Recently, I road-tripped from Virginia to Illinois. I had just graduated college, so I’d said my goodbyes to that chapter, packed my little car full of all my belongings, and headed west. I made a stop at a church where I listened to a message delivered on the Holy Spirit, much of which this discussion post will be based upon. John Bevere was the guest speaker at The Belonging Church in Nashville, TN, that night, and as I took notes I knew the rest of my road trip would play out a little differently.
Who is He?
To be honest, I get the sense that many of us have been or still are on the uncomfortable side when it comes to conversation about the Holy Spirit. This is contrasted with the early church mentioned in the New Testament, which talked about and looked to the Spirit quite often or naturally. During his message, John jokingly said, “I think the Holy Spirit goes to some churches out of obligation, but He goes to some because He likes being there!”
No matter if you are completely comfortable with the Spirit, skeptical about anything spiritual, or somewhere in between – perhaps all you need is a proper introduction...a re-introduction. Maybe He was poorly introduced or represented to you. Thankfully, God is not dependent upon our limited view of Him.
So, this is not merely a discussion debating spiritual gifts, miracles, tongues, healings, etc. My goal is simply to introduce (or re-introduce) the Holy Spirit – to the best of my human ability – and offer a greater perspective on worship, based upon Who He is. My intention is to validate Someone who doesn’t need any validation at all, God Himself.
“…We must not think…that when we exalt Christ to the glory of God the Father that somehow the Spirit is sulking off in the corner. The Spirit means to shine a light on Christ; he is not envious to stand in the light himself. Exulting in Christ, focusing on Christ, speaking much and singing often of Christ are not evidences of the Spirit’s dismissal but of the Spirit’s work...As J.I. Packer puts it, “The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me,’ but always, ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him, and hear his word; go to him, and have life; get to know him, and taste his gift of joy and peace’”…We do not honor the Spirit by trying to diminish what he seeks to exalt.” - Kevin DeYoung, “Three Surprising Ways to Grieve the Holy Spirit”
The Holy Spirit indwells and seals us, assures us of salvation, empowers and fills us, liberates us, convicts us of sin, speaks to us, teaches and guides us in truth, produces fruit, uncovers our eyes to understand Scripture, intercedes for us, bears witness about Jesus, helps us in worship, and more (Matt Slick, “The Holy Spirit”).
As the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit possesses personality. One of the simplest yet grandest statements I remember from John’s message was this: “The Holy Spirit is a Person, not an ‘it.’”
Idolatry vs. Worship
Because of this personhood, the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). John taught that there is power yet sensitivity; there is might yet tenderness. (Note: this is not weakness.) The characteristic of tenderness is not a deficiency or a shortcoming, but it does need to be protected.
What do you grieve over? Do you not seek to rid your life of the things that make you grieve, and so protect yourself? Similarly, because the Spirit helps us worship properly, we must be careful to rid our lives of things that grieve Him. Several of these grievances are found in Ephesians 4-5: living like the world in ignorance and hardness of heart, sensuality, greed, lying, stealing, corrupt talk, bitterness, rage, slander, an unforgiving heart, and sexual immorality.
1st Thessalonians 5:19 states, “Do not quench the Spirit.” This is similar to grieving the Spirit but focuses more on the state of the person in whom the Spirit is dwelling. The Spirit is referred to as “fire,” so quenching this Fire means restraining His work inside of a believer.
Anything of the world that we might worship (prioritize above God) is idolatry and is both grieving to the Holy Spirit and quenching of any life He may want to work inside of us.
The Holy Spirit has sealed us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30) in a covenant relationship with the Father. If this is true, then we must forsake all other possible attachments to the world, just like spouses forsake all other pursuers and possibilities for intimacy when they enter the covenant of marriage. Because the Holy Spirit is indwelling me, I have a constant companion. In moments of peace He is right there working in me, allowing me to thrive in abundant life! In moments of sin He is right there, also, grieved and quenched from my idolatry of worship to other, lesser loves.
John Bevere made a great point…Why sit in a car with another person and not talk for the whole ride? Beyond that, why enter the car without acknowledging the person’s obvious existence?
Here’s what changed for me on the second half of my road trip. My drive became a traveling worship service. I was more aware of God’s Presence with me as I drove “alone.” I had conversations out loud with the Holy Spirit. I related to Him as His own person with His own personality that I want to know and understand better.
Whether this seems elementary to you, or whether you rarely recognize the Spirit’s Presence in your times of worship, my challenge to you is to get into the habit of thinking of the Holy Spirit as a Person, not an “it.” I challenge you to detach yourself more and more from the lesser loves of this world. I challenge you to acknowledge the Spirit in your life, therefore allowing Him to accomplish His purposes in you and through you.
Recommended Track of the Week: “Holy Spirit Have Your Way” by Leeland