~ Fearing The Holy Spirit ~
The U.S. National Weather Bureau has predicted an unusually active Hurricane season for 2002. Storms, wild fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, heavy snows and other ways the earth naturally releases the tensions of unbalanced forces and renews itself are not evil or even devastations. What makes them devastating is that people have chosen to live in these zones. I also recognize that many haven’t chosen to live in regions of high vulnerability of natural occurrences which turn their communities into disaster areas.
The disaster is defined by loss of life and home, economic costs and an upheaval of routine living that often redefines relationships, work, personal identity, world view, and the social and even spiritual fabric of the culture. Of course, disasters caused solely by humans, such as terrorism and war, do the same things.
While these observations are earth-based, the kingdom of heaven operates differently. However, we tend to remain earth-based in responding to the powerful forces of the heavenly realm characterized by the biblical images of wind and fire. Interestingly, “Acts of God” is a legal term (in US law) describing naturally caused disasters, frequently invoked by insurance companies. People don’t like “Acts of God” in the legal parlance, which is always a bad thing (and not covered by insurance companies without special, costly riders.) But many in our churches don’t like “Acts of God” in the kingdom parlance either, for similar reasons.
In the third chapter of John’s Gospel account, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as an unpredictable wind, we not knowing from where it comes or to where it is going. John the Baptizer proclaimed Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11b). On that incredible morning of Pentecost, “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they [the disciples] were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:2-3, NIV). This violent wind sound was so loud it drew a crowd from the streets. The space in the room seemed ablaze with fire whipping around, eventually dividing itself to crown every one of the about one hundred and twenty disciples.
A violent wind sound is deafening and the sight of aerial fire is intense. I’ve been close to forest fires that we aptly call fire storms because they create their own microclimate of wind, light and sound, like standing near a loud freight train that’s burning, feeling the strong air convections in its wake.
As if this wasn’t enough, the disciples exited to address the gathered crowd in a multiplicity of languages. Most were “amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12) while some scoffers accused them of being drunk (v.13). With violent sound, blazing fire and unifying speech, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with the fervency of a fire storm and gave birth to the Christian Church. In the language of the heavenly kingdom, this was an Act of God.
As in natural “Acts of God” or disasters, thousands of lives were turned inside out on that day of Pentecost. Homes were abandoned, family structure changed, occupations redirected, and community and personal identities were transformed or even lost.
Before one mutters, “I wish I was there,” deep and sober reflection is needed. The disciples, and, earlier, Jesus Himself, were accused of being drunks and a blasphemous cult. Jesus was accused of being in league with demons and of being a lunatic, as in psychiatric disorder. Most Christians today would go to great lengths and efforts to avoid risking presenting any image except what others see as the “acceptably Christian” one.
What greater gift can we imagine than being fully animated and permeated by the All-Mighty, All-Knowing, All-Loving Holy Spirit of God? In our deep reflection, would there be any hesitation at all in praying, “Possess me, Holy Spirit, and do whatever You will at any cost to me. I am fully surrendered to You”? In the spirit of Jesus’ rhetorical question, “What good is it for one to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” can we completely let go of ourselves or “lose your life to gain it”?
Would our “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer be a bit more tame given the personal cost of the absolutely awesome and earth-shaking Pentecost? Instead of a blasting movement of wind and fire, perhaps we would prefer a gentle breeze and candle light. Maybe we would like it better if the unpredictable wind of “you don’t know where it’s going” was less independent so we could get a really accurate doctrinal handle on it and not disturb our set worship liturgies or prayer meetings. We want “revival,” but do we really want radical demands or surprise changes in our lives, homes and churches? Perhaps we aren’t prepared for spiritual quantum leaps and prefer everything done in moderation so we can control any threat to our positions, plans, or structure to our lives and churches.
Jesus explained how willing God is to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). Furthermore, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father…and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14: 12b,16b,17b,18a, NIV). Not a force or a power, the Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of the Immanuel, the God-with-us, now the God-in-us, the Christ.
Most of us who bear the tittle of “Christian” do not do what Christ did in the Incarnate Jesus. We can explain it away with twisted exegesis from Scripture or doctrinal philosophy about a different dispensation. But maybe the reason is we lack the courage to admit that we really don’t believe Paul when he wrote, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a, NIV); that in forsaking all for Christ we really want to keep some of it for ourselves; that we are afraid of the consuming fire of God. Maybe we really don’t believe God when He declares “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Maybe we don’t understand how Paul can say, “that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10, NIV).
Maybe we are afraid of the cost of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Paul urges the early church at Corinth to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you? – unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).
Fortunately, our unconditionally loving God knows our fears, hesitations and human nature. So Jesus called the Holy Spirit “The Comforter.” Let’s pray with King David, who also struggled with fear and human nature in himself and those over whom he ruled:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame…Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long…
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish…Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you…
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 25:1-3a, 4-5, 14-17, 20-21; 27:4, NIV).
In the house of the Lord we are home, nurtured in profound love and care. No fear exists there. And we don’t need to wait until we die to enter it.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © July 13, 2002
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
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