The Gift of the Holy Spirit

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(Acts 2)

What if I told you that for the rest of this week, in every text you send, every email you write, every conversation you have, regardless of whom you are talking to, you have to skip every third word? No matter what, you have to skip every third word. How do you think you would do? How long do you think you would last? How helpful or productive do you think you’d be? It would be awkward if not downright frustrating, right? It would be hard to get across the simplest of ideas.

Consider the following famous American speeches. See how they read with every third word taken out.

Four score seven years our fathers forth on continent, a nation, conceived Liberty, and to the that all are created.

The Gettysburg Address might not have been nearly as convincing had Lincoln skipped every third word. How about this one?

I have dream that four little will one live in nation where will not judged by color of skin but the content their character.

You know that it’s Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but in this version it reads as if it were written by a caveman! Last one:

On your ready set go! Dance pro I you know go psycho my new hit. Just sit Gotta jiggy wit.

Not very fresh is it? Clearly, you get the point: Skipping every third word confuses and confounds the clearest and even most compelling things. Yet, for so many Christians, this is how they live their life when it comes to God… missing the fullness of the power, presence, and significance of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

God we mostly understand. Jesus we get. But the Holy Spirit…?

Even though the Holy Spirit is just as much a part of the Trinity as God the Father and Jesus the Son, we know so little about the Holy Spirit. It’s as if we’re living with a two-thirds God!

Because the role of the Holy Spirit is often not explored, the power of the Spirit is often not experienced.

Is it possible that you have a two-thirds God?

There are more than a hundred verses about the Holy Spirit in the Bible. Jesus says more about the Holy Spirit than He does about almost all of our hot-button issues combined. In fact, toward the end of His time on earth, before His death and resurrection, Jesus began to prepare His disciples for the reality of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit. One of those times is found in John 14:16-17:

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.

The New Testament centers around two big gifts from God:

(1) The gift of Jesus

(2) The gift of the Holy Spirit

Both are essential in understanding the New Testament. And ultimately, both are essential in having a relationship with God. The gift of Jesus without the gift of the Holy Spirit keeps the presence and power of God confined to one person (Jesus) in one place (Israel) at one time (His earthly lifetime). The gift of the Holy Spirit simply does not happen without the gift of Jesus. It was Jesus’ atoning act of sacrifice on the cross that settled the sin separation between us and God, thus bridging that gap and making a way for a Holy God to inhabit inherently sin-filled people.

The Holy Spirit is central to the story of the New Testament. Everything that happens from Acts 2 to Revelation 22 is directly connected to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The same could be said of any moment or movement of God since those days right up to the present. You and I are living in the time and power of IN.

It is fascinating to consider that after 2,000 years of activity, history, and theology, the Holy Spirit still largely remains a mystery. There have been volumes of books written on the Holy Spirit. Churches and denominations have rooted their theology in the Holy Spirit. Yet, to many followers of Jesus today, the gift of the Holy Spirit has gotten lost in a pile of spiritual wrapping paper on the floor.

This was not the case when IN began. Those first followers of Jesus and leaders of the first church were ever aware that the gift of the Holy Spirit had changed everything. The new normal of the Holy Spirit was previously unimaginable. Jesus’ disciples were acutely aware of who they were and more specifically who they were not. They saw all that they were doing and saying and the way they were living and knew that this was all much bigger than them.

The same disciples who argued over who would be first in heaven were the first to offer their possessions to those around them who were in need (Acts 2:45; Acts 4:33-35). The same disciples who often misunderstood and missed altogether the teachings of Jesus were the ones who were teaching daily to thousands and thousands of people in the back of the temple (Acts 2:41-42). The same disciples who had botched attempts at miracles in the past were healing people just as Jesus had done (Acts 3:6-10; Acts 5:12-16).

The same disciples who had left Jesus as He was being tried and persecuted were suddenly standing before the same religious leaders and boldly preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus… and receiving their own punishments for it (Acts 5:17-42). The same disciples who watched their Messiah offer His life for the sake of the world were now offering their lives at the stake of persecution (Acts 7).

Clearly, something had changed.

The gift of the Holy Spirit had transformed these followers into leaders. It transformed their view of a kingdom from something of this world, to something not of this world. It transformed the vision they had for their lives. It transformed their relationship with God from something “out there” to someone who is “IN here.”

You see, God is a God who gives perfect gifts.

He gives you just what you need, just when you need it. We see this throughout the story of the Bible. In the beginning, God gave us life. In the midst of our sin, He gave us the Law and the Prophets. In the desperation of our separation from God, He gave us Jesus. And just when we think that there is no more that God can give… He gives the Holy Spirit.

The power and presence of the Holy Spirit is not intended to be a great mystery in our lives. The Bible speaks to what the Holy Spirit does in our lives and in our world. Among many other things, the Holy Spirit brings to our lives:

  • Comfort (John 14:16)
  • Counsel (John 16:12-14)
  • Conviction (John 16:8)
  • Connection (Romans 8:26-27)

Jesus said that everything the Father has He gave to Jesus, that He gives all of that to the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit then in turns gives access to all of that to all of us. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit is made fully available to every follower of Jesus equally. There aren’t some people who get more and some who get less. Some are more open and dependent than others, but God pours out His Spirit freely on all followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is how God lives IN us and works through us — guiding, guarding, loving, and leading our lives.

What changed the world 2,000 years ago can change your life today. What birthed the revolution of the church can birth a revolution in your soul. What turned unschooled, ordinary people into world-changers can change the perspective and purpose you have for your life. The gift God gave continues to give life to all who enter into relationship with Him. The gift is just as new and just as needed. The gift is as much for you as it was for them.

Excerpted with permission from Four Small Words: A Simple Way to Understand the Bible by Jarrett Stevens, copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Is your spiritual life only 2/3 of what it could be? Are you maybe missing the fullness of the power, presence, and significance of the Holy Spirit in your life? It doesn’t have to be this way! Today, invite the God the Holy Spirit who is IN you and works through you to guide, guard, love, and lead your life. Come join the conversation on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Jarrett Stevens

Jarrett Stevens is a pastor, writer, and speaker. He and his wife Jeanne live in downtown Chicago where they have planted a growing church, Soul City, and do life with their two young children, Elijah and Gigi. Jarrett was previously on staff as a teaching pastor with Willow Creek Church in Chicago, as well as pastoring at North Point Church in Atlanta. Known for his humor and honesty, Stevens is a popular speaker at churches and conferences both nationally and internationally.

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