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Ignite in us your holy fire2 weeks ago
Our retiring Director, Kevin Roberts, uses this week’s Blog to speak about the person and work of the Holy Spirit and to make some challenges and invitations to us individually and for our churches, to be a Spirit-filled, Spirit-welcoming people, caught up in the ceaseless work of the Spirit in the world. Have a listen!
One of the privileges of these last five and a half years as Director of ReSource has been to read and teach on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. It has been such a joy to do that and I have been so enriched personally by both the reading and my preparations to speak about the Holy Spirit, that I have sometimes felt a bit ashamed to be paid for doing it! They say that if you enjoy your occupation then you won’t do a day’s work in your life. And much of my time at ReSource, and indeed down 38 years and more of ordained ministry, hasn’t felt like work at all. It has been an immense privilege to lead and speak and minister in the cause of the gospel.
So here’s just three parting thoughts as I reflect back on the rich discoveries of my time at ReSource. Simply this, churches, church leaders, followers of Jesus, one: don’t neglect the breadth of the Spirit’s work in the church and the world, but open your eyes to the length and height and breadth and depth of the Spirit’s activity on a huge canvas, two: don’t be content to stay on the surface of the deep and fast flowing waters of the Spirit’s work in you and all around you, but dive in and explore its depths and enjoy what you discover, and three: never feel that you have got the Holy Spirit tamed and under control, but welcome the Spirit’s sheer uncontainability and unpredictability and capacity to take you by surprise.
The Holy Spirit’s field of play
Don’t neglect the breadth of the Spirit’s work.
The Holy Spirit was around before creation; the Spirit was active at the creation (hovering over waters and bringing life and beauty into being); the Spirit is active in the creation, ordering the paths of the planets, seeding creativity, ceaselessly communicating the purposes of God and building God’s new creation, bringing heaven to earth.
The Holy Spirit was active in Jesus, leading on His conception, filling His every word and action as the supremely Spirit-filled Man, leading Him in glad obedience into all that He saw the Father doing, even to death on a cross; the Spirit is active in the church, creating a Spirit-filled people making Jesus visible, audible, understandable, approachable as the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is active in every human life tirelessly pointing people to Jesus and to goodness and to truth; the Spirit is active in re-born lives changing us into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another; and on this long sweep the Spirit is linking earth to heaven and heaven to earth, and preparing for that Day when the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
All of this, and so much more, is the Holy Spirit’s field of play, as the third eternal Person within the Trinity of the godhead. Let’s lift our eyes to the sheer breadth of the Holy Spirit’s work, seen and unseen; in the ordinary and in the extraordinary; things we understand and things that far surpass our understanding; and spend our days feasting on its magnitude and its sheer magnificence.
Dive in deeper
And don’t be content with life on the surface of the Spirit’s work in you or in the church and world.
I have often preached during these years at ReSource on the river that flows from the temple in the vision recorded in Ezekiel 47, at the heart of which the prophet himself is led by the man of bronze from ankle deep in the flowing waters, to knee deep, then to waist deep, until he is asked to take his feet off the bottom and be carried along with the waters, completely submerged in the flow of the river…which is surely the passage Jesus had in His mind when He spoke in John 7 about the rivers of living water flowing from within us, “by which He meant the Spirit who those who believed in Him were later to receive”.
It is a magnificent picture of a man invited to step progressively into the deeper things of the Spirit, not settling for life in the shallows, but heading out into the depths.
Let’s be sure to make that journey for ourselves. Let’s press on in our churches beyond a nodding acquaintance with the things of the Spirit, into something so much more adventurous and engaging and all consuming, so that immersed in the things of the Spirit, rivers of living water flow from within us to bring life to the people and communities around us.
Expect the unexpected
And let’s never think we have got the Spirit tamed and under control.
The Holy Spirit is uncontainable. How does the chorus put it? He is “indescribable, uncontainable, all-powerful, un-tameable, amazing God”. William Countryman speaks of the Holy Spirit as One “we cannot get the hang of, who we can’t even pretend to be in control of, the One who will always outfox us and surprise us, who is always beyond our grasp”.
As JV Taylor says in ‘The Go-Between God’ the Holy Spirit “doesn’t appear to have read the rubrics. He will not and cannot be bound!”. Maybe that is why the Bible uses the metaphors of fire, and water and wind, uncontainable elements, to describe the Holy Spirit.
Friends let’s allow the Holy Spirit to be God. Let’s expect the Spirit to do the unexpected. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to confound our expectations. To work way beyond the boundaries in which we have come to expect Him to work; allowing the Spirit to do ever new things, that break our conventions, as with divine wisdom and grace He dismantles a broken creation and re-makes it with such terrifying tenderness and gentle powerfulness.
Let’s do it!
Perhaps I can be so bold as to invite you now to open your hands to receive afresh the person and work of God the Holy Spirit for yourself; and to pray for the church of which you are a part; and ask you to resolve to welcome the work of the Spirit in all its magnificent breadth and depth; to press on into the deeper things of the Spirit; and to let Him do His uncontainable work in you and through you, as the Spirit draws you and your church and the whole creation into the love that beats eternally between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,
ignite in us your holy fire;
strengthen your children with the gift of faith,
revive your Church with the breath of love,
and renew the face of the earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.