by Chip Ingram
Someone has said that we must study doctrine in the light in order
that it would sustain us in times of darkness. In a world where
"truth" is often only as real as one's "experience," this is excellent
advice! It is absolutely essential that we who claim to know Christ
choose to ground ourselves securely in the sound teaching of
This is especially true in regards to our understanding of the Holy
Spirit. Exciting spiritual manifestations are great, and
discouragement is difficult, but neither experience is a valid
indicator of truth. I spent much of my early Christian life
questioning my place in God's family, seeking dramatic demonstrations
of His power, and struggling with false humility and guilt, not
realizing that a healthy dose of biblical doctrine could alleviate the
insecurities that gripped my heart.
I'd like to share with you some of the truth that anchored my faith
and revolutionized my Christian walk.
Understanding that I am sealed in the Holy Spirit has brought
tremendous security. In my early struggles as a relatively new
Christian, I had a hard time believing that God really did love me,
that He would never remove Himself from my life. Then I did a word
study on the word "sealed" from Ephesians 1:13, "...having also
believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise." I
began to understand that as an adopted child of God, I am secure. God
had placed his irrevocable seal on my life, and I belonged to Him
forever, regardless of my circumstances or emotions.
Understanding the difference between baptism and filling of the Holy
Spirit has given me a new identity. After a couple of years of
confusion, a very careful study of the Scriptures liberated me from my
search for multiple experiences of "baptism and filling." I came to
understand that the baptism of the Spirit is a one-time, historical
event that placed me in the body of Christ and gave me a new identity.
The filling of the Spirit, on the other hand, is an issue of
submission, commanded by God of every believer. As I give God full
rein in my life, His Spirit will control me. As He controls me, I will
see "fruit" in my life: a joyful heart, thankfulness in my spirit
regardless of circumstances, and a genuine desire to serve and love
others. This truth transformed me! "Doctrine," previously dry-as-toast
historical dogma, began to reveal to me the keys of an abiding, very
personal fellowship with God.
Understanding my spiritual gifts has given me power and freedom. It
amazes me how few Christians realize that they have been given
spiritual gifts, and the even fewer number that have discovered what
they are! My life was transformed as I began to realize that God had
equipped me to do a unique work in His Church. I was able to embrace
the God-given characteristics that made me "me."
Understanding the Holy Spirit's work of conviction has relieved me
from guilt. I have one of those sensitive consciences that are easily
plagued by guilt. There have been times when I've struggled with
feeling depressed, overwhelmed, or uneasy for non-specific reasons.
But a study of Scripture has taught me that the Holy Spirit convicts
of sin (John 16, 7ff), with a goal to restore. The enemy, on the other
hand, accuses and condemns. Now when I feel a vague impression of ill
will or guilt, a sense that God doesn't love me, my doctrine tells me
that those feelings are not from God, and I know to do spiritual
warfare. But if it comes to my mind that I was rude or insensitive to
a friend, or had a specific negative, critical or lustful thought,
that's the Holy Spirit convicting me. I can bring that to Him, confess
it, take it to the cross and find forgiveness. Right doctrine, once
again, revolutionizes our thinking.
Understanding the Holy Spirit's powerful presence in my life has given
me great confidence in adversity. Santa Cruz, California, where we
live, is a center for "spiritualism" of all sorts. At times, the sense
of darkness and confusion in our town can seem overwhelming. But the
truth of Scripture, specifically I John 4:4, assures me that the One
who indwells my life is greater than any other force in the world. I
am left with a tremendous sense of confidence, even in the face of
adversity and "spiritual attack."
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in
Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national