Friday, July 06, 2007

Part III: What is a Spirited life, and why do we have the Spirit?

(After long delay, I am returning to this series on the Holy Spirit. I had hoped to post about two a week for about a month. Instead, I haven't published one in over a month. Oops.)

How has the Spirit moved in your life? I'm not asking for generalities, but can you name specifics of when the Spirit has lead you to (or away from) an action, or given you specific insights, or comfort. Where have you actively considered the action of God's Spirit in your life?

I know there have been very tangible times when I have known the Spirit to be with me, guiding me. We know and are assured that God has freely given us His Spirit, a promise extending back to before Christ spoke of this gift.

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions
Joel 2:28 (NASB)
The problem with recognizing the touch of the Holy Spirit arises in that we live in a post-modern, post-Christian, post-(pick your own filler) society. Our views as Christians have been influenced by the world: Darwinian thinking, Freud, world religions, societal goals (money, fame, ease), etc. have all been stamped on our views of living a Christian life. These, at times, lead us to seek answers and explanations which are self-reliant, naturalistic, and jaded when the truth is we have experienced Jehovah moving His Spirit to change our lives. Am I wrong on this? Honestly, have we not all found ways to explain away the action of the supernatural with the machinations of the natural?

So, what does a Spirited life look like? An easy example is to look at Stephen in
Acts 6-7. Read these two chapters, and see a man who was characterized by the Spirit of God: full of the Spirit (6:3, 5), full of grace, power, and signs (6:8), wisdom (6:10), face like an angel (6:15), boldness (7:51-53), seeing God (7:55), and loving of others who hated him (7:60). I am convinced that much of what Paul taught on the Spirit he learned from watching Stephen on this day, though the lesson took some time to sink in. Read 2 Corinthians 3:18 and 2 Timothy 1:7, among others, and see just how much Paul wrote about was exemplified by Stephen.

Beyond the biblical example, I also like to look at the Quakers for one example of Spirited life. Their belief in being lead by the Spirit is so deep that they do not have prepared lessons in their times of worship; instead, characterized by prolonged silences, they wait until someone is moved by the Spirit to speak. Bizarre? Maybe a bit, but I love their dedication to not speak and lead from their own personal desires and the reliance on and intimacy with the Holy Spirit it shows.

Another view of the the Spirited life can be characterized by the difference of how the Spirit works in a life. I think of this as having been touched by the Spirit verses having the Spirit abide within you. Consider the differences between King Saul and King David, in 1 Samuel. We are told several times that the Spirit of God came upon Saul (1 Samuel 10:10 and 11:6). But we are then told how the Spirit departed from him (16:14). In contrast, we see David in his anointing as king, with the Spirit coming on him "from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13). We see that the Spirit touches lives, even those not wholly dedicated to Jehovah - and therein lies a purpose. Go back to the above mentioned
Zechariah 12:10 and see that the Spirit is pored out to touch the hearts of a people dead to God, convicting them of sin and bringing them to repentance. This we see fulfilled in Acts 2:37. It is the difference of God sending His Spirit to touch mankind, moving them to repentance, and the indwelling of the Spirit we receive in putting on Christ as our lord and savior; but both are pictures of life with the Spirit.

So then, why have we been given the Spirit? Why, also, is life in the Spirit important? I take the parable of
Matthew 12:43-45 to heart: we are slaves to someone. If we choose not to be filled with Jehovah's Spirit, we will be overridden by the evil spirits of this world. We can either choose to be a slave to Christ, in His Spirit, or a slave to sin and death.

But then, look at the Gospel of Mark. Writing primarily to the Greeks, Mark spends a good deal of the
opening of his gospel acquainting them (and us) with the Living Spirit. In Mark 1:8 we are introduced to baptism of the Spirit and then, in verse 10, see it exemplified in Jesus own baptism. We watch as the Spirit compels Jesus to enter the wilderness and a time of fasting and temptation (also verse 10). We then see Jesus casting out an unclean spirit (vs. 23-27) and, when word of this got out, demon-possessed people are brought before Him, and the demons cast out (vs. 32-34). What can we conclude from Mark's introduction to the Spirited life? We have been given the Spirit to live a life of danger. The Spirit did not lead Jesus into the desert for a picnic; more like to pick a fight. When we seek to do God’s will, we will be assailed, but in His Spirit we are hedged in and shielded. We are not removed from the battle; rather we are carried through it. As Jesus was, we are baptized with a Spirit of power. This Holy Spirit within us has authority and dominion over unclean spirits of this earth. We do not have to fear possession by one of these demons when we have first become the possession of Jehovah and His Spirit.

To be sure, this is not the only reason for the gift of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also our comforter and speaks for us when we cannot. Jehovah's Spirit is our teacher; in His Spirit,
we have the mind of Christ. But, in all honesty, we are in a fight for our lives - our eternal lives - and we are not up to the challenge alone. God is with us, having given us His Spirit, so that we may be able to endure this boxing match without being knocked out.

Have you experienced the work of the Spirit in your life? Have you seen first hand what a Spirit-filled life looks like? How so? Recognizing the Spirit's actions is easier when we share how our own lives have been touched - the big and the small.

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Discontented Refuge said...

My church has a "Spirit led" service every week. Not quite as open ended as the Quakers but we hope the end result is the same. We always have communion when finished.

euphrony said...

Interesting. I love the idea, but fear that it could lead to a lazy, rather than deliberate, approach to worship. Maybe that is just my fear, but I still love the dedication to not move of speak of yourself.

At the same time, if the whole of the assembly feels the onus of being a real part of worship and not just a bystander caught up in the action - oh, what joyous worship would follow!

Discontented Refuge said...

The meeting is not silent in any way shape or form. It's only an hour, and between singing, scripture, and prayer, we are pressed to end on time, by the amount of people willing to say something. In no way is it perfect, but it's very encouraging. We have a designated "opener" - someone asked a few weeks ahead of time to open with a thought they are led to with their personal meditations. After that it's amazing to see how the Spirit leads.

If you're up for it, you should come check it out, of course let me know when you do so I can make sure I'm not driving at the same time - lol.

euphrony said...

Low blow, DR. I'll be sneeking up on you!

Don't know when I would be getting down your way, but if I ever do I'll let you know.

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