The Spirit is like a good medical team for those who have especially deep wounds -- for instance, those who have been raped, those who suffer from the deeds of despotic governments, those who daily have to face their society's racisms, those on the losing end of an economic system or a political power struggle, those who are slaves to alcohol or drugs, or slaves to fear. In Jesus' own ministry, inner healing was linked to physical healing as a work of the Spirit. God is concerned about the whole person, not just the inner self. We are all fractured beings that the Spirit is working to make complete.
The Spirit gives the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and insight, even stuff that could not be known in any other way. The Bible has even poetically described God as Wisdom, to highlight this gift. It is exactly that, though -- a poetic description, vastly powerful, faithful and truthful inside of its context. Outside of that narrow context, the use of the Greek word for wisdom ('Sophia') or its translations as a divine name becomes (ahem) sophistry that puts forward a very one-dimensional image of God, which is then far too easily shaped into the image of the foolishness that we humans have the unwarranted nerve to call 'wisdom'. (Okay, okay. I'll come down off the apple crate....) Wisdom, as a gift, drives the process of discernment, by which we know what is and isn't of God.
The Spirit reveals, first and foremost through Scripture; without the Spirit's work, the Bible is just dead ink and paper. Without the Spirit's wisdom and insight, science is but trickery, psychology is just self-obsession, sociology is just the workings of the rabble, language becomes merely a tool for manipulation, and religion really becomes the opiate of the masses that Marx thought it was.
After all the talk about how boundless and all-covering God's forgiving grace is, the Bible throws us a curveball. Matthew 12:31,32 speaks of one sin that will not be forgiven, the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yet, the verse in Matthew does not say that God cannot forgive it; it says that God will not forgive it. One can sense that there's more to it than just the bare fact. Let's start by asking ourselves how it could possibly be that this sin and only this sin will not be forgiven. (The following is, of course, merely informed guesswork about a true mystery.) The Spirit brings us Christ and shapes our lives into His. If I were to choose to oppose the Holy Spirit, or even urge others to oppose the Spirit, I'd be working against God's work on earth, against the reign of God as it is unfolding right now, and against the Spirit's bringing Christ into me. That's worse than merely denying that God is at work among people (mere disbelief). Since the Spirit could only enter my life by way of force, and the Spirit doesn't work that way, that means the faith would not be created in me, and the saving grace that goes with it could not come in.
Acting and speaking against the Holy Spirit is like the prodigal son deciding that he loves being a swine and thus he doesn't go home. If he does not go home, his father never rushes to greet him, he never gets to taste the fatted calf, and he never gets to have a restart in life with someone who loves him. Though it is entirely available, forgiveness would never come, because that which makes forgiveness come about does not take place. In that same way, the one sin of evil against the Holy Spirit remains unforgiven.
Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. We are all destined, designed, created to be free. But we forge chains for ourselves and each other, corrupting our freedom till it isn't freedom anymore. Only someone who isn't bound by the mess can free us from it. That's where Christ comes in. And, after Christ arose, it's where the Spirit comes in. The Spirit's sent from Christ to humanity, blown on us by Jesus. The Spirit makes us able to take part in God's work in the world. And makes it personal. The Gospel becomes mine to spread. The Kingdom becomes my vision for living. God's hope for all becomes my hope for all. God's sorrow over peoples' situations and deeds becomes mine, too. If the Spirit has me, God is not distant but up-close and real. This new freedom isn't something we 'have' or possess; it's something that has us just as the Spirit does. The human spirit soars because of the Spirit; otherwise it is still bound to the ground.
Wherever the Holy Spirit is at work, so is self-surrender, and awareness of the mystery of just being. This tells us the Spirit's there. But there are other ways that the Spirit makes its presence known. Have you experienced them?
The Spirit :
- gives life ( John 7:38 );
- gives gifts ( 1 Corinthians 12 );
- counsels ( John 14:26 );
- encourages ( Acts 9:31 )
- steps in on our behalf ( Romans 8:23 );
- builds up ( Romans 8:27 );
- leads us to obedience ( 2 Corinthians 3:5 );
- brings to mind ( 1 John 2:20, 27 )
- energizes and makes effective ( Acts 1:8 ).
If you can think of when such things happened in your life, think back on it. Maybe the Spirit was doing something then. Maybe now, too.