I want to talk about some basic truths about the Holy Spirit. Among various Christian groups, the role and function of the Holy Spirit has been abused and misused. So I want to shed some light on my understanding of the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit.
1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON
First of all, we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is fully God and one part of the Trinity of God who has been given to dwell inside of us. I know the tendency can be to think of the Holy Spirit as a thing, but that’s wrong. The Holy Spirit is a Person. Some like to call Him “Holy Spirit” instead of “the Holy Spirit.” To me, keeping or dropping the “the” is secondary – the question is whether we really interact
with Him as a Person.
2. THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ATTACK ALL OUR SINS
Why has the Holy Spirit been given? Has He been given so that we can perform healings and walk on water and have all our comforts met? Far from it! I believe that the Holy Spirit has been given primarily to help us attack all our own sins. By His very name, we know that the Holy Spirit fundamentally stands opposed to sin. The opposite of sin is holiness – so it only makes sense that the HOLY Spirit should primarily help us to be free from sin. So whenever we see Christians who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit but live lives persistently defeated by sin, we can know for sure that the real Holy Spirit is definitely not effective, and He might not even be present at all. Now how does the Holy Spirit help free us from sin?
- First, the Holy Spirit can help free us of the PENALTY of sin.
- Next, the Holy Spirit can help free us of the POWER of sin.
- Finally, the Holy Spirit can help free us of the PRESENCE of sin.
Now my sense is that many sincere Christians will listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice that assures them that they are freed from the PENALTY of sin (through the blood of Jesus that was shed for them). Many also believe that one beautiful day when Jesus returns to this earth, they will be freed from the very PRESENCE of sin through the Holy Spirit that unites us fully with Jesus. But in the meantime, very few Christians interact with this same Holy Spirit who desires to free them from the POWER of sin. So we Christians must learn to interact with the Holy Spirit (a Person, not an impersonal force or a thing) to free us over time from the power that all sins have over us.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS LIKENED TO FIRE – THAT SEEKS TO BURN UP ALL SIN
To me, the main picture of the Holy Spirit is fire. John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:11 that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire, and that the Holy Spirit’s fire would burn up all the chaff in our lives (i.e., all sin in our lives). Also, when the Holy Spirit came to live within Humans for the first time at Pentecost, it appeared as a tongue of fire (Acts 2:3-4). Now in our Christian culture, we might often think of the Holy Spirit as a dove. To be clear, John the Baptist did see the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus as a dove (Matthew 3:16). So while that is true, I believe
that the image of fire is more relevant for us than the image of a dove. The way I see it is this: The Holy Spirit can rest upon us with peace like a dove only if the fire of the Holy Spirit has free reign to burn up the chaff in our lives first. The dove is a picture of peace – and so, the Holy Spirit cannot rest upon us in peace if we are still defeated and overcome by our sins. But as we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to help purge us of all sin, then the Holy Spirit can indeed bring the peace that passes all understanding as well!
4. THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US THE POWER TO BE A WITNESS OF JESUS
Let me answer one last question related to this: Why does the Holy Spirit want to free us from our sins? What is His goal in doing this? Is it so that we too can be gods? Is it so that we can achieve some state of nirvana? Not at all. Look at this verse in Acts 1:8 – but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Let us first differentiate between what it takes to “be a witness” versus simply “bearing witness.” There is a HUGE difference between BEARING witness and BEING a witness. Bearing witness is something that we do externally. There are even many evangelistic activities that we can do that are just bearing witness – e.g. handing out tracts, telling others about Jesus, posting Christian related stories on our Facebook account, etc. Now to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these activities. In fact, they can all be very useful and helpful activities for advancing the message of Jesus. Being a witness however, is very different. BEING a witness of Jesus implies that our whole being (identity) exemplifies and demonstrates the Person of Jesus. So our internal hopes and dreams and ambitions match what we sing while at church on Sunday, and what we claim to believe to our family and friends. Now as we all know, we might be able to fool most people most of the time, but we won’t fool people all the time. And we definitely cannot fool God. So as we look at our lives before God, we must ask ourselves if we are BEING a witness of Jesus in God’s eyes. But how can we be witnesses of Jesus Christ? To be a witness is to see something. Were we there when Jesus was crucified? Has Jesus appeared to us personally so that we are truly witnesses of His resurrection? The people to whom Jesus spoke these words to in Acts 1:8 were actual witnesses. They had all seen the cross on which Jesus died. They had probably all seen Jesus’ dead body being brought down from the cross. And now they were also seeing Him in His resurrected Body. So how can WE be witnesses of Jesus Christ? This is the really beautiful part! In addition to the apostles who saw Jesus that day, there was another Person who was there – the Holy Spirit. He watched the whole story as well. The Holy Spirit also saw them crucify our Lord. He also saw them bury Jesus. And He was there for the resurrection of Jesus. Acts 5:30-32 – “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” This very same Holy Spirit has now been made available to us – to testify to our hearts that Jesus is real. He has been given to whisper in our hearts, “Jesus Christ is real. I was there when they crucified Him. And I am a witness that Jesus rose from the dead as well. Trust Me. Believe Me.” So while I appreciate all the scientific and philosophical books that can give us a sense of human confidence in the physical death and resurrection of Jesus, my faith does not rest on those discoveries or proofs. My faith in Jesus rests on the hidden voice of the Holy Spirit that whispers to my heart that Jesus is real. And the Holy Spirit testifies to my spirit (heart) that because He rose from the dead, I am a child of God (Romans 8:16). So the reason the Holy Spirit comes to give us supernatural (Divine) power over sin in our lives is SO THAT we can simply BE witnesses of Jesus – as if we had seen it all ourselves. It is not so that we can be good and kind and having outstanding moral character. No, the Holy Spirit wants to give us His power over all our sins so that we attest by our lives that JESUS is real and that JESUS has conquered all sins and even death. He wants us to have our whole lives act as one big sign pointing to Jesus!
©Copyright – Sandeep Poonen
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