The Spirit Liberates

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During the month of November, we’re taking a look at 21 essential activities of the Holy Spirit, who represents God’s presence in and through every follower of Jesus.
Have you ever been in a jet and started wondering, “How in the world is this thing staying up in the air?”
Planes are considerably heavier than the atmosphere.  They cannot float.  The law of gravity mandates that whatever is heavier than air must be drawn relentlessly toward the center of the earth.
For centuries, philosophers, inventors, and everybody’s know-it-all uncle declared that flight was a privilege reserved only for creatures with wings.  Geese, bats, and mosquitoes get to have all the fun.
In 1903, the New York Times confidently declared, “It might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years…” 
The editors were off on their prediction by, well, approximately one to ten million years.  A mere nine weeks after their declaration that it was impossible to coax heavier-than-air machines off the ground, the Wright brothers did exactly that above the sand dunes of a North Carolina beach. 
If today is an average day – and it’s almost certainly not, since this is Thanksgiving week – more than 45,000 commercial flights will defy gravity, taking off and landing safely.   
How is that possible? 
The answer is Bernoulli’s Principle – one of those arcane propositions you probably had to memorize to pass a test back in high school.
Airplane wings are curved in such a way that air flows faster above the wing than beneath it.  According to Bernoulli’s Principle, if water or air is flowing faster along one side of an object than the other, the pressure along that side will decrease, and force will be exerted toward that low-pressure side.  That’s what gives an airplane wing its lift.
Every time a jet rolls toward the runway, the air traffic controllers don’t have to say to the pilot, “You are cleared for takeoff just as soon as we suspend the law of gravity.” 
The law of gravity is never suspended.  It is always operational.  Planes are able to fly simply because they are in the grips of a greater law – one that supersedes gravity.
The apostle Paul describes the reality of the forces that are competing for control of our lives in three consecutive chapters in the book of Romans.  Chapters six, seven, and eight are like thick bread.  They may not be easy reading, but they are incredibly nourishing.  
Paul acknowledges that every human being is saddled with deeply implanted impulses that cause us to make a shambles of virtually everything we do.  Those I’m-in-charge-here desires that we can’t seem to shake – the ones that prompt us to ignore God’s design for our lives – remain exceedingly powerful.
But those who throw in their lot with Jesus are offered something even more powerful: a new set of desires that can overcome the gravity-like tug of our dark side.
And how are those new, God-honoring desires activated?  By relying on the gift of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.  That’s what Paul affirms in Romans 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (New International Version).   
Whenever we arrive at such important texts, it’s worth checking out how other translations make sense of things.  Romans 8:2 in The Voice reads, “….because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death.”
Here how Eugene Peterson renders the same verse in The Message: “The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”  In Romans 8:4 he adds, “And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.”
Bernoulli’s Principle allows airplanes to overcome the law of gravity.  That’s reassuring.
But Bernoulli’s Principle has never once pried a jet off the ground.  That’s the pilot’s job.  For a plane to fly, somebody has to start its engine, taxi it to the runway, and gun the engines to reach sufficient speed to become airborne.
In principle God has provided everything we need to experience a deeply satisfying spiritual life.  God has honored us with the gift of his own Spirit.  We don’t have to be crushed under the dead weight of our own brokenness. 
But we’re not just passive spectators to this miracle.  We have a crucial role to play.  
We will never get off the ground unless we choose to live in such a way that the Holy Spirit can provide the maximum amount of lift – something that we will explore more specifically tomorrow.
That, by the way, is the only way to fly. 
And you’ll love this part:
There’s no TSA.