Discovering the Holy Spirit
September 10, 2021
By MB Communications Team
If somebody were to ask you who the Holy Spirit is, how would you answer that?
Just from the theology perspective, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and the Holy Spirit is a person, not a thing. He is, alongside the Father and the Son, creating a kind of holy community that we call Trinity. And all of that gets to be so mysterious and beautiful. But for our purposes, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity who activates our sanctification and empowers us for ministry.
Something that I’ve become more and more aware of is that Wesleyan orthodoxy has this wonderfully divine soteriology, or doctrine of salvation. That was Wesley’s unique contribution to the body of Christ; he laid out for us this systematic way of looking at salvation from prevenient grace to justifying grace to sanctifying grace to perfecting grace, and that end goal, entire sanctification or perfecting grace, really is our contribution to the body of Christ. Kevin Watson would say that if we’re not preaching entire sanctification, we’re taking up a needless place in the body. And that’s why our pneumatology, which is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, becomes so important because I can’t be made perfect in love in this life outside the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we are working with that goal in mind — to be made perfect in love in this life — we really begin to hear the incredible difference between someone who says, “I hold these, this core set of doctrines, as my belief system and they are Christian doctrines. And I believe in these doctrines, and I behave by these doctrines.” That’s kind of a virtue-based salvation, really. There’s a big difference between that and the person who says, “I am striving to be made perfect in love in this life. I’m striving for every motivation to be pure – not every behavior, but every motivation to be coming from the heart of God.” So, when we talk about that difference, we really begin to realize the incredible importance of having a strong pneumatology, a strong doctrine of the Holy Spirit, in our own personal theology.
We’re not just filled so we can manifest the supernatural. As Wesleyans, our emphasis is on what Paul called working out your salvation every day with fear and trembling. So, our emphasis is on holiness, and that means it ought to lead us deeper and deeper into those waters of holiness and deeper and deeper into the heart of God and into the supernatural power of God so that eventually, we find ourselves being sent out under the power of the Holy Spirit. Read Luke 9, where he sent his followers out with the power of the Holy Spirit, and authority to cast out demons cure disease, proclaim the kingdom, and heal the sick. When our emphasis is on holiness, our spiritual fruit will be a supernatural outpouring.
If someone were to say, “I understand God the Father and God the Son, but who is the Holy Spirit, and why is the Holy Spirit necessary?”
We have this really narrow view of the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit-filled life, being some kind of cultural, behavioral thing. And that’s not it at all. What I would say to you is, you’re missing joy. Because without the power of the Holy Spirit, you miss the joy. Jesus said, “I came that my joy might be in you; that your joy might be full. And that’s right there at the end of John when he says that to his friends, and then when he leaves them at the ascension, he says, Be filled with the Holy Spirit. And that’s being filled with the fullness of the power of God, the love of God, and the joy of God. It’s without the power of the Holy Spirit, I would say, we’re just missing the fullness of life. This is what it means to be alive. This is this is what we believe. I mean, that’s why we live and die for it. It’s what we believe it means to be alive.
What shape in my life does the Holy Spirit take? In other words, what does that look like? I’ve heard you and I believe that, but what’s next?
So, there are lots of places where it takes shape very practically. First, as we’ve already said, it’s taking your salvation to the next level, every day, so you go deeper and deeper into the heart and truth of God. And then it is finding what life really is and fullness of life, the joy of life. Then it is also that the Holy Spirit activates our gifts, the charismata – gifts of the Spirit. He activates our gifts, so we find our purpose. As we walk in the Spirit, we find our purpose, and we become co-creators with God and the work of redeeming the world. And friends, if there was ever a time when we felt the desire – the heart, the hunger – to redeem the world, now is it.
So, when you pray under the power of the Holy Spirit, Lord show me what you’ve made me for, what’s my purpose? What gifts have you give me? Who am I? What is my identity in you? Then we then we discover, as we asked that question of the Holy Spirit, He begins to speak to us, “Here’s what you’re made for. Here’s what I’ve put in you. Here are the tools you have. Here’s your hunger.” And then as you begin to walk that out, how glorious to discover your own hungers for becoming a co-creator with Christ and redemption of the world.
If I don’t really understand that as a beginner, what would you say?
I would start by simply asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit; just start there. You’re never going to understand all of it. But I do know that this Spirit-filled life is an experiential reality. It’s very much something that we learn as we do it. And so, pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, I pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, because I don’t know how it happens, and this is surely not theologically correct, but it feels to me like life just pokes holes in your soul, and the Spirit leaks out. So, I just pray, “Lord, plug the holes and fill me again; fill me again with your Holy Spirit today so that when I am walking today, I’m walking in the power of the Spirit and walking in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I want to be able to walk in that fruit. I want to be able to love people like you love them. So, just fill me with your Spirit.” That’s really as simple as that. You don’t have to understand anything, as much as you need to want it. If you want it. Luke tells us that if you who are evil, know how to get give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? So, if I want it, and if I’m a person who would want good things for people, then how much more does God want good things for me?
I’m remembering the first time I really felt like I’d kind of gotten lost, like, I lost the Holy Spirit. I felt this was a spiritually dry time in my life, and I remember going to talk to a guy, and he said, “Okay, I’m going to pray for you right now, to be filled with the Spirit, and when you walk out of here, I don’t care how you feel. You walk in the faith that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit.” And pretty much ever since then, I just trusted that’s so I; I pray for it; I pray for him to fill me; I believe that he’s filled me; and I walk in His truth. And that doesn’t mean that My days are perfect – it’s been a hard week; it’s been a hard couple of years, but He’s not left us. He’s not forsaken us. That’s the glory. I mean, it’s the real glory of the Holy Spirit. The gift of Jesus when he left us at the ascension, he said, “I will not leave you or forsake you. I will be with you always.” And it’s through the power of the Holy Spirit that He is with us.