Brothers and sisters, when I came to you, I didn’t speak about God’s mystery as if it were some kind of brilliant message or wisdom. While I was with you, I decided to deal with only one subject—Jesus Christ, who was crucified. When I came to you, I was weak. I was afraid and very nervous. I didn’t speak my message with persuasive intellectual arguments. I spoke my message with a show of spiritual power so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.
However, we do use wisdom to speak to those who are mature. It is a wisdom that doesn’t belong to this world or to the rulers of this world who are in power today and gone tomorrow. We speak about the mystery of God’s wisdom. It is a wisdom that has been hidden, which God had planned for our glory before the world began. Not one of the rulers of this world has known it. If they had, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory. But as Scripture says:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
the things that God has prepared
for those who love him.”
God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God. After all, who knows everything about a person except that person’s own spirit? In the same way, no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit. (God’s Word Translation)
We need the Holy Spirit of God.
Without the Spirit’s help, Jesus is just one guy out of thousands who were crucified in history – merely an example of someone martyred for his faith. Yet, Jesus was infinitely more. Christians discern Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.
Because of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, people can be redeemed from empty lives, saved from destructive life-patterns, and given the kind of security and purpose which God intended from the beginning. The Spirit’s role is to take these redemptive events of Jesus and apply them to our lives.
Christian Trinitarian theology understands we are unable to see the truth about the cross of Jesus Christ unless God the Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father and the Son, breaks into our lives and does an intervention, showing us our denial about how we are really doing – as well as our delusions about who we really are.
Admitting we need the Holy Spirit of God means the power of Christianity and the Christian life rests with Jesus Christ and him crucified, and not with us.
We are, in many ways, powerless. I realize this is not a popular message, especially in Western society. Tell the average American they are powerless, and they’ll think you’re off your rocker. It sounds ridiculous. Some would argue that we have done quite well, thank you very much, on our own. We have a couple of cars, a house, a job, and a family. After all, we worked hard, and we did it.
However, any worldly success we gain, and getting the things we want, may lead us to the delusion we have the power to do whatever we want.
Oh, sure, we might reason, we have problems just like everybody else. After all, we cannot control everything. But we are not completely powerless. Just because we have difficult circumstances and a few problem people in our lives doesn’t mean I am weak, right? God will step in a take-over where I leave off, right?…
Wrong. Apart from the Holy Spirit of God, we are unable to become Christians and live the Christian life.
If we believe we manage our lives fine, with some help from God, then we might be in denial about how much we place ourselves at the center of the world. Whenever our consistent response to adversity, or the realization we are not handling something well, is to try and fix ourselves, we are living the delusion we have the power to independently change.
A reflexive response in asking Google to find answers to our problems; or dealing privately with our personal issues; or expecting our willpower to be enough; or passively resigning ourselves to mediocre lives because we have tried to change or be different; then we are feeding the delusion we don’t really need the Holy Spirit of God. I just need more effort or information to overcome my problems, right?
Wrong. More won’t solve our issues. And when it doesn’t, we easily become discouraged. We might even chide ourselves for our inability to deal with problems.
Our real need is for the true power source of the Christian life. We need the Holy Spirit applying the work of Jesus Christ to our lives so that we can live a victorious life.
Unfortunately, it typically takes a tragedy or crisis to break our delusion of power – a bad marriage, a family member’s addiction, a runaway child, a terminal illness, a bankruptcy, a death.
How bad do you and I need to hurt before we will admit we are not managing our lives well, at all, and that the real power to change resides with the Holy Spirit?
There is power in the cross of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul believed this with all his heart. Although Paul was an intelligent and learned person, he did not rely on his abilities but on proclaiming the power of Jesus and him crucified.
The crucifixion of Christ was a past action with continuing and forceful ripples into the present time.
The cross of Jesus is more than an historical event; it is an ongoing reality to experience for victory over all the brokenness of this world and all the mess we have made of things putting ourselves at the center of the universe.
The Reformer, John Calvin, repeatedly instructed and encouraged his Geneva congregation that the Spirit joins us to Christ, assures us of salvation, and grows us in confidence through the Scriptures. Calvin, although a genius, did not rely on his intellect or abilities but insisted we need the Spirit’s witness to mature as followers of Jesus.
There are tough situations and incredibly sad realities which are mysteries beyond our comprehension. They defy simplistic answers and are greater than our attempts to explain them. Hard problems stretch our faith. And they ought to cause us to cry out to God and Christ’s Church for help because we are powerless to manage our lives.
We absolutely and totally need the Holy Spirit of God. Without the Spirit, we are lost. But with the Spirit we experience the saving power of Christ’s cross to deal with everything in our lives.
The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next. Amen.