Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Purpose of the Indwelling Spirit, Part Two

So I hear the onset of Tule fog is generally after the first significant autumn rain. That rain came on Monday evening, so is the fog this morning a harbinger of things to come?
It's funny how no one mentioned the fog when Mandy and I were here back in June to visit. Then we relocate here and autumn has rarely seen an assembly at church when someone didn't warn me of the impending doom of the fog.
Frankly, the fog comes with such acclaim -- from the repeated warnings of friends to the handy "Fog Delay" information from Trae's school -- that I am anxious to see what all the fuss is about.
Check back in a couple of months to see if that still holds true!
How do you like the face lift for the blog? Thanks to some significant upgrading at blogger, I decided to change the layout and color scheme. Also, post labeling and site feed have been added to make access to specific topics more handy.
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me" (John 17.20-23a).
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2.20).
"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1.27).
The first time he said it, I did a double-take. It was a fresh perspective. A new insight.
The wisdom came from my dear friend and mentor, Dale Mannon, was now preaches for the Greenlawn Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas. We were visiting together about the work of the Spirit and Dale told me, "I believe the Holy Spirit works in addition to, but never in contradiction to, the written Word."
I asked Dale to repeat that (I think I wrote it down) and from that day on, I've never forgotten it. My formative Bible teaching at church had taught me that the Spirit had served his purpose once the written Word was complete and canonized.
Little wonder, then, that many of my peers grew up equating the Holy Spirit to our postal carrier -- the Holy Spirit delivers God's mail and then disappears, resulting in a mysterious cloud around the third person of the Trinity.
My quest to get a better handle on the Spirit led me on a fascinating search of Scripture where illusions to the Spirit's purpose caused me to see that my formative Bible teaching left me with a spiritual limp. Spiritual life was often couched in intellectual terms (a factor of the influence of the Enlightenment on our interpretation of Scripture) leaving little room for the spiritual. If we couldn't understand the operation of something, we were taught, we didn't believe it. Or worse, we developed a theology that we could handle that neutered God of the power to be God.
As I searched Scripture, I continually came to the idea expressed by both Jesus and Paul that the essence of spiritual life is the formation of Christ within the believer. How does that happen? Through the Word...and the Spirit! The Spirit indwells the believer for the purpose of recreating the character of Jesus within the heart and mind of the believer.
When Paul says "I no longer live but Christ lives in me" and the essence of the mystery is "Christ in you, the hope of glory," he is not just speaking pithy, religious jargon. He is speaking to the purpose of the Spirit within the believer.
For example, Paul says in Galatians 5.22 that one aspect of the Spirit's fruit in our lives is peace. And in Philippians 4.7, Paul says, "and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Peace is a product of the Spirit's work within our hearts. Peace in the face of death is available to the believer. Peace in the face of an uncertain future is available to the believer. And Paul adds this caveat: this peace transcends all understanding.
We can't explain it -- it is a mystery. But we can acknowledge the source of the mystery, the Holy Spirit of God working within to produce in our lives Christ likeness.
I hope you will give these thoughts consideration as you teach and interact with others. Could it be some of our evangelistic efforts have been so anemic because we neglected to teach new Christians the reality of the indwelling Spirit? Could it be so many hearts have become infertile soil so quickly because we neglected to share with those converted to Jesus the reality that not only are they in Christ, but Christ is in them through the indwelling Spirit. Could it be that we are, in fact, "a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God" (1 Corinthians 6.19)?