There has been a lot of talk lately about the Holy Spirit and God’s working among people in a very public way. Unfortunately, it seems that many people, even many Christians, view the Holy Spirit only from a perspective that expects dramatic or even miraculous work or actions, thinking that if there is no work of God unless there is some kind of spectacular event. While the Bible does record such events – such as we read in Acts 2 (the day of Pentecost), Acts 4 (after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin), and Acts 10 (the conversion of Cornelius and his family) – the work of the Holy Spirit is often missed simply because it is an ongoing work of restoration within and among those who have put their faith in Jesus.
Paul wrote to Titus to encourage the early church to remember what God has done through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. He wrote in Titus 3:3-7:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)
Here Paul reminds us of how we were all separated from God because of our sin but also of how God restored us.
The key point is that we have been saved (vs. 5), that we have been justified by God’s grace (vs. 7) through our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit. If this is not a spectacular work of God, I don’t know what is! What’s more, because of that work and our faith in Christ, we are no longer in that state of separation and are being transformed so that we are no longer characterized by foolishness, disobedience, deceit, or enslavement to sinful passions and pleasures. Again, what a spectacular work of God!
So why do so many people seem so unexcited by or even unaware of the Holy Spirit’s dramatic work within and among us? Perhaps it is because the process is ongoing. Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s work of restoration in verse 5 as a process of “rebirth and renewal,” words that allude to transformations that occur over longer periods of time. While the birth of a child is a dramatic event, pregnancy is a long process of development, and despite the planning and preparation for the birth, many families are often “surprised” by the birth. Growing up from infancy to maturity takes a lifetime, and children are often frustrated by what seems to be a long process; however, as adults, we are often surprised by how “quickly” the time has gone by. There is an amazing paradox within life, that the time for growth both plods along from day to day and also flies by.
Through that process of renewal and restoration, we have good news. When we put our faith in Jesus – believing that he is the Christ, the Son of God who died for our sins and who rose again to give us new life; repenting of our old, sinful way of living; confessing Jesus as Lord of our life; and joining with him in baptism for the forgiveness of our sins – we are saved, in an instant, justified in front of God. As we continue living in faith, then, by the continued presence, power, and care of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed from the way we were into what God wants us to be right now and being prepared for eternal life in heaven to come. May we always be amazed and encouraged by the Holy Spirit who is living and working in us and among us.