I have never been much of a mechanic but in my student days after leaving school I had a motorbike and not much money, so I had to try and do some work on my bike myself. I tried to repair my brakes, but I just couldn’t get them to work properly and so eventually I had to admit defeat and raid my bank account and take the bike to the garage. When I picked up my bike, the mechanic (who incidently became my future father-in-law) told me that the brakes hadn’t been working properly because they were missing a vital component. When I took the brake apart, I must have misplaced a component and without that vital part the brake couldn’t do what it was designed to do.
I have been reminded of that incident many times as follower of Jesus and a pastor. There have been times when it has felt like my Christian life is just not what its supposed to be or that the church somehow, no matter what we did, wasn’t being effective in the way Scripture says it should be. I now realise that the truth about those situations is that just like with the brakes on my Honda CB125 Twin, a vital and indispensable component was in a sense missing, my and the church’s openness and dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit.
DL Moody describes the indispensability of the Holy Spirit to our Christian and church life like this “You might as well try to hear without ears or breathe without lungs, as to try to live a Christian life without the Holy Spirit.”
John Stott expresses the same thought like this “Without the Holy Spirit, Christian discipleship would be inconceivable, even impossible. There can be no life without the life-giver, no understanding without the Spirit of truth, no fellowship without the unity of the Spirit, no Christlikeness of character apart from His fruit, and no effective witness without His power. As a body without breath is a corpse, so the church without the Spirit is dead.”
Just as brakes without good gaskets can’t perform effectively, if we try and live out being a Christian or try to be a church carrying out its God given mission without the Holy Spirit playing His role we won’t be able to do or achieve what the Lord intention for us is. Now we need to be clear and say that every Christian has the Holy Spirit from the moment they come to Christ. In fact, they couldn’t have come to Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit.
However, it does seem from the New Testament that as believers we don’t always allow the Holy Spirit to play the part He should. The Holy Spirit is sometimes prevented from doing what He desires in us and through us, because of a lack of expectation, we don’t understand what the Holy Spirit’s role is so don’t expect Him to do things he desires to do for us. At other times it may because we are not depending on Him and instead are depending on our own resources. There are also things that we do, Paul calls them “acts of the flesh” that effectively block the work of the Spirit in our lives.
So through ignorance, lack of dependence and frankly sin, our lives and church can feel like my bike’s brakes, missing an indispensable component, not working as effectively and powerfully as they should. The Holy Spirit isn’t missing from our lives or church in the sense of being absent, its His ministry to us and through us in the way it should be that is missing.
This weekend is Pentecost, and it’s a chance for us a church and as disciples to think about that indispensable component, the Holy Spirit. It’s a chance for us to be honest and ask if like my bike’s brakes the Holy Spirit is not operating as effectively as He should be in our lives. Thankfully, we don’t need to go to a garage to sort this out, simply go to our Heavenly Father in prayer.