Maybe you’re like me. I grew up in Pentecostal churches. I’ve always heard the phrase, “Seek the Holy Spirit for all he has for you.” By this, preachers mostly use it to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But they also use it when they talk about gifts.
Every time I heard it, it made me want more of God. I never thought this phrase was misleading. And I still don’t. There is power in seeking the Holy Spirit. There is power in the gifts that he offers. He has at least one gift for you.
Maybe you’re reading this and wondering what in the world I’m talking about. You didn’t grow up in a Pentecostal or charismatic church. In fact, you never had a background in any of this Holy Spirit stuff. You are hearing this for the first time.
But whether you hear it for the first time or you’ve heard it all your life, don’t stash it away. Take a good look at the process of seeking the Holy Spirit. Going deeper and God means a closer relationship with him. But he also wants to empower you for service in his kingdom.
Maybe you think that messages and posts like this are ludicrous. You’ve heard the whole thing before but it’s never helped you or affected your life. Hang on for the wild ride. Open yourself up to at least hear the message one more time. You never know what the Holy Spirit will do with what I have to say.
No matter who you are or what background you come from, I make a promise to you in this post. I don’t claim to know what you’re going through or how deep in God’s Spirit you are. But everything I say I will back up with Scripture here. I hope God uses it to minister to you where you are.
Seek Him First
So back to that phrase, “Seek the Holy Spirit for all he has for you.” The first impression you might get from this is that you are supposed to ask the Holy Spirit for stuff, for gifts and power. In one sense, this is true.
But in another sense, you have to do it in the proper order. Another phrase that found its way all around Pentecostal circles in my life and ministry is, “Seek the Giver, not the gift.” By this people mean almost the complete opposite of the last phrase. Preachers didn’t want people to get the impression that they were all about stuff instead of a relationship with God.
Once again, each of these phrases has their place in our Christian walk. As we grow in holiness by way of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and teaching, these phrases will be very important to us. Let’s start at the beginning.
When we first come to the Lord and are beginning our growth and walk with Jesus, I like to stress the, “Seek the Giver, not the gift” phrase. While it’s true that the Holy Spirit has at least one gift for every believer to exercise, you will find that the gift is for you, but it’s not for you.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The reason we seek the Giver, the Holy Spirit, instead of the gift at first is that we need to grow a deep relationship with him so that we know how to use what he wants to give us.
If I handed you a sharp double-edged sword and sent you into battle, you’d be one of the first ones to die. Such a powerful weapon requires training, familiarity with it, before you can effectively wield it.
So also, as we grow deeper and deeper in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, he trains us how to use his gifts for his glory and service. The Spirit knows us best, and he knows exactly which gifts fit us. But the relationship comes first.
It’s hard to be able to use the gifts he gives properly if we don’t know his prompting and leading. This is why we must have that deep relationship. We need to learn how he prompts us, leads us in using the gift. Otherwise, we would be using it “in the flesh.” This is when we decide when and how to use the gift instead of listening to the Holy Spirit who gave the gift.
But there comes a time in our seeking the Spirit first that he gives us the gift because we are ready to be used by him in more powerful ways. That’s when the phrase, “Seek the Spirit for all that he has for you” comes into play.
We have sought the Giver with the right motives. Instead of just wanting the cool and powerful gift, we want the relationship and the depth of intimacy with the Spirit. And he wants to use us because we are devoted to him and we took the time to know him.
That’s when he gives us the gift and trains us how to use it properly. We didn’t take the time to get to know the Spirit just to get the gift. Remember the first phrase. But at the proper time, after we have invested in our relationship with the Spirit, he wants to invest in us.
Anyone who has begun their walk with Jesus can tell you that there is always more to God. Jesus encourages us to seek more of the Spirit (Luke 11:13). He is infinite while we are finite. We don’t fully understand as he does. But there is no relationship like the one we forge with the Spirit.
Getting to know the Holy Spirit is the first step in our walk with God. I’m always sad to hear people tell me that they never really understood the third member of the Trinity. To them, he is the least accessible because they don’t know much about him.
But the opposite is true as you get to know him. He is the most accessible member of the Trinity to us right now. In fact, as I’ve discussed in other posts, the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us (1 Corinthians 6:19). If we listen, we can hear him loud and clear. He is always speaking, but we’re not always listening.
You see, the only way that we will follow the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit to use our gifting is if we know how to hear him. The Holy Spirit prompts different people in different ways. This means that each one of us must know how the Spirit prompts us personally.
One of the worst things I’ve ever done is use my gifts at the wrong time, and in the wrong place, it’s not even about embarrassment. It’s about knowing that you took a place that wasn’t yours. With the gifts of the Spirit comes great responsibility to use them the way that pleases him.
This is why we must have this deep bond with the Spirit of God. He can use us most effectively when we are tuned in to him. Then he can direct us into the right moment to speak the right word to the right person. This is when we and our gifts are most powerful for him.
The Holy Spirit gives very powerful gifts, but they come from the power of the Holy Spirit. He is so powerful that nothing in the world, not even the devil, can stand against him (1 John 4:4). His resurrection power dwells in us (Romans 8:11). And he wants to use us in his ministry!
The Gifts He Gives
So I’ve been talking about these gifts that the Spirit gives us. What are they? There’s quite a range of gifts in the New Testament. They are often given three categories: gifts of leadership, gifts of service, and spiritual gifts.
I want to talk about one of the most powerful gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to us. It is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants all of us to have this baptism. He is the one who immerses us in the Spirit, called a baptism by fire, which represents the Holy Spirit in Scripture (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 2:3).
He thought it was so important that he told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8). If he thought it was important for the apostles to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit during their ministry, why do you think that would change? He wants all of us to work for him in that same power.
Why is the baptism of the Holy Spirit so important? Because it gives us the boldness and power to witness for Jesus. Even people who are shy can be bold as they talk about Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us that boldness and that confidence. One of the best things we do as Christians is tell others about our Lord and Savior.
Toward the end of this post I’m going to talk about how to receive this baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But before we do that, each of us needs to have a passion to seek the Spirit, and his gifts, before we are ready to receive.
Some of the gifts are used specifically in services and ministry. Others are used outside the church as well. But the Holy Spirit guides us to use the gifts he gives in the proper arena. Each gift, when used in the right way and guided by the Spirit, is powerful.
These gifts break down strongholds, assist others, build people up, and speak to the issues of life. The best part is that the Holy Spirit speaks, moves, and ministers through the gifts. You can find lists of the gifts throughout the New Testament.
Here’s a list of some categories to check out:
- Leadership Gifts (Ephesians 4:11)
- Service Gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
- Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11)
None of the lists in the New Testament is complete. Every once in a while you’ll see another gift being talked about on its own. They’re not complete because the Holy Spirit is creative and what he wants to do and how he wants to use us. This is why we must have that relationship with him. He must lead if the gifts will be effective and powerful.
But we must understand something. This is not for our benefit. This is not to make us look to others like the holiest saints around. This is all about serving him in the best way possible. This is all about ministering to others. They are expressly for service to others. They benefit others more than us.
It’s a mark of Christian maturity to not only know this but to practice it. It shouldn’t make us feel good that our gifts are effective. It should make us feel good that we could use them to help others. That must be our attitude as we serve the Holy Spirit and Christ’s church.
Our deep relationship with the Spirit and the gifts he gives us empower us to serve him with excellence. Each of us wants to serve God to the full extent of our capabilities. But what we can do for God on our own only goes so far.
The more we know the Holy Spirit, the more he can use us. And his gifts add power to what we can do for him. He supercharges our abilities, our discernment, our wisdom, and our service for him. There’s no downside to being used by the Holy Spirit in service to others.
So with all this in mind, the Holy Spirit empowers each of us in the ministry of gifts to serve others. As he puts our service to him in overdrive, may we never forget our place. May our humility magnify the effectiveness of his ministry in us.
Open to Receive
Once we realize all of these truths about the Holy Spirit and our relationship with him, we can be open to receive everything he has for us. Whatever gifts he wants to give, only he can give them. We can’t make it up or act like we have gifts we don’t. And we should never be jealous of other people’s gifts. The Holy Spirit gives us the perfect gifts for us.
So how do we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts? The first step almost sounds too easy. Begin by asking Jesus to baptize you in the Holy Spirit or receive your gift. The next step is the hardest for most of us. Wait on the Lord to receive from him (Acts 1:4-5, 8).
Waiting is hard for many Americans to do. But the more that we wait the more he sees that we want all of his promises, including the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In the times we wait for the Lord, we desperately seek him, his promises, and his gifts.
Take extra time to worship and praise the Lord. I’ve seen the Spirit release his baptism and gifts in powerful ways during times of praise and worship. It frees us to be more open to receive from him. We are already using our voices for his glory in these moments.
It’s natural for Jesus to immerse us in the Holy Spirit through praise and worship. That’s exactly what the apostles were doing when they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:9b). They were declaring God’s wondrous works in other people’s languages.
How do you know you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The Bible says that he will speak in tongues you do not know, in an unlearned language (Acts 2:1-4; 10:46; 19:1-7; 1 Corinthians 14:18). The Holy Spirit will speak through you. Just like you know you were water baptized because you are wet, you know you are baptized in the Holy Spirit when you speak in tongues.
To many people, this sounds strange. Think about this. James tells us we can’t control our tongues (James 3:8). Isn’t it interesting that the first thing the Spirit does when we are baptized is to use our tongues to praise God? And then he uses them to tell about Jesus to everyone we meet in boldness. If the Spirit can tame the tongue, then he can use us to change the world for Christ.
I know I’ve covered a lot of material in this post, but I wanted you to catch a glimpse of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. We begin our relationship with Jesus by being sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
But that’s just the beginning of what Jesus wants to do. He wants you to have a rich, vibrant, and deep relationship with the Holy Spirit. He wants you to rely on the Holy Spirit as you walk in holiness. And he wants to infuse you with power from on high to witness to, serve, and bless people. He wants you to be as effective as possible for his kingdom.
How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you as you read this? Leave a comment and tell me what he is doing in your life right now. How is he using you to change the world?