Jesus promised he would send The Holy Spirit to bless, comfort, guide, teach and empower his followers by pouring out abundant spiritual gifts upon us. Why has there been so much division among Christians around this blessing over the years? The problem surely cannot be that of the Holy Spirit so it must point to errors in our understanding, belief or experience. What has been your experience and expectations? Some think he is a force rather than the third person of the Trinity. Then there are ‘Cessasionists’ like John Calvin who believed that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the Apostolic Age. By contrast, John Piper would be an example of a ‘Continuationist’ believing that those gifts and others are for the church today. Christians have fallen out with each other over these things, churches have divided and denominations have been formed. Does the Holy Spirit belong to a bygone era or is he present and active today? Does it matter?
- ‘Come Holy Spirit, God and Lord! Be all thy graces now outpoured on the believer’s mind and soul, to strengthen, save and make us whole’ - Martin Luther
- ‘A dead creed is of no use; we must have our creed baptised with the Holy Ghost’ - C H Spurgeon
- ‘The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people’ - A W Tozer
- ‘I often wonder if religion is the enemy of God. It's almost like religion is what happens when the Spirit has left the building’ - Bono
Voices from the past and the present tell us that it matters very much both for the individual Christian and for the Church. A river without water is a ditch. A tree without sap is dead. Removing the life blood from a body leaves you with a corpse. Have you been to a church meeting such as one described by Bono and found it to be lifeless? The early church was not sent out with power to be witnesses until the Holy Spirit had been poured out that first Pentecost. A W Tozer said that he did ‘not believe in a repetition of Pentecost but in a perpetuation of Pentecost’ and he made much of the difference. The church is indeed not to live in the past but to bring the dynamic life of the Holy Spirit into the present, whenever and wherever you may be living. As soon as we rely on our own human resources, it is as if we are running on batteries which discharge quickly rather than being connected to the on-going power of God through His Spirit.
- ‘On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified - John 7:37-39
- ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ - Acts 1:8
- ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ - Ephesians 5: 18-20
- ‘As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you”’ - Psalm 87:7
Jesus warns against trying to do things in our own strength when he speaks of himself as the vine and his disciples as the branches in John 15:4 - ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me’. Jesus told the Samaritan woman he met at the well that she should have asked him for ‘living water’, water that would truly quench the thirst becoming ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:1-15). A person who is thirsty on a hot day can become desperate - the Holy Spirit is the most precious gift given not to the deserving but to the desperate. It is as we are filled with the Holy Spirit that we will overflow with his presence into the lives of others. He gives gifts and his presence is evidenced by fruit that adorns the life of one who has been ‘born of the Spirit’ and ‘walks by the Spirit’.
- ‘There are different kinds of gifts. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who gives them. There are different kinds of work to be done for Him. But the work is for the same Lord. There are different ways of doing His work. But it is the same God who uses all these ways in all people. The Holy Spirit works in each person in one way or another for the good of all’ - 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7 (NLV)
- ‘Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ - John 3:5-6
Moses cried out to God that life was too much for him ‘unless you go with us’ (Exodus 33:16) and it is the same for us. The type of spiritual gift you have and the fruit you bear are less important than who gives them. God is the generous giver who tells us to ‘eagerly desire spiritual gifts’ that we are to use for the common good, to strengthen, encourage and comfort others which in turn brings joy and glory to the giver. These things are not meant to divide but unite us. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are born again into the family of God. The Holy Spirit then gives us his personal guarantee of this work, a Divine seal to authenticate and validate that those trusting in the sacrificial blood of Jesus as atonement for sin have the right to call God the intimate name of ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15-16).
To be baptised in the Holy Spirit can simply be understood as being born into the family of God but we are called to be continually filled and refreshed in this precious relationship. Don’t get hung up on these things - ask and you will receive (Luke 11:9-13). Even so, COME HOLY SPIRIT.
TAGS – power, tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, teaching, evangelism, interpretation, wisdom, discernment