WRF Member John Musser Describes "The Holy Ghost Puzzle"
My daughter loves puzzles and, for that matter, what three-year-old wouldn’t? Puzzles capture her attention and she loves to try to put the pieces together. But if the puzzle is too hard, or she has reached her limit to where she wants to go, she will pick a few pieces and play with them, leaving the rest of the puzzle unfinished. Later, she can become angry when some of the pieces don’t fit together. The Holy Spirit, you could say, has distributed to every believer a unique piece/pieces of the puzzle of his transforming grace.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us (Romans 12:6), we must work together in the body of Christ to build up believers in whom God dwells. In this article, I want to show some of the pieces we are sometimes leaving behind, and the ones we have taken for ourselves. With so many church denominations and different views of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, we as the church (universally and individually) are sometimes leaving the puzzle unfinished. Let me bring to your attention some key areas when fixed should bring us to a fuller and finished puzzle.
The first missing puzzle piece I want to show is the Holy Spirit Himself. In many churches, the Holy Spirit is seen as no more than the bell or steeple of the church: it’s just something that makes a church building a church. Members of the church don’t deny the Spirit openly, but they couldn’t really tell you anything about Him either. If you go to the church, He is hardly ever mentioned in the preaching or teaching. A minister that has now gone on to be with the Lord, used to say that one of the crucial indicators of the downfall of a church was “. . . when people stopped preaching the whole truth about the Spirit and His working power.” I think he was completely right. How can we be empowered to live and work out the work, God has called us to do without the Holy Spirit? How can we rightly worship the Lord? Our witnessing to the lost is in vain without the Spirit. Every truth, practice, worship, and vision is worthless and empty without the life-giving, leading Spirit of God. God still says to us: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 4:6).
The next puzzle piece is not so much missing as it is overbearing. I call this piece “The one and only piece” because, in this situation, members of the church seem to regard the Spirit as the ONLY piece of the puzzle and fail to see how He fits with all of the others which our Lord had graciously provided. This is the other side of the coin of the first puzzle piece mentioned. Some churches/Christians focus so much on the Holy Spirit that that it is all they talk about and strive for. They limit being baptized by the Spirit to speaking in tongues. Let it be known I am not denying the ability of speaking in tongues. I am only pointing out the fact that some groups do not seem to understand the total scope of the Holy Spirit’s work.
I attended high school with a boy who believed deeply in speaking in tongues and that was all he ever talked about. However, he personally he had never spoken in tongues. Therefore, he never truly felt that he lived up to what it meant to be a good Christian. Speaking in tongues can become a self-centered pursuit of personal benefits instead of building up the body of Christ, as Paul writes “… since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
This can of course happen with any of the gifts of the Spirit and I am as guilty as the next man. We need to remember: the more we get self out of the way; the more the Holy Spirit will give us his gifts to serve Him in serving each other in his church. He has given gifts to whom, when, where, and how He sovereignly pleases. May we not be afraid of how God has equipped us.
I strongly believe that if there was more teaching on the gifts of the Spirit and helping people to see what their own gifts were, we would have more and stronger disciples of Christ in our churches. Do you know what your gifts are? Is your church evoking the gifts of every believer that God has given to them and wants them to use in his service?
A great stumbling block for fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together is traditionalism where the slogan is: “This is the way we’ve always done it, and God forbid that we ever change”. Then we are leaving the puzzle unfinished, because our traditions keep us blind. The Bible warns us not to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit and despise prophecies but test everything (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19–21). That will lead to real fellowship with one another in the Spirit where we admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
The last piece of the puzzle I want to mention is one we rip in half and take one side of it and leave the other. It is to seek the blessings of the Holy Spirit without really submitting to Him and seeking the kingdom of God and be willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of God’s kingdom. One of the main reasons that God sent the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ (John 16:14) by convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:9-11).
The more we are filled with the Holy Spirit the more He stirs up the conviction in our hearts: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!” The puzzle will only become completed when we grow in our zeal for missions, evangelism, to glorify Christ through the conviction and power of the Spirit.
My prayer is that we will be transformed through the renewing of our minds about the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2) and develop a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.