We believe in God the Holy Spirit who gives new life to all who have placed their faith in Christ. The Spirit, who indwells believers, continues to comfort, empower, gift, guide, and unite them to fulfil the mission of the church.
We see it in the lives of the rich and famous. Big bankers have power to influence interest rates and economies. Celebrities have power to shape culture and influence our thinking. Prime ministers and presidents have power to affect world affairs and create laws.
Have you ever wished you had this kind of power, but in the spiritual realm? Do you ever envision yourself with a supernatural power to heal people, and maybe even raise them from the dead? Or do you dream of being a powerful and influential speaker who leads people to Christ in big numbers? Maybe you just long for the incredible spiritual intimacy others seem to have through special spiritual experiences like speaking in tongues.
Do you read the stories in Acts and wonder at how the Early Church grew rapidly through miraculous signs and powerful witness? You may have heard of people today with this kind of spiritual influence and question why it doesn’t seem to be evident in your life or in your church.
How should our lives be affected when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us? Gordon Fee says that the Holy Spirit was given “to create a people who by the power of the Spirit lived out the life of the future (the life of God himself) in the present age.” When we experience the personal and powerful reality of the Spirit’s presence right now, we will be enabled to live kingdom lives – bearing fruit, building up the Church, and witnessing effectively.
Living Christ-like lives
The Spirit empowers us to live Christ-like lives. God’s will for us is that we become like his Son. In Romans 8, Paul explains how this happens. Those who are in Christ Jesus have the Spirit of God living in them. The Spirit helps us to submit to God. He teaches us to put to death the deeds of our sinful nature. He reminds us that we are God’s children and this gives us confidence to call out to God as our Father. And when we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us because he knows what God’s will is.
Paul talks about the Spirit again in Galatians 5:1-6, 13-26. The question here is: How do we deal with the old sinful nature that still rears its ugly head even after we become Christians? Paul’s opponents say we need the law, but Paul says only the Spirit is needed.
While it seems to make logical sense that law will keep the sinful nature in check, Paul says it is not necessary and will actually lead to bondage. Instead, if we let the Holy Spirit guide our lives, he will give us new desires, which are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. Instead of the ugly and rotten fruit produced in a life controlled by the sinful nature, the beautiful fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will ripen in our lives when the Spirit leads us. No law is required to make this happen!
Building up the Body
The Spirit’s power is evidenced through his fruit in our lives, but also through his gifts. The Spirit equips Christians with gifts for the building up of the body of Christ. Here’s a helpful explanation of spiritual gifts: “Spiritual gifts are divine abilities distributed by the Holy Spirit to every believer according to God’s design and grace for the common good of the body of Christ” (Bruce Bugbee).
In each believer, God shows the Spirit’s presence in unique ways for the good of all. What God does in and through you is a gift to the Church (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)! There are many different kinds of gifts for all the needed aspects of the Body’s growth.
We have different functions, according to the gifts given us, yet we work together as one body (Romans 12:1-7). Sometimes we envy other people’s gifts but this should not be. The person whom you envy, who seems to be so gifted, needs you and the gifts you have to offer. No one person has every gift. God has designed it this way so that we will work together, valuing each other, and giving thanks to him for his incredible plan for the Church.
Often it is the “up front” gifts, like apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers that seem to be more valued. These are the ministers, we think. But Paul says it is not so (Ephesians 4:11- 16). These gifts are given to the church to equip all believers for ministry, so that the body of Christ will be built up in truth and love. As we gladly embrace opportunities to serve, we will discover those gifts in which we find enjoyment and fulfillment, and through which others are spiritually impacted. When all believers are set free to use their gifts in loving ministry, the Spirit’s power is evident and the Church grows!
Reaching a lost world
The Spirit works in our lives to transform us and build up the Church, but he also longs to help us reach a lost world with the gospel. When Jesus was about to leave this earth, he told his followers that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them, and the result would be witness (Acts 1:4-8). That is exactly what happened.
When the Holy Spirit came, the believers witnessed with boldness. When some of them were arrested for speaking so confidently about the resurrection, they were told not to teach in the name of Jesus. Upon their release, they went to their friends to report what had happened. Together they turned to God in prayer. If this happened to you, what would you pray for? Protection and safety? Not these guys. They prayed for boldness to speak God’s word, and for God to accompany the message with healings and signs (Acts 4:23-30).
When we pray for the Holy Spirit’s empowering for boldness in witness, God is pleased to answer. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).
The Holy Spirit is God’s empowering presence in our lives. It is a good thing to desire a greater demonstration of his power and gifts, but it is wise to check our motives. Why do we want his power? Is it for our own benefit and glory? Or do we long for God’s glory to be displayed in our changed lives and through the church’s effective witness?
Let us learn to pray for the Spirit’s empowering as Sian-Yang Tan and Douglas Gregg advise: “Pray specifically for his power and the release of his gifts so that you can live a more Christ- like life and be more effective in building up the body of Christ and reaching out to a lost world with the gospel.”
Arlene Friesen teaches Bible and Worship courses and serves as Registrar at Steinbach Bible College, Manitoba. She earned her Bachelor of Religious Studies from SBC in 1987; Masters in Theological Studies from Tyndale Seminary in 1998; Ongoing theological education at Tyndale, 1999-2007.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 7 of 12-part series
May / June 2015 The Recorder