A good friend of mine, Scott Stonehouse, recently preached a sermon on what the bible says about the person of the Holy Spirit. A subsequent message was focused on the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. I’ll include a link to the message here and here is a link to the actual scriptures. Scott has a natural charisma (pun alert) in his speaking and has a true gift to condense difficult information into a concise and easily understood message. He has a unique way of making people laugh without breaking his stride. Towards the end of his message he emphasized the essentiality of understanding the Holy Spirit and challenged everyone to make Him a priority to become acquainted with if that wasn’t already the case.
In the spirit of the message (sorry i’m enjoying these puns), I wanted to further elucidate some thoughts of how pivotal the work of the Holy Spirit is to the life and ministry of the believer. Remember, you can google or use software to do your own study on these scriptures but i’m going to skip these elementary steps in order to enter a more applicable discussion. I’ll even use an illustration from my professional career as a strength and conditioning coach but first I want to throw out some thoughts to focus on (by no means exhaustive but you get the idea).
- Any discussion of the Holy Spirit that teaches about Him but that does not point or lead to a practical method for building a relationship with Him will eventually just lead to a greater theological understanding rather than a deeper walk with, trust of, and reliance on Him.
- Does your doctrinal stance on the Holy Spirit cause you to nod and move along as usual or does it cause you to stop, reflect and immediately reapportion some of your schedule to pursue, defer to and engage the One who “guides us into all truth”? (John 14:16)
- Do you personally have trouble in either your personal or public worship time–i’m assuming everyone does both; One without the other leads to some serious spiritual plateas–offering your ENTIRE self, attention and being to the object of your focus?
- Does your corporate, small group or individual worship time focus on themes or does it focus on praising God, thanking Jesus for His example and sacrifice as well as invite the Holy Spirit to lead your heart, spirit, mind and soul into a passionate, humble, and celebratory encounter in that very moment?
- Does your corporate, small group or individual teaching time focus on a savior who did something or on a Trinity who did, is doing and perpetually forever will do something? (For instance, ministry times at the end of a service or prayer time in a small group that includes laying hands on one another in prayer or encouragement in difficult circumstances.).
Allow me to change gears for a second to apply some of my message to a different scenario. My title comes from my favorite NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs. Back in the early 2000’s, the Chiefs were playing strong football. Offense, Defense…and especially the lesser known part of football called Special Teams were major forces in the league. Although special teams account on average for about 17% of an entire game, they often produce about 34% of the points. This was especially important to the Chiefs and their premier return specialist, Dante Hall…aka, the X FACTOR.
Whenever the Chiefs were in a tight jam, offensively and/or defensively, you could count on Dante to be unleashed and the entire crowd would go crazy. I was raised a devout Chiefs and Texas A&M fan (any kind of football actually). There was no level of restraint when it came to watching games, wearing red and gold and even yelling at the tv in order to identify with my team. All the years I played football and even as a Strength Coach, I was vociferously passionate towards people pushing themselves through any obstacles or enemy for the purpose of achieving victory. Evidently, this is the case with all sports fans worldwide so I don’t feel like a (complete) weirdo.
Here’s another illustration. Look at the fascination with talent shows on tv like American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, etc. People go crazy watching these shows and dialogue endlessly through facebook and twitter to voice their approval or displeasure at the results. Even matchmaking gets in on the action. The Bachelorette reality show gets all kinds of people excited and expressing their bold opinions about the results. I love how technology has brought the entire world into an intricate web of connectedness. People have the ability to be completely transparent, expressive and passionate about whatever matters most to them.
So what is it about our spirituality (what you do in private highly influences what you do in public!) that often reflects a restrained, deterred, submaximal, or dispassionate attempt to engage the Holy (God, Holy Spirit, Jesus)? I remember the first time someone told me that their faith was private. My first instinct was to ask where that scripture was in the bible but I refrained. I truly feel that Jesus not only took the keys of the kingdom away from the enemy but he unlocked the door for anyone to come in. The Holy Spirit not only accompanies us in the door but He invites us to make ourselves at home and to truly be free in Christ! check out a few verses from the Gospel of John:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
2 Corinthians 3:17 states the following: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
If freedom is the interior decorator assigned to our new house, maybe we should allow Him to give us some input as to where we can use our bodies (and mind and spirit) to glorify Him to greater degrees. Consider also 1 Corinthians 6: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
If we were to consider a fun metaphor for football and spirituality, it might go something like this. If God were the sport of football (cut me some slack, David called God a rock and a tower), Jesus might represent our offense, while the bible played out as defense…wait for it…and the Holy Spirit would change the outcome of a game in a split second as the special teams X FACTOR! And the crowd goes wild…
A New Set of Eyes
One of my favorite theologians, Richard Beck, has a blog called Experimental Theology. I linked a search to his views on the Holy Spirit just for fun. Here’s an excerpt from a discussion on cessationism from a church of Christ perspective.
To catch everyone up, cessationism is the view that the miraculous workings of the Holy Spirit ceased (thus the label “cessationism”) after the apostolic era, generally the first century of the church. There are many aspects to this view but a few common ideas appear a lot. I’d like to mention the ideas that dominated in the Churches of Christ when I was growing up and how these ideas shaped how we viewed the bible and the activity of God in the world.The central idea had to do with the relationship between the charismatic gifts and the bible.Cessationists often argue that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were necessary during the apostolic era because there was no New Testament on hand. Thus, direction for the church had to be given through direct divine intervention, mainly through the apostles, but if one of those guys weren’t on hand then through the members of the church exercising things like the charismatic gift of prophecy.However, once the bible had been “completed,” it is argued, there was no longer any need for the charismatic gifts. The bible, rather than prophetic utterances, would guide and correct faith and practice. Evangelistic persuasion would no longer require miraculous displays but be rooted in the proclamation of the gospel, using the bible to convict the heart and mind of sin.Basically, the bible displaced the charismatic gifts.Where did this idea come from? When I was growing up this argument was made by an appeal to 1 Corinthians 13:
1 Corinthians 13.8-10 (NASV)
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
The gifts will cease when “the perfect” comes. So what’s “the perfect”? Well, any cogent exegesis of this passage would say that love is this perfection. That love is the gift that pushes all other gifts to the side. That’s Paul’s whole point in verses 1-3: if you have all this supernatural power but don’t have love it profits you nothing.
But that’s not what I was taught growing up. I was taught that “the perfect” was the bible. That when the bible came the charismatic gifts would cease.
This interpretation was supported by other passages that identified the activity of the Holy Spirit with the bible. For example, passages like this were used to defend a bibliocentric–nay, a biblioexclusive–vision of spiritual warfare:
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
It was pointed out that the only offensive weapon for spiritual warfare mentioned in this text was “the word of God,” which is also the “sword of the Spirit.” Thus, it was argued, the way the Holy Spirit “does battle” with demonic and satanic forces is through proper use of the bible. If you want to call upon the Spirit pick up the bible, “the sword of the Spirit.” The prime example of this was Jesus’s own battle with Satan in the desert temptations. In each instance Jesus resists the Devil by quoting Scripture. (See, my example of the bible being the defense isn’t that off base)
All of this, you can imagine, had a very deflationary effect on any robust charismatic vision of spiritual warfare. The battle with evil became about exchanging bible verses.
Spirituality was reduced to cognition, memory and rational argumentation.
Charismatic Christians, we were told, would object to all this, they would decry limiting and restricting the activity of the Holy Spirit to bible study. But we had a great proof text for them:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Spirit working through the bible wasn’t a dry academic exercise. The bible was alive and active. The bible cut deep.
In short, even all the dynamic language of God’s activity in the world was located in the bible. To suggest that the Holy Spirit was somehow constrained or limited by the bible was deemed to be a lack of faith. See Hebrews 4.12.
All this added up to a couple of big conclusions.
To be spiritual was to be biblical.
To engage in spiritual warfare was to quote Scripture.
And perhaps most importantly of all, the only way God acted in your life and in the world was through the study and use of the bible.
And thus, the Holy Spirit became the bible.
I grew up in the church of Christ. Many generations of my ancestors were ministers. I am so thankful to have grown up with such high regard for the scriptures of the bible and the God found at the very epicenter of those scriptures. Unfortunately, I also grew up unknowingly being taught from a cessationist viewpoint–and thankfully there is a major trend in churches of Christ who are re-investigating their “position” and allowing the renewal and transformative power of the Holy Spirit to experience a fresh revival. Until I had taken the time to investigate my own views on this subject, I could often be found arguing with charismatic friends that current expressions of the Holy Spirit weren’t valid and probably wrong. Oy Gevalt! (i may spend an eternity repenting for that misunderstanding.)
I think you’ll enjoy Dr. Beck’s recent series of blog posts on the Charism of the Charismatics where he discusses how he has joyfully yet trepidatiously come to see people through different eyes. Although his theology had created a sort of religious box with distinct boundaries, his willingness to be spirit-led and attend an inner city church that focuses on serving those that struggle to even survive day to day, has caused a transformational work to occur in him. Yes, it makes him uncomfortable but it also invigorates his soul like nothing else ever had.
His story is but one of many stories where people have allowed the Holy Spirit to take them into uncharted territory.
My own story is similar in nature. I’ll spend more time in my next post discussing my journey, a few books that were crucial challenges to my stance on what God does and “does not do anymore” (as if a human can truly dictate a “pattern” that God has assumed–remember in the Old Testament when God was apparently silent…He was really preparing something new), as well as some possible solutions to the points I delineated above in my bullet points.
As always, thanks for reading and have a fantastic week!