Monday, January 11, 2021

A Gift for Every Believer

One of the first things that we have to set straight when we start to talk about the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is a gift for every believer, not a special gifting for some set apart by the Lord. 

This gets a little muddied, particularly when we see those with gifts that we consider phenomenological (that is, extremely out of the ordinary or requiring some sort of special interruption to the laws of physics). These persons, when they perform their works of faith, often claim the Spirit as the source of it all. And He is, but it's not because they have the Spirit and you don't; it's because that's the particular gift that the Spirit has given to them. 

The truth is that none of us works out of our gifting without the help of the Holy Spirit. The encouragers that we talked about a few weeks ago? They encourage out of the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Those with insight into the Scriptures or into the world or into the human condition? That insight is given to them by the Holy Spirit. Those with generous spirits? That is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit living in them. It's hard for us to recognize the Holy Spirit in these quieter gifts because it's tempting for us to think, oh, that's just who Nancy is or that's just the kind of guy Bill is. No, that is who Nancy and Bill are because of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing inside of them. Because of what the Holy Spirit enables them to do. 

For this reason, we need to stop thinking of the Spirit Himself as phenomenological. We have to stop thinking of Him as something akin to what we in the church call 'charismatic.' He's full of charisma, sure, in the same way that Jesus and the Father are full of charisma, but the Holy Spirit's role is not confined to breaking the laws of physics and reworking creation at every turn in order to do the miraculous signs and wonders that God wants to do, through the hands of the few. 

Rather, the Holy Spirit's role is to give every believer an extra set of eyes according to his or her gifting, eyes that allow him or her to see the workings of God in the world that he or she is being invited to join. To understand things that he or she might miss in the limitations of a human mind. To encourage and inspire, to support and uplift, to embolden and invite every believer into the ongoing work of God that is happening all around us with every breath. 

When Jael drove the tent spike through the opposing commander's head, that wasn't because Jael was sitting in her tent in her human mind, thinking about what she would do if she ever got the opportunity to be involved in Israel's battle. It's because the Holy Spirit gave her the vision of how she could intervene in His story, right now, and build it more toward His glory. When the widow walked into the Temple and gave her last two cents, it wasn't because she was just a gentle old widow with a generous heart; it was because the Holy Spirit had given her that heart. When Daniel prayed in an upper room in Babylon, it wasn't because he had committed his human flesh to devotion; it was because the Holy Spirit had given Him a steadfastness in devotion. 

This might, then, seem like the Holy Spirit gets credit for, well, everything, but that's not the case. There is still a creation that is done by God's hand and a salvation that comes only through Christ. 

In fact, one of the major troubles that we run into when we talk about the Holy Spirit is that there are some who want to make Him out to be too capable, too present, too involved in everything. We'll look closer at that trouble tomorrow.  

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