Is the power of the Holy Spirit available to me today?
How can I know I have the Holy Spirit?
Will you help me know how to turn on the Holy Spirit's power in my life?
These are questions that I am asked frequently by our Heartlight.org and Verse of the Day readers. Those who ask these questions feel a genuine sense of urgency and spiritual hunger to know God is at work in their lives through the Holy Spirit.
On Sunday of this past week, I briefly touched on the subject of the Holy Spirit in the ToGather.church video message below:
Paul's call to "sow to the Spirit" is part of an extended section of teaching on the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-6:10). In this section, Paul makes a number of emphatic and intriguing statements about our need to live in the power of the Holy Spirit:
- "Live by the Spirit..." (Galatians 5:16, 25 NRSV).
- "But if you are led by the Spirit..." (Galatians 5:18 NRSV).
- "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love..." (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV).
- "[L]et us be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25 NRSV)
Paul finishes this section with a powerful promise:
[B]ut if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit (Galatians 6:8).
While the New Testament witnesses teach us many things about the Holy Spirit, we feel the importance of finding a way to tap into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in just these twenty-one verses from Galatians!
So, how do we tap into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit?
Is it hard to understand?
Is it hard to do?
Do I have to do something mystical or strange to have and know that I have the power of the Holy Spirit working in my life?
How do I sow to the Holy Spirit so I can reap the blessing of eternal life from the Spirit?
The answers to these questions are essential if we are going to live in the power and assurance that the Father wants us to have. A brief illustration from the sowing and reaping of farmers can open our eyes to this spiritual reality.
A farmer can sow seed, keep the weeds out of his field, protect his crop of animals, and harvest at the proper time. All of this hard work is necessary for a great harvest. However, that hard work can't ensure a great harvest. Every farmer knows that if the crops don't have good water and weather at the proper times, all of his work at sowing will be in vain. There is a power outside his efforts that is essential for a great harvest.
In our lives, we can work hard to honor God. We can do all the latest craze of spiritual disciplines rigorously. We can keep a list of rules to try to keep us from even getting close to breaking the will of God. We can adhere to what some call the laws of God. But, we cannot earn, purchase, or ensure our harvest of eternal life by our own efforts. Working to be approved by God, working to be seen as more righteous than others, and working to live up to some human standard of righteousness is going to fail. Working to earn our salvation means we have cut ourselves off from Christ and fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
In Galatians, Paul made clear that we are saved by our faith in what Jesus did to save us, not by keeping any set of rules. We live righteous lives because of what God has given us in Christ, not to be worthy of it or to gain it. Paul emphasized that each of us has the power to produce the kind of life that pleases God. That power is the Holy Spirit at work within us. The Holy Spirit is for us what good water and weather are for the farmer. So, how do we "sow to the Spirit"? How do we have the assurance the Spirit is at work in our lives?
All who have trusted in Jesus for salvation and submitted to baptism, sharing with Jesus in his saving death, burial, and resurrection have received the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:26-4:7; Acts 2:36-41). The Holy Spirit came and cleansed us, gave us new birth into God's family, and came to live in us (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We don't have to worry about having the Holy Spirit. Instead, we need to learn to rely on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has promised to us. So, let's make tapping into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, something we can pursue as part of our life in Christ!
I want to share with you three areas of our discipleship that will enable you to know about, depend upon, and tap into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit: pursuit, praise, and prayer. My prayer is that as you work through each of these three concepts, you will recognize that each is doable and that God's promises that the Holy Spirit will be at work in your life is real and you can experience the presence of God's Spirit!
We pursue Jesus longing to become more like him and for the Spirit to form Jesus in us (Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:28-29). We do this because every disciple wants to be like his teacher, and our great teacher is Jesus (Luke 6:40). As we pursue Jesus, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming to become like him with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). We begin to display, by the power of the Spirit, the character and compassion of Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23). God, who began his work in us when the Holy Spirit came to us and saved us, will continue this work until the time we go home to Jesus (Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 1:6, 2:13).
We turn our hearts to God in song with other believers (Ephesians 5:18-19. We give thanks for what God has done for us (Ephesians 5:20). We submit in our relationships to serve others to honor Christ as Lord (Ephesians 5:21). As we do these things, Paul promises that we are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).[NOTE]
We pray, asking for Jesus to keep filling us with the Spirit (Luke 11:13; cf. Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:8). We pray "in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20) with the help of the Spirit, even when we don't have words to speak, and the Spirit speaks the needs of our heart to God in language too deep for words (Romans 8:26-27). We pray for each other to be filled and empowered by the Spirit, so the Spirit is at work in others' lives (Ephesians 1:17-20, 3:14-21).
Will we always feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Probably not, but we can trust God's promises that the Spirit is at work in us. These three areas enable us to tap into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. They are fundamental practices of our discipleship. They involve our pursuit of Jesus, our praise offered to God for what he has done for us in Jesus, and, our prayer with and for each other to have the Spirit active in our lives as followers of Jesus. We need to make these activities intentional. We begin to do them expecting the Spirit to be present and to fill us with God's grace and power!
[NOTE] Ephesians 5:15-21 is grammatically one block of teaching emphasizing being filled with the Spirit (5:18). Paul then gives five accompanying commands (imperatival participles) that go with being filled with the Spirit:
- Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs — vs. 19.
- Sing — vs. 19.
- Make music from our hearts to the Lord — vs. 19.
- Give thanks always to God for everything — vs. 19.
- We submit to one another in reverence to Christ — vs. 21.