Chapters 9 and 10 are all about one of God’s greatest gifts…His breath. Now I know that doesn’t sound all that impressive, except that by breath, I mean the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our inheritance. Not an inheritance like the 50 shot glasses you got from your Great-Great-Great-Aunt Ethel or that by receiving the Spirit you will eventually get to heaven. Paul means that we will become God’s chosen people, the “people of the true exodus”. We are delivered to the promised land. As Wright has mentioned a few times prior to this chapter, this promised land is not some ethereal paradise or some small garden, but the whole world. Heaven and earth are intertwined and one in the same.
A few words from the good Bishop Wright…
“The wind and the fire and the brooding bird are given to enable the church to be the church – in other words, to enable God’s people to be God’s people…The Spirit is given, in fact, so that the church can share in the life and continuing work of Jesus himself.”
• Wright starts the chapter with early Christians’ images of the Holy Spirit. What does the Spirit look like to you?
• Look at Wright’s definition of “church.” How do you fit into this image at Sidney First?
• In the last paragraph of the chapter Wright says unity and holiness have been two problems for the church in the last generation. How can we fix these problems and get back to Paul’s idea of being a temple for the Holy Spirit?
Chapter 10 - Living by the Spirit
Wright starts this chapter by looking at the Holy Spirit and Pentecost. Pentecost is the celebration of the Israelites fleeing Egypt (freeing them from oppression) and Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai. In the 2nd chapter of Acts, Jesus has died and risen (freeing us from oppression) then comes down to earth again, this time bringing the Holy Spirit to us. Those who receive the Spirit are to pick up where Jesus left off. They live where heaven and earth meet. But the Holy Spirit is not the only way God is working in this world. We have God’s word and God’s wisdom.
When the early disciples began to tell the world of Jesus, they knew they would not make any sense. Their words, powered by the Holy Spirit, became “the word.” Paul wrote “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” (1Thessalonians 2:13) This brings us to wisdom. This is not wisdom for this world. It is the wisdom from “before our ages of glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7). The word and wisdom of God belong to those of us who belong to Him, the people who live at the intersection of heaven and earth.
There are two quotes that really sum up the last part of the chapter:
1. “Christian spirituality normally involves a measure of suffering…suffering comes in many forms too; illness, depression, bereavement, moral dilemmas, poverty, tragedy, accidents and death…it is when we are suffering that we can most confidently expect the Spirit to be with us.”
2. “For Christians it’s always a love game: God’s love for the world calling out an answering love from us, enabling us to discover that God not only happens to love us but that He is love itself.”
So what now? God has given us His Son, His word and His wisdom. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. In his final section Wright tells us how we can reflect the image of God into this world.
• On pg. 134 Wright talks about the early disciples spreading the “Word of God.” What exactly is that? The New Testament hadn’t been written yet and the Old Testament was nothing new to the Jews at that time. Is the “Word of God” something not written in the Bible?
• What does it mean to be “heaven-minded”?
• Think of your own journey in faith. How did the Holy Spirit show up in your suffering?