The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), “put off your old self… and… put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24). What Paul describes here is not a small change that takes place, but rather a complete transformation. We are to empty ourselves and be filled with Jesus’ Spirit, we are to take off our old way of living and replace it with an entirely new way of living. To follow Jesus then, we must do two things: (1) turn from our old ways, and (2) invite Jesus’ Spirit to live within us.
Turn from our old ways
In Genesis 1 we read about God’s act of creation, and specifically his decision to make human beings. We read in verse 27, “God created humankind in his own image”. It is clear, right from the very beginning, that God’s plan was for humanity to be like him, to represent him. Part of the challenge however is that God is not someone that you can just walk up to in the street and get to know over a meal, he is a mystery to us. Yet in the book of Colossians we read, “[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God” (1:15). What this means for us is that the mystery of God, this distant and unknowable being, has become known to us in Jesus. To be like God then is to be like Jesus, to represent God is to represent Jesus. This is why the habit of reading the Bible is so important because in its pages we have a description of Jesus. Turning from our ‘old ways’ becomes turning from any behaviour or thinking that is against or contrary to the way that Jesus lived. Jesus is the colour of green that we compare ourselves too.
Two of the things that we see that are so different about Jesus’ life are (a) the way he related to God, and (b) the way he related to other people. If we are interested in embracing a new way of living, we must first ask ourselves the questions: (a) Have I related to God like Jesus did? (b) Have I treated people the way Jesus treated people? If our lives do not match up with Jesus’ example, it is appropriate for us to acknowledge that.
Turning from our old ways is as simple as telling God about the aspects of
our life that are not green and that have failed to imitate Jesus’ example.
Invite Jesus’ Spirit to live within us
From here we ask Jesus’ Spirit to fill us up and to make his home within us. It is not enough to acknowledge that we are not green, we must turn to the Holy Spirit as the source of our new way of living. In much the same way that we tell God that we are not green, this second step is about acknowledging that we cannot become green without God’s Spirit within us.
Inviting the Spirit to live within us is as simple as asking
him to be the source of our new way of living.
To become a green-leafed Christian is to take these two steps, and in many ways to stay green and vibrant is to simply repeat this process every day. We wake every morning, we turn from the old and we embrace the new by inviting Jesus’ Spirit within us and trusting him to equip us to live a green and transformed life.
The important thing to take away from all of this is that someone who tries to make their life have the shape of a Christian without being filled with the Holy Spirit will eventually fail; their colour will always be off. Just as the tree is the source of the leaf’s life, so too the Holy Spirit is the source of the Christian’s life.
When someone chooses to follow Jesus by turning from their old ways and inviting Jesus' Spirit to live within them there is a symbolic event that Jesus encourages them to take part in: baptism.
Baptism is a symbolic event where one is immersed in water. Jesus himself was baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit. We read in Matthew 3:16: "When Jesus was baptised, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him." The process of going down under the water and coming back up again has two significant ideas associated with it, both of which we have already spoken of. The first is the idea of death and life, old and new. When we go down under the water it is as though the old us is dying, we are leaving behind that old way of living. When we come up out of the water we emerge into a new world; a new life full of new ways of living is before us. The second idea is what we just read about in Jesus’ baptism. After he came up out of the water the Spirit descended from heaven and came to rest on him. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. The act of being baptised then is a symbolic event that brings together the ideas associated with following Jesus: turning from old ways and inviting Jesus’ Spirit to live within us. Baptism is not something that we do to ourselves, rather we gather together as a community and someone baptises us; that is, they lower us into the water (a swimming pool for example) and then lift us out again. When someone is baptised it is a day of great celebration.
After reading this you might feel that you are ready to turn from your old ways, invite Jesus within and be baptised. Alternatively, you might want to learn a bit more about Jesus and his example to us, or you might have questions that you'd like answered before going further. What is important to know is that you are not alone in all of this; you can talk to someone in our community or send an email to us right now.