Tag: trinity

Sermon: What Is The Trinity and Why Should We Care?

Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday. This is a great opportunity to help one another experience the uniqueness and importance of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Triune work of God. I hope your Sunday will be wonderful! 

What is the Trinity and Why Should We Care?

John 16:12-15 NIV

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Today is Trinity Sunday

Today is Trinity Sunday in the calendar of the Christian Year. Frankly, I’m not sure I have ever preached a sermon on the Trinity as a theological concept. And, there are several reasons for that.

First, the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. That is actually not that unusual because there are a number of theological concepts not found explicitly in the Bible that scholars and Church history and tradition have validated over the past 2,000 years. But the absence of direct teaching from the Bible on the Trinity makes it hard to find a passage of Scripture from which to launch out for a sermon. The passage we read today has hints of a trinitarian relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, but you have to look carefully for it.

The second reason I haven’t preached directly on the Trinity is because it is a topic, a concept, from the academic discipline called “systematic theology.” Systematic theology, briefly, is the attempt by Christian theologians to craft a coherent understanding of the work of God. Typically systematic theologies are crafted from Scripture, Church tradition, and the overarching philosophy of the particular theologian who is writing. So, the topics of systematic theology tend to be conceptual, and often difficult to explain in a way that doesn’t put a congregation to sleep quickly.

But, the primary reason I think I haven’t preached specifically on the Trinity is because it is one of those doctrines that Christians worldwide affirm, but have great difficulty explaining. The idea of One God in Three Persons — three-in-One — is a concept we have difficulty getting our heads around.

While in seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, I served as associate pastor at a church in Irving. Next door to the church was a large apartment complex that for some reason tended to attract large numbers of international residents. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is home to several major universities such as SMU, TCU, and others, and perhaps that was the draw.

A couple of times young men from the Middle East, mostly Iranians, would come to the church office and ask to speak with a “holy man.” Apparently I was the closest thing we had to one, so I often got to talk with these young Muslim men. The primary thing they wanted to debate with me was the fact that Christianity had three gods. I would then try to explain the Trinity to them, but they, like me, had great difficulty in comprehending how One God could be constructed of Three Persons. I never convinced any of those young men that Christians worshipped One God, but that experience did remind me of how difficult the concept of the Trinity is to explain.

The Trinity in The Shack

Several years ago, an interesting book titled The Shack became a bestseller. The story was compelling, but one aspect of that book sparked discussion and disagreement among Christians. William Paul Young represented the Trinity in a very unique way.

For God the Father, Young portrayed God as a large black woman, who was outgoing, warm-hearted, and kind. For God the Holy Spirit, Young’s persona was that of an Asian woman dressed in bright colors who seemed to dart in and out of sight in a Tinkerbell-like fashion. For Jesus, the author pretty much stayed with the stereotype of Jesus as a workman, complete with jeans, flannel shirt, and toolbelt. Each of these personas of God exhibited unique characteristics, and each had a specific role to play in the fictional story.

But, as creative as that portrayal was, Young’s attempt to give the Trinity personality fell short of capturing the theology fully.

Early Heresies About the Trinity

This idea of the Triune God, the Trinity, is a difficult idea to grasp. And it has been difficult for Christians from the early church down to the present. Some attempts have failed miserably to capture the three-in-oneness of God completely. These imperfect attempts to define the Trinity became early Christian heresies. A heresy is a doctrine or teaching that is incompatible with the Church’s view of Scripture and the traditional understanding of the those who have gone before us.

The two primary heresies about the Trinity, although there are more than two, are modalism and subordinationism. First modalism: there were those who said that God was One God who just appeared in three different roles — or modalities —  as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A good illustration of this is one I have heard used to describe the Trinity, but unfortunately it falls short.

The example is a easy one to grasp. I am Chuck Warnock, but I am husband to Debbie, father to Amy and Laurie, and pastor to this church. So, I am one person in three roles. But while this sort of gets at one aspect of the Trinity, it is actually a good example of the heresy of “modalism” — one god playing three different parts.

The other heresy is that God the Father is the supreme figure, while both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to him in some way. The details are not important, but trust me, this is not what the Bible teaches.

Early Creeds Address Misunderstandings About the Trinity

So, in order to correct the theological conversation, the early Church developed creedal statements that expressed what the Church believed. The first was the Apostles’ Creed, which we looked at in detail several years ago. The Apostles’ Creed simply affirms in three statements a belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

2. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord;

3. I believe in the Holy Spirit.

But The Apostles’ Creed left the door open for misunderstanding about the Trinity, so the Nicene Creed was developed from 325 AD, and took its final form in 381 AD.

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father;

through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven,

was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

and became truly human.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],

who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Note the detailed explanation of the person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. These details were included to correct the notion that God the Father was superior to God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. The “essence” of all three persons of the Godhead was, in other words, the same.

Theory Gives Way to Reality

But it’s one thing to assert something about the Trinity, to say we believe in the Triune God, and to embrace a doctrine we cannot fully comprehend or explain. It is another thing entirely to base our understanding of God on what we see God doing.

So, let me make the most important statement about the Trinity that I can make this morning, and that is — Our understanding of the Trinity is based on what we see God has done and is doing in the world.

Let me give you some examples.

In the Old Testament, God is Creator of both the world, and of the nation of Israel through whom he will bless the world. Of course, God is present as Spirit, and the Messiah is both prophesied and foreshadowed in various theophanies (appearances of God, such as the angel who wrestles with Jacob). But primary on the stage of the unfolding drama of the Old Testament is the God of Israel, Yahweh, El-Shaddai, Elohim, Adonai, and all the other names by which God is called and worshipped.

In the New Testament Gospel accounts, the emphasis is upon Jesus — his birth, his baptism, his message, his life, his death, and his resurrection. But God the Father approves his Son, and the Holy Spirit descends upon — anoints — Jesus for ministry.

In the New Testament Book of Acts and the epistles, the Holy Spirit is at the forefront, equipping, enabling, guiding, empowering the early church.

In the Book of Revelation, God the Father, Son, and Spirit are all present, each featured in a way that is both consistent with the Old Testament, witnesses to the New Testament, and brings fully into being the Kingdom of God in its closing chapters.

Why Should We Care?

Okay, that surveys the “What is the Trinity?” question, even though I am sure you probably have more questions now than when we began. But to keep this from being merely an academic exercise, we need to turn our attention to “Why do we care?”

This is what’s important and what we need to understand. Doctrine is important, but doctrine comes from the lived experiences of God’s people as they interpret the work of God in the real world.

First, the reason we should care about the Trinity, and be aware of the uniqueness of the One-in-Three and Three-in-One is this: Without a balanced view of all three persons of the Trinity, we can misinterpret the work of God in this world.

For instance, if we emphasize some aspects of God in the Old Testament, and subordinate Jesus and the Spirit, then we come away with a picture of a god of wrath and judgment, who has little compassion. One very well known Baptist preacher did just that after the tornadoes in Oklahoma last week, when he compared the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma with the story of Job who lost all of his children to a mighty wind that collapsed Job’s house.

If we emphasize the person of Jesus to the exclusion of God the Father and the Holy Spirit, we miss out on the fact that God sent Jesus because “God so loved the world…” The purpose of God is to redeem the world, not just the individuals in it. Salvation is the work of God, and that salvation extends not just to individuals but to God’s creation as well. Another famous and trendy preacher was quoted as saying that Jesus is coming back to burn up the world, so he can drive a huge SUV because he’s not worried about this physical earth. Not a good theological position, in my estimation.

Finally, if we emphasize the Holy Spirit, and the charismatic experiences and gifts of the Spirit, it it is easy to loose sight of God as Creator, Son as Redeemer, and the role that the Holy Spirit played and plays in both of those aspects of God’s work.

So, that’s the downside of why the Trinity is important to us. But what’s the upside, what are the positive reasons we need to care about developing our own understanding of the Trinity.

We Learn Two Important Lessons From The Trinity

First, in the doctrine of the Trinity, we find our model for community. As God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit relate to one another, demonstrate love for each other, and work in concert to accomplish the purpose of God in the world, we get the idea of community.

This idea of the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit has been depicted by many Christian scholars using the term “perichoresis.” That’s a Greek word which means, literally, “dancing around.” I like the implications of God — Father, Son, and Spirit — in a divine dance, interacting with one another, expressing love for one another, and complementing the work each has to do.

In the passage we read today, we find some of these elements of mutuality. Jesus says that the Spirit will guide his disciples, glorify Jesus, take what belongs to Jesus and give it to the disciples. But, everything Jesus has comes from the Father, and that is why the Spirit can make it known to the disciples.

If that sounds like circular reasoning, it is. God the Father creates, God the Son redeems, God the Spirit illuminates and equips. In this divine dance of mutuality, each person of the Godhead complements and builds on the work of other members of the Trinity.

So, at the baptism of Jesus, Jesus demonstrates his obedience to the plan of God through baptism. God the Father announces his approval, and the Holy Spirit anoints Jesus for ministry.

In the early church, the Spirit empowers, equips, and emboldens the apostles to tell the good news of Jesus, who is God’s gift sent into the world to redeem it.

Secondly, in the doctrine of the Trinity, we find our mission. Jesus stated to the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” Just as God the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sends us into the world to do the Father’s work, equipped and accompanied by the Spirit of God.

God’s work involves more than taking individuals to heaven when they die. God’s work is to bring in his kingdom on this earth, so that God’s creation can know the shalom of God — the peace that says all things are as God has intended them to be.

So, God sends Jesus to bring the shalom of God — also called salvation — to the nation of Israel and to all who will respond, whether Jew or not. Which is why Jesus teaches his disciples to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Father and Son then send the Spirit who equips, empowers, and emboldens the early apostles as well as us today.

And, salvation itself — the idea that we are right with God — proceeds from God, is incarnate in Jesus, and is made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Whatever work we have to do in this world, we do from the standpoint of the Triune God — Father, Son and Spirit — who created, redeemed, and enabled us to do so.

So, let me encourage you today to think about the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But we can’t stop at just thinking about a theological concept. As followers of Jesus, we are loved by the Father, and led by the Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are at work in our lives, in the life of this church, and in the life of this world.

As we live in new awareness of God in all God’s expressions as Father, Son, and Spirit, our spiritual lives will deepen, our vision of God’s kingdom will expand, and the work that God has chosen for us will take on a new vitality and urgency.

Sermon: I Believe in the Holy Spirit

Here’s the sermon I’m preaching tomorrow, Sunday, October 25, 2009.  This is the eighth in a 13-week series titled “Why We Need The Apostles’ Creed.” Today we look at the Holy Spirit.

I Believe in The Holy Spirit

25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  — John 14:25-27

The Third Person in The Creed

I had the opportunity to speak to students at Duke Divinity School this past week, and to meet Dr. Curtis Freeman, who is the director of The Baptist House at Duke.  Dr. Freeman and I had a chance to chat later in the afternoon.  In the course of our conversation, my sermon series on The Apostles’ Creed came up, and Dr. Freeman was curious as to how that was going.  He had read about my intention to preach on the Creed this summer, and emailed me that he was going to be speaking at a conference in Alabama at Samford’s Beeson Divinity School — a Baptist university — on the Nicene Creed.  So, creeds seem to be more and more popular in Baptist life, not because we are in danger of adopting one officially, but because we believe the statements in the great creeds of Christianity.  He also told me that Duke Divinity was hosting Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, distinguished professor in systematic theology.  Dr. Freeman told me that Wainwright uses The Apostles’ Creed as his outline for his sytematic theology lectures.  Of course, he’s a Methodist, which explains a lot, but nevertheless, I’m not so far out in doing this series after all.

So, let’s get down to business today.  The Apostles’ Creed could be easily divided into three main sections:

  1. The section affirming belief in “God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
  2. The second second on our affirmation in “Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,”
  3. And, the third section, stating simply, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Two powerful lines in the Creed are devoted to God, and ten lines are devoted to Jesus.  The two lines about God use high content titles to describe God — Father, Almighty, Creator.   Those three words describe our relationship to God; God’s own pre-eminence over everything; and, God’s creative act.

The ten lines about Jesus walk us through his life from his relationship to God, to his conception, birth, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, descent into hell, resurrection, ascension back into heaven, his position at the right hand of God, and his sure return to judge the living and the dead.  Those ten lines cover a lot of territory, but they also tell a story familiar to us, and a story that forms the heart of the Christian faith.

At first glance, one might look at The Creed and think that there is only one line devoted to the Holy Spirit, and that line is not very descriptive — “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”  Period.  End of sentence.  But actually, a semicolon resides at the end of that phrase, connecting the Person of the Holy Spirit to that which follows.

In other words, our belief in the Holy Spirit acknowledges that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers the church, unites the saints, regenerates sinners, breathes resurrection life into transformed bodies, and sustains us in the life everlasting.

So, while we are going to talk about each of those things — the church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting — when we do, we will also be talking about the work of the Spirit.

So, the Holy Spirit is not getting short shrift in the Creed, or in our attention in this series.  But today, we’re going to stop at the very short, but powerful phrase — “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Who is The Holy Spirit, and How Did He (or She) Get Here?

Who, then is the Holy Spirit?  Well, if you read the popular work of inspirational fiction, The Shack, you remember that the author portrayed the Holy Spirit as a blithe female persona, flitting here and there in the blink of an eye.

We may not be ready to call the Holy Spirit “she” today, but by all means we should not call the Spirit “it.”  The classic understanding of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, or any of the other names the Spirit is identified by is that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Divine Trinity.

There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has always existed as co-eternal with God, of the same essence as Father and Son, and yet with unique ministry.

We encounter the Holy Spirit first in the first verses of Genesis, where the Spirit of God broods over the unformed earth.  The image there is one of a hen brooding over her chicks to bring them safely and carefully into full maturity.

“But,” you say, “I thought God the Father, Almighty was the creator of heaven and earth?”  God was, and here is where all this gets a little tricky.  It is very easy for us to talk about the Trinity, but very hard for us to explain the Trinity.

Perhaps this will help:  The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who encounters humankind here on earth.

  • So, when God creates the earth, and everything else, The Holy Spirit is the one who shows up to do the work.
  • When God sends his only Son to earth, The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who moves miraculously in Mary’s life so that she conceives Jesus.
  • When at Jesus’ baptism, God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” it is the Spirit who descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove.
  • When God resurrects Jesus from the dead, it is the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit who breathes the breath of life into Jesus’ transformed body.

And, so the Holy Spirit is now God with us, and that is exactly what Jesus says to his disciples in the passage we read today.

Just as God sends Jesus to the earth, to humankind, so God the Father and God the Son send the Holy Spirit to earth to be God’s continuing presence with those early disciples and with us today.

Our Problem With The Holy Spirit

But, we are often like the believers in Ephesus.  When Paul arrived there for the first time, he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed.  Their reply was, “We haven’t even heard if there is a Holy Spirit.”  And here’s why 21st century Christians in America sometimes act that way:  we’re not sure we want the Holy Spirit.

That’s right, we’re just not sure we want to go there.  We as Baptists are pretty sure we don’t want to do weird stuff, like speak in tongues, heal the sick, and jump pews.  We’ll leave all of that to our Pentecostal friends, thank you very much.  So, the first problem we have with the Holy Spirit is a problem of weirdness.

And, there is a lot of weirdness that takes place when the Holy Spirit is around.  On the Day of Pentecost, weird things happened — the sound of a rushing wind filled the place where the apostles were staying.  Flames of fire appeared over their heads, and they spoke in languages they had never learned.  So, what was that about?

Well, while it sounds weird, several things were going on at once.  For the Feast of Pentecost, Jews from all over the known-world had stayed in Jerusalem since the Passover.  They came from a variety of cities, nations, and tongues.  And, so the speaking in “unknown tongues” was a reversal of The Tower of Babel story.  Once, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, man had tried to make a name for himself and build a ziggurat that reached into the throne room of God.  But God frustrated that effort by confusing their language, mixing up their speech so that they could not understand one another and could not finish the project.

But at Pentecost, God unscrambles that confusion by giving Peter and the other apostles the ability to preach in languages they had not learned, so that everyone who was there, no matter where they were from, understood and heard the story of Jesus.  So, when God does weird stuff, it always has a purpose.

But, that doesn’t mean we want to be weird, and besides the Day of Pentecost has come and gone.

Which brings me to our real problem with the Holy Spirit:  we think that the Holy Spirit only does the weird, the miraculous, or the extraordinary.

But Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Comforter.”  That doesn’t sound too weird, or even miraculous.  Jesus said to the disciples that the Holy Spirit was “with you, and shall be in you.”  The Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of God in our lives.

I have often heard people remark during or after a particularly difficult time, “I don’t know how people who don’t believe in God are able to get through what I’ve just been through.”  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, comforting, strengthening, caring, and guiding.  That’s not weird at all.

But whether we are comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit or not, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and the lives of all believers.

Get Used to The Holy Spirit Because He’s Our Down Payment on The Resurrection

Paul said that the Holy Spirit is the earnest money, the down payment on our own resurrection.  In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul says:

21Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

The Spirit is the guarantee, the down payment, of what is to come.  God gives us himself as personal guarantee of the fidelity of His promises, His saving grace, and our eternal place with Him.

So, it would seem like we need to know something of the Holy Spirit, because after all, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee of life everlasting.

The Holy Spirit Equips The Church

One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit is to give gifts to each follower of Christ.  Of course, the greatest gift is God’s gift of salvation, but there is more to being a follower of Jesus than just eternal life.  There’s life here in the body of Christ called the church.

Paul said that Christ is the head of the body, but that the Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts to fit into the body.  Some have supernatural gifts, some have more everyday type gifts, but none of us is overlooked in the gift-giving of the Holy Spirit.

If I were to suggest to you today that we could do what Jesus did, some of you would think that I was either speaking rhetorically, or I was exaggerating.  But that’s exactly what Paul, and Jesus himself, said.  The key to that, though, is we don’t do it alone.  By bringing our gifts, and using them in concert with the gifts of others, the body of Christ carries out the work and ministry of Christ in this world today.  Feeding people, healing people, announcing the good news, befriending the friendless, demonstrating kingdom values — all these things are only possible if we live in the Spirit, and express the gifts the Spirit of God has given to each of us.

The Spirit Also Wages Spiritual Battle

But, let’s not kid ourselves.  This world is a long way off from being what God intends for it to be.  The Lord’s Prayer asks for God’s will “to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  We are not close to having that prayer answered universally yet.

As a matter of fact, the Spirit is also fighting for us and the kingdom of God.  Now, we know how the story will end because Jesus has already defeated sin and death.  But have you ever watched those “nature-at-its-wildest” shows?  I saw a new one the other day called “Monsters of the River” or something like that.  The star was trying to catch some gigantic fish that lived in the Amazon, or a river pretty much like it.

The one thing they always say after they catch the gator, or croc, or in this case a fish that looked to me like the world’s largest catfish — the one thing they always say is, “Okay, be careful when we put him back in the water, because his tail can be deadly.”

And, that’s where we are today.  Satan is a defeated foe, the church knows its going to be victorious, but in his death throes, Satan’s tail can be deadly.

Paul said, “10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” — Eph 6:10-18 NIV

We’re in a spiritual battle, we’re to take the sword of the Spirit, we’re to pray in the Spirit — sounds like the Holy Spirit is doing a lot for us in the realm of the unseen world, that we need to know about.

I am reading David Augsburger’s book, Pastoral Counseling Across Cultures.  Augsburger is primarily speaking to those who will offer pastoral care and counseling to persons from cultures other than their own.  He told this story to illustrate the power of a world known to other cultures, if unknown to us:

In Indonesia, a man converted to Christianity from Islam.  He was troubled by a talisman — a gold coin — visible just below the surface of his skin, on the underside of his forearm.  He said that this talisman has brought him good luck, success, prosperity, and power in the past.

But when you examine his arm closely, you notice there is not scar or visible sign of how the gold coin got under his skin.  He says that a Muslim priest, a shaman of sorts, placed the coin on his arm, and then the shaman covered the coin with his own hand.  When he removed his hand, the coin was imbedded under the man’s skin.

The young man came forward during a worship service at his new church, asking the pastor for prayer for this talisman.  The pastor showed the young man’s arm, with the gold coin imbedded in it, to the congregation and asked them to pray that the power of the coin would be broken.

As the congregation prayed, the pastor placed his hand over the embedded gold coin, just as the Muslim priest had done.  As they prayed, the pastor removed his hand from the man’s arm.

The coin was no longer under the young man’s skin.  His arm is clear, scarless, and with no sign of the coin.  The pastor held up the coin in his hand as visible evidence to the congregation that the power of God was greater than the power of the coin.

That is a true story, and if we do not understand it, it is because the Holy Spirit works in ways beyond our comprehension or culture.

We do believe in the Holy Spirit for every time we weather a storm, bear a burden, survive a difficulty, or need comfort, the Spirit is there.  He is at work in our world, continuing the ministry of Jesus, at work in our lives through each assembly of believers called the church, and at work in the unseen world where the struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, and rulers of darkness.

Sweet, Holy Spirit, sweet heavenly dove,
Stay right here with us,
filling us with your love.
And for these blessings
we lift our hearts in praise,
Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,
When we shall leave this place.