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Breathe on Me Breath of God

April 23, 2018

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth . . . I will not leave you an orphan; I will come to you.” (Excerpts, John 14: 15-18)

When we sing the hymn “Breathe on Me Breath of God,”[1] we are asking the Spirit to breathe life into us—to fill each cell of our bodies with God’s truth and life-giving energy and direction. We are welcoming the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls to guide us in our everyday lives—to help us, love us and direct us to do God’s will.  We ask these things  based on our own past experiences of the Spirit living within us and guiding us, and on the authority of Holy Scripture.

The Scripture texts this week[2] provide some examples of the Spirit’s role in our lives. The last verse of the book of Psalms reads “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).  God is praiseworthy by every living thing because he is there throughout our lives—guiding, comforting, loving, and caring for us. We owe our lives—the very air we breathe, to God, our Creator.

Jesus confirmed that he would remain with the faithful: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener . . . Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” (John 15: 1, 4). He clarified what he meant by his remaining in us in the 14th and 15th chapters of John, when he promised to send his Spirit to remain with us to help us, to guide us, to be our paraclete[3]—to live alongside us as we journey through life: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth . . . I will not leave you an orphan; I will come to you” (Excerpts, John 14: 15-18).

Every believing Christian has experienced the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his or her life to some extent.  Sometimes it seems as if the Spirit leads us to places that we consider a demotion. That happened to Philip, when he was led away from his highly successful ministry in Samaria to a desert road.  While on the road he met Ethiopia’s Treasury Secretary sitting in his Mercedes by the side of the road. The Spirit led Philip to him, and they engaged in a conversation that gave Philip an opportunity to explain the gospel to him, which the man brought back to Ethiopia: “So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian . . an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it’ . . . The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8: 27-28, 34-35).

There are times when the Spirit leads us away from what we or the world considers success, to do something that fits our particular skill set at that time.  God is the master chess player who sees all of the players on the board; he knows exactly where and when to send each one.

But John warns us that we should “. . . test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4: 1). He explains that the Spirit who acknowledges Jesus Christ is from God, but those who do not, are not from God (1 John 4: 2-3). This is an important lesson. When you think that the Spirit is leading you in a given direction, test it against the teachings of Scripture to determine if it is consistent with the teachings of Jesus.  If you’re not sure, consult with trusted and authentic Christian teachers and friends in Christ.  Commit it to prayer and give it time.

John explained that the Spirit testified to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; these three are in agreement.” (1 John 5: 5-8).  John is explaining that the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ was confirmed at his baptism (by water) and by his crucifixion and resurrection (by blood), both of which were confirmed by the Spirit.  They all are proof of the authenticity of Jesus as the Messiah.

And don’t forget John’s other admonition that God sent Jesus into the world because of his deep love for us.  If we do not show that love to others, our professions of faith are empty words: “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. . . since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (Excerpts, 1 John 4: 7-9, 11)

But above all, remember to call on God to inhabit your being– to guide, comfort, heal, hold, help, lead, love, and care for you—to usher you into his presence.  Michael Smith, a current day songwriter, says it this way: “This is the air I breathe, this is the air I breathe . . . Your holy presence . . . living in me . . . I’m lost without you. . . “

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889

[2] The Scripture texts for the Fifth Sunday of Easter are Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 150; 1 John 4: 1-11; 1 John 5.

[3] Paraclete means called to one’s side; it is from the Greek para (alongside) and kletos (to call).

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