On a beautiful Saturday morning, May 31, 2014, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls lured another12-year-old friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to impress Slender Man, a fictional character. The two girls who attacked their friend were later sentenced to 40 years in a mental institution.
Gayle and I watched the 20/20 special on this tragedy. As I watched the program, I couldn’t help but wonder if all of their lives might have turned out differently if they had been more involved in a healthy life-giving church.
I pastor St. James Church in Colorado Springs, and enjoy watching the lives of those who attend improve. As any of us develop a healthy walk with the Lord, God’s Holy Spirit motivates us to discard negative thoughts and behaviors and cultivate life and service for God and others. It’s life changing as God’s Holy Spirit works in our lives.
I love the Holy Spirit. He is the third person of the Trinity who is present within us and among us. He is the source of the still small voice of the Lord in our hearts; he is the one who gives us strength when we are weak; and he is the one who comforts us.
Isaiah 11:2 lists some of his characteristics as wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, all of which he willingly shares with us. No doubt, it’s the Holy Spirit who delivers into our lives the goodness the Lord Jesus appropriated for us on the cross.
The Holy Spirit reveals the love God has for us, and the reality that God sent his Son to the earth to rescue us from the pitfalls that could trap any of us.
No doubt, little girls who confuse a fantasy character like Slender Man with reality are in great need of the Holy Spirit’s friendship.
The Holy Spirit was poured out on the whole earth over 2,000 years ago; but God’s ministry in our lives only becomes dominant when we invite him to be our Lord. It’s then that he saves us from our own dark and sinful desires.
That’s why Paul wrote in Romans 8:13b,
. . . But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.
That life is available to all of us IF we know we have a need and take action. When we participate in a life-giving local church, learn the Scriptures, and invite the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, we grow in God’s loving nature instead of the world’s violent, power hungry, dark view of life. And we can trust the Holy Spirit to illuminate our lives so we can see ourselves accurately. David’s famous prayer from Psalm 139 can serve all of us well. David wrote,
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Now this is where we all have opportunity. Once we become self-aware and acknowledge that we need to eliminate certain aspects of our lives while building other, more positive aspects, we are able to judge ourselves. Then the Lord helps us with the process of becoming better people.
In the case of the 20/20 report we saw, life-giving spirituality may or may not have provided a complete solution for the two young attackers, but healthy spirituality would have certainly helped.
Very often, our spiritual lives give us a desire to improve, a desire to be better people than we currently are, and a desire to serve God by serving others. But the Holy Spirit does not always give us the steps to get there. So often, the Holy Spirit’s ministry gives us the motivation that launches us on a journey to greater goodness, but then we are responsible to identify and then walk the path that eventually gets us there.
If, however, we reject the Holy Spirit’s counsel and involvement in our lives and decide not to deal with our destructive issues spiritually, then we may very well lack adequate motivation and power to change, and are more likely to suffer the consequences. However, if we cooperate with God, he will help us, and sometimes he will discipline us just like competent earthly fathers assist their children in growing in goodness and shunning evil.
In Hebrews 12:9-10, the Bible says,
Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.
So we have a choice. We can try to avoid God’s counsel completely, avoid church, God, the Holy Spirit, and good Christian people, and live according to our best guesses, or we can ask the Holy Spirit to become involved in every area of our lives and enable us to grow in God’s goodness.
It’s our choice.