Spirit Immersed and Spirit Filled
by Linda Rex
May 28, 2023, Pentecost—A while back I visited a bookstore to try and find a gift book for a friend. As I was wandering the aisles, I came across an entire section of the store dedicated to the supernatural, spiritualism, and gothic themes. The literature available included a full spectrum from white witchcraft to Satan worship, new age to eastern meditative practices.
The size of this section has grown in recent years. It seems there is a deepening hunger for something beyond our physical world, and a longing for there to be some way in which we can control the chaos and turmoil of our lives. We adore our human freedom, but we have not yet learned that freedom is something that must be laid on the altar of love, and used in relationship with Jesus with grace and humility in the service of others rather than of ourselves.
Unfortunately, even our Western religion has fallen prey to our adoration of all things self-focused and self-indulgent. We often talk about having the Spirit move in our world to bring about healing and change. This is good. We like the effects of the Spirit’s presence, to gather in worship and have ecstatic experiences. This is also good. But we’re not always as equally welcoming to the Spirit’s movements to bring about healing and change in us, in our churches, and in our communities. We’re not always immediately responsive to the repentance and change the Spirit is calling us to when the Lord is wanting to do something new.
In 1 Corinthians 12:3b–13, the apostle Paul sought to help the church at Corinth to understand that they were not given the Spirit so that they could impress each other with their spiritual abilities or gifts. They were not given the Spirit so they could cast curses on each other or so they could lord it over one another. Rather, they were given the Spirit for the common good.
In this passage Paul uses the metaphor of the parts of the human body making up a whole as a way of showing that the Church, the body of Christ, was meant to reflect God’s way of being. As the body of Christ, the Church is immersed in the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, enabling its members to participate in Christ, in God’s way of being. Our Father, his Son and his Spirit, are three Persons in one Being. We find within God what is to be reflected within the body of Christ—diversity with equality in unity.
In the divine Being, we see the Spirit’s graces of love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, and so on. We see the Son’s sacrificial service as the Person who came to manifest God’s life and way of being in sacrificial service for others. We see the Father’s actions at work in this world, manifesting his kingdom and his will being done even now, through his Spirit and his Son Jesus. All of the Spirit’s graces, the Son’s sacrificial service, and the Father’s creative and restorative actions are meant to be expressed in and through the Church as the members of the body of Christ receive the Spirit and allow the Spirit to work through them to benefit the world in which they live.
Individually and as congregations, it’s important to make to effort to learn how God has uniquely created us, and how he has specifically gifted us and blessed us with certain abilities. It is also good to grow in our own personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, to learn to listen for the “still small voice” of the Spirit and how to distinguish it from all of the other often louder and more insistent inner voices of self, sin and Satan. We want to get in step with the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, no longer following our own human inclinations, which way too often get us in trouble.
We were created for so much more than just a rational, fleshly existence. As we follow the Spirit’s lead, we participate in what Jesus is doing in this world to bring healing, restoration, renewal and transformation. We aren’t doing things for God, but rather are doing things with Jesus in the Spirit—participating in God’s life and love, allowing him to love and serve others through us. What begins to happen when we get ourselves out of the way and allow Jesus to live in and through us in this way is that the power of God begins to be manifest in tangible ways in this world. This isn’t magic, because we are not the ones in control—God is. As we respond to the Spirit’s lead, God’s life and love is expressed in and through us in caring for those around us and for the world in which we live.
Heavenly Spirit, forgive me for all the ways in which I take you for granted, and the ways in which I grieve, insult, or offend you. Come, heavenly fountain of life, and pour over me anew, immersing me again in your living streams. Each and every day, may I be a ready conduit through which you may change and heal this world, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“… no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually has he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3b–13 ESV
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“Is It Love or Is It Magic?”
by Linda Rex
I was watching an old classic TV series recently called “Nanny and the Professor.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this show, it is about a nanny who helps a professor care for his three children. She has a Mary Poppins-type knack for knowing exactly what is needed in every situation. She always seems to know who’s at the door before they knock or who’s on the phone before it rings. At the beginning of each show, we hear the question being asked about all the amazing things Phoebe Figalilly does: “Is it Love or is It Magic?” And it is left up to the audience to decide.
I think sometimes that the current interest in all types of spirituality blurs the lines for us between what is magic and what is love. Whether we like it or not, our view of God and spirituality is influenced by our culture and all that we see and hear in the media. What we believe about love and being loving is also affected.
The apostle John wrote: “God is love.” That, I believe, is a true statement. But what does it mean?
Does “God is love” mean that love is God? No. Love is a relational property, something expressed. Love in itself is not a being. God is a being, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, who lives in love—love describes his being. It describes how he lives in mutual submission, caring and oneness—in perichoresis.
So if God is love, does that mean that God has to always do nice things for us? I mean, if God is love, how come there are so many nasty things going on in the world—so many hurt people, ruined lives—so much rampant evil? How can God be love and let that happen?
Well, no, God isn’t Phoebe Figalilly who’s going to make everything wonderful for us all the time. And he’s not obligated to do that, even if he is love. Love doesn’t equate automatically with being nice all the time.
And love doesn’t equate with God giving us what we want all the time. That’s a magical God that we can control and use. Magic is something we use to try to manipulate spiritual realities.
But God doesn’t work that way. God is completely free to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. He’s totally free, but he’s also totally love. And he loves us enough that he does not allow us to control, manipulate or use him. He does, rather, allow us to influence him as a child may influence a parent to say yes to his request for a new puppy.
God teaches us, through Jesus, that real love is serving, sacrificial and never works in opposition to what is right, pure, holy and true. Real love is relational in a heavenly way. Real love calls out the best in people—raising them up to be all that God intended them to be when he created them in the first place—a true reflection of himself. Sometimes this means saying “No” or putting boundaries in a relationship. Sometimes real love hurts, causing or experiencing suffering, in order to help and heal.
Much of the evil and suffering we see and experience is the result of our own choices and our own stubborn willfulness. We inflict it on one another, even sometimes without realizing we are doing it. Sometimes love allows people to feel the full impact of the consequence of their choices—not to hurt them, but to motivate them to repent and change. God does this with us.
I think there is a huge difference between magic and love, one that God demonstrates to us through his Son Jesus Christ. Real love can be seen and experienced in a personal relationship with God in Christ by the Spirit. Real love can be seen and experienced as we reflect God in Christ by the Spirit in our relationships with one another.
But God isn’t interested in our magic incantations, our self-help programs, or worship rituals that we use to try to somehow get God to do what we want—to try to fix problems or heal people. God can do that all by himself and often does do that without any of our help. He likes to include us in his miracles—but only as participants, not as magicians. It’s not about magic—it’s all about love.
“Holy God, forgive us, please, for all the times and ways in which we try to manipulate, control and use you. Forgive us for seeing you as something to fix things with rather than as a person to relate to in love. Thank you that your great love goes beyond anything we can ask or imagine, and that you have our best interests at heart all the time. Perfect us in your holy love in Jesus. In your name, Father, Son and Spirit—you who alone are God. Amen.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn 13:34–35