Holy Spirit . . . Come? Or Control?

Often I hear a prayer, offered by a sincere parishioner or church leader: “Come, Holy Spirit.” This, along with a myriad of other phrases concerning the Spirit of God, reflects a sincere desire for a fresh work of God. But, also, like other common elements of Christian vernacular, it is not in the Bible. Nor is it a prayer consistent with the new covenant secured for us by the precious blood of Christ. Let me explain.

This might have been a very relevant prayer in the upper room prior to Pentecost, as the disciples were literally waiting on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost changed things in our relationship to the Holy Spirit. For the first time in history, every believer received the permanent indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples, and us, that the Holy Spirit would be in us forever. He affirmed, “He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16–18).

The Gospel Promise of His Presence

The gospel has delivered a new and transformational reality. The presence of God, that once dwelt in buildings and periodically came upon Old Testament saints, now lives in us. This is the power of the cross that sanctified human hearts and made them temples of the Spirit of God.

The gospel has delivered a new and transformational reality. The presence of God, that once dwelt in buildings and periodically came upon Old Testament saints, now lives in us. This is the power of the cross that sanctified human hearts and made them temples of the Spirit of God.

So when someone prays, “Come, Holy Spirit,” I can’t help but wonder, “Where is He coming from?” The New Testament does not teach that the Spirit is residing in heaven, waiting for an invitation to enter our gatherings or reenter believer’s hearts. He is not reluctantly hiding in the rafters until we offer a directive with certain supercharged words. No. Jesus’ blood provided for, and His word promised, that the Spirit, in the fullness of His person and power, is living IN us. This is a gospel view of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ blood provided for, and His word promised, that the Spirit, in the fullness of His person and power, is living IN us. This is a gospel view of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Our common phrases about the work of the Spirit seem to ignore the promises and power that are already ours in Christ. A clear New Testament cry would be, “Holy Spirit, control. Indwelling Spirit, take charge.” This places the responsibility on us to obey and submit to what is distinct in the Bible. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit who has already “come” now wills to control us and transform our lives by His indwelling, supernatural power. Our calling is not to summon an external “presence” but to submit to the indwelling Person.

The Spirit who has already “come” now wills to control us and transform our lives by His indwelling, supernatural power. Our calling is not to summon an external “presence” but to submit to the indwelling Person.

Clarity About His Glory

In a similar fashion, we sing songs about God “showing us His glory.” Is it clear what we are hoping for? God’s glory is not some level of communal emotion, although His glory can affect us deeply and profoundly. God’s glory is not embedded in the technological stimuli of today’s worship environments. God’s glory is not about making us feel better about ourselves at some superficial level. God’s glory is not some feigning chant from a worked-up worship leader.

God’s glory is awesome beyond imagination and brings the human heart to a place of abject humility, surrender, confession of sin, and uninhibited, self-sacrificing worship. Ron Owens explains that “one basic meaning of to glorify is to give a correct interpretation of something.”[i] Christ is glorified when we correctly interpret His glory.

Better Than Moses

Granted, we love the account of Moses in Exodus 33:18 where he cried out, “Show me your glory.” It is hands-down my very favorite story of the Old Testament. But today, as Jesus followers, living in the new covenant, we must remember that the finished work of Christ and the New Testament teaching has moved us far beyond any old covenant understanding of glory coming and going – leaving and returning.

New covenant “glory” is not a mysterious passing by or visitation of an external presence as it was with Moses. The glory is in us!!! God has shown us His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. That is the message of the cross – a message we cannot diminish by our traditions or cherished old covenant lyrics. We can praise God that He has and continues to show us His glory in Christ.

New covenant “glory” is not a mysterious passing by or visitation of an external presence as it was with Moses. The glory is in us!!! God has shown us His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

We can praise God that He has and continues to show us His glory in Christ.

 

New Covenant Glory

In applying the new covenant to our lives, Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). As Paul wrote this he had just emphasized our “glory to glory” experience based on the power of the indwelling Spirit (3:18). He was clear about our experience of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ” through the message of the gospel (4:4).

We do not need to ask God to “show us His glory” as if it is some atmospheric phenomenon. The Bible says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Hebrews affirms, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3). And now, hallelujah, we have the profound reality of the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11; Galatians 4:6), living in us. The confident declaration in all of our worship is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). William Law warned, “Every faith that is not Christ in us is but a dead faith of mental assent to words without life.”[ii]

I love the following admonition of Andrew Murray. I urge you to read it carefully and prayerfully.

I have been very deeply impressed with one thought. It is that our prayer for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit through us and around us can only be powerfully answered as His indwelling in every believer is more clearly acknowledged and lived out. We have the Holy Spirit within us; Only he who is faithful in the lesser will receive the greater. As we first yield ourselves to be led by the Spirit, to confess His presence in us; as believers rise to realize and accept His guidance in their daily lives, God will entrust to us a larger measure of His mighty working. If we give ourselves entirely into His power, as our life, ruling within us, He will give himself to us, take more complete possession of us, and work through us…It is as an indwelling life that Holy Spirit must be known. In a living, adoring faith, the indwelling must be accepted and treasured until it becomes part of the consciousness of the new men: The Holy Spirit possesses me.” [iii]

Let us adjust our language and longings according to the finished work of Christ. He has promised us the transforming presence of His life, indwelling us by the Holy Spirit. His Spirit changes everything, from the inside out.

Let us adjust our language and longings according to the finished work of Christ. He has promised us the transforming presence of His life, indwelling us by the Holy Spirit. His Spirit changes everything, from the inside out.

Copyright © 2018 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[i] Ron Owens, 25

[iii] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1979) 8-9