SOME EFFECTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LIFE OF A BELIEVER
It is frequently said that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman (in the UK, anyway). Whilst it is true that he is often gentle, it is misleading to describe Him in this way, with the consequent associations that it brings. Look at His dealings with Mary, for example.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you” and “you will conceive” (Lk 1:35,31). No asking her permission, no explanation of the difficulties and heartache she would go through in the years to come. The family became refugees, fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s massacre of babies. They lived under the stigma of an apparently illegitimate birth (a desperately shameful thing in first century Israel) which hung over them all through Jesus’ life (Jn 8:41). And there was the agony of not only losing her first-born, but watching Him die as well (Jn 19:25).
The Scriptures say that The Holy Spirit is Lord (e.g. 2Cor 3:17). In other words He is sovereign, He is God, He is the boss. He does what He wants to do, within the confines of his righteous character.
It is often said that God speaks with a quiet, still voice, and the implication given is that is the only way He speaks. Yet at Pentecost the Spirit came with the sound of a mighty rushing wind (Ac 2:1-4), causing them to appear as if they were drunk (vv13,15). Neither was this the sole instance of the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself in this way. When Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household, he reported back to the church that “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did upon us at the beginning” (Ac 11:15; cf. 10:44-47).
The Holy Spirit can come quietly and gently, and an outworking of Him in our lives is gentleness, but He also produces extraordinary boldness. Look at the fearless preaching of Peter and Paul in the Book of Acts, even amidst strong opposition. Likewise it was seen in the preaching of John Wesley, George Whitefield, Martin Luther and a host of others throughout church history, the passage of time concurring with what many of their day knew, that these were God’s men for their generation. The Holy Spirit came upon others who were not preachers in a similar way. Consider the early church deacon, Stephen, who directly rebuked the religious leaders in the most severe terms, whilst he was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Ac 7:51-53,55).
The work of the cross is wide-ranging and wonderful, and is available to all, yet it is only potential. There needs to be a response on the part of the sinner to trust Christ, and yet Scripture tells us that he is dead in his sins and unable to respond. "The flesh profits nothing; it is the Spirit that gives life." Some of the major activities of the Spirit are to convict of sin and to bring to the new birth. This is what He was doing at Pentecost when about three thousand were “pierced to the heart” or “cut to the quick”. Yet this was only done in conjunction with Peter’s words. Christ’s disciples are supposed to bear witness to the gospel, yet many are timid, fearful of the response of unbelievers and so hide their light under a bushel. Those early disciples were just like this between the events of the crucifixion and Pentecost, and yet the apostle Paul much later wrote to Timothy saying that "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of love and power.." (2Tim 1:7)
Neither has He given us a Spirit of timidity.
Jesus promised that the disciples would receive power and so be His witnesses (Ac 1:8). This is what happened to them with its consequent results, the rapid growth of the church. And this promise is for all believers. “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”(Ac 2:39) Pause there and think about the theology of that last phrase, “as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” – the church universal, the elect, every Christian. Jesus the Saviour is also Jesus the Baptiser (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33).
Of this empowering for service many have testified to an immediate experience with the Lord. D.L. Moody said of it,
“I began to cry as never before. The hunger for this increased. I really felt that I did not want to live any longer if I could not have the power for service. I kept on crying all the time that God would fill me with the Spirit. Well one day in the City of New York, oh, what a day, I cannot describe it. I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”
Moody later recalled that although his sermons were the same, after that experience there was a far greater response to his preaching. Peter, in the context of preaching the cross and the need for repentance, refers to “the promise” of the Holy Spirit’s power to witness effectively, which is available to all.
And yet, right here lies a danger. Spiritual experiences can be so powerful and exciting, that one can become carried away with subjective experiences and lose sight of objective truth. Scripture is (in part) given to test experiences. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” says the elderly, experienced apostle John (1Jn 4:1).
How do we test what is of the Holy Spirit and what is of another spirit? Is it “unspiritual” to test if something is of the Holy Spirit? No. He was the one who inspired the above quotation from John, and also similar statements from the apostle Paul. (1Cor14:29: 1Thes4:19f)
As seen above, the Holy Spirit is Lord, He is God. There will be a note of authority in His presence and impact. It is not an authoritarian, dictatorial or crushing presence, and yet even when His presence is quiet and gentle there will be this unmistakable sense of authority.
Holiness is another test. He is the HOLY Spirit who will always work to convict of sin, and to maintain or increase sanctification in a believer. Some start well in their Christian walk, only to go astray later. “The Lord led me to…” do what the Bible clearly calls sin may well have been a spiritual experience or leading, not merely the flesh, but it was not the Lord.
The Holy Spirit will usually point away from Himself, and to Jesus ( Jn15:26) as the One who is the unique Son of God, co-equal with the Father, without beginning or end, and worthy of attention, praise, honour and glory. His inspiration of the books of the New Testament clearly demonstrate this, showing Jesus to be the focus, and Himself only secondarily referred to, and that in relation to His function rather than worship. Very simply, the Father honours the Son, the Spirit honours the Son, and the Son honours the Father. Spurgeon put it like this: “I looked to Jesus, and the Dove flew into my heart. I looked to the Dove, and it disappeared.”
And the fruit, or consequence of His presence is love. Not a fleshly or sexual love, neither a soulish or sentimental love, but a spiritual love, which is self-sacrificing and concerned for another’s good. This kind of love is described in two well known passages, (1Cor 13:4-8 & Gal 5:22f) the former of which the Spirit caused to be place right between the two best known chapters of his manifestations!