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The Spirit of Peace

The Spirit of Peace

The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. — Romans 8:6

Holy Spirit, teach me to be Your gentle follower in all situations. ~ N. T. Wright

When I was president of a large nonprofit, we had to raise a lot of money. I felt the pressure. I ached under the grind. Along the way, two donors, both with high capacity and good intelligence, saw what was going on and offered help. “Todd,” they said, “do your best, and we’ll make up the rest. We love the work you’re doing, and we will be your backstop.”

Backstop — what a freeing idea! Suddenly I felt safe. It was also inspiring. It made me and the team all the more diligent in our fundraising. Someone had our back.

  • God backs your act. His backing is a vital source of inner and relational peace. It means you don’t need to have your own back.

The Spirit, as various texts translate the Greek term parakletos, is the Comforter, the Helper, the Comforting Counselor, the Companion, the Advocate. Imagine those names representing God’s activity in your life — comforting, helping, counseling, companioning, and advocating. Receiving the Spirit means we can ditch the anxious energy we use to motivate our work or to protect ourselves. We can put that formerly wasted energy to peaceful use as we love and serve others.

  • It is through the person and work of the Holy Spirit that God upholds our life.

Thus, an ongoing, honest, and robust conversational relationship with the Spirit is crucial to Christian spirituality. A faith-filled, welcoming interaction with the Spirit is the basis a life of peace and justice. The Holy Spirit is not optional — like a tech, safety, or touring package on a new car.

The Holy Spirit is not owned or defined by a denomination or era of church history. The Spirit cannot be reduced to a religious consumer choice: “I’m really Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, or Anglican, but I guess I’ll have a bit of the Spirit” — as if the Spirit is a side dish to the main course of denominational affiliation. The Holy Spirit is Almighty God, the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit deserves our love, respect, and obedience, not suspicion and cynicism. Having confidence in the work of the Spirit and taking Him seriously is vital to peace in life and ministry. Seeking the Spirit is what finds the Spirit, not just being open, as if God has something to prove to you — and you might be willing to give Him a break if He acts the way you require Him to.

Whether or not we perceive it, we live, by God’s design and purpose, in the age of the Holy Spirit.

Discipleship to Jesus and our church life are meant to have at their center an interactive relationship with the Holy Spirit. Why? I put it this way: “God’s purposes in full-orbed, others-oriented, missional discipleship require a power that matches his intentions. This power comes from the person and work of the Holy Spirit.”1

This is why Jesus said to His first followers,

I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. — Luke 24:49, emphasis mine

This definitive idea is meant to be a reality for Christian life. The power of the Spirit is central to all the good we feel called to do in the world.

The Holy Spirit moves us to be and do in the manner of Jesus. Think of the quality of life that Jesus knew, His inward experience of love, joy, and peace — this is the work the Spirit does in us.

The Holy Spirit presents Jesus to us in our minds and hearts and continues the personal presence and ministry of Jesus within the church. The Holy Spirit gives the church its sense of authorization to work on God’s behalf in the world. Jesus closely connected peace, the sentness of the church, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Among His last words to the disciples were these:

‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ — John 20:21–22

Being sent is not being abandoned to our own ideas or strength. The peace of the Spirit is a grounding presence in the life and work of the church. The Holy Spirit produces fruit and transformation of character in us (Galatians 5:22–23). The Holy Spirit accompanies us, giving the church its capacity to live into the sending that came from Jesus. The Holy Spirit provides guidance along the way. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11-12) — the abilities we need to work within our calling. This is why Paul encouraged the church to “eagerly desire the greater gifts” and to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1).

Jesus sought to live, teach, and do His work as He was directed to do so by the Father. This was an expression of relational reliance. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the pattern we are to practice with the Holy Spirit: we seek to live and do our work as directed by the Spirit. Following the promptings of the Holy Spirit does not set aside human thought, vision, or initiative; it means we are always delighted to bring our ideas, insights, and goals to the Spirit, asking Him to give us discernment, to direct our paths, and to inspire our words and actions.

Interaction, cooperation, and friendship are the objectives here, not that we are made into robots who have no minds or feelings of our own. Actually, our work is just a pretext and context for a greater, eternal good — namely, that the character of the Spirit will increasingly become ours effortlessly and comprehensively.

Dallas Willard wrote, “When our deepest attitudes and dispositions are those of Jesus, it is because we have learned to let the Spirit foster His life in us.”2 We can’t participate with Jesus except through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

If you don’t know where to start in seeking a relationship with the Holy Spirit, let me guide you to Luke 11:9–13:

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
This delightful passage casts a vision for confident asking. Don’t just be open; come to the point where you desire and ask for more of the Spirit. I ask every day, usually more than once a day. If you desire, seek, and ask, Jesus said, you will be given — you can count on it. You will notice new God-given abilities. It will be obvious that something different is animating your life. You will have fresh, instinctual love for others.
Many readers have had scary or off-putting experiences in church when it comes to the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I get it — and I empathize. Let me assure you from a lifetime of experience, you do not have to act in disconcerting or confusing ways to be filled with the Spirit. Consider this: what you saw, heard, or experienced was not the Holy Spirit per se, but the Holy Spirit within a value system, a vibe, or an ethos. But you can be free from those parameters. You can devise and live within your own value system. That is what I have done. In my best estimate, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through us should be expressed by:
  • Love. When we love, we are willing the good of others, not bringing attention to ourselves.

  • Altruistic edification. When the Spirit is at work in our lives, we will have a selfless concern for the well-being of others, seek the good of others, and never expect anything in return.

  • The Golden Rule. When in doubt, we must never fail to do the good to others we would want done to us, and never engage in any harm to others that we would not want done to us.

  • No overacting. The Holy Spirit will not change our tone of voice, posture, body language, or facial expressions. We just need to be ourselves. Creating hype is not helpful. What help or power could Almighty God need?

  • No manipulation. In a community of people who are seeking to engage with the gifts of the Spirit, it is crucial that every “word from the Lord” (wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, and the like) leaves the hearers in charge of their lives before God. If I say to someone, “I’ve been praying for you, and I think the Lord is saying “such and such,” the receiver of the word must be in charge of discerning its legitimacy, its interpretation, and its application to their life. Gifts should never become tools for controlling others. Nor should we ever manipulate people by exaggerating claims or making false claims about one’s spiritual prowess. In the life of the Spirit, we want to act with equal measures of confident faith and humility, creating and respecting space for those we interact with.

    A sense of being naturally supernatural. This was a favorite practice of John Wimber, founder of Vineyard Churches. The idea is that we want as much of the Spirit as He wants to give — the supernatural. But we want to engage with Him in a way that includes the humanity of both the giver and the recipient of a gift. No putting on appearances, no striving to make an impression. Rather, we want to exercise the gifts in a spirit of humility similar to that of a postal worker or delivery person: “I am not the package and I am not the giver; I am just a conduit for the person and work of the Spirit.”

    Normal life and duty. Not everything in life and ministry has to be exciting and provide emotional stimulation. Often this is a fleshly energy we can become addicted to. The animation of the Spirit has a very different feel — a sense of peace, groundedness, quiet confidence, and stability.

Don’t fear the Spirit; rather, welcome the Spirit. Receive the Spirit as you would a treasured guest. Begin with a simple prayer:

“Come, Holy Spirit; I welcome You to work in me and flow through me.”

1.From my article “Missional Leadership for the Ordinary Pastor: Three Simple Steps,” Anglican CompassFebruary 19, 2020, https://anglicancompass.com/missional-leadership-for-the-ordinary-pastor-3-simple-steps.

2.Dallas Willard, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006), 28.

Excerpted with permission from Deep Peace by Todd Hunter, copyright Todd D. Hunter.

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Your Turn

Let's stop and pray for a moment asking the Holy Spirit to help us be relationally reliant upon Him. The anxiety we feel everyday wasting our energy trying to protect ourselves while getting ahead will fade away knowing He has our backs! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

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