The third person of our Triune God, the Holy Spirit. As the promise of our victory in Christ and the power of our living in Christ, the Spirit dwells among Christians so that we may live as the church Jesus gave his life for us to be. You need the Holy Spirit. I need the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit. God offers us his Spirit.*
Consider what one passage of scripture says:
While he was with them, he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 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 farthest parts of the earth.” – Acts 1:4-8
The same Holy Spirit that is promised here is promised as a gift to all (Acts 2:38-39). Yet in most churches, talk of the Holy Spirit still seems as if we are entering into unchartered waters. Why? What is it that makes churches/Christians afraid of the Holy Spirit?
Perhaps it is because we fear losing control. Most churches in America came of age during the end of modernism, which was shaped thoroughly by the rationalistic and humanistic thinking of the Enlightenment era. That was the sort of thinking that held a high view of humanity, which sought to maintain control over important matters in life through human reasoning. Control is the operative word and it is something we lose by submission if we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. That isn’t to say that the Holy Spirit will ever force us in any way but to say that when we seek the guidance of God through his Spirit, we are relinquishing our own way and that still makes us nervous.
But for what are we relinquishing our own way?
For mission. The mission of God. That as the church of Jesus Christ, we may participate with God in his mission as followers of Jesus. So in thinking about the way in which the Holy Spirit leads us as followers of Jesus, the book of Acts is always a great place to start understanding how we should expect the Holy Spirit to lead us. In fact, the book of Acts is so important to this question that even though it is technically known as The Acts of the Apostles that it has also been described as The Acts of the Spirit. That’s because the book of Acts is the continuing the story began in the Gospel of Luke regarding how the gospel goes from the Jews to the Gentiles, first undertaken by Jesus himself and then continued by the followers of Jesus who, like Jesus, are animated by the Holy Spirit.
There is so much more that needs to be said about the work of the Holy Spirit as told in the book of Acts but here is where I start: I believe that any faithful reading of Acts reveals that our calling as followers of Jesus is to be animated by the Holy Spirit so that we embody the gospel of Jesus Christ in all that we do and say. Within this belief I have two additional convictions that might help clarify the work of the Holy Spirit among the church.
- As the third person of the One Triune God, the Holy Spirit will never empower Christians to do anything that goes against the will of God. Although we will have disagreements over the question of God’s will and disagreements on certain issues, scripture is the story which tells us how God acts within history. In particular, it tells us how God is working to redeem creation in Jesus Christ and the goal of that redemptive work (which is also to say that we should read the Biblical narrative as a christologically centered and eschatologically oriented story). Consequently, we know what sort of values, what sort of things make God tick, what he loves and what burns his anger, etc… and how that has played out in Christian history. Thus, scripture and tradition must be our conversation partner in discerning the leading of the Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit will animates us to accomplish our calling as in both ordinary and extraordinary ways but in ways that are often beyond our own human ability. That means that participating in the mission of God always more than our own capabilities. This is one reason why we, like Jesus whom we follow, must pray. So if we are living by the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ll be a praying people because there isn’t any other way except to go to God the Father and pray that he may strengthen us with power from the Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 3:16).
So what say you?
* This post is an updated and revised version of a post titled You Need The Holy Spirit, originally published on May 20, 2012.