Read Acts 2:1-21.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability./ (Acts 2:4)

What greater gift could God give than himself? Riches, peace, power, sanctification, wisdom, suffering, death, resurrection, eternal life—nothing compares. To have the Holy Spirit is to participate in all wisdom, all power, all glory, all might, all. God is the great giver of gifts, and this is the day He gives his greatest. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams...blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

God is the great giver of gifts, the spirit of generosity. He gives himself. The only constraint on his giving is what we are able to receive without harm. We are inclined to arrogate God’s gifts to ourselves. Think of the percentage of people who, winning the lottery, would use all of the proceeds to serve others. Then think of those who would hold onto those winnings to their own detriment. So how do we prepare to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is freely given, and yet there is a price. Don’t worry, the price is nothing of lasting value. Nothing that compares with the value of the gift. The price is all that you have and all that you are and all that you desire. The price is yourself. Just as in marriage we give ourselves and receive our true love, here we give ourselves and receive God Himself.

A gift with a price? What is this nonsense? The secret is that the price (your self) is itself a gift. God created you. God inspires you to give yourself, if indeed you are so inspired. And the ability to give yourself is itself a gift to you, as it results in your rediscovery of your true self.

Do you want to receive the Holy Spirit? Give. Sell all. Give up your hopes and dreams and desires for this world. Give up your hope for respect or appreciation or comfort or achievement or pleasure or safety or wholeness. Give up your desire to serve God effectively. Give up your desire to be an outstanding Christian. Give up even your desire for salvation--let it instead be a desire that God's will be done in you. Empty yourself of self, so that there is room for the Holy Spirit. Then wait, patiently, in the city of peace, for the rushing wind, for the spirit of holiness, for the spirit of power, for light, for life, for love.

See also:

  • Tauler, Sermon 26 (Pentecost II)

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin College and the director of ccel.org and hymnary.org.