May 8, 2015

The Holy Spirit and motivations

Galatians 5:22-23, Judges 13:1–14:20, Philippians 3:12–4:1, Psalm 69:1–17

In the New Testament, being filled with the Holy Spirit means bearing the fruit of the Spirit. This includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The Old Testament uses different terms for how the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of people. Instead of being in them, He is said to come upon them which seems to describe the hand of God moving them externally rather than internally, taking control of their actions rather than their motivations.

The story of Sampson illustrates this. He was a rash young man, controlled mostly by physical desire. He picked for a wife a Philistine, the enemies of Israel. He was not using rational thought, nor was he listening to his parents who told him he should not marry her. When he did, she showed no loyalty to him. For whatever reason, he made up a riddle and told her people if they figured out the answer, he would give them a reward, some garments. His wife wheedled the answer to the riddle out of him, and Sampson lost the bet. He also lost his wife.

And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man. (Judges 14:19–20)

The whole story shows God at work and the Holy Spirit at work, but not as I would expect if I only read the NT. God had a plan to defeat the Philistines using this man (who was included in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11). It wasn’t through the “nice” fruit of the Spirit, but through the anger of God against sin.

Sometimes I need more of that anger. When I read passages in the NT that speak of being like Jesus, I generally think of the loving, kind Jesus that is such a blessing to my own spirit. However, Jesus also made a whip and drove the money-changers out of the temple. He called the religious leaders “white-washed sepulchers” and even became annoyed at His disciples for their dense slowness.

Paul talked about spiritual maturity: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:12–16)

For me, what lies behind is not always lack of love, peace, joy and so on. Sometimes it is a fearful lack of expressing the indignation of God at sin. Thinking about those things that really rile me, perhaps I should let that anger motivate me beyond prayer to action concerning things like child abuse, child labor, brutality, immorality in the media, and so on. Another one that deeply bothers me also was a concern that Paul also shared....

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18–19)

I’ve relatives hopelessly involved in a cult is an enemy of the cross of Christ. This cult holds them in fear rather than giving them hope and freedom in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only does this break my heart, it makes me highly indignant. How dare that old ‘liar’ imprison people with his deceit!

My own sins make me angry too. Nevertheless, anger is not sufficient for salvation. Only Jesus can forgive and cleanse my heart. “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.” (Psalm 69:5–6) I pour out my heart to Him, for the wrongs I have done, for the sins of others too, and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit in the power of His saving mercy.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. (Psalm 69:16–17)

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