Aren’t the most important aspects of life what you do and how you live? These are legitimate questions.
What you do and how you live are absolutely vital. Without action and fruit, all the theology in the world has little meaning. But theology is still important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act. So, while good theology at its best can lead us to live godly lives, bad theology will always point us in the wrong direction. When we study the Holy Spirit, bad theology can lead to ineffective lives or, worse yet, lives spent striving after what the Spirit of God opposes.
When it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I’ll not get caught up in abstract and nebulous distinctions. I want to focus on the theological issues that shape our faith and behavior.
It is ludicrous for anyone to say they can explain the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we cannot fully understand God. There are things about God that are mysterious and secret, things we will never know about Him. But there are also things revealed, and those belong to us. (Deuteronomy 29: 29). Likewise, the Spirit is infinite and cannot be known fully by humans.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples was ever the same. They were no longer timid or confused: they were bold and inspired and began to declare and live the gospel of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Think about what a huge moment this was in the lives of the disciples. I was or will be a huge moment in your life as well.
Practical Truths About Who the Spirit is And What He Does in Our Lives:
- The Holy Spirit has personal relationships with not only believers, but also with the Father and the Son. (Matthew 28: 19; 2 Corinthians 13: 14).
- The Holy Spirit is God. The words Spirit and God are used interchangeably in the New Testament. In Acts 5: 3-4 Peter explicitly refers to the Holy Spirit as God. This is vital to remember. When we forget about the Spirit, we really are forgetting God.
- The Holy Spirit is eternal and holy. We read in the gospel of John about Jesus’ promise to his disciples that the Spirit will be with them forever (14: 16). The Spirit is not a flighty whimsical Spirit who comes and goes like the wind. He is an internal being.
- The Holy Spirit has his own mind, and he prays for us. In any given situation, we may not know exactly how we should pray or what we should do. But we can take confidence in the fact that the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and the will of God, and he is always interceding on our behalf.
- The Spirit has emotions. Grieved when there is a breach in relationship, whether it be relationship with God or relationship with other people. When we are disunified, unloving, hateful, jealous, gossipy, etc., that is when we grieve the Spirit of God. And since he is the creator of emotions, I believe that the Spirit grieves more deeply than we can ever understand.
- The Holy Spirit has his own desires and will. In 1 Corinthians we read that the gifts of the Spirit are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (12: 11). This is an important reminder of who is in control. Just as we don’t get to choose which gifts we are given, so also, we don’t get to choose what God intends for us or for the church.
- The Holy Spirit is omnipotent omnipresent and omniscient. These are theological words that essentially mean that the Spirit is all powerful, present everywhere, and all knowing. These are some of His attributes that we will never fully grasp as infinite human beings.
If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, a number of things should be a part of your life. I am going to explore several, but don’t allow yourself just to read through these items like a grocery store list. If you merely skim this list, you’ll miss out on my favorite part. So much can be benefited from taking each of these promises literally, meditating on them and asking for them. Take time to dwell on each one. Consider how each one is manifest in your life and if it isn’t, spend some time asking God for that specific thing.
- The Spirit helps us speak when we are in precarious situations and need to bear witness. (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12).
- The Counselor teachers and reminds us of what we need to know and remember. He is our comforter, our advisor, our encourager, and our strength. He guides us in the way we should go (Psalms 143:10; John 14-16; Acts 9: 31; 13: 2; 15: 28; 1 Corinthians 2: 9-10; 1 John 5: 6 – 8).
- From the Spirit we receive power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. It is the Spirit who draws people to the Gospel, the Spirit who equips us with the strength we need to accomplish God’s purposes. The Holy Spirit not only initially draws people to God, he also draws believers closer to Jesus (Acts 1: 8; Romans 8: 26; Ephesians 3: 16-19).
- By the power of the Spirit, we put to death the misdeeds of the body. The Spirit sets us free from the sins we cannot get rid of on our own. This is a lifelong process we entered into, in partnership with the Spirit, when we first believed (e.g., Romans 8: 2).
- Through the Spirit we have received a Spirit of adoption as children, which leads us into intimacy with the Father, instead of a relationship based on fear and slavery. The Spirit bears witness to us that we are his children (Romans 8: 15-16).
- The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. He does this both before we initially enter into right relationship with God and as we journey through this life as believers (John 16: 7 -11; 1 Thessalonians 1: 5).
- The Spirit brings us life and freedom. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom, not bondage or slavery. In our world that is plagued with death, this is a profound truth that points to real hope. (Romans 8: 10-11; 2 Corinthians 3: 17).
- By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are bound with hope because our God is a God of hope, who fills his children with all joy and peace (Romans 15: 13).
- As members of God’s Kingdom community, each of us is given a manifestation of the Spirit in our lives for the purpose of the common good. We all have something to offer because of what the Spirit gives to us (1 Corinthians 12: 7).
- The fruit of being led by the Spirit of God includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Attitudes and actions will characterize our lives as we allow ourselves to be grown and molded by the Spirit. The Spirit is our sanctifier (2 Corinthians 3: 18; Galatians 5: 22-23).
My hope is that reading these truths about the Holy Spirit will lead you into a deeper relationship with and a greater reverence for the Spirit—that good theology would lead you to right action, genuine love, and true worship.
Perhaps you read these verses and wonder why these things are not a part of your life. Don’t be discouraged. Ask God to make you more loving or to help you put to death the deeds of the flesh or to use you to bless His children. Remember that we cannot do these things on our own, and that these are the very things the Holy Spirit does in our lives. The Father tells us to ask Him. And we can ask confidently because we are asking for things God promises us in the Bible. May we grow in relationship with the Spirit more and more, and belittle and ignore Him less and less.
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Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2: 38-39)
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9: 14)
and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1: 4)
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 5)
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8: 27)
Forgotten God by Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski