Many Christians today seem to have an estranged relationship with the Holy Spirit. When we read the New Testament, and even the Old Testament, we see the Holy Spirit doing great things and ministering through Christians in amazing ways.
But we don’t see that too often today. It’s time for Christians to become familiar with the Holy Spirit once again. After all, how can we talk about holiness without talking about the Holy Spirit. He bears the name “Holy” for a reason.
The Holy Spirit awakens our spirits to the gospel of Christ in salvation. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we are saved (Ephesians 1:13-14). And as I will describe in this post, the Holy Spirit is fundamentally involved in our sanctification, making us holy like Jesus. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things the Holy Spirit does in our sanctification.
I grew up in Pentecostal churches. There is much for us to learn when it comes to the Holy Spirit. It’s actually unusual for us to not operate in the power of the Holy Spirit today and see the same things – and even greater things – that we see happening in the Church in the New Testament.
The Spirit’s Work in You
The Holy Spirit does so much in us. In sanctification he conforms us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). He transforms our character and deeds. He speaks to us about the things in us that do not please God.
He guides us into all truth concerning our nature in Christ because he is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26). If we sin against God he convicts us (John 16:8). He is a Person who does not take kindly to us moving away from God instead of closer to him. We must treat the Holy Spirit with the utmost respect as we obey him.
The Holy Spirit can be grieved by our sin (Ephesians 4:30). When we do not properly use the gifts, or not use them at all, we can quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Even more than that, if we move further away from God instead of closer to him, we can sever our relationship with God. And if a person loses their salvation they can be in danger of committing the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).
But the Spirit of God wants better things for us. He wants us to grow closer to God rather than further from him. The Holy Spirit is very sensitive to our attitude toward God, following through with his commandments and teachings for us, and living for him with our whole being. The Holy Spirit inhabits us at salvation and wants us to grow in godliness.
I want to highlight some of the ways the Holy Spirit guides us into godliness and ministers through us to others as we grow in holiness. He wants to do great things in and through us. But we must be open to being used by him to glorify God and help others.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit desires to place the same qualities of God’s holiness in us. As he works these qualities in us we grow closer to Jesus and emulate his holy character. The Bible calls this the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Fruit in the Bible refers to character and deeds. The fruit of the Spirit concerns our character. As the Holy Spirit works on our inner character our outer deeds reflect his changes. He works from the inside out.
I often hear people talking about the nine fruits of the Spirit. But in the original language the word for “fruit” is singular. This means that there is one fruit, one work of the Holy Spirit, in us. But that work is characterized by nine qualities.
These nine qualities are first love, then joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness faithfulness, and finally self-control. He cultivates this fruit in us the entire journey toward holiness, the rest of our lives.
It isn’t uncommon for the Holy Spirit to revisit these characteristics that we think we have mastered. It’s not hard for us to relapse. All it takes is one event, one moment where we allow the influence of the world to revisit this character in us. But not to worry. The Holy Spirit is patient.
Often the best way to test these characteristics is to allow us to endure trials that involve each characteristic. For instance, when I am at the grocery store in a line of 20 people, eyeing the other lines to see if I can switch, the Holy Spirit can test my patience.
As I look at the greener grass in the other lines that seem to be moving so much faster than my own, I start to wonder in my mind, “Why are they so slow? Why don’t they open more cash registers? Why did this guy in front of me have to get so many items?” All of these questions betray my impatience. If I can’t handle waiting in line for a little while longer how can I handle having patience with people?
Each one of these characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit is the foundation for everything else the Holy Spirit is working in and through us. As I will show the Holy Spirit builds on these foundational characteristics in us, working first in us so that he can minister through us.
The Baptism in the Spirit
For some reason the baptism in the Holy Spirit demonstrated clearly in the New Testament is considered controversy by many Christians. Based on different theologies some Christians believe in and demonstrate the baptism in the Holy Spirit and others do not.
I’m not going to get into too much of the controversy in this post. But I have included the baptism in the Holy Spirit because it is in Scripture and is part of our growth in godliness. Jesus has specific reasons for baptizing us in the Holy Spirit. I hope I do it justice by trying to explain it here.
Jesus foreshadows his work in baptizing us in the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. John the Baptist tells us that Jesus will baptize believers with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). Fire is often used throughout the Bible to refer to the refining presence of God. One symbol of the Holy Spirit is fire.
Jesus puts such a fine point on the importance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit for believers that he tells the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the “promise of the Father” (baptism in the Spirit) before they move into ministry (Acts 1:4-5). For Jesus, this baptism was essential for the apostles before they ministered in his name.
So what does the baptism in the Holy Spirit do? It gives us the ability to witness boldly for Jesus (Acts 1:8). It has to do with how we represent Jesus in this world. The Holy Spirit gives us the words to speak (Matthew 10:19; Luke 12:11-12) as we witness about Jesus.
Jesus baptizes us, or immerses us, in the Holy Spirit. The apostles were already believers in Jesus. Jesus showed them how he fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures and how they are about him (Luke 24:44-40). So the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace, happening after we are saved.
How do we know we have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit? A couple of the books of the New Testament tell us the sign of Spirit baptism is speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-48; 19:1-7). Of the signs that happen in the book of Acts only speaking in tongues is repeated in connection with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians find this sign strange and wonder why the Holy Spirit chooses to speak in tongues through us. Consider some of these reasons:
- Speaking in tongues breaks down the barrier of languages to witness to others about the glory of God (Acts: 1-13).
- The Holy Spirit controls our tongues which we cannot control (James 3:8).
- Speaking in tongues becomes a witness to unbelievers of God’s work in us (1 Corinthians 14:22).
When you are baptized in water the sign of your baptism is that you become wet. In the same way, the sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. It is physical evidence that the Holy Spirit has done this work of Christ in us. It prepares us to serve him effectively with power.
We must not consider Christians who have not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit as second-class citizens. There is no such thing in the kingdom of God. And it is not that those who do not have the baptism in the Spirit cannot effectively minister for Christ. But we see more powerful ministry through the apostles after they receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Seek the Lord for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Wait on him to receive it. I have found he often baptizes people in the Spirit during times of worship and praise. It is when we are opening our mouths and speaking about Jesus’ glory that he baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. Be persistent like the widow (Luke 18:1-8) and continue to ask Jesus for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The Gifts of the Spirit
Another way the Holy Spirit ministers through us to others is through his gifts. These are given to each believer. Every believer should have at least one gift of the Spirit. There are different categories for the gifts. There are gifts of service, spiritual gifts, gifts of power, gifts of revelation, and many others.
You can find some lists of the gifts in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:9-11. Each list tells us something about the Holy Spirit. First, he is not limited to these gifts. He can give whatever gifts are needed for the situation. These are open lists and the Holy Spirit is not limited to these gifts alone.
Every gift of the Holy Spirit aligns itself with Scripture. They are all used to serve others. They are not about making us look spiritual or endowed by God to be special. The gifts are not about us. They are about others and what they need from God. The gifts are about the Holy Spirit serving others through us.
First Corinthians 13 is couched between discussion of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and how to use a few specific power gifts of speaking in tongues, interpretation, and prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. First Corinthians 13 is often called the “Love Chapter.” It refers to the first characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit. Paul shows that the gifts are useless if we do not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit as we operate in the gifts.
This is why I said earlier that the fruit of the Spirit is foundational for the Holy Spirit to minister through us. If we do not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, the character he is working in us, we cannot effectively minister to others with the gifts of the Spirit.
I have written about the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit more extensively in my book, “Holiness Matters: A Call to Obey the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit wants to move powerfully in us and through us to minister to other Christians and non-Christians. He wants to show his power through us.
We must not quench the Spirit by improper use of the gifts or not using them at all. There are some churches that believe the gifts cause issues in the body and make people uncomfortable, so they do not use the gifts. This is quenching the Spirit.
Others do not follow the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit or they use the gifts out of turn, called, “operating in the flesh.” They strike out on their own and use a gift the Spirit has given them without his prompting. They are operating outside of his leadership in a service. This grieves the Holy Spirit. We must follow his leading.
Churches must have strong spiritual leadership, pastors and leaders led by the Holy Spirit, wise and full of love. They must have the spiritual discernment to know when quenching the Spirit and operating in the flesh happen. And they must lovingly address misuse of the gifts.
Sometimes this must happen publicly but it is better to address it privately. They must have the tact to not destroy a person who operates in the flesh or misuses a gift. The goal is not to make a person not want to operate in the gifts but to be taught and guided, to grow in their ability to use the gifts the Holy Spirit gives them properly.
Let us strive to use the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us to glorify Jesus and serve others. We must not get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s ministry through us. Seek the Holy Spirit for his gifts he has for you. We want everything the Holy Spirit has for us. Ask him to help you be teachable and grow in your use of his gifts through you.
Following His Leading
As we receive gifts from the Spirit we must learn how to use them to minister to others. It takes time for the Holy Spirit to teach us how to use his gifts. The hardest thing for most questions is to learn the prompting of the Spirit for them personally.
Sometimes there are physical indications that the Spirit wants you to use your gift. He may speak to you or give you a certain feeling. The prompting of the Spirit is different for every person. This is why we must be teachable and allow him to teach us how to know he leads us to use the gift.
When the Holy Spirit wishes for me to use his gift I often feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I get the distinct impression to use this gift at this moment in a service. Sometimes it’s hard to describe how the Holy Spirit prompts us. As long as you understand that he is prompting you and step out in your gift you are being taught by the Spirit when to use this gift.
There’s also learning how to use our gift in more effective ways. For instance, I have the gift of teaching. I can learn how to be a better teacher by the Spirit’s power. He teaches me how to be more effective in helping others understand God’s Word, how to apply the principles and teachings in the Bible, and grow in the deeper things of God.
We not only learn how to use the gifts at the right time but in a more effective way. We grow in our ability to hear from the Holy Spirit and help others with that gift more effectively. But this takes time. It also takes a teachable spirit. We must be willing to accept correction and guidance from God-ordained and Spirit-filled leadership,
If you are corrected by the leadership of your church, take their correction, teaching, and guidance. Don’t think that they are disciplining you. Correction and discipline are two different things. They lovingly correct you for your benefit and the benefit of the congregation.
Don’t become impatient with yourself. Learning experiences challenge us but help us grow. You will become more proficient and accurate in your ability to use your gift in the Spirit’s time. The goal is to allow him to use you to help others with your gift.
The Holy Spirit is doing so much in us to make us more like Jesus. He is ministering to us and through us. He is changing our character and deeds. He is helping us to grow in godliness. And all of this comes through our obedience to his every word.
Let us be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Whether it is being used in the gifts by him, seeking him for more of what he has for us, or obeying him to grow in godliness we must follow his leading. What are some of the ways the Holy Spirit ministers through you?