Revolutionary Faith has been active for nearly three years now, and “how to feel the Holy Spirit”—or some variation thereof—is still the top search term that leads people to this blog. My post “What Does the Holy Spirit Feel Like?”, published in the blog’s first six weeks of existence, remains the most accessed post on the site.
I understand the fascination. There is much about the Holy Spirit that remains a mystery. It is God’s powerful, dynamic presence in the Christian life, and its urgings can seem inexplicable.
However, the Holy Spirit has a purpose, and I fear too many believe that purpose is simply to be felt. Many people seek the Holy Spirit for a visceral experience or spiritual vision. It exists for much more than that. In fact, if you’re having a feeling without the Holy Spirit’s other manifestations, I would pause and seriously examine exactly what it is that you’re experiencing. It may be something other than the Holy Spirit.
Purpose #1: To Teach Us
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” ~ John 14:25-26
The Holy Spirit exists to illuminate the gospel and to keep Christ’s commands at the forefront of our minds. Having trouble understanding scripture? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Purpose #2: To Provide Wisdom and Knowledge
“Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” ~ Mark 13:11
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” ~ Luke 12:11-12
The Holy Spirit gives believers right words to say when their faith or the gospel is challenged.
Purpose #3: To Testify to the Gospel and Confirm Truth
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” ~ John 15:26
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The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” ~ Hebrews 10:15-17
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I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 9:1
Purpose #4: To Empower Believers for Evangelism
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~ Acts 1:8
Multiple times in scripture, the Holy Spirit is shown giving boldness to believers to preach the gospel.
Purpose #5: To Sanctify Believers and Produce Spiritual Fruit
He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:16b
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:5
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 14:17
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
Purpose #6: To Encourage and Edify
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. ~ Acts 9:31
Purpose #7: To Bestow Spiritual Gifts
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
Purpose #8: To Warn and Convict
So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” ~ Hebrews 3:7-11
Feeling the Spirit
Some believers worry because they don’t feel the Spirit all of the time. Guess what? I don’t feel it all the time, either. That no longer bothers me because I understand that the Holy Spirit is much more than a feeling. It is God’s presence residing in the soul. Sometimes it is quiet; other times, it is stirred. The degree to which it is stirred depends on what God is trying to accomplish in and through me.
Also, there is no one feeling attributed to the Spirit. Feelings of peace, joy and love originate from the Spirit in addition to boldness and conviction. If you are growing in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, the Spirit is operating in you. You don’t need a particular feeling to confirm that.
The Danger in Pursuing Experience
The problem I see in many charismatic churches is the pursuit of experience at the expense of the true work of the Spirit, which is boldness, discernment and sanctification. Ministers speak of revival in terms of a “Holy Ghost party” in which believers can see visions and become “drunk in the Spirit.” However, true revival involves spiritual renewal, not emotional bacchanal. I’ve experienced some amazing things through the Spirit, but those experiences are meaningless without the accompanying fruit. I would gladly trade a choir of singing angels for greater love and discernment in my life.
We need to examine our reasons for seeking the Holy Spirit. The feelings of fire and ecstasy can bring great comfort and energy. They can also be faked. The Spirit’s purpose is to make us wiser and more effective Christians—not to get us high.
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.” ~ Matthew 12:39-41
Be wise in your pursuit.