Reflections on the Book of Acts #13: The Holy Spirit

The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.

There is a big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today.

Francis Chan, The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.

A.W. Tozer, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit

Here’s the link to Acts 13.

As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said . . .

This is the bit that sticks out to me. Because as Christians we confess and believe that God is triune, one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In other words, the Holy Spirit is not a force or another way to describe God’s power. The Holy Spirit is not impersonal or vague. The Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not an it. He is divine. He is an equal member of the Godhead.

But in a lot of ways, we as Christians neglect the Holy Spirit. We don’t quite know what to do with the Spirit or what to make of the Spirit. God the Father and God the Son (who became incarnate in the person of Jesus) are much more immediately relational and relatable.

Yet if we look at the book of Acts so far, it’s clear that the person of the Spirit plays a pivotal role in the life of the church. For starters, there was no church before the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 2. Only with the power of the Spirit could the followers of Jesus preach and witness and be the people of God. Jesus told them as much prior to his ascension.

And in our passage, the Holy Spirit speaks, leads, and sends. The Holy Spirit gives direction to and empowers Paul and Barnabas for mission.

Maybe it’s just me, but church hasn’t often felt like this to me over the course of my life. So much of it is about our plans and hoping that God will bless our plans. Prayer can seem like an afterthought. And fasting as a means of creating spiritual space to become receptive to the leading of the Spirit? Do we ever entertain that possibility?

I can also confess that as a pastor it’s true that I haven’t led well in this respect. But sometimes it’s hard to know how and to know what it looks like. Do we put our plans on hold, invite our congregations to fast and pray, and then wait until the Holy Spirit provides clear direction?

As they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said . . .

Is the conjunction of worshiping and fasting with the speaking of the Holy Spirit a coincidence? Or did the former lead to the latter?

Then I think that things were very different 2000 years ago in the early church. Even if it happened in that way at that time, is that what we should expect now?

How can we experience the leading of the Holy Spirit?

I suspect that there is a very real sense in which we Christians don’t want an answer to that question.

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