirit with praying and doing so "in his name". This doesn't mean merely uttering Jesus' name like a magic word. It means praying as one who is under the authority of King Jesus. This is why Jesus trains his disciples to pray "your kingdom come" and "your will be done". King Jesus has all authority and power and wants to impart that authority to his children. The means he uses to give us the power to do things like be bold and generous is prayer.
So how do we pray?
Pray honestly! If you are afraid. Confess it. If you lack faith. Admit it. If you feel apathetic in your love toward God and others. Put it out there. This is the remedy for getting past our hypocrisy and seeing real change in our hearts. God obviously knows what we think and feel about him and others, but like Ananias and Sapphira, we think we can "lie to the Holy Spirit". We can't. So why not just put it all out there.
Once we've been honest with God, then freshly receive his forgiveness. Allow God's grace to wash you clean from guilt and shame. This is obviously not receiving saving grace if we are already a Christian. We know that once we are in Christ, there is nothing that will change our identity as a forgiven child of God. What we do need is the practical experience of daily forgiveness which comes via transforming grace in the lives of the converted. This seems to be what John is describing in 1 John 1:9
Once we've experienced his forgiveness, we then need his filling. When we initially turned to Jesus, we didn't just come to him because we were sinners. We came because we were incomplete without him. Even if we were in a perfect world, hanging out with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, we would be in need of the indwelling Spirit of God. Paul describes it this way:
Paul makes it clear that understanding the will of God is not enough, one must be supernaturally empowered to actually follow his will. So how do you get that filling? Ask for it. Jesus describes it this way:
Jesus is clear about this. God is a good Father. Good fathers give good gifts to their children. The best gift a father can give his children is himself. Jesus says if you want more of the Holy Spirit's work in your life, just ask.
So get to asking! Get honest, get forgiven, and get filled and you'll be well on your way to being bold and generous. Better yet, you'll know your loving Father that much better!