A Question I Was Asked:

My Friend Needs More Understanding of the Holy Spirit. Can You Help?

"I have a friend who does not fully understand the role of the Holy Spirit. He grew up in a group which never taught that the Holy Spirit is an indwelling Spirit living, comforting, and guiding our daily lives.

How would you direct someone like that? He believes in most things but doesn't understand how the Holy Spirit is here with us or can be. How can he "activate" this essential part of living a Christian the right way? The group my friend comes from does not teach the Holy Spirit as being separate. But I believe that one should certainly know that He (the Holy Spirit, that is) is working within one's life. Can a person receive the Holy Spirit and yet not know how to "access" Him?"

My Response:

It is, I think, partly due to the teachings and activities of all of these loud and showy charismatic-type preachers, that this matter of the identification and activity of the Holy Spirit in ones life can now be one of the hardest things to explain. Some of these shouting, loud and 'brassy' preachers really give the impression that we still live in the age of the apostles (which we don't) and that we can 'tap into' or 'activate' the Holy Spirit in us to do sensational signs and wonders within our lives. But the truth is that the Holy Spirit can also plainly work in a much quieter way among believers and I believe that He mostly does work in such a way in our own day. Jesus said that the 'Comforter' (the Holy Spirit) would bring all things (concerning Christ and the Gospel) to our remembrance and 'guide us into all truth.' The NIV uses the word 'counsellor' rather than the KJV's 'comforter.' Carefully check out John 14:16,26;15:26;16:7. Protestant theology has always seen this as fulfilled in the Bible canon and the eventual availability of Holy Scripture in many languages. But today - for some odd reason - we just assume the wide availability of Holy Scripture in many languages and do not associate that with the work of the Holy Spirit. Why? We should do!

Regarding identifying the work of the Holy Spirit in one's life, let me try to explain this through four or five points:

1. True, Deep Belief.
Does your friend believe (to the very depth of his being) that Jesus was who He said He was, and that He is truly the Saviour of the world?

If the answer is 'yes' then he (and you and I) could only receive this faithful belief through the work of the Holy Spirit. See Matthew 16:13-17, for confirmation of this. Yet today - mainly I think due to the activities, boastful claims and plain erroneous theology of these 'word-faith' and charismatic teachers, we do not see genuine belief as a work and evidence of the activity of the Holy Spirit. But we should do!

2. Understanding the True Reason for the Troubles of the World.
Again, if your friend looks at this world and does not see millions of insurmountable problems (as news commentators invariably do), but sees just one problem: sin, and mankind's rebellion against God, then such an understanding is surely Spirit-given.

3. The Power of a Changed Life.
Numerous non-Christians have occasionally been 'mind-blown' at how individuals whom they had long known changed completely when coming to Christ!
Obviously among this number are former criminals, but there are just too many examples to even begin listing here. Christ does indeed give the power of a changed life, but if the 'change' is genuine, it will last and deepen. But this should never cause us to think that such people become perfect - even as it is obvious that this did not make the apostles entirely perfect.

4. Close 'Attunement' to God.
Most Christians feel regularly 'attuned' to God so that repentance at ones occasional stumbles comes easily. Also, generally in the willingness to have an active prayer life in which one may come before our Father, and the Lord Jesus - but we need to be a little careful here since some Christians are not such great 'prayer warriors' as others are. But, overall, Christans do feel this attunement to God; this manifests itself in several ways, for example, they feel offended when idiots make offensive comments about a God they know nothing about! I felt offended when a British TV personality appeared on a comedy show making silly and foolish jokes about the Gospel only about a week after appearing on 'Songs of Praise' and giving the impression of being a supporter of Christianity.
Does this 'attunement' include direct Spirit-guidance? Yes, but - again - caution is needed in how we explain this. Certain false information coming from extremist 'faith teachers' alerts me to use my words carefully in this area: That 'guiding' will be gentle and not 'pushing' for the Holy Spirit never possesses true believers as demons may possess the willingly vain and sinful. Yet many Christians are able to look back after 5, 10 or 25 years of their Christian lives and clearly see the activity of the Holy Spirit in guiding them into certain areas as well as warning them to avoid, or to remove themselves from, other areas. I can certainly identify with this as can other Christians whom I know.

5. Spiritual Growth in Knowledge.
The activity of the Spirit may also be discerned in spiritual knowledge growth. Spirit-led Christians always seem able to recognise greater spiritual truth when it becomes available, and to walk forward into it. Frankly, a Spirit-led person will normally have much greater understanding of the Bible and its teachings after, say, 20 years of the Christian life. But if a believer travelled the other direction, finally ending up in a cult which abuses biblical teaching, that is a very serious sign. At the very least, such a person must have quenched the Spirit and urgently needs to 'wake up' (spiritually).

Robin A. Brace, 2007.

Further help may be attained in the following articles:

'What Are Fillings with the Spirit'?

What are the Signs of an Apostle?

What is The Human Spirit?
(This generally considers a different topic but some comments about the Holy Spirit may be found to be helpful).

Slain in the Spirit; Should You Seek It?

Are There Really Prophets in Today's Church?