Friday, 19 September 2014
Why Study the Holy Spirit?
There’s something that strikes us as wrong about studying the Holy Spirit. Do you agree?
Here’s how I’d put it. I’m fine with studying the character of God. That’s a glorious topic, certain to fill not just my mind, but my whole self with life-changing truth. I love to study my Savior. The details of his life draw me into worship, which changes me. But study the Spirit?
I guess it seems impossible. How can you pin down the Wind? How can you understand the Spirit? It also sounds impersonal. Academic study has never helped me grow closer to any of my other friends. Frankly it sounds dangerous. Like pinning a butterfly to a foam board, it might destroy life in the name of understanding it.
Two possible reasons.
On the other hand there are those of us who are very happy to study the Holy Spirit, as long as he stays at arm’s distance. Study, in fact, is a way to keep him distant. We are ok with intellectual growth, but frankly, a little afraid that he will make further demands on us, maybe try to give us unsolicited gifts. Or send us out on witnessing campaigns. Or show up unexpectedly and act in ways that embarrass us. Studying sounds safe.
There is a better reason. God wants us to study the Holy Spirit so we can experience more of his ministry. It is a way to seek him. That’s why he has made the invisible Spirit knowable through the pages of Scripture. That’s why he has sent the Spirit into the heart of each believer. That’s why he is generous to answer our prayers for more of the Spirit. The way to grow in the Spirit is to study and ask.
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8
We seek God’s face when we seek to know more of the Holy Spirit.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Spirit to those who ask. Luke 11:13
The Father is good, so good that he gives the best gift of all to his children, His Spirit.
So whether your understanding exceeds your experience of the Spirit or vice versa, God wants to give you more. That’s because the Holy Spirit is the best gift he can give believers. All who have believed in Jesus Christ have him, but all of us need more of him. Jesus is our standard. He was given the Spirit without measure. Doesn’t that motivate you to study and ask for more?
With him comes the power to live the Christian life. We have been given the very life of God within. J. I. Packer puts it this way:
“For where the Spirit’s ministry is studied, it will also be sought after, and where it is sought after, spiritual vitality will result.
[T]hose who have thought about and sought after the power of the Spirit in their own lives have regularly found what they were seeking, for in such cases our generous God does not suspend his blessing upon our getting details of theology all correct.
I’m so glad God doesn’t wait for us to get our doctrine right before he blesses us. He gave Jesus and he gave the Spirit–the two hands of the Father to save us.