Today I wish to direct your attention to a piece by Ty Grigg over at Reclaiming the Mission, the blog of David Fitch. The post is entitled “Signs the Spirit Has Left the Building“. The big idea here is that evangelicals frequently talk about the work of the Holy Spirit in ways that are not right. A lot of what many evangelicals say about the work of the Holy Spirit proceeds from two faulty assumptions: (1) We know what the work of the Holy Spirit looks like, and (2) We can control the presence of the Holy Spirit. Heads up: We don’t, and we can’t.
Regarding the first assumption: We only think we know what the work of the Holy Spirit looks like. Frequently, our convictions in this regard tend to fall squarely in line with our personal preferences. (Example: If we like powerful, in-your-face preaching, we will regard people who preach like that as anointed by the Holy Spirit. If we like hype and emotionalism, we will regard churches that major in these as filled with the Holy Spirit.) This error can lead to divisions in the church; in the Corinthian church it led in no small part to the factions that Paul criticized in 1 Corinthians. The reality is that the work of the Holy Spirit is very hard to discern, and often cannot be reliably discerned until well after the fact.
Regarding the second assumption: Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8 sinned because he attempted to buy the Holy Spirit’s presence and power with money. Most of us would never dream of such a thing nowadays, but how many of us attempt to buy the Holy Spirit’s power with other things, such as holy living, biblical teaching, commitment to spiritual discipline, and our own efforts to manufacture feelings such as zeal for the lost or contrition for our own sin? Rather than attempting to stir up the presence of the Holy Spirit, it would be much better to focus on the ways in which the Holy Spirit is already present in our midst. The Holy Spirit’s presence is not a prize to be gained through the right sort of spiritual practices and an appropriate level of zeal and fervency about such practices; rather it is a gift that is already given to us and promised to any community of believers gathered together in the name of Jesus. Indeed, the Holy Spirit’s presence in a community of believers is the very thing that makes the existence of such a community possible in the first place.