My generation has been assigned a letter. It is an edgy, scandalous letter. It is the letter “X.”
And this letter, of course, has been used as a marketing emblem in the church subculture to reach young people. “Extreme” became a buzzword. But dropping off the initial “E” apparently produced an even greater effect. Young Christians flocked to conferences and bought Bibles with the word “X-treme” emblazoned across the flyers or book spines.
In the post 9/11 world, “extremism” is an unpalatable concept. But there still persists an “X-tremism” in Christian ghettos. Many of us tend to think that the more normal, then the less spiritual. We value the radical and the extreme. The student who leaves everything and rushes off to India for the summer seems more spiritual than the student who stays home with his grandma and earns money to pay back his loans. Shaking the dust of Bedford Falls off our feet for worldwide adventure is attractive… and like George Bailey, we fail to find the value in decades of faithfulness in the ordinariness of life.
Our pneumatology (understanding of the Holy Spirit) is largely shaped by Christian “X-tremism.” We assume His work is always sudden and dramatic. And certainly His work is portrayed this way in Scripture, Acts 2 being the quintessential example. For some, if ‘Holy Spirit-fire’ does not come down in the worship service, if no tears are shed, if no hands are raised, if no healing occurs, then we assume the Holy Spirit is absent (or at least being quenched by some secret nay-sayer in the mix).
But the Bible also protrays the work of the Spirit as slow, gradual, tedious, and hardly noticeable. He convicts the world concerning sin (John 16)–this grand work can be sudden and dramatic, but it is often slow and gradual. He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8)–how often do we perceive or feel or sense this activity?
The 1st person to be specifically filled with the Spirit of God in the Bible is not a priest, prophet, warrior or king. He is an artist. A craftsman.
Bezalel was filled with God’s Spirit to do the slow, careful work of carving, engraving, and sewing. This is the guy who led the artisan endeavors of constructing the tabernacle hardware and structures (see Exodus 31, 35-38). Some of us need to expand our pneumatology so that we can understand the quiet, subtle work of the Spirit along with His startling and sudden work.
Elijah encountered God in two very distinct ways on two different mountains back in 1 Kings 18 and 19. On Mt. Carmel, God’s work was… well, “X-treme,” if you will–He consumed with fire from heaven the offering and the altar in a contest with Baal. But a bit later on, while Elijah stood on Mt. Horeb, though he witnessed some extremes (wind, fire, earthquake), the LORD was in neither.
His presence was evidenced by the still, small whisper.
Can us Christian “X-tremists” hear such a voice outside the cave on Horeb? Or is our spirituality confined solely to the summit of Carmel….?