I believe in the Holy Spirit

God in the present moment.  That is one definition of the Holy Spirit.  All that God is, and has done for us in Jesus, coming into this moment of time by his Spirit.  That is why St Seraphim of Sarov could say that the whole purpose of Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit.  

Imagine God as a mighty engine waiting to move our lives forward! The Spirit is like the engine’s clutch bringing God to bear upon us as we reach out in faith. Just as many outdoor areas light up when people tread into them crossing a photoelectric device that engages a security light, so Christian faith finds God present lighting up everything and every moment through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  St Augustine  explains the Holy Spirit as a go-between carrying love to and fro between the Father and the Son.  As he carries God’s love he brings believers into his riches within the fellowship of God’s church.

If the Holy Spirit is the power and love of God in action, he is also the one who leads into all truth (John 16v13).  Only by the Spirit, scripture says, can we tell the truth that Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12v3b).  It is also by the Holy Spirit that we cry Abba, Father (Romans 8v15). The whole truth of the Trinity is confirmed in Christian experience by the Spirit.

By the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus is made present, historically in Blessed Mary and presently in the preaching of the word and the celebration of the sacraments. The effect of the Spirit’s indwelling is sharing of the divine nature (2 Peter 1v4) and transformation into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3v18). This transformation is part of the Spirit’s movement upon the whole cosmos which groans in travail awaiting the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8v21).

There is a best way for everyone’s life and finding that true way forward is a work of the Spirit that Christians call spiritual direction.  God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit Paul writes (Romans 5v4b). The Holy Spirit’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4v18) and provides sure guidance through life’s trials.

Scripture sets the purpose of individuals within God’s overall plan for the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4v12). The gifts of the Holy Spirit or charismatic gifts are part of his equipment for this. Healing, miracles, prophecy and speaking in tongues are among the extraordinary gifts alongside the institutional gifts of administration and church leadership.

The use and abuse of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are often a talking point among Christians. Ideally these gifts help to excite faith in an unbelieving world. In scripture there is clear guidance for their use alongside a warning that they are no guarantee of holiness The evidence for holiness lies rather in the so-called fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5v22-23a).

Some say getting in touch with the Holy Spirit makes people holier than thou and they don’t want that!    The call to holiness is unfashionable because it is seen as some people setting themselves up as better than others. It can be like that unless God sets people up!  If Christianity is true God comes into lives to make a difference to them and to the world making holiness down to earth.  Pascal said holiness is the church’s most powerful influence.

People who are open to the Spirit know their need of God and infect others with that sense.  The late Bishop Helder Camera who did so much for Brazil’s poor described how his own calling was sealed in an encounter with another bishop. This man’s chance words to him cut into the depth of his being and kindled a desire to serve Christ in the poor. No one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit that is from God (1 Corinthians 2v11b).  

Some people find talk of the Spirit fearsome because they confuse it with spiritualism.  If experience of the supernatural is limited to contacting the spirits of the departed through a medium the spirit world encountered can be fearsome.  By contrast scripture assures believers God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1v7).  When we get in touch with the Holy Spirit he brings the power, love and truth of God to bear in our lives. We gain courage as we see our fears being overcome. We taste life in a fullness we had never dreamed of!

In the earliest credal formulation belief in the Holy Spirit was stated as belief in the Holy Spirit in holy Church. Christian experience of the Spirit is inextricably bound to that of communion and fellowship within the body of Christ for in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12v13). If Christians are living stones the Spirit is the mortar that binds and builds and strengthens the whole edifice of holy church.

To believe in the Holy Spirit is to believe in a radiance that lightens the mind, warms the heart and energises the will. Just as the potential energy in an explosive is released to give light, heat and a surge of momentum so all Jesus attained through his life, death and resurrection is given to be celebrated and released by the Holy Spirit to give power and direction to the church.

For a 2min audio summary of this article click https://soundcloud.com/john-twisleton/holy-spirit


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