As we draw near to Pentecost this year, what is it (or rather, who is it) that we are celebrating? People can often get really confused on the true identity and nature of the Holy Spirit. I want us to explore three things that I think we often forget about the Holy Spirit.
Before coming into the ministry I took a gap year and served as the Youth Worker in the two churches my dad pastored down in Pembrokeshire. It was a really exciting time, and a huge learning curve for me! I had much more enthusiasm than experience, and far more unction that understanding; and I remember one bible study that dad had asked me to lead when this really showed itself!
I was studying the passage about when Jesus was baptised, and misread the verse about the Holy Spirit; rather than reading John (the Baptist) saw the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and lighting (i.e. landing gently) on Jesus – I thought I’d read that John saw the dove and lightning! I thought I’d had this massive revelation that everyone else had missed and was busy drafting a sermon under the rather grand title: The Dove and The Lightning – the peace and power of the Holy Spirit…
Thankfully, dad had asked me how the preparation was going, and when I told him my thinking, he rather graciously pointed out my mistake! That could have been quite embarrassing!
We so easily have misunderstandings about the Holy Spirit – we even see that in the Bible! (One place in Acts 19 haven’t even heard that there was a Holy Spirit!) But even when we come to know more about who He is and what He does, it’s easy to forget certain truths about Him that are essential to our understanding and relationship with Him.
Here’s just three things I think we often forget about the Holy Spirit:
1. The Holy Spirit is a Person (and Personal)
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – He will testify about me.
In 2018 Liongeer commissioned a UK survey called: “The State of Theology”. One of the statements people were asked to agree or disagree with was: The Holy Spirit is a force but not a personal being. Rather worryingly only 25% strong disagreed and 7% ticking “somewhat disagree” – 35% were in the somewhat or strongly agreeing camp, and 33% didn’t know!
Sometimes our language can get in the way and cloud our understanding. Older translations, for example, often call the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Ghost” which can inadvertently lead to some very scuppered, or even scared, thinking about Him! But when Jesus taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit He very deliberately describes Him in personal terms…
One of the words we mostly associate with the Holy Spirit is “power” – and often we think of Him merely in that way… like some mysterious energy source we can tap into as and when we need it. But He is person, the Bible describes Him as:
- Having thoughts
- Having a will
- Having emotions
- Speaking to believers
- Comforting and inspiring
- Teaching and Guiding
- Persuading unbelievers
- Growing fruit in us
- Giving gifts to us
The Bible is clear that we can ignore Him (and even grieve Him!) but much more than just a power to use, He is a person to know! And as such, it follows that He is person-al…
So how would you describe your relationship with the Holy Spirit? I once heard a good friend say that they often felt bad for just sort of “flirting” with the Holy Spirit but never really investing more deeply in getting to know Him. Paul’s prayer for the church was this:
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 CORINTHIANS 13.14
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Fellowship is this amazing Greek word from which we get our word community; it’s a sharing-in-common – it’s a shared life.
So – which is it for us? Are we just flirting with the Holy Spirit’s power (just getting what we need from Him when we need it?) or are we in fellowship with Him personally; sharing deeply in His life and as He shares deeply in ours?
2. The Holy Spirit is God!
“There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today.”
Have you ever heard some of the extra titles people use to try and categorize Christians? There are “born-again” Christians, “bible-believing” Christians, and even “Spirit-filled” Christians. The trouble with these human labels is that it makes certain things sound like interest groups, or even optional extras. (The truth is you simply can’t be any-type-of Christian without being born again, bible believing or filled with the Spirit!)
Maybe it’s because of these divisions within the church that the Holy Spirit can sometimes be seen as an optional extra or an add-on to our faith. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We are introduced to Him on the very first page of the Bible!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
In the beginning… God.
God creates – and the Spirit hovers over. It’s a beautiful picture of a bird hovering over their nest, guarding, providing, directing… The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra – He is absolutely essential, nothing starts without Him! We see this right the way through the Old Testament. It was the Holy Spirit who anointed the kings and inspired the prophets. Whereas it is not until Pentecost that He resides-within believers, whenever He rested-upon people the effect was powerful!
I once heard the Trinity described really powerfully as:
- God for us (God the Father)
- God with us (God the Son)
- God in us (God the Holy Spirit)
He is not a “part of God” or an “aspect” of God’s work – He is God the Holy Spirit, the final (and a full!) member of the Godhead, one with both the Father and the Son! Jesus was clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable!
Matthew ends His gospel with Jesus’ command:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…
The life and mission of the church is in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – because He is God!
Which means that when He speaks to us, or prompts us, or corrects us, or directs us – we simply cannot ignore it or discount it.
3. The Holy Spirit is Working!
There is not a better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit.
DWIGHT L. MOODY
It is happening right now, all over the world, all around you.
Sometimes obviously and dramatically, but more often silently and secretly – the Holy Spirit is at work in people’s hearts and lives.
He is not a boss who sits over the church simply pointing to places and projects for our attention – neither is He sitting around waiting for us to send Him work to do. The Holy Spirit is at work, right now.
I sometimes wonder if we hide behind the prayer for God to tell us “His will for our lives”, rather than simply asking the Holy Spirit what He wants us to do in next five days, or the next five hours, or the next five minutes… That seems to me to be far more consistent with the ways the Holy Spirit directed the work of the church in the Book of Acts.
Rather than ask Him to bless our work, if the Holy Spirit has already got started, doesn’t it make far more sense to ask Him how we can join in His work?
When was the last time we actually asked Him what He was doing?
When was the last time we actually asked Him what He wanted us to do?
Imagine if that became our lifestyle. Imagine the adventures in the Spirit we would have…
Enter into the promises of God. It is your inheritance. You will do more in one year if you are really filled with the Holy Spirit than you could do in fifty years apart from Him.
Well the good news is that The Holy Spirit is just waiting for that invitation from us, and is buzzing because He already knows where the road leads!
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!
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