In the second class on the Spirit we want to answer questions and fill in blanks. This is a time for reflection, testimony, and discussion, whereas the first class will largely have been lecture, as the material will either be old hat or brand new.
Q. How should we feel about the Spirit? Should we worship the Spirit?
A. The Spirit’s role is to point people to Jesus, not to the Spirit. We are not to let the Spirit usurp Jesus’ role in our salvation. Our faith is in Jesus.
(John 15:26) “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
Q. How does the Spirit work in the Christian today?
A. Perhaps the most common promise is that the Spirit “sanctifies” the Christian, that is, brings us to greater maturity. This maturity is evidenced by fruit of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit.
Now, we tend to take credit for our own maturation, thinking that we learned patience by our own efforts, for example. Let me offer two analogies that might help.
I used to own a Dodge Aspen, which was the car that drove Chrysler into bankruptcy. I was driving at 55 miles per hour on a heavily trafficked road when the engine just spontaneously cut off! Until that moment, I had always assumed that when I pressed the brakes, it was me pressing the brake pads into the brake drums and stopping the car. And I’d always been sure that when I turned the steering wheel that it was me moving the wheels. But when my engine stopped on a downhill incline at 55, I learned that the engine had been doing about 99% of all that work and I’d only been doing about 1%—because I had to push about 100 times harder to stop and steer the car than I was used to. It was an eye-opening experience!
Well, this is much how the Spirit works. Sometimes I think that my love for God and zeal for his work are my own doing—and they are, to some extent. But my own works are greatly empowered and strengthened by God’s working in me to not only do his work, but to want to do his work. But just like power brakes, if I don’t press the pedal, the car won’t stop, but I don’t really do the work. I haven’t lost my free will—I’ve just been helped more than I’ll ever fully realize.
Now many of my students don’t remember how radios used to work—radios with dials you turned to find the station, and that required frequent re-tunings as the signal drifted. But the Spirit is like a beautiful symphony on the radio. The music is inaudible to anyone without a radio. Only certain people are privileged to hear it. And even those who have radios have to know how to find the station and how to keep it tuned into the station. Of course, the stations never did drift off signal. Rather, old-style radio circuitry tended to drift off the frequency due to the inadequacy of the radio — not the transmitter.
Just so, the Spirit always communicates a clear, steady, beautiful signal, but only the saved can hear it. But even the saved hear poorly unless they tune in to the correct frequency. Prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines help keep us in tune with the will of God and allow the Spirit to speak more and more clearly to our hearts. The signal is always there, but we aren’t always tuned in.
Q. Why doesn’t the Spirit still do miracles?
A. Who told you that?
It’s odd, I think, that we are willing to credit God with doing miracles but get uncomfortable when someone wishes to credit the same miracles to the Spirit.
Now, a “miracle” is any supernatural act that violates a law of nature. And every answered prayer does this. Remember, nature has no free will. God does. If it happens at God’s command, it’s not nature, but super-nature.
If we pray that the preacher should have a “ready recollection” or that God should “guard, guide and direct” us, we are asking for God to intervene in the natural world and change the outcome from what would have happened had we not prayed.
If you don’t believe in miracles, you don’t believe in prayer.
What concerns people is the supposed fact that God no longer works in spectacular ways. And I once believed that, myself. But I’ve heard far too many testimonies to God’s working to believe to the contrary. Only a few weeks ago, a member of the class I was teaching underwent surgery with only a 10% chance of coming out alive. She is a private person and didn’t want the word spread, but her friends spread it anyway, and many good people prayed fervently for her. When the surgeons opened her up, they found not a trace of disease!
Now, some would deny any cause and effect at all — and I would seriously question their capacity for faith. I mean, no I can’t prove that God did it. But I know he did.
Jesus says that the Spirit’s actions are like the wind–
(John 3:8) “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
We can’t see the Spirit work. We can only see the results. By faith we give credit where credit is due.
Q. But didn’t miracles end when the last apostle die?
A. [At this point, I’d hope to have created a classroom comfortable enough for the students to share their experiences. Ask them to report what experiences they’ve had that suggest that God is still active among us. In most classes, you’ll hear some stories that’ll give you chills. People are generally afraid to talk about these things. If you have one you can share, start with your own story — even if it’s as simple as how the Spirit has changed your heart over the years.
[I’d prefer not to get into the “that which is perfect” debate, but my interpretation of that often-abused passage may be found here–
Q. What on earth does the Spirit have to do with grace?
A. Well, the question is a little premature, but already we can see some connection.
* God wants us to make it to the end. God hasn’t set traps and riddles for us. He’s gone to great lengths for our benefit.
(John 14:16-18) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Notice, that although Jesus is speaking to the apostles, the promise is “forever” and hence to us all. The promise that Jesus will come to us, not leaving us as “orphans,” is fulfilled in us all through the Spirit.
* The sanctifying work of the Spirit, the fruit and the gifts, help us stay strong in the faith.
But there’s more. We’ll get there.
Notes to teachers:
Read the posts on “that which is perfect.” These cite to some excellent books if you want to go truly in depth for your personal study.
Also, read chapters 2 and 3 of The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace, as these chapters give more depth to what we’ve just covered and may equip you for an unexpected question or two. They aren’t terribly long.