“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, living in self-imposed exile, is tracked down by Rey, a scavenger, who has recently been made aware that she has the ability to use The Force. During their first lesson, Rey learns a very important truth. Luke asks Ray, “What do you know about The Force?” Rey responds with a list of things based on her own limited experience. She says it’s the power a Jedi has to control people’s minds, move objects, and fight, to name a few. Luke’s reply to Rey’s perspective is blunt; “Everything you just said is wrong.” Luke then walks Rey through an exercise to feel The Force itself. Once she understands what it is, what it feels like, how to sense its presence and power, Luke delivers the point of his lesson and this blog post; That power does not belong to you.
Things of God come in waves. Emphasis on the Bible, emphasis on the things of the Holy Spirit, emphasis on social justice. None of this is new. All of them come and go like the tide. Lately, we’ve been seeing a rise of things of the Holy Spirit in Christian pop cultural circles. Unfortunately, what people are teaching and experiencing is very much in line with how Rey sees The Force; based on “experiences,” what serves them, and a lack of understanding of the bigger picture.
While the word spirit is neutral (no gender), the Holy Spirit is always referred to as a He or Him. He behaves like a person.
Pneuma is the word for Spirit. It means air, or breath in the sense of life. Someone who is alive has breath. They have air. God breathed into Adam the breath of life. Where there is no breath, there is no life. Chew on that for a moment. When God fills a person with His Spirit, with His pneuma, it is an expression of His life, His power, His vitality. It isn’t for the benefit of the person who is filled, it is for the benefit of God; His kingdom, His plans, His purposes.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells His disciples,
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
While the rest of the New Testament gives us a fuller picture of what this all means, this is a great nugget version. Power means energy at work. When you flip the switch on a lamp, electrical power is expressed as energy at work creating light. The lamp must be plugged in; it must be connected. But that’s not enough. The lamp must also be switched on. Notice this. When a lamp is switched on, do you stand there and admire the power of the lamp, or do you use the light from the lamp to do what you need to do in the room? Do you even notice the lamp after its turned on? Are you the one wielding the electricity of the lamp, or are you being blessed by it and the power flowing through it? So it is with the power of the Holy Spirit and the one through whom the power is being expressed. That power does not belong to you. So what about the gifts of the Spirit?
To us English-speaking types, the word “gift” usually means a present. It’s something given to someone who can then do with it what they want. Even the expression of someone being “gifted” has a similar idea. A gifted musician has the ability to make music and it looks like it takes little to no effort. It’s as though the ability was given to them. The few times that the word “gift” shows up in the New Testament has nothing to do with a present. It is closer to the idea of being gifted. But the difference is that it isn’t a permanent empowerment like a gifted musician. It’s not something the person can wield at will. That power does not belong to you. It’s more like being given a tool to use. Let’s look at the gift of healing. God’s power is expressed through one person to heal another person. In that moment, the person is used like a channel, a conduit, to pass that power on to the person who needs healing. It’s as though he was handed a screwdriver to tighten a screw, and then it’s over. He may be given that tool on more than one occasion, but the tool does not belong to the person, it belongs to God. If the power belonged to the person and they could use it whenever they wanted, then that person had better be on a world hospital tour healing everyone in sight. But we don’t see that happening. What power of the Spirit can we wield by choice?
The power of the Spirit we can wield at will is power over sin in our lives. Take some time and read Romans 6 and Galatians 5:16-24 sometime. Read all of Ephesians about putting off the old man and putting on the new. People want power over demons, power over spirits, power over poverty, power over whatever. But the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit living in us is the ability to say no to sin which then frees us up to use the tools of the Spirit as He needs us. One of the big things in church circles is having an “experience” at church. I think this is totally contrary to the way things are supposed to be. Don’t seek to experience a “service” or the Holy Spirit. That idea is inherently self-centered, self-serving. Instead, seek to be used by the Spirit to serve others. All of the “gifts” of the Spirit mentioned and demonstrated in scripture, all of them, are about serving others.
I could make a list. I could tell you what to do. but one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is as a teacher. You already have some suggested reading. If you are really curious about the things of the Spirit, ask Him. Read the Bible. Do both at the same time. The Spirit is breaths life into God’s word. As you read, as the Spirit to teach, and then listen. Seek to be the lamp. Be plugged into the power of the Spirit. Ask Him to switch you on as he needs, and the power flow whatever for that takes. Because, after all, that power does not belong to you. It belongs to the Lord for the purpose of serving others and showing people God’s love. I can’t can’t think of anything else I’d rather experience.
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