the spirit leads us to god
We begin our discussion of the Spirit by linking the Spirit to the concept of salvation. The basic understanding of salvation is that God applies the work of Jesus on the cross to human hearts such that those hearts are transformed. This transformation allows human beings to move from self-love to loving God and neighbor. In that way people experience salvation in this moment (becoming the persons God designed them to be) and for eternity (they enter into a never ending relationship with the living God). The question becomes then how does God continually realign human hearts so that, in the face of the siren calls of the world, they continue to love God and neighbor more and more.
The answer is that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that does this. For many of us Presbyterians the Holy Spirit is a concept/entity/person around which it is hard to wrap our heads. We are much more comfortable with God (creator) and Jesus (savior) because they are easier to imagine. The Spirit on the other hand often seems much more like “The Force” in Star Wars; a force which permeates everything and everyone. This view of the Spirit, while somewhat helpful, does not do justice to the complex, personal nature of the Spirit in scripture. The Orthodox view of the Spirit is that it is one “person” of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed (381 CE) puts it this way, “We believe …in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.” In other words the Spirit has a life of its own…it blows where it wills. With all of that having been said let’s take a look at how the Spirit leads us to God.
First the Spirit leads us to God by changing us. In Romans 5:1, 5 we read, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” What Paul wants us to understand is that the reconciliation we have with God is the product of the Spirit’s work of sending the love of God into our lives. This in-pouring of love by the Spirit essentially changes the orientation of our hearts so that we willingly turn to God by seeking the new relationship which God desires to have of us.
Second the Spirit leads us to God by giving us the ability to follow the way of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul writes, “Therefore I want you to understand that…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The willingness to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is the first outward demonstration of a new heart; a heart which is oriented toward God through Jesus. By declaring that Jesus is Lord we begin putting the will of God in Christ first and our own wills second. We follow the way of Jesus toward God.
Third the Spirit leads us to God by making us part of God’s family. In Romans 8:15-16 Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” You and I are now given the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with God. We are able to respond to God’s love as a beloved child to a caring parent.
Fourth and finally the Spirit leads us to God by helping us to pray. Romans 8:26-27 puts it this way. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” In a sense the Spirit enables us to have a deep and profound relationship with God because the Spirit takes our needs and desires, which we cannot fully express, and lays them before God.
God’s love for the world is so deep that it does not end with the sending of Jesus Christ to die on the cross. Rather God’s love is expressed in the never ending work of the Spirit which not only applies that work to our lives but creates an eternal connection between ourselves and God.