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"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we developed a reverent but joyful intimacy with the Person who has existed in eternal, holy, and loving communion with the Father and the Son?" So asks Jim McGuiggan as he invites you to allow the Spirit to take up residence in your heart and transform your life.
Discussions on the Holy Spirit range from the sensational to the sterile. But McGuiggan approaches this vast and somewhat mysterious subject with warmth, scholarship, and stories of human beings touched by the Eternal Spirit of God. Once you start reading McGuiggan, you'll want to find a quiet spot and stay awhile.
Third in a trilogy by Jim McGuiggan, this richly written book will enhance your knowledge of the Holy Spirit and inspire you to allow Him to work more and more in your daily life. McGuiggan's short, poignant chapters will lead you to a deeper understanding of life lived in the Spirit.
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Jim McGuiggan, a powerful speaker and seasoned writer, has written numerous inspirational books, including The God of the Towel, Jesus the Hero of Thy Soul, Where the Spirit of the Lord Is . . . , Let Me Count the Ways, and Celebrating the Wrath of God. Born in Belfast, Ireland, McGuiggan has studied and taught the Bible in America at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Since he and his wife of 44 years, Ethel, returned to Ireland, he has worked with a congregation of God's people outside of Belfast.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Escaping the Spirit?
What the psalmist said is true: There’snowhere we can run to escape the Holy Spirit. And if we unconsciously replace him withrich words like “providence” or “grace” or “faith,” we makea poor trade.
W. E. Sangster observed: “Among someschools of Protestant thought, grace is the substitute for the Holy Spirit. . . . Theyspeak of being ‘fortified by grace’ and ‘enabled by grace’ and even‘inspired by grace.’ It cannot be denied; . . . we could find some justification. . . for this wide use of the word ‘grace.’ But even that cannot justify thevirtual (if unconscious) substitution of grace for the Holy Ghost. He fortifies. Heenables. He inspires.”
In any case, those who have been called toGod’s side and nurtured by that Spirit don’t really want to escape him orminimize his role. To realize that the Spirit is and has been intimately involved in everyphase of the self-revelation of God can only do us good and make us even more thankful.
Besides, it isn’t safe to leave all talkabout the Holy Spirit to those who are regarded as sensationalists. It’s when we makea taboo out of a subject of central importance that it springs back with power at thefirst opportunity and becomes the only truth some believers want to talk about.
While I’m sure that’s true,that’s not the reason we want to have a rich understanding of the Spirit’sperson and work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we developed a reverent but joyfulintimacy with the Person who has existed in eternal, holy, and loving communion with theFather and the Son? How could it not be of incalculable benefit?
What follows is a very modest attempt to helpus think more often, and with gratitude, about the Holy Spirit who brings us all the richblessings of God, which are mediated to us in Jesus Christ.
The Spirit and Mr. Hyde
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s riveting Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a caring doctor drinks a poison and becomes monstrous.Tragically, in real life we’ve seen our children drink at the wrong fountains andturn back to us with their eyes forever changed.
But where the Spirit of the Lord is we don’t need to worry about the kind oftransformation that will take place—it’ll be from death to life and then fromglory to glory.
We’ve seen that in many lives, too,haven’t we? Dead men walking with soulless eyes—changed! Happy pagans with notime for God or man—changed! Spoiled and bratty children, self-centeredwimps—changed! Old men with hard, embittered spirits, as twisted in mind as in theiraging bodies—changed! The self-centered and cozy, who deliberately choose to pass byneighbors or a whole world in sin and misery—changed! The smug and self-righteous,clucking their tongues and prattling on about what the world’s comingto—changed! The fiercely upright, scorching the earth but avoiding costlyinvolvement—changed! And on rare occasions, whole cities, even countries are raisedout of the mire into which the whole planet would sink without a trace if God left it toitself.
Let others say the changes are simply theresult of psychology, human kindness, and conditioning; fine literature, church services,new laws, or government leaders. Christians will insist that all of these and more aretools in the hands of the transforming Spirit, bringing life to the dead, passion to theindifferent, and generosity to the selfish. It is he who is at work convicting andsanctifying.
For the Christian, nothing less than thepresence of the Spirit is enough to explain the marvelous changes worked in human lives.Call it grace; call it providence; call it the result of Bible study, practicalinvolvement, or social ethics; call it “common grace”—call it what we will,just so we understand that in and behind any or all the instruments is the presence andwork of the Spirit who seeks and finds and transforms.
There’s a day coming, so say theScriptures—without giving us any developed explanation—when this transformingwork will embrace the whole creation, which presently groans in bondage. When the curse isobliterated, the creation will experience a glorious change along with the children ofGod. The Spirit of God is a sort of “firstfruits” of all that.
Where he is present there is a change—fromglory to glory!
Of Pigs and Ancient Magic
Homer tells us that Aeëtes, the balefulking of Colchis, had a sister called Circe, a goddess who had no love for humans. AfterOdysseus and his crew had fought their way into the peace of a harbor, more than twenty ofhis men went on to the Island of Dawn to investigate. They made their way through theforest of Circe and approached her palace. They heard Circe playing the harp and lookedin; she smiled and invited them in to eat. How pleased they were to be invited, and what afine meal she fed them. But as they ate the drugged food, she hit them on their shoulderswith her wand, and they changed into grunting, feverish swine.
“I didn’t believe the story, of course,” said one Christian gentleman,“until one evening when I was passing a group of young men on a street corner. Iheard enough of the lascivious story being told, and I saw the leers, the flushed faces,the glistening eyes, and the muttered wickedness, and I knew I had wandered into thegarden of Circe. The spell was working before my very eyes. These humans were changinginto swine.”
And so it is, feeding on what has beenpoisoned, we surrender ourselves to a spell that cheapens and coarsens us, making animalsof us in our passions and the way we indulge them. We need someone wise enough and strongenough to deliver us from the curse, because in our sinfully weakened state and in asociety like ours, we aren’t able to do it alone.
But it’s more than wisdom and strengththat’s needed. We need someone who cares greatly if we cheapen ourselves. Because shewas malicious, it didn’t matter to Circe that the humans were turned into animalsthat roamed her forests or pigs to be herded into sties. But it matters to the HolySpirit. He seeks our sanctification because he cannot bear to see us continue in ourshame. Those who don’t care for us will shrug at our dishonor or give up on us beforetoo long, especially if their wisdom isn’t heeded or recognized.
Hosea, who speaks more tenderly of the love ofGod for his people than any other prophet, also speaks more trenchantly against thecorruption of the people. He pictures God as a loving husband/father, driven todistraction by the bentness of his wife/son. The husband who paces up and down the floor,rehearsing the treachery of the wife, cannot cease to love her—doesn’t want tocease to love her. The father who laments over his son’s wild and reckless ways knowsthat the sinful boy is destroying himself, but the loving father can’t turn away.“How can I give you up, Israel? How can I abandon you?”
Simply reflecting on God’s patiencesometimes makes me tired. Sometimes, when I’m already weary and thoughts of hisloving kindness come to my mind, I wonder why he doesn’t just wash his hands of usall and create a world where he hears nothing but praise and sees nothing but glad-heartedobedience.
But I know better. For even I have learnedenough about him to know he cannot abandon us, cannot give up on us, because it is not inhim to want to give up on us. The often repeated words of the famous missionary HudsonTaylor come to mind: “Before I had children I knew God wouldn’t forget me, butnow that I have children of my own I know God can’t forget me.”
Even for those who presently don’t carethat they bury their snouts in swill and muck, who are content to be humans with piggishways, there is the possibility of full reclamation because God is not willing that anyperish. And since many of us have been redeemed from just such crass wickedness, we havespecial reason not to give up on others.
For those of us who do care about honor andfidelity but have moments of terror when we look in a mirror and see piggy eyes lookingback at us—eyes greedy for favorite sins that cheapen and damn us—we’re notto despair. For if the Spirit of God works for the reclamation of those who don’tcare, you can be sure he works for the deliverance of those who do. He loves us more thanwe love our sin, and there is, as people like C. S. Lewis have reminded us, an ancient“magic” at work—a magic more wonderful than Hermes’ fabled flower thatdelivered those who were under Circe’s spell. We are even now being delivered, andone day the rescue will be completed.
Another ancient myth, every bit as terrifyingas the one about Circe and her evil spells, is about a young man who cast a spell uponhimself. One day as he lay by a river, he leaned over to look into the water, saw his ownreflection, and fell in love with himself. More precisely, he fell in love with his image.He couldn’t take his eyes off the wonder of the vision...
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