Looking back to the first century, it’s easy to be amazed at the impact and accomplishments of the early believers in launching and multiplying the church. For such a monumental task, they seemed to possess such inadequate resources—no seminaries, no beautiful church facilities or sound systems or multimedia tools, no such thing as a Bible in every member’s hand. They had no celebrities to endorse their cause, and very little freedom to promote their belief in Jesus Christ.
They were plain men and women for the most part, insignificant and unknown, fighting against fierce opposition and hatred. But Scripture testifies that they “turned the world upside down”! (Acts 17:6). Wave after wave of persecution broke over them, yet they emerged victorious.
The message of the early church, as told in the book of Acts, is that the bare simplicity of the Christian faith is what counts. The testimony of these early Christians was that of God’s people proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit...and confirming it with holy lives.
So what’s their secret?
There is no secret. The Bible openly tells us of a gift from God that unleashes the power and wisdom of His kingdom, providing everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed the apostles to “wait for the Promise of the Father,” which He explained in these words: “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now....You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me...” (Acts 1:4–5, 8).
The result of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples was something earthshaking. No, it extended much further than that—these Spirit-filled believers literally shook the gates of hell. So dramatic was the Spirit’s coming upon them that onlookers could not help but be in awe: “They were all amazed and marveled”; “they were all amazed and perplexed”; “they were filled with wonder and amazement”; “they marveled” (Acts 2:7, 12; 3:10; 4:13).
Does the world marvel at the church today?
Unfortunately, much of what happens in the contemporary church is little more than a reflection of the values and the reasoning of the surrounding culture, instead of a clear demonstration of God’s power. Why is this?
For most Christians, when it comes to discovering our part in the work of God’s kingdom, the question we ask is self-centered: “What can I do for God?” The question we should be asking is God-centered: “What does God want to do through me? What is His particular assignment for me?” To make that subtle shift in thinking—and to experience the true giftedness of the Holy Spirit that follows from it—will have dramatic results in your life, for what you’ll witness will be God’s power to transform lives, not just your own ability to help people in need.
This book is not an exhaustive study on the Holy Spirit, but it will reorient your thinking to biblical teaching on the Spirit’s role in your life, clarify the apparent confusion between natural talents and spiritual gifts, and help you get in step with God’s purpose. It will guide you practically as you seek to better understand the Spirit’s assignment and to experience God’s great salvation in every area of your life.
And as you understand more about the strategic plan in God’s heart for sending the gift of the Holy Spirit, you won’t struggle with burnout serving God or carry the weight of anxiety and stress. Your Christian life will produce joy, and you’ll discover that merely watching the activity of God from a distance could never compare with the thrill of being fully involved in the Spirit’s active work.
Why is it that countless believers seem to stand powerless before a world desperately needing what we claim to have? Why does the church have so little impact? Why are so many Christians so frustrated?
There are probably several reasons, but a major one is that
Christians are seeking gifts of the
Holy Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself. They want power but not a
relationship with the One whose presence gives power. They want to do great
things for God, but haven’t understood that greatness in the
If we seek the gifts of the Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself, we’ll always focus on self. We must learn to understand that there are no gifts apart from an intimate relationship with the Spirit.
How fully do you appreciate what this relationship means?
What’s New with You?
For the Christian, faith is not asking for what we don’t have, but making use of what God says we already possess. It’s simply trusting God’s Word to be true. Nowhere else is this more profoundly true than in what is given us in God’s Spirit.
The Bible says every Christian is “a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians ). So what’s new?
Mainly this: You’ve been forgiven of sin, cleansed of all unrighteousness, clothed in the righteousness of Christ...and given the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within you. To be a Christian is to have a new spiritual life, a new relationship with God, a new authority in heaven and on earth, and a new power to serve. All this comes as we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This spiritual transformation deep within a person is the heart
of God’s great salvation. Christians are not mere mortals, but born-again
citizens of the
One of the most overlooked verses in the Bible is John 16:7. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” What an amazing statement! Jesus told his disciples they would be better off if He left and the Spirit came. Better to have the Holy Spirit within you than Jesus beside you.
But that’s hard to believe. What could possibly be better than having Jesus Christ physically present?
Peter was one who couldn’t comprehend what Jesus was saying
that night in the upper room. Peter had always fought hard to keep Him close,
even rebuking Jesus when He talked of going to the cross. On the Mount of
Transfiguration, it was Peter who had wanted to build a permanent structure and
stay there. Later, when soldiers came to
It wasn’t long, however, before Peter understood what Jesus meant that night. Pentecost came and the promise of the coming Spirit was fulfilled. Peter and the other disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, never again to be the same. Peter, who had been self-pleasing, self-trusting, and self-seeking, had now died to self. Peter, who was full of sin, continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, had now been filled with the Spirit. And the mighty power of God flowed in and through his life.
The empowerment that Peter experienced is for every believer, not just those who are “called into the ministry.” The fullness of the Spirit is not reserved for the spiritual giant or the supersaint whom God deems qualified. No, the Spirit is given to sinners and failures who have learned to repent and have come to realize the cleansing blood of Jesus over their lives. The Spirit is given to those who recognize their need and cry out for God’s help.
“Many want the Spirit’s power but not the Spirit’s purity. The Holy Spirit does not rent out His attributes. His power is never separated from His glorious Self.”—James A. Stewart
Everyone who believes God’s good news of salvation and commits his life to Jesus Christ will receive the same Holy Spirit who indwelt the Son of God. The power demonstrated in His life—and in His resurrection Him from the dead—was the power of the Holy Spirit working within Him.
The same is true for all believers. Paul said, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
That’s what we need to hear today! Resurrection power is found in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is found in every believer, and the measure in which we walk in the Spirit’s fullness and power is the measure in which our lives will impact the world around us. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
We’ve often heard people confess to being far from the Lord—while in the next breath they tell us what their “spiritual gift” is! Such a disconnect between the Spirit and His gifts is impossible.
We must understand a simple principle: If you do not walk in the Spirit, you do not have a spiritual gift. Apart from the Spirit, whatever “gifts” we display can only be our natural talents, drawing attention to self.
Believers often ask each other (or themselves), “What’s your spiritual gift?” The true answer to that question is this: The Holy Spirit is the gift. He Himself is the indispensable gift of God to your life. He’s the third person of the Trinity, just as needful in your life as the other two.
This singular gift of the Spirit is God’s full provision for our life. In the Spirit, the Lord has given us everything we need: He’s the open door to heaven’s wisdom. He’s our source of power for every assignment. His presence within us is the crowning work of God’s great salvation toward those who believe—for the glory of God.
“The baptism of the Holy Spirit in its final analysis is not manifestations, it is not gifts. The baptism of the Holy Spirit in its final analysis is the revelation of Jesus. ‘God revealed His Son in me.’”--Duncan Campbell
Spiritual gifts are bestowed on believers according to the purposes of God and distributed by the sovereign wisdom of God. Our spiritual gifts never belong to us; they’re an expression of the Holy Spirit doing the Father’s will.
Never forget that the Spirit is given to each one to equip us to do God’s will, not our will. Paul said that “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians ). You cannot convince the Holy Spirit to do what He doesn’t want to do, and He always wants to do the Father’s will. In other words, if you’re living outside His will, it’s impossible to function according to any “spiritual gift” you may think you have, for you aren’t walking in the Spirit. The Spirit manifests Himself in our lives to accomplish God’s purpose and bring glory to God.
We learn much about God’s purpose in giving the Holy Spirit when we ponder the profound statement Paul made in 1 Corinthians 12:7: “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” Each phrase in that verse is important; each must be applied to your life.
“The manifestation of the Spirit” means the Spirit will reveal Himself and His activity in you. Are you ready for Him to do it? Are you expecting Him to do His work? Be assured that He is ready to accomplish the Father’s purposes in your life.
Paul also said that the Holy Spirit would manifest himself “to each one.” That means nobody is overlooked. You have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and He will manifest Himself in your life.
We hear people complaining about the talents and skills they lack, then concluding, “I don’t have anything to offer God.” That’s likely true, but what does that have to do with the Holy Spirit working in your life? When He’s present, it doesn’t matter what you can or cannot do. If you don’t have a lot of natural talent, you can thank God that you’re the perfect vessel for Him to show himself powerful in you. Listen to His promise: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In your weakness, He is strong. You are the person in whom He can do His best work, for He will get all the glory.
The final part of Paul’s statement about the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:7 is especially crucial: “for the profit of all.” There’s a corporate dimension to everything God does in your life. Every gift He has given is to be shared within the life of His people. If we aren’t actively building up the body, we aren’t functioning as God desires. The Holy Spirit will always seek to build the unity of the body, a unity that is precious in the heart of God.
Hear it once more: The Holy Spirit Himself is God’s gift to you. The same Holy Spirit who manifested Himself in the life of Jesus and in the early believers has been sent to work through you. If you open your life to Him, He will manifest His power in your life.
If the Holy Spirit at this time is impressing truth upon your spirit, you must respond immediately. This moment will not merely lead you to an encounter with God; this moment is an encounter with God.
So what is God’s Spirit saying to you? Are you seeking on your own to do good things for God, or do you allow Him to do His will through you? Do you need to make major adjustments in how you relate to the Holy Spirit?
Heavenly Father, I realize that I’ve neglected the person of the Holy Spirit in my life. I repent, asking You to forgive me for relegating Him to a position much less than He deserves. May I know and experience the gift of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness. I open my life for Him to teach me, lead me, and work through me. Amen.