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Meditation 23*

The Spirit Gives Life

The Spirit gives life;
the flesh counts for nothing.
John 6:5

A tree with its marrow dried up is dead. The trunk may still stand, the dry branches still hanging and the pale leaves still clinging, but the tree is dead. It is no longer a tree, but only wood, wood that is most likely of no use for the planer anymore but only for the furnace. Without its marrow, the tree is gone.

Do you understand this parable of the dead tree? The living marrow is God’s Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit withdraws from the leaves or twigs, from the branches or stems, from the trunk or roots, there remains nothing but barrenness, mould and death.

In the spiritual sense of the word, this world in and by itself is nothing but dead. Everything is dead with nothing excluded. It is only insofar as the Spirit invades that death and inspires new life, that life emerges and remains. It isn’t that there is life but it has shriveled and that the Holy Spirit irrigates it and thus enables it to refresh itself and raise its head again. No, at first there is no life; there is nothing but absence of, lack of and want of life. There are only some indications that there should actually be life, but in its place we find mere lifeless, soulless and powerless death. In the midst of this, the Prophet testifies, “Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:9).

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And see, it happens according to the prophecy. The Spirit blows, the Spirit comes, the Spirit works. Where He comes, there is life; where He has not yet come, death remains. Also death returns, when the Spirit came but was grieved and withdrew again. My brother, my sister, imprint it deeply inside of you: It is the Spirit, only the Spirit, and no one or nothing else than the Spirit that creates life.

A church from which the Spirit has withdrawn is dead; it is nothing but a dried up tree trunk and will be cast into the fire. A generation, a clan, a family from which the Spirit has withdrawn sinks into spiritual death and breaks up. As with a dried up tree, so also does the brittle wood of a dead generation crumble at the first touch. Similarly—and pay special attention here--, when the Spirit withdraws from any circle of pious worshippers, including each pious member thereof, then that circle dies and turns into bait for the devils. It will not take long for such a heart to reveal that it did for a time know a degree of external grace, but that in its essence it really is still dry and without the life-giving sap. It still does not live, but remains dead and is headed for the fire—unless it revives and comes to life. All life is from the Holy Spirit.

Think of it. If the Holy Spirit had not been at work and there had been no law, word or prophecy in Israel; if no wrestler had ever fought, no zealot ever striven, no martyr would ever have had the courage to sacrifice his life. Without the Holy Spirit not a single soul would ever have come to life, no church ever founded, no preaching of the Word ever heard, no power resisting evil ever risen, no lie ever unmasked, no innocence ever established, no proud heart ever softened and not one single blessed and refreshing prayer, cry or sigh ever ascended to the throne!

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When God Almighty looks down out of Heaven upon this earth, He mostly sees a world caught up in death and curse. But His holy eye will also discover many positives that are loving and commendable, praiseworthy virtues, expressions of compassion, long-suffering or mercy. Yes, but realize that in whatever form or shape these appear, whether sighs of relief arising from this world, or scenes of love that rise to the throne on high, it is only the Holy Spirit who has established these. It is the Spirit that got them going, kept them going, kept animating them and, finally, the Spirit who brought their expression before God. The Church of Christ as well as our own hearts is indebted to the Holy Spirit for everything, everything that is in the world.

To the extent that the Holy Spirit withdraws even for a brief moment from us, spiritual winter sets in over us, the cold slides over our hearts and then covers our souls as with ice, while the stream of life is blocked and death lurks just around the corner.

However, when the Spirit returns and once again sends us His beams of light, it becomes summer again in the soul: The icy bottom of our human emotions melts, the heart is once again nurtured, the sounds of the pitter-patter of life revive, and the precious blossoming fruit in the field refreshes the eye of the soul.

Ah, if only the world understood its real condition, it would do only one thing: Without ceasing, it would call upon and plead for the Spirit to enter its bosom.

Ah, if only the churches of Christ on earth had any insight into their real import, banning all other considerations, how they would call upon and plead for the Spirit to protect the arteries of the organism without ceasing.

Ah, if only our generations and families would realize what it is that keeps them together, how they would call upon and unceasingly plead, “Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

Ah, yes, if only your own soul realized and apprehended on what her salvation, her adornment and her glory depended, how she would without ceasing call upon and plead for the experience of the holy presence of the Spirit. If the riches of the Holy Spirit were known and understood, how love for the Spirit would explode, set souls aglow and bring about an awakening of the dead.

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As it is, we tend to conduct most of our affairs without the Holy Spirit. We have a Father, who cares for our necessities, who is the healer of our diseases and upon whom we call upon in times of danger. We have a Jesus who died for our sins and through whom we have redemption through His blood.

And now, what of our sanctification and preparation for the road to life ahead? Oh, that! We half pretend we can manage that mostly on our own, possibly needing a bit of extra power provided by some entity outside of us that we label “Holy Spirit.” Such an attitude grieves the Spirit; He takes it as a reproach. It may not prevent Him from doing His work, but it does hold it up. Till people go through their deep valleys to arrive at life and some appear again who love the Holy Spirit, entrust their souls to Him and gain understanding that all blessings flow out of Him, then there is life again, life in the heart, life in the Church, and life among the nations!

That is a life that arouses opposition, evokes hate; a life that provokes the active hostility of death, sin and the devil, but that knows no distress. The life sap moves about. There is faith once again, a faith that is lived and brings blessing to the soul. The angels of God who see it, burst into praise in holy joy. And everything that receives breath from the Spirit sings, “Veni, Creator Spiritus! Come Spirit, the Creator of life!”

That Spirit takes pleasure in His own work, the pleasure being salvation, the salvation that is available already here on earth for all God’s children.

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