A friend recently told me, “the Christian life isn’t meant to be difficult, it’s meant to be impossible without the Holy Spirit.” And as I look back on my experience of following Jesus, I can say that is true.
Oftentimes the Christian life is reduced to a set of rules to obey, conventions to follow, or even a strange sub-culture to join (see Christian television). But being a Christian - a follower of Jesus Christ - is so much greater than these things. In fact these things taken on their own are a cheap imitation for what is at the heart and substance of Christianity: a relationship with the living God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To be sure, as you and I live in the presence of this loving God and live out his love, we will obey his teachings and a culture based on truth and love will be created around us. Nevertheless, being a Christian is nothing less than communion with God, becoming a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
But we are not the prime movers, the originators, or the ultimate performers in this relationship. The very presence of the living God, the Holy Spirit, comes to live inside of us, and he is the substance and means by which we are able to follow Jesus. He is the source and fountainhead of the love and grace in which we live and that the world so desperately needs. The Holy Spirit is the manifest presence of the love of God that covers our sin, our brokenness, and our baggage. He sets us free from our addictions and our obsession with lesser things. He draws our hearts and our minds to Jesus, and he teaches us to pray, “Abba, Father,” to the God of the universe with astonishing intimacy.
It’s no wonder, then, that St. Paul writing to the Church at Ephesus says, “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Since he is speaking to the Church, he is writing to Christians, to those who already believe and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 1:13). And yet the verb in the original language is in the present continuous tense meaning, “go on being filled with the Holy Spirit over and over and over again.”
I find I can be filled with all sorts of things throughout the day: anticipation for football season, frustration at car trouble, dread for jury duty (didn’t say they weren’t random). But the only way we can engage real and lasting life, the only way to live in God’s presence and live out his love is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And to be filled with the Spirit, all we have to do is ask. Jesus said this to his friends of the Holy Spirit:
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
Let’s ask him today so that the impossible will become possible in our lives.
You’re in my prayers this week. I hope to see you soon.