Days of the Holy Spirit
This week on the biblical calendar we celebrate Shavuot and Pentecost, as we remember and honor the giving of the Law (the Torah) at Mount Sinai, as well as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus as they gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. This is a season rich in biblical history as well as practical and life-changing application for our lives.
But, more times than not, we can’t count on our cultural surroundings to push us in the direction of that valuable path of Spirit-empowered discovery.
Particularly in our Western culture today, characterized by a high concentration of rationalism and humanism, there is a constant need to remain vigilant when it comes to guarding the ancient, mystical aspects of our faith. At the top of this list is the act of living daily by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Our faith as believers is not a 21st-century phenomenon. It is an ancient faith that reaches back to ancient Israel and calls us to a timeless understanding of who God is. The prophets of old were not concerned with fitting into the culture around them when they lived and spoke under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. In the same way today, if our understanding of God is only consistent with the ‘modern’ culturally accepted view of the world, then we will find that our understanding of Him is only several inches deep.
In the words of the Nicene Creed, the Holy Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.”
This description of the Holy Spirit is almost completely foreign to how our culture lives and operates today. A Spirit proceeding from God who directs us each day? One who speaks through prophets? An unseen Person who is the Giver of life? These descriptions do not fit into our logical way of thinking. One cannot simply “Google” what the Holy Spirit is speaking to each of us in this moment and find the answer. It requires a listening of the heart and a relationship with an unseen God.
But our God does not apologize when His ways are not accepted by human society. In fact, God often offends our minds to reveal the state of our hearts. How do we respond to the idea that our spiritual walk is from another realm and therefore does not conform to the world around us? Stated another way, when God is not conveniently or easily assimilated into our everyday culture today, what will our response be?
The Jews have led the way in this type of counter-cultural lifestyle for several thousand years, living as a people who, even with all the modern conveniences that surround us all, still hold to the ancient rhythms, steeped in prayer, which have sustained them.
In the modern world of Christianity, prayer is too often not our first response in the midst of challenges, when there are so many other “solutions” available. An internet search engine is usually the first place that we begin to look for the answers we need. But God is stirring us once again by His Spirit to plumb the depths of how to walk with Him in the fullness He intended.
What does it look like to live by the power of the Holy Spirit in the year 2023?
First of all, we must be willing to recognize that our faith was never intended to be a subculture of the society around us. Even 2,000 years ago, Jesus said of His followers, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). Our faith should not be derived from the way that the world thinks and reasons. Rather, our faith should inform the way we look at the world and live within it.
As times change and the world accelerates further into the technological age of AI and data-driven social behaviors with each day that passes, we must be on our guard that our dependence does not rest on the innovations of man. This is an essential part of being “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14). We must be willing to live differently – by the priority system that is found in the Word of God.
Secondly, we must maintain a healthy degree of moment-by-moment flexibility in our lives, knowing that our lives are not our own since we belong to God. First Corinthians says,
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
One of the ways that we honor God is by making room in our lives for Him to direct us. How can we be led by God’s Spirit daily if we don’t surrender our daily schedule to His direction? Time is one of our most precious commodities, and how we spend our time is an indication of what our lives are really about.
Thirdly, we must hold fast to the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit today as described in scripture – which is not only an eternal promise from God but is also desperately needed now more than ever. In the words of the Apostle Paul,
For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
Paul concluded His explanation of the spiritual gifts by exhorting us to “earnestly desire” these gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives (1 Corinthians 12:31). We must proactively cultivate this desire commanded by God in order to see God-sized results of walking in the Spirit.
The late Dr. Jack Hayford, one of the pioneers in the Church in this generation for teaching the importance of a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, said in one of His well-known sermons, entitled Why You Need to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit: “Christ called us to receive the Holy Spirit that we might have the same power source for everyday life and service that animated Him in His ministry.”
Without this daily reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will not have the strength to stand firm and to advance in all that God has for us.
We have entered days of great challenges in the earth, in which our faith is certain to be tested as never before. Thankfully, we have also entered days in which the Holy Spirit will move across the world in unprecedented ways. This Shavuot and Pentecost season and beyond, if we will have ears to hear and hearts to perceive the work of God’s Spirit in our lives, we can be part of the wonders of God that He is releasing globally in this hour. Now is the time to live in the power and fullness of the Spirit!