In Defense of the Spirit

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do? You might remember the horrible feeling of injustice, embarrassment, and perhaps the irrevocable loss of your reputation. So many things in history have been done in the name of God, which were never his doing or the result of Christ’s teaching. Likewise, there is another Person of the Trinity being accused these days for things he never does. I am speaking of Holy Spirit; and if you’ll let me, I’d like to clear His name a bit.

Barking, senseless laughing, twitching, collapsing for the sake of collapsing, running, “holy glue,” unreasonable screaming, or other insane things like these are NOT the fault of Holy Spirit (ex. First Great Awakening Oddities, Second Great Awakening & Oddities, Strange FireKundalini Invasion) Furthermore, speaking in tongues in manners and situations that do not follow biblical guidelines (1 Corinthians 14) are not the Spirit’s fault. For another example, I have met those who seemed to think the Holy Spirit would provide one with all-knowledge for situations he’d never met and subjects he’d never studied before. That is a mistreatment of Him as Teacher and Guide (John 14-16), and it is the same as tempting God (Dt. 6:16; Luke 4:12). These are counterfeits, frauds, fakes… and they have been done and relished much to the hurt of God’s reputation and people’s faith. In fact, it is possible to say these experiences have been sought more than the mind of the Lord (Philippians 2:5) and love as the best gift (1 Corinthians 13). People are told they can’t be assured of salvation unless they are “filled with the Spirit,” and what certain people mean by that is not what the biblical data bear out about the subject. Thankfully, the only assurance one needs to have about being saved is assurance itself, due to trust in the Person and Power of Jesus as Savior (1 Thessalonians 1:5). And yes, that kind of quiet and confident assurance is what the Spirit gives (Romans 8:16).

Furthermore, you might have met a Christian who turned you off by their obviously “Un-Christian” ways, yet they insisted that the Lord led them to do a thing… that the Holy Spirit said to do or say something, and yet you knew better. Good luck convincing them, though. Right? While it is true that God’s ways are higher than our ways and his ways of thinking are not our natural ways of thinking (Is. 55:8-9), and even though spiritual things must be understood by illumination which comes from the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14), the Spirit will never lead anyone to do a thing which the Word of God forbids. Why? Because the Holy Spirit wrote the Word, and He is neither irrational nor self-contradictory (2 Pet. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16).

With these negatives being dispatched, let’s begin to notice the finger prints which the Spirit always leaves behind when He truly has been at work. Just like you know the thought and behavior patterns your closest friends and family employ, it is possible to notice the ways and blessings of the Spirit, nothing mysterious or unreasonable about it. Once you are acquainted with the Person and attitudes of the Spirit, you will find him to be as recognizable and lovely as your dearest companion. What’s better, he is always consistent and reliable and trustworthy; and for the believer, he is with you and in you forever–no need to beg and plead for him to reside in you (John 14:16, *).  That being said, he (just like a companion) can be grieved by our poor relation to him (Eph 4:30), and he can be shut down or “put out” by our not cooperating with attitudes and the ways he does things (1 Thess. 5;19). So, it is really important to learn his attitudes, his ways, his fingerprint… and decide to cooperate with Him, seeing He is co-equal with the Father and the Son. He is God.

HIS ATTITUDES (“spirits”):

[If someone is not displaying these attitudes, he/she cannot claim to be filled with (influenced by) the Holy Spirit in those moments.^(–see note)]

When one has a consistently great attitude, we say they conduct themselves in a good spirit. They are just a good-spirited person. When someone is wise and settled and at peace, we say they are old-souled. These forms of expression give us clues into understanding the Holy Spirit’s spirits … or, his attitudes, his defining characteristics. Theologians get all “ivory tower” and “pie-in-the-sky” about naming the attributes of God, but “attributes” are simply another way of saying “qualities.” These are the Holy Spirit’s relational qualities, both who he is and with what characteristics he influences or “fills” us when we allow him (Rom. 8:14, 12:1-2, Gal. 5:16-18, Eph. 5:18)… and he is always trying to influence us, because that is how much we need him. He does speak to us in our inner man (1 Tim 4:1; Heb. 3:7); we must take responsibility for hearing and obeying (Rev. 2:17, 29; 3:22):

The first and foremost mark of a Spirit-filled (influenced) person is a selfless, God-given love; because the fruit of the Spirit is (agape) Love… in itself and all of its aspects (Galatians 5:22-26). All of the aspects of love mentioned in Galatians 5 are like the facets of a diamond. All of them make up the diamond of love, which is the singular fruit of the Spirit. But, depending on the angle from which one looks at the diamond (i.e. the situation or need), one facet of love may come through more than others. So, if a person or situation requires our patience and we feel we have none, then the Spirit tries to influence us by effectively saying, “Give up your lack, and take my patience.” When a situation or person needs a word of faith amid their doubts and struggle, but we have no such faith, the Spirit tries to influence us and them by effectively saying, “Give up your doubts, and take this measure of faith based on my Word”…and he gives you remembrance of a scripture or truth. The examples could go on and on. However, it is important to note that all of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit work by the motivating attitude of the Spirit–Love.

If one is filled with all the fullness of God, it is because he is knowing the Love of Christ (Eph. 3:19), and our faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). Love in joy, love in peace, love by kindness, love by goodness, love by gentleness, love in self control. This is the spirit of the Spirit. If an action or intent or response or exhortation or admonition is not proceeding from the Spirit’s selfless, agape love (which considers others better than ourselves and believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things); if our service in Christian ministry does not put self at the back or reject arrogant and subjugating attitudes (but rather tears down others and puffs us up), then we are nothing, because the Spirit is not the one doing the work through us (1 Cor. 13).

May I pause to give an example from my personal life? Before someone told me that love was the mark of a Spirit-filled man, I would have told you boldness and faith were the fingerprints of the Spirit. As a younger man, I confused human power to “blast” and confront with what the Spirit does. I was caustic, and I thought being filled with the Spirit meant I would be “bold,” not caring how harshly I spewed out the truth. It is true that the Spirit does give boldness to one who proclaims the gospel, but that sort of Spirit-given boldness looks more like someone who is overcome with joy, and so, is able to forget about self for the sake of Jesus (Acts 2:13-17; 4:8, 13). Once I had great faith that God could move mountains, but I had no love. I didn’t realize I had no love, as God counts love. That is, I did love, but love was overshadowed by a hunger for Heaven’s power. I was nothing and thought myself something. I believed it would shame Him if I did not believe great things from God and attempt great things for God. My greatest fear was to not accomplish great things for God, to not be a channel of His power on earth to the saving of men’s souls. So, I pressed hard to see God use me… use me. Now, God grows my love above my desire to be “used” for something significant. Now, I am sure great things (as God counts great things) will come on their own… as I love. Now, most of all, I fear not loving God and neighbor as God has loved me. His great heart has conquered me. Praise His name, and thanks to the Holy Spirit.

Since the Spirit anointed and rested on Jesus Christ for his ministry (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22), I think it is necessary for us to note what that was like by use of a prophecy concerning Christ’s first earthly ministry (Is. 11:1-4, NASB) and pattern our lives accordingly, since these are the spirits which are around the throne of God constantly (Rev. 1:4, 5:6):

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; … (Isa 11:1-4 NASB)

Furthermore, we should note that the attitude of Christ’s Spirit-anointed ministry was exemplified by his undying gentleness toward the supply and faith of the needy (Is. 42:3) and by stern rebukes only of the religious swindlers and self-righteous (Ps. 69:9, Matt. 23, John 2:13-17).

HIS ACTIONS

Holy Spirit is so likeable… no, rather, worthy of adoration for everything He does. To know him is to love him, and when one loves Jesus, he is loving the Spirit without realizing. Why? because the Spirit doesn’t put himself forward (John 16:13-14). He was sent by the Father during Pentecost as a “Stand In” for Jesus, just as was promised (John 14: 15ff; Acts 1). Also, His being in each believer is exactly like the guarantee (earnest money) of the inheritance every believer will have at Christ’s return (2 Cor. 5:5). So, he is not an afterthought. Rather, he is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Truth that makes life for believers far better than if Jesus had remained physically in only one body on earth. He is our Helper in that he teaches and guides the believer into all truth (John 14-16), and Scripture indicates that he is the exact same kind of Helper that Jesus was when he was here physically. Furthermore, He is responsible for organizing and energizing the spiritual gifts that make the church living and functioning and mature and effective (1 Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:).

In the simplest terms, the Spirit’s main business is to convince. He is the Great Persuader, but why and how he does this work is truly a noble and beautiful thing to behold.

For non-believers, His very presence can be made known to one’s inner man, and this is noted by “clear thinking” about the fact that the greatest and only unforgivable/unpardonable sin is one’s disbelief in Christ. Furthermore, he convinces one of what real righteousness looks like (as was exemplified by the earthly life of Christ); and he convinces one that judgement is impending for all that do not believe on Christ as the rightful King of the earth and of them (John 16:4-13). So, when you, as a non-believer, feel these things, then recognize it is the Spirit of God and cooperate with Him. Don’t resist him, because to do so would be like rejecting Jesus face-to-face.

Perhaps the greatest action of the Spirit in these days is his “outpouring,” otherwise known as “seasons of refreshing” (Acts 3:19) which are the result of the Spirit’s work to reveal the Presence of GOD among men. If people knew God is indeed here, how different we would go about life. When God wants to refresh true life and true living in the world, he pours out the Spirit. This results in mankind (on the individual or greater levels) being turned from the senselessness and deceitfulness of sin, because in the Spirit’s “light” they “see” the highest purpose of mankind is to be a reflection God’s light (Ps. 36:9; John 1:4-5). When God reveals his being present, mankind realizes just how poor of a mirror he has been; and mankind’s thinking and actions and loving change, and their world changes. So, if one wants to know what the Kingdom of God is like, then he needs only ask for an outpouring of the Spirit in his own life.

The outpouring of the Spirit is the Kingdom of God come now (before the physical kingdom); and when Christians desire it, we must only represent it and release the kingdom into the world (Matt. 16:19), and so, we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done” (Matt: 6). Any Christian may represent and release the outpouring, if he understands grace and mercy and relation to the Spirit, and that, the work of the Spirit of Christ is (spiritually speaking) that the hungry might be filled, the thirsty might be satisfied, the blind receive their sight, that the lame walk & run, the mute sing, the deaf hear, that the weary might be rested, the bruised and broken might be healed, and that the captive set free. And sometimes God allows these spiritual realities to be represented in the physical realm by the analogous physical maladies being restored. You can see, then that the reasonableness of God should be notable behind every “miracle.” God does things on purpose, particularly that mankind might believe in Christ, not for folks to get silly about weeping statues, insane and unreasonable actions, or worship of anyone other than the Lord Jesus.

You can know the fingerprints of the Spirit are all over an event or person’s spirit, when that thing or individual gives and/or restores “life.” What I mean is the essential elements of spiritual life, not necessarily physical life, though the physical is directly connected to the spiritual. The essential elements of life, withstanding, are: faith, hope, love. Where faith is instilled concerning God and his Word and one’s being forgiven, accepted and called in the Beloved, then the Spirit has been at work. When someone’s hope is restored after years of discouragement, disillusionment, or being beat up and broken down, then the Spirit has been at work. When a broken heart has been enslaved to hatred or non-forgiveness or the hurts of many evils but now is free and full of comfort and joy and the lifting up of others, then the Holy Spirit has been at work. He guides, he consoles, he strengthens, he supports (1 Thess. 5:14). The fingerprints of the Spirit are faith, hope and love. Look for them, and where you find them, no matter where or in whom, praise the Spirit and praise the Son and praise the Father, “for He is good, for his mercy endures forever!” What a gracious and caring God who never fails as love never fails.

Should we as believers fail, however, the Spirit of Christ is our Paraclete… our Advocate (John 14:16; 1 John 2:1), who intercedes for us even as Christ intercedes according to the will of God the Father (Rom. 8:25ff). None is so meek as the Spirit to restore you (Gal. 6:1), and if one does restore you in an attitude of meekness, then that one is being filled with the Spirit; he/she is spiritual.  Be thankful and receive this restoration as from the very wings of the Spirit (Ps. 91:1-4).

WORD PICTURES: (of the Spirit)

Lastly, I leave you with word pictures of attributed to the Spirit. This helps us understand what the Holy Spirit looks like, so we don’t malign or accuse him of things he never did, so that we don’t mistake him when he shows up.

  • Water, Living (running) Water — he flows like Life itself, and everything that us submerged in him or falls into him is refreshed, and desires for all else besides Jesus are quenched.  (John 7:38)
  • Oil of Gladness — joy from a deep assurance of the veracity of the Christian faith; that one is fully at peace with, accepted and loved by God because of Jesus; and that one has a purpose/specific calling in the plan of God for mankind. (Heb. 1:9)
  • Flame, Fire — the Spirit is more passionate than any desire, burning but not destructive or hungrily consuming ; rather, he is energizing and purifying and awe-strikingly authoritative. (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16)
  • Dove — one word, “Gentle,” overwhelmingly and winningly gentle. Praise Him! (Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22)
  • Wind — even as Christ is the good “Lion” but not a tame one (not able to be controlled by man’s efforts), the Spirit is a Wind who is a good wind (gentle and refreshing as a summer evening’s breeze) but His Presence cannot be predicted, controlled, or demanded. He can only be welcomed and honored. If we would be affected by and/or useful to God, then we must follow the Spirit, not the reverse. (John 3:8)
 
………………………………..

FOOTNOTES:

*[The New Spirit Within]: Gal 5:16; Col 2:6; Phl 2:12,13; Tts 2:11-14; Heb. 13:21; 1Jo 1:6,7; 2Jo 1:6

^[Special Caveat]: Matthew 23 records the Lord Jesus’ response to those who opposed his working by the Spirit. Rather than saying Jesus (in the Spirit) is always gentle, it is better to say that Jesus was sometimes filled with righteous anger from the Spirit (Ps. 69: 9; John 2:17) toward those who twist the Gospel or shut up the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces (and were not going in themselves), due to their traditions and man-made religious rules. Furthermore, their accusations of Jesus’ working by spirits (or, that Christ’s work was a fake or fraud or of the devil) besides the Holy Spirit earned them grave condemnations (Matt. 12). This sort of righteous indignation was demonstrated by Paul toward Peter (Gal. 2) and generally has to do with protecting the principle of “grace alone” by “faith alone” for entering and living out the Christian life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s