Monday, November 25, 2013

Some Thoughts On The Holy Spirit

Not everyone cares to talk about the Holy Spirit all that much, but i feel we must. As a community of believers, as Christians, as the burning light of God in this world, we must speak not only of God and Christ, but the power that drives us, that fuels us, that energetically sets our hearts aflame and leads us.
I'm not sure the reason the Christian community overlooks the Holy Spirit. It could be due to fear of blasphemy, as blasphemy against the Spirit is said to be the only unforgivable sin.
But think thusly; if speaking ill of your father would get you kicked out of the house and left on the streets, would you do it? Of course not. Would you not talk about them for fear of it? Unlikely. You would act as though they were your parents.
Why then, when speaking about the infinitely merciful and gracious God, do we speak of His Spirit with such reluctance? We should speak of the Holy Spirit all the more, that we have not been kicked out of the house for all the other wrongs we've committed against Him!

Now, the Holy Spirit is an "all-consuming" Fire. He's not "somewhat-consuming," or even "mostly-consuming." He is "all-consuming." Beginning to end, He is there.
We speak of God, of Christ, of salvation, even of the gifts of the Spirit, but we do not speak enough -could not speak enough!- of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the gifts but not of the source is like saying "I got a guitar," but not saying it was from your friend. It's a massive overlook.
He wants us to give Him glory, but the accreditation is often left out, or worse, given unto ourselves (especially when speaking of words of knowledge or wisdom, or of faith or of love, which are gifts of the Spirit). This attitude is a disgrace. All He wants is for us to recognize Him and say "He gave me this guitar--and He's giving me lessons on it, too."

Again i say, He is an all-consuming Fire. He burns within us passionately, and with the same passion and power as that which was in the Word that said "Let there be light!"
That kind of power is frightening. It can create or destroy with but a single word. That is where the fear of God flows from; not in a terror that pushes us away, but a fear of being on the wrong side of the power behind creation (that is often initially what drives us to Him, but love does not come from being "scared to" something). He does not align Himself with you; you align yourself with Him. And we don't always fear being on the wrong side of this force, you fear being away from this force. This fear is a dependency. And it develops into love; just as a bear cub is terrified of being away from its mother, we should be infinitely more terrified of being separated from the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not some strange, shy thing. He is bold. He is perhaps the boldest characteristic of God.
God reigns. Christ atones. The Holy Spirit links the two together inside of us.
I say He is bold because it is the characteristic of God that makes Him real to us. Faith is a gift of the Spirit.
It's bold because it drives us to be like Christ, it drives us to love God, and it drives us to live for God. Whether or not we give this credit to the Holy Spirit, it is the reason we can preach, we can teach, we can love, we can hope, we can live.
The Holy Spirit is the invisible qualities of God mentioned in Romans 1, the undeniable aspect that makes us to be without excuse.
He's not something to tip-toe around while avoiding eye contact. It is the living force of God living within us, His Spirit, His "Breath of Life" given to Adam and Eve. It is what makes a son of man into a child of God, and transforms the dried-up bones scattering about the valley into a standing army of flesh-and-bone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

So That No One Can Boast . . .

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

These verses are seen whenever i open a book lately, as they're printed on my bookmark. And this passage, though short, is such a profound explanation of the Christian mindset.

"For it is by grace you have been saved..."
This, grace, is the encompassing definition of Christianity. It is the Law fulfilled on our behalf. It is the humility of the Son of God, through Whom the universe was made; a King—The King of the universe, of creation in its entirety; from, through, and to Whom are all things and is all glory due. The King of kings, the Lord of Lords, the roaring Lion and the gentle Lamb, the Conqueror of nations and the seeking Shepherd who searches always for the lost sheep. This is grace, that He gave up His place to not only live like one of us, nor just to die for us, but to go to Hell on our behalf. It's by this that we are saved.

"...through faith..."
Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith is belief in something, true, but it goes deeper than that. To say i have faith in my closest friend would not be to say i believe he/she exists, but that i have trust in them to keep something entrusted to them, to look out for my well-being; faith is a sort of love. It's always hoping, always believing, always trusting. Faith ensures loyalty; it is not being able to see the entirety of a situation, yet knowing far deeper than words that all is not lost.
And all is not lost, i tell you, because we have faith. We have faith in God. It's not merely a belief in His existence (for even the demons believe—and shudder!). And that faith is what drives us to give of ourselves, to hope that what little help we can offer will, in turn, change the world over the course of generations for the better. We have faith that drives us on to works, but the idea of works will be addressed presently.

"...and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..."
It's easy to picture this as meaning grace is not from ourselves but from God, but that much is obvious about grace. Grace is always the undeserved gift. It would seem redundant to point this out. Therefore, my opinion is that this is speaking of both faith and grace, the two aforementioned topics. Faith is a gift from God, and this is evident when reading 1 Corinthians 12. It, like prophecy or healing, speaking in tongues or wisdom, is a gift of the Spirit, and we cannot come to faith except, and solely by, the grace of God, the gift of God. Not from ourselves do we enter into the gift of faith, but by the grace of God's calling. We have nothing to do with it except readiness. The moment we think God calls us because we are a good or deserving person, pride has already flecked the heart with blackness. But humility is, like faith, a gift He calls us to; all we have to do is submit. In submission, pride is killed. In submission, the coals of humility are kindled to flame.

"...not by works..."
This is a particularly interesting section to me, because i am of the sort that believes works are a fruit of the Spirit, and that faith brings forth these fruits. Anyone can do "good" works, but no one can become "good" by them. There is none good but God. Works by themselves are for naught; vain. They are often self-serving if not carried out for the sake of God's glory. By doing things, such as giving to the poor or volunteering, we are seeking glory and recognition. There are, however, two motivations to this. The first is self, which is always pushing us to be seen by our peers, admired and congratulated (not that these things are wrong in and of themselves; they should not be the driving force for anything, for if we do things to be recognized, our fleeting and momentary recognition is our reward). The second motivation is the Spirit, which urges us to always love more deeply, and to be nameless in the sight of man so the glory may be directed to God.
Also, i have been discussing works with people lately, and come to the conclusion that people need to earn something. They feel they must earn their way into Heaven, when the man on the cross beside Jesus is too simple a model for us. We must make our beliefs tangible by changing it from solely Christ's work (the Gospel) to also a few things here and there that we do to "win" Heaven. This ideology is flawed, though it gives us something to grasp. All in all, it is grace, not works, that gave us entry into the kingdom of God.

" that no one can boast."
If we think that something we can do gets us a little more recognition with God, we are deceived by our works. Nothing we can do can make God love us more or gain us entry into Heaven (what is impossible with man is possible with God). We have no boast in anything we do, but we do have exceeding reason to boast because of what Christ already did—before we were even born. If we're at a place where we are praying in thanks that we're not like someone else, we're boasting in our hearts. God desires humility; it was the tax collector that went home justified, having been too ashamed of his human nature to even lift his eyes to Heaven or approach the altar, rent his garments and beat his chest, pleading "God have mercy on me, a sinner," not the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like the tax collector.
Boasting is not as simple as humility in public, but humility in heart. When we approach God, we are to have confidence, not cockiness. We're to be humble, meek, but sure that Christ is our Mediator, our propitiation for sin and that, through His works, and not our own, we can boast and proclaim "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
Not by what we can do, but by what He did do.