The Normal Christian Life

by Joel Ramshaw (2008)

            This study will examine what the life of someone completely submitted to the Holy Spirit would look like. There are already several examples of this in scripture. The most prominent of these is Jesus Christ Himself. It should not be thought that Jesus lived more holy, or exerted more spiritual power than we have the potential for. The problem is not with our potential. Jesus voluntarily forsook His own omnipotence, using instead the power of the same Holy Spirit that empowers believers today. If Jesus had made any use of His omnipotence while on earth, he would not have been able to model the normal Christian life for us, since we, being only human, do not have natural omnipotence for ministry.

            Besides Jesus, there are many other examples of lives completely submitted to the Holy Spirit. The early Christians in the book of Acts were not only careful to avoid sin; they were very active in evangelism also. They early Church and apostles lives serve as excellent examples of how to live the Christian life.

            First of all, the most important thing a Christian can have is a strong love for God. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”[1] So what does it exactly mean to love God? The answer may surprise some. Loving God is not simply saying nice things to Him (although that is an essential part of it). It is shown by obeying what He has told us to do. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”[2] Regarding our love towards God John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”[3]

Unfortunately, there is a large problem among Christians in North America, that is, Christians are becoming lazy. This was the same situation in Laodicea. Regarding it Christ said, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”[4] Being a Christian is not a part-time thing. God calls us to integrate our faith into every aspect of our lives.

            Next to loving God and being zealous for Him, being able to hear God’s voice and distinguish it from one own voice is definitely the next most important thing a Christian can have. A Christian can be very dedicated to God, but if he has not worked on hearing God’s voice, he will not know what God is telling him. It is very hard to obey God correctly without hearing what He is instructing. The apostles in the book of Acts understood very well what the Holy Spirit was saying. Peter is one example. He had trained himself to be able to hear the voice of God very precisely. Acts 10:19 records the Holy Spirit speaking to him, “While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” ” Another example of how the normal Christian should be able to hear the Holy Spirit’s instructions is in Philip’s story with the Ethiopian eunuch. “Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” ” Philip listened to the Holy Spirit’s instructions, and ended up converting the man in the chariot. After this, “, . . . the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; . . . But Philip was found at Azotus.”[5]

            This brings up another important topic regarding what the normal Christian life should be like— the subject of miracles. If Philip lived in our day, and told people that the Holy Spirit transported him somewhere, even as a respected Christian he would most likely be disbelieved at best. Gradually people are starting to open up to the subject of miracles and gifts of the Spirit though. The most widely recognized gifts so far are probably the gift of tongues, the gift of healings, and the word of knowledge. It is necessary to look at everything with caution when dealing with miracles. Satan can also work miracles to deceive Christians. In the time of the exodus, it was not only Moses and Aaron doing miracles, but Pharaoh’s magicians were also. This is another reason that being able to hear from God is so important.

Christians are expected to live lives of miracles, as unusual as it may seem. The great commission tells us we are able to cast out demons, speak with new tongues, and be miraculously protected from harm. It can be hard to believe some of this unless one has seen it himself. The Bible does not lie though. We are expected to serve God, not only in the natural, but also in the supernatural.

            Regarding spiritual gifts the question comes up. When Paul listed his set of nine gifts of the Spirit, was he giving an exhaustive list? Or was he simply giving a few examples of the way the Holy Spirit can empower us? First of all, Paul never claimed to be giving an exhaustive list when he listed the nine classical spiritual gifts. Also, the context reveals that in 1 Corinthians 12, the point Paul was trying to make was not to convince people of their spiritual giftings. Rather, he was trying to show how Christians have been given unique and diverse giftings that are all helpful.

Any supernatural empowerment from the Holy Spirit can thus be thought of as a spiritual gift. Christians are each given a unique set of spiritual giftings as 1 Corinthians 12 makes clear. The aforementioned passage may cause some to assume that each Christian has been given only one spiritual gift. Paul exercised several gifts though. With Ananias and Sapphira, Paul used the gift of prophesy (or word of knowledge) to predict their demise. Paul also healed a man with fever and dysentery though, using the gift of healing.

            One especially interesting gift is the working of miracles. All spiritual gifts are miracles in a way, which brings into question what specifically the gift of miracles is. In the Greek, the word used for miracles in “dunamis.” It carries the connotation of power, strength, or ability.[6] The working of “dunamis” then, could have the gift of healings as a subset within itself. The gift of miracles seems to indicate general power over matter. The type of gift Jesus exercised when He walked on water and fed the five thousand. It would be the perfect gift to exercise right in front of an atheist, who does not believe in supernatural power of any sort.

            There is no verse in the Bible that ever warned of the spiritual gifts being taken away. Some have used 1 Corinthians 13:10 as referring to the spiritual gifts (what is part) passing away, once the Bible (what is perfect) was finished. There are several reasons that this is impossible. First of all in verse nine Paul refers to knowledge as one of the things being in part. Our knowledge is obviously not going to be done away with though! The second problem is that the context of the chapter is the supremacy of love. In verse eight, love is quite clearly shown to be the thing that Paul refers to as perfect, as contrasted to spiritual gifts that can sometimes fail.

            Living a life completely submitted to the Holy Spirit is not impossible, as it is sometimes thought. It does take effort and determination though. One of the key hindrances to this is a lack of eternal perspective. When one looks beyond this life and seriously thinks about heaven and hell, a shocking truth will come to his mind; This short life is the only time we can do service for the Lord. In Jesus words, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” There will be plenty of time to take it easy in heaven. It can be extremely frustrating to see Christians live lives of ease, rather than service to God. Several trillion years from now the pleasure and ease will be long gone, and they will be still forced to live with the consequences of their lukewarm life. This time on earth is really only a sliver in the forest of eternity. It will be irrelevant whether or not it was enjoyed at all. All that will matter is how committed we were to God.

            In conclusion the normal Christian should be one that works hard for God, and focuses on obeying Him. The normal Christian should also understand spiritual gifts, and be living a life filled with miracles. Most important though, is that his life must be completely permeated with love for God.

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[1] Matthew 22:37; all Bible citations have been taken from the New King James Version (1982).

[2] John 14:15.

[3] 1st John 5:3.

[4] Revelation 3:16.

[5] Acts 8:39-40.

[6] Walter Bauer, W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Fourth Edition. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1952), 206.