Most of us know the correct answers when it comes to the Holy Spirit. From Scripture we’ve learned something about Him and how He works. We knows He’s God, the third person of the Trinity. We know He came to live inside us when we were born again and that His role in our lives is to convict, instruct, guide, comfort, and remind us of everything we’ve learned about God’s kingdom.
We also know He’s the One who gives spiritual gifts to us so we can bless the world – gifts of knowledge, healing, wisdom, faith, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, etc. The kind of fruit He bears in our lives is in contrast to the works of the flesh – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We may know quite a bit about the Holy Spirit, but I wonder how many of us could say we’ve actually met Him. Could we recognize His voice? Do we know what He likes and what He doesn’t like? Would we be able to pick Him out in a crowd … or would we have to depend upon someone else to point Him out for us? How intimately do we know Him?
Jesus wants His followers to know and cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned in my last devotional, He told His heartbroken disciples that even though He was going to return to heaven, the One who would come to replace Him would be far more helpful to them in their faith journey.
This kind of endorsement from Jesus should grip our hearts and propel us to seek out the Holy Spirit. But often we hang back. We are more comfortable relating to our heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We simply aren’t sure how we should approach the third person of the Trinity.
Part of the reason for my own confusion and reluctance came directly from teaching I received as a new Christian.
At that time the most common translation of the Bible was the King James Authorized Version. In John 16:13, embedded in the passage about the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in the KJV: “He shall not speak of himself.” While the translation isn’t wrong, because of the way we use English today, it can seem that the verse is saying something it isn’t. Namely, that the Holy Spirit’s role is only to bring glory to the Lord Jesus; in fact, it’s inappropriate to give worship, adoration, and attention to the Spirit.
More modern translations convey a better sense of what the Greek means, based on how we use English words today. Here’s how the NIV translates John 16:13: “He will not speak on his own.” What Jesus is saying about the nature of the Spirit is what could be said of Jesus’ ministry while of earth – He will not act independently of or say something that the Father would not.
In John 8:28 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” Father, Son, and Spirit are one in heart and purpose. They are in perfect agreement in how they act and what they communicate. That’s why Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit will not be bringing a new message to them. He “will not speak on his own.”
It took me many years to overcome what I’d been taught about this verse from my earliest Bible teachers and become comfortable with worshiping, addressing, and seeking out the company of the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit is God, just as the Father and the Son are God, why would we withhold adoration from Him? Dr. R. T. Kendall (in his book Holy Fire) writes, “Do not be afraid to talk directly to the Holy Spirit. There is no jealousy or rivalry in the Trinity. The Father is happy and the Son is happy when you address the Holy Spirit in prayer.”
It’s true that the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, just as Jesus glorified His Father. The loving nature of God is reflected in how the three persons of the Trinity are in perfect harmony. Each glorifies the other and none of them are independent of one another. We can enjoy the communion of them all, and we are in fact impoverished if we don’t have a personal relationship with each one.
So how do we move from knowing about the Holy Spirit to becoming acquainted with Him personally? This complex topic will be the subject of the next few “Adventuring with God” devotionals. But let me suggest one way to begin today.
Invite Him in prayer to speak to you. Tell Him you’re sorry you have not spent more time with Him, and ask Him to reveal His heart to you. Then begin to listen. Often the Holy Spirit uses the written Word of God (the Bible) to reveal truth to our hearts in a fresh new way. He might take a passage we’ve read dozens of times before and suddenly enlighten us about its meaning, showing us how it applies to our current situation. Jesus said “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).
Sometimes He will speak a specific word to you as well. I remember when I was in great turmoil about a decision I needed to make. Tony and I had been offered a job thousands of miles away, but I knew moving would mean leaving behind all the spiritual goals we had set. I was inclined to turn down the position but I also wanted to know what God’s will for us was so I could obey Him. In that instance, the Spirit spoke two words to me that made all the difference. He said simply “You’re going.”
This kind of message is rare, of course. Don’t expect the Lord to speak specific words into your life every day. He speaks what He knows we need, when we need to hear it. But just because they are rare doesn’t mean we should disregard them when they come. His word to us might be an impression or a passing remark from someone else that grabs our heart in a special way. When we’re receptive, we can hear Him speak and over time we begin to recognize His voice.
Sure, we have to be careful not to follow any voice. We want to make sure we’re hearing from God’s Spirit, not the devil or our own whimsical thoughts. But in Scripture the Holy Spirit is likened to wind (see John 3:8, Acts 2:2) – something that cannot be controlled or predicted. So don’t discount something you hear from Him just because it may seem unusual.
Check anything you hear against the written Word and pray for a confirmation if you need to be sure it’s the Holy Spirit speaking. But don’t be so overzealous about the possibility of being wrong that you miss out on His fellowship and direction altogether.
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba’ Father” (Romans 8:14-15).
In My Utmost for His Highest (January 25) Oswald Chambers writes, “As workers for God … we calculate and estimate, and say this and that will happen, and we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Do not look for God to come in any particular way, but look for Him.”
Holy Spirit, surprise us with your gracious presence today!
Next month we’ll look at some ways we can please the Holy Spirit and encourage Him to be more involved in our lives.