GETTING TO KNOW GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT
During one of the times Yeshua was with His disciples after His resurrection, He greeted them and said, “Shalom Alechem (Peace be with you).” Then He preceded to say, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 30:21, 22). This can be likened to their born again experience. Even with all the time they had spent with Yeshua, they could not receive the born again experience until the atonement for sin was made. Now the Spirit of God was indwelling them so that they were alive and responsive to God as they had not been before. Then, before Yeshua ascended into heaven the last time, He was with His disciples one more time. “Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, telling them, ‘You will be baptized (immersed) in the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4,5). What could that mean? They had already received the Spirit when He breathed on them. But John the Immerser (Baptizer) had declared that “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16). What could that mean? They continued to pray together and waited as Yeshua commanded them to. Sometimes your greatest blessings will come after a time of waiting on the Lord to weave things together for you. Exactly fifty days after Passover, on the day of the Hebrew feast of “Shavuot” (also called Pentecost; ‘pent” means fifty), the disciples were all gathered together in one place. They were most likely in the Temple because that’s where Jews would have been on Shavuot, including those who had come for the Feast from other cities and even other countries. Here’s what the Bible says happened:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. “Now there were Jews…in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying… ‘How is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?’ ” (Acts 2:1-8).
That day, as a result, three thousand Jewish people became Believers in Yeshua. And that was only the beginning. They remembered that Yeshua had told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). They had received the Holy Spirit when Yeshua has breathed on them, to make them alive in their spirits unto God just as God had breathed upon Adam and “he became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). But there was a second experience with the Spirit when they received the power of the Holy Spirit so that they could now function by the Spirit as Yeshua had! Now that they had experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they had the Spirit’s empowerment to be His effective witnesses, to tell others the message of Yeshua so that they too could hear and commit their lives to following Yeshua.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now the Holy Spirit was not only with them but in them, in their own spirits, as He had been with Yeshua. Now they were able to move in the same supernatural power He did – to heal, to cast out demons, and to raise the dead – all signs that the Kingdom of God remained with them even when He wasn’t with them “in the flesh” anymore. Since “God is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), as Believers in Yeshua, we have that same power those first followers of Yeshua did through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is just as available to each of us today to do signs, wonders and miracles in Yeshua’s name as He was to the earliest believers in Yeshua. Though we receive power through the Holy Spirit, He is not just a force or an energy or power alone. The Holy Spirit is God and He is Lord and He too has a personality. Where He has freedom to act, there is a wonderful sense of His presence. The Bible tells us “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). We can have a relationship with the Holy Spirit in the same way we relate to God as our Father or Yeshua as the Son of God. In fact, it is through the Holy Spirit that our relationship with the Father and the Son becomes real and present to us. It is He who brings us into the presence of God and teaches us of the things and ways of God. It is the Holy Spirit that interacts with us to make the things Yeshua said real and alive to us.
THE SUPERNATURAL “GIFTS” OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
It is also the Holy Spirit that empowers us to carry out God’s will and to operate in the supernatural gifts He gives to us. The Bible speaks about what are called “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:1; 14:1) which enable us to have access to the ways that Yeshua functioned as apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher and pastor. He was all of those to His people. These same gifts or “callings” of functions exist within the body of believers, generally as leaders who give direction, oversight and insight to the people. The Bible makes it clear that this kind of leadership is made up of those who serve rather than desiring to be served. Church leadership is always to be carried out in a godly, respectful and humble manner. There are many other gifts of the Spirit that are available to everyone, not just those in leadership. After the Disciples received the Holy Spirit, they realized that all the supernatural abilities Yeshua had, they could now function in. Here’s how it works: To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). One does not have to be a prophet to prophesy. There are levels of prophesy which range from a word of encouragement and a declaration of God’s love all the way to direction for world leaders. One should know their level and sphere of influence before speaking out for God. He’ll let you know when the time is right. A “word of knowledge” comes when suddenly you know the answer to a problem or you’re aware that someone has a particular illness that God wants to heal, for instance. Gifts of healing and of miracles are available to any believer who has faith to believe God for them to take place. There are also gifts of administration and of helps and hospitality. We can do a lot of those in the natural, but when the Holy Spirit is enabling us to do them, there is a joy and empowerment that is just not there in the natural. We can develop an awareness of the Holy Spirit being with us and that we are carriers of the Spirit of God within us. Pretty powerful, wouldn’t you think? And you never know when the Holy Spirit will move to have you minister something miraculous to someone while you’re fulfilling a seemingly mundane task. A case in point involved the original Apostles when faced with needing to find men to help serve food to the growing number of people who were coming to faith. There were those in attendance for their communal meals. The qualifications for choosing these servers is this: “Select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task” (Acts 6:3). Nothing we do for the Lord is without meaning or significance, nor without cause for holy character. The Holy Spirit also enables us to pray with power for what God is doing in our own lives and in the lives of others. Prayer and the Holy Spirit go together inseparably. Pray for others the same way you would like them to pray for you. Yeshua said “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). God’s Word carries power and authority, but so does the name of Yeshua. We can pray and also perform miracles in His name, because all the universe responds to Who He is, including the demons. Yeshua’s parting words to His disciples before returning to heaven were full of Holy Spirit promise.
“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved… These signs will accompany those who have believed: In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:16- 18).
Pretty exciting, yes? His words are just as true today as they were when He said them. Don’t let anyone who hasn’t yet experienced them tell you they’re not for today. These are not New Age or mystical experiences. These are the God-given abilities that Yeshua functioned in for the good of the people. We now can operate in them through the Holy Spirit just as He did. In fact, He even told His disciples, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). That’s because once He was in heaven with the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit so He would indwell the Believers to take the power of the Gospel (the Good News of Yeshua and the Kingdom of God) around the world. It is important for you to understand that you do not make the healing or the miracle happen – only God can and only He does. Our job is to pray believing that God will answer. Sometime He answers immediately (a miracle) and sometimes He answers more slowly (a healing), and sometimes we don’t get to see the immediate answers to our prayers because He is working behind the scenes to deal with circumstances in that person’s life or in our own lives that take precedence to the healing. Keep praying!
THE CHARACTER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is so close to us that He works in our innermost being to develop in us the same character as Yeshua. These attributes are known as the fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Galatians 5:22,23). Notice it seems to be saying that the fruit is singular. That’s because the Greek text gives the idea that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and all the rest are subsets of love. Love is the heading, what follows defines love. That goes together with John’s simple but profound statement: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). Does this kind of a loving person sound like someone you would like to be like? You can be with the Holy Spirit’s help. In Hebrew He is actually called the Spirit of Holiness (“Ruach haKodesh”). As you get to know Him more and more you will become more sensitive to God’s holiness. We become more like Him as we begin to love what He loves and hate what He hates. What He hates is never people, but He hates sin because it hurts people. Sin is always unloving. God will always love the sinner, but hate the sin that brings harm, and sin always brings harm. Even if someone were to say, “My sin doesn’t hurt anyone else. It’s only about myself,” that’s not true. If we are living in some kind of sin, we are not available to God or others to be of a godly impact. We all affect our sphere of influence in some way, which will either be positive or negative. There is generally no neutral ground. Sin is serving the devil and his ways – there’s no getting around that fact. And no good ever comes out of that! As the Holy Spirit gently convicts you of something that is not pleasing to God, you will feel a tug on your conscience, or you will briefly lose your peace. That’s how you know the Spirit is leading you. Where His peace is, that’s the way to go. If you lose that peace over some issue, you would be wise to drop it and you’ll see that your peace returns. He will make it quite clear what is pleasing or unpleasing to Him. Let the precious peace of God be your Umpire to make the calls of either “Safe!” or “Out!” Our peace is in being obedient to Him. This is how we show Him that we love Him. Yeshua said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). He also gave us some insight into His own heart when He promised, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). When Yeshua knew He was going to be leaving His disciples, He gave them specific instructions. Telling them He would not be with them much longer, He said this: “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 said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27, 28). History tells us that the followers of Yeshua lived fear-free lives in the power of the Spirit – and so can we! “Trust in the Lord with all your heart….” (Proverbs 3:5a). Obeying God does not limit our freedom, rather we actually find that as we enjoy God and seek to obey His Word, we are more free to be ourselves than we ever were on our own, without Him. It is the Holy Spirit that will lead you and teach you how to stay in God’s will and to walk in His peace and joy, no matter what the circumstances in your life. It is He who will give us insight into God’s Word (the Bible) so that it becomes as alive to us, not just as information, but as divinely-imparted insight.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
Do you remember when the disciples spoke in other languages or tongues when the Holy Spirit came upon them in the Temple on Pentecost? Similarly, we can each receive what is called “Tongues,” which is a prayer language (languages are often called Tongues) that enables our spirits to become edified and strengthened in the Lord. It is not a language you have learned. It is a supernatural ability to pray to God in a language that only God will understand. It enables you to pray far beyond what your natural mind is capable of understanding or thinking. Praying in tongues takes the limits off of our expectations from God if we believe He will do that in our lives. The Apostle Paul had much to say about the spiritual gifts (see 2 Corinthians 14) including regarding praying in tongues: “One who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands…. but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church….I wish that you all spoke in tongues” (14:2, 4,5). To edify is to enlighten, inform or strengthen. Our own spirits are enlightened by the Spirit regarding spiritual truths when we pray in tongues. When we can see things from God’s perspective, we gain wisdom and faith for Gods’ goodness to be at work in our lives. We do not always know how to pray for something, but God gives us the gift of tongues so that we can pray the will of God that is beyond our understanding. It is also a way to worship God because you know that it is an untainted language and whatever you’re saying to God is pure and perfect because it comes from the Holy Spirit. It also stirs up faith and power in our lives. How do I receive the gift of praying in Tongues, you may be asking. You may ask a pastor or someone you know who is walking closely with God and who speaks in tongues to lay hands on you and pray for God to baptize you in His Holy Spirit, just as the disciples were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Shavuot (Pentecost). Or you can ask God yourself. You don’t really need another person – God is there with you. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and to give you His gift of Tongues and then begin to praise Him but don’t speak in your native language. I know that sounds silly and you may feel self-conscious at first, but Tongues are for every believer and it will come to you as you look to Him for the gift. One evidence of people being filled with God’s Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues and even prophesying: “When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying” (Acts 29:6). You will also find that you can sing in Tongues and the Spirit will give you lovely melodies. As you grow in the Lord, you may find that the language changes as you are praying for different situations or persons. It will help sensitize you to the Spirit’s tenderness for the people or situations you are praying for.
THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
We talked above about developing your relationship with the Holy Spirit and to depend upon Him to lead you and guide you. How do you do that? By faith. We don’t ever get anything from God except by faith. Trust day by day that He is there with you. Yeshua called Him our “helper” or “comforter.” You rely on Him the same way you rely on the Lord Yeshua to be with you at all times. He is, in fact, the Spirit of Yeshua, remember, as well as the Spirit of the Father. You can think of it this way, the Holy Spirit brings to us here on earth what God is in heaven. That’s why Yeshua prayed that very familiar prayer: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed (praised) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:8). It will take the Spirit’s presence to bring that about. The more we rely on the Holy Spirit in our ordinary daily lives, as well as when we operate in His supernatural gifts, the more He can do through us. The key to walking out our lives in power is humility before God, realizing we need His Spirit in order to live our lives just as Yeshua did. In all we do, we must realize none of it is to our praise, but to the glory of God because “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Grace is not only forgiveness for sins but God’s enabling power to live a godly life. Many try to be “good Christians” in their own strength. That usually turns out to be a list of have-tos and musts. But Yeshua Himself relied on the Holy Spirit and so must we. Happily, He will teach you how.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
1. Read Genesis 1:1,2. Who was there at the beginning of creation? How was God moving over the earth? Read Job 33:4. What aspect of God was involved in creating man? Read John 4:24. What is our response to be to God as Spirit?
2. Read Matthew 1:18 and Luke 1:26-35. How did Miriam (Mary) conceive Yeshua in her womb? Whose Son does that make Him (:35)? Since sin is passed down through the fathers what does that say about Yeshua being sinless? Could He be our Savior if He wasn’t?
3. Read Exodus 31:3,4 and 35:31. We saw in the last chapter the world’s idea of wisdom and their understanding is not always God’s truth. What is God imparting here? These were men who were building the Tabernacle, which was the place of worship and God’s presence. What does this say about the people who are “building” or leading the body of Messiah (the church) today needing these qualities from God? What do these verses also indicate about God (our Creator) and our own creativity? We would be wise to ask God for His Spirit for ourselves, as well as to pray for our leaders to have God’s Spirit impart these qualities of wisdom and creativity to us all. You may want to keep a small notebook with you as God often gives us ideas and thoughts through our day and they can be easy forgotten. Write them in your journal. This will help to “capture” what He may give you.
4. Read Numbers 11:25 and 1 Samuel 10:10. What else does God’s Spirit enable men to do? Notice these were unique events in a very limited number of men’s lives. Read 1 Corinthians 12:6-7 which was written after the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Shavuot/Pentecost. How many persons does this apply to? What was being given? What is God’s goal in doing this?
5. Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. Who is working through these abilities? Take some time to think about how each would be of benefit for the common good? On what basis are they distributed? Ask the Spirit of God to show you what part He wants you to play and to equip you to learn to be effective in that role.
6. Read 1 Corinthians 14. What are the gifts of the Spirit? What do you see as the value of each one? Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-10. (“The Perfect” is Yeshua upon His return.) What must be the motivation of the spiritual gifts? Read 14:3. Old Testament prophets often exposed Israel’s sin. What are New Covenant prophecies meant to express? How do both reflect God’s heart for His people?