Release the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is undoubtedly the most misunderstood part of the Godhead.  We forget that He is a person, has specific roles in the life of the Christian, and even that He is working when we do not directly see his work. 

The Spirit supplements our conscience convicting us of God's law.  John 14:26 says, but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.  Jesus says further of the Spirit in John 16:12-15:

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

The spirit teaches us and guides us in the ways we should go, He gives us commands from God that Jesus did not reveal on His time on earth.  But regarding the world, Jesus tells us:

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged (John 16:8-11).

It is through the conviction of the Spirit that the world sees sin and calls out to God for salvation.  He convicts us, believers and non-believers alike, of the sin present in this world and prepares our heart for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and once we see our destitution and our failure to control our life; the problem of our sin, then we are ripe to respond to the Gospel of the faithful believers whom are called to preach.  Paul tell us that we have a critical role in the salvation of others:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! (Romans 10:14-15)”

We are to preach...and America has done a good job of talking about God, but I fear in our methods we quench the Spirit and we try to teach an easy path to salvation based on methodology and easy steps.  The free gift of God may be free, but it is not easy.  We talk of the ABC's of salvation, but we have forgotten D: Die to yourself!  Jesus says:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23-26).

The gift of eternal life through Jesus is indeed free, but it is also costly.  Jesus elaborates further when he says, if anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26-27). I have noticed a disturbing trend, particularly in children and youth programs, that making a simple prayer of salvation the end result of the program.  We have created and fine-tuned our approach, set up the steps, created the perfectly designed programs to teach a simple and watered down 'love' of God and the false truth that if we close our eyes and pray, all the monsters will go away and He will perfectly direct us to safety.  God may act in this manner, but we are not promised that!  Jesus said, "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also (John 15:20)." We need to consider that James reminded us to look toward the prophets as an example of suffering and patience (James 5:10).  Hebrews 11 contains many great stories to tell your kids about what happens when you follow God:

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection (Hebrews 11:32-35).

These are the tales that are used to tell the children about following God.  But in recent years as I participate in these events, I have seen that Bibles are never present in the teachings, just the guidebooks written by those that made the curriculum, and it is no wonder that we do not want the Bible opened to Hebrews 11 to learn of the great results to follow God: They might accidentally read to far and see this:

And others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground (Hebrews 11:35-38).

Sadly, it is hard for a teacher will little to no experience in the Bible to answer the questions that kids will ask if this verse is brought up.  This verse is one of many that will deny the simple three-step plan of salvation that leads to a perfect life. America, we are quenching the Spirit!  We have so thought through our programs and filled every second of time with an activity, and leave no room for real interaction or for God to come into our midst and perform a wonderful work.  We are like the person that steps in when the teacher is stumbling because we are not sure where he is going with the lesson, only we are interfering with God and His work on the people of the world.  We need to teach the Bible, we need to talk with the kids in our programs, we need to stop putting faith in a curriculum and seek His true face in the conflict and turmoil of our lives! Let's repent of these programs and return to times of teachers being qualified to teach because of their testimony and their personal longing for the Word of God.  The author of Hebrews 11 provides me with the perfect conclusion here: And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.