Author Topic: Wind, water and fire  (Read 85 times)

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Offline Deborah

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Wind, water and fire
« on: June 07, 2020, 09:46:27 PM »
The Holy Spirit as wind

In both Hebrew and Greek, 'wind', 'breath' and 'spirit' are the same word. In English we make distinctions between these things, but it's easy to see what they have in common: immateriality, invisibility, and life/movement. Sometimes the necessary ambiguity is lost in translation. When the LORD God "breathed into Adam?s nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7), we should probably understand God's breath to be His life-giving Spirit. When Ezekiel was in the valley of dry bones and was commanded to "prophesy to the wind/breath," (Ezekiel 37:9), the life-giving breath is explicitly said to stand for God's Spirit (Ezekiel 37:14). Similarly, after His resurrection, when Jesus "breathed on the disciples and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit,'" (John 20:22) His breath and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Breathing is gentle and intimate; but at the opposite end of the spectrum is the 'hurricane' with which the Spirit swept into the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:2)!

What does this tell us about the Holy Spirit?
He is unpredictable
We can't control, contain or predict the actions of the Holy Spirit. This makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable! But they're in good company - Joshua was unhappy when two elders began prophesying in the Israelite camp, outside the place where they were 'supposed' to be (Numbers 11:26-29). And Obadiah was fearful when Elijah asked for his help, because he couldn't be sure that a prophet under the Spirit's control would 'stay put' (I Kings 18:11,12)!

I'm therefore wary of people in ministry who promise that the Holy Spirit will do certain things at a particular time and place (whether this is healings, or miracles, or the giving of specific spiritual gifts such as tongues). I know that sometimes He gives the gift of faith to someone (advance warning, if you like, of what He will do in a specific situation); I'm talking about those people who talk as though they have the Holy Spirit 'on tap'. But it is He who makes the decisions; to move in the Spirit means following Him, not Him following us!

He is invisible
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8 )
How can we know where the Holy Spirit is or what He's doing? We can't see Him directly, but we can see the effects that He has on people. These may be instant and dramatic. A sudden large 'dose' of the Spirit, in particular, can have physical effects - including the experience often described as "being slain in the Spirit" (e.g. I Samuel 19:23,24). But He is also responsible for the gradual transformation into Christlikeness that follows someone's conversion - a process that takes years.

Unbelievers, however, will see these effects but not realise what the cause is behind them. This is why it's not enough to just 'live' the gospel; we must also be prepared to explain why we are different, and give the credit to God.

He is powerful
"'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)
The Bible speaks of prophets being "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:21) - which conjures up an image of a leaf being blown along by a strong breeze. The 3000 conversions on the Day of Pentecost were not the result of Peter's preaching alone, but of the working of the Spirit on the hearts and consciences of those who heard him. Paul's success as an apostle was not due to his own talents, or to training from others; in his own words, what he achieved was "what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God." (Romans 15:18,19) He undoubtedly worked hard - but the spiritual power to give people new life through his ministry came from the Holy Spirit.

This is something that we so easily forget. Go to any Christian conference, and there will be seminars on "how to" evangelise, worship, pray, plant churches, etc, etc. The modern church seems to be increasingly dependent on technique, and even technology - and yet we fail to turn even our neighbourhoods upside down, let alone the whole world (Acts 17:6)! We are neglecting a fundamental principle: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God?s power." (I Corinthians 2:4,5)
"Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble." (Proverbs 28:14)

Offline davetaff

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Re: Wind, water and fire
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2020, 12:31:52 PM »
Hi Deborah
Thank you for another good post a blessing to all who read it.

Love and peace
Dave

Offline Deborah

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Re: Wind, water and fire
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2020, 09:34:39 PM »
The Holy Spirit as water

Blessed as we are in the UK with a rather damp and soggy climate, we do not appreciate it as we should! In the Middle East, by contrast, people know the true value of water; and the need for a reliable water supply has a major effect on where and how they live. Israel's journey through the wilderness was punctuated by several incidents concerning water (Exodus 15:22-25; Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13; Numbers 21:16-18), and the Feast of Tabernacles (which commemorates the wilderness wanderings) gives the context to this declaration of Jesus: "On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.' By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive." (John 7:37-39)

This comparison of God's Spirit to a flood of water was nothing new; it comes from the Old Testament (Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28). What does it tell us about the Holy Spirit?

He quenches our spiritual thirst
"You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek You;
I thirst for You,
my whole being longs for You,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water."
(Psalm 63:1)
Our separation from God creates in us a sense of need - a spiritual thirst that cries out for satisfaction. This can manifest itself in many different ways, not all of them easy to recognise. The woman who encountered Jesus by the well at Sychar (John 4:1-42) had a string of failed marriages behind her (not necessarily through her own fault), and was a social outcast because she was in an unconventional relationship. She had come to fetch her day's supply of water - but discovered something so much better that when she returned home she left her water jar behind (John 4:28,29)! "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst." (John 4:13,14)

He gives life
Ezekiel's grand visionary tour of the new Temple culminates with him being shown a trickle of water emerging from the sanctuary - the source of a great River that flows right down to the Dead Sea. There (where even the Jordan River gets swallowed up by the deathly environment), "when it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows." (Ezekiel 47:8,9)

Water is essential to life; without it, we die. Just as the River Nile brings life and fertility to Egypt (which would otherwise be desert), the Holy Spirit transforms everyone He touches. The banks of Ezekiel's river are covered in trees - providing not only refreshingly cool shade, but also fruit to eat and medicines to heal (Ezekiel 47:12). Note that the Holy Spirit only does good things to us!

    
He cleanses us

We don?t just drink water; we also use it for washing and cleaning. It removes both dirt and bacteria, leaving us not only better-looking but also less likely to contaminate and harm other people.

Ritual bathing is a feature of many religions, including Judaism and Christianity. The old covenant priests were washed all over before commencing their ministry (Leviticus 8:6), and bathing was part of the rituals that followed release from any form of ceremonial 'uncleanness'. New Christians are baptised to demonstrate (amongst other things) their cleansing from sin through faith in Christ.

But the water is merely symbolic. The real spiritual cleansing is effected by the Holy Spirit. "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (I Corinthians 6:9-11)
"Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble." (Proverbs 28:14)

Offline Deborah

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Re: Wind, water and fire
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2020, 09:39:47 PM »
The Holy Spirit as fire

At some point during His ministry, Jesus made this comment: "I have come to bring fire in the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49) And on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was manifested not only as a mighty rushing wind, but also as "tongues of fire". (Acts 2:3) Once lit, the 'flame' spread rapidly, with thousands of people coming to faith...

What does this tell us about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit transforms us.

If you take a steak out of your freezer, it's a genuine steak: biologically and nutritionally, it's 100% beef. But it's not exciting or appetising in that frozen state. It's only when it's put on the barbecue and starts to sizzle that you want to eat it. And without the warmth of the Holy Spirit the Christian faith, even if otherwise orthodox, is lifeless and unattractive. "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Corinthians 3:6)

The Holy Spirit purifies us
"After me comes One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)
Water only washes the outside of things. Fire, on the other hand, changes their internal nature.

Fire can for that very reason be alarming, even dangerous. Many people are wary of the Holy Spirit for that reason. What might He do with them - or, even worse, to them? But He's not an uncontrolled forest fire, reducing living wood to ash and leaving a trail of destruction in His wake. He's a controlled flame, like that used in a foundry or laboratory to purify precious metals and other chemicals. That's how He will work on our hearts, gradually burning away falsehood and wickedness, with the aim of making us a truly holy people.

The Holy Spirit makes us zealous.

Of course, there are some people who prefer their religion to be ordinary, predictable - and 'safe'. The 'trouble' with the Spirit is that He stirs us up! This is probably why, when the Holy Spirit begins to move in a church, some members (or even leaders) will try to suppress Him. "Do not quench the Spirit," says Paul. (I Thessalonians 5:19)

If we let Him, the Holy Spirit will raise our spiritual 'temperature', making us more enthusiastic and energetic in our witness and in our service. When He is in control, anything could happen. Expect fireworks!
"Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble." (Proverbs 28:14)

Offline davetaff

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Re: Wind, water and fire
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2020, 10:41:36 AM »
Hi Deborah
Thank you for another good post a blessing to those who read it

Love and peace
Dave

 

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