WHITSUNDAY (2)

It is more likely than not: that the God whom we worship; has various aspects of his nature that are quite unknown to us.
 
In Old Testament times, he seems to have been almost unapproachable: revealing something of himself, only at such rare moments as giving the Commandments to Moses, at Mount Sinai, or speaking through various prophets.
 
Between such moments, were long gaps: the longest being the 500 years that preceded the New Testament era.
 
The New Testament is different. It tells of God’s great act of self-revelation; through the life and ministries of Jesus Christ: of the blessings that followed, then, and now; and of his willingness to be approached.
 
Because the totality of God’s Person, is entirely beyond human concept and understanding: the New Testament: using ordinary, human terms; suggests a sensible way of approach, that opens communication.
 
To approach him, in the same way that a happy child approaches its loving, human father: is a useful step towards establishing ongoing relationship.
 
The desired relationship leads onwards: to where our full acceptance of all that Christ is, and does: both establishes, and confirms, our place within God’s good purposes.
 
Jesus, in helping us to understand why he did what he did: described himself as being like a dutiful son; who, without question, undertook the will of his loving and caring father.
 
So far, we have touched on two names or titles that are well known to us, through their use in our human families: God the Father, and God the Son.
 
However: the third aspect of the triune nature of our Lord: lacks the human familiarity of Father and Son. This is, of course, the Holy Spirit. What do we make of that aspect?
 
The ‘gospels’ and ‘letters’ contain various leads and pointers; that can be of real help to us. Put at its simplest: God the Father decided to rescue humanity, and free it from the sins that beset it.
 
He knew that yet another batch of commandments would not, indeed, could not serve the loving purpose that he had in mind: and that a far greater thing would have to be done.
 
Some part of God’s own nature; entered the world in human form; to personally undertake the rescue: and to make redemption from sin possible, to all who would receive it. What God the Son did, stands for all time.
 
Christians recognize most, and understand much, of what the Father did through the Son: but they do not have such a clear understanding of the particular function of the Holy Spirit.
 
God’s great, redemptive act, in Christ: could not be left at that point in history, if its purpose was to be fulfilled.
 
So, down through the centuries, ever since, the blessings stemming from what was done, must be taken hold of, and applied to needy humanity: and this is the purpose of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world.
 
He applies the power of that great, redemptive act, in the here-and-now of today: and in the lives of all who will open their hearts and minds to him.
 
At John 14: verses 15 and 16: Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit being sent into the world, as the personal gift of God the Father. A gift is always to a purpose: and so it was, and remains, with the giving of the Spirit.
 
Some part of that purpose may never be disclosed to us: but a lack of full understanding, should never put us off seeking, in the hope of finding.
 
The New Testament offers us many texts, that show that we not only should, but must, receive the Holy Spirit into our lives; every bit as much as we must receive, and accept, Jesus Christ, as our personal God, Saviour and Lord.
St. Paul was given a wonderful change of life; and new hope, when he first accepted Christ: and he tells us something about this, at Romans 8.16:
 
‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ’. We need such assurance as to where we stand, in God’s sight.
 
At John 14:26, Jesus makes an encouraging statement, in saying: ‘The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name; will teach you all things; and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you’.
 
We need that teaching: because, when received, it is like medicine to our souls, as it directs us towards the fulfilment of our spiritual journey.
 
At Ephesians 1: 13 Paul writes that those who have heard the word of truth; and have allowed it to become the gospel of their salvation, through faith in Christ: are then, as it were, signed and sealed by the Holy Spirit – who, if prayerfully asked for, and prayerfully received, will indwell them; to their great blessing.
 
At Acts 1: 8. Christ addressed his closest disciples, just before his ascension into heaven. Although they were, then, few in number, they represented the embryonic Church that would, one day, spread throughout the world.
 
His instruction was not for them alone: because what he said, still stands; and applies to the Church now, every bit as much as it did then. ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’.  
 
Again, there is a great and particular purpose, in what the indwelling Holy Spirit brings about in those who allow him to indwell, and direct, their lives.
 
Galatians 5: 16-24 shows sin overcome; and a totally different way of life received; for those who invite the Holy Spirit into their hearts and minds.
 
Their lives will then show what Paul calls: ‘The fruit of the Spirit’. He lists some part of that ‘fruit’ as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
 
These qualities enable Christians to undertake much of what Christ calls them to be, and to do: and, incidentally, make them attractive to others.
 
Such attractiveness may, quite naturally; encourage those others to believe that there is more to the Christian faith than they have, so far, discovered; and to begin to seek such qualities for themselves.
 
The ‘power’ that Christ referred to, at Acts. 1:8: is received through what St. Paul calls: the ‘Gifts of the Spirit’. He lists some of them, in the twelfth chapter of his first letter to the young but energetic church at Corinth.
 
As the text itself, tells us: these gifts are for the common good. The testimony of the Early Church, and of some part of the Church, today, is that we do not have to work hard at being worthy, in order to receive these gifts.
 
Such receiving does not relate to human qualities and abilities being developed to higher levels: but to some part of God’s own nature, and actual, observable power, being entrusted to frail humanity, within its churches.
 
To the good, delight and thanksgiving of vast numbers of people: the very early Church performed various, powerful signs and wonders that are recorded throughout the New Testament.
 
Jesus Christ called his Church, to be a living organism: commissioned it to continue the work that he had begun; and gave it actual power, to do so.
 
All too often: becoming and being a Christian is seen as an end in itself. But it is not so. Our Lord Jesus calls us to be Christians: to be something, at least, like him, and to do as he did. Do we, realistically, with fulfilment in mind, actually believe this?
The question is asked because; to a large extent: today’s Church has ceased to be a living, Spirit-filled organism; and, instead, has become something of an administrative system.
 
We need to receive, the Holy Spirit’s power that, alone, enables us to fulfil the calling entrusted to us, by Christ himself.
 
It is only when we ask, that we will receive.  Christ has said that he wants us to ask?   But will we?   Amen.