The Spirit is Good (1)
Yet in Your manifold mercies
You did not forsake them in the wilderness.
The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day,
To lead them on the road;
Nor the pillar of fire by night,
To show them light,
And the way they should go.
You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth,
And gave them water for their thirst. Nehemiah 9.19, 20
Good as God
In this series we’re seeking to discover ways we can realize more of the goodness of God. Christians are a people who have been redeemed, called, equipped, and sent for good works. We should so long for the goodness of God to come to light in and through us, that this is a primary focus of all our prayers and everything we do.
But for this to happen, we need to learn about good works – what they are, what makes them good, and where we can turn to learn more about them. Good works reflect and refract the character of God by expressing His goodness in ways that bring things together, express the holiness, harmony, and order of God, nurture creative expressions of obedience, and touch others with the love of Christ. We’ve seen that God Himself, as revealed in His Word, should be our primary focus in discerning and learning His goodness. But the goodness of God is also revealed in creation and culture, and especially in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. By looking to these, we can, as individuals and communities of believers, plan and undertake all manner of good works that will cause the goodness of God to be seen in our lives and communities.
It makes sense to think that the Holy Spirit might also reveal the goodness of God to us. This is because He is God, and He shares with the Father and the Son all those characteristics of goodness that we so want to realize.
As we continue our quest to grow in the goodness of God, therefore, we turn to the Holy Spirit and the work He does to help us in bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living.
Presence, guidance, instruction, provision
In the prayer of the Levites, recorded in Nehemiah 9, we discover four primary works of the Holy Spirit which manifest the goodness of God.
First, the Holy Spirit brings the presence of God to us (Neh. 9.19). The Spirit has been sent to be with us, and to dwell in all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 14.15-17). Every believer has all the Holy Spirit living in his soul. Yet the Holy Spirit is not confined to one or even to all believers. Here is a mystery, one we accept by faith. Dwelling within us, the Spirit, as the presence of God, brings the power of God to transform us into the very image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
And, since, as we have seen, Jesus Christ is the very embodimentof the goodness of God, we shall be grateful for and rejoice as much of that transforming work that the Spirit present in and with us can do.
Second, the Spirit provides guidance for all who believe. He was in the fire and smoke that led Israel through the wilderness (Neh. 9.19), and He daily guides believers into all the truth of God’s Word, that they might know how to walk the paths of goodness that Jesus walked, and glorify God (Jn. 16.13, 14; 1 Jn. 2.1-6; 1 Cor. 2.12, 13, 16). This is why it is so important to learn what it means to be filled with the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh (Eph. 5.18-21; Gal. 5.16-23).
Third, the Spirit instructed the people of God as they journeyed through the wilderness (Neh. 9.20). He continues to be our primary Teacher today (Jn. 16.8-15). He does this work by convicting and convincing us of what is sinful and to be avoided; what is righteous and to be embraced and obeyed; and what is threatened in the way of judgment and discipline if we fail to learn according to how and what He teaches.
Finally, the Spirit has an important role in making sure we have all the provision we need – of daily bread, wisdom and understanding, spiritual fruit and gifts, and power to live as witnesses for Jesus Christ (Neh. 9.20; 1 Cor. 4.20; Gal. 5.22, 23; 1 Cor. 12.7-11; Acts 1.8). All our needs, whatever they may be, are supplied for us in Jesus (Phil. 4.19); and having His Spirit, we have everything we need. He is the power of God’s Kingdom, in which all the abundance of God flows to those who know, enjoy, love, and serve Him.
Seek the Spirit
Luke 11.1-13 is a most important passage for us when it comes to the importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of faith. The disciples came to Jesus and asked instruction about how to pray (v. 1). Jesus happily complied by teaching them to pray what we know as the Lord’s Prayer (vv. 2-4). Then He added that we must be prepared to persevere in prayer, to stay at it without growing weary (cf. Lk. 18.1), because prayer is hard work, and the answers we seek can, for a variety of very good reasons, be sometimes long in coming (vv. 5-10). He then promised that God will not fail to hear and answer our prayers (vv. 11, 12). This is all very clear, helpful, and encouraging to us who do not know how to pray as we should (Rom. 8.26).
Finally, Jesus rolled all this instruction about prayer into one omnibus petition: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (v. 13) All the good promises of God, all His good blessings, all the goodness of the Lord we could ever hope to realize in the land of the living – all this goodness is in and by the good Spirit of God.
1. Why did the Levites refer to the Holy Spirit as “good” in their prayer? Is this how you experience the Holy Spirit?
2. Why is prayer a proper setting for realizing the goodness of God’s Spirit.
3. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What does it mean to “walk” in the Spirit?
Next steps – Preparation: How can you know when you’re walking in the Spirit and are filled with Him? Talk with some Christian friends about this question.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.