The apostle Paul was a key player in the first-century Church. He was the most prolific writer of the New Testament, and God used him to spread the gospel throughout the known world. He endured shipwrecks and beatings and scourgings and all manner of humiliations—all for the sake of spreading the message Christ had commissioned him to spread (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
But Paul was human. Like us, he struggled with living up to God’s standards. Like us, he made mistakes. Like us, he had a human nature that resisted the power of God’s life-changing Word.
Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). Paul understood what it meant to strive for godliness and come up short. “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. … O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (verses 21, 24-25).
The life of a Christian is not an easy one. God calls us to do battle with our own human nature—a nature that, as we learned in our previous Journey, is quick to justify and excuse the sins that are tearing our world apart. Couple that with the fact that we have a spiritual enemy who will seize every opportunity to destroy us, and things start to look a little grim.
On our own, we’re outnumbered and outmatched. On our own, we’re not equipped to do battle with the forces that oppose us. On our own, we’re underpowered and overwhelmed—destined to lose before the battle even starts.
But we’re not on our own, are we? If the Son of God was willing to die a horrible death so that we can be forgiven, do you think He intends to abandon us as we strive to overcome the sins that necessitated His death? On the contrary!
Paul writes, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-32, 38-39).
We’re not on our own. This battle is not impossible. The God of the universe and Jesus Christ His Son are with us every step of the way, providing us with exactly what we need to hold our own—and not just to hold our own, but to win.
The Feast of Pentecost reminds us of just what we need.
In ancient times, the Feast of Pentecost was marked by an offering of the firstfruits of that year’s spring harvest. It was a time to honor and thank God for the blessings He had provided—and for the blessings He would continue to provide as the harvest continued to ripen and grow.
Today, we understand that the imagery of the firstfruits of Pentecost was pointing to the modern-day Church—a small gathering of what will one day become a far greater harvest. James writes, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18).
The first Pentecost after the death of Jesus Christ marked a turning point for the New Testament Church. Christ’s disciples were gathered together to observe the day, when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).
The Holy Spirit. The life-changing, universe-altering power of God. That’s what the Church received after Christ’s death, and Peter made it clear that it’s what we receive too when we repent of our sins and commit ourselves to God through baptism (Acts 2:38).
Since that day almost 2,000 years ago, God’s people have had access to the power that reshaped the world at the dawn of human history (Genesis 1:2)—but today, God isn’t using it to reshape the world.
He’s using it to reshape you.
If we want to have any hope of winning this war, God’s Holy Spirit is what we need to make it happen. It’s a tool that changes us the more we use it, and that’s a good thing. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit [itself]* makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
The Spirit changes how we interact with God, and it changes who we are. Paul urges, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
But the Spirit does more than that: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
None of this is going to be easy. It’s not supposed to be. It was never intended to be. But with the Holy Spirit of God, it becomes possible. Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible to be forgiven; the Holy Spirit makes it possible to overcome. To improve. To become more than we are on our own; to enter into battle with our flawed human nature and allow God to reshape it into something He can work with.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God did not call us to fail. When we repent and die with Christ through baptism, we begin a new life—a life fueled by the Holy Spirit, the power of God. There’s a lifetime of work ahead of us as we strive to put out sin and grow in righteousness, but thanks to the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it’s work we can accomplish.
Even then, the plan of God is a long way from over. We know God is a family, and we know He intends to grow that family—and the Feast of Trumpets, the next holy day, is a vital part of accomplishing that goal.