The Spirit in the Church (part 3)

We have massive edifices and complex organizations all designed to help spread the message of Christ into this world by any means possible. Instead of doing this with a measure of bounty and joy, however, we are sad, and the world considers us sad.

Surely, however, we are not all sad. For despite our lack of noticing and understanding the Spirit continues to go about the business of convincing this world of its sins and redeeming this world so as to become in full what God originally designed. We are sad when we neglect the Spirit’s work and try to work on our own, finding the burdens all too heavy and the yoke frustratingly oppressive. With this we enter into a terrible rhythm of what can only be considered works righteousness even if we might deny such a thing in our testimonies.

We work, and work, and work to do God’s work, burning out, and losing light, to be replaced by others who similarly work and work. The Church is, in military terms, much like a Civil War regiment who gathers in a line of battle and slowly advances in the face of brutal musket fire, not because it works but because that’s how things are done.

That’s not how the Spirit gets things done, but as we have not considered how it is the Spirit does work we have only relied on the methods that have been passed down through the generations, methods which have, from very early on, suffered from a significant lack of Spirit consideration.

The Spirit is entirely not sad. The Spirit works and if we can gain hold of how the Spirit works, and the oftentimes non-intuitive ways the Spirit works, we can begin to experience the fullness of power in this world which convinces people of who Jesus was and is.

Now, what is interesting about the Spirit is we can’t just go and say what we want about the Spirit as though our opinions are binding. With Jesus we are given a set of stories, and a number of prophecies, and a lot of early reflections on who he was. These things give us the primary evidence which we can then use to paint a picture. This picture was wrestled with for centuries, especially in the 4th and 5th century, so that now we have a concept of who Jesus was as a man and who he is as God.

The Spirit, however, is still writing the story. We can go back to Scripture and see how the Spirit worked in the lives of the prophets and heroes and disciples. But, we can’t be limited by this. For the Spirit is still about the very same work, meaning our analysis has to be both a study and an observation. We begin with a look at the Spirit in Scripture then must look around at history even until our very day to determine the methods and styles and approaches the Spirit uses in order to really be a convincing Spirit in this world.

When we see the fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, and the joy of the Spirit then we can get our hands around the fluidity of the Spirit in this world. And in doing this we can embrace those aspects which the Spirit is doing and let go of those aspects which we insist upon as being Christian, but are not really part of the Spirit’s nature.

So much of our churches have been built upon an anemic understanding of the Spirit’s work that we have developed significant amount of structures and styles which are in essence human substitutes for the Spirit, for in our lack of consideration we cannot leave a vacuum but instead create models of church which fill in the blanks, and get us to display ourselves in a way we think is for Christ, even as these things are not really of Christ.

Theology makes a difference, and the sad fact is that our churches should be a reflection of our theology and our understanding of each person of the Trinity. Rather than having a flexible understanding of church, however, we have a committed understanding of Church which is really the only unimpeachable doctrine. For most people the doctrine of the Church trumps all other doctrines, and leaves us in a state of disunity and sadness because having built a lovely building we can’t bear to remodel it just because God has revealed aspects of himself anew.

The Spirit demands doing such, however. And so a renewed study of the Spirit’s style and nature cannot just be a rhetorical exercise but insists upon practical change. In this a thorough study of the Holy Spirit both watches what the Spirit does in this world, and as it learns it also creates. We learn from the Spirit by watching the Spirit’s movements, and we respond to these movements by renewing our churches to best encourage freedom for the Spirit’s methodology.

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