From my previous post (reflections on the triumphal entry):
Even among his disciples, though, there was an incredibly high level of misunderstanding about what kind of king he was, and what was going to happen in Jerusalem. In this aspect, Jesus displayed a tremendous trust in the Holy Spirit to bring his disciples into “all truth” after his resurrection and ascension.
If I were Jesus, I think I’d be a bit worried. His disciples, who have been with him the whole time, learning about the kingdom of God, still don’t get it. They have been personally mentored by the Son of God for three years, and on the eve of his crucifixion, they’re still arguing about who will be Secretary of State when Jesus kicks out the Romans and restores the glory-days of Israel. He’s entrusting his movement to these people?
Well, not exactly. Jesus wasn’t placing his trust in his disciples to get the job done in their own strength or wisdom. If the results were up to the Twelve, Jesus would have ended up as a blip on the map of history. But Jesus is not panicked in the upper room because he wasn’t placing his trust in his disciples, he was trusting someone else. What Jesus displays in the upper room is an immense amount of trust in the coming of the Holy Spirit.
He knew that it was better for him to “go,” because then he could be with them in a new way through the presence of the Spirit, and that this ongoing Presence would lead them into “all truth.” The Spirit would remind them of his words, teach them what they need to know to continue following him, and empower them to do so. Through the Spirit, Jesus would be able to be constantly present with them and everyone who believes.
Basically, Jesus trusted the Spirit to continue discipling them so they would bear much fruit. And of course this is what we see happen: the disciples are transformed at Pentecost, and the early Christian movement was born. Quite a difference from the scene in the upper room only a few weeks before! But that shows you the power of the Spirit.
So my question is this: Do we trust the Spirit as much as Jesus did? Do we trust that the Spirit can guide, equip, empower, and speak to those we care for/disciple/lead? Or do we feel we must always be in control of the learning process? How often do we pray for those we lead/disciple/care for vs. how often we try to fix others ourselves? Do we really believe that the Spirit might do something amazing in their lives just because we keep asking him to? Or do we feel it is all up to us?
Much of the problem with the way church (or life) is currently “done” in North America is the fact that almost every aspect of it could continue on if the Spirit never came to another meeting. Most of the time the presence of the Spirit is simply assumed, without any active dependence on the Spirit. We end up performing religious rituals that may have some value in and of themselves, but will only ever accomplish what we can pull off in our own ingenuity and ability; which is what Jesus so bluntly called “nothing.”
Learning to listen to the Spirit and respond in faith is a non-negotiable for discipleship. I believe that dependence and trust in the Holy Spirit needs to be a stated and practiced value for Christian fellowships, and ought to be woven into every aspect of discipleship.
So as we disciple people, are we teaching them to listen and respond to the Spirit? Do we know how to do this ourselves? Do our gatherings reflect a dependence on the Spirit? i.e. “If the Spirit doesn’t do something, this gathering is going to stink…”
Dallas Willard has said that “oftentimes our only hope is that God will act, and most of the time our main problem is simply getting out of the way.” This pretty accurately describes a life of dependence on the Spirit, I think. We can trust him to do a brilliant job with our lives, our loved ones, our families, our churches. Most of the time we just need to stop trying to fix it, invite the Spirit into the situation, get out of the way, and see what he might do.