To Know, Love, and Trust the Holy Spirit
In the past two weeks I’ve been privileged to lead two prayer summits for church leaders. In one gathering, 140 leaders from nine states, Canada, and Japan gathered in St. Petersburg, Florida. In the second, pastors from Central Arkansas gathered for their 20th annual prayer summit. Both summits were a profound engagement in “Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer.”
To explain a bit more, a prayer summit is a multi-day gathering with no agenda. Rather, it is an unscripted experience infused with substantial amounts of spontaneous Scripture readings, prompted in the hearts of the participants. This “shower” in the word of God is punctuated by free-flowing worship in song and responsive prayers. My role is to facilitate united focus and collective response in the midst of this shared experience. I humorously describe it as “grabbing my Bible boogie board and continually catching the Holy Spirit’s waves.” It is truly the most New Testament experience I’ve known. Without any platform, programming, personalities, or performances, participants experience a pure and powerful sufficiency of the word, Spirit, and people of Christ.
Relearning a Vital Lesson
Someone asked me this week what my key “takeaway” was from leading these two summits. Without hesitation I summarized that these moments were a powerful relearning of the value of knowing, loving, and trusting the Holy Spirit. While these truths are very foundational to an authentic Christian life and truly biblical church leadership, I estimate that few Christians really cherish these realities in the course of day-to-day life. A prayerless, predictable, performance-oriented life seldom embraces a full experience of the presence, person, and power of the Holy Spirit. What a tragedy, especially when so much is ours in Christ by way of His indwelling Spirit.
The Personal Spirit
Surveys by Lifeway Research demonstrated that 56 percent of respondents believe the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person.[i] In fact, even some of our language from the pulpit, and the lyrics of the songs we sing, seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit is some mystical energy we summon rather than the indwelling person of the Trinity to whom we are to submit. We need a recovery of an accurate understanding of the person of the Holy Spirit.
Knowing the Spirit
In John 14:17 Jesus described the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.” Then He made this amazing promise: “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Notice this powerful declaration. We will “know Him” because He now “dwells IN us.” Jesus is predicting and prescribing an intimate knowledge of God as we understand and cherish the person of the indwelling Spirit.
These words of Jesus, and the bulk of the New Testament, remind us of the intricate connection between the Holy Spirit and the truth of God. He is “the Spirit of Truth.” We become intimate with the Holy Spirit as we embrace His self-descriptions in the Bible. Andrew Murray wrote, “The Holy Spirit has for all ages embodied the thoughts of God in the written Word, and lives now for this very purpose in our hearts, there to reveal the power and meaning of the Word. If you would be full of the Spirit, be full of the Word.[ii]”
The prayer summit experiences are infused with profound amounts of Scripture -- both as individuals read personally and also as the Bible is read and prayed aloud. As a result, participants are blessed with fresh in-the-moment reminders of the nature of the Holy Spirit. He always reveals Himself to us in, through, and consistent with the truth of the word.
Loving the Spirit
In Romans 15:30, Paul urges the believers to engage in intense prayer, springing from their love FOR the Holy Spirit.[iii] To know the Spirit is to love the Spirit. The Christian life is a love relationship made real in our hearts by the indwelling Spirit (Romans 5:5). The Spirit produces the experience and character of God’s love in us (Galatians 5:22). The Spirit confirms our intimacy with the Father as we cry “Abba” (Romans 8:15-17). As a result, we earnestly love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This affection and intimacy leads to palpable trust.
Trusting the Spirit
To love the Holy Spirit is to trust the Holy Spirit. Practically speaking, we commit to set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:8:4-5). We are able to confidently pray with the enabling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; Jude 20). We understand what it is to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:8). We can walk in daily spiritual victory by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:15, 25). We are more attuned to and assured in the promptings of the Holy Spirit, not just while leading a prayer summit, but in the course of daily living. We know that these promptings will transform us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit will speak to us and shape our lives in a way that will glorify Christ (John 16:14).
But even as you read this you may sense some apprehension. Jim Cymbala articulates this tension well. He comments that “when it comes to the Holy Spirit many churches are either cemeteries or insane asylums.” Too many churches and Christians think very minimally or not seriously about the Holy Spirit. In light of this, Francis Chan describes the Spirit as “the forgotten God.” Other churches engineer a variety of strange behaviors that have nothing to do with the Bible, and blame the Holy Spirit for their eccentricity. In this sense He is “the misrepresented God.”
Yet, every true Christ follower must set aside these extremes and seek to truly know, love, and trust the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminded us that it was good for us that He ascended to heaven so that we could experience the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God. As J.D. Greear says, “The Holy Spirit in us is better than Jesus beside us.”[iv]
As I led the prayer summit last week, I assured the pastors in attendance that “the Holy Spirit is not weird, but neither is He tame.” The Holy Spirit will never prompt eccentric behaviors that controvert the Bible and draw attention to men. Neither will He allow us to live a safe, predictable life inside our carefully concocted comfort zones. So, let us surrender to the Holy Spirit and live the glorious adventure of the Christian life as we know Him, love Him, and trust Him for all that Christ has promised as we walk in His steps.
Copyright ©2017 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.
[ii] Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1979) 33
[iii] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006). 1691
[iv] J.D. Greear, Jesus Continued (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2014)