I grew up in a charismatic church that believed in the experiential power of the Holy Spirit. In the early 1990's during what was known as a “special outpouring” of the spirit I remember taking school friends to “times of refreshing” meetings to show them what was happening in our church. We watched people fall over, giggle, shake, dance and make the odd strange noise or two. They also watched people healed, set free and delivered from long term issues in an instant. Others walked away seemingly with no impact at all. It certainly caused some interesting conversations amongst my teenage friends!
Whilst I know I grew hugely in my own faith, love for Jesus, and a heart for mission during this time, I am not sure I grew much in my understanding of who the Holy Spirit I was experiencing so tangibly actually was. In the midst of what was certainly a wave of God moving to refresh and renew the church, we inevitably also saw elements of hype, emotion, attention seeking, distraction and the odd bit of man-made agenda creep in too – well I saw some of this in myself anyway! When you are lost in the experience, you don’t always consider the source.
When Paul was teaching the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts he starts 1 Corinthians 12 by saying “you used to be led astray to mute idols”. This is interesting because even back then he was teaching about our practice and experience of the spirit not in a vacuum but against a backdrop of counterfeit spirituality. It is the same for us today. It takes more discernment and wisdom than we realise to filter through ancient church tradition and modern church experience to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
In our experiences of the Holy Spirit, not everything that has “Christian” written on the packaging is necessarily from God but at the same time that which can seem weird, strange or counter intuitive to us, can often be a trigger and a starting point for transformation and encounter with the Living Christ. Like I said, we need wisdom. After all, what if God is more interested in our fruit than our style?
As a child I was taught the truth that the Holy Spirit is an equal part of the Godhead: Our God is Father, Son and Spirit. I learnt a useful illustration that God is like water, Ice and Steam; all these are different states but they are comprised of the same H2O element. This points to the idea that we serve “One God with different expressions” but it is limited in that it keeps our view of the spirit conceptual rather than personal.
We need to talk about the personhood of God and not just see the spirit as a distant impersonal force. As someone once said “We do not sing “God in three thesis points, blessed Trinity”. Whatever your personal experience of the Holy Spirit in meetings, know that he genuinely wants to be real, up close and personal in the whole of your life. The spirit is for life, not just for meetings.
Over the next few posts we will be exploring some of the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit according to scriptures, and as we do, we will unlock a view of God that is wider and deeper than we dare to hope or even imagine. When we know who the spirit is, not just what the spirit feels like in a meeting, it will prompt us to lead more of a spirit filled life. What might this mean for you?
Dave Boden – Lead Pastor