The Purpose-Driven Spirit

Pastor Rick Warren’s blockbuster book The Purpose-Driven Life, released in 2002, has sold over 30 million copies. Fans and critics alike recognize that his book struck a nerve in the human experience. Every breathing soul on earth longs to understand a meaningful purpose in life. Purpose is the essential “why” behind a life – even all of life – that gives significance to all of the twists and turns, ups and downs, wins and losses of our journey. I remember hearing a chapel speaker in college declare that you can tell a person what to do and they may attempt it for a season. Teach them why they are doing it and it will take a brick wall to stop them. Even Nietzsche, the pessimistic atheist philosopher, was noted as saying, “He who has a why can bear almost any how.”

You can tell a person what to do and they may attempt it for a season. Teach them why they are doing it and it will take a brick wall to stop them.

The Preeminence of Purpose

Foundationally, we can affirm that the ultimate “why” of our very existence, and all things, is the glory of God. The Westminster Catechism is so familiar but clarifying to this point: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”[1] The purpose of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is united, clear, and eternal. All things are for the glory of God.

The purpose of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is united, clear, and eternal. All things are for the glory of God.

Jesus was not obscure about the “why” behind the impartation and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He made it clear as to the reason it would be better for His followers that He ascended to heaven and, instead of His physical presence, imparted the abiding Holy Spirit.

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).

“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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 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).

D.A. Carson elaborates, “Just as the Son by his ministry on earth brought glory to his Father (John 7:18; 17:4), so the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) by his ministry brings glory to Jesus: that is his central aim. His means is the unfolding of Jesus’ person and work . . . this does not simply mean that the Paraclete passes on what Jesus declares, but that all the revelation bound up in Jesus’ person and mission are pressed home (to us).”[2]

J.I. Packer, in his profound book, Keep in Step with the Spirit, reiterates over and over again that the Spirit’s task is essentially that of mediating the presence, word, and activity of the enthroned Christ and that the Spirit’s purpose is explicit: “He will glorify me…” (John 16:14). “Thus the Spirit would glorify the glorified Savior, acting both as interpreter to make clear the truth about him and as illuminator to ensure that benighted minds receive it. Jesus, the Lord Christ, would be the focal point of the Spirit’s ministry, first to last.”[3]

Packer offers two very helpful illustrations. The first is that of a floodlight in a beautiful building which does not exist for its own glory but to make clear and visible the splendor and wonder of its object by illumining its features. He also uses the illustration of a matchmaker (“the celestial marriage broker”), whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.[4] In this way the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus according to the word of God.

So the “why” behind the “who” and the “what” of the Holy Spirit is the glory of God through the magnification of Jesus and the powerful proclamation of the gospel.

Self-Glory

I think that for most of us, one thing stands in the way of the Spirit’s design to glorify Christ: self-glory.

For most of us, one thing stands in the way of the Spirit’s design to glorify Christ: self-glory.

For many years I have been captivated by the passion of the Psalmist. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). It seems a lot easier for us to agree, “Give Him the glory.” It is another thing to sincerely feel and say, “Not to us.” Perhaps that’s why the Psalmist repeated that phrase twice. Had I written that, I wonder if the Lord would not have required me to write it out ten times – or one hundred. “Not to me, O Lord!”

We all want the same thing: the full work of the Spirit. Yet, His purpose is the glory of Christ. So to want the Spirit’s fullness, and to be unaware of or unconcerned with our scramble for self-glory, is a contradiction in no uncertain terms. The Spirit is not compatible with our personal or congregational ego inflations.

The Spirit is not compatible with our personal or congregational ego inflations.

In our day of on-demand viewing, social media, viral YouTube videos, and endless other avenues to Tweet our own horn, we must be very clear about what a Spirit-directed, Spirit-controlled, Spirit-sensitive life looks like – and doesn’t look like.

We also must be very discerning about what a real Spirit-empowered gathering of Christians looks like. Regardless of the heightened levels of emotion, the dynamic persona of the preacher, the talent of the praise band, the contemporary design of the auditorium, the smooth execution of the service, or any other attraction factors — there is one overruling cause. Is this about the glory of Jesus Christ? Is that objective crystal clear? Does it guide the elements of the service? Is it the real “take-away” as people leave the campus?

A.W. Tozer wrote, “The purpose of the Holy Spirit in the church is to glorify Jesus Christ, and he cannot be glorified while competing with celebrities and personalities.”[5] Andrew Murray stated, “God does not give this power for our own enjoyment, or to save us from trouble and effort. He gives it for one purpose, to glorify His son.” [6] Francis Chan concurs: “A sure sign of the Holy Spirit’s working is that Christ is magnified, not people . . . The Spirit is here to accomplish God’s purposes, not ours.”[7]

Paul captured the heart of a Spirit-filled believer, and the DNA of a Spirit-filled church, when he wrote that we are those who “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). I truly believe the Holy Spirit makes it clear to our hearts when we drift into self-glory and are tipping too far toward efforts done in mere human strength and reason. I also believe He speaks to us when we are sitting in a worship service that is misaligned with the Holy Spirit’s sole purpose, to glorify Christ. When platform personalities parade their pomp, when songs draw attention away from Christ, when sermons leave us confused about the glory and greatness of Jesus, we can usually smell it like a pungent chunk of Stilton cheese.

We Would See Jesus

At my ordination many years ago, I requested that a particular old hymn be sung. It is not hugely popular today but I find that the longing expressed in this song reflects what I hope will be the fruit of the Spirit’s working in my life:

More about Jesus would I know,

More of His grace to others show;

More of His saving fullness see,

More of His love who died for me.

 

More about Jesus let me learn,

More of His holy will discern;

Spirit of God, my teacher be,

Showing the things of Christ to me.

 

More about Jesus, in His Word,

Holding communion with my Lord;

Hearing His voice in every line,

Making each faithful saying mine.

 

More about Jesus on His throne,

Riches in glory all His own;

More of His kingdom’s sure increase;

More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

 

More, more about Jesus,

More, more about Jesus;

More of His saving fullness see,

More of His love who died for me.[8]

Yes! “Spirit of God, my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me.” May the Spirit accomplish His purpose in our lives by empowering us to know more, think more, love more, cherish more, worship more, sing more, teach more, proclaim more — and make more – of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because the Holy Spirit is a purpose-driven Spirit.

May the Spirit accomplish His purpose in our lives by empowering us to know more, think more, love more, cherish more, worship more, sing more, teach more, proclaim more — and make more – of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2017 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[1] http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html?_top=http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

[2] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 541). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

[3] J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell Company, 1984) 65

[4] J.I. Packer, 66

[5] A.W. Tozer, Alive in the Spirit (Minneapolis, Bethany House: 2016) 111

[6] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ (Minneapolis, Bethany House, 1979), 98

[7][7] Francis Chan, Forgotten God (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2009) 86,93

[8] Eliza E. Hewitt, pub.1887 – Public Domain