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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

New Covenant Spirit

Grant and Nils leading worship together in Iowa, Summer 2019

“I can live full of self, or I can live full of the Spirit.”

We’d been using this language for years with our boys, helping them to understand their God-given strengths. God made you confident/intelligent/friendly/funny. You can use your strengths to serve yourself, or you can use them to serve God and others. The difference is what you put inside. Fill up confidence with the stuff of flesh, and see what happens. Arrogance. Conceit. Self-importance. Pride. But fill up confidence with the Holy Spirit, and you’re a whole new person. Courage. Honor. Humility. Love.

The summer after his junior year of high school, our oldest son went on a mission trip. He came back changed. I remember saying to my husband, “It’s like Grant’s personality, filled up with the Spirit.” And he was. Grant sensed the change, too, and he gave credit where it was due. He had learned to pray. Every morning, ridiculously early, the mission trip kids would head to the local church, to walk circles and pray with the Mexican congregants. They prayed in whispers and audible requests, a chorus of petitions, lifted high. And in that setting, my son met the person of the Holy Spirit.

Later, I noticed Grant’s bedroom desk was covered in writing. At first I was annoyed by the Sharpie marker graffiti on his good Ikea furniture—but then I saw what was going on. Verse after verse about the Holy Spirit…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:9)

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23)

And on, and on.

The Spirit had done for my son what the flesh-self could never, ever, in a million years, accomplish. Which is to say. The Spirit took the very good of God’s original design—in Grant— and he made it look like Jesus. And this was not just some kind of theory. This was REAL. I say this as an eye-witness.

Just this morning I came across this in the Epilogue of John Mark Comer’s Live No Lies:

“Jesus’s call to follow him was a call to die—if not literally in body, then at least figuratively in self-denial…So what exactly is Jesus calling us to deny? The best way I can frame it is to say this: we’re to deny our self, not ourselves.”

Comer goes on to say “the self in Jesus’s call isn’t our inner essence or personality type or Enneagram number.” It is rather getting the flesh-self out of the way so we can receive Jesus’s “life to the full.” So we can be the actual Spirit-filled people of Jesus—all the way.

This is the “plot-twist” I describe in my own book, The Covenant Story.* (Spoiler alert!)

I’ll end with a few choice quotes:

The conditions of the first covenant were carved in letters on stone and executed by people. The conditions of the second would be written on the human heart and executed by the Spirit. The difference would be radical.

The law written on the heart would be a different law in every way. It was the law of the Spirit. The law embraced by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, and enabled by the Spirit. This was the law of life.

It is no longer I who live. It is Christ who lives in me. This is the new-covenant life. It is Jesus living his life in me. It is his Spirit doing for me what I cannot do for myself. It is being in a perfect covenant relationship with God forever.

*The Covenant Story: Trusting the Love of a Faithful God will be available in print on August 1st. Look for it on my website, or wherever books are sold.

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