Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, however, many Christians don’t have a Trinitarian view. For them, the story of Jesus is completed with his death and resurrection. In doing so they see the point of God the Father (who sent Jesus) and of Jesus the Son (who revealed God to humanity), but they don’t know what to do with God the Holy Spirit. In fact, they replace the work of the Holy Spirit (which Jesus said was to continue teaching us and applying what Jesus taught to our lives) with the Bible.
Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Joh 14:26 NRS).
This popular Trinitarian omission misses the entire point of Jesus’s life and death – and leaves us with a “Jesus came so we could go to heaven when we die” mentality and a “the Bible is not only perfectly perfect in every way, but transcends culture and time” mentality. However, Jesus didn’t come just to die and be resurrected so that we could go to heaven. He came to give us eternal life, which begins long before we die. He did this by giving us (something far better than even the Bible) the very Spirit of God to indwell those willing to be indwelled.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Joh 3:16 NRS). Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Joh 17:3 NRS).
The work Christ did in his life, death, and resurrection enables humanity to receive the Holy Spirit and be in relationship with God. Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit arrived. No longer would our relationship to God be mediated by a priest or a religion or a list of rules or even the scripture, instead we would have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. We would have God’s wisdom and power within us.
“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pe 2:5 NRS).
The problem is that so few of us allow the Holy Spirit to live within us. We fail to give the Spirit permission to transform us. We don’t take time to listen to the Spirit’s guidance so that we know how to be the hands and feet of Christ. We don’t allow the Spirit to speak through scripture into our world today – instead we strap on words meant for another culture without interpretation. We don’t depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us. We box the Spirit up and tell it to behave. We make it impossible for the Spirit to talk to us, guide us, or empower us. We have no wisdom or power to be the hands and feet of Christ. We do absurd things in the name of God – instead of things that love, heal, and serve our world.
Because you are God’s children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6 NRS).
The Spirit longs to transform us! Let it! The change we will see is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
April describes herself as a Red Letter Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs: The Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James. Great for group Bible studies!