As a kid, I remember hearing about the "Holy Ghost" and being a bit freaked out about it. My idea of "ghosts" came from Scooby-Doo and our stories about the old house on the corner of James and Emiline Street in my hometown. Church language didn't help, either, with talk of the Holy Ghost coming on you and filling you. I wasn't sure what the Holy Ghost was, but I for sure didn't want it coming close.
The Holy Spirit is perhaps the most misunderstood Person of the Trinity -- I say "Person" because it's important for us to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not an "it". The first appearance in our scriptures of the Spirit of God is not found at Pentecost or even Jesus' baptism but at creation (Genesis 1:1-2). We see again the Spirit of God breathing life into mankind in Genesis 2:7. "Spirit" and "breath" are often used interchangeably in scripture.
The Holy Spirit isn't distant or ghoulish. Like the Father and the Son, the Spirit comes close and is personal. While the Holy Spirit has may different roles, here are just a few that demonstrate God's love for us and efforts to bring us all into God's community:
1] The Holy Spirit is our Counselor (John 14:6). Actually, the Holy Spirit is another Counselor. Jesus is our first! The Spirit is the kind of counselor who gives direction to our lives and is the Voice behind us saying, "This is the Way."
2] The Holy Spirit is our Advocate (John 16:8). An advocate is a person who supports a particular cause. The Spirit of God leads us to God's will, reveals the truth about Jesus, teaches God's people, and convicts us of our sin.
3] The Holy Spirit is our Intercessor (Romans 8:26). Have you ever gone into a mechanic with a car problem and tried to explain the problem to the person at the desk without knowing the technical terms? "The doo-hickey on the thing-a-ma-bob is going "clickety, clickety". Somehow, they know what they mean and can interpret the problem to the mechanic. Often, we feel our words are inadequate in either talking to God (in prayer) or to others about our faith, but God reminds us that his Spirit is interpreting and working in ways we cannot see.
4] The Holy Spirit is our Restorer (John 3:5-6). Only the Spirit of God can take what was dead and make it alive again. The Spirit causes our life to be made new. That's God's work -- taking what is dead, cut off, & corrupted and breathing life into it. After my recent trip to Annual Conference in Tampa followed by our church's weekend Yard Sale, I was wiped out and fearing I had nothing left to offer my church on Sunday. Then my daughter crawled up on my lap and leaned her head into my chest and just sat with me. Her presence refreshed and restored my spirit. It was just what I needed! When God's Spirit comes to us, we are renewed and reborn!
5] The Holy Spirit is our Unifier (Ephesians 4:3). God saw his community ripped from his hands, and he's been working hard ever since to bring us back to himself. How is it such a diverse church can maintain it's unity in the midst of such differences? Don't underestimate the Holy Spirit at work to keep the family of faith together!
My kids started forming their opinions about 2 years ago, and since then my son has had a running commentary on the state of my breath. Apparently, I either have the stench of death or minty freshness. He lets me know. Without the Spirit of God at work within us, among us, and through us, we too carry the stench of death. The Spirit -- the Breath of God -- causes us to have the Aroma of Life!