I know, I know...
It's been months since I have managed to sit down and post a blog entry. And now that I am doing so, it's Easter week and I'm skipping right over the crucifixion and resurrection to post about Pentecost, which is more than a month away... Well, the topic has been on top of my meditation and prayer for some time now.
I recently found a newly published study on the subject from the Barna Group (Christian research stuff). And in their study the noted something that I find interesting, frustrating, challenging, and motivating.
Here are a few things that the study found when interviewing nearly 1000 Christians between 18 and 44.
1. Self-identification as a "charismatic" or "pentecostal" Christian is nearly equal across all political, denominational, age and geographic considerations. The figure hovers at near 1/4 of all self-described "Christians."
2. Roughly 2/3 of self-described Christians in this age group consider the Holy Spirit as just a "symbol of God," contradicting His role as the 3rd person of the trinity.
3. While the age group listed above is more likely to embrace the terms "charismatic" or "pentecostal," older Christians are significantly more likely to assert that they sense the Holy Spirit guiding their lives.
While I know that language is much more fluid for younger generations, and the use of terminology in these studies might have less significance for those interviewed than it has for me, I find some things very unsettling. I take Jesus' statement seriously, "It is for your good that I am going away... if I go away I will send [the Counselor] to you." (John 16:7) And a careful reading of John 14 makes the significance of the Holy Spirit to believers much more powerful.
A symbol takes this active person of the trinity and marginalizes Him, when Jesus (the God-man we follow) put Him at the center of the activity of the Church He came to build. He is a* powerful being of necessary importance to every authentic follower of Jesus Christ. A symbol will never work here. The cross we wear on a chain is a symbol. The cross on which Jesus hung was not a symbol. The American flag is a symbol. The nation of the USA and our personal devotion to it, is not a symbol. The dove in the picture above is both a bird, and a symbol. The bird symbolizes the Holy Spirit. But it is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, indwelling, empowering, guiding, and training us (just to name a few things).
Now, I don't care which genuinely Christian term you like for yourself. But I do care if you practice a Christianity that relies on God for more than a free pass out of Hell I care if you practice a Christianity that is more than a popular club of spiritualists. I care if you practice a religion of empty practices or authentic faith. God is fully vested in our faith-filled life. And God is present, as promised by Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit, to guide our every decision, activity, relationship, and our spirituality. Yes, reliance on the Holy Spirit in an on-going, connected, communicating relationship seems necessary to anyone who considers their self to be a disciple of Jesus.
Consider reading Francis Chan's book The Forgotten God, to get some insight and inspiration to make your relationship with the Holy Spirit fully Biblical.
Maybe now is a good time to talk to God about your current situation and to rely on the Holy Spirit to give you supernatural guidance. Jesus sent him for you. And He is here for you right now.
* I think the word "a" might be better understood if the word "the" were in it's place. I'm not sure how to balance my theology in the syntax of that sentence. The Holy Spirit is FULLY God and therefore "the"; and the Holy Spirit is 1 of 3 persons of God's being and therefor "a". Just ponder all of that as you reflect on all of this post.