Our Covenant-Making God, We are not Made to Walk Alone: Gen 1:2 and the power of the Spirit.
As a young man I remember a wealthy lady in my village who rode a horse well into her eighties. I also remember hearing that she had left a cottage to her gardener and his wife when she died and thought how nice that was. Now ask yourself a question: what sort of life do you think the gardener would have continued to live if he had not recognised he did not need to pay rent on his house anymore?
There are many Christians who are Christian in name, but not necessarily in power through neglecting the continuing work that is to be done in their lives by the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in our own strength, we fail to acknowledge the Holy Spirit whose work is so necessary I our lives. In a sense He is outside us and whilst we can be encouraged to see how He worked in believers after the resurrection of Jesus, it goes no further than encouragement. Yet when we are asking for the Spirit’s help to mould us on the inside, His work becomes that which we begin to experience first-hand in our own lives.
In Gen 1 we read of the Spirit of God bringing order and differentiation of roles out of a formless world: light and darkness, land and sea and day and night. Throughout scripture we see that the Holy Spirit is the ‘energiser’ of the work of the Triune God. In creation He is spoken of as ‘hovering’ over the waters (speaking of His influence) and the same Hebrew root ‘rachaph’ (translated ‘moved’ in some translations) is found in the song of Moses in imagery speaking of the way God rescued and cared for His people: “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.” Deuteronomy 32:10-11
God calls us back to Himself, out of evil and away from what we have become in the world. In saying this we must recognise that departure from God’s ways is not simply an act of walking way: It is a thought pattern before it is an act. For example, the law says don’t murder (Mat 5:21), but Jesus puts sin back from the act of murder to the thought (Mat 15:19). Sometimes we quench the power of the Holy Spirit because whilst we rightly spend time praying for others, we rarely pray for ourselves and when we do can become preoccupied with, ‘God give me”, instead of “God mould me.”
Whilst on earth, Jesus was always led by the Spirit, revealing not only a trust in what His Father said (John 8:28), but also a dependence on the Father for all things The whole of Jesus’ life was a life of involvement with the Spirit: He spoke and taught by the Spirit (Luke 4:18), cast out demons by the Spirit (Mat 12:28), healed the sick by the Spirit (Mat 12:28; 8:16) and was resurrected by the Spirit (Romans 8:11). Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit is the comforter sent to stand alongside us and help us (Jn 14:16), as would an army coming to help struggling troops.
Our God is one who forges relationships where no relationships existed. He births hope where there was no hope whatsoever, and He empowers us to live out and experience the will of God (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
In Genesis we find imagery of the Holy Spirit that speaks of His power, presence and influence, and in the baptism of Jesus we have imagery that speaks of the Holy Spirit as ‘like a dove’ (Mt 3:16-17). In scripture a dove spoke of peace, as in Genesis where an olive leaf is brought to Noah (Gen 8:11). A world is given back to Noah and heaven comes to earth and anoints Jesus and continues to do so through the on-going work of the Spirit. In Acts we see the imagery of fire accompanying the Spirit (Acts 2:3, Heb 12:28-9), and later Paul writes that we are not to put out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thess 6:19). The Holy Spirit has come to make us in experience what we are in position: Holy; nothing else will suffice. He is also spoken of as the first fruit (Rom 8:22-23): the beginning of the future world here and now. So what does His work look like? One way can be seen as follows -
In the latest magazine from ‘Caring For Life’ there is the story of Kevin who had never had a home of his own since leaving care eleven years ago. Kevin is now being supported by CFL and will soon join the household living on a farm. Peter, the director, writes, “We need to provide a home forever for these lost people, those who don’t even show up in the official homeless statistics, and who are not in any case statistics; they are people made in the image of God, needing to know His love.”
The work of the Holy Spirit helps us overcome wrong thoughts and actions, yet also reaches out in power and authority to help others find their way home to their heavenly Father, so make sure you’re in His power. You have been adopted into His family and there is no need to go it alone.
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba, Father." Rom 8:15
In being adopted into God’s family all our previous records are completely removed because that person no longer exists, so to speak. We are brought close through the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit helps us to engage in His power and blessing as we serve God as sons and daughters of the kingdom. We are a royal priesthood and holy nation (1 Pet 2:9). This does not mean that life is always going to be easy, but it does mean that we never need to go it alone.
Fredrick Buehener, a theologian and author wrote a book (‘Telling Secrets’) in which he spoke of the emotional struggles he experienced as he watched his daughter suffering with anorexia. Before his daughter was hospitalised (an event that saved her life), Fredrick said that if she ate a slice of toast, he was elated, yet found himself sinking to a place of utter hopelessness when his daughter ate nothing the next day. Whilst going through these difficulties he speaks of God’s gentle love and powerful presence in this way: -
“The power that created the Universe and spun the dragonfly’s wing and is beyond all other powers holds back in love, from overpowering us. I have never felt God’s presence more strongly than when my wife and I visited that distant hospital where our daughter was. Walking down the corridor to the room that had her name taped to the door, I felt that presence surrounding me like air – God in his very stillness, holding his breath, loving her, loving us all, the only way he can without destroying us. …little by little the young woman I loved began to get well, emerging out of the shadows finally as strong and sane and wise as anybody I know, and little by little as I watched her healing happen, I began to see how much I was in need of healing and getting well myself. Like Lewis’s dwarves, for a long time I had sat huddled in the dark of a stable of my own making…”
God is with us in all we go through. He does not promise a life of ease but at every turn of the page we can know His victory in and through the power of the Holy Spirit no matter how difficult it may be. At times God may allow us to come face to face with our own weaknesses, but His purpose in doing so is that we may learn to lay hold of His strength.