As a staff, we sometimes read books together and discuss them at our staff meetings, this week we began the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan which is about the neglect of the Holy Spirit in many churches today. What struck me the most was thinking about people I have spoken with (from different churches and backgrounds) and the broad spectrum of belief in terms of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Often these beliefs are based on personal experience rather than a study of the Scripture. Think about that for a minute. Why do you believe what you believe about the Spirit? Do you think your beliefs are shaped more by the Scriptures or by what you've come to experience as your normal Christian life? We form our own opinions of what we think a Christian life ought to look like and what our own experience of the Holy Spirit looks like, but do we ever check that with what the Scripture says a Spirit-filled life looks like? Don't just ask other people what they think, or even assume that we already know. Here are some passages about the Spirit, pick a few and compare them to your experience with the Spirit:
- Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-13, Acts 4:31
- Romans 8:1-17, Romans 8:26-27
- 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- Galatians 4:4-7, Galatians 5:16-25
If we disregard our own experiences and just read these passages, what would you expect to happen to us when the Spirit entered our lives? What changes in us when we receive the Spirit? The passage which stands out to me the most is Galatians 5:16-25. The famous "Fruit of the Spirit" passage I have read dozens of times before. After reading it in the context of thinking of what the Spirit produces in us, I notice something:
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
How often do we try to force fruit in our lives because we think that a "good Christian" needs to look like that? We beat ourselves up sometimes if we don't. Sad? I need to make myself more joyful, because that is what the Scripture says. Impatient? Nope, gotta work on that because the Scripture says so. Want people to think I'm a "good Christian"? I can just fake being loving, right? If that is our mindset, where is the Spirit in all that? If we work in our own strength to be more like Jesus we miss the whole point. This translation says that the Spirit produces such fruit in us. Other translations may not use the word "produce" but the important part is that the Spirit is where these things start. Check out the next part of the passage in seeing how we interact with the Spirit:
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Those are some pretty powerful words: Belong to Christ Jesus. Living by the Spirit. Follow the Spirit's leading. This passage isn't known as "the fruit of Mark" or "the fruit of a good person" or even "the fruit of a good Christian" the passage is known as "the fruit of the Spirit" for a reason. It's about relying on the Holy Spirit to change us. More than just change, He radically transforms our lives. The question is, are you open to being transformed by the Spirit?