Friday, April 12, 2013

How Can the Holy Spirit Change Me?

In the second part of his series, "Spirit", Erwin McManus ( reviews his previous message by talking about diving into a space where we have experience without language.  It is more than our senses of touching, hearing and seeing.  It's a place where our mind, our soul and our intellect comprehend.   This is where we describe ourselves as spiritual beings.   It's the difference between being religious and being spiritual   Many people feel a huge sense of apprehension when talking about religion, but they feel surprisingly comfortable talking about spirituality.

What does it really mean and how do the scriptures talk about this spiritual space?  How does it relate to us?   Last week,  Erwin proposed that we change our view of reality as it pertains to the Holy Spirit, but this week he wants us to change our view of what it means to be human.  Many people think there is some sort of force in the universe to which we relate.  The Spirit is personal.   He is not an IT.  He is a HE; not in terms of male versus female, but more in terms of His being a person and being intentional.  He is the creative force who acts in God's creative capacity.  Whenever we see the Holy Spirit in scriptures, we should automatically think that something big is about to happen.

For a lot of us, it's easier to understand God and Jesus, but then we have to look at the elusive space of the Holy Spirit.  Generally, people accept the other conversation, but when it gets to the Holy Spirit, now you get to be "bizarre" and weird. Usually, if a person starts talking more about the Holy Spirit, there is a little bit of "crazy" involved.  This is because there are so many misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit and how the Living God expresses His character through the Spirit.

In Genesis 1, we read;  In the beginning God created the heaven....and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters and God said, "Let there be light".  After these words came the entire creative order of our world.  God spoke and created.  So, what you find in the Bible is this beautiful symmetry of the Spirit world and science.  Whenever there is conversation about the Spirit, it's as if a light comes on inside.  As with the creation of the earth, our souls seem to move from darkness to light.  In creation, though, light was not the end.  What we find i light creates ENERGY.  When people speak about energy as it relates to religion, though,  they often think it is New Age or Buddhist.  But energy is real and it exists in our religion too.  The scripture talks about how God created light and how the light became a functional energy.  It was the material evidence of God's existence.  Energy, in turn, created matter.  See?  So when science told us that Energy created Matter, we already knew that from scriptures!  It took centuries and centuries of academia and scientific evidence, but God gave us His creation in the Bible.  But creation didn't end with matter.  From it, God created the universe and in that universe, God created the solar system.  Out of that solar system, God created earth.   On the earth, God then created this improbable, unexplained thing called life and then, God created this explainable, impossible creature called you.  And finally, He created a unique relationship between Him and everything else.

Sometimes, we think to ourselves that we can do things by ourselves, even when we can't.  It's natural for us think this when we are young, but when we grow older, it's just plain sad.  We think to ourselves that Adam was alone, but we forget that God said it was not good to be alone.  God interconnected us.  There is not a time where anyone was not integrated into the creative order.  Adam didn't even know it was bad to be alone!  God put him to sleep and created his companion.  You were never created and intended to be in isolation.  You are designed to live in relationship, love and inter-connectivity . We are also designed to live in harmony with creation in much more complex ways.  We exhale and the trees inhale.  Who would have guessed we were si dependent on the trees?   How amazing is it that God gives us fresh water from all the seas of salt water?  Who would have guessed that plants could become salads and seed would become our food; our energy?

In the most perplexing of ways, we are all dependent on thermonuclear waves because it is from the SUN.  The sun is the source of all life.  Some things are too far from the sun to live and other things are too close to live, but we are in perfect place.  We are solar powered!  That's why, when people are depressed and sort of under the weather, doctors advise us to get out and to get some sun!  You are created in the solar system.  It is a solar ball,  Some energy comes directly to us, but the earth absorbs this sun and everything along the food chain follows suit.  This entire universe is leveraged to life and it conspires for you to LIVE.  But if you stop here in the conversation, you become a materialist.  All there is to the materialist is what can be seen.  But now we have to go beyond the matter.  We have to go to what creates and what moves.  There is an energy in which we live, but if you stop at the evidence, you stop at the source of light and of life; the very thing for which your soul searches.  This is what the Spirit of God is!   It is the primary source.

The challenge for us is that there are a lot of layers between the material and the spiritual.   What's more, people believe that there are so many things we have to do to get to the Spirit.  Yet scriptures say it is totally different.  In fact, the Spirit fights His way to get to us!

The translated word in the Bible for Spirit is "ruach", pronounced roo-akh, and it means "a powerful rush of wind".   In the New Testament, the Greek word for the Spirit is "pneuma", pronounced nyoo-mah, and it is the word from which our word pneumonia is derived.  Pneuma means "breath".   So, when God was creating the earth and his "God wind" came over the ocean, it was powerful and massive, leading to an important part of our creation.  Can you imagine the size of that tornado or that hurricane?  It had to be a sight!  God comes like a whirlwind, but He also displays a gentle intimacy through "His breath".    In Genesis 2:7, we see; Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

So, our God declares, "Let there be light" and it displays the full power of God, but when He created us, He created us gently by breathing into us; by "breathing into man's nostrils".  More profoundly is then the realization that when we exhale, the trees inhale and when the trees exhale, we inhale.  It's the symbiotic relationship we have with the rest of His creation.  God gave us an intimate mouth-to-mouth, face-to-face, nostril-to-nostril, brow-to-brow welcome into life and then released us to life support in His world!  Here, we share life.

Another powerful word to which the ancient word "spirit" can be translated, is our word "courage".  Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you and you just needed to be re-inspired    You just needed courage?  God breathes and speaks with His breath that resonates within our souls .

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me.  The breath of the Almighty has given me life.

You may not even believe in God.  You might be agnostic, you might be atheist or you may not even care, but you are alive because God breathed life into you and it is an expression of His affection towards you.  The Spirit has made you.  He made your muscles, your skeleton and your tendons.  You are not a physical being with spiritual elements, you are a spiritual being with physical elements and, if you fail to see this, you drown in the physical world.
Job 32:8 says, But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.

Isaiah 42:5 ...the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.

In the most beautiful voice, God is constantly trying to bring us back.  If you believe less of yourself; that what you are at your core is but an animal, you will find yourself in a hollowness because your soul knows what you are and how you were made.  And your soul was meant to marry with His Spirit. so God tries to move us back into a relationship to Him.

When Pharoah had a dream about seven fat cows, which were followed by seven skinny cows, who eat the fat cows but still stay skinny, he called together all the psychics and all his sages to interpret the dream.  To test them, however, he first required that they tell him what his dream was!!  But they could not, because they did not speak the language of God.  (Not every dream is God speaking, btw.  It 's just too much pizza or your subconscious speaking to your conscious.  But sometimes it IS God.)  Something in Pharoah was deeply disturbed, so he summoned Joseph, who tells Pharoah his dream and then interprets the dream.

After Joseph has finished, Pharoah asks, "Can we find anyone like this man?   Can we find one in whom the Spirit of God is in?  Even Pharoah could see that God was made manifest in Joseph.  He knew they needed to find someone who had a spiritual relationship and so he then made Joseph the second most powerful man in his country because he understood!!  Joseph is thinking to himself, "exactly what I was thinking!"  Pharoah did not ask for the best economist, the shrewdest of  businessmen or the most skilled in the kingdom.  He wanted the man who spoke God's language!!  A slave then became the right hand man of the king!  God is always speaking and trying to engage us, but so many times, we cannot hear Him because we have lost the habit of talking to Him You were designed to be in conversation with God...

You are created to be enveloped in the Spirit and to move in rhythm with the Spirit of God in the same way a Latino is in rhythm with the Salsa!  There is a natural dance of life and we have found ourselves with two left feet and out of rhythm. So God takes out our heart of stone and replaces it with a "heart of flesh".  Erwin points out, "I was always unimpressed with the imagery of a heart of flesh.  I would tell God I don't need a heart of flesh.  I need a plutonium heart!"  But God says no.  He gives us His Spirit, His energy and His light.  This is where we so misunderstand God.  He is not trying to make us superhuman or angels or gods.  He is going to take away the heart of stone because of greed, envy and pride.  He will save us from our death and give us back our humanity.  And He will MOVE YOU.   Many times, religion is trying to take on these external activities that we think will earn our way back to God and all that is, is just a waste of effort.  He wants to put His Spirit in us and bring us to life.

In the book of Exodus, it is the first place in history where someone is described as having the Spirit of God.  You would expect that if someone has the Spirit of God, it would be to move a mountain  but in chapter 31, God says to Moses that he has filled a man with "wisdom, understanding and knowledge and with all kinds of skills".  Waitaminute... God, you are the creator of the universe and you are going to fill me and then all I get are skills?!?  We have a tendency to put the Spirit of God into a weird category.  The Spirit doesn't make us weird, we are weird.  God wants to engage us in all kinds of artistic craft.  He filled man with the ability to create and to teach others.  Erwin reflects, "I love that the first place in history where God fills a person with His Spirit in an artist!  There is beauty in the world and God calls us to experience it.  He is saying, "I am going to give humans the ability to reflect My Glory."  You were given this and your life was meant to be this.  You are a work of art and an artist.  And the Spirit of God released on man the intelligence and knowledge, but only God could awaken it and unleash it!  What has God put in you and what the world so desparately needs is your creativity.  But you can't fulfill your destiny until you are filled with the Spirit of God.

God's solution in the days before Jesus Christ were sporadic   The Spirit would come and go.  With King Saul, the Spirit came upon him, but then Saul began to live for himself and the Spirit left him.  Then the Spirit came upon David and then David used life for himself and the Spirit left him.   In Psalm 51:10-12, David pleads with God to remain with him.  He knew that the presence of God was a gift.  It was the environment in which God's Spirit came to life in men.  God said to David then, "you are a mess and your heart is constantly betraying me and yourself."

In Ezekial 36:25-38, God basically says, "I will cleanse you and give you a new heart.  I will remove your heart of stone and replace with it one of flesh.   You will be my people and I will be your God."

One afternoon, Erwin was getting a haircut and he saw a business sign across the street called "Cryo...something".  He went over and talked to the guy, who said that they freeze people in giant tubes and the freeze brings their body temperature from 96 to 40 degrees or so.   Why would they do this?   Well, the man explained, it accelerated healing of the joints and skin and it enhances performance.  Erwin explains, "I'm 54, playing basketball with guys half my age and with guys who cheat!"  So, this technique was somewhat appealing to Erwin.  His wife gives him no empathy for his pains because she knows he will keep getting injured if he keeps playing, but Erwin chooses to keep playing.  So he went into this cryo shop for a treatment.  It was very painful.  The first time, he could only go for about 60 seconds and he thought, "Get me out of here!"  Then he tried to go back in longer.  He was thinking to himself, "This is not good.  They are going to find me 500 years from now in this tube!".  The second attempt, he managed to stay in the tube for two and a half minutes.  Everything hurt.  Afterwards, he found out that his body temperature had fallen to 38 degrees!  Wow!  The healing process after this happens because the freezing in nitrogen releases endorphin that are natural in the body.  The body begins to fight for its life and healing is accelerated.  Erwin later felt fantastic. "I could see myself dunking the basketball again!"

This is how God's Spirit works.  He is not trying to change our actions and our intentions.  He is trying to change us from the inside out by using what is natural in us; our passion, our knowledge, our creativity and our abilities that He has already given us!  1 John 4:13 say, "This is how we know we live in Him and He in us.  He has given us His Spirit."  When we give our lives to Jesus and trust Him, trust that He and the Father are one and trust that He has come to give us life abundantly,  we have to then realize that it is Jesus who gives us the Spirit so that He might dwell in us.

The Spirit does not just give us light and life, but He gives us love too.   We live in God in all three.  He is not an impersonal God.  He is one of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and redemption. He breathed life into us and He calls us to Him through His own spirit so that we might know His love and that He will not leave us ever again feeling like orphans.

Living outside of God is like a fish living in a dry riverbed bottom.  We are limited, suffocating and dying because we are exposed to spiritual predators.  God brings us His rushing river of life that fills the bottom and gives us freedom once again to live an abundant life. Not too long ago, Erwin experienced this deadness.  "Dying in a dry riverbed, I never gave up my belief in Jesus.  But it was as if, somehow in a moment of clarity, I opened up the dam that was preventing God from giving me life.  I don't know exactly how I did it.  But I do know that you do not have to exist without this God."  You are created to swim in the river.  Dive into it and be free.

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