. . . posts on faith and life
I have a confession to make. I have always struggled with the concept of the Holy Spirit. That might not sound like a big deal, but it seems pretty significant to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have always believed in the Holy Spirit. However, I have a hard time conceptualizing the Holy Spirit. God as a Father? No problem. God as a Son? I get it. But God as a Spirit? Hmmm.
I think part of the problem is with the word spirit. I mean, I have a spirit too. But I’m not two people. So, what makes God’s Spirit an actual separate person when mine is not?
Another problem is that it’s hard not to think of the Holy Spirit as some invisible force that runs throughout the universe (can you say Star Wars). This might not be a completely bad way to think about the Holy Spirit, accept that when I conceptualize the Holy Spirit as this pervasive spiritual mist I lose the sense of His personhood. And then there are verses like these:
And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. Luke 4:14
And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. 1 Cor 2:4
For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. Eph 2:18
When I read verses like these I cannot help but to think of the Holy Spirit as more of a tool or implement in the hand of God than a full blown member of the Godhead. But three things finally shook me out of my embarrassing confusion.
First, I came to realize the Holy Spirit was more than access to the rest of the Godhead, or power to live or comfort for pain, etc. The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is my friend (an insight I owe to Wellington Boone). When Jesus revealed to his disciples that He was going to be leaving them, He promised them that He would ask the Father to send them the Comforter (John 15:26). But before He tells them about this Comforter He tells them that He no longer considers them servants, but friends (John 15:15). I have always understood that Jesus calls me His friend, and I have always understood that the Father calls me His son. But I had never thought about the Holy Spirit as my friend.
Second, I read the book Heaven is for Real. In case you haven’t read it I will try not to give too much away. But I highly recommend it. The book is an account of a 4-year-old boy named Colton who came out of a coma after a life-threatening surgery with fascinating details from time spent in Heaven. I can be fairly dismissive of I died and went to Heaven stories, but this book is amazing. Anyway, there is one moment in the book where Colton mentions sitting beside the Holy Spirit. Colton’s dad was intrigued, and asked him what the Holy Spirit looked like. Colton replied that He was hard to describe, but that He was kind of blue. Somehow this helped me with my conceptualization. I pictured the Blue Man Group, but you know…more divine-like. It helped me think of the Holy Spirit as a person, but also as the member of the Godhead that had a different quality. A kind of strangeness. And for whatever reason that clicked with me. I started imagining my astonishing, blue friend walking around with me, riding in the car with me, sitting in my office with me–you get the picture. It was interesting to think of Him as this outlandish, beautiful and friendly blue man that could sit down beside me the way He sat down beside Colton, and then turn around and raise the dead or strike someone dead or create a universe. Wow, who is the Blue Man?
Third, I went back and looked at the passages that highlight the Blue Man as a person, and I realized that I had forgotten how many are there. Just consider the fact that the Holy Spirit grieves (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30), can be lied to (Acts 5:3), can be tested (Acts 5:9), has a mind (Rom 8:27), speaks (2 Sam 23:2, Acts 8:29), can be resisted (Acts 7:51), can be a witness (Acts 5:32), can search (1 Cor 2:10) and can intercede (Rom 8:26), to name a few. As I formed a fresh commitment on the personhood of the Holy Spirit I was reminded that we must first believe that He is before we can come to Him (Heb 11:6).
Perhaps you have struggled with your understanding of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you struggle to conceptualize Him and His relationship to you. If you are like me then perhaps this will help: Don’t look now. But right behind you is a strange, beautiful, divine, Blue Man. He knows everything about you. He is smiling at you, and He wants to be your friend.