My friend Felix sent me an article that I read tonight. It was pretty incredible. I’m not going to repost it because there are a few things in it that make me significantly uncomfortable, so I want to chew on it for a bit. But I thought I’d post a few quotes that were used to discuss the work of the Spirit:
Fifth century monk John Cassian in his Institutes:
“We also met Abba Theodore, who was endowed with the greatest holiness and knowledge not only in practical affairs but also in familiarity with Scripture. This he had obtained not from a zeal for reading or from worldly learning but from purity of heart alone, since he could hardly either understand or speak more than a few words of Greek. When he was seeking out the answer to some particularly obscure question he would pray untiringly for seven days and nights until, thanks to a revelation from the Lord, he reached the solution to the question at issue.
When some of the brothers, then, were marveling at the remarkable clarity of his knowledge and were asking him about certain interpretations of Scripture, he said to them: ‘A monk who desires to attain a knowledge of Scripture should never toil over the works of the commentators. Instead he should direct the full effort of his mind and the attentiveness of his heart toward the cleansing of his fleshly vices. As soon as these have been driven out and the veil of the passions has been lifted, the eyes of his heart will naturally contemplate the mysteries of Scripture, since it was not in order to be unknown and obscure that they were delivered to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit; rather they are made obscure by our vices, when the veil of our sinfulness clouds over the eyes of the heart.”
John Calvin, a thousand years later, in his Institutes:
“Those who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter. But I wish they would tell me what spirit it is whose inspiration raises them to such a sublime height that they dare despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish. If they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, their confidence is exceedingly ridiculous; since they will, I presume, admit that the apostles and other believers in the primitive Church were not illuminated by any other Spirit. None of these thereby learned to despise the word of God, but every one was imbued with greater reverence for it, as their writings most clearly testify… Again, I should like those people to tell me whether they have imbibed any other Spirit than that which Christ promised to his disciples. Though their madness is extreme, it will scarcely carry them the length of making this their boast. But what kind of Spirit did our Savior promise to send? One who should not speak of himself, but suggest and instill the truths which he himself had delivered through the word. Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the gospel recommends.”
Jonathan Edwards in a section of his writing that he titled “Gracious affections arise from the mind being enlightened, rightly and spiritually to understand or apprehend divine things”:
“Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from the information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before, more of God or Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel; he has some clearer and better view than he had before, when he was not affected: either he receives some understanding of divine things that is new to him; or has his former knowledge renewed after the view was decayed… Hence also it appears, that affections arising from texts of Scripture coming to the mind are vain, when no instruction received in the understanding from those texts, or anything taught in those texts, is the ground of the affection, but the manner of their coming to the mind. When Christ makes the Scripture a means of the heart’s burning with gracious affection, it is by opening the Scriptures to their understandings….”
This opening of the Scriptures to a person is accomplished by “a divine taste, given and maintained by the Spirit of God, in the heart of the saints, whereby they are in like manner led and guided in discerning and distinguishing the true spiritual and holy beauty of actions; and that more easily, readily, and accurately, as they have more or less of the Spirit of God dwelling in them.”
And how incredible is this verse by Dante discussing the Holy Spirit:
Eternal light, that in Thyself alone
Dwelling, alone dost know Thyself, and smile
On Thy self-love, so knowing and so known…
My will and my desire were turned by love,
The love that moves the sun and the other stars.
These passages just open my heart to this immense reality that I feel like I am so often oblivious to. This passion and love for God, this earnest desire to encounter, know, and love the Holy Spirit… This reverence for God’s word and daily reliance on the revelation of the Holy Spirit to understand it rightly.
I’m in an awesome place, working for a great church, but I don’t know how often I actually feel like I’m worse off for having not read my Bible on any given day. My personal devotions are drastically lacking… and I don’t say that as if one needs to read the Bible every day to be a good Christian. I say that, though, as one who needs to encounter God daily. I need Him. And yet I so often feel separated from the feeling of that need. I so often feel like I’m fine just the way I am. Yet I know so clearly that I’m desperately in need. These passages reveal that there is such a greater depth of knowledge of God—a knowledge that is personal, experienced, and tangible—that I don’t feel I have even scratched the surface of. And yet I can say that I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ as Colossians 1 says. If that’s the case, why settle for anything less than encountering God in the fullest sense possible every day?
When I read these things, I see how petty and empty the things that I give my heart and passions to really are. Compared to this reality—that God wants to know me and wants me to know Him and that He has filled me with His Spirit to actually make that happen—what else could be worth my time? What else could be worth my love? What else could be worth my affections?
Nothing. Let it all die. Let the fading things of this world fade more quickly from my mind, and let the empty passions of my sinful heart wither and die, separated from my heart and mind forever.
Come Holy Spirit. Please come. Take me into Your being and speak to me as You have spoken to so many others. Let me know You with the same intimacy that Christ knows You. May I be one with You, even as You are one with the Father and the Son. Open my heart and mind to see that which cannot even be explained through words. Seal me, fill me, sanctify me, transform me… Take my weak and weary heart and make it burst forth with fiery passion for You.
(Soul:) ‘Lord, you are constantly lovesick for me.
That you have clearly shown personally.
You have written me into your book of the Godhead;
You have painted me in your humanity;
You have buried me in your heart…
Ah, allow me, my dear One, to pour balsam upon you.’
(God:) ‘O One dear to my heart, where shall you find the balm?’
(Soul:) ‘O Lord, I was going to tear the heart of my soul in two and intended to put you in it.’
-Mechthild of Magdeburg, (13th century)