Thursday, April 23, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 57: The Spirit of God

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

In this verse, the giving of the Holy Spirit by our heavenly Father is presented as a greater kind of gifting than the good gifts a father might give to a child and implies that, if we ask for the Holy Spirit, God will grant it. "How much more" indicates that the gift of the Spirit will be given in abundance, and that the Spirit is something for which we should ask.

If we are to ask for more of the Spirit, what is it, exactly, for which we are asking? Matthew 28:19 tells us that the Holy Spirit is the third part of the Triune Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

The words translated as "The Holy Spirit" are hagios pneuma. Hagios is a word used to indicate something or someone as "most holy". Pneuma can mean "breath" or "wind" and is used as both to describe the Spirit of God. In this instance, it is used to indicate the Spirit of God, as close as our breath, infusing our life. Just as the body does not give life to the spirit but the spirit gives life to the body, even so the Spirit of God infuses us as believers with the divine life of Christ that comes to those who trust in Him.

Martin Luther described our human spirit as the "highest and noblest part" of us, "the house where Faith and God's word are at home", the part of us that allows us to "lay hold of incomprehensible, invisible, eternal things." The Holy Spirit, then, is the Spirit of God, dwelling in us in such a way that it produces spiritual attributes and gifts in us. Thayer's translation describes the Spirit of God as "august, full of majesty, adorable, utterly opposed to all impurity." 

When the Spirit dwells in us, as it must if we belong to Christ, He brings an opposition to all impurity. Our tendency toward impurity, toward the sin and darkness of this world, cannot peacefully coexist with the Spirit of God. If we are to be filled with the Spirit of God, if we are to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit, we must relinquish the ways and desires of the world. We, too, must oppose the impurity that marked our lives before Christ.

To understand this gift of the Spirit, to enjoy the Spirit, we must begin by looking at ourselves. Our lives before Christ were full of darkness and sin, but the blood of Christ cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Without the work of the Spirit in our lives, convicting us of sin and leading us toward the righteousness that only God can give, we would quickly return to the sin that so easily besets us. 

As we begin to study the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the instruction of Christ to pray for the Spirit, we must consider whether or not we are allowing the Spirit of God access to our lives. Is the Spirit directing us or not? Are we continuing to embrace the same sin that has caused so much sorrow and destruction in our lives or are we allowing the Spirit to convict and cleanse us of that sin? If we are to have the gifts of the Spirit, we must first have the cleansing of the Spirit.

Tomorrow, we will look at this gift in more detail, but for today, let us allow the Spirit to shine the Light of God in our darkness, relinquish that darkness and sin, and once again experience the cleansing grace that only Christ can give.