As I think through answers to my Board of Ordained Ministry papers, I'll be sharing them here as a sort of log of my thinking. I'm sure they will change as I am changed by God's Holy Spirit at work in me drawing and working me toward holiness. Please feel free to comment and question.
This fifth question leads us to look at God continues to work in the life of each believer. This question: How do you understand of the activity of the Holy Spirit in personal faith, in the community of believers, and in responsible living in the world? Essentially, how does God work in our "present" lives?
God desires that we become all he created us to become. God also knows that we can't become this person on our own; so God gives us the Holy Spirit. When it comes to personal faith, the Holy Spirit is the essential and primary actor in bringing each person toward and into their faith journey. Initially, drawing the individual toward an awareness of God’s love through prevenient grace. The Holy Spirit continues to work within the individual, creating awareness of personal sinfulness, leading to repentance, and inspiring faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior who can deliver from sure and certain death. The Holy Spirit convinces the individual of the effectiveness of Christ’s work on and through the cross; this, through faith results in salvation and new birth. In the moment the individual responds to the Holy Spirit’s leading to repentance and placing faith in Christ’s sacrifice for salvation, justification is realized. At this moment the individual receives as a blessing of the Holy Spirit an assurance of salvation, and this begins a process of transforming the individual into and through sanctification.
For the community of believers, the Holy Spirit reveals and inspires certain and particular spiritual gifts within every believer, these unique abilities are for building up the whole body of believers, the church. This working out of the giftedness of individuals and the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the actual means for God’s purposes here on earth to be achieved. The Holy Spirit also leads the individual to develop and participate in spiritual disciplines as we grow toward Christ-likeness. In exercising these practices and working out of our giftedness, disciples are connected to God’s power and presence. This experience of the Holy Spirit is what inspires each individual to tell the story of what God has done in our life; what God has accomplished with the brokenness in my life becomes a message of hope for others who also have a less than perfect past. In this way, the Holy Spirit completes Christ’s mission through enabling us to live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission. Through the hearing of the preaching of the word, singing praises, sharing holy communion, and joining God in baptism, the Holy Spirit reinforces the work in us with the work of the church, and in this way the Holy Spirit in the “animates” the church. Where the Spirit was the “ruach;” or the breath of God in creation, so does the Holy Spirit empower the church today by working within and among us as individuals. Thomas Oden refers to the Spirit’s “giving birth” to the church, not only increasing numbers through bringing about conversions, but also making the life of the church possible, giving it the very breath it needs to exist, since God created the church to achieve His purposes. (Oden, Life in the Spirit: Systematic Theology Volume III 52) The Holy Spirit leads the body of believers to gather people across generations, across geographies, for a common yet holy purpose.
Finally, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just bring us to faith and lead us into discipleship, but the Spirit partners with the ministry of the church to produce holy living in the life of believers. The Holy Spirit works through the proclaimed word, songs of praise, the sacraments, and the means of grace to hold and move each believer along a journey of faith. This journey toward holy and responsible living is the path which God has for us to turn from sin and continue towards sanctification. The process of sanctification is a matter of being perfected in love; a spirit inspired love which the scriptures call loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Article XI) Living this way, we seek out God’s mission and purpose for us and the church; to stand against evil and sin in all its forms, and reveal God’s redemptive and transformative love to all of creation. In this way, the Holy Spirit leads to strive to see “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Follow along as Pastor Gary blogs on the ministry and life of our charge.