Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Purpose of the Indwelling Spirit

Its T-minus 33 hours until Rick and Gail are supposed to roll into Fresno, although I hear they are coming to Fresno by way of Malibu. Something tells me once they get to Malibu, we might be lucky if they make it here by Bible class tomorrow night!


In Acts 2.38, Peter tells those who cut to the heart on the day of Pentecost that in order to be saved of their sins, they must repent and baptized. Obedience to those two commands, according to Peter, yields two promises: forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Churches of Christ, we've got a good handle on the first three of the four. We know what repentance is and we teach it; we know what baptism is and we practice it; we know the joy of forgiveness of we claim it. But what about the Holy Spirit?

For some reason, the Holy Spirit has always been tough for us. Perhaps this is due, in part, to the translation of the King James Version that renders "Holy Spirit" as "Holy Ghost." There's something about the term "ghost" that is mystical and spooky. Perhaps it is also due, in part, to abuses we've seen under the banner of the influence of the "Holy Ghost."

But my fear is that many swung the pendulum to another extreme. Whereas charismatic churches had the Holy Spirit doing everything, some in our heritage went to another extreme limiting the Holy Spirit of the ability to do anything.

Some claim that the Holy Spirit is the Word -- the divine mail carrier for God. With the compliation of the Word, the Holy Spirit's work ceased, some claim.

I cannot buy that line of thinking, in light of the words of Jesus and the illusions to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout Paul's writings.

For example, I asked you yesterday to spend some time reflecting on the words of Paul in Colossians 1.15-19, 2.9 and Ephesians 3.14-19 because those verses seem to nail down God's purpose in sending the Holy Spirit to indwell believers.

In Colossians 1.19, Paul says that the "fullness" of God was revealed in Jesus Christ. In Colossians 2.9, he again reiterates that all the "fullness" of deity dwelt in Jesus in bodily form. When those two verses are coupled together with Paul's powerful prayer for the Ephesians in 3.14-19, we find him asking God to empower the Ephesian Christians through the Holy Spirit with all the "fullness" of God.

What does that mean? Simply this: when you were immersed in baptism, not only did you receive the gift of forgiven sins, you also received the gift of the Holy Spirit. God placed within you a part of himself to live inside you, not to empower you charismatically but to recreate your character.

Living like Jesus is not first and foremost a willpower issue; it is a Spirit-empowered issue. Through the indwelling Spirit, we are empowered in character to become more like Christ as a witness to his transforming power in our lives. Through the Spirit, our lives become not only a reflection of Christ but an essence of the second incarnation in our world.

More to come tomorrow...