Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Christian Believer: Week Seventeen {Holy Spirit}

There's a sweet sweet spirit in this place
And I know that it's the spirit of the Lord
There are sweet expressions on each face
And I know they feel the presence of the Lord
Sweet Holy Spirit
Sweet heavenly dove
Stay right here with us
Filling us with your love
And for these blessings
We lift our hearts in praise (hearts in praise)
Without a doubt we'll know that we have been revived
When we shall leave this place.
 ("Sweet, Sweet Spirit, Doris Akers)

This past week's lesson was "Holy Spirit: God Present" (God with Us).  It was a good lesson, but not one of my very favorites.  Something just felt lacking.  This week is a continuation of the Holy Spirit, so maybe that will tie up some loose ends.

We watched the video first and I did get a lot out of it.  The video first talked about how the Holy Spirit is sometimes sort of like a "divine step child" because people just aren't as familiar with him as they are with Christ or with the Father. However, not is of more importance in our lives as Christians.  The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is bound up in the doctrine of the Trinity and grows directly out of the early church's experience with salvation- initiated by God the Father, accomplished through Christ, and made effective by the Holy Spirit.  God's salvation is a cooperative work of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The early Christians felt a personal connection with the Holy Spirit just as they had with Jesus.  It would have never occurred to them to think of the Spirit as an impersonal force despite all the impersonal images of Him (a dove, fire, water, wind, oil, ect...) They clearly realized the Spirit was fully God and thus completely personal. The personal activities of the Spirit include giving life, dwelling within us, bearing witness, teaching, leading, crying out, having desires, and strengthening believers.  The fruit of the Spirit is also expressed in terms of the very personal attributes of God (Galations 5).  The Spirit alone knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-12) and God knows the mind of the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).  Finally, the Spirit's relationship with Christ conveys this personal dimension- the one known as the "Spirit of God" in the Old Testament came to be known as the "Spirit of Christ" in the New.  Thus, Jesus not only put a human face on God the Father, but on the Holy Spirit as well.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was primarily seen as the presence of God with Israel and is tied to the tabernacle in the desert and the temple in Jerusalem. In the New Testament, He is recognized as the way God dwells with his people, in the church and in the individual.  We are a "people of the presence" and are to "reflect God's own character in our individual lives and our lives together".

The workbook began by noting that if you asked an average person on the street about God, their definition would probably sound more like the Holy Spirit than like God the Father or Jesus.  It points out that God's presence may "sustain us, protect us, and solicit us without our recognizing the source".  In the Old Testament, the Spirit came to a "special few, for special purposes" and they generally had to do with the wider welfare of the people of God.  However, in the New Testament the Spirit began a "broader, graciously inclusive work".

The book then talked about how in Psalm 51 the Psalmist realizes that the Holy Spirit can be taken from him.  The book says that because the Spirit is intimate, close and immediate "familiarity can breed, if not contempt, at least casualness".

It then discussed the difference between our conscious and the Holy Spirit. While our conscious is an "ally" of God's spirit, it is not synonymous.  For a person "living in a highly permissive culture, the conscious can become so broad as to be nearly meaningless".  However, those living under strict requirements my try to outdo the Holy Spirit.

Here are my favorite Scriptures and textbook quotes:

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who morn and provided for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." - Issiah 61:1-3 

"And I will ask the Father and He will give you another counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees nor knows him.  But you know him, for    he lives with you and will be in you." -John 14:16-17

"The whole comes to this, that the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually binds us to himself." -John Calvin

"But perhaps one might say (desiring any who are taught of god to correct, to soften or strengthen the expression), the testimony of the Spirit is an inward impression the soul, whereby the Spirit of God directly 'witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God'; that Jesus Christ have loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and that I, even I, am reconciled to God." -John Wesley

"Christians believe that God is a majestic Being far above us, and this aspect of God's nature is called the transcendence of God.  Yet Christians also believe that God is a loving personal Spirit, concerned about us, very close to us.  The belief in the Holy Spirit emphasizes this divine nearness and personal concern, and is the basis of Christian prayer, God as Holy Spirit speaks to us in the deep places of our own spirits, and we can respond to him by our thoughts and lives...The Holy Spirit give us guidance, with light upon the decisions we musk make.  The Holy Spirit will not automatically settle our problems for us, for God expects us to us our mind and the best judgment possible about the situation.  Yet the Holy Spirit will help us to discover what Paul called "the mind of Christ," that is the attitude of Jesus." -Georgia Harkness

"If the Spirit is the authentic presence and realization of the salvation given through Jesus Christ, then whatever is external in the church- scripture and sacraments, offices and certainly the discipline of the church- has fo rits sole task to prepare men for receiving the gift of the Spirit, to serve in the transmission of this gift, and to enable it to work effectively." -Walter Kasper

Because we the church believe God is present with us in the Holy Spirit, I will live with a sense of the wondrous nearness of God.

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