I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT


An American family took an eleven year old girl from India to church for the first time. After the service she wanted to know why the west coast wasn't included. When they asked her what she meant she said, "You know, in the name of the Father, the Son and the whole east coast."

She was confused. And many others are confused too. There are some parts of our faith that are hard to understand or explain. The hardest is the Trinity.

The Dove: A Symbol of the Holy SpiritThe term "Holy Trinity" is not found in holy scripture. Why then do we make such a big deal out of it? The early church used it to account for biblical data about God. The Bible speaks of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in ways that make it clear that all three are God and there is only one God. You say you can't understand that? Don't worry. The Trinity is not a theoretical problem to solve but a reality to worship. It began quite simply and intuitively when believers discovered they could not say all they meant by the word "God" until they added, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God is more than a Creator above us in primeval time. He is Jesus with us in history and the Spirit in us in daily life. He is one God in three persons.

The Apostles' Creed declares, "I believe in the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit has a public relations problem. Some Christians tend to say so little about him that we tend to forget there is a Holy Spirit. Other Christians say so much so badly that sensitive people get nervous even at the mention of his name.

It reminds me of the traditional tale of the fog in Cape Cod. It got so thick that a farmer shingling his roof shingled right off into it. There is no subject in Christian faith in greater danger of shingling off into the fog.

WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The Holy Spirit seems to be the most intangible, mysterious, and unreal part of the Trinity. God the Father is described in familiar terms corresponding to our experience of fatherhood. God the Son became a man corresponding to our experience of humanity. But God the Spirit is not so graphically presented.

Trying to see the Spirit is like trying to see your own eye. The instrument of perception is not itself perceived. The eye doesn't see itself, and the Spirit doesn't show himself, but rather he shows us the Father and the Son (John 15:26; 16:14).

The initiative is always his. And he doesn't announce his schedule in advance. We must be constantly alert for his appearance in a human face, event, institution, or dream. By every means except coercion the Holy Spirit works to bring us to God.

God the Father created the world and rested on the seventh day. God the Son redeemed the world and sat down at the right hand of the Father. God the Spirit never rests. He is always at work through believers.

A glove can do nothing by itself, but with my hand inside it can do many things. True, it's not the glove, but my hand in the glove, that works. The Christian is a glove. The Holy Spirit is the hand that does the work. We must make room for the hand so that every finger is filled.

WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT LIKE?
The Holy Spirit DescendingHe is like a dove. At Jesus' baptism the Spirit descended on him like a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:16; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Doves and pigeons look a lot alike and often are confused, but there is one important difference. Doves are migratory and pigeons aren't. They make a home and stay there. Pigeons were the first birds to be domesticated (long before chickens, ducks, geese and swans). But doves could never be tamed or controlled. And neither can the Holy Spirit.

We would like to domesticate the Holy Spirit, have him come and go at our bidding (See Acts 8:18-23). We keep calling for an encore. Like a three year old playing "ride the horsy" on his grampa's foot, we say, "Do it again, do it again." But the Spirit is as free as a bird.

Furthermore, doves have been a sign of peace from ancient times. Even today we speak of hawks and doves in reference to military policy. The earliest association of the dove with peace occurred after the great flood when Noah sent a dove out of the ark to look for dry land. The dove returned with an olive leaf for its young (Genesis 8:10) giving us an unforgettable picture of peace on earth. Jesus referred to this characteristic of doves when he asked his disciples to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16).The Holy Spirit is as free and peaceful as a dove.

He is like the wind. In Greek the word for wind, breath and spirit is the same word: pneuma. We get our English words, pneumatic tires and pneumonia, from it. It is a power nobody sees except in its effects. Those effects can be as benign as a refreshing breeze on a hot day or as destructive as a tornado.

You can't see the wind, but you can see what it does. Likewise you can't see the Holy Spirit, but you can see what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said, "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). The Holy Spirit is as unpredictable and powerful as the wind.

The Holy Spirit is like fire.He is like fire. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He will baptize you with the fire of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:11 Phillips). Fire has long been a sign of God's presence. He manifested himself to ancient Israel as a pillar of fire in the wilderness (Exodus 40:38) and to the church as tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:3). The disciples saw the fire on each other's head, but nobody saw his or her own flame. It is often easier to discern the Spirit in somebody else's life than in your own.

Fire burns away what is perishable. When the Holy Spirit gets through with you only what is eternal and imperishable will remain. John said, "His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12).

Fire is contagious. Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked the lantern and burned down Chicago. Even so, the Holy Spirit ignites us that we might ignite others with a burning passion for Christ and his work. Apathy is a sure sign of the Spirit's absence. The Holy Spirit is as contagious and consuming as fire.

He is like water. Jesus said, "Let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive" (John 7:38-39). "Those who drink of the water that I will give them," Jesus said, "will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life" (John 4:14). The Holy Spirit perpetually satisfies the deep thirst of our soul. Of every other substitute, it may be said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again" (John 4:13). The Holy Spirit is as satisfying and refreshing as spring water.

"What could be worse than drink?" cried the preacher at a temperance rally. "Thirst!" came a voice from the back row. The agonizing thirst of the human soul may attempt to substitute spirits for the Spirit. To all miserable imitations the Apostle declares, "Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18).

When somebody asked the great nineteenth century evangelist, D. L. Moody, why he urged people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he said, "Because they leak so badly."

"Most of us are half-full vessels trying to run over" (E. Stanley Jones, Leadership, Fall, 1983, page 137). It is not new doctrine we need but a new dynamic, not new maxims about the Spirit but a new movement of the Spirit.

You have been reading about the Holy Spirit. Knowing about him, however, is no substitute for knowing him. Whether or not you have any clearer understanding of the Holy Spirit, if you have not encountered him personally, you have missed the best God has to offer.


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