Sunday, February 26, 2012

Christian Believer: Week Eighteen {Empowering}

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

("Breathe on me, Breath of God", Edwin Hatch)


The topic for week eighteen was "Holy Spirit: Empowering" (Power to Live and to Serve).  I felt like the material was a little sparse, but it was a good lesson.

We started with the video, which first made the point that many of the significant moments in Christ's life was tied to the Holy Spirit-- his conception, baptism, and temptation.  Then it went on to say that the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost marked the appearing of and the empowering dimensions of the Spirit in the early church and individual believers.  It then discussed Paul's views on the Spirit.  Paul saw the Holy Spirit as central; He is the one who "carries on the work of Christ in the present age".  The speaker also claimed that "without the mission of the Spirit, the mission of the Son would have been fruitless and without the mission of the Son, the Spirit could not have been sent" and also that "the unique work of the Spirit" is to "apply the work of Christ to our lives".

It then stated that because the Spirit is God, early Christians could not understand Him as a quiet, unseen, intangible force.  Then it shared the roles of the Spirit in Christian life:
1. God was present in power- power to "live differently, minister effectively, and overcome ultimate ethnic and racial hatreds by making one people of God out of Jew and gentile".
2.  The Spirit empowers ethical life in all its dimensions- in the individual, the community, and the entire world.
3. The Spirit empowers every dimension of the believer's existence-- to abound in hope, to pray without ceasing, to live in joy, to exercise self control, to experience a robust conscious, to have insights into God's will and purpose, and to endure every hardship

Experiencing the Spirit doesn't primarily have to do with good feelings, but with reality.  The Holy Spirit is also not something Paul argues for, but something he presupposes and argues from.  For example, in Galatians 3:1-5, the gentiles' experience with the Holy Spirit served as primary evidence that their life in Christ was based on faith, not works.  Paul doesn't say "Were you saved by faith or works?", but "Did you receive the Spirit by faith or works?".  It thought that was very interesting!   Then the video pointed out that ethics is fully trinitarian- the Spirit of God forms the believer into the likeness of Christ to the glory of the Father.  [We see this in the Fruit of the Spirit passage in ].  Another really cool observation!

Lastly, it discussed the sufficiency of the Spirit for life in the present.  In Galatians 5, Paul promises this by way of a command-- "Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh".  The Spirit is the key to all truly Christian spirituality and we are to pray "in the Spirit" as well as with our minds.

The workbook started out talking about the disciples and how they did what "assessments of their abilities said they couldn't do".  It then discussed the "democracy" of the Spirit's work and how anyone can be born again. It also said that "the work of the Holy Spirit is, above all else, to glorify Christ" and it is always a means to an end, not an end in itself.

It then went on to discuss Pentecost and how the power of the Spirit works to cleanse and purify the communication process.  It also stated that we can believe something intellectually, but have no moral compulsion to change.  This is where the Spirit begins to work.

The Fruit of the Spirit are about more than good manners and strong character-- they are qualities of life and conduct made possible only by the Holy Spirit.  While these characteristics exist in culture (evidence possibly of common grace), the Fruit of the Spirit is different in degree, origin, nature, and expression.

The gifts of the Spirit are discussed at much greater length because they are more controversial.  Whereas the Fruit is almost always an internal matter, the gifts are to be used for public ministry.  The book then talked about the Pentecostal movement.  Some oppose it and say that all supernatural manifestations of the Spirit ended after the second century of church history.  "At best, the Pentecostal movement brings obvious qualities of joy and enthusiasm to the church; at worst, qualities of self-righteousness and sometimes, doctrinal casualness".

Here are the Scriptures and textbook readings that I really liked:
"...God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." -Acts 10:34

"When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" -Acts 2:37

"All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:44-47

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completly humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." -Ephesians 4:1-2

"Many find Him rushing upon them like a torrent while they experience the o'erwhelming power of saving grace.  But in others He works in a very different way: He deigns His influence to infuse, Sweet, refreshing, as the silent dews.  It has pleased HIm to work the latter way in you from the begining; and it is not improbable He will continue (as He has begin) to work in a gentle and almost insensible manner.  Let Him take His own way: He is wiser than you." -John Wesley

"Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I many love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do." -Edwin Hatch

"The power to live a new life, oriented around Jesus Christ, carried on within the new order of the Lord- this is the power of the Spirit at work." - Lewis B. Smedes

"The Spirit is poured out on 'all flesh'....the old and the young who are highlighted as recipients of new life.  The old women and men are the people who are passing away, who no longer are present in full power, and who  will soon belong to the past.  Young persons are the people who are not yet powerfully present, whose effective activity lies in the future." -Michael Walker

"The first act of the risen Lord was to breath the Spirit on the disciples and send them forth into mission (jn 20:21-22, Acts 1:8).  This alerts us to the fact that the effectiveness of the church is due not to human competency or programming but to the power of God at work.  The church rides the wind of God's Spirit like a hawk endlessly and effortlessly circling and gliding in the summer sky." -Clark H. Pinnock

Because we believe the Holy Spirit gives power to live and to serve, I will expect and be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in my daily living.

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