I am not a man of nostalgia. I don’t particularly like to look back and wonder where the good ol’ days have gone. I recognise that a true disciple of the kingdom is one who brings out of his treasure both new and old (Matthew 13:52). Yet, I am one who is ever looking to keep his eyes fixed on the future, to where God is taking us. Thus, I hope you understand why I am not usually so stuck on reminiscing.
Yet, I will be honest, there is something, or someone, of the past that I would like to see God’s people recover. His name is Holy Spirit. I do believe that my generation has lost a little confidence in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard countless stories of what the Holy Spirit did in the 1960’s and 1970’s, especially in the UK. And, yes, it was amazing and exciting. But the one word wrong with the previous sentence is this – WAS.
In one of Jesus’ last discourses before His crucifixion, He told His friends this:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. (John 14:16)
The Holy Spirit was to be ‘another Helper’, just as if Christ Himself were actually there in the flesh. Jesus even said:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
An advantage, eh? Yes, for then Jesus would be able to pour out on all of His people the long awaited blessing – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would be God Himself living inside and empowering His people to change planet earth. And so I believe we must have a renewed emphasis on the person of the Godhead who has come to be with us, live in us and clothe us.
We could easily ask the simple question, ‘Why has the Holy Spirit come?’ It is a good question, maybe the most important when considering the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And I do believe that Jesus made it quite clear as to the reason why the Holy Spirit has come. It is found in a very familiar Scripture:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
There it is! That is the reason! The Holy Spirit has been sent and He has come to empower God’s people to complete the task for which God has called us – to be witnesses in all the earth. The Holy Spirit was not given mainly for tingles, nor to try and contain Him in our Sunday gatherings, but all that we might walk in the power of God having victory over sin, over the enemy, even ultimately over sickness, and to be equipped for serving God and reaching others in our generation.
Amazingly, Jesus was not even afraid to say this about those who would believe in Him:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
As Christ went back to His Father, He would send the Spirit, and by the Spirit’s power we, as a company of God’s people, would be able to do greater works than Christ Himself. One can do a lot, but billions can accomplish quite a lot more. And what Christ says, He will make sure it comes true!
And so, we are challenged to remember the reason for which the Holy Spirit has come – to empower the saints to accomplish the will of God.
Next, we need to consider that the Spirit is the Spirit of revelation. We are all probably familiar with this passage, which many love to quote:
No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
I believe there is a song that is sung these days quoting this Scripture. But we need to read on, at least for one more verse:
But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (2:10)
How about that? There was a day in which many things were hidden in God, for even Jesus declared:
For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
But we live in a day in which the things of God have been revealed by His Spirit.
Yes, we still live in an age in which we ‘prophesy in part’ (1 Corinthians 13:9). And I believe there will always be things which will not be revealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 55:8-9). But we still get a glimpse, we are still called to hear the voice of the Spirit who lives within in us.
Some will argue that 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 is speaking about God’s revelation to the first apostles, and thus, this does not apply to us. And, granted, I do understand such an argument. But, remember we have the same Spirit dwelling within us as the first apostles, and thus, we are an apostolic people called to hear our God in our generation. This does not mean we write another letter to add to Scripture, nor does it mean this revelation will not be in line with what He has revealed in His Word. But, I am convinced God is calling His people to be a verse 10 people, one by which He continues to reveal to us His heart by the Spirit of God. (You can see my thoughts developed further in my series on apostles today.)
When is the last time we heard Him speak? Whether it is in the gentle voice as with Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-13) or in the whirlwind as with Job (Job 38:1), we desperately need to hear from the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Jesus said about our ears:
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. (Matthew 13:16)
We have One who lives in us that is a friend, One who wants to speak to us. Remember that He is another exactly like Jesus. With His presence within, it should be as if Jesus is right here with us. I know this is challenging, but I want to be ready to be drawn in and cultivate a deeper, intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Finally, if the Spirit is one who speaks, then we must, as the people of God, be willing to respond to His voice. The writer to the Hebrews reminds the Jewish believers of his day:
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7)
Now, as encouragement, keep in mind that we have been given new hearts by the One who drew us to Himself (see Ezekiel 36:26). We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). So we are actually at an advantage.
I, myself, want to understand more and more what Paul meant when He exhorted the believers in Ephesus:
Do no grieve the Holy Spirit of God. (Ephesians 4:30)
In the context, Paul is probably referring to the words that come from our mouths (see 4:29). Oh, that we would not grieve the God who lives in us with our unwholesome talk. But I believe grieving the Holy Spirit can go beyond just our words. The Spirit is speaking. Thus, I want to be listening. But I don’t want to stop there. I want to be obedient to His voice.
Interestingly enough, when the Scripture speaks of God hearing our prayers, it is actually referring to His response to our prayers (see Psalm 6:9; 66:19). The same is to stand true for us. We are to be hearers of God’s voice and responders.
Before Stephen was stoned, he told the Sanhedrin:
Our fathers refused to obey him. (Acts 7:39)
Oh, that we would not be like the Israelites who very rarely listened to and responded to the voice of God. Oh, that we would not grieve our great Friend who dwells within.
I believe that as we bear in mind the reason the Spirit was given, the revelation of the Spirit and our response to the Spirit, we will begin to walk out the greater works which Christ has called us to. For the One who was poured out from on high at Pentecost is looking to be poured out on each generation and each individual – ‘I will in those days pour forth of my Spirit’ (Acts 2:18). These are the days since Pentecost in which Christ gives the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Let a passion be rekindled within us to pursue such a relationship with the Holy Spirit.