Coop's Column - Spirit at Work: The Transformer's Aim
The Spirit’s aim is to give people aim in life. He seeks to direct them along a path which shall enable them, at their life’s close, to have marked progress in learning Christ’s deeper ways, in growing to love him more and more.
In the last article we pointed out the Holy Spirit’s crucial work of “writing us into the story of salvation,” as Eugene Peterson puts it, and prompting us to trust Jesus’ promises and obey his commands. In this article we shall focus on the Spirit’s specific mission to make us saints—persons who aspire to live in, with, like and for Jesus.
Let’s start at the end—a very good place to start. The Spirit’s aim is to give people aim in life. He seeks to direct them along a path which shall enable them, at their life’s close, to have marked progress in learning Christ’s deeper ways, in growing to love him more and more. Jesus’ own goal in life, of course, was focused upon doing his Father’s will (cf Heb. 10.7) and thus bringing his Father delight. The Spirit aids Jesus’ followers to make that their aim, too—their laser-sharp aim.
Now, let’s go back to the beginning. Sin causes disarray in human lives. Satan jerks people around, and deviously conspires to make them go astray. (Cf Ezekiel 48.11; I Cor. 6.9) Persons without the Spirit are as undirected as a litter of young beagles on bungee cords. Within every sinful person’s heart, says Thomas Kelly, there exists a “whole committee of selves,” each jockeying for position and prominence. “Each self..…is a rank individualist, not cooperative, but shouting out his vote for himself when voting time comes. And even when a consensus is reached, the disgruntled minority agitates on the streets of the soul.”
So, when God’s Spirit sets out on his mission to transform a person, that soul is desperately wandering and lost.He feels unfulfilled and empty. Jesus’ followers must plead continually:
“O Lord, grant me heavenly wisdom that I may learn, above all things, to seek thee and to find thee, to relish thee and to love thee, and to order all things as they are according to thy purpose.”
(Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ).
They must pray regularly, too, for the Spirit to guide them—to direct their heart’s deepest affections and allegiances aright, and to empower them to live as God intends. Continually they must make the Psalmist’s cry their own:
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth, and teach me. (Psalm 25.4-5a)
Saints also implore the Spirit for the discipline necessary to help them maintain their life’s direction by careful intention. For:
“As our purpose is, so shall our progress be, and there is need for much discipline for him who wisheth to advance much.” (The Imitation of Christ)
Christ-imitating, Father-glorifying, Spirit-prompted discipline is practiced best in the company of fellow Christians assembled for worship. Why? Because two facts are incontrovertibly true:
First, no Christian ever walks optimally alone. She needs fellow pilgrims to help her stay on the right path, to encourage her along the way.
Second, In the sanctuary of God’s presence—that is, in corporate worship—the Spirit pours energy into human hearts for acts of obedience, acts of praise along the way.
In worship believers’ hearts get set on pilgrimage again; their lives and loves become reoriented toward giving the Triune God due adoration and thanks, appropriate praise and glory
During Sunday worship many Christians use their hands to make the sign of the cross upon themselves. With this gesture they are declaring again what the entire Trinity once said about them when they were baptized. They touch their heads for the Father, in whose mind they were first conceived and whose thought gave them birth. They touch their hearts for the Son, whose love for them led him to Calvary and whose heart instructs their own hearts. They touch their shoulders for the Spirit, who, as Greg Kendra says, “gives us strength,…carries us on his shoulders…and enables us to be God’s arms, working on earth.”
CS Lewis once said: “The church exists for nothing else but to draw [people] into Christ, to make them little Christs.” I would add: The Spirit aims to make them icons—visible expressions—of the Trinity.
What a way to go at living: to aim daily to live like Jesus did, and thus to bring delight to God.
Similarly, what a way to head toward dying: to look back with joy upon a life lived carefully in trust and obedience toward God.; and to look forward with hope to joining the company of saints triumphant whose chief aim—“in a nobler, sweeter song”—is to bring the Triune God ever richer praise, ever purer devotion.
O Thou Spirit Divine, all my nature refine, till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. Amen