What should we expect of him and how do we respond to him? It’s an important question, especially given what Jesus had to say. And what Paul said as well. It’s a question so important that our lives depend on getting it right.
We need to begin by getting the right answer . . . or, more to the point, the right connection.
Jesus said as much to Nicodemus in John 3. The Spirit, Jesus told him, brings eternal life as a new birth. The Spirit is our bond with God and his eternal life. Jesus is our means for gaining eternal life by his atoning death; the Spirit then brings us into that saving work. His presence in us, Jesus said, is like a wind in a forest as he stirs us out of our former spiritual dormancy and alienation—our former death towards God—and brings about a conspicuous responsiveness of new life. Christ’s incarnate ministry displayed his own bond with the Spirit.
The Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb and later ordained him to ministry by descending on him. Jesus was then “full of the Holy Spirit . . . and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1). After that he “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (v. 14). Next, in presenting himself to the synagogue in Nazareth, he read Isaiah 61:1,2 and applied it to himself (v. 18). The text began, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me . . .” Elsewhere in Isaiah (11:1,2) there is another litany of Spirit-centered promises linked to the Christ.
This sort of portrayal establishes what some have called Spirit-Christicism: the belief that Jesus in his humanity relied on the Spirit in all he did, even though he was fully divine himself. Why this arrangement? So that as a man he could experience real humanity—and not live as a divine-human superman. And he then left us with his own spiritual capacity for life—the Spirit himself—so that we now live as God’s children although we are still only human. In writing to the Corinthians Paul expanded on the truth of the Spirit-as-life-in-us.
In writing about immoral behaviors Paul referred to Genesis 2:24—a text that inaugurated marriage (“the two shall become one”)—and applied it to Christ and the church. How so? By treating believers as “one” with Jesus by union with the Spirit: “But he who is joined to the Lord become one spirit with him. . . . Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:17,19).
The believer’s union with Christ, then, is both a product and a display of the same spiritual life Jesus experienced in his earthly ministry. Just as the Father loved Jesus, we too are now given the intimate access in love to call the Father “Abba” at the Spirit’s urging (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6); and God also pours out his love in our hearts by the Spirit’s whispering presence (Romans 5:5). So, too, we share the same qualities of the Spirit-life that Jesus has: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” and more (Galatians 5:22). What do we do with this sort of truth?
I fear that some of us try to treat the Spirit as our personal genie as in the tale of Aladdin. But this self-serving version of the Spirit hardly fits the picture of the one who led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, or filled Jesus as he taught and preached, cared for the needy, trashed the Temple trading exchange, and eventually died on the cross.
At a minimum, then, a proper grasp of the Spirit’s work in us is that he wants to change our hearts to be like the Son whose heart he now discloses to us. Let me wrap up, then, by citing Paul: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24,25). Amen!
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo. ~ Ron
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”]. Visit Spreading The Goodness Visit the Cor Deo Blog
…but not everyone has to make a hard decision about the National Football League. How do you make such a life-altering decision? That’s the premise of my latest short film, Drafted. It was commissioned by Desiring God and released just in time for the start of the college football season.
This was an incredibly fun project to produce. Sports films nearly always are, as they are classic stories of the struggle for a big goal. But some moments shooting this project felt more like a mission trip than a film set. We took our subject, Chris Norman, to downtown Detroit to film him doing street ministry. But we weren’t even out of the van before a woman named Swandolyn came up to us. She was desperate to get off the streets and to reconnect with her family. We asked her permission to film the conversation with Chris, which she freely gave. But it didn’t feel right to simply do that, pray for her, give her some dinner money, and then walk away. So some of us stayed behind to locate a shelter for the night and to connect her with other resources in Detroit.
Editing this film offered another opportunity to treat this project like a mission trip–because it provided me with a daily reminder to pray for her. Swandolyn has an usual name. Perhaps her scattered family will come across this film and look for her in downtown Detroit. I hope so. Though I don’t know how to find her, I know that her Creator does. It was no accident she came upon us, I’m sure.
We were also the recipients of the artistic generosity of rap and hip-hop artists Shai Linne andFLAME, who freely let us feature their songs in this film. FLAME’s song, “Move,” is featured in the tackling montage and his lyrics foreshadow the decision Chris will need to make: “Now when the Lord tell me move I move, anything He want me to, yeah I do.” Shai Linne’s song, “Taste and See,” is used during the victory montage of the last game in Chris’s college career, and it highlights the tension you can experience when the decision you have to make is between the good and the better: “If you’ve tasted and seen, then you know what I mean, He’s good. In His nature is love, everything that He does, He’s good. Even when it gets tough, yes the Lord is enough, He’s good.” There’s nothing wrong with choosing football as a career, but if the Lord has drafted you into something else, that’s the better choice. Drafted was a fun and edifying project to produce. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Carolyn is the author of two books, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World (Moody Publishers, 2008) and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred (Crossway, 2004). Carolyn is also a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway, 2005), as well as to other webzines and publications. She is a frequent conference speaker for women’s ministry events and also maintains a blog, Radical Womanhood.
In recent months I have seen several people go into a state of personal crisis. A mid-life crisis that manifests in buying a motorbike and starting a combat sport is one thing, going into spiritual meltdown is something altogether different. Why does it happen? I don’t want to presume to know the inner workings of specific individual cases, but can I speculate slightly?
Speculating Life is good at thirty. Happily married and enjoying the adventure of starting a family. Business is challenging and money is tight. Church is a weekly feature of healthy life and it is more than just appearances, it feels vibrant and eternal and purposeful.
Somehow, somewhere in the subconscious is a sense that christianity is about devotion manifesting in dutiful living. After all, Christianity brings about moral change in a society, in a family, in a life. So it is not far from devotion to duty when the devotion might be slightly empty. Never mind, life is busy, challenges abound and successes seem fairly frequent.
Church life only seems to reinforce marginal mistakes in living the Christian life.
Everyone at church looks the part, and now you aren’t a young adult, but an established one, one that others look to for stability and spiritual example. So the personal struggles and the gnawing feelings of emptiness are suppressed. You heartily amen the undertone of duty and diligence and ethical living championed overtly and subtly in the church.
Somewhere along the line, God has become someone who wants our goodness.
We continue to try, but somewhere in there, in the forties, the fifties, somewhere we stop and we look at ourselves. My faith is absolutely empty. I know the truth. I affirm the truth. I live the truth. But I don’t feel the truth. God wants my goodness, really? At this point there is a fork in the road, maybe even a junction.
One option is to chuck it all in and go off the deep end into a life of self-focused hedonism (after all, I have missed out on so much by being good, now it is time to taste and see what the world has to offer before I am unable to indulge anymore). Some will then avoid any conversation that might be convicting, while others will use long acquired vocabulary to essentially abuse grace and justify selfish passions.
Another option is to rest in the security of truth known, and continue in good behaviour, but to lose all sense of credibility in terms of leading others. Hiding the vacuous state of our own souls we press on as if nothing has changed, but we have changed. Now we don’t give ourselves to others in the same way, and perhaps we hide from the emptiness within. Hobbies suddenly become obsessions, or personal likes become out of control masks to numb the void within. Another option is to throw ourselves at God.
After all, in the midst of the duty imposed on us over the years we have gained a bit of a taste for the notion that God is loving and relational. We have heard others speak of it, we have perhaps used learned vocabulary to describe our own “experience” of God. Now we decide to go after God and we crave a real and genuine spirituality. This could lead to bizarre mystical or spiritual experiences, or it could lead to genuine relationship with a God who doesn’t want our goodness, but our trust. I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve had a mid-life crisis yet.
But as I observe others whom I care about, I wonder if there is something of this deep down draining and deadening effect of dutiful Christianity. Eventually it leaves us wiped out and craving something more. The question is whether God actually just wants us to press on and be good, or whether He is wanting something far more personal and intimate and transformative? Leave a comment at our blog.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program. Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum. He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor. For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author]
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