Infused In Spirit
“As the Lord put on the body…so Christians put on the Holy Spirit, and are at rest” (St. Macarius the Great).
Christianity is a divine exchange. The Word of God clothed himself in flesh so that we can cloth ourselves in spirit. Drop an ice cube into lukewarm water. The ice melts and the water cools. The Holy Spirit has a similar impact. Drop heaven into humanity, and humanity becomes a little more like heaven.
“Now I am going to him who sent me…I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:5-6).
This is a difficult scripture. You can sympathize with the apostles who were baffled then as we might be today. They were sad when they heard it. They wanted Christ with them forever, just like old times, and you can understand why. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit at his feet or listen to him speak? It is easy to be jealous of Thomas, who, in his doubting, was able to reach out and feel the wounds in our Lord’s hands. Yet, even Thomas and the others had to watch Christ ascend into heaven. They stood and gazed while the Son of God grew farther and farther away. Why?
“If I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…” Christ goes on, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn. 16:5-6, 13).
The disciples knew Jesus in a merely human way, and that is the problem. So often, our relationship with God is just that. It is skin-deep. We have a dose of faith in our secular life, and feel justified. Religion becomes an extra pill to calm our nerves. We would like a spoonful of faith when God prefers us to drink to the dregs. As they were, the disciples could not really know Jesus Christ. Their eyes were shut. Without the Holy Spirit within them, stretching them, transforming them, they were blind men. So it is with us.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is a gentle rebuke to Christians who have become stagnant. Listen to these words in the fifth chapter:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hb. 5:11-14).
The NIV translation is a little soft. In the Greek, the passage starts out this way: “ἐπεὶ νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς.” Nωθροὶ is a fun word. It means: ‘complacent, indolent, no longer pushing, sluggish.’ When we become sluggish, we can no longer think straight. We become dumb, like the straw man without a brain. We are lifeless skin and bones, without the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. The Book of Proverbs says, “Sluggishness brings on deep sleep, and an idle soul will suffer hunger. He who keeps a commandment preserves his soul; but he who is careless in his ways will die” (Pr. 19:15-16). This is what has happened in our nation and to our churches. It is in the air we breathe. We have no hope, until we saturate ourselves in the light of God’s spirit.
St. Paul writes to the Romans: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). Or, in his simple words, C. S. Lewis explains, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” We must aim for heaven. Contemplate heaven. Lift your thoughts to God. Strive after righteousness and God will take care of the rest.