The Holy Spirit

Many of us leave experiences of the Spirit to other people– enthusiasts, charismatics, and mystics.

We may say we believe in God, but for the most part, we think, act, and feel as though God’s Spirit is not really a part of our lives.

Yet the Bible is full of stories about the Spirit’s life and creative power. Through the Spirit, we are transformed by these stories–regardless of who we are or what our circumstances in life might be. We discover that faith is about living with a freedom, a joy, and a peace that the circumstances in our life cannot affect. We discover a love that enables us to be more fully ourselves and thus able to love the people in our lives more fully and more deeply. We discover a hope that inspires even when we experience what would otherwise defeat us.

Who is the Spirit of God in the Bible?
The Bible speaks about the Spirit in relation to the specific experiences of the people of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, and the Christian community that emerged after his death and resurrection. The Old Testament describes how the Spirit inspired prophets and others with a vision of God’s justice and mercy for all people–a vision of people living in harmony with one another and with nature (Isaiah 11:6-9; 32:15-20; 61:1-2; 65:17-25).

The Gospels describe the Spirit’s presence in Jesus’ life–inspiring him not only to forgive sins, but also to heal the sick and demon-possessed and proclaim good news to the poor and all oppressed by life (Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:4,5). Early Christians experienced the presence of Jesus raised from the dead (Luke 24) and the presence and power of the Spirit among them (Acts 2)–experiences propelled them into a worldwide movement with a message about what God has done through Jesus for all people (Acts 1:8).

How does the Spirit create faith within and among us?
The Spirit’s creative life and power inspired the founding of the Christian community–turning that community into a worldwide movement that continues to be transformed as it incorporates new members from different cultural backgrounds (Acts 10). Christian experience of the Spirit is based solely on faith in what God has done for us in Jesus, and not on anything we do or on any other circumstance defining our identity (like our gender, social status, race, cultural background, or even religious practice) (Galatians 3).

Through the Spirit, we have the same intimacy Jesus had with the one he called “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:15; Mark 14:36). We become more fully ourselves as we enter more fully into Christ’s new identity within and among us (2 Corinthians 3; 5:16-21).

How does the Spirit create love within and among us?
As we grow into our identity in Christ, the Spirit gives each of us gifts to contribute to the common good of our communities. Paradoxically, the Spirit creates unity among us even amidst the flowering of the diverse gifts each of has to contribute (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-8). The Spirit enables us to live out of Christ’s life within us, and that life is the basis for our being able to love other people in the same way that Christ has loved us (Galatians 5, 6). Through the Spirit’s life and creative power, we not only become ourselves more fully, but we also are able to appreciate others more fully, for who they are in themselves (John 14-16; 1 John).

How does the Spirit create hope within and among us, even amidst the suffering and difficulty we often face?
We can only experience the Spirit in our bodies–and in all that our bodies face, whether painful or pleasurable. Paradoxically, we experience the Spirit’s power most intensely in our weakness, in our vulnerability to a life we cannot fully control (2 Corinthians 4:7-15; 6:3-10). From the standpoint of the Spirit’s life within us, we perceive and respond to the circumstances of our lives differently. Even amidst our struggle with sin and tragic circumstances–even amidst our own suffering and the suffering of all creation–we can live out of hope, a hope that inspires us to live out of the Spirit’s justice and truth (Romans 8:18-25).

In the midst of life’s difficulties, the Spirit prays through our deepest yearnings, transforming those yearnings according to God’s will for us, giving us the confidence that nothing in time or space can separate us–or anyone else–from God’s love in Jesus (Romans 8:26-27).