On Breathing…

I couldn’t breathe.
And it was terrifying.

It was in the recovery room after sinus surgery three, the most extensive one of them all.
You have three sets of sinus cavities in your face – your forehead, the bridge of your nose and your cheeks. This surgery had mucked with all three in an attempt to bring long-term relief.
So the packing in my face was extensive; literally layers of packing tucked from my forehead to my nostrils with a final piece of gauze taped across it all. No air was getting in that way.

And then, just as I was coming to consciousness, the nurse turned off the oxygen that was flowing into my mouth. But she forgot to remove the mask from my face.
I went from a steady flow of air to none.

She quickly realized what she had done as monitors blared.
But it was a terrifying way to wake up.

Thankfully that level of packing was only for the first 24 hours.
But it definitely gave me a deep, deep appreciation for breathing.

So what in the world does this have to do with spiritual things?

It’s about air.
And breathing.
And cutting off oxygen.

If you read last week’s blog, you know I have been reveling in the name of the Holy Spirit in the original languages: Ruach in Hebrew, Pneuma in Greek. Literally wind, breath or breeze.

And as I have been marinating in that Truth it struck me:
When I sin I am quite literally putting myself in the same danger I was in long ago in that recovery room.
I am cutting off the very air I breathe.

Am I saying that the Holy Spirit leaves the follower of Christ when we sin?
Absolutely not.

But when we choose to disobey God, we put a blockage between ourselves and Him.
Sin separates us from God.
Always has.
Always will.

And yes, Jesus died to take the penalty of my sin on the cross.
Someone always pays for sin by dying.
Either the sinner or Jesus.
So, for those of us who have chosen to put our faith in Christ, He has taken the ultimate punishment.
And He has given us the Holy Spirit as the power source for life, the change agent Who is working on us, refining us, making us more and more like Christ.

Scripture is very clear that we are literally saved from ourselves and our sin in stages.
The moment we accept Christ, we are justified before God.
He sees the penalty of our sin – past, present and future – as paid in full by the death of Jesus.
That’s why Paul told the church at Rome that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So we have been saved. Saved from the eternal consequences of our sin.
But we are also BEING saved as we walk with God in this Christian life.
The author of Hebrews put it this way: “Having been made perfect, we are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
I love that picture! I stand before God, complete and righteous because of Jesus.
I have been made perfect in His sight.
But I am being made holy as we go on together.
I am learning, growing, changing, transforming, becoming.

And then one day, one glorious day, we WILL BE saved.
For a follower of Jesus, the death of the body means entering an eternity with God.
And the struggle with sin will finally be over.
No more temptation.
No more mistakes.
No more wrestling.
We will finally be done with the struggle. Hallelujah!

So – back to the air we breathe.
In this life, as we are in the process of being saved, we have a choice about how hard that progression will be.
And that choice is all about surrender.
My will or His?
My glory or His?
My desires or His?
Yield to temptation? Or yield to His Spirit?

Paul told the Corinthians that “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” (I Corinthians 10:13)

And he told the church at Philippi:
“So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

So you CAN resist the irresistible.
You CAN successfully fight temptation.
You CAN live a holy life.

It is all possible – because you have the Breath of God in your lungs.

But when you choose sin, you block His work.
When you choose disobedience, you cut off the very air supply that you desperately need.
He is still there – but you have rendered Him ineffective.
Just like the oxygen I needed was still in the air all around me in that recovery room – but it was blocked from my lungs.

That is why it is SO important to keep short accounts with God.
Because you will fail.
You will still sin.
You will give into temptation.
And He will not leave you when you do.
But His power supply to your life will be blocked.
And you are the only one who can remove the blockage.

That is why Paul told the church at Thessalonica, “Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit.” (I Thessalonians 5:19)
We have the choice, day in and day out.
Breathe Him in, with all of His power and experience all of the fruit He brings – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Or block His flow, quenching His work, cutting off the very air supply we need in order to live for Him by our own willful disobedience.

Choosing to keep short accounts with God will not make Him love you more.
“But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

But keeping your life free from sin so that the Breath of God can move freely in your life?
That will give you the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10.

You have the quantity of life either way – eternity with God because you are a Christ-follower.
The question is, what is the quality of your life with Him?
That part is entirely up to you.

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