Walking Our Faith: The greatest unexplored mystery dwells within us (column)
Walking Our Faith
She told me that when she was in Bible College, a college established by the Pentecostal Church, there was a week when the entire student body, under the direction of the college president, prayed for an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. What followed was a college filled with the Holy Spirit. Students spoke in tongues of an unidentifiable language, and careers were dedicated to the service of Christ.
I wasn’t there, but I imagine a scene similar to what is described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, where we read that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ disciples as they worshipped with Mary, in an upper room, where the doors and windows were closed. Suddenly a great wind swirled among them, there were tongues of flames above each head and they found themselves speaking in languages of foreign lands. So that they were understood by the multitudes that had gathered outside.
This Sunday, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone, but that he would send a counselor, an advocate, to comfort them in his absence.
I imagine this was both confusing and wonderful. For over three years, his closest followers had experienced Jesus as human, as he walked and lived with them. And then as the Christ, when he rose from the dead after three days. But now, he was leaving. Yes, with the promise of sending a counselor, in his place, a Holy Spirit. But what would this mean? How would this presence make up for the tangible comfort of having Jesus with them day to day?
If you ask any person, whether Christian or not, who is God, who is Jesus? They will likely give you a very clear description, even if this is not part of their religious tradition. However, if you ask these same people who is the Holy Spirit, you will likely receive awkward pauses, eyes darting and shoulders shrugging.
We are taught from the start of our Christian education that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, three-in-one, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit. And when I look for mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, it turns out that his presence was part of the most pivotal moments.
We find mention of God’s spirit in the very first chapter of Genesis: “When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was at first a shapeless chaotic mass, with the Spirit of God brooding over the dark vapors.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
In Isaiah, “… his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people — where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them.” (Isaiah 63:11)
When the Angel speaks to Mary regarding the conception of Jesus Christ, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
When Jesus is baptized, marking the beginning of his ministry, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that heralds Jesus true identity. “John answered them all, ‘I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’ … and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:16,22)
And finally, Jesus himself says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
What is the reward for our acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us? “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
If the Holy Spirit has been part of the Biblical history since the moment of creation, why does the Spirit remain such a mystery to us?
And if the Holy Spirit has been given to us, as an advocate, a counselor, one who prays on our behalf when we no longer have the words to pray for ourselves, shouldn’t we be actively seeking this holy source of consolation?
I believe it is no coincidence that the Holy Spirit has played a part in the most important moments of our religious history. I believe that as part of the trinity, the power and the glory of the Holy Spirit is sometimes overlooked in our weekly Sunday services.
I believe we are missing out on an important part of our relationship with God, one which can deepen our love for God and our experience of God’s presence in our lives. I believe pursuing the Holy Spirit would enrich our walk of faith in ways we cannot fathom.
I believe we should. Right now, I have more questions than answers. And I am endeavoring to learn more about the Holy Spirit as part of my walk of faith. I promise to share what I find as I go.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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