“Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church.”
~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love
I haven't read Crazy Love yet, but I do have a wonderful book about the Holy Spirit, The Silent Shepherd by John MacArthur. So when I saw this week's quote related to the Holy Spirit, I looked back through The Silent Shepherd for an overview of how the Spirit works in our lives, especially in relation to the church.
The Spirit is our helper (John 14:6-7), our guarantor of eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14), our teacher (John 14:26). The Spirit regenerates us (gives us new life), (John 3:5,6,8), santicifies us (enables us to become more Christ-like), (Romans 15:16, 1 Cor. 6:11), produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22) - including the ability to love unconditionally and the amazing "peace that surpasses all understanding" that carries us through our struggles and hardships.
The Spirit also gives us gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), and verse 7 tells us specifically why we are given gifts: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." In several different letters, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe how relationships within the church, Christ's body, are designed to work.
Romans 12:4-5 "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us."
The church is all about using our spiritual gifts and insights to help others. Unfortunately, I often show up at church with the attitude that the church is there to minister to me. MacArthur writes:
It is often hard in our isolated, individualized culture for us to appreciate the need we have for one another. It is easy for us... to get entrenched in such individual patterns that we do not get close enough to others to discover their needs. The real problem with such a lifestyle is that it often spills over into the church and affects the way we minister - or don't minster - to others.... God never intended for our spiritual walk to be an end in itself. Instead, He wants us to walk in a way that will have a positive influence on other believers and help purify and build up the church.
We must walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) in order to use our spiritual gifts to minister to others.
Instead of blaming the church for not fulfilling its intended role, we should strive instead to fulfill our intended role - living a Spirit-filled life.
What does walking in the Spirit mean? MacArthur writes:
The Greek word for "walk" in Galatians 5:16 could be translated literally "keep on continually walking." The basic idea is that the Christian life unfolds one day at a time. Walking is therefore a very picturesque metaphor that tells us we are to live one step at a time, as a matter of habit and routine. The Holy Spirit is already in us and working on our behalf. Our task is simply to respond and submit moment by moment, step by step, day by day according to His empowering and guiding [which we become aware of through hearing, reading and meditating on
the Scripture, through prayer, and through the ministries of other believers].
One last note about the gifts that the Spirit gives us. You cannot stop in 1 Corinthians 12 after reading about the gifts, not when chapter 12 ends with verse 31: "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." This most excellent way is love - 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter, set right in the middle of the section on spiritual gifts, gives us all the guidance we'll ever need as we allow the Spirit to use us in reaching out to others. We should all be familiar with verse 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." And here is a wonderful verse relating the Holy Spirit and love, that I discovered (or re-discovered) in the process of this study:
Romans 5:5 "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
I am praying for myself, for the other writers this week, and for our churches, that we would be renewed in our walk with the Spirit and inspired to a greater love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.