The Holy Spirit – An Introduction, Part Two

First, a short prayer—Thank You, Father God, for the compass of Your Word.  Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit Who distills and instills Your Word into our lives.  We want to know You, Lord, in a more intimate, deeper walk.  Teach us how to be truly teachable. We ask these things in Jesus’ precious name because they will honor and glorify You. Amen.

I asked in an earlier post why it is that we believers in the conservative American church know far less about and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s daily role in our lives, as compared to the Father and to Jesus.  I received some interesting answers.  Most folks can’t really seem to put their finger on the reason.

Maybe it has to do with what we believe about God:

  • The Holy Spirit is not set forth in Scripture as the Object or Initiator in the work of atoning salvation as the Father and Son are.
  • Or because the Father and Son are constantly associated with each Other in Scripture, and no personal declarations are ever recorded as coming from the Spirit.
  • Or better yet, the Spirit’s work as Executor of God’s will is often attributed in an impersonal way to God in general, instead of specifically to Him.

Each of these reasons has its own merits.  However, I think it has less to do with theology than it does our own deep-seated fears.

  • Fear of swinging too far towards emotionalism in the Spirit realm.  Please don’t make us like that charismatic group down the street that gets all hyped up and “lets loose” in the church house.
  • Fear of what God might want or require of us, should we really get to know Him in an intimate way.  Please, Lord, I don’t want You to send me to be a missionary overseas.
  • Perhaps it’s just due to our comfortable-where-I’m-at, laissez-faire way of living in the States.  American Christians (and I include myself in this) have become attendance-driven, entertainment-seeking consumers.  Too many times we often look like, act like the world.  We don’t relate well at all to the picture of a self-sacrificing servant, keenly attuned to the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice.   That level of Christianity is best suited to the most dedicated, to the most spiritual among us.  We’re not ready to go to that kind of trouble. Yet.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear.  The something that most of us feel is deeply missing from our churches and lives is actually a Someone, the third Person of the Trinity, God’s palpable presence in our world.

Frances Chan in his excellent book Forgotten God says:

Without Him [the Holy Spirit], people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-size results.  The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation.  And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit.  But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural.  The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.

If we are honest, we admit we’ve missed the boat much of the time in experiencing the Spirit.  To see this first-hand, one only needs to travel any of several places around the globe where God’s Church is Spirit-rich.  Those local bodies are full of His workings and there in their midst, we are the real paupers.  These impoverished, often persecuted believers have no recourse but to depend on the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives, or they perish.  The evidence?  Outpourings of spiritual blessings abound.  Lives are supernaturally changed.  Laid side-by-side next to a description of the first-century church, they resemble the early church much more than we do.

Then how do we, the American conservative church,experience the Holy Spirit more richly? How do we change the status quo?

Or is the real question:  Do we want to change?

God wants humble hearts.  Teachable spirits.  We may already possess some biblical head knowledge of the Spirit.  But unless that knowledge makes its way down into the heart, and into a tender heart at that, the Spirit’s work in us will be stunted, repressed, quenched.   God wants so much to display Himself through His people.  And to what end?  You know this already—it is because He intensely desires to draw all men (and women, and children) to a saving grace of Jesus Christ.

So a fervent desire for more of Him, in cooperation with a thorough examination of the Scriptures— to make sure we’re seeing things the way God sees it—is the path to discovering the Person of the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit reveals His special work from the beginning of Genesis creation, until the end of days in Revelation’s apocalypse.  In future posts, we’ll examine the Holy Spirit’s attributes and roles throughout Scripture and glean what this means for us as believers.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn/Eph. 5:16-17

Rubbing Shoulders with a Gritty World

Jesus commands us to be salt and light in this world, a task very hard to do.  This is because of the almost seven billion other people who live on this planet, the ones we bump into everyday.

Even though we believers have the incredible indwelling of the Holy Spirit available to empower us to be a “Christ-like one” in front of them, we usually allow the world to dictate how we roll—and that’s usually down in the grime with them. Those folks are down in the dirt because they can’t help it; we, however, can.

I use myself as a prime example.  Last Saturday I went to do my first errand, the grocery store.  I picked up a few items, headed for the, you guessed it, the express line.  There were fewer people in my line and, hey, each only had a few things—I’d get in and out quicker, right?  Wrong.  One by one, the people in the express line in front of me each had a problem.  One dear lady couldn’t get her credit card to swipe.  Another took her blessed time in handwriting a check for her groceries.   Another decided he really didn’t want one or two items after all, and could the nice cashier take it off his bill?  I breathed deeply, rolled my eyes, and tried to take it in stride.

Then I drove down the 15-501 bypass to my next destination, merging into the fast lane.  I’m staying just ten miles above the speed limit, passing up some major turtles in the slow lane.  I was zipping along, doing great, until a big black pick-up truck with some major attitude decides I’m not going fast enough in the fast lane for him.  I can tell this by the way he hangs on my bumper.  So I look for a safe opportunity to get out of his way, but I’ve still got a bank of cars on my right.  I finally see my break coming, plan my move.  I flip my turn signal on to get over, look in my rearview, and notice he’s gone.

It’s then that I hear him.  Now he’s in the right lane, barreling down, racing to get ahead of me.  Just about the time we reach another turtle in the right lane, the humongous truck whips over in the fast lane just ahead of me, missing me by inches, giving me a discourteous salute as he leaves me in his dust.  I would like to say I handled that situation correctly.  But I didn’t. My patience was pretty thin by now. I must admit I said a few unkind things about the thoughtless driver who almost bought the farm and took me along with him.

Next I dashed into Target. I did a quick grab-by of an armful of things and what I thought were a couple of tasteful graduation cards and headed to the checkout.  Again, I chose what I thought was the shortest line. The two college-age young ladies in front of me loaded their various picnic items onto the conveyor belt, leaving their shopping cart to clog the very back of the aisle where I was, juggling my bulky items. They never moved the cart to the opposite end where they were both bagging groceries, each carrying on separate conversations with their cell phones glued to their ears.  Okay, they’re distracted, I think.

The cashier rings up the total.  At that exact moment, one girl turns to the other in wide-eyed innocence, saying, “Oh, you know, I forgot the beer.”  She squeezes past the cart that’s still blocking the way, squeezes past me with my arms full, and saunters out toward the grocery section of the store.

The cashier asks the second girl for the money and she calmly nods in the general direction of the first.  She tells the cashier her friend’s going to pay. Besides, she’ll be right back, it shouldn’t take too long.  She stands on tiptoe, occasionally looking for her forgetful friend, still chattering away incessantly on her phone. The cashier eyes those bags upon bags of groceries, and decides right then and there that she’s not going to cancel the order and have all that work to do for the second time.

So there we stand, the four of us (there is now another woman behind me).  We wait. The cashier and young woman never meet my eyes, never bother to acknowledge that there’s going to be a delay, sorry about that.

That’s it—I snap.  I suddenly shove the cart way forward with my hip; I can’t push it with my hands because I might drop something I’m holding and break it.  My face is red-hot, I feel my blood pressure rise, and everyone around can now tell that I am not amused.  I release my items to the belt with a thump.  The first girl finally takes the hint, silently pulls the cart the rest of the way to the end, finally starts loading her groceries.  I keep fuming and glancing at my watch, because I know I have better things to do with my Saturday instead of standing in line at Target.

The second girl flits up nonchalantly, pushing past me, past her friend, rings up her twelve-pack, pays for the whole kit and caboodle, and finally leaves.  I was still entertaining unpleasant thoughts about the inconsiderate duo as I crossed over into the parking lot.

Within the confines of my car on the way home (and in the slow lane, I might add) the Lord nudged me.  I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, graciously forgiven, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, privileged to live within the abundance of His blessings—but sadly, I couldn’t endure one afternoon of rubbing shoulders with the world before I became just like them.  I had to confess my sin right then and there.

In each situation, I failed.  I didn’t see those people through Holy Spirit eyes.  I just saw my “rights” being violated.  That’s the problem with being in the world—we often get dirty.  Our thoughts, our actions slowly degenerate into something quite different than we intended.  It’s usually about that point we raise a defiant fist and declare “We ain’t gonna take it no more!”

We cannot be salt and light by ourselves, admit it.  That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us, to empower us.  But we have to be willing to listen to His still, small voice, to follow His lead, and to be obedient.

Let’s be Christ followers and not dirt wallowers.  It’s our choice.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn/Ps. 19:1

Holy Pneuma – The Holy Spirit, An Introduction

I  have a friend at church, let’s call her L.A.  L.A. and I were talking about a pothole, an adversity, she’d hit recently in life.  In the middle of her description, I heard her say something like this:

Holy Pneuma was telling me to do it a certain way.  . .  So you know,  I did it the way Holy Pneuma said.  . . Because when Holy Pneuma tells you something, you have to listen. . . ”

You have to understand, L.A is a long-time follower of Jesus.  She was raised in a very different church background than I, and as a result, has some turns of phrase that sound a bit foreign to me.   She used the two-word combination sprinkled several times throughout our conversation, and it took me a couple of utterances to catch on to what she was actually saying.

She was speaking of Holy Pneuma, the Holy Spirit.  The Third Person of the Trinity, including God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.  As most of you know, “pneuma” is actually part of the Greek root word for “wind” or “spirit.”

In the midst of my own “potholes” in the past couple of years, I’ve had to turn to God’s Word for some answers to hard questions.  I wanted to know why most of our churches (and this includes me, as part of the Christ’s body, the Church) were many times ineffective for Him.  Why, after all the sweat, and programs, and evangelism, and things that churches do to try to bring people into the Kingdom, was it not working?  Why are fewer and fewer people coming to Christ now than a generation ago, in this uber age of technology that should afford us endless inroads to people’s hearts with the gospel?

Looking for answers led me to begin, very slowly, a personal study of the Holy Spirit.  I had to know more about Him.  I wanted to understand His attributes, His special Works in the life of a believer.  I wanted to grasp the believer’s responsiblity in the ministry of the Spirit, to learn what was separating us so far from God’s ideal of going out in His power, as salt and light in a dying world.

I found as I continued that the Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity about Whom we know the least.  He is the most neglected of the Three in study and in clear biblical teaching. His place is not nearly as clear in our hearts or minds as the Father God or Jesus.  So why the inequality?  He is equal in power and Personhood; yet Frances Chan calls Him “Forgotten God” in his excellent book.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below on why the Holy Spirit has gotten short shrift in our churches and understanding.  I’ll post reasons why in a future blog.

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Ps. 19:1