Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Holy Spirit and You

My first year in full-time ministry was 1987. I had just graduated from seminary and was appointed to be associate pastor at Lamar United Methodist Church. While I didn’t lack for book learning, I was woefully ignorant in the area of spiritual formation – understanding how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

Fortunately, God had a plan to help me learn and grow. There was one other associate pastor in town; her name was Arlis Thompson and she served at the Foursquare Church. (Her son is now active at BUMC.) She generously shared with me much of what she had learned about the work of the Holy Spirit. With the background and resources she provided, I began to understand how the Spirit had been at work in my own life since I received Christ into my life as a teenager. And I began to see how I could teach others about the Spirit’s work.

In May, Ken and I did a short sermon series on how God helps us through the Holy Spirit. Since then, people have approached me with a few questions, so I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few ways to think about the Spirit’s work. If you believe in Jesus as your Lord, the Holy Spirit is active in your life.

The Holy Spirit is the inner presence of God in our lives. The Divine Spirit dwells with God the Father and Christ the Son in the heavenly realms, but the Spirit also dwells with us. In this age, Jesus can’t be here with us in the flesh, but his Spirit lives within us. It is the Spirit who bears witness that we are children of God; it is the Spirit who abides with us so that God is always with us.

The Holy Spirit is also the sap of divine life within us that helps us become new people. We live in a culture in which we are measured by what we do, but God is far more interested in who we are. God desires us to grow in character and maturity, to become people who reflect the character and maturity of Christ. When Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, he is describing how the Spirit transforms us with new life. We become more and more like Christ, reflecting his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We cannot become like Christ unless his spiritual life is flowing through us. Each of us can produce a positive harvest of character traits because we are connected to the Living Christ.

But the Holy Spirit empowers us for action, too. Each of us receives spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is an ability provided by the Holy Spirit so we can serve God in a special way. Spiritual gifts are above and beyond our natural talents or strengths; our gifts equip us to minister in unique ways. Our gifts also motivate us; we find fulfillment in using them. If you look at Romans 12, you will see a list of spiritual gifts that are often called “motivational gifts.” Very likely, you are enthusiastic about using at least one of these gifts in ministry. Discovering your gifts can help you find your sweet spot of service. What do you love to do for God?

God provides many other spiritual gifts, too: Speaking gifts, serving gifts, and signs and wonders. The New Testament lists at least 25 different gifts. If you want to learn how God has equipped you, I have two Spiritual Gifts Discovery Surveys you can take (a short survey and a long one). I believe you will enjoy learning more about your gifts – and putting them to use.

The beautiful thing about our spiritual gifts is that God intends us to use them together – in community – so his will can be done on the earth, as it is in heaven. As you know, our BUMC vision is to make community in the image of Jesus. Fortunately, we don’t have to produce community on our own; it is the Spirit who empowers us in this task. As we share our spiritual gifts in common goals, we experience God’s power, and we accomplish God’s will. If we tried to do all of this on our own, we would burn out in a blaze of glory. When we operate in God’s power, we burn with Christ’s love, and all the glory is his.

Thomas Cross is one of the pastors at BUMC, starting his seventh year here.  He loves to help people grow in Christ and start new small groups.  He says his passion is ‘to introduce people to the God I know through Jesus Christ, the God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’  He enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to movies, working out, collecting art, listening to jazz music, and watching the Broncos for fun.  And he has a blast meeting with the diverse small groups he facilitates! 

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