Invisible Spirit of Visible Presence…
(Repeated devotional from last week because of the change in preaching schedule.)
As someone who admittedly can become obsessive with details, I try my best to not think too much about the things that are outside of my understanding (or control). One of those things is the air we breathe. It’s everywhere. It’s inside of you, outside of you, it is filling every empty space. It is filling the place you are reading this devotional right now. And yet, we can’t really see it, can we? We might not be able to fully see or understand this “air” that fills our atmosphere, but we can certainly see (and feel) its effects.
As the seasons turn, we can definitely feel the existence of the air, as it chills our bones and forces our bodies to shuffle a little quicker from place to place. We also can SEE the existence of the air as we see leaves blowing off the trees, streetlights swaying, and garbage cans tipping over into the street (maybe that’s just me…)
This reminds me a bit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. We know it exists. We know the promise of the Spirit’s presence in the Body of Christ. Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit (the power that raised Him from the dead) will now live within us so that we too can be “in Christ as Christ is in the Father”. Consistent references of the Spirit at work in the life of Jesus and in the life of the Early Church throughout the New Testament.
But, what if we don’t feel the Spirit like other people say they do? What about those times that we still feel alone? What about those times we feel “empty”? The church talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. But those conversations can lead to confusion, and even tug at our faith, if we don’t know what the Spirit truly provides us.
Sometimes, we just can’t seem to “see” the Holy Spirit at work. But we are not told that we can summon the Holy Spirit like a magic spell and force it to do our bidding. We are not told to follow the Spirit the same way we are told to follow Jesus. We are explicitly told to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit.
In Ephesians, as Paul is trying to reveal to the church how to live out the Kingdom ethics and cruciform ways of Jesus, he is quite explicit in his instructions when it comes to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 5, Paul is highlighting the contrasts between the ways of the world and the ways of Jesus. He speaks harshly against things like immorality, greed, hateful speech, and how we are not only to have “nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” These fruitless deeds of the world are not hard to find. They are in plain sight. The “exposure” is when these deeds of darkness are contrasted with the deeds of light by the Spirit-filled Body of Christ.
The language of drunkenness is used to further highlight this contrast. In this sense, when you are drunk or “filled” with something, whatever fills you is what takes control. When we are drunk with the sins of the world, we are led down a path that is harmful to ourselves and those around us. When we are filled with the Spirit, we are led down a path that leads to a fruitful life that is nourishing to ourselves and those around us.
The Holy Spirit’s existence is evident in our lives when the Fruit of the Spirit is evident. We don’t physically see the Spirit. It is the fruit that we see. It is the fruit that people can feel. In a world that questions the presence of God, people that are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are those spiritual movements, those breathes of fresh air that remind us that God is with us and that His Spirit is at work.