By Hannah Brzozowski
I grew up going to church. So, I heard about the Holy Spirit pretty early on. I always thought of it as that still small voice in your head that tells you right from wrong. Then, in high school, I went to a conference in England. At the end of the first session, they asked the group of 10,000 students if anyone needed to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Some raised their hands and people gathered around to pray for them. What happened next was something I had never experienced before. People all around me got emotional. Some cried. Others laughed. Some fell down. Others screamed. As all of this was happening, I thought: "This isn’t the Holy Spirit — this is madness."
Whether you grew up in the church or not, you’ve probably seen the televangelists who push people over and yell "you're healed!" Then, you come to find out that that person was a plant or didn’t actually get healed. To be honest, the whole topic of the Holy Spirit can bring out a lot of craziness.
So, what does the Holy Spirit actually do? Let's look past our experiences to explore what God has to say about his own Spirit!
Today, I've compiled a list of nine things to know about the Holy Spirit and how he works in our lives today.
The Holy Spirit is in every Christian.
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) Romans 8:9
When you come to know Jesus, you are given a helper, the Holy Spirit. He is with us all the time, ready to comfort us. For me, I feel like I experience the Holy Spirit the most during worship. When I’m really able to focus my mind on the characteristics of God and everything that he has done for me, I feel his presence. For me, that could be goosebumps or it could be a warm feeling all over me. Others experience the Holy Spirit differently than I do. Maybe they feel him when they are reading a theological book and something finally makes sense to them. Or maybe they feel him when they look up at the night sky and see the beauty of God’s creation.
It's exciting when we feel the Holy Spirit. However, it’s important to note that the Holy Spirit isn’t just with you when you get the warm fuzzies. He’s always there, regardless of how we might be feeling. (See Psalm 139:7-10)
The Holy Spirit guides you.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13
When we follow Jesus, we want to honor him with our life. When it comes to decisions - big or small - the Holy Spirit is ready to help you make decisions. When I wasn’t sure what my next step in ministry was a few years ago, I felt the Holy Spirit guide me to my next step through a book. I was at a coffee shop, asking God to guide me to where and what we should do next. Honestly, I was scared but when I opened up one book, I felt like it was written just for me. And guess what— the book I was reading wasn’t the Bible. *insert shock here* It was actually an autobiography from an interior designer. But God still used that book to guide me to that next step.
The important part was that I was open to what God was wanting to speak to me that day. As Mike Pilavachi says, God is a gentleman. He isn’t going to force himself on you. You have to be willing to hear from him.
Whether it’s while you’re reading the Bible or any time you feel prompted to do something, listen carefully. Follow that leading and see how God is working in your life. This is what walking in the Spirit entails (Galatians 5:16).
There are also times that the Holy Spirit will convict you of wrong. If you sense that you should apologize or quit a bad habit, that could be the Spirit guiding you.
One caveat: God has given you more than just the Spirit to guide you. He has given you his Word, other friends to talk with, and even your very own brain! Following the Spirit was never meant to be opposed to these, but to be in cooperation with them.
The Holy Spirit gives you strength.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:8
I’ll be honest, this one is kind of hard to understand until you experience it. So, I’ll try to explain it from my perspective. Recently, I’ve felt drained. I've been dealing with stuff that has made it hard to focus. Yet, despite my weaknesses, God has been my strength. I am overwhelmed by all the amazing things happening in ministry. People are growing in their faith, leading like never before, and a community is building that I’ve been dreaming of for years. This is the Holy Spirit working on my behalf, despite my weakness.
The Holy Spirit can be both chaotic and orderly.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 1 Corinthians 14:33
Some Christians have decided all this Holy Spirit stuff is too messy. And since they don't feel comfortable, they claim that God is not present in any of it. But, just because people are emotional and it seems messy does not mean that God isn't present.
On the flip side, some Christians think that anytime someone claims to be healed or to hear from God or feels emotional at church, God is acting in a miraculous way. But, just because people say that God is working doesn't mean that he is. Music can draw emotions. Prophecies can be faked or misunderstood. And even healings aren't always clear.
There must be some middle ground.
As someone who grew up in a Baptist church (traditionally very conservative - it was crazy when someone raised their hand in worship) and then was influenced heavily by charismatic Christians (traditionally very loud and expressive) in high school and college, I’ve experienced both worlds.
I’ve been the one to get on stage with a prophecy from God. I’ve gone up to people in the church and prayed for them because I felt like the Holy Spirit told me to. I’ve also been the skeptic who notices when someone's back is hurting the day after getting healed.
This debate isn't new. It's been like that since the beginning of the church 2,000 years ago. The two passages above speak to that. One is talking about when the Holy Spirit fell on the church. The other is talking to a church a few years later that got a little *too* crazy when it came to the Holy Spirit. Balance is key.
When I think of that conference in England I went to, I think there was a little too much craziness. However, I also see how the Holy Spirit worked there. I experienced God’s presence in that place and also learned a lot. A lot of my friends point back to that conference as a time that God moved in their lives.
But, it could have been a good idea to escort some of the screamers out of the big room in order to keep things a bit more calm and better care for those experiencing intense emotions.
People experience God in different ways. But, we are going after communion with God more than chasing some emotional high.
Imagine giving a new toy to your nephew. He loves the gift so much that he forgets all about you. After a few days, your nephew is tired of that toy and comes back asking for a new one.
But, don't we do the same thing to God when we are going to church solely for a fresh emotional experience or the warm and fuzzies.
The Holy Spirit gives us gifts.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:11
God wants his Church to thrive and so, he gives Christians special gifts to help make that happen. These gifts are specific to you and me and they all help the church body be the best we can be. Some are good at preaching, others are good at hospitality, and others lead worship. There are 21 spiritual gifts listed in the Bible.
For me, I thought I had certain gifts, and then over time, I've come to discover new gifts or ones that I use more often now than I used to. I've also figured out that I don't have all of the gifts. I simply can't do everything on my own. I need others in the church to use their gifts too - which is exactly what God was thinking when he gave gifts to his children. The Church is a community of people - we need others to live out God's calling for our lives.
One big question in Christianity is "Are all the gifts for today?" This question is asking whether or not God still uses people to heal as they did in the New Testament or whether people still speak in tongues. There are two groups in this argument. One group is called Cessationists (the miraculous gifts ceased with the original apostles) and the other, Continuationists (the miraculous gifts have continued).
I believe that gifts are still for today for a few reasons.
Nowhere in the New Testament do they separate the gifts into two categories: miraculous and non-miraculous.
Miracles were done by Christians other than the apostles.
When Paul talks about the gifts passing away in 1 Corinthians 13, he says "when the perfect comes" the gifts will pass. I don't think we've reached the perfect yet.
If you’re wondering what your spiritual gifts might be, I encourage you to try serving in different areas of your church. Which ones pique your interest or do you think you might have? Talk to your church leaders about wanting to figure out your gifts. You never know until you try!
The Holy Spirit helps us pray.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 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 8:26-27
Have you ever been so distraught that you don’t even know what to say? You open your mouth and words fail. You can’t seem to express exactly what you’re thinking. Well, no worries, that’s when the Holy Spirit steps in and helps us! The verses above speak of when the Spirit intercedes for us. He helps us communicate to God the Father about what we need. Who better to do this than a member of the Trinity?
The Holy Spirit should be evident in your life.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Sadly, Christians are not known for their love, their joy, or their peace. Instead, they are known for their hate, their hypocrisy, and their judgemental attitudes.
When you hang out with someone, you become like them. So, when you spend time with the Holy Spirit, you start to show good fruit like patience, love, and joy. Are you spending enough time with the Spirit to let him transform you?
The Holy Spirit Fills You.
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
The New Testament mentions being filled with the Spirit. But what does that mean? John Piper puts it this way: “To be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity.” This isn't a one-time event; instead, it should happen throughout your life as a Christian.
In Acts 2, Christianity began with the filling of the Spirit. The first Christians were so filled with joy that they were accused of being drunk (even at nine in the morning!). And the joy spilled out in preaching the gospel to others.
The Spirit wants to fill you up with the joy of God so much that you are a great blessing to those around you.
The Holy Spirit means Wind or Breath.
For this final point, I'm going to let the people over at the Bible Project explain this one. This video is also a great summary of what we talked about in this blog.