“The Holy Spirit vs. the spirit of the times: Who is controlling you?”
Who or what decides if I become annoyed with the others around me?
“Man is the master of his own destiny.” So the saying goes. But in recent years, there seem to be some seemingly overpowering influences that confront people.
We live in an increasingly borderless world with technological tools of many kinds. Over the past decade, technology has taken us by storm and provided items that we now regard as necessities. This development has also affected our behavior, and there seems to be a growing debate in the media about people’s lack of social interaction. Many things can occupy our time and thoughts but what should we be conscious of in this regard?
I recently read a passage by Johan Oscar Smith, which gave me a new perspective of the world I live in (excerpt from the article “Inner ,” in the BCC periodical “Skjulte Skatter,” Feb 1912)
“An inner life and inner enemies to conquer, battle and destroy. The enemies of our inner life are those forces that want to scatter our thoughts by focusing our attention on external things. These enemies are the various desires that seek to distract our concentration by causing our thoughts to cling to outward things, things that will pass away. This is perdition: the things to which the heart was attached pass away while the person himself, who is an eternal being, is filled with nothing but emptiness when he should have been filled with God Himself. That is why it is so very important that we allow God to draw our minds away from everything that is external – the things that will pass away – and turn our focus inward to the source of life that lives forever, even as we ourselves will live forever. Then joy and unspeakable peace can fill us, beginning in this time of corruptibility and continuing into the unknown eternities. May the Lord enable us for this.”
The spirit of the times versus the Holy Spirit
This force, which wants to make our minds hold on to outward things, is the spirit of the times. You walk in this spirit when you allow the world to direct you; this is the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). In stark contrast to this is The Holy Spirit, God’s mouthpiece to humanity. The spirit of the times works directly against The Holy Spirit, with the goal of filling us with things that will pass away – instead of us being filled with God’s Spirit.
How do we view this in the context of today’s world? These days, many young people have a hard time concentrating – they are constantly looking for entertainment, and no teacher seems to be entertaining enough to hold their attention. Among other things, the spirit of the times encourages self-promotion. But as a Christian, I must be aware of what spirit I fill myself with, and what motivates actions.
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12.
With eternity in focus, it is not the time spent on self-actualization that will benefit me the most. God always has something to say to me through the Holy Spirit. He has the recipe for a happy life, if I will just listen to His voice and act according to it. But that requires me to be quiet and attentive, because the path of least resistance is always to turn a deaf ear to God’s voice and consequently give in to the incessant desire for constant entertainment.
A conscious focus on the inner life
There is so much more to this world than what most people see and hear. There is an invisible world, which nevertheless can be clearly perceived by believers. (Hebrews 11:1) Therefore the believer has an awareness that the spirit of the times of this world would replace joy with a feeling of emptiness, while the Holy Spirit will help us to attain the same virtues that Jesus had. This is what God wants me to spend my life on. If I focus on my inner life rather than the outward; then instead of seeking momentary pleasure, I seek to do what gives me value in the eternal realm that awaits me together with everyone who has fought this same battle.
“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day,” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16. When I allow the Holy Spirit to lead me throughout my day, and I carry out the promptings God gives me; then with each day that passes I gain a greater fullness of the virtues of Christ in my spirit. Jealousy and pride are replaced with goodness, mercy, and patience; and these virtues can become an integrated part of me. These are eternal values that are part of my spirit, not my temporal earthly body.
Gold nuggets such as the passage above by Smith were written more than 100 years ago, but they are no less relevant today. They are words I can use in my daily life – words which can give me an enlightened perspective so I focus on my eternal destiny rather than on other more or less meaningless activities. This makes it so that I consciously prioritize filling myself with God’s Word, and thus the heavenly vision I get becomes the backdrop for all my daily activities.
My spirit is renewed day by day, or in other words, I become a new person each day! What an exciting life to live of continual constant growth!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.