This lesson is to be taught after the disciple has been baptized.
Lesson Goal: Help the disciple understand what the evidences are for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that they can be confirmed in their faith as they see the influence of the Spirit at work in their life. Also help them understand that if they do not eventually see the effects of God’s Spirit manifested in their heart and life they should accept that absence of spiritual fruit as a serious warning that something is wrong with their profession of faith.
Justified and Renewed
Instructor’s Notes: Help the disciple understand the positional and experiential aspects of salvation. Help them understand the difference between our justification and adoption which is received through our faith in Christ’s work on our behalf, and our sanctification and renewal that is progressively worked into our lives as we submit to the transforming grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Our status before God is changed through conversion (repentance, faith and baptism), but our experience with God is changed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5, John 3:5). Our justification is foundational, but it is not all we need. We do not only need forgiveness for our sins, we also need power from God to be free from the bondage of sin. We need forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39).
Read: Acts 2:38-39, Titus 3:5-7, John 3:5
Teaching: God commands us to repent of our rebellion against Him, believe in the saving work and lordship of Jesus Christ, and be identified with Christ through baptism. He promises that if we will fulfill these conditions that He will save us. This salvation has two initial aspects:
- He will forgive our sins and declare us righteous in His sight (i.e. He will justify us). Through our faith in what Christ has done for us and our confession of His lordship through baptism our sins are no longer counted against us. When our sins are forgiven we are no longer considered enemies of God, but are counted as His children.
- After our status has been changed from enemies to children through our faith in Christ, then God treats us as His children by pouring out the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. In forgiveness God removes the guilt of our sins, and by pouring His Spirit into our hearts He frees us from the power of sin. Through forgiveness God does something for us, through the pouring out of His Spirit into our hearts God does something in us.
If you have indeed repented of your sins and by faith confessed Christ as Lord through baptism, then you can trust that God has washed away your sins and renewed your heart by His Holy Spirit.
Discussion: Why is forgiveness important and how do we receive it? Why is transformation of our character important and how do we receive it?
Indwelling of the Spirit
Instructor’s Notes: Romans 8:9 shows how important the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is. In the Old Covenant not all true believers were indwelt by God’s Spirit, but in the New Covenant the indwelling of the Spirit is for all of God’s people. Under the Old Covenant people were sealed as members of God’s covenant people by circumcision in the flesh, but under the New Covenant people are sealed as God’s people by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Another difference is that in the Old Covenant people were sanctified by the Law of Moses which was written on stone, but in the New Covenant God’s people are transformed by the Holy Spirit writing God’s eternal law on their hearts. For this reason we must help the disciple understand that the work of the Holy Spirit is not something extra in the Christian life, it is essential.
If the new disciple has seen the clear evidences of the Holy Spirit in their lives that is a good sign. But since they are new converts it is not necessary that they are able to discern a complete transformation in their hearts at this point. It is true that if they have been genuinely saved a transformation has taken place within them, but many people are not able to detect this change immediately. In time they will become aware of renewed attitudes, mindsets and motives within their hearts, but they might not be able to point to specific examples within the first few weeks of their walk with Christ. At this point they just need to be aware that in time there will be noticeable evidence of the Spirit’s work in their hearts if they have truly been born again.
It is important for us to understand the order of salvation. We are not forgiven of our sins because the Holy Spirit indwells us. It is not the renewing power of the Holy Spirit that causes God to accept us as His children. We are forgiven of our sins because we trust in what Christ has done for us and have confessed that faith by identifying ourselves with Christ through baptism. We become children of God through faith, and then because we are God’s children He pours His Spirit into our hearts (Galatians 3:26-27, 4:6).
We are justified (i.e. declared and accepted as righteous by God) by grace through faith. This is the foundation of our salvation: God’s grace and our reception of that grace through faith in Christ. We must not base our salvation on our experience, but on what Christ has done for us. We must not look to a change in our hearts to determine our standing before God, we must focus on what Christ has done for us. It is the work and holiness of Jesus Christ that makes us right in God’s eyes, and we receive that right-standing status through faith. The renewal of the Holy Spirit is confirmation of our adoption, but not the cause of it.
So, if the disciple has not yet discerned the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in their heart we must encourage them not to despair but continue to look to Christ alone as the source of their salvation. And if they have detected the influence of the Holy Spirit, we must train them to continue to base their faith on the truth of the Gospel, not their present experience.
God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can share in His holiness and so that our joy and assurance with be full, so it is appropriate to encourage the disciple to rejoice when God’s presence is noticeable in their life. But we must teach the disciple that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. God will deal with us in various ways throughout our life, so we must not imagine that our salvation is founded on our feelings and experience; we must recognize that our salvation is founded on the truth of the Gospel, and therefore we must obey the command to trust in Christ throughout every season of life.
If a person’s spiritual experience is doubtful the answer is not to brood over their lack of the Spirit’s sanctifying influence, instead they should turn from sin and place their trust in the blood of Jesus Christ. We must always teach the disciple that Jesus Christ, not their spiritual growth is the foundation of their right standing with God. It is true that an obvious and consistent lack of renewing grace in their life is cause for alarm, but brooding over their lack of transformation is not the solution, instead the way to rectify the problem is by actively placing their trust in Christ as the source of their hope and salvation.
Read: Romans 8:9, John 14:16-17
Teaching: The indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His renewing of your heart will become increasingly noticeable in your life if you have indeed received salvation through Jesus Christ. It is important that you understand the indications of the Spirit’s work in a person’s heart for two reasons. Firstly, by recognizing the Spirit’s work in your heart you will be confirmed in the genuineness of your faith, and thus reassured concerning your acceptance with God. Secondly, if over time you do not see the influence of God’s Spirit at work in your life, it will be a warning sign to you that you need to test yourself to see if you have indeed repented of your sin and trusted in Christ. Romans 8:9 tells us that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” In light of this, recognizing the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work on a human heart is crucial.
Discussion: Why is it important to understand the evidences of the Spirit’s indwelling?
Instructor’s Notes: From childhood people are alienated from God and live for their own desires. They are rebels that believe they should be able to run their own lives. Their desires are corrupt and self-centered. Even when they make an effort to turn towards God and live according to His commands, their deceitful desires quickly turn them back to a life of self-centeredness and sin. But when the Spirit of God comes to dwell in a person He daily imparts new desires into their heart. While they were separated from God only their flesh, the world and the devil had sway with them, but after being reconciled to God and filled with His Spirit, God’s influence begins to change the direction of their desires. Their old hard heart was void of divine influence, but their renewed heart is daily effected with new heavenly desires.
The Spirit of God kindles holy desires in the heart of the believer, but these divine desires can be quenched. The new disciple must understand that he is responsible to fan into flame these godly desires, if not he will lose them. By God’s grace He ignites holy desires in our hearts by His Spirit. It is our responsibility to respond to this work of grace by adding fuel to this divine fire by regularly meditating on God’s word, devoting ourselves to prayer and committing ourselves to Christian fellowship.
Read: Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:14-16, Romans 8:23 & 26, Ezekiel 36:26, Ephesians 5:18-21
Teaching: The indwelling Holy Spirit will confirm the testimony of your own spirit that you are a child of God by leading you towards God and His ways. He confirms your adoption by giving you a childlike longing after God as your Father. You will experience an inner desire to draw near to the God you were once alienated from. You will also desire for God’s will to be done in every area of your life. You will experience a hunger to honor Him, Whom you once ignored and despised. The old rebellious heart will be replaced with a new heart that desires to know and obey God. The old heart was led away from God and His will by corrupt desires, the new heart will be led towards God and His ways by the influence of the Holy Spirit.
These new and godly desires are a free gift from your Father in heaven. But it is important that we do not take this precious gift for granted. We must cultivate the desires God puts in our hearts by practicing the Christian spiritual disciplines. We must daily meditate on the Bible, spend time daily in prayer and faithfully fellowship with other followers of Christ on a regular basis. By practicing these disciplines the Holy Spirit will have more sway over your heart, but neglecting these practices will hinder the growth of holy desire within you.
Discussion: Do you believe God has given you new desires since you trusted in Christ? Please give some examples.
Instructor’s Notes: God enables us to grow in holiness by strengthening our will with holy desire and by informing our minds about His will through His word. God enables us to obey Him, but He does not obey for us; obedience is our duty. God shines a light on the right path and turns our hearts towards that path, but it is our responsibility to walk on it. God did not make us to be robots, but sons and daughters. The new disciple must understand that we can grieve the Holy Spirit and resist His gracious work in our hearts by willful disobedience. At best such disobedience will incur the discipline of God in our lives, and at worst it will result in us falling away from our profession of faith.
Read: Philippians 2:13, Romans 8:12-13, Ezekiel 36:27, Romans 6:15-17, Ephesians 4:28-31
Teaching: The indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to walk in God’s will. Apart from God’s Spirit you were enslaved to corrupt desires. But under the influence of the Holy Spirit you are able to deny the flesh that which it lusts after. The Spirit will give you godly desires that will lead you towards holiness and He will guide you into the will of God through the Bible. As you embrace and submit to these Spirit-given desires your power to resist sin will grow stronger and your character will be transformed. But if you resist the influence of the Holy Spirit through disobedience you will be in danger of spiritual disaster.
Discussion: Have you experienced a new power in resisting sin? What habits in thought, word or deed have changed since you trusted in Christ? Are their areas of your life that you have been refusing to submit to the lordship of Christ?
Instructor’s Notes: It is important for the new disciple to understand that Christians are not rebellious; they walk in obedience to all the commands of God that they know. The rebellious heart is changed to a submissive one by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For this reason we can say that people are radically transformed at the moment of their conversion. A rebellious disciple is a contradiction in terms.
But it is also important for the new convert to understand that Christians are not perfect; they are unaware of many mindsets, attitudes and habits in their lives which are displeasing to God. Though their heart might be pointed in the right direction by the converting grace of the Holy Spirit, there is still a lifetime of growth and transformation ahead of them. At conversion they are determined to forsake all sin, but they are still ignorant of many of God’s ways. As the believer grows in understanding of God’s will through the Spirit’s illumination of the Scriptures they surrender these unsanctified areas to the lordship of Christ one by one. For this reason transformation, though it has a dramatic direction-changing beginning, is a process. Christians grow in holiness progressively, day by day, step by step.
It is important the new believer understands both the immediate and progressive aspects of sanctification. If they imagine that there is no immediate transformation worked in the heart at conversion they might imagine that disobedience and rebellion is the status quo for Christians. On the other hand if they are unaware of the progressive nature of sanctification they will become discouraged every time the Spirit shines a spotlight on an ungodly habit, mindset or attitude of which they were previously ignorant.
Read: 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 3:12-14, 20-21
Teaching: God will transform you as you cultivate an obedient relationship with Him. Though our status was changed from enemies of God to children of God in a moment when we were identified with Christ through faith, our transformation into the likeness of God’s character is a life-long process. You should not expect to be perfected in this life, but you should strive every day to grow in holiness. When Christ returns He will complete the process of transformation by giving us our new resurrection bodies which, like His resurrection body, will be untainted by sin and corruption.
Discussion: Are Christians normally obedient or rebellious? Are Christians perfect? How does a person grow in holiness?
Instructor’s Notes: The Bible declares that those who are in Jesus Christ are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). This does not mean that they are now perfected and without sinful desires. Instead it means that by the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence on their hearts they are restrained from running recklessly into sin. God works within them moment by moment giving them new desires and the power to walk according to those desires (Philippians 2:13). They are not independently able to live godly lives or keep themselves walking in the truth. It is only by God’s gracious influence on their hearts that they can be kept from going headlong into sin and turning from the path of righteousness.
We are helpless without the grace of God guiding us, convicting us and disciplining us every day of our lives. The more we grow in Christ the more we become aware of just how deeply sin has affected our nature. This knowledge would lead to despair if we did not know that God has promised to complete the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). So it is important for the disciple to understand not only that they must live a holy life and that this can only be done by the grace of God, but also that God has promised to faithfully guide, empower and correct His children so that they can share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10 & 14). God demands that His people continue in holiness until their very final breath, but He also promises to discipline them, severely when necessary, until their pilgrimage here on earth is finished.
The new disciple needs to understand that apart from Christ and His work in their heart they will not be able to endure to the end. This should cause them to walk before God in humility, hungering for righteousness and mourning over their sinful weakness. Their daily prayer should be, “Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil, for my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.” But they should also be grounded in the promises, ability and faithfulness of God. They should be aware that God has promised to guide and discipline His children, and that He is both able to keep them from falling and faithful to do so. Endurance to the end is a requirement for final salvation, but it is also a result of the gracious work of God on a person’s soul.
Read: Philippians 1:6, Jeremiah 32:40, Hebrews 12:7-8, Hebrews 3:12-14, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Teaching: Those who have been adopted by God through faith in Jesus Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. If you have indeed become a child of God then He will faithfully discipline you and will not allow you to sin comfortably. The indwelling of God’s Spirit produces an intensified sensitivity to sin so that God’s children are tormented by their Spirit-renewed conscience when they choose to rebel against God’s commands. If you are able to live in sin indefinitely then it is a clear sign that you are not a child of God (1 John 3:9).
Discussion: Can a person live comfortably in sin if they have the Spirit of God? Have you become more sensitive to sin since you came to faith in Christ? Does someone have to live a holy life to inherit eternal life? How can we live a holy life until our final breath?