Just before Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4). That promise, fulfilled on the day of Pentecost just over a week later, was of a baptism with the Holy Spirit (verse 5).
God’s Holy Spirit is the foremost gift in the universe. It would provide the disciples with power that, until that time, they had not possessed (verse 8). Although it is promised to all mankind, it is only available to very few today. Man is not born with it, nor can it be purchased, as the example of Simon Magus makes clear (Acts 8:20).
It is not made available to anyone who says that God’s laws are done away. Instead, God gives His Spirit only to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).
In our day, we need that power more than ever—in order to overcome in a very ungodly age.
Our Warped Epoch
When the true disciples of the first century received God’s incredible power, the chief apostle, Peter, preached the following: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Peter’s exhortation from the beginning was that upon repentance, baptism and the remission of past sins, those called of God can receive this power and are to use it to “[s]ave [them]selves from this untoward generation” (verses 38, 40).
The word translated untoward means “perverse, crooked or warped.” It literally designates something that is bent sideways, twisted, made askew, tangled or deformed. What an apt description of our modern society, where up is down and right is wrong.
Do we, 21st-century Christians, still heed the admonition to “save ourselves” using the power of God’s Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit makes us sons of God (Romans 8:15). The word adoption is a mistranslation and should be rendered “sonship” (see verse 16). When God’s Spirit binds with the spirit in man, we are begotten of God, but not yet born. A Christian must do his part to complete the spiritual creation God is working in him and avoid being aborted during this spiritual gestation phase.
We must be nourished through a diet of healthy spiritual food: prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting and fellowship with other converted members of God’s Family.
We can only save ourselves from this warped society if we seek to learn and to live as God lives. That is what building holy, righteous, divine character is all about. This means we actively seek to walk in newness of life.
The Apostle Paul showed the brethren in Colosse how to “set their mind on things above.” He wrote, “Therefore destroy these parts of yourselves upon the earth—fornication, impurity, passion, vile lust, and greed, for it is idolatry … reject the whole—rage, lust, filth, vice, slander from your mouth. Do not lie to each other. Put off the old man with his practices; and put on the new, that is renewed in knowledge” (Colossians 3:5, 8-9; Ferrar Fenton translation).
Do we actively seek to expel such thoughts and actions from our lives? That is what we are called to do. The more we do, the more we will begin to think like God (Isaiah 1:18).
We have the example of Jesus Christ, who was filled with God’s Spirit, on how we can walk in that newness of life (Hebrews 10:20). By being a partaker of divine nature He “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). He used the Spirit of God to ensure He was diligent and faithful, virtuous and knowledgeable, temperate and patient, godly, filled with brotherly kindness and agape love (verses 5-7).
We should follow Christ’s example. How diligent are we in our study of the Bible and in prayer? Do we embrace God’s standards in dress and grooming, conversation and conduct? How much temperance and patience do we exhibit to our fellow man? Are we known for our acts of love to God and fellow man? If we heed Peter’s admonition and follow Christ’s example, our fruits will be apparent to all (verse 8).
Be Spiritually Minded
Without God’s Holy Spirit operating in our minds, leading and directing our lives, we can never obtain salvation.
We cannot even claim to be Christian if we do not allow God’s Spirit to dwell in us (Romans 8:9). But as this verse points out, if the Holy Spirit does dwell in us, then we are no longer “in the flesh.” That means we are no longer focused on the things of the flesh—physical preoccupations. A change takes place in our minds when we are led by the Holy Spirit.
How does this infinite power of God work? In Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “Both God and the Word themselves are spirit, and project their Spirit. … By your eyesight you can see something … distant. But … you cannot act on those objects. … God can project His Spirit to any place regardless of distance, but through His Spirit God is able to act on such objects or to change it as He wills.” Through this process, God created the physical universe through something invisible (Hebrews 11:3).
In like manner, this invisible power in truly converted Christians should produce visible change in us. It should work in us to demonstrate that we are spiritually minded, not engrossed in the physical. For example, do you show contentment with your old clunker while your neighbors pull up in a brand new vehicle? Do you turn away from gossip or off-color jokes? Are people around you more careful with their words, knowing you do not cuss or speak evil of dignitaries?
A Creation Ready to Be Born
To the congregation at Corinth, Paul explained that we have been given “the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 5:5). That means true Christians have access to just a down payment, not yet a full measure, of God’s Spirit. Nonetheless Paul admonishes us to make that down payment work in us so that we can be “in Christ” (verse 17).
At baptism we become God’s own children. Through this down payment, this earnest of God’s Spirit, He instills in us His divine nature. We carry the characteristics of our heavenly Father, just as a physical zygote, embryo or fetus carries the dna of its physical father.
If we put that Spirit to work in our lives, we become a new creation, as verse 17 points out. The moment we start using the Holy Spirit, everything becomes new: our outlook, our motivation, our effort, our zeal, our attitude. That will change us, make us more God-like. Such changes ought to be evident through noticeable fruits in our lives.
Just as an unborn child starts out as a clump of cells—yet with each change grows to look more and more like a human being—so our use of the Holy Spirit in us produces drastic changes.
If we are in Christ, our whole life and attitude become completely changed—converted! This is a tremendous undertaking that takes diligent effort on our part, but much more than that: It requires a miracle! It takes a supernatural act from Almighty God.
To understand the magnitude of this miracle, we need to remind ourselves of God’s great purpose for creating mankind. Human beings are destined to be born into the Family of God. Unlike the animal realm, man was made after the God kind, to look like God and to develop the character of God. “Man … was created physical, out of matter, in the likeness of God. But, as of now, man is merely the raw clay, out of which the Master Potter is—with man’s cooperation—forming and shaping the final image—the spiritual character of God. Creation is still going on! The spiritual creation of righteous character” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
If we willingly surrender ourselves completely to God’s rule and submit to His perfect, holy and righteous law, He will bring about this miraculous conversion in our lives.
Mr. Armstrong continued: “The New Testament reveals that, once man has surrendered, repented of his rebellious past, and through Christ been reconciled into contact with God, he becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“This creation of right spiritual character in us demanded free moral agency—that man must intelligently choose the right as opposed to the wrong—that he exercise free choice, develop self-discipline” (ibid).
Like the embryo or fetus, man must grow to full maturity within the womb of the Church (Romans 8:14-17). We must grow until we can be born. Our spiritual creation must culminate in a birth into the Family of God at Christ’s return.
Power to Overcome
The most significant advantage that we are granted through the Holy Spirit is the power to over-come. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s perfect love casts out fear, and there is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). Why? Because the love of God is the keeping of His commandments (1 John 5:3). That love, or commandment keeping, is possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
The disciples recognized that it was impossible for men to keep the commandments of God (Matthew 19:17-25). The key to overcoming is to understand that with the power of God in us, it is not impossible for men to keep the Ten Commandments (verse 26). If we are truly converted and remain close to God, and having that Spirit resupplied to us daily (2 Corinthians 4:16), then we have the power needed to overcome.
If we are not feeding God’s Spirit within us each day, it will grow dim and can be extinguished (1 Thessalonians 5:19). What a tragedy that would be. There would be no way to overcome, no way to grow in divine character, no way to accomplish our incredible human potential. Only spiritual abortion would await us.
Armed With the Same Mind
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (verses 3-6).
What an admonition Peter gives us here. We too were part of a warped, crooked and untoward generation. Gerald Flurry wrote in The Epistles of Peter: A Living Hope: “Christ has suffered for us and now we must arm ourselves with the same mind.
“Are you armed with the mind of Christ, who suffered mightily for each one of us? We must be armed with His mind to endure our fiery trials.” Each day we face trials, obstacles and other challenges by which we can develop godly character.
By using the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we develop a mind like God’s. It fuels us to want to overcome, to conquer our weaknesses and sins—to think increasingly like God.
But we cannot take such development lightly. We constantly have to remind ourselves that the household of God, the Family of God in embryo, is now under spiritual judgment (verse 17).
Mr. Flurry continued, “The fact that Christ’s return is so near should change our behavior. … Peter admonishes us to examine our lives to see where we can do more. The knowledge of Christ’s imminent return should make us urgent spiritually” (ibid). We are under God’s constant, careful scrutiny. How much ought we to live according to God in the spirit? Our urgency to change, to do more and to arm ourselves with the mind of God tells God how eager we are to hasten the return of Christ (2 Peter 3:10-12).
“We can’t do this job without the power of God. Peter endured trials not through physical strength, but by the power of God. Though we are naturally cowards, we must become great leaders for God. If we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will be far different from what we are humanly” (ibid).
Only by that awesome power can we live according to God. And that power was promised to you as much as it was to those disciples in the first century shortly before the day of Pentecost. Give God thanks for that awesome gift daily. More importantly, utilize its power each day to overcome and save yourself from this perverted age in which Satan is cast down and dominates with furious terror.
Use it to grow more and more in the image and likeness of your Father in heaven.