Thursday, November 16, 2006

Struggling with a Life in the Spirit

No, not necessarily my life in the Spirit, but this Bible Study that I am currently enduringstudying. I try not to be negative about the way studies go, but I am really struggling here. So, maybe by blogging it out, I'll find the answers I'm needing. I'll welcome feedback, but you may also feel free to skip this post as it is rambling and self-serving.

OK, the deal is that I am participating in this study. It is a LifeWay study and I was incredibly excited because the other LifeWay studies I have done have majorly changed my life (think Henry Blackaby Experiencing God and all the Beth Moore studies). I have needed to just be taught for a while, and now I have the opportunity. And although I am learning, it is more from arguing with the study than absorbing from it, if that makes any sense. And I am frustrated. But I'm more frustrated with last night's/week's study. (Note: we have the weekly quizzes ahead of time and since they are taking me longer than the 10 minutes or so in class, I'm doing them ahead).

Last week's topic was "A New Creation" and is talking about the part in redemption that the Holy Spirit plays. The question was posed,
"In this unit we focused more on Jesus than on the Holy Spirit, so it may surprise you to realize we considered at least 8 activities of the Spirit! In the short blanks, name as many of the activities as possible."
At best I could come up with 7 out of the study, and I really think 2 of them were stretching it but I did copy the list of six from the book. I listed: conviction, justification, regeneration (the author uses this interchangeably with redemption), forgiveness of sin, faith (as in empowering a person to believe), and repentence. I added the incarnation because without that the work would not have been able to start in me. I suspected that the 8th was empowering/enabling us to serve, but can't really find where he says that in the study. If I had just brain-stormed activities of the Holy Spirit my first would have been conviction followed by intercession for me at the throne of Christ. So far, intercession has not come up in the book (but we are only on week 4 of 10). I was NOT confident in any of my answers.

So class time comes. The pastor says that we are going to brainstorm these together (in other words, he didn't find 8 either, lol). But when it came time to consolidate our lists he asked for "six (not eight) core activities of the Holy Spirit." The list was put up: Incarnation, Enabling of Jesus' ministry, Sacrifice of Jesus', Resurrection, Conviction, Regeneration. He asked if we are all happy with the list. There is an uncomfortable silence. He asks again. I'm not comfortable so I speak up. I express that "maybe it is splitting hairs" but I have a problem with four of the six core activities of the Spirit relating only to Jesus and being already accomplished. I see the Holy Spirit living and working today, and this seems incongruent. He pointed me to an activity in the book which paralleled five activities of the Spirit in Jesus' life with mine (Jesus' birth parallels my new birth, Jesus's empowerment to serve parallels my service, Jesus' resurrection parallels my eternal life, etc). He contends that the activities in the Jesus life are the same as in our life. I could have pointed him 8 pages further in the book where my list came from, but I didn't because that wasn't the point. And if Jesus' birth parallels my new birth which comes by conviction and redemption, why are Conviction and Regeneration separated from the Incarnation? He asks if I'd be happier saying "significant activities" instead of "core." *shrug* It doesn't change my struggle that much. (Aside: AARGH! No wonder Christians can't agree on doctrines of the Holy Spirit, we can't even agree on the terminology.) Anyway, obviously, I still was not convinced, but no one else is talking so I shut up. And we talk about the Holy Spirit's role in Jesus' life and if Jesus needed the Spirit, who are we to say we can go it without the Spirit's help. And I see the point, but I'm left, wanting....something.

I KNOW the Spirit is alive and at work in me. I hear the daily/hourly/sometimes minutely voice of conviction in my life. I know that is the work transforming me to be more like Christ. I know that when I don't have a clue how to pray, the Spirit knows how and does pray. I know all of this. I can't tell you how I know anymore than I can tell you how I know that my children love and trust me. I just know it. And I want to know how to connect with that more. It is not that I don't believe that the Spirit was an integral part of the life of Jesus. I do. But I find it tedious to separate in such an academic sense what was the work of Jesus and what was the work of the Spirit. And maybe that is my struggle, I don't need to separate Jesus from the Spirit, I just need to learn more about the spirit at work in my life. I don't even know how to ask the questions, I just know I need something else.

See the struggle? I can't even articulate it. Which is sooo frustrating. So here is my question for you (since you got this far): In your life what are the core activities of the Spirit and how does that play out for you? Maybe by hearing your experiences I can separate from the academic study and just relate to the Spirit living in me. Thanks for staying with me!


Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think there are times where we are going to disagree and it is okay. Go with what your feeling because someone else maybe feeling the same way and just not speaking out about it. Talk with God and he will reveal his feelings on this matter.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, that's an excellent question. I'm going to have think about this...

Kim Anderson said...

sounds like your study leader was less interested in fostering a profitable discussion and more interested in being 'right'.

Never mind. The Holy Spirit works around folks like that. ;^)

In my life, the Holy Spirit sustains my life in Christ, holding me together with Him (Col."upholding all things by the word of His power.."). He "hovers over the waters" of my soul (Gen. 1), brooding, concerned, preparing me for the new creation(s)God will work in me. He teaches me to pray and "intercedes for me with groanings too deep to be uttered" (Rom?). He seals, guarantees, makes sure my connection to salvation (Eph. 1 or 2); He's like the Bridegroom's kiss at the altar - not consummation but the promise & seal. He brings to mind what God has said to help, sustain, strengthen me (Paul's advice to the faithful, "take no thought for what you shall say, the Holy Spirit will teach you what to say...")

There's more. I'm embarrassed that my references are so sketchy, but I don't have time to look them all up right now.

In general, I find it more profitable to meditate on the imagery of the Spirit given in the Scriptures, to understand what He does: Breath, fire, fountain, seal, Comforter, Teacher, hovering bird...

Thanks for stopping by Mother-Lode!

MiPa said...

Carolyn~Thank you. I knew going into the study I would disagree at times with others in it. (has happened a lot over 4 weeks). I'm ok with that because it isn't life or death doctrinal stuff. But this one has left me wanting...and I'm not even sure how to say what. That is what frustrates me.

Vicki~I look forward to more. Thanks for dropping by.

Kim~Thank you! This is so helpful! I love your imagery of the Bridegroom's kiss at the altar. Your references are right on target to get me moving in the direction I need to go. (btw--Rom 8:26 is the intercession verse, it's one of my favorites)

Margaret said...

The Holy Spirit is much more NOW for me. Yes, tied to Jesus, but as a separate member of the Trinity, a being that infuses my very life with its breath of love and hope. Also tied very much to the concepts of wisdom and ruach. The Holy Spirit is what makes me God's image. Still something I'm working out in my own pilgrimage.

Sara Laughs said...

I recently had to stop going to our adult Sunday School because I was constantly frustrated and apparently the only one to be in that state. Be careful that the study isn't frustrating you so much that you end up taking too big of a step back. Hebrews 12:1 Press on, dear friend!

MiPa said...

Margaret--thank you. This helps more than you can know!

Sara--I hope you can find an adult study that encourages you to grow without keeping you in a state of frustration. It is soooo important! I know, if nothing else, my frustration with this book ends in 6 more weeks since this is a time-limited study. I struggle with it for that long. ((HUGS)) my friend!

Anonymous said...

Always studies are man's creation....the Bible is God's love letter to YOU! i enjoy many bible studies...I do them independently and with groups...however, I always look for the "agenda" behind the study.....does it speak God's truth...or does it cause us to question it? Hmmmmm. Kudos to your honesty in trying to tackle this frustration!