When I joined staff with Campus Crusade (Power to Change now) in 2003, I remember distinctly during our training being told that the message of the Spirit-filled life was the most important thing that I could share with a believer. It contained a challenge to the Lordship of Jesus, a clear call to walk in the Spirit through confession & repentance, and a reminder of the work of the Spirit to empower us to walk in fruitful obedience.
In the decade since then, I’ve noticed that as staff we have become reticent to share this message with students. Sometimes we blame outdated booklets, other times because we simply assume it’s too basic, and most recently, I’ve heard people say that they aren’t sure how the SpiFiLi (as I like to think of it) squares with the gospel-centered movement.
The gospel centered movement has been a great refocus for the church, helping us keep in mind, as Tim Keller would say, that the gospel isn’t just the ABC’s of salvation, but the A-Z. The implication is that our struggle with sin isn’t resolved by an additional ingredient to the gospel, but by a particular application of the gospel itself to an area of idolatry in our lives. Or as old Thomas Chalmers says,
“There is not one personal transformation in which the heart is left without an object of ultimate beauty and joy. The hearts desire for one particular object can be conquered, but its desire to have some object is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection by the expulsive power of a new one.”
So if the answer to my deepest needs post-salvation is the gospel, where does the Spirit-filled life fit in?
1. The Spirit-filled life is the message that the Holy Spirit has come to apply the benefits of the gospel to our lives.
For example, in Ephesians 3 Paul prays that the church at Ephesus would have “strength to comprehend, with all the saints, … to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” And how will that strength be imparted to them? Paul begins by asking that “he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”
So what do we need? A deeper understanding of the gospel — the message of Christ’s sacrificial love for us.
How will we get it? The Spirit will come and strengthen our inner beings so that we will comprehend the incomprehensible love of God.
2. The Spirit is actually the One who convicts us of sin & righteousness, and therefore causes the gospel to shine.
According to John 16, the Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. The conviction that we feel over sin, which drives us to the hope and comfort of the gospel, comes from the Spirit. Our growth in holiness and love for Jesus comes as the Spirit presses home to us the dual reality of our lives: We are more sinful than we ever dared believe, and more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. (T.K)
3. Spiritual breathing (Confession, Repentance, Surrender) IS the work of the gospel transforming our hearts.
The SpiFiLi talks about spiritual breathing as a dynamic process by which we “continue to experience God’s love and forgiveness.” (emphasis added) I love this line… this is exactly what I want for my walk with God: a continued experience of God’s love and forgiveness!
One ways that we can “preach the gospel” to ourselves is by engaging in the practice of spiritual breathing – confessing sin as it happens, repenting of it, and surrendering our lives to the control of the Spirit again.
So what other parallels do you see between the Spirit-filled life and the gospel-centered movement?