The Spirit of God in the Heart

May 24, 2022

Do you remember the day that you were baptized into Jesus?  That was the singular most important day of our lives.  Magnificent changes took place on that day.  All our sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus, we received a new life, and we were freed from the reign of sin over our lives.  And one of the most amazing things that happened is this: God Himself came to live in your heart on that day.

God Himself came to live within you!  Think of the enormity of that statement!  If that statement is true (and it is), then there must be enormous consequences that stem from this fact.  What changes are being brought about in your life because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God?  Is He making a difference in you?  Are you allowing Him to make a difference in you?

The Spirit who lives within us gives us the power to overcome sin and to put to death our sinful passions and desires!  As Paul writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Galatians 5:16-17, NASB)

The Spirit who lives within us changes us from the inside!  He causes wonderful things to be produced in our lives.  Paul continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB).

What effect is the Holy Spirit having in your life?  Is He changing you?  Are you growing in holiness in your day-to-day life?  Shouldn’t God Himself dwelling within us make a great difference in our lives?  God wants to make a great difference in your life.  He wants to help you overcome sin.  He wants to cause us to produce fruit for Him.  But we must choose to walk by the Spirit.  If we will, God will work amazing things in our lives!  He will take us to a new plane!  He will abide with us!  May we all renew our commitment to walk by His Spirit today.

—Scott Colvin


Be Holy in All Your Behavior

February 9, 2022

Striving for a life of holiness is of utmost importance for us as the children of God.  God did not send His Son to save us from the power of sin so that we could just go back to living how we always lived.  The holiness of God demands that we live holy lives. 

The Spirit, through Peter, makes this very clear to us.  “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am Holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16, NASB).  God wants us to be obedient children by no longer being conformed to our former lusts.  To be conformed is to be shaped and molded by something.  We need to stop being shaped and molded by the sinful desires that used to drive us.  We need to stop being conformed to the shape of this world.  Now that we are in Christ, God is calling us to be holy in all our behavior.  God is holy, and He expects us to be holy.

What does it mean for us to be holy?  It means to be set apart to God.  It means to be set apart from the world around us.  It means to be set apart from our former sinful pursuits.  Simply put, it means that we are supposed to be different now!  Because of the gift of Jesus—His death and resurrection—we are not supposed to think, speak, or act in the same way anymore. Let me ask you, is your life in Christ appreciably different from your former life?  Can people detect that you are different from the world around you?    

Holy living is a very serious thing to our Holy Father.  He gave His all so that we could be holy in His sight.  Now that He has made us holy, let us pursue holiness realizing that we were redeemed from our former life at countless cost, “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:19, NASB)    

—Scott Colvin


Under the Knife

September 18, 2020

The tabloid press continually report on beautiful people who went under the knife to be more beautiful. They went under the knife of cosmetic surgery pursuing a vision of outer perfection. Although such surgery seems extreme, all of us would willingly consent to surgery when our life or health is at stake. None of us like it, but we are willing to go under the knife.

But there is a surgery more important than the ones to enhance outward beauty or repair physical health. This surgeon wields more than a scalpel. He wields a sword.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:11–13, ESV

The message about the sword is bracketed by some important ideas. We are to strive to enter the rest which is heaven itself, and we are warned that this rest can be missed by disobedience. At the end, we are told that everything about us is exposed to God before whom we must give account. God has already seen all our spiritual x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. There is nothing about us that he doesn’t already know. We shouldn’t play games or think we can hide. Faking it leads to disaster even if others buy our sham.

The point of sword is that it pierces. The sword of the word can pierce all the way to our thoughts and intentions. God has always wanted our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5). God has always wanted his law written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This is surgery to make us more beautiful on the inside. This is surgery to correct our failing spiritual health. Without it, we will spiritually die. The surgeon wants us more obedient, more holy. The word’s penetration into our heart is to make us more like the one we are following – Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Hebrews reveals all too clearly that there have been others who have heard the word and responded with hardened hearts (3:7-8). We have a spiritual surgeon who wants to penetrate all the way to thoughts and intentions. He wants to make us more beautiful on the inside. He wants to make us more like Him. Are we willing to go under the knife?

−Russ Holden


What Spills Out

March 11, 2019

A man had a short temper. He seemed nice enough until he lost his temper, and then, he could inflict emotional pain with his words. The outbursts would come with the frustrations and accidents of life, and those kinds of moments always come. In his book, After You Believe, N.T. Wright tells this story.

A famous preacher had a friend who was well known for his short temper. One day, at a party, he asked this friend to help him serve some drinks. The preacher himself poured the drinks, deliberately filling several glasses a bit too full. He then passed the tray to his friend. As they walked into the room to distribute the drinks, he accidentally-on-purpose bumped into the friend, causing the tray to jiggle and some of the drinks to flow over the brim and spill. “There you are, you see,” said the preacher. “When you’re jolted, what spills out is whatever is filling you.”

When you are jolted, what spills out reveals your character. In a discussion about unclean foods, Jesus makes the same point.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20–23, ESV)

That is why Jesus talks about trees and their fruit. (Matthew 7:15-20, 12:33-37). A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. Somehow, I don’t think Jesus is giving a lesson on tending orchards. He instructs us to “make the tree good.” Jesus’ solution for behavior (“fruit” in Jesus’ parable) is to transform us on the inside (“make the tree good”). When our character is transformed to be more Christ-like, we don’t have to worry much about the actions that spring from such character. After all, good trees (people) produce good fruit (behavior).

This really is God’s plan. When Jeremiah prophesies of the new covenant, it is about “the law written on hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). When Paul summarizes the big picture of what it is all about, he says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29, ESV, my emphasis). We are to be like Jesus.

Character transformation is a lifelong process. We must cooperate with God to allow Him to change us on the inside. It takes God’s word. It takes prayer. It takes effort. It takes time. When you are jolted, what spills out?


The Transforming Pattern

November 11, 2016

When children first learn to print, a pattern is placed before them of how the letters are to be formed. They practice forming the letters by copying the pattern. In the process children are transformed from not knowing their letters to knowing and printing them.

Patterns can be transformative. I believe that Christian living is to be transformative. One term that expresses this in the New Testament is sanctification. It can refer to the process of becoming holy as well as the result of becoming holy. Is there a pattern for becoming more holy? Listen to these passages that I think give us the pattern that we are to copy and learn until like the child copying letters it becomes a part of us.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11 ESV)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13, ESV)

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, ESV)

So what is the pattern? When I hear the gospel I learn of the seriousness of my situation as separated from God, but I also learn of God’s love and Christ’s love in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prompted by this love, I want to follow him daily. Following him daily means that I will also deny myself and die to myself daily. This self-denial means that I will consider myself dead to sin and I will be working at putting to death the deeds of the body with the help of the Holy Spirit. I will also consider myself alive to God, and I will live for Jesus’ sake. This means putting on the positive qualities that God wants me to have.

  • Because of love, I will follow Jesus daily.
  • I will deny myself, die to myself daily.
  • I will live for God and live for Jesus daily.
  • I will rely on the help of the Holy Spirit in this process of sanctification.

When we do this, life will never be the same. This is a transforming pattern.


Habits of Holiness

February 21, 2014

The agenda no doubt was to criticize Jesus. The Pharisees and scribes noticed that Jesus’s disciples failed to wash their hands before a meal. The Mishna recorded the tradition that this ritual required a minimum amount of water equal to the volume of one and half eggs. This was definitely about ritual and not hygiene! Jesus countered with the legal loophole used by the religious leaders for declaring something dedicated to the temple, and so unavailable to be used for the care of aging parents. They were criticizing about a tradition of the elders; he was convicting them about the Law of Moses. (See Matthew 15:1-20.)

Following this exchange, Jesus addressed the crowds with a proverb: “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11 ESV). This led his disciples to note the Pharisees were offended by Jesus and to request further explanation of the proverb. Jesus’s reply stressed holiness is developed from the inside out. His reply gives us a glimpse into the habits of holiness.

Be careful with God’s revelation. Jesus noted that the Pharisees were blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit. God will uproot what he has not planted. In pursuing holiness and a relationship with God, truth matters.

Be careful what you say. What comes out of our mouths in Jesus’s proverb must refer to what we say. What we say reflects what we are thinking. What we say foreshadows what we will do. The connection between deeds and words is found in Paul’s discussion of sexual immorality and covetousness (Ephesians 5:3-5). Right in the middle of these two themes, Paul warns about the wrong use of words. Some kinds of talk defile. Some kinds of talk sanctify.

Be careful what you think. In Jesus’s explanation of his proverb, he goes further and warns about evil thoughts. Paul also reminds us to think about good and honorable things (Philippians 4:8). Some kinds of thoughts defile. Some kind of thoughts sanctify and make holy.

Although the good news may intervene and change our habits and destiny, God still uses our habits to develop holiness. Someone has wisely said:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.