So, does the Bible give us any instruction on what it takes to become a growing, maturing, useful follower of Christ? Absolutely!
In fact, the Bible is very clear about what it takes to see measurable growth take place in our life.
A great starting point is knowing that we must continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
Please note: there is no real spiritual growth apart from the working of God’s Spirit in our lives.
We can try to fake spirituality.
But God’s Spirit produces in us the real stuff of spirituality.
And yet, the Holy Spirit is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied aspects of the Christian life.
So here are a few of the basics to help develop our theology of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s the first thing: The Holy Spirit is God.
In Christian theology, the description of God we derive from the Bible has God being one being made up of three persons:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three in one.
Each member of this Trinity has unique characteristics and responsibilities, and yet they are all still God and work in utter and complete harmony.
So, what does the Holy Spirit do?
For starters, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit lives within every Christian.
At the moment we are saved, the Holy Spirit takes up residence with the primary purpose of helping us grow as a believer.
When the Corinthian Christians started acting in ways that DID NOT indicate that a lot of spiritual growth was taking place, Paul asked this question of them:
1 Corinthians 3:16 (ESV)
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
See, before Jesus died, rose again and then ascended back into heaven, He gathered His disciples together and started preparing them for His departure.
Which, if you think about it, probably sounded pretty scary.
One day Jesus is with them, teaching them, performing miracles…and then boom…He would be gone.
So, to settle their hearts and calm their minds and let them know that they would be okay, Jesus tells His guys these words recorded in John 14:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17 (ESV)
At verse 18, Jesus makes this encouraging statement:
“I will not leave you as ORPHANS!”
Later in verse,s 25 and 26 Jesus returns to offer a bit more insight into one of the roles the Holy Spirit would play in their lives:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
So, the Spirit’s job is not just to well inside of us, but to actually help us in various ways.
And in verse 26 we see that one way the Spirit helps us is by teaching us!
Another word theologians use to describe this ministry of the Spirit is by describing it as the ministry of ILLUMINATION.
Meaning the Spirit “turns on the lights” to certain things we couldn’t see or understand prior to meeting Jesus.
And the primary tool that the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish this illumination is our Bibles.
Perhaps you remember that Paul talked about this early in His letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 2:9-12
Paul was trying to explain to the Corinthians how it was that men without the Spirit couldn’t comprehend spiritual things, but those with the Spirit could actually understand very deep things about God’s ways and God’s workings:
1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (ESV)
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
And as I stated earlier, the illuminating ministry of the Spirit is meant to help us both understand and apply Scripture!
Put another way, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God work hand in hand to help us grow as followers of Jesus.
So, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we are to avail ourselves, or as the Bible describes it, be continually filled with the Spirit.
I like to think of it like this: The Holy Spirit that dwells in me is meant to be fully activated 24 hours a day for the purpose of illuminating and impressing God’s will and ways upon me, and influencing me to act upon those things.
So, one role of the Spirit is to teach us what God wants us to know.
Let’s consider one more way the Holy Spirit impacts us:
The Holy Spirit is intent on producing in us Christ-like character.
In Galatians 5 the Apostle Paul wrote:
Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Bottom line, to be affected by the Spirit, we must YIELD to the Spirit
This might be likened to the attitude we should have when we drive up to a roundabout. If there are other cars moving through the circle, we should (hopefully!) wait our turn. When we do this we are yeilding to the other vehicles.
In contrast to the ideas of yielding to the Spirit, or keeping in step with the Spirit, or being filled with the Spirit…
Finally, the Bible offers us to 2 directives about what NOT to do with the Holy Spirit:
1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)
Do not QUENCH the Spirit.
The dictionary defines the word quench like so:
- to put out or extinguish (fire, flames, etc.).
- to cool, causing something to lose warmth
- to subdue or destroy; overcome; quell:
Sometimes the imagery used to describe the Holy Spirit is that of a flame.
And the issue is, sometimes we may be guilty of pouring water on the Spirit’s flame as He is trying to fire us to godly thoughts or actions!
One more negative response to the Holy Spirit:
Ephesians 4:30 (ESV)
And do not GRIEVE the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Quenching the Spirit means we refuse to listen or respond to His promptings.
Grieving the Spirit happens when we do the very things the Spirit is trying to move us away from.
Here’s my parting shot:
The Christian’s availability and subsequent positive response to the Holy Spirit is essential to spiritual development.
To try and grow without the influence of Spirit is simply a waste of time.
Yet so many Christians try to pull it off.
If that’s us, may we become sick and tired of trying to produce spirituality on our own.