Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Third Person

So where does this all lead us? It leads us back to where we started, with a discussion of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity. 

It leads us to a place where we have to understand the Holy Spirit as a being with the very heart and character of God, and not just the will of Him. That is, He is not merely some angelic spirit being dispatched to do what God desires, carrying some kind of marching orders to pull the world's strings like a holy puppeteer, sneakily working His way throughout the world to make sure that God's desires for humankind get fulfilled. As such, we should not expect some sort of 'secret' knowledge from Him; the Holy Spirit is as plain and conspicuous and transparent as God has always been. 

Nor should we believe He is in any way "just" "a" spirit, somehow engaged in the same realm as the evil spirits that we hear about in the Bible or perhaps encounter from time to time in our real living. We have seen the kind of errors that this sort of thinking can lead us into. 

And it comes, perhaps, from our misreading of the word 'spirit.' This word just as easily means, "heart, nature, character, fundamental foundational structure of" something as it does "phantom, ghost." And therein lies yet another confusion, whereby we know that in Christian language, there are some who refer to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. And doesn't this, at least, imply that He is a spirit in the way that we understand spirits? 

Still no. For what is a ghost? It is the phantom sense we get of a once-living being who is no longer with us, but yet, is still somehow present. Which means that the Holy Ghost is every taste we have of Jesus, who once walked among us and currently does not. He is the wisp in the wind that reminds us of the Lord who lived with us, who occupied the same spaces that we do. He is a reminder of the Christ who lived, died, and lived again for us - every time we smell that smell we can't quite place, every time we have that feeling of wanting to talk to Him and turning around to see if He's there. That's the Holy 'Ghost.' Still not an actual spirit in the sense that we think of spirits, but the experience that this person of God gives us of the Trinity. 

 He is the person of God and no mere apparition. He waits for the same invitation into our lives that God does, rather than just lurking in our closet or being here all the time. There's nothing in Scripture that says the Holy Spirit just roams around and fills the whole earth, whether it wants Him or not; rather, He is a gift for believers, for all believers, from the moment they accept Him. And then, He does not - He cannot - simply roam around our lives like some kind of roomba that we set on autopilot and expect to keep our lives clean without our investment or engagement. Again, that's not how the Holy Spirit works. That's not how the person of God works. 

What we have to do, as Christians, is to start developing the kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit that we have developed over the years with God, through the Old Testament, and Jesus, through the New Testament, by just steeping ourselves in His story and finding out what He's doing in the world, how He's doing it, and how He intends for us to join Him. 

In many ways, I wish the Bible were more clear about this, but the truth is that it can't be. It can't be because the story of the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing, developing story that is happening in all of us in the 'already, but not yet.' We're living it. We're writing that story right now, and so it's not something that's revelatory for us in its history, but in its present. It's not from the beginning of time, but right now. It's not merely at one point in time, but at every point in time. At least, in our time. 

We often wonder sometimes - at least, I do - what it might have been like to live in a time when God Himself was seemingly so active in His world. In the Old Testament, when He spoke to His people and led them in battle and called them to greater things. What it might have been like to live in a time when Jesus was alive, in flesh and bone, and walking the same streets with us, as in the Gospels. But we live in such a time. Our time is marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit, just as near as God or Christ have ever been. The third person of the Trinity, given to us for these chapters of His story, these chapters we're writing right now. 

Let us never forget that we are living the story we so often wonder about. And let us never stop wondering about the story we're living. 

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