The Overlooked God
MAY 25, 2023
It’s easy to take for granted or underestimate what we don’t understand.
I found this out the hard way during the fall of 2007. I had recently purchased a 1965 Ford Mustang that was barely functional (not the wisest purchase). As I turned to pull onto our street after work on a seemingly normal day, I started to press the brakes…and nothing happened. I pressed again and quickly realized my brakes weren’t working. Luckily our street was upward sloping and I was able to pull into a neighbor’s driveway, back out, and like a turtle, slowly inch back toward our driveway where the car came to a screeching halt and my 75 year old neighbor got a great laugh as I threw the car into park.
Up until that day I’ll be honest, I didn’t think a lot about brakes or the critical role they played in driving and overall safety. Ever since, let’s just say I have a greater appreciation for this part of the vehicle.
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, there’s an overwhelming tendency for many Christians and churches to either temper or dismiss His value and importance in our lives and the lives of those around us. As many have stated, it’s become far too common to overlook the Holy Spirit; giving Him the uninspiring and unfortunate title of “The Forgotten God.”
Why and what? Two of the most important questions we can ask about the most important things. Why has this happened and what is it costing us? John 16 does a great job of shedding some light and helping us navigate through these challenges.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,…14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT DISMISSED OR DIMINISHED?
RELATABILITY – Jesus came in the flesh; you could literally see, touch, and talk with Him. The disciples could easily connect with this person of God because He was literally a person. Not only that, when Jesus came He talked about the Father. Even though we can’t see the Father, we can relate with what Fathers are like. This is a reference that makes sense to us and a relationship we are familiar with. It’s not surprising then, that the disciples had a hard time believing that Jesus (in the flesh) going would be a good thing so this “helper” could come. You can’t see the Spirit and the Spirit doesn’t talk back; at least not verbally. Let’s be honest, it’s harder to relate to a spirit than a person like a son or father. Because of this, it’s also easier to dismiss the Holy Spirit as being just as important, powerful, and necessary as Jesus or God the Father. I’m not saying this is something we intentionally do, in fact many if not most of us would all agree with head knowledge that all three persons of the trinity are equal in all rights, but when it comes to functionally living this out in relationship to God I also believe many of us would say this is the relationship that is often the most challenging or weakest.
FEAR – We tend to be scared and skeptical of what we can’t see and can’t explain. Some of this skepticism is because many have used and abused the role of the Holy Spirit for self-seeking services and have attempted to manipulate others by claiming movement from the Holy Spirit that’s nothing close. A certain level of caution when it comes to people’s claims aren’t the worst thing, in fact we should test these things against scripture. The danger comes when we take that caution and apply it to the actual working and ability of the Holy Spirit. In an effort to combat the misuse of the Spirit we can easily diminish His work altogether; especially what we can’t explain. Jesus himself makes it clear that in all of the miracles and healings He accomplished, He did not do this in his own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14, Acts 10:38).
PRIDE – I don’t always want help, can you relate? To my own frustration, there are many times and many days when I’d rather go the wrong way on my own than the right way with help. That seems ridiculous, but it still happens time and time again because I’m stubborn and correction often feels more like a spoon full of vinegar than honey. In the life of a Christian, the Holy Spirit’s main role as Jesus says is that of a helper. He will lead us, guide us, and show us what aligns and doesn’t align with what God wants for us. He’s always right but our heart isn’t. This is where the tension arises and sometimes it’s easier to dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit and need for Him to help, instead of admitting we’re in the wrong, need help, and give in to humility.
WHAT ARE WE RISKING MISSING OUT ON?
THE DIVINE – In this passage of John, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will fulfill two roles; one for the believer and one for the world. What’s important is that both are divine roles and on ground level; absolute miracles. If we dismiss the importance of the Holy Spirit’s work in our world and our life, we don’t risk stopping Him, we just risk missing out. In our lives, the Holy Spirit is able to hear our prayers, prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26) and empowers us; to spread the message of the gospel and to trust in God. The Holy Spirit is powerful because the Holy Spirit is the power of God and God can and does offering healing; sometimes physically and always spiritually; changing hearts of stone to flesh. What I find interesting throughout scripture is that all physical healings are tied to spiritual healings. Once the former was dealt with, the most important healing (our souls) could take place.
As Jesus says, the Holy spirit will come to convict the world of sin and open eyes to see the goodness of God. For us to try to reach people on our own is a foolish mistake; it’s only when we rely on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to go before us and go with us that our lives are actually changed and eternities altered.
INTIMACY – Jesus’ disciples had a very intimate relationship with Him which is why it would have been so hard to think of Him leaving. Jesus knew this, but He also knew that the same level of intimacy would be available through the Helper who was coming. The Holy Spirit is now, God with us. Literally making His home within us; always available to go to, sit with, pray with, and find encouragement. The Holy Spirit should be the greatest encourager in any Christian’s life. What I mean by this is unlike the world who the Holy Spirit is convicting of sin, for every believer, the Holy Spirit is reminding us of our true identity. Sometimes this comes in correction when we wander, but it is never harsh and always leads us back to remembering that we are forever loved, fully purchased, permanently adopted sons and daughters of God. This is what moves us to live, think and act differently and the Holy Spirit is our guide through the entire journey. So let’s make sure not to dismiss or diminish our Helper’s role and instead rely on His power just like Jesus did throughout His entire life and ministry; for our Good and God’s glory.