Read Along with Pastor Matt: Simply Christian-The Spirit

Posted: January 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Holy Spirit, the third member of the godhead, doesn’t get a lot of press even within the faith that claims to worship the God that is Father, Son and Spirit.  When it does get props it is usually relegated to giving Christians the spiritual equivalent of a day at Disneyland, to paraphrase Bishop N.T. Wright.

Yet, the Bishop insists that the true “point of the Spirit is to enable those who follow Jesus to take into all the world the news that he is Lord, that he has won the victory over the forces of evil, that a new world has opened up, and that we are to help make it happen.” 

In fact, without the Spirit, Wight argues that “there is nothing we can do that will count for God’s Kingdom. Without God’s Spirit, the church simply can’t be the church.”

But with the Spirit, “we ordinary mortals can become in a measure, what Jesus himself was: part of God’s future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet; the means of God’s kingdom going ahead.” 

This, according to the Bishop, is why the Apostle Paul speaks of the Spirit as a “down payment” for it is given “to begin the work of making God’s future real in the present.”

What does that mean?

It means that the Spirit is the very presence of God guiding all individuals and communities loyal to King Jesus toward a perfect, eternal new creation when all three members of the Godhead will dwell among us.

This move by God, to actually live within us, makes us walking, talking Temples where heaven and earth meet, overlap and interlock.  

The one place where we see this joining of heaven and earth in absolute harmony is Jesus and the early church understood that the way to be these portable Temples is to do and teach all that Jesus did and taught.

As my former prof Randy Harris used to say, “As Israel did Jesus did (although perfectly) and so the church attempted and continues to attempt to do.”  Or something like that.  Never easy to quote a person from Arkansas.

Wright then returns to the questions he raised earlier related to our puzzling love of beauty, our enigmatic need for relationships, our mysterious desire for spirituality and our strange yearning for justice.  

The Bishop asserts that it is the Spirit that answers these questions.  It is the Spirit that “will remake the creation so that it becomes what it is straining and yearning to be,” which is beautiful.  It is the Spirit which offers “a fresh kind of relationship with our neighbors and with the whole of creation.”  It is the spirit that quenches our thirst for spirituality by joining heaven and earth. It is the spirit that works to “set the world to rights.”

Wright then asserts that “within this remarkable picture, two things stand out about characteristically Christian spirituality.”

First, “Christian spirituality combines a sense of awe and majesty of God with a sense of his intimate presence.” 

Second, it calls us to suffer.  The Bishop writes, “those who follow Jesus are called to live by the rules of the new world rather than the old one, and the old one won’t like it.” 

Okay, the old world won’t like it but do we really have to suffer? Although Wright does not state it here as he does in his magisterial New Testament and the People of God, the Bishop insists that it is through suffering that Jesus absorbed the pain of the world and drained the darkness of its power.  We are called to do the same.

Now we are prepared to summarize the Christian understanding of God but that will have to wait a few days, my friends.

Until then, grace and peace.

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