Who is the Holy Spirit? God in His Outrageous Mode

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, July 9, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

I’m going to give you a series of words and I’d like you to think about how one of them is not like the others. Then I want you to see if you can figure out what all of the words have in common in the Bible. The words are: wind, fire, flood, and dove. Now, hopefully most of you are chuckling to yourselves as you realize that the first task is incredibly obvious. I shared three powerful forces that can also be natural disasters along with one very harmless and peaceful bird. The second task is the tougher one. While a dove seemingly has nothing in common with the three forces, all four of these words are used to describe the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

About a month ago, I had the privilege of attending the regional conference for the denomination in which I am a pastor. One of the keynote speakers was an author and seminary professor by the name of Terry Wardle. He was sharing about being empowered by the Holy Spirit and referenced the phrase “God in his outrageous mode,” which was originally coined by psychologist and Roman Catholic priest Benedict Groeschel to describe the Spirit. Wardle continued that he loves that phrase because we so often forget that the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. He is God and we cannot fully understand him or even partially tame him. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Wardle explained that too often pastors and those they lead have attempted to confine the Holy Spirit to the dove metaphor and only see him as a polite gentleman. You can read Mark 1:9-13 to see that the comparison of the Spirit to a dove is Biblical, but even in that scenario the Word says that Jesus “saw heaven being torn open.” That doesn’t sound very calm or gentle. The Holy Spirit can be gentle when that is what is best for us, but we should never theologically restrict him to that attribute alone since virtually every other reference to him in Scripture is one of force. I’m reminded of the great line in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” When Aslan (the lion portraying God) is walking away and it makes Lucy sad because she doesn’t know when she will see him again, her friend assures her that he cannot be controlled, saying, “After all, he’s not a tame lion.”

The first group of Christ’s followers and many other Jews found that out about the Holy Spirit when they first experienced his power at Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. This event was not only foretold in the Old Testament before Jesus (Joel 2:28-32), but Jesus himself told them what was coming. Luke 24:49 records Jesus telling his disciples to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Acts 1:8 also records Jesus’ prophecy: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In both of those verses, the Greek word for “power” is “dunamis.” You may be asking yourself why that matters, so let me tell you that our word DYNAMITE is derived from “dunamis.” The power that was coming to the followers of Jesus to allow them to do extraordinary things they never could before was not gentle. It was explosive!

The scene was set for God to show up just as he had promised, powerfully and outrageously. Because of the annual celebration known as Pentecost, Jews had come from all over the world (what was known of it at the time) to Jerusalem. Believing in Jesus wasn’t popular yet. More importantly, the believers didn’t yet have the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit, so they did what Jesus commanded and just stayed where they were. They banded together and prayed constantly (Acts 1:14) and waited for God to move. There were only about 120 total believers in Jesus in the whole world at this time and they all stayed in the same place. Let that sink in for a minute. Without the Holy Spirit, these 120 probably would’ve eventually got bored and discouraged and likely would have moved on. The number would have decreased. With the Holy Spirit, however, that number was about to increase by 2,500%!

They couldn’t and didn’t plan it, so they waited. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:2-4). Read the rest of the chapter to see what happens for yourself. With the clear evidence in front of them, the Jews from all over could not deny the presence of the Holy Spirit. Some made a feeble attempt to pass it off as drunkenness on the part of the disciples, but Peter shot down that theory. He went on to remind them of the different ways this very event was prophesied so they could see how God had orchestrated it from the beginning, then urged them to “repent and be baptized” (2:38). The Jews responded like they were at a Billy Graham crusade, as verse 41 tells us “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” So in one day, the entire Christian Church went from 120 to 3,120. I guess that means they had all sorts of wonderful “programs” to attract seekers of all ages, right? Of course not! This kind of transformation cannot happen by man’s plans alone. It is done by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Next week, we’ll be discussing healing, a physical sign of the power of the Holy Spirit that was evident through Peter and John not long after the Day of Pentecost and that is still evident today. What is the area of your life where you need something “outrageous”? Where do you need to experience something greater and more powerful than yourself to get you out of a mess you have created? Don’t be afraid to ask God to show up and show off. Surrender all to him and ask him to do whatever is necessary to rescue you, even if it means taking some dynamite to whatever false security you have developed for yourself. Trust him to be both destroyer and dove as he removes that which is destructive in your life, violently if necessary, only to restore you by his grace and love. It may be scary, but it will be worth it. So be courageous when God is outrageous!