Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What Power?

To what degree have we cast an image of the Spirit that is powerless, since that sits well with our own experience? We howl when we see individuals man-handle the Word and practice some form of eis-egesis (reading their viewpoints into the text) rather than ex-egesis (developing the text's conclusions from out of the text). And we are instantly critical of those who, evilly shaped by the culture around us, make God in our own image, into what we want Him to be, instead of us being re-made in His image, into what He wants us to be. But then, where is the outrage when we conceive of the Holy Spirit apart from the concept of power?

Gordon Fee shows at the end of his chapter on the use of the word "spirit" in his book, "God's Empowering Presence," that there is such a strong, explicit connection between "spirit" and "power" in so many texts, that, even when the word "spirit" is used without the word "power," we must still think about what power is being exercised; and, when the "power" is used without a direct reference to the Spirit, we would do well to think about how the Spirit is involved. The connection is that close. He does not say that every time one word or the other is used, that the author necessarily has the other in mind. He just says that there is a good chance of it.

In my mind, the Spirit is holy. He is active in our sanctification. The Spirit is the Comforter. He provides assurance and a sense of God's presence. The Spirit is a guide. He helps in discernment. He helps in our prayers. But in my experience, the Spirit is not powerful. Oh, I'm sure He can be, and that He has been at some times in some places. But not here and now. Not lately. My eyes have glossed over the strong Biblical evidences of the connection between Spirit and power that do not fit my experience. And I want my experience to conform to this Biblical portrait of God's Spirit whose activity is powerful.

I understand that the Spirit's power is different from the world's conceptions of power. While the world may base their definitions of power on military strength or economic leverage or political clout, the Spirit's power may reveal itself in an enduring faith, and in sacrificial love, and in an other-worldly hope that rejects would-be, easy-access saviors. These examples may seem benign, but even these are surprising and shocking. They are evidences that cannot be explained.

I also understand that the Spirit's power can be experienced just as much in the undertow as in the crashing wave. But in either case, it is still a power that is felt; a power that matters; a power that we must not do without.

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