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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yes, Virginia, there is a Holy Spirit!!!

There are two kinds of kids that don't get any toys from Santa on Christmas and they are not necessarily excluded from each other. One kind are kids who are bad, who don't pick up their toys or do what their loving parents tell them to do. You only get toys if you are a good kid.

The other kind are kids who don't believe in Santa which means they don't expect Santa to do any good for them like give them toys. They will manage without Santa's toys. But as you can imagine, it is often because bad kids are bad and don't expect toys for being good so they excuse their disappointment by refusing to be taken in by belief in Santa.

Now the reason bad and/or unbelieving children do not get toys is not because Santa is some magical law or mysterious fairy compound that fails to work unless the brain chemistry of kids is balanced in a certain way. Santa is not some impersonal principle that has not been activated to get the desired result. The reason bad and unbelieving kids don't get presents from him is precisely because Santa is a person. Santa's actions are reasonable for one who wants to do good but not to reward evil or to those who refuse it. Further, not only is Santa a person but Santa is also the one taking the initiative. The presents that good children receive are not entitlements but remain gifts.

Santa is s myth and the Holy Spirit is not. But Santa is misunderstood by bad kids in the same way the work of the Holy Spirit is misunderstood by defeated Christians.

One of the great blessings of salvation according to the message of the apostles about Jesus is that those who hear and receive the Good News about Christ is that they are said to be sealed with the Holy Spirit and that this sealing preserves them as Christ's for all eternity. The Holy Spirit is the Agent of Divine life on the life of the believer not just at the resurrection of the dead but even now while they live. He is the real basis for the believer's union with Christ.

One of the blessings that comes with this real union is the growth of Christian virtues as the Fruit of the Spirit. Yet because these blessings are said to be secured and because sinfulness is never perfectly removed in life, Christians tend to think about this in naturalistic and physicalistic ways as if this was an automatic process, sort of like a fuel pump of the soul. But this distorts their expectations and they come to doubt when they don't spiritual growth increasing by some identifiable formula.

But this forgets that the Holy Spirit is not a thing or a law or a stuff. The Spirit is a person - Divine Person in Communion with the Trinity from all eternity who covenanted with the Father and Son to deliver the Christian's life.

The security of the Holy Spirit's life giving work is not secured as a law but as a gift secured through a promise. The Spirit cannot by shut off or fail to activate. But He can be grieved and quenched.

He is grieved by our continuing in sin and our neglect of our character. When we try to ignore our sins or try to deny how sin deceives us it is not surprising that we don't see progress in our life.

The Spirit is quenched when we stop trusting in Him to be our seal. When our prayer is cold or flippant or when we neglect to pray or worship or give or serve or in any other way fail to show our gratitude or trust, we cannot be surprised by our lack of progress in the Christian life.

So we discover that the "secret" to the fruitful Christian life is to neither grieve nor quench the Spirit, that is to keep turning from sin and trusting in God's promises. The conditions for continuing in the Christian life are the same as the conditions for beginning the Christian life; repentance and faith. But this is no growth that we credit to ourselves but is only made true in our lives by the gift of the Spirit.

So just as we can understand how good and expectant kids can look forward to presents from Santa, we can also understand how Christians who trust and obey can expect fruit from the Spirt. Yes, Virginia, there is a Holy Spirit!!!