I was recently asked through the survey about the function of the Holy Spirit in the world today. Now, personally, this really excited me because the person that asked started out in a liturgical background just like I did and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit just like I do. I say, just like I do, but I don’t know that we’re exactly in line completely, but in my many years of ministry, I’ve found that there are a number of denominations that don’t really pay the Holy Spirit much attention at all.
When I became a pastor in a denomination of one congregation, I quickly was challenged in some of the things I believed. I realized that some of the things I believed and even taught were man-made traditions. Now, I didn’t question them because they were taught by people that I respected greatly and I had heard the same things many times from many different sources. That’s no excuse however for spreading man-made traditions as truth. That was, after all, the biggest issue that Christ had with the religious leaders of His day. They had taken God’s law and probably originally to help people understand it added details that became absolutely ridiculous. Their traditions weren’t in the scriptures but were taught as “the law.”
I get it, part of our nature as humans is to draw lines. We like structure, we like concrete. Throughout society, there are lines drawn, some make sense, and others feel arbitrary, especially when you get caught on the wrong side of them. But we have to draw lines somewhere to keep things fair for everyone. So drawing lines comes naturally to us. The problem is that our human lines rarely leave room for God to be God. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says that God’s foolishness is higher than man’s wisdom. We can’t box Him in because we can’t fully comprehend Him.
So, how does the Holy Spirit function today, and better yet, how do we function WITH the Holy Spirit? First, we need to understand who and what the Holy Spirit is. If you read John chapter 16, the resurrected Christ is meeting with the disciples for the last time. Of course, they are filled with sorrow and don’t want Him to go. They’ve come to a point where they hang on to every word and have seen any number of miraculous things done by Him. But He tells them they need to let Him go so that He can send the Spirit of truth. This Spirit is to be a comforter and a guide.
In Romans 7 and 8, Pauls talks at length about his inability to do the right things. If left to his own strength alone, he will fall victim to the desires of the flesh. That is those things that feel good and are self-serving. But he also says that with the help of the Spirit, he can be a different man. This is the same man that lists his trials and sufferings in the latter half of 2 Corinthians 16 and is the same man that says that through Christ, He can do all things (often misquoted), after He says how he can be content in easy and hard circumstances.
In my second book, which will come out in a few months, Blessed Brokenness: Seeing God’s Glory in the Ashes of Life, I tell the story of a miraculous healing that happened under my hand. I’ve seen others. And maybe most importantly, me. I love my wife. I do. She knows that when we met, I latched onto her and wanted to marry her because I was lonely and tired of it and she was gorgeous. When we got along, we got along great. But I wasn’t capable of loving her (used here as a verb). By nature, I am an uptight, angry, uppity jerk. That’s the flesh. But nobody that meets me today sees that (I think). Oh, sometimes when I’m dealing with certain companies on the phone, the flesh starts to creep out and I have to lean in to the Spirit to push it back down.
What I’ve found, and what I believe, is that if we make ourselves vulnerable to the Spirit, He will guide us and intercede for us. But, I think the hardest part for most of us is that vulnerability. We’re so used to doing things on our own that letting the Spirit in is scary. Romans 8:26 says that we don’t even know how to pray, but the Spirit will intercede will utterances and groanings. Verse 27 basically says that the Spirit knows both our hearts and God’s. That’s a loose translation, but it gets the main gist across.
And for the person that asked the question – I believe that liturgy is beautiful and can free one to really focus on the beauty of God, which could actually allow one to let the Spirit in. Unfortunately, most liturgical churches teach that the spirit isn’t active today. A common criticism of liturgical churches is that things are laid out and many of the responsive readings are repeated so much that the congregants don’t have to pay attention to them to participate. The same criticism can fall on any church. The individual doesn’t have to pay attention.
The easiest way in my mind to live a life full of the Holy Spirit is to draw closer to God. And open your hearts and minds to Him and allow Him to lead you and comfort you. It may take a little practice, we’re good at doing things our way. But, over time, it gets easier and easier.
Be blessed, my friends.
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