Myth # 6. The Holy Spirit doesn’t matter. Quite a few years ago, our now-former minister preached a sermon that seemed to me to be clearly about the Holy Spirit, but he never once mentioned him. He just carefully alluded to the Spirit’s work … ever so carefully.
Afterwards, I asked him, “I think you were talking about the Spirit, weren’t you? Why don’t you come out and say what you believe?” I knew from previous conversations that we held similar views.
He looked devilishly at me. “I just wanted to get come of the ideas across without threatening anyone. I just don’t think the congregation’s ready for explicit lessons on the Spirit yet.”
I was beside myself. “I’ve taught an entire quarter on the Holy Spirit in every adult Bible class! The church is anxious, hurting, pleading for answers and guidance! They are as ready as they’ll ever be!”
“No. We’re getting close, but we’re just not there yet,” he responded.
“If we’re not ready yet, then what can we do to get ready? If you won’t preach what you believe and I’ve already covered the material in class, what’s left to do? When will they ever be ready?”
He patted me on the shoulder with a knowing look and left to greet someone else.
Our next preacher spoke on the Spirit in his very first sermon and the congregation was thrilled to hear his views and have the topic–finally!–on the table for discussion.
I truly do understand the reluctance of many within the preaching profession to take on controversial topics. After all, preachers have been fired for less. And I understand why a volunteer Sunday school teacher might be reluctant to take on a difficult topic. No one wants that dreaded call into the elders conference room! I understand these feelings, but I’m persuaded they are just as wrong as can be.
First, sometimes the elders are as anxious for instruction as is the rest of the church. And it’s cowardly to assume that the elders won’t allow this instruction.
Second, if the elders really are opposed, then invite them to study the topic with you. Don’t just give up.
Finally, and most importantly, anyone who presumes to teach or preach is obligated to teach the truth. A partial truth is not the truth. It’s right and wise to take the time to get the leadership on board first. It’s wrong to never actually get to the point where you can teach the truth. At least try!
Here are four worthy books on the subject I’d recommend–
- Harvey Floyd, Is the Holy Spirit for Me? a 21st Century Christian 13-lesson book.
- Jay Guin, The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. This is posted for free on this web site. It’s deeper than Dr. Floyd’s book but very suitable for Sunday school class. The book is carried by some stores online.
- D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit. All books by Dr. Carson are excellent. This is an explanation of 1 Cor. 11-14. Serious theology.
- F. D. Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most comprehensive study out there. Bruner writes from a Calvinist perspective, so you’ll have to overlook that element of the book.
Now, to finally get to the point. Failing to teach the Spirit is a colossal, monumental mistake. Many of our members have been fed on a dessicated version of Christianity that’s devoid of Living Water. The H. Leo Boles (the Spirit indwells but doesn’t really do much) and Guy N. Woods (the Spirit hasn’t done anything since the Apostle John died) views are destroying the church.
If the Spirit is inactive, then we’ve been left orphans. We have to try to live as God has called us strictly on our own. We have no confidence in prayer. Our relationship with God is mediated by a book, not a person of the Godhead. God is no closer to us than heaven.
But with a living Spirit, alive and dwelling in all Christians, we feel loved because God has made his home in our hearts; we are encouraged by the knowledge that God himself is working in us to make us evermore Christlike; we know the Spirit searches our hearts to intercede for us, to make up the deficiencies in our prayers–indeed, the Spirit confesses our sins before we even realize we committed them!
The Spirit tells us why grace works. It’s because of the Spirit that we can be freed from a works salvation and still long to serve God. It’s because of the Spirit that we can love and understand and know more than is humanly possible!
Please, please don’t deny your students this precious gift. Blasphemy of the Spirit is a serious sin. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it seems to be something like a failure to give the Spirit credit for his works. That bears serious reflection.