Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit of God dwells in believers.  I suspect that we don't even begin to grasp a tip of the iceberg of the significance of this.

Think about it: God Himself lives in our bodies.  Our bodies are His temple.  His power is somehow contained in our physical beings (though not limited by them).  This is mind-boggling.

I've been studying the Gospel of John.  I knew that the Bible says we can ask God for anything in His name, and He will give it to us.  We don't major on that particular promise, because it seems misleading.  It seems risky to talk about it, because people get the idea that we can demand things from God--healing from cancer, a good job, success in a college course--and expect that He will come through, like a genie in a bottle, if only we say, "in Jesus' name," at the end of our prayer.  I knew that the Bible says we can ask of God and He will respond, giving us what we ask for, but I didn't realize how many times it says this.

John is the one who says it most, John who was essentially Jesus' best friend on earth.  John says this in his gospel 5-6 times between chapters 14-16 (John 14:13, 14 / John 15:7, 16 / John 16:23, 24), and then he says it again in 1 John 5:14-15.  Matthew and Luke allude to it, but John repeatedly proclaims that we should be asking the Father for things in Jesus' name, expecting to receive what we ask.

John also teaches us a great deal about the Holy Spirit.  I think this is the key.  When we are indwelt by the Spirit, abiding in the Spirit and walking in step with the Spirit, we will ask for things according to the Spirit, and God will grant us what we ask.  This is the power of God in us.

Yet, somehow, we miss out.  We don't grasp what is available to us.  Christ in you, the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27 tells us.  Christ lives in us, says Romans 8:9-10.

We take the Trinity apart too much.  We have this idea that God the Father is a stern fellow up in heaven, frowning at sin and handing down the impossible Law.  We think Jesus is the gracious Son of God who came to save us from His Father's Law by dying in our place--which is correct on a lot of levels, except in that it makes God the Father look like an ungracious villain, which is not accurate at all.  Jesus said over and over and over again that He and the Father are one.

I think of the pain I feel--literal, physical pain--when something is going wrong for or with one of my children.  Even when my children live hundreds of miles away from me, a crisis in one of their lives gives me heart palpitations, inability to eat, headaches and nausea.  When they go through something fearful, I sit at home and have panic attacks.  When they are sick, I can't eat.  If they make harmful choices for their lives, I feel like I'm going to die.  Yet, I and my children are not "one."  We are separate people, separate entities.  Jesus and God the Father are one.  When Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" you better believe the separation was just as excruciating for the Father as it was for the Son.

We have one God.  One.  Not three.  Jesus was God in flesh, fully God and fully man.  His purpose, His motivation, His heart and His words were all exactly the purpose, motivation, heart and words of the Father, because He and the Father are one.

So, when Jesus said, "I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you . . ." He literally meant that He, He Himself, God, would come to us, in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Here is the third member of the Trinity, whom we sometimes imagine as a trusty sidekick in our back pocket, there to blurt out a word of encouragement to cheer us up when we find ourselves floundering.  Oh, dear friends, He is so much more than that.  He is God.  God.  One with the Father and the Son.  God Himself has come to reside in us, pouring His very essence into our spirits.

Holy God could not dwell in us when we were unredeemed and unrighteous.  Holy God could not dwell with us while we were the devil's children, and the devil had claimed us when Adam and Eve first turned away from the Lord.  Because we were in this desperate predicament, our most gracious God clothed Himself in flesh and appeared in the world as a mortal man.  He did this so He could die an atoning death to satisfy His own justice, because He is perfectly righteous and must punish sin.  When Jesus died to atone for our sin, the forgiveness that God had always promised suddenly became palpable--no longer an idea and a promise, symbolically acted out through animal sacrifices on the temple altar, but a fulfilled reality.

By some incomprehensible mystery, our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is credited to us, if only we will accept the gift.  This amazing reality is what makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us in this age.  The death of Jesus Christ purifies us so the Holy Spirit of Christ can dwell in us.  The temple curtain that separated the presence of God from sinful man has been torn in two from top to bottom, releasing the Spirit of God into the world.  God Himself died for us, so God Himself can live in us.  One God.  Different manifestations, but one God.

Christ in you, the hope of Glory.

When we abide in Christ, and His Spirit lives in us, guiding us and teaching us, we really can ask God for anything, and know that He hears our prayers and will give us what we ask for.  This fellowship with the Holy Spirit is a down payment, a guarantee, a foretaste of the face-to-face communion we will experience with God in the New Heavens and the New Earth, when He unveils them.

The Holy Spirit illuminates us so that we can see and understand God's truth.  He fills our hearts with God's love, and transforms our hearts to desire and seek the things of God.  He grants each individual believer a spiritual gift to use within the church, in miraculous synergy with other believers' gifts, for when we all come together in humility and grace, serving as we have been equipped, the glory of God shines through the church.

In this way, the Holy Spirit transforms us both individually and corporately for the glory of Christ, who is seated in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.  "Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else--not only in this world but also in the world to come.  God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church.  And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself" (Ephesians 1:21-23 NLT).  Notice that the Bible says this is Christ's position now.  Now, He is on the throne.  Now, He is the victor over sin and death.  He has already accomplished, fully, His triumphant death and resurrection.  But wait, there's more: "For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6 NLT).  We are united with Jesus through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.  He is seated in authority at God's right hand, and we--by a mystery of the Holy Spirit--are seated with Him.  Now.  Are seated.  Not will be seated.  We are seated with Christ, united with Him through the Holy Spirit.

This is the Church Age, the age of the Holy Spirit of God unleashed in the world through the lives of the members of the church who are united with Christ because of the incredible wealth of the grace and kindness of God.  We live here as aliens and strangers, our souls already immortalized and our eyes fixed on our eternal heritage.  We live here now to be witnesses of the power of God to save humanity, to bear testimony to the world of the hope extended to all mankind for redemption, healing and restoration.  "Behold," God says, "I am making all things new."  We groan in our broken mortal bodies, but we know that we will be made new.  In this age, believers who die, die with the hope of glory.  Absent from the body, they are present with the Lord and continue to reign with Him until His glorious appearing.  At just the right time, in a twinkling, with a triumphal trumpet blast, He will restore all things and present those of us who believe with our new, changed bodies: the dead raised to theirs, and the living transformed into theirs.  Death will be swallowed up once and for all by victorious life.

I believe that the Millennium is the age of the Holy Spirit, the Church Age.  I believe that we are in it now--reigning with Christ, in fact--and that Jesus' victory is real, accomplished and powerful.  I believe that now is the time for hearts to turn to the Lord.  Now is the time of His patient forbearance as He delays His return, granting time for repentance because He does not wish to destroy people.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  Thus, He sends His Spirit into the church, and He sends His church into the world.

Dear Lord Jesus, grant us your Spirit in power and strength, confidence and might.  Work in us and through us.  Help us to love one another, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, to help one another.  Form our hearts according to your will and lead us to bring your Kingdom, in your power and your glory, forever.  Amen.

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