The Holy Spirit – three words that send the Christian world into an apoplectic confusion. Ask five Christians a question about the Holy Spirit and you are likely to get up to five different answers. Why would this be given that the Holy Spirit is a very relevant figure throughout the Bible and particularly so in the New Testament?
The reason for the schism is varied, but generally comes down to a) a lack of serious study of the Bible by the average Christian b) a general avoidance of teaching by Church leaders on the realities of the Holy Spirit c) an over-emphasis of the surreal manifestation of the Holy Spirit as taught in the Bible (particularly by the Charismatic Christian movement) or d) all of the above.
All of this has combined to create much confusion and outright dissension among Christian groups with the result being an unfortunate lack of power displayed by the modern church in the face of a relentless spiritual battle with the secular non-believing world. Power is the key word. The Holy Spirit when properly understood, is the true power in the Christian’s arsenal. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the Christian movement operates with the limitless power of God.
But what is the Holy Spirit? Or more accurately stated Who is the Holy Spirit? Here is Jesus providing an answer to this very question in Luke 14:25-26 while He was talking to His disciples preparing them for His death, resurrection and return to Heaven: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit is a living being sent by God to the disciples then and to all believers since, to teach us and be a Counselor to us about the things of God.
The Holy Spirit is the way God shows us His love: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5); The Holy Spirit is the conscience of the believer: “I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 9:1); God’s true work in our lives is made credible only through the Holy Spirit: “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:15-16); The believer’s own body is a residence for the Holy Spirit: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); The Holy Spirit controls whether we profess the deity of Christ: “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3); The Holy Spirit is God’s seal (His official stamp) on every believer:"… Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:13-14); The Holy Spirit is grieved by a believer’s persistently bad behavior: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:30); The Holy Spirit helps the believer to guard the precious Word that God gives to us: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14); The Holy Spirit provides the many gifts of God to all believers: “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hebrews 2:4); The Holy Spirit is the one through Whom God sends man His words of scripture: “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19)
These are but some of the ways that God’s Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian. But what happens if the believer does not believe in the Holy Spirit or does not know about the Holy Spirit or misrepresents the presence of the Holy Spirit? Unfortunately, these are the very pervasive problems facing large sections of the Christian community today. The result: a loss of the true power of God that could be working through us for His glory in a dark and dying world. Don’t believe me? Do any of the following represent the actions or behaviors of Christians that you know: marriage infidelity, impure thoughts or words, unreasonable attachment to things (sports, cars, work), jealousy of others, reading of horoscopes or belief in astrology, temper tantrums etc.? These are some behavior signs of an absence of the Holy Spirit working in one’s life: "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit; The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:16-17; 19-23)
Many people have been literally scared off from any understanding or belief in the Holy Spirit due to the antics and misrepresentation of others...notably those who liberally flaunt the so-called display of “speaking in tongues”. This often-misunderstood gift of the Holy Spirit is so abused in modern American Christianity that it has served the purpose of bringing a staggering lack of credibility to Christianity, and brings dissension within the faith. The Bible is very specific about how and when this display of the Holy Spirit is to be used, and a general “broadcast” in a public forum is NOT one of them: “…So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?… If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” (1 Corinthians 14: 23, 27-28) The Apostle Paul provides a detailed understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians Chapters 12-14.
The Holy Spirit is an integral part of the believer’s life. Without Him you cannot function with the true power of God. The Lord explains Him very clearly throughout the Bible; if you are unclear, start with the Book of Acts and read the rest of the New Testament. If you are in a Church that will not discuss the Holy Spirit, ask why. Ask them to show you a scriptural basis for not doing so. I suspect they will fail to find it. As Christians we need to be equipped with the weapons that God provides to us to battle in the war that we face every day. Without the Holy Spirit, it’s like facing a sub-machine gun with a water pistol in your hand.
(All scripture courtesy of the NIV Bible)
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