Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV Here are some distinguishing marks of a spirit-filled life—joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. Notice Paul has already been speaking about love: “Hold them in the highest regard...
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (NIV)
Imagine what it would be like if these signs of life were God’s demands. Suppose God said, “I will give you new life, but you have to earn it. Here’s how: You have to do what is right, you have to stop sinning, and you have to love God and love other people.”
If that was the message, what would your life be like next week? The Christian life would be one massive effort. It would be riddled with anxiety. If the Christian life were a demand, it would be impossible, because it cannot be done.
In his excellent book The Confessions of St. Augustine, Augustine tells about how he had lived an immoral life, driven by his own passions. Soon he found that his sins had power over him. And when he wanted to change, he found that he could not.
He knew that the life God was calling him to was beyond himself. So he came to God with this now famous prayer, “Command what you will. But give what you command.” When he looked at the life God was calling him to live, he saw that he could not do it. “Give me this life that you are calling me to live!” That’s what God does in regeneration. He gives what he commands.
The signs of spiritual life are gifts of God that become yours in regeneration. God gives you a hunger and thirst for righteousness. When he makes you his friend, he makes sin your enemy. He gives you a new love for Christ and for other people. These are the signs of spiritual life. They are the wonderful gifts of God in regeneration.
Do you view the signs of spiritual life as gifts or demands?