Friday, March 28, 2008

A Ghostly Dwelling

I realize that I have not been very consistent that last few weeks with my postings, please forgive me. The biggest reason has been I haven't had much of a creative thought to get myself going. That, and add to it the Easter Week "stuff" and well, there's my excuse!

In our ongoing sermon series, "It's Hard to Believe," we are using the proposed revision of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church as a guide for our weekly messages. This week we move to Article Six which deals with the Holy Spirit. The Article reads:

We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.

As I have been thinking about the Person and role of the Holy Spirit I have been reminded that He is the One who really makes the Body of Christ (the church) what it is. And thus the title of this week's blog entry, "A Ghostly Dwelling."

This title comes as a double-edged sword. Is the church a place so dead that only the ghosts of past life remain, or is it a place of the Holy Ghost's dwelling? We of course hope and pray that the latter truth holds sway.

The Holy Spirit's role (note: He's really not a ghost at all) is to bring people to become like Jesus. That "bringing" starts with convicting those without Jesus about their sin and their need for a Savior (John 16:8). Once a person responds to the grace offered in and through Jesus, then the Holy Spirit works to help us to become conformed to the image of God's Son. And to be a holy dwelling, not just as individuals, but as the family of God gathered, the Body of Christ, His Bride, the Church.

The struggle I face today, among many, is how is the church doing as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Is he the indwelling, illuminating, guiding, equipping and empowering God is us that He must be, or has He been relegated to the role of the blessed anointer of our plans and programs?

I am coming to believe that for the last 40 years or so, the focus on the Holy Spirit has been in relationship to our individual lives, rather than to the binding of us together as the Body of Christ. The church's focus, (at least in the west, and specifically in the United States,) has been upon the individual rather than the incarnational aspect of the Body of Christ. There is lots that could be said in this regard, some which has been the topic of this blog in the past, but I would like to address the issue once more as we contemplate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and heart of the church.

A question that was thrown at me many years ago, in the early days of my professional ministry, was, "How long would it take for you to notice if the Holy Spirit left your church's ministry?" Thus, how long would things go on status quo before the bottom dropped out? Sadly, in some of the ministries in which I have been involved in the past, it might have been months, maybe years before we realized that He was "gone." Why? Because He was never really "there" in the first place. That's not to say that He was never actually present, and that He did bless in spite of us many times, but that we were really running on our own power, rather than His.

I think this is a good question to ask on a continuing basis. In light of that I would like to direct you to a couple of other blogs I read today. I don't necessarily agree with everything the blogger writes, but there are many thoughts that resonated with my heart. I encourage you to consider what the author writes. The blog is entitled, "They Love the Church, but Not the Institution" and it comes in two entries. And I encourage you to pray with me, that we would be the church of Jesus Christ, that is we belong to Him, we are His Body, and thus we need to be indwelt, illumined, guided, equipped and empowered by God, the Holy Spirit.

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