15 December 2008

Alpha Retreat Sermon 2: What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

We had a very short break between Weekend Sermon 1 and Weekend Sermon 2 on Saturday morning. This was leading to a severe Gumbel overload. Too much too early on a Saturday morning with too little sleep. It was just as long as your typical sermon, yet, in the course manual, it only took up two pages as opposed to the four pages a typical sermon takes. That means that there was a lot of fluff. I barely wrote any notes.

The basic gist is that the Holy Spirit makes us born again, this time into the family of God. Why there needs to be a Holy Spirit to do this doesn't make any sense to me. Anyway, the six points Gumbel emphasised are as follows. The Holy Spirit:

I. Makes us Sons and Daughters of God.

This gives us a relationship that implies forgiveness, privilege, community, etc.

II. Develops our Relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit ("He") helps us to pray. He also enables us to understand God's word. This one was quite baffling; what Gumbel actually said was that we have to believe in order to understand. That seems irrationally backward. He actually used the "leap of faith" in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as a reference for this one.

III. Gives us a Family Likeness.

IV. Gives us Unity to the Family

These two seem exactly the same as I., but I found they emphasized the Us vs. Them mentality that can make religion really dangerous, though I'm sure it wasn't Gumbel's intention.

V. Gifts for All God's Children

ie. all the physical supernatural abilities God promises in 1 Corintians 12:4-11. This includes speaking in tongues and prophesy.

VI. Grows the Family of God

Meaning it (sorry, He) empowers us to witness for Christ, do the missionary thing, engage in service to the church, etc.

To conclude, Gumbel said that the most important thing, according to him, here is that the Holy Spirit automatically comes into every person the moment they accept Jesus as their lord and saviour. The problem is that most of the time, the Holy Spirit comes in only a small quantity. ie. you are unfilled. Gumbel used the analogy of a pilot light in a fireplace. The Holy Spirit is the pilot light. It's up to you to turn the gas on 'high' and get filled with fire.

I guess to some people in the course, this was a very important session. In the subsequent group discussion, many people were worried about Gumbel's last point, ie. do they have the Holy Spirit or not, are they filled or not. Personally, I just didn't care.

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At December 15, 2008 3:47 p.m., Blogger Stew said...

When I was a Christian it was a source of constant concern to me that I wasn't "filled" with the Holy Spirit.
I had done all the right things, I had asked Jesus to be my saviour. I had wept with joy at the understanding of my salvation. But I never did the tongues thing or ever got jump up and down excited in church. I prayed, god how I prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I had hands laid on me, I was prayed over. I read the Bible on the Spirit and its fruits and its gifts, never did work for me.

I now suspect all that speaking in tounges stuff was faked or hysteria.

And the Holy Spirit can fuck off, I don't believe there is any such thing. There's your unforgivable sin right there.

At December 15, 2008 8:54 p.m., Blogger Tom Foss said...

It's true: sometimes when the Holy Spirit (he) enters you, you feel unfulfilled. This isn't necessarily a problem; if the Holy Spirit moves around in the right ways and makes a concerted effort, he can make you feel fulfilled, or at least satisfied. Otherwise, you might find that trying new ways of letting the Spirit enter you can make you feel more fulfilled. If that doesn't work, then you may have to supplement your experience with additional tools designed to increase your feelings of fulfillment. If all that fails, it may be a sign that you and the Holy Spirit just aren't compatible, and you should both seek fulfillment from others. :)

At December 17, 2008 12:19 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Stew, it really seems to be bothering many of the people in my alpha course. I'm hopeful that one day they'll come to the same conclusion that you did.

Tom, with that comment you now qualify to be a respected church elder.

At December 19, 2008 8:09 a.m., Blogger Carlo said...

Irrationality wins again! Seriously though, I think that the only reason I used to believe in Catholicism (in addition to my very young age) is that everything there was much more nebulous than this Alpha shit. Like, I'm sure that by 12 years old, if someone told me that my religion now gave me magical powers, I would have asked to see them demonstrated. This entire thing just seems ridiculous, and you're a bigger man than I for putting up with it for so long.


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