I’ve been surprised at how many have told me that these have been some of the only, if not the first, teachings they’ve ever heard about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
It’s obvious that the evangelical Christian tradition has, for the most part, been overly cautious about the Holy Spirit – to the point of hardly teaching about him.
Even our own denominational family, the Church of the Nazarene, which – few people know – was originally named the “Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene” – I think may have over-reacted to controversial views concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit to the point of neglecting Him.
This is tragically ironic for a theological tradition that puts such an emphasis on holistic transformation. And I think we’ve seen the fall-out of our dim view of the Spirit – not just in the Nazarene Church but throughout the broader evangelical movement. If you stress transformation but neglect the source of transformation, you get…legalism. Delightful.
If you teach that Christians should live differently but are too afraid of the Spirit who enables us to be different, then you miss the source of real power for change and your message becomes that of behavior modification. And you end up with really bizarre definitions of what it means to be a Christian – like Christians don’t drink or dance or go to parties – when Christ himself did those things.
Kendra Creasy Dean’s quote haunts me: The church is pretty good at behavior modification, but it stinks at transformation. (The Godbearing Life)
Is the Holy Spirit controversial? Yes. Some of the best scripture we have concerning the role of the Spirit in the Church Paul wrote because people had a confused understanding of the role of the Spirit.
So do we stay away from the Spirit? Do we choose not to seek the continual infilling of the Spirit? Do we avoid teaching about the Spirit? No!
The Holy Spirit is God here and now!
This is as practical and relevant as our relationship with God can get! We’ve got to embrace the Holy Spirit. We need a robust view of the Spirit. Is this dangerous? Yes. But that’s where the good stuff is. Is it mystical? Yes, but aren’t you longing for a spirituality that makes a real difference in real life?
I’d rather make some mistakes and have a dynamic relationship with God… than play it safe and opt for a sterile religious experience.