Magnify: How the Spirit Keeps the Son at the Center of Our Universe

A friend of mine was once given a piece of precious sports memorabilia: a baseball signed by a half dozen or so of the New York Yankees. Even those of us who’ve historically been O’s fans can appreciate the significance of this gift.

When something is beautiful, or valuable, or simply a conversation-starter, you want to show it off; you want people to know about it. That’s what the Holy Spirit does for Jesus—He illuminates the character of the Son; He magnifies His teachings in order that all men might be drawn toward Him.

In Jesus’ farewell address, He makes this clear to His disciples. He tells them that a major part of the Spirit’s role is to testify about Him:

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. (John 15:26)

[…]

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

This doesn’t make the Spirit lesser than Jesus. They are, after all, equally God. But Jesus says that a part of the Spirit’s role is to “glorify” Jesus.

The writer J.I. Packer puts it this way:

“It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over on Jesus, who stands facing us.  The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always ‘Look at him and see him, and see his glory; get to know him, and hear his word; go to him, and have life; get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace.”[1]

Why is this so significant? Because where you place your focus determines a great deal about how you conduct yourself and how you treat others. This is why Paul appeals to the example of Jesus in his letter to the Philippians. If we place Christ at the center of our beliefs, we will conduct ourselves with Christ’s level of humility.

Part of the reason Christians have struggled with the nature of the Spirit over the years is because it’s been tempting to place the Spirit—not Christ—at the center of our belief system. There have been those who have organized their beliefs around the day of Pentecost rather the day of Calvary, and in so doing have focused on the day of empowerment rather than the day of humiliation. Granted, both events are important. But when we make the Spirit primary, we begin to look for God in extraordinary, miraculous events rather than in the simple, ordinary way of Christ.

Don’t misunderstand; I’d never deny the Spirit’s ability to do great things amongst God’s people. But if we only see the Spirit working in these sorts of events, we have placed God inside a box. If the Spirit moves someone to enter ministry or do something spectacular, it’s easy to nod and affirm that “it’s a God thing.” But no one says that when the Spirit moves someone to change diapers in the nursery, or to volunteer for ministry.

Yet the Spirit is no less active there than anywhere else. Why? Because in every small act we see the humble, loving example of Jesus, and see His love magnified in our midst. Sometimes God does something big. But plenty of other times, the Spirit’s work is seen as the sum of a series of small acts of Christian love. Don’t be afraid to dream of something big, but don’t ever be unwilling to commit to something small.

[1] J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit. (Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 66.

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