By Tom Cash
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
When the world was simpler, when I was a rather innocent 9-year-old, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Our minister, M. M. Scott, met me as I walked up the center aisle at the end of his sermon. What did I know at that tender age about surrendering my life to Christ? I knew that Jesus is the Son of God; that he loves me; that he died on the cross for my sins; and that he arose from the grave. I knew I wanted to follow him and I wanted to be baptized.
What I did not know was how he could possibly live in my heart. Before going to church that morning, I recall my parents briefly mentioning something about receiving the Holy Spirit. Certainly I heard of the Holy Spirit. Since we sang “The Doxology” every Sunday, I couldn’t avoid praising “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”
But I was not prepared for what transpired in the baptistery. After saying a few words about being baptized into the Lord Jesus, the minister lowered me into the water. When he brought me up, something happened. A weight was lifted. Butterflies filled my stomach. I nearly felt dizzy.
My dad waited in the changing room to help me get back into my own clothes. I told him how I felt, and he simply said, “That’s the Holy Spirit, son.”
Dad passed away a number of years ago. But I still have a Father—a Heavenly Father—who regularly reminds me that he lives in my heart through his Holy Spirit. When racked with anguish, I’ve been comforted. In troubled times, I’ve found previously unknown courage. While struggling to say something in defense of the gospel of Christ, words that were not my own poured off my lips and tongue.
My first encounter with the Holy Spirit occurred more than 50 years ago. The minister who baptized me is now with the Lord. The church building is shuttered and vacant. And the Holy Spirit? He is as fresh and alive as he was the moment I took my first breath after coming up out of that water.
But there is a problem. It’s not God’s problem; it’s mine. We often become complacent in relationships that are comfortable and familiar. We take our loved ones for granted. We start to feel we deserve and are entitled to their attention. The shine tarnishes; the newness gets a few dings; the appreciation wanes. Factory fresh morphs into old reliable.
It can happen with our families, and it can happen with our God. That’s why Paul wrote, “If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]” (Galatians 5:25, Amplified Bible).
Keep in step with the Spirit! Not only does he walk with you, he walks ahead of you. He is there to comfort, lead, and guide. Don’t be surprised the next time the Comforter of God makes himself known in your life. Remember the simple words my dad spoke to this 9-year-old boy on the day of my baptism: “That’s the Holy Spirit, son.”
Tom Cash is Senior Minister at First Church of Christ, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.