I was told He would be there.
The event had in its title, words like, “Awakening”, “Fire”, “Outpouring”, and of course, “Holy Spirit.”
But after several hours of hyped-up worship music, prayer-like-you-wouldn’t-believe, and some cringe-worthy stuff I won’t get into here, I still hadn’t “caught” the Holy Spirit.
For the life of me, I just couldn’t connect.
I drove home feeling really bummed and concluded the Holy Spirit was too evasive for my liking. Clearly, He didn’t like being corralled as if He were some sort of wild pet who could be tamed and wielded like a weapon.
That was a really long time ago.
But let me back up and give you some context about me.
In God’s sovereign design, my life and faith has been shaped by different streams of Christianity.
- I was raised in an African Charismatic Church with Pentecostal leanings.
- I went to a Catholic boarding school in Junior and Senior High.
- In college, I served with an Interdenominational college campus ministry.
- After college, I attended a Christian and Missionary Alliance Seminary,
- and today, I work at a Baptist Church.
As it pertains to teachings about the Holy Spirit, you can say that I have been around the block!
In my experience, it’s become obvious that too many Christians are confused about the Holy Spirit.
There’s either an unhealthy over-emphasis on Him (or at least, what they think is Him) or an unhealthy under-emphasis of Him in our gatherings. Some Churches I’ve been a part of have so exaggerated His ministry that the Church service ended up looking no different than what you would find in a New Age séance session. On the other hand, I’ve worshipped in some Church gatherings where they acted as if the Holy Spirit had His greatest hits during the New Testament book of Acts and has been on a lunch break ever since. There was such ignorance about Him that one dude wanted to know if we each get one personal Holy Spirit or if He divides His time between all living Christians?”
The irony is that in almost all our Churches, we sing about Him and of Him each weekend. Chances are, you sang about Him this past Sunday and called out to Him to “fill this atmosphere”, to “Break out in this place” or to “Lead you where your trust is without borders.” Yet, we’re not really sure what or who we’re expecting!!!
It all makes one wanna scream, “Will the real Holy Spirit please please please, stand up?”
For this reason, it serves us well to take a deep breathe and become more acquainted with the Holy Spirit, which then leads to the inevitable question, WHAT and WHO in the world is the Holy Spirit? (..and what's up with this whole "filling" of the Holy Spirit thingy??)
I’ll give you the simplest and most direct answer to the “Who” part of the question.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD.
This is of course a loaded answer that probably generates more questions than answers, so let’s work out way through it. Biblical Christianity has long taught that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.
These are not three different gods or a committee of divine beings. This is ONE GOD, IN THREE DVINE PERSONS who are unified in a way that our human minds can’t fully comprehend. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal and co-eternal in nature, but distinct in their role in how they relate to one another and how they relate to the world. At NO point is anyone of them ever less-fully-God. This means, then, that the Holy Spirit is all-knowing, all-powerful, and sovereign over every aspect of human history.
[Please note the personal pronoun, “HE” which I will henceforth use to refer to the Holy Spirit]. As God the Holy Spirit, He is the divine active agent at work on earth today administrating the redemptive sacrifice Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross through God’s foreknowledge. If it helps, think the Trinity this way; God the Father creates a plan, Jesus Christ - God the Son, executes the plan, and God the Holy Spirit, administers the plan.
That’s the WHO. Let’s talk about the “WHAT” of the Holy Spirit. In preparation for this blog post, one of the questions I encountered was, “So what exactly does the Holy Spirit look like?” What does He feel like? Is He a flame? A tongue of fire? A river? Or a Dove? How will I know if I see or experience the Holy Spirit that it is indeed Him?”
These are all legit questions, so let’s dive in. I mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit is not only God, but is also a person, as in, He has personhood. So, that means the Holy Spirit has INTELLIGENCE, He has a WILL, and He can experience emotions like joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), He can be angry, He can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29). In turn, He can also comfort and encourage (Romans 8:26).
For this reason, when it comes to our pursuit of the person and the presence of the Holy Spirit:
Our Pursuit Should Never Be About Seeking An Experience, But About A Relationship!
The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force who zaps us with energy so we can suddenly do supernatural things, nor is He like a giant wifi router in the sky we try to connect to. I’ have walked to my car after Church services where fellow Christians expressed frustration that they didn’t really feel like the Holy Spirit was present during the service because they didn’t really “connect”, or even worse, they didn’t feel like the “connection was strong.”
Can we knock that off already?!?
The Holy Spirit is God! The Holy Spirit is a person! When we open our hearts to God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are entering into relationship with the third PERSON of the Godhead, a relatable loving GOD – not a magnified spiritual wifi connection in the cloud!
Furthermore, for followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit isn’t so much “out there” as much as He is “in you.” Let me explain. When you and I come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit moves in and takes up residence in each one of our hearts. Jesus says in John 14:17 that, “for he lives with you and will be in you.” Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you already RECEIVED the Holy Spirit and He already lives in you. That was a one-time event!
who you’re looking for “out there” is already living “in you.”
Having said that, there IS the Biblical command to followers of Christ who already have the Holy Spirit living in them, to be “filled with the same Holy Spirit”, which is intended to be an ongoing experience.
To be clear, the instruction to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” isn’t saying that when you initially got saved, you received some sort of Junior Varsity Holy Spirit and you need a Varsity-Spirit-refill to get ALL of Him. No. Rather, what the scripture is getting at is that WE CAN ALWAYS MAKE MORE ROOM in our lives where we welcome the Holy Spirit TO TAKE OVER, so that His power can be made manifest through our lives.
For most of us, the issue isn’t that we need more of the Holy Spirit, rather, the issue is that the Holy Spirit would have us submit more of ourselves to His leading and direction SO HE CAN FILL US. Daily!
So how does this happen? Well, in Ephesians 5:18-20, the apostle Paul says, “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.”
The original language Paul uses when he says “be filled” is in the present progressive tense, which translates into, “be filled and continually keep being filled”. So, he’s saying that even after we have “received” the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation, believers are STILL to be constantly and continually filled, controlled and empowered by the same Holy Spirit as a way of life.
So, the question here is, how does a follower of Jesus Christ, who already has the Holy Spirit living in them, get continually filled, controlled, and empowered by the same indwelling Holy Spirit?
Look again at the apostle’s Paul’s choice of illustration in Ephesians 5:18 , “Do not get drunk on wine; …instead be filled with the Spirit.” Okay. So, how does one get drunk with wine? You drink it. Lots of it, right?
Well, if we go back to the question of how you get CONTINUALLY filled with the Holy Spirit? YOU DRINK OF HIM AND ALLOW HIM PLENTY OF SPACE TO FILL IN YOUR LIFE. Jesus Himself said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.” (John 7:37–39).
Let's be clear on this. Drinking of the Holy Spirit has NOTHING to do with getting “drunk in the Spirit.” Wine causes one to spin out of control and to lose all inhibition. To the contrary, to be full of the Holy Spirit is to be led and controlled by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a reckless spiritual bully who bypasses our will and possesses us. 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 says, “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. ” In other words, there is no “out-of-controlness” when the third person of the Godhead comes upon those who have been marked by Him to eternal life.
"DRINK" OF THE HOLY SPIRIT"???
Drinking of the Holy Spirit, however, does means setting your minds on the things of the Holy Spirit. It means directing your attention and your affection to the teachings and instructions of God’s word inspired by the Holy Spirit. It also means having a heart that’s yielded to the leadings and promptings of the Holy Spirit in your personal life.
So the question you should be asking then is, “Where area of my life am I withholding from the Holy Spirit?
It’s an important question to ask because if you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you will need to be surrendered and obedient to what the Holy Spirit in you is already instructing you to do. Remember, OUR PURSUIT IS NEVER BE ABOUT SEEKING AN EXPERIENCE, BUT ABOUT A RELATIONSHIP!
Keep this in mind also, the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life is (and has always been) to testify about and bring glory to Jesus Christ! In John 16:13-14, before His arrest, Jesus tells His disciples what the Holy Spirit’s mission will be when He gets here, “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. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” Then in John 15:26, He says, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father--the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father--he will testify about me.”
This means, then, that even in those moments when you experience a powerful filling, or a “baptism in/of/with” the Holy Spirit, a moment where you feel empowered to do more than you would ordinarily be able to do, even then, the end goal is for your experience to bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ! If a perceived “move” of the Holy Spirit causes confusion and chaos and does not bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ, then it is NOT a move of the Holy Spirit.
BUT HOW CAN I KNOW IF I AM FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?
The clearest indicator that one is filled with the Holy Spirit is an internal love for Jesus Christ that manifests itself in a bold proclamation and powerful demonstration of the Gospel so that people far from God will come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, because the Holy Spirit is God and is free to demonstrate His power and presence in your life however He wants, whenever He wants, and in whatever manner He wants, His filling in your life may sometimes show up in spectacular fashion in that you may find yourself suddenly possessing the supernatural ability to minister healing over someone, perform miracles (Acts 2:17-18; 13:9-10), see visions (Acts 7:55), speaks in tongues, interpret tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-11), or even prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:3).
In other cases, you may find His manifestation in your life expressed in more simple and humble ways in that you suddenly find yourself filled with a supernatural joy (Luke 10:21; Acts 13:52), or a supernatural boldness (Acts 4:31), or you have unmatched wisdom about a particular (Exodus 31:3), or receive knowledge about something you would otherwise never have known about.
What is most important to keep in mind with each of these of these manifestations of the Spirit’s presence and power in your life is that it is all primarily about bringing glory to the name of Jesus Christ. It is never just about the experience, but it is about inviting the third PERSON of the Godhead, a relatable loving GOD, to come have a PERSONAL relationship us and show His power through our lives.
So if you’re seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit, the real question is, what areas of your life are presently closed off to Him? Where in your life does the Holy Spirit already want to take over (of which you are withholding?). You can’t run around town hopping from Church to Church seeking the next spiritual high (and expect to meet with Him) if you aren’t surrendered to what He is already instructing you to do! The fact is, the more you empty yourself, the more space in your life He has to fill!
YOU SIMPLY NEED TO ASK
In your “yieldedness” to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit in your life, you simply need to ask in prayer that He “fill you.”
There are least four occasions (Acts 2:4; 4:31; 9:17; 13:52), especially in the book of Acts where we read of the disciples being “filled” with the Holy Spirit. In each of those instances, we find the disciples either in prayer or in worship. So it seems quite clear that the way you get filled with the Holy Spirit is by asking Him in prayer to fill you.
There’s no magic formula to this, remember, it’s about a relationship. It’s as simple as praying, “Holy Spirit of God living in me, fill every area of my life so I can KNOW YOU MORE and be empowered for ministry!”
And get this, God is more than eager to give His Spirit’s power to those who ask and seek Him. In fact, Jesus says in Luke 11:13 that “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" And then in John 3:34, He says “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.”
So let’s go back to where we started. Are you seeking out a fresh encounter of the Holy Spirit? Then know that the Spirit of God living in you is more eager to fill you and lead you than you realize; but He first and foremost wants you to grow in your knowledge of and relationship with Him.
It is my prayer that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Husband. Dad. Pastor. Nigerian American. Storyteller. Aspiring Prayer Warrior. Steak Lover. Follower of Jesus Christ reminding you that God the Father still loves you.