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The Spirit Which He Hath Given Us
(From the Epistle, 1 St. John iii. 13ff, Second Sunday After Trinity)

I was taken with the last sentence of today's Epistle:
"And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us" (1 Jn. 3:24b).

This verse has always meant a great deal to me, for it seems part of an effort the Apostle John in this epistle is making to supply the believer with ample evidence of the believer 's conversion. The evidence seems to be that of a changed nature, one that reflects the very presence and power of God through the living Agency of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives.

All of us require real, hard, true evidence for claims we encounter in life, claims of any kind or size. We are constantly offered claims for advertised products that are suppose to legitimize them in our eyes, and we are placed in a position to judge whether such claims have truth and merit. More often than not, we are so deluged with this process of claim-making that we are tempted to place our judgment on the shelf in weariness and frustration, and blindly accept things we should perhaps never accept. We seek for testimony and counsel from others to help us come to a studied and sensible decision.

Sometimes our own uncertainties are only compounded by the uncertainties of others. And we live in an age of such complexity when it comes to making some decisions, that we often feel as if it remains impossible to be sufficiently informed before that final hour comes when a decision regarding something must be made. How can I assay whether the claims being made for, let's say, a product's effectiveness, are really sound and reasonable?

How can I discern, through mountains of fine print, whether such and such an insurance policy is really the best one? Can I be sure that those counseling me are free of self-serving motives?

Genuineness. Legitimacy. Reliability. Assurance. Certainty. How can I locate them?

All the world is looking for the Genuine Article. But what is it? The answer I offer may seem strange and unlikely:

I believe we are all searching somehow for Virtue-- virtue that is real, permanent, unalloyed, that serves as evidence that something wonderful and substantial exists even in this world filled as it is with wickedness and sadness; tokens that there is something that is unspoiled, wholesome, and good, that can never be bought, or compromised, ruined, or destroyed by the seemingly all-pervasive hand of evil; something we can locate within the hearts of men like us, and maybe, just maybe, within ourselves as well; a sign that God really exists, and that if we seek Him, we will surely find Him, if we search for Him with all our hearts, as Scripture says. "And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." It is the Holy Spirit that creates Virtue shining out through the lives and hearts of God's people. I want to speak this morning for a while on the God's Spirit, both as to how He relates to us in the most personal of ways, and how through us He becomes such a means of great good to others.

What are the evidences of the Holy Spirit's presence manifested both to ourselves, and through us, to others around us? How can we know we have “the real thing”? And how will others encountering us be drawn to Jesus Christ because they also have witnessed within us something that they also must affirm is undeniably real and true? What does the whole world seek after, and spend so much time and resource trying to locate and possess. Why, try these: “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...”. Sound familiar? (Gal. 5:22-23)

The Apostle suggests that we can verify the presence of Christ in our lives by ascertaining whether His Spirit lives in us. Today's Epistle reveals to us that love is a principle evidence of the Spirit, love that makes itself known both in deed and in truth (vs. 18).

Such genuine love not only benefits the object of that love --our brother or sister, our neighbor-- but it is of inestimable benefit to the one doing the loving. Why? Because the result will be of enormous value to our own Christian faith, as well: And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him (vs. 19). How marvelous!

The one who loves through the power of the Holy Spirit will not only do great good to his brother, but to himself, as well, as he provides himself with assurance that Christ really --really-- dwells within him.

Yes, the Holy Spirit within the believer can provide not only evidence for the Christian himself that Christ really is in his life, but can become a source of inestimable blessing for others who encounter us, as well. I think this is our mission.

How are these qualities to be seen in us by others? Do we need to announce everywhere that we are displaying them? Do they come with fanfare, and bombast, and sensational religious displays?

Let me suggest the opposite. A life filled with Christian virtue speaks in sweet and quiet ways that are nonetheless very powerful. When Christ through us contacts other lives, we are speaking of a meeting of hearts that is really much deeper than words. Sometimes it need only be for the briefest of moments to make such a connection, but when it is made, a base-line of experience is somehow established that will always be there. It provides the knowledge of something that exists that people know somehow will be there for them again, if they need it. It's like a chance glimpse out of a window-- a scene so lovely and serene and filled with meaning greets the eye, a vision we somehow long for, in some form, for the rest of our lives. It is the place of reality and stability and changelessness that we desperately hope underlies this world filled with change and instability and uncertainty.

It is the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us into “little Christs” (“Christians”) who possess in some measure the same transformative power that our Lord knew as He strode through the crowds that thronged Him two millennia ago. Would anyone have forgotten even the briefest of encounters with this One who was “filled with the Holy Spirit”? We are similarly gifted and are enabled to establish for others a reference-point, a base-line, a standard of measurement, call it what you will --a declaration to a world in darkness that there does exist --there really does exist-- in the midst of the turmoil, a place of safety and trust. A world founded on superficialities, on a decided refusal of absolutes, on rejection of the ideal that life can indeed be lived uprightly, according to the rules, by set standards that are of divine origin-- a world that rejoices in vagueness, that despises any declarations of certainty, that feeds on relativities, that feels safest when no one makes any pretense of knowing anything for sure, that thrives on the humor and sarcasm and hilarity that are based upon making fun of all that is good, normal, and right; that glorifies the obscure, that makes the Great Search to be of infinitely higher value than actually finding something substantive, real, and dependable at the end of it.

The fruit of the Spirit represent the Genuine Article. The world attempts to approximate these goods in a thousand ways. A city puts “Community of Caring” signs all over the place, as if the pronouncement of the fact is the same as the fact itself ... as if saying it, makes it so. A president is represented as hope personified, and the image is so powerful that people invest a great deal in believing it to be true -- they hope, and hope, and hope that he is “hope”, only to find out over time that the object of their hope just wasn't producing what they longed for. The consequence? Disillusionment, frustration, disappointment, leading to anger and blame and rejection. But they weren't pursuing the real thing --only an illusion of it. They were convinced by the hype, because they wanted to be. We look for in others what we recognize is lacking in ourselves, only to find that no mortal can provide it.

The Holy Spirit enables each of us to demonstrate to others the existence of the virtues that everyone, whether believer or unbeliever, honors the most. But we can demonstrate them in such a way that they are perceived not as the product of a particular personality, or a decent upbringing, or a good mood, or any other uncertain source that would appear to make them generally inaccessible to others; not just the enviable outcome of chance circumstance, or only the province of the well-favored or lucky, or those whose lives are blissfully unclouded by pressing trouble, or misery, or illness, or oppressive influence. No, they are the real thing, manifest in lives that are beset with the same vagaries that all know, yet activated by a divine Principle, the Holy Spirit, Who is capable of replicating the very character of God, seen in the display of specific virtues, through the means of redeemed sinners.

This is the Holy Spirit within us.

And so, what is our part? Doing our best to maintain ourselves as vessels meet for the possession of such a Treasure-- through the choices we make, the thoughts we think, the words we speak, the manner we spend our time, through these and through all that is in some measure under our control, doing our best to make ourselves available to God, that He through us in turn might make Himself available to others.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holy Trinity Church, Waterville ME
Ed Kalish, Deacon

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