A reader wrote,
To blame the Spirit for what every Christian thinks and writes hardly seems sensible. Yet I think that’s what I’m hearing Jay teach.
1. I might credit the Spirit with some things, but I blame it for nothing. The Spirit, as a part of God, can do nothing but good.
2. I’ve never remotely suggested that Christians lose their free will to the Spirit or otherwise. I’m not a Calvinist.
3. The world is not binary. It’s not either “the Spirit has complete control of me and I have no free will” OR “the Spirit has no control of me and I have unfettered free will”. Why must we assume it’s either one extreme or the other?
The scriptures plainly say that God himself will, by the Spirit, write his laws on our hearts and minds so that we’ll become obedient. Jer 31:31ff, Heb 8:8ff, etc. And we’re repeatedly told that God will change our hearts to soften them to become obedient.
And Paul in Rom 8 speaks of our being “led” by the Spirit —
(Rom. 8:14 ESV) 4 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
But Paul urges us to submit to the Spirit’s leading —
(Rom. 8:5-8 ESV) 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
He tells us to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.
(Gal. 5:22-25 ESV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
“Let us keep in step with the Spirit” is clearly an exhortation to allow the Spirit to bear fruit of the Spirit.
(Gal. 5:16 ESV) 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Again, we are urged to “walk by the Spirit,” meaning we can choose not to do so.
So which is it? Well, it’s something in between.
The Spirit is a person who influences us to the extent we will let him. We can resist (Acts 7:51), grieve (Eph 4:30), and even quench (1 Th 5:19) the Spirit. And we can be led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14), walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), worship by the Spirit (Phi 3:3), pray in the Spirit (Rom 8:26; Eph 6:18), and even be filled with the Spirit (Eph 3:18).
You can take advantage of this blessing from God or not — your choice.
One of my favorite analogies is power brakes. If you’ve ever had your engine cut off while braking, you realized that 90% of the work was being done by the engine — even though you were in complete control of the brake pedal.