When I was a kid, I was really afraid of ghosts. Okay, I was afraid of a lot of things, but the idea of ghosts in particular really got under my skin. The thought of something or someone I couldn’t see with powers I didn’t understand possibly haunting my bedroom or the hallway or the mirror hanging in our living room just freaked me out. I had read too many books and seen too many movies to think about ghosts in a logical and rational way, so I made it a point to not think about ghosts, and to sprint by that mirror after dark, just in case.
You could imagine my panic the first time I heard the Holy Spirit referred to as the Holy Ghost.
Different churches and denominations teach about and deal with the Holy Spirit in different ways. In some churches, the subject of Holy Spirit is neglected, and in others, it’s abused. Whether we feel very comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit or it kind of freaks us out, scripture calls us to "walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).” If we are to do this, it would be helpful to have a clear understanding of the who the Holy Spirit is, why he matters, and how we interact with him.
The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. From the beginning, the Spirit has been in communion with the Father and the Son. Before the creation of the world, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).” The Spirit was present and working with the Father and the Son from the beginning, and if we ignore him, we are ignoring an entire person of the Godhead.
The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Before the crucifixion, Jesus promised to send his disciples the Helper, another name for the Holy Spirit, to convict people of sin, to guide them in truth, and to glorify God (John 16:7-15). Just before his ascension, Jesus instructed his apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).” The presence of the Holy Spirit in believers isn’t coincidental; Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as a helper and a guide to us as we walk in light and truth.
The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of our salvation. When we heard the gospel and believed, we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).” Not only does the Spirit act as a guide, but he also acts as a security deposit. Because God has given us his Spirit, we have confidence that he will make good on his promise and ultimately fulfill our salvation.
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us before the Father. As our Helper, the Holy Spirit communicates with the Father about the things we feel but can’t express. He acts as a translator of our deepest needs. When we are at a loss in prayer and don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). He is working in us and before the Father on our behalf.
The Holy Spirit facilitates our sanctification. Sanctification is the ongoing process of becoming more like Jesus. This process begins when we’re saved and continues until we die. This growth in Jesus doesn’t come from us working hard at being good, but by the Holy Spirit at work in us. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, calls us to repentance, and empowers us to obey. We will sin, but the Spirit works in us to produce good fruit and mature us in Christ (Galatians 5:16-25).
The Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in obedience and fulfill the mission of God. One of the most astonishing things about this wonderful gift is the ridiculous amount of power we are equipped with. The Holy Spirit who resides in us is the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20, Romans 8:11). If the Holy Spirit had the power to raise Christ, he has the power to use us to share the gospel and build the Kingdom.
If these things are true, then what does this mean for us practically? First, we can trust the Holy Spirit. Sure, we should "fear" the Holy Spirit the same way we fear the Father and the Son: with reverent awe. Be we don't have to be afraid or skeptical of the Holy Spirit. He is not some spooky ghost who does freaky things just to give us the heebie-jeebies. He is God and he is good and he loves us and his ultimate goal is the glory of God.
Since we can trust him, we have freedom in him. Instead of being scared or uptight about the movement of the Holy Spirit, we can enjoy experiencing him. This means we have freedom in worship. We can dance, shout, kneel, sing, or lay flat on our faces as he may move us to. We can express ourselves in song, art, poetry, dance, words, movement, prayer, and music. We can do these things without fear because we can trust him.
If we can trust the Holy Spirit, we can also trust his power. The events recorded in the book of Acts are not just a thing of the past. The Holy Spirit moved in powerful ways in the early days of the church, and he can move in the same way now. Peter preached at Pentecost using the words of the prophet Joel: “In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams (Acts 2:17).” These are still those days! The Holy Spirit is just as powerful today as he was on that first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit can send us dreams, give us visions, use us to speak the truth, and draw many to Jesus right now in 2018.
So how do we walk in the freedom of the Spirit and utilize the power of the Spirit for the glory of God? It begins with prayer. In college, I had a wonderful friend and mentor who liked to say, “Prayer isn’t part of the ministry; prayer is the ministry.” Much like the disciples, the women, and the family of Jesus sat together in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension, per his instructions, “devoting themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14)”, we must do the same. We must come before the throne, acknowledging our deep need of God and believing the promises of God, the good news of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe not in an upper room, but as we go through the ordinary steps of our everyday lives, we must devote ourselves to prayer if we expect to see the Spirit move.