*** In Part One of this article, we looked at a few touchy issues related to how the church as a whole has neglected the person and mission of the Holy Spirit, as well as some of the negative outcomes associated with this problem. In this section, we will look at more particular aspects of the Holy Spirit and his importance to the contemporary church.
There is much confusion in Christian circles about the person, purpose, and power of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned in Part One, this is the result of the church’s tendency to avoid, neglect, or misrepresent the third person of the Trinity. My fear is that unless there is an increased focus on teaching and preaching about the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ will remain disconnected from its most valuable source of power and wisdom as it faces the challenges of finding a place of influence in our rapidly changing culture.
The Holy Spirit performs numerous roles in the life of the Christian, but perhaps the most significant centers on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the transmitter of God’s wisdom. He is, indeed, the greatest teacher there can be. Moreover, the Spirit teaches us about Jesus and lets us in on those things that the Lord told the disciples they “couldn’t bear.” If we only develop “ears to hear” we can learn so much from the Paraclete. Scripture tells us of the connection between the Spirit and God:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:12-13)
Do you see the connection between the Holy Spirit and how we go about appropriating knowledge of our identity “In Christ?” In this verse Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit comes so that we “might know the things that have been freely given us by God.” Without the gift of the Spirit, we cannot fully know just what Christ has accomplished for us. If we truly want to understand and fully comprehend who and what we are now that we have a new, vital identity in Christ, we must turn to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirits job to teach us about Christ and, in doing that, come to understand and accept what Christ has done for us through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
A couple of years ago, the Holy Spirit imparted an insight to me that was like a personal epiphany. This new awareness may not seem so significant to many of you, but for me on that particular day, it was if a window to the spiritual realm was briefly opened and I was able to see something in a way I had never seen it before. The Spirit gave me valuable insight into the nature how the Holy Trinity has interacted with human beings over the ages. Basically, what I came to see was that the Holy Spirit translates the mysteries, the nature, and the purpose of God to us in the way that Jesus did to his disciples and the Father did to Moses.
In the time the Israelites spent meandering about the wilderness, Moses often needed direction. In these cases, Moses dealt with the Father. When the disciples needed to understand God, they went to Jesus. In the same way, we are to go to the Holy Spirit. All three are equally God and all three are equally important.
It is common for a sincere believer to ask whether or not the voice he hears or the impression placed on his mind is the Holy Spirit communicating. How do we come to discern what is the voice of the Holy Spirit and what is not? The answer is quite simple. We have to increasingly become familiar with his voice. And how do we do that? We develop our relationship with him, allowing it to grow deeper and more intimate. And how do we do that? By spending more time with Him.
It is the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God that brings life where there was no life. God breathed his spirit into Adam and he became a living being. And, when the Holy Spirit came into us at our spiritual rebirth, we came back to life as well. Whereas we were dead in our sin, now we are alive in God’s Spirit.
Like most things in life, how we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit is a personal choice. We can either choose to follow His lead or we can choose to ignore Him. It is up to us and no one else.
The following quotation from Stephen A. Macchia is an excellent description of the person and the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Macchia’s description is so profound and inclusive, I share it in its entirety:
The roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives are many and varied. The Spirit is the person of the Trinity who convicts us of our sin, turning our brokenness into joyfulness and faithfulness. The Spirit is sent to transform a broken heart and converts us from a life of oppression and self-absorption to a life of freedom and God-consciousness. Throughout our lives, the Spirit directs us in accordance with his will as he counsels us, healing our emotions, comforts us in the depths of our hurts and disappointments, and consoles us with his love and grace. Under the controlling auspices of the Spirit, we are called into a life of obedience to cooperate with the marching orders of the heavenly Father, birthing within us the hope and renewal that only he can provide. Then, as we grow in our lifelong journey of regeneration, the Spirit continues to quicken our hearts to remain in alignment with his love, Word, and ways. Ultimately, it will be the Spirit who completes the work in us so that when we go home to be with the Lord for all eternity, it will be the Spirit who empowered us to be recipients of the “well done, good and faithful servant” affirmation from our loving heavenly Father.
It is the work of the Spirit of God to convict, convert, counsel, comfort, console, cooperate, continue, and complete believers through his empowering presence in our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to have a cross experience daily, not just when we come to Christ initially, but as God’s empowering presence brings us closer and closer to the heart of God and his purpose is lived out through us. The Spirit enables us to humble ourselves in his presence and to rely upon him in every circumstance of life.
Historically, the church has gravitated toward one of two extremes when dealing with the Holy Spirit. Either extreme has its own perils and either results in a sanctuary with all the excitement of a funeral parlor or, at the other end of the spectrum, congregations where the sign out front should read, “First Church of Barnum and Bailey.”
As Christians, we each have a personal responsibility to develop a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. Scripture and experience both reveal that progress toward completion in Christ is not possible without his assistance, guidance, and loving support during those times when we are dealing with the more troublesome aspects of our character. In my life, I have found the Holy Spirit to be a confidant, a friend, a source of comfort, and especially important, one who challenges me to keep at it, even when I want to quit. Further, the Holy Spirit does indeed convict me of my sin and, in addition, helps me to understand how a particular area of disobedience ties into a larger patter of sin.
The church also bears great responsibility in providing more focused, intensive teaching on the nature, mission, and character of the Holy Spirit. Without this type of critical instruction, the Body of Christ as a whole will, no matter how well-intentioned, go forward in the new century marching at half speed. The results of this are predictable. The church’s position and influence in our culture, already decreasing, will become even less. Competing worldviews will drown out the prophetic voice of the few who have tapped into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in a meaningful and practical way.
I urge you to spend time praying about attaining a deeper relationship with the source of your power as a Christian. Study all you can about the nature, mission, and work of the Holy Spirit, and spend devotional time experimenting with ways in which your relationship with the Holy Spirit may become deeper. Equally important, ask you church leaders what they have planned in order to help the church more effectively equip its flock to tap into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Believe me my friends, for individual Christians and the Body of Christ as a whole, few issues are more critical than the appropriation and activation of the power of the Holy Spirit as we, both personally and corporately, face the challenges of the 21st Century.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved