The Holy Spirit and You

I came of age in faith when the charismatic movement was gaining its momentum even though “our” brand of the Christian faith made us doubly dubious of its claims of the Holy Spirit, but I had a semi-charismatic experience (no tongues) in high school and from that time I was on board — but only over time did I come to terms with the charismatic movement as not made up of a bunch of kooks. Behind all of this was a grandmother and grandfather who were apostolic and holiness and pentecostal, and for my grandmother “holy” with “ghost” was a single term: “theholyghost.” As a youngster, in the heat of some August Sunday evening, my mom and dad and my two sisters were hauled off to my grandmother’s church where they commenced to do things beyond my 9 year old religious experience, which though thin was firm. The most dramatic oddity of the service was when they all began to pray aloud all at once, and I heard moans and sighs and ordinary words mixed in… and I don’t recall anyone was speaking in tongues but now that I think of it surely someone was.

I tell this story because many Christians today think “weird” when they hear “Holy Spirit.” Or they ask “What’s that like?” Or they wonder if they are missing something. And if any of that applies to you I want to mention a book that is coming next summer. It’s a wonderful book on the Holy Spirit by one of my favorite South Africans, Trevor Hudson, called Holy Spirit Here and Now (published in South Africa but coming our way). I read (for a foreword) Trevor’s book alongside Jack Levison’s fine book, Fresh Air (Paraclete) and got to wondering why more aren’t writing about the Holy Spirit these days. Probably because so many still think the Spirit is weird.

Trevor’s book will disabuse us of that sense. This is a gentle, wise, pastoral approach to life in the Spirit. But it will perhaps stretch you.

“If there is one thing that I want to convey about the Holy Spirit, it is this: The Holy Spirit is continuously at work in all of our lives, from our very beginnings, in every encounter, in our daily work, in our communities, indeed throughout the whole universe” (3; I added emphasis). If that is the case, even those who think this is weird are being formed by the Spirit. I believe what Trevor says here: always, at all times, the Spirit is at work in us and with us and around us.

The Spirit is God’s gift to us. And Trevor develops three beautiful themes about this gift:

1. The Holy Spirit is more than an “it” — the Spirit is a Person, God himself, with us and in us. God’s gift of the Spirit is God’s gift of God’s very self. Think about that.

2. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of love to us — better yet, the Spirit is God’s love directed at us and in us and with us. God is love; God’s Spirit is God’s love in presence.

3. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of grace to us — Trevor suggests taking every reference to “grace” in the NT and saying “Spirit” there; and everytime we see Spirit use the word “grace” — and we will see how easily this connection can be made. “God’s grace is the Holy Spirit acting in our lives helping us to accomplish those things that we cannot accomplish in our own strength” (17).

Trevor suggests that to develop the habit of sensing God’s presence in the Spirit that we invoke God’s Spirit to be with us in all we do … rising, showering, eating, working, living, loving, walking, running, sleeping, sitting. This is the discipline of “noticing.” Over time we will become more sensitive the ever-present Spirit. (Weird or not!)

Through the Holy Spirit, God is lovingly present and always active in our lives” (20).

More next June!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Tim Atwater

    Thanks for this posting.

    It’s we humans who are weird, i think —
    if the Spirit seems weird to us, it’s perhaps because the Holy Spirit discloses us to ourselves in ways we are not always very comfortable with?

    We’re studying Luke 1 in bible study — word resonates with Spirit throughout….

    thanks again.

  • Luke Allison

    I’m convinced that the Spirit is the “missing link” between what the text says in context and how it plays out today. Far from every individual text providing a blueprint or objective timeless standard, I believe the texts are more like a playground for the Holy Spirit to romp around in.

    For instance, if we read the household codes of Colossians 3:18-4:1 as timeless standards of behavior (despite the fact that they are clearly situated within a 1st century social context), then we have no impetus to liberate slaves or bring women out from the shadow of men, and so forth. But if we allow the Spirit to lead us and guide us through our study of this text, Paul’s use of “inheritance” language for slaves (allusions to Jubilee and Sabbath concepts) suddenly begins to work on our hearts. Before we know it, we might be inclined to see Paul as expecting slaves to be released. The key, I think, is recognizing the ongoing work of the Spirit in our own contexts and lives, and then allowing that same Spirit to bridge the gap from 1st century (or further back) to 21st century. Sounds simple, but it’s a lifetime’s work.

  • David Hardin

    thanks Scot looking forward to this. As a lifelong baptist my experience is we just don’t know what to do with the Spirit, and are often afraid of it. Our theology is certainly lacking in this area.

  • http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com Diana Trautwein

    I look forward to this book! After two summers studying spiritual direction with the charismatic Benedictine Catholics in our area, I am newly grateful for the evidence of the Spirit that comes forth in praise through prayer and song. I do not have this gift – though I can sing in the Spirit with the best of ‘em. . . in English! To worship every morning in a eucharistic service where silence is allowed and to hear that silence filled with beautiful singing all around the room – well, it can’t really be described. Just like the Spirit is hard to capture in words. I love the tidbits you’ve offered here and look forward to the entire book. Thank you.

  • Marshall

    This seems to be available in Kindle from Amazon now.

    Many people say that we shouldn’t base our idea of God on our experience, but since that is where we encounter the Holy Spirit experience just seems to me the obvious place to base an unyielding faith.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Scot,

    ” I believe what Trevor says here: always, at all times, the Spirit is at work in us and with us and around us.” Me too! This is one bit of theology that needs to be proclaimed far and wide. If people really get hold of this truth, many rough places will be made a lot smoother (Isa 42: 1-17).

    Thanks so much for this post and for the tip on the upcoming book. Those old-time Pentecostals might have been rough around the theological edges but they had hold of something (rather someone had hold of them) that more often than not made Christian living a wonder to behold – and still does.

  • Bev Mitchell

    The volume of discussion on three recent topics may be trying to tell us something.

    “What’s up with the Holy Ghost?” Chris Hodges (Nov. 29) – 6 comments
    “The Holy Spirit and You” Scot McKnight (Dec. 4) – 5 comments
    “Hell and the final word.” Scot McKnight (Dec. 3) – 146 comments

    Maybe if we spent more time considering how the Holy Spirit wants to work in and through us in the here and now, our perspective on and interest in hell might change just a bit.

  • Loo

    My only thought about grace and the Holy Spirit being the same is, I can pray to the Holy Spirit, not to grace.


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