Friday, August 20, 2010

The Holy Spirit of God

The Holy Spirit is God. Just think of all the Christian books that have been written about God the Father or God the Son. I couldn’t begin to venture a guess at the number. Though many books about God will address the Trinity, they tend to focus either on the Father or the Son. Those books, even if we just count the good ones, don’t do God justice. They can’t describe the Father or the Son completely. So just imagine what kind of tome we need on the Holy Spirit, and recognize that a blog post by a theological nobody isn’t going to radically change the landscape.

I grew up in a Baptist context and am still happy to identify with Baptist distinctives such as baptism by immersion, the priesthood of all believers, and the perseverance of the saints. Growing up I remember studying the Acts of the Apostles and hearing that the book title should really be the Acts of the Holy Spirit. I like that. Maybe some Bible publisher will change that someday. Most already have “
The Acts” or simply “Acts” in a large font followed by “of the Apostles” in smaller letters. Perhaps no one would notice the change. Yet, as I was growing up, the Spirit was never discussed at length in any of my Sunday school classes. Jesus was brought up a lot, since the first four books chronicle His incarnation, life among us, death, and resurrection. The Father was brought up a lot, since He is the primary focus of the New Testament and seemingly the only member of the Trinity mentioned in the Old. But the Spirit? Most people referred to Him as a holy “it,” the neuter member of the Godhead.

As I got older I met more people from other walks of life who talked about the Holy Spirit all the time. Though He seemed more like a force to me, based on their descriptions, than a real person, I did find the conversations to be… interesting. Apparently they know of the Spirit as the one who knocked people out and dropped them to the floor. He kind of “flowed through you,” to borrow a phrase from Obi-Wan Kenobi. If you really experienced the Spirit, you could make strange sounds drawing heavily on sh, ub, and ala syllables, saying things that sounded like, “shu-bala-bashala-lalushub,” or something like that.

I read books and articles about spiritual gifts, miraculous powers, and speaking in tongues. But none of them really directed me to the person of the Holy Spirit. They were merely defenses of this practice or that belief and didn’t center on the Giver of the gifts. As I read through the New Testament I noticed time and time again where believers are called to or described as living in the Spirit (1 Pet. 4:6), loving in the Spirit (Col. 1:8), participating in the Spirit (Php. 2:1), praying at all times in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18), walking by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), worshipping by the Spirit (Php. 3:3), maintaining the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3), and this is just the beginning!
I’ve needed a spiritual revolution in my life for a long time. The Christian believer is called to live this life in the Spirit. What does that mean? What does that look like? I don’t want to simply be content living the Christian live by my own power. I think that we can do pretty well in the eyes of others this way. But deep down I know that life by the Spirit is different. It isn’t legalism. It’s not libertine. It is not me.

If we want to live the Christian life by our own power, we can, and we may succeed in the world’s eyes. But if we want to live biblically, we have to do it in the Spirit.

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