â€œAfter the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it as though it shone for him alone, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air.
So, too, is the Spirit to everyone who receives Him, as though given to him alone,
and yet He sends forth grace sufficient and full for all mankind,
and is enjoyed by all who share Him, according to the capacity, not of His power,
but of their nature.â€
â€”St Basil, on the Holy Spirit
I just returned from a great weekend teaching Junior Highers and High Schoolers about the Holy Spirit. And while we werenâ€™t able to cover everythingâ€”because the Holy Spirit is God (and how can anyone cover God in 3.5 sessions?) There are some things I learned from Romans 8 that I thought might encourage you. So, weâ€™ll spend the next few posts going over those thingsâ€¦Some of this might feel “studenty” to you–but I tend to need to learn like a 13 year old, in order to really understand things about God. So, I pray you are encouraged!
Here is what we know about the Holy Spirit.
- He is Godâ€”not “less” than the Father and the Son, but an equal member of the Trinity.
- The Holy Spirit is not an â€œitâ€â€”not a force. But a person with His own desires and emotions.
- The Holy Spirit is the agency by which believers are adopted into the family of God.
Job 33:4 says that â€œThe Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.â€
We are only hereâ€” alive, breathing, reading this blog post, because the Spirit of God- Godâ€™s breath of lifeâ€”gives us life and sustains our lives.
But, not only thatâ€”
We are only able to understand things about God and about His word…We are only able to experience the amazing, joyful, free life that God has for us in Jesus because of the Holy Spiritâ€™s work in our lives.
If you have kids, I am sure they are like mine. Our youngest son wants to follow his big brothers everywhereâ€”including (and especially) to the top bunk in their room. Heâ€™s a really smart kid, but doesnâ€™t quite grasp the concept of gravity–that if you dive off the top bunk bed you will fall to the ground. Heâ€™s fallen and really hurt himself a couple of times.
This has happened enough that even though heâ€™s two, we had to put a baby gate on the stairs, to keep him from following his brothers to the bunk beds.
Well, for a while the baby gate worked and kept him off the stairs, but soonâ€”he so desperately wanted to get upstairs, you know, he watches his big brothers jump over the gate and race upstairs and he wants to go up too! So he stands there banging on the gate, crying, and soon the kid begins to realize that he can push on it and it moves a bit and so he keeps working at itâ€¦after just a little bit of effort, the whole stinking baby gate is knocked over.
Because he has been so persistent, the gate has actually weakened from his abuse of it. We need a permanent concrete wall just to keep to keep him downstairs.
Hereâ€™s the point:
In the Old Testament God gave his people something called The Torah also known as â€œThe Lawâ€â€”which included the ten commandments, but it was also more than that. The Torah was basically a way of living for God. Torah, or the Law was meant to help Godâ€™s people live holy lives pleasing to God.
In other words, Torah/The Law was designed to protect, guard and keep Godâ€™s people from harming themselvesâ€”to keep them set apart for God.
But just like the baby gate was made useless because of my kidâ€™s determination to destroy it, the Torah, Romans 8 tells us, became weak because of peopleâ€™s sinfulness.
The problem wasnâ€™t with Godâ€™s law, the problem is with usâ€”because our propensity, our desire, our ability to sin will always be stronger.
I mean, even for a two year old– a baby gate can protect Nolan, but he is never going to see the gate and be like, Oh mom and dad, thank you so much for putting this gate in my way to protect me. I know you want whatâ€™s best for me, so I will obey you perfectly and stay as far away from the gate as possible in order to honor you and protect myself. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)
The baby gate canâ€™t teach Nolan to obey. He sees the gate and wants to pummel it.
Thatâ€™s sin. We do what we want to do–even if it’s not good for us.
God, the Father saw that this was true- that the hearts human beings were only sinful all the time, and so he sent his Son, Jesus to earth to live with us sinnersâ€”
Jesus was the only person to ever perfectly obey the Torahâ€”in fact, He fulfilled it.
He embodied it.
Jesus became the Living Torah, the new Torah.
The new way of life.
Jesus took all of our sin, all of our inability to obey perfectlyâ€”our tendency to destroy the baby gateâ€”Jesus took all of that on himself on the cross.
When He did that, Jesus became the permanent solution to our sinâ€”even though we trample on him, abuse him, take advantage of himâ€”because of His death and resurrection, He is the gate that can never be knocked over.
Our sin can never overpower the work of Jesus on the cross.
This is amazing news because it means that our sin is condemned, our ugliness is condemned, our disobedience is condemnedâ€”
But as followers of Jesus, we are no longer condemned.
Our ugly and sinful moments do not change our standing in the eyes of God because our standing is not based on our actions. It is based on the cross.
Now, what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit?
The Torah/The Law could create boundaries for us. It could tell us donâ€™t do this, donâ€™t do that, but it could not change our hearts.
And so, God, in His mercy, gave us the Holy Spirit in order to transform our hearts.
Without the Holy Spirit, we continue to make messes of our lives. Without the Spirit, we will always become slaves to sin. But, the Holy Spirit enables us to do what we could never do for ourselvesâ€” and that is to live for Jesus with freedom and joy, not as a slave to the law.
We donâ€™t have to strive and hope that maybe just maybe if weâ€™re lucky enough or good enough or do enough or if we just love God enough, and have enough faith then weâ€™ll please God. No, thatâ€™s slavery. Thatâ€™s an awful way to live, trying to earn Godâ€™s affection and attention.
The Holy Spirit frees us from that slaveryâ€”He does what the law/the Torah was unable to doâ€”And even when we mess up, even when we start to worship something other than Jesus, the Holy Spirit is there to gently guide us back.
He changes our lives by empowering us to become so in love with Jesus, so enthralled by His beauty, so grateful for the cross, that we donâ€™t want to live for anyone else than for Him.
If you’re struggling today because you feel like to aren’t measuring up to someone’s else’s standards (maybe even your own), ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that your approval in the eyes of God has nothing to do with how well you perform.
It has everything to do with the cross–The Immutable Gate–stronger than our shame, stronger than our sin, and even stronger than our greatest moments.
Today, I’m so thankful for that.
Today, I’m so thankful for that.