And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.
— ACTS 5:32 (NRSV)
The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christ-follower invariably generates conflict in the Christian community. Few biblical subjects are more electrifying and controversial. The witness of the Scriptures, however, is unambiguous. Jesus Christ and his first generation of followers were indisputably energized by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the eternal Gospel
of salvation for humankind. Embroiled in the cosmic conflict between the forces of light and darkness, their lives were conduits of divine power manifested in spectacular and subtle ways. Miraculous signs and wonders in the form of healings and exorcisms were complemented by gentle yet impactful words of wisdom spoken in conversation. Receiving unusual guidance through dreams and visions was normal in a Spirit-filled church culture, which birthed and shaped dynamic faith in the lives of converts.
Expectation of communication between the divine and human pervaded first-century worship gatherings. They were animated by public prophetic utterances and prayers in tongues alongside instruction and common meals. Early Christians lived with extraordinary generosity and prayerful boldness. Their spirituality was naturally supernatural and supernaturally natural. They were elevated above dependence on their natural capabilities and intimately connected to the Holy Spirit from whom empowerment came. They listened confidently for the Divine voice to guide them, trusting for provision and protection in what they were called to do.
The consequences of their risk-taking lifestyle were often unpredictable. Remarkable evangelistic success and excruciating suffering, even martyrdom, went hand-in-hand in the lives of the early church members.
In our time, we will flourish when we listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the global Church; through genuine repentance, we will recover a personal and collective inspired, courageous and winsome Christ-centred life only possible in the Spirit.
1. Do I sense empowerment by the Holy Spirit in my life? Am I listening to his promptings?
2. What do I need to learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit with which I am not currently familiar?
Charles Nienkirchen is a Professor of Christian History and Spirituality at Ambrose University in Calgary, AB.
The image above is a real flower commonly known as the White Egret: a species of orchid found in China, Japan, Korea and Russia.
I am a product of the Jesus People movement of the early 1970’s. We took scripture very seriously, especially the second chapter of Acts. We met together daily in each others homes for prayer and worship, there were manifestations of the Spirit such as words of wisdom, healing, speaking in tongues etc. We were so reliant on God because we had to be.
I believe I’ve lost a lot of this reliance. I used to take every little thing to God – should I still, or has God implanted in me the knowledge to react in a spiritual way without constant consultation? We don’t see the same influence of the Spirit these days as we used to, so perhaps we need to discover why, and act upon it.
Wow, Evelyn! This is such an encouraging response to today’s posting. I pray that you encounter God in a fresh way, in power.
It was when I encountered the Holy Spirit that I better knew Jesus. I grew up learning about Jesus; it was in encountering His Spirit that I became more in love with Him. I pray that all will encounter His Spirit. I pray that we will see and experience things that can be attributed only to His Spirit. I pray that God’s will will be done.
Thank-you for your encouragement. Once the Spirit infills you, He is always with you, and I am constantly aware of His Presence. I don’t see as many acts of His power as I used to, but I know He hasn’t changed, and is still with me just as much now, as He was then. Looking back, I can see God’s hand in every aspect of my life, and how He weaves it into His purpose. I pray with you, that those who know Jesus, will experience this Spirit-filled life.
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