We hear over and over again how God desires nothing but good for us. At the same time we know the pain of suffering, the agony of grief, the desolation of life without hope. If God desires only good for us why do we have those moments when we feel God is distant? Life is often unfair and filled with moments of pain, regret, disappointment and boredom. Is our faith in God dependent on what is happening to us or is our faith grounded in a deep belief in the promises of God?
The disciples experience after the crucifixion of Christ shows us how they were confused, fearful and disillusioned. We hear despair over lost hope in the words of Peter when he says “I am going fishing” (Jn. 21:3). We hear our own cries of abandonment in the words of David when he cries out “how long will you hide your face from me” (PS. 13:1). If we believe then we must understand how our trust in the promises of God is critical to our faith. God did not say things to appease us but every word of his was to make it clear how his father’s plan for us is to be a life filled with our knowing the “…riches of the glory of his inheritance …and the surpassing greatness of his power at work in us who believe” (Eph. 1:18-19). There it is again, God desires for us to know the richness of a life of faith and how his power is at work each and every day.
How do we attain this hope? Paul tells us we “will abound in hope by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us” (Rom. 15:13). Why do we ignore the words of Jesus himself when he tells us the kingdom of God is given to those who are “born of water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5). Like Nicodemus we have difficulty understanding how this can be. Do we need to do something to be born again other than have a desire to allow this to happen to us?
Jesus tells us we need to ask him for that one thing which will bring us life. He says to us “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Scripture says: “…rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me. He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive” (Jn.7:37-39). He was announcing the transforming power of the Spirit at work in us whom God desires to call his children.
I do want to over complicate the work of the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand the importance of embracing the gift of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins by his death and resurrection. I do not want to over complicate how God’s plan for us to experience eternal life and to experience a life of abundance lived now. It is really very simple: Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins – all past, all present and all future. Jeremiah’s prophesy says “we will be his people and he will be our God. We will have his law imprinted on our hearts and he will forgive our sins and remember them no more”. Do we believe God or not because these words are direct, simple and clear. Jesus death removed the barrier of sin between us and God.
The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to remain in that state of right standing with God because our hearts are centered on God instead of self. God told us in the prophecy of Ezekiel he will place his Spirit into us and change our hearts giving us the ability to live according to his will and he save us from all our iniquities. Do we believe God or not because these words of God are direct, simple and clear.
Jesus told the disciples to “stay in the city until they are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49). On the day of Pentecost when the Jews were celebrating the giving of the law to Moses the disciples a hundred other disciples gathered in that upper room. What were they doing in that upper room?
We do not know but I believe they praying for the promise of Jesus to give clothe them with power and to change their hearts as he promised through the prophets. We have to remember how the disciples on the road to Emmaus hearts were burning as he opened the scriptures for them. He brought to their memory how he was “…doing something new. Now it springs forth do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way…I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink…” (Isa. 43:19ff). This water was expected to come from the temple (read chapter 37 of Ezekiel). Now they understood this living water is to come from Jesus.
The Spirit filled that room and all hearts were changed and all wisdom was given and all faith moved into their hearts, minds and souls. Paul asked the people of Corinth “did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” Their response was “we have not heard of the Holy Spirit for we were baptized with the baptism of John” (Acts 19:1-2). Is it possible that we who have baptized have not yet allowed this great gift of God to change our hearts because like those in Corinth have not heard?
We received the Spirit at the time of out baptism. We have been filled with this Spirit at the time of our confirmation. But have we invited this spirit into our hearts by saying “come Holy Spirit and live in our hearts.” Do we want this Spirit to do in us what God desires it to do – change us as it did the disciples? What we must do is again simple – “The Spirit and the bride say, come let the one who hears come and let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost come” (Rev. 22:17).
All it takes is trust in God and a desire to be a disciple and opening yourself up to the Holy Spirit. Like the disciples, pray – Come Holy Spirit fill my heart and expect your heart to burn with the fire of God’s love.