“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 1 Cor. 2:12
There are two distinct approaches to living one’s life. One approach is for the person to be “in the driver seat” of their life were they knowingly manipulate (or attempt to manipulate) every situation that they face so as to affect the outcome in a way that aligns it with their desires. This approach is promoted and encouraged by many in our society, stating the need to take control of your life and your situations and to work hard to be successful.
The formality of this approach varies, depending on the personality of the individual, from a detailed plan with goals for their future to a more random effort that is more reactive to the situations that they find themselves in. In either case, they take it upon themselves to do whatever is necessary to get them into the place they want to be, or to change the circumstances or surroundings to suit their desired outcome.
The problem with this first approach is that the method of manipulation often requires a bending or breaking of their moral and ethical standards, and a compromise of their conscience. Sometimes hard work and energy will bring about the needed change, but most times there is a need for lying, stealing, cheating, hurting others, or other immoral acts to make things happen in their favor. For example, in corporate settings, for people attempting to ascend the “corporate ladder” they use underhanded, cutthroat, and heartless methods to gain success.
In the second approach, the person shifts to “the passenger seat” of their life, leaving the “driving” to God (or for some, a higher power, or to fate, or to an unknown force or energy that they believe controls the universe). Rather than focusing on changing their circumstances, they focus on doing the right thing. By being honest, fair, kind towards others, giving, loving, and holding to their moral standards and conscience, they look to God to work out their circumstances according to His wisdom and power.
As Christians, of course, we fall into this second category. For many of us, we had experienced the futility of the first approach, or perhaps the pain associated with where we ended up, and this led us to change to the second approach. For some of us, there was pain from the guilt of the actions that evolved from the “driver seat” approach, and our conscience wouldn’t allow us to continue on that path.
Note that as Christians we must be totally aligned with the second approach of having God in the driver seat. Attempting to control our lives by manipulating our situations, even if by moral and ethical means, is not acceptable. Don’t be deceived into thinking that as long as we are not lying, cheating, stealing, or using any other immoral action to affect the outcome of our circumstances, it’s okay to focus on manipulating our circumstances for our desired outcome. We must let go of this mindset of needing to control our circumstances and future, and submit to God’s will and leading for our lives.
Christians have an approach to life that allows for God’s leading and direction in every area and for all circumstances of their lives, and this is a wonderful thing. But there is something even more amazing: we can also have an understanding of God’s workings. We can know and understand spiritual truths that will shine a light into our circumstances and give us a picture of God’s purpose and how it aligns with His will for our lives.
It is extremely important that we realize that God has revealed to His children many truths about the overall condition of our world and His plans for the future. He also reveals to His children information about their circumstances and the overall plan for their lives. Therefore, as Christians, we have a great advantage over those people who don’t know Jesus and His Word, but have taken the second approach to life, looking to a higher power or force, or to fate, or to some other god.
It is recorded in the 17th chapter of the book of Acts in the Bible that when the apostle Paul came into Athens that he noticed an altar with the inscription “To an unknown god”. Later speaking to the Athenians, he mentioned this altar and told them that God has now revealed Himself through Jesus so that they don’t have to worship in ignorance:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17: 30-31
We too no longer need to walk in ignorance but can align our approach to life with the revelation of truth from the living God. Not only can we focus on walking in holiness and love, trusting that God will work out all things in our lives for our good, but we can also gain an understanding of His purpose for us and see what He is doing in our lives in the light of the bigger picture of eternal life and the second coming of Jesus. We no longer rely on the wisdom of men to guide our thinking but rather look to the truths of the spirit.
Again, from 1 Cor. 2 (quoted above):
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2: 12-14
In many situations we can either view things based on man’s wisdom or based on the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an example from the Scriptures: A woman came to Jesus with a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it out on Jesus. Because the bottle was worth an average person’s annual salary, there was a complaint from His disciples about the waste, thinking it would have been better to sell and use the funds to help the poor. Jesus responded that the poor would be with them always, but He would not be with them much longer and that the woman was preparing Him for His burial with this perfume (according to the custom of the time).
The versions of this event recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are almost identical to each other and follow the story as I explained it above (see Matthew chapter 26 and Mark chapter 14), but another version recorded in the Gospel of John (chapter 12) gives more information about the women with the perfume and the person complaining about the waste of the value of the perfume.
John names the woman as Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. You may recall that Mary was the one sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His teachings. I believe, as some Bible scholars have also suggested, that Mary poured out her expensive perfume because she believed that Jesus was going to be put to death as He had revealed. She listened attentively to the truths that Jesus was revealing and she believed them, even though they were hard to understand and seemed contrary to the wisdom of man. In her natural mind it didn’t make sense that Jesus would be put to death, but in her spirit she bore witness to this and agreed and acted accordingly.
John also names Judas Iscariot as the disciple who questioned the waste of this valuable perfume and even suggested that, since he was the person who managed the group’s money, he was most likely motivated by a desire to control the money for personal reasons, not to really help the poor.
Judas chose to embrace his natural mind and act on this logic whereas Mary chose to act on her spiritual understanding, disregarding the worldly wisdom that could have also restrained her actions. She didn’t think about the expense of the perfume and the possible uses of the potential monetary value. Instead she followed the prompting of her spirit and heart, aligned with the understanding that came from the application of her faith to the revealed truth from Jesus.
“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box, and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’” John 12: 3-8
We have the revealed Word of God in the Scriptures as well as the Holy Spirit who speaks to us and reveals things to us concerning our lives. We must act according to this revelation, and not according to our natural minds.
Imagine yourself in Mary’s position. She has a very expensive flask of oil that she had somehow attained either by purchase or inheritance and has saved. People at that time didn’t have banks to store money for a savings; instead, they used expensive items to store value for future use. She is prompted in her spirit to use this oil to anoint Jesus, possibly to prepare Him for His burial since He has revealed that He would shortly be turned over to the authorities and be put to death.
“Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.’” Mark 10: 32-34.
Do you think that Mary had second thoughts about pouring out this valuable oil? I think she did. Do you think her natural mind and logical thoughts were telling her not to waste her savings on this? I think so. But Mary was functioning in the spirit; she was walking in the spirit. She was acting according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and according to the truth that was revealed to her by Jesus.
This is the lesson for us to understand. We need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Don’t allow your natural mind to rule your actions. Act according to what was revealed to you and to what you know in your spirit. If you have uncertainty, seek God and ask Him to reveal the truth to you. God is faithful and He will make it clear to you.
And consider this: the Bible says to love your enemies and to bless those who spitefully use you and not to curse them. What if there was someone at work who had made it clear that they didn’t like you, maybe it was even your boss or some upper manager? And what if you had some opportunity to make them look bad or if your word about them would make a difference in them being promoted or not? You know what your natural mind would be telling you. You know what the world or your non-Christian co-workers would advise you to do. Your natural mind and the world would want you to take revenge. What would you do? Would you love them and act according to the Spirit and the truth?
The Bible says that if someone takes your shirt you should offer them your coat also; or if someone makes you walk a mile you should walk two miles. This is absurd to the natural mind and to the world. What will you do when faced with a similar situation in life?
The Bible is our guide for what is truth. These truths apply to our day to day situations, as well as the plans for our future. Anything that the Holy Spirit reveals to us should align with the Scriptures and our conscience will also guide us if we have purified ourselves and allowed our conscience to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. The Bible is our measuring rod to test for the truth.
We won’t always know all of the details about God’s plans for us so we must walk in faith, trusting that He will make things known to us in His time, but we can have a view of the big picture of God’s plan for the ages, and many times He will reveal to us some details of His plan for us personally, as the plan unfolds in our lives.
In conclusion, we can not only trust that God will steer our lives in a perfect direction to fulfill His will and purpose in our lives, but we can also walk in the spirit, understanding and discerning the spiritual view of our situations, and will be able to act in accordance with this view. The key to this understanding is to hold fast to what God has revealed to us both in His Scriptures and by personal communication through the Holy Spirit.
This is a great privilege and blessing that we should have the mind of Christ. What a great mystery that Christ is in us!
“the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col. 1:26-27