It seems to me that the Spirit tends to suffer on both sides of the church today. On the one side He is often neglected and treated merely as an orthodox truth to affirm. On the other side He is often treated as a super-powered battery pack that is the source of fuel for spectacular Christianity. Is He pleased by either extreme? I suspect not.
I think it is worth asking this question: what pleases the Spirit?
If we were to read through the whole New Testament and look for teaching about the Holy Spirit, we would get a clear sense of what pleases the Spirit.
The Spirit cares about the oneness of the Father and the Son – the relationship of the God who is Trinity. He is concerned with what concerns God – the loving glorification of the Son.
He cares about our relationship with God. After all, it is the Spirit who wooed us to Christ, who stirred our hearts, who sealed us. It is the Spirit that pours out the love of God into our hearts. It is the Spirit that takes our prayers and brings them to the Father. It is the Spirit that cares about us understanding the Word that He inspired. The Spirit is passionate about communication – God to us and us to God.
The Holy Spirit also cares deeply about our relationships with each other. How we use His gifts to build one another up in the body of Christ matters to Him. How our words give grace to each other is also very important to the divine communicator, because Paul tells us that if our words don’t give grace to one another, then the Holy Spirit is grieved.
So what does it mean to sow to the Spirit? At the very least, in light of what pleases Him, it must mean the following:
It means having a heart that is open to God’s word. We will spend time in the Bible, getting to know God more, allowing His Spirit to shape and change what we love, how we think, and how we live. Our Bible time will never be a data hunt or a quest to satisfy mere intellectual curiosity. Rather, it will be a time of fellowship, hearing the communication of a God who wants to be known by us, who invites to taste and see for ourselves how good He really is.
It means praying to God with a transparent vulnerability. Instead of perfunctory prayers spoken without an engaged heart, or selfish prayers offered in a demanding tone, or presumptuous prayers that treat prayer as a mechanism to move the arm of the Almighty, we will pray and lay our hearts bare before God, seeking His desire in each situation that concerns us or Him. Our prayers will not be “you must” so much as “O God!” Not “I want for me” but “I need you.”
It means caring about our relationships with each other in the church. Honesty, graciousness, a desire to build others up. The Spirit is pleased when we care for each other, express appreciation, and stop gossip in its tracks. Also, when our desire is that Christlike desire to prefer other people to ourselves, then the Spirit is given open doors to work the wonder of Christian unity in the midst of a self-absorbed world.
Sowing to the Spirit is an exciting enterprise. I suspect that if we would ponder who the Spirit is, what He cares about, and then invest our lives accordingly, the results might be staggering.
For one thing, we could expect greater intimacy with God – which fellowship is life itself. For another, our fellowship with one another would be astonishing to a watching world, instead of critiqued for hypocrisy and division. A church marked by other-worldly and wonderful fellowship with God and with each other? That is worth giving ourselves to!