During the past month, I have been involved with an extended study and meditation over the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and followers of Jesus Christ. I first started writing about these stirrings around May 17th on the blog. This begins a two part (at least) essay sharing an ongoing reflection I continue processing. I don’t profess this work as academically complete, so feel free to join in the conversation if you are so inclined. See Part One of The In-Dwelling Holy Spirit here.
Pentecost: In-Dwelling Holy Spirit [Part Two]
These aforementioned first steps (see part one of this essay) of understanding the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit lead me to subsequent thinking…ideas and understanding, which seems implied outworkings from those foundational teachings about the Holy Spirit. We believe the Godhead acts as (and is) one God; this is how unified these Trinitarian Persons are—Three in One. Therefore, it seems to me, with this same Spirit of God, Holy Spirit, living in me… shouldn’t I be drawn to unity with the Godhead by virtue of following the leading of the Holy Spirit in me? Is this not what Jesus’ prayer (John 17:11, 21-23) was about? I believe it is. The resultant line of thinking leads me to believe in the work of progressive and entire sanctification—transformational holiness—which is being conformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ who is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). This is nervous territory of which I speak now. I do not think many of us who profess ourselves believing-followers of Jesus like to consider where these thoughts lead us. I do not wish to belabor a point, but the end result is this: If we surrender to the leading and the authority of the Holy Spirit living in us, we become living, breathing, replications of Jesus—we become free of the sinful nature, our desire is strictly and only to glorify the Godhead and advance the Kingdom purposes of God Almighty. Pettiness, fleshly desire, self-centered gratification and ambition are destroyed with the old self. The new self, the God re-born self, is the new creation that replaces the old self and purposes to live out the remainder of this physical life through the Holy Spirit as a Kingdom citizen. Sadly, it sounds better in theory than it looks in reality. While it would seem the majority of Christians would testify to this experience, the truth is nearly the opposite. It seems the testimony to living a life as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) is the rare exception, at least most of my conversations and surveys with other Christians have revealed this trend to me. I think the fault is not a failure from God’s Word and promise; I can only believe that most Christians are not living a life as Spirit-filled Jesus-following-believers. The question remains; “Why not?”
As Jesus was the Word made flesh, He sent us, His followers, in like manner saying; “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). He then breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). If we will only surrender wholly to the transforming work of God through the Holy Spirit in us, we too will be Word made flesh. God desires to make his plea through each of us as new creations, so others might be reconciled to Himself through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever]. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.” Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People, page 66.
The more I study and search for understanding about the working of the Holy Spirit, the more I find it (the act of Holy Spirit baptism and in-filling) is contingent upon our devotion and obedience to Jesus and his commandments. I consider the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospel of John, chapters thirteen through seventeen particularly important among the Gospel accounts with regard to the function of the Holy Spirit and how believing followers receive the baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit. This leads to an important question; “What is/are the commandment(s) of Jesus?” but I will get to that question in a moment. First, I need to qualify and clarify that I do not think receiving the Holy Spirit baptism (infilling-indwelling) is a formulaic experience. I don’t think it is a one, two, three… step process. I believe God can and God will, fill people by His choosing however and whenever He wills. Now, having made this qualifying statement, I still think there are general prerequisite “attitudes of the heart,” if you will, that serve us as a contingent whole when we seek the Holy Spirit baptism. These attitudes follow: a repentant heart and mind turned toward the Way of Jesus; a hunger for and attitude of seeking God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Jeremiah 29:13); a heart’s desire of surrender and obedience to God…something described like the life of Cornelius. “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly (Acts 10:2).” I don’t think these are sequential or specific conditions for receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but I do think they give a picture for the overall attitude of someone prepared for the infilling of God. Second, I think maintaining this attitude is the open portal to keep the Holy Spirit infilling perpetually flowing and homesteading within us. Perhaps we get an idea that once the Spirit takes up residence in us, it is a done deal. I have not read where Scripture teaches this. If the timeline is correct, we see multiple “fillings and/or refilling” over a span of 40-60 days (counting from the Gospel of John 20:21 through Acts 4:31) indicating the need for continuous filling of God’s Spirit in the life believers. Additionally, we know that we can “grieve” God’s Spirit and that the Spirit can be taken or can depart from us (Eph. 4:30; Psalm 51:11). The final thing I feel needs clarification is when the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs and whether or not it is separate work of regeneration (salvation).
There are as many different views on when the believer is “filled” or baptized with the Holy Spirit as there are denominations and statements of doctrine. This is sad, but it is true. In most cases, there is some understanding and position that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate work from the act of believing salvation or regeneration. The Orthodox Church believes the Holy Spirit is bequeathed sacramentally, through an anointing following baptism. The Roman Catholic Church believes receiving the Holy Spirit is a specific sacramental act conferred through confirmation. Although their specific processes may differ, the Wesleyan Holiness Churches, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Churches also believe that receiving the Holy Spirit (infilling baptism) is a second and separate work from regeneration. The Reformed Church is different from the other positions that it believes the filling of the Holy Spirit comes at the time of regeneration. Personally, my opinion is that while the two events need not be mutually exclusive, in many (perhaps most) cases they are.
Now, clarifications and qualifications aside, I mentioned earlier the more I study and search for understanding about the working of the Holy Spirit, the more I find it (the act of Holy Spirit baptism and in-filling) is contingent upon our devotion and obedience to Jesus and his commandments. So then, “What is/are the commandment(s) of Jesus?” I’ll pick up answering this question with my next installment of The In-Dwelling Holy Spirit.