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COne of the most famous verses in the Bible is Jesus’ promise to his disciples in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” What does Jesus mean when he said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you?”
What does the Bible say about the power of the Holy Spirit?
It’s a very profound and practical question and one that not as many Christians are as familiar with as you would want them to be, as you would think they really need to be. So, probably the first thing we need to talk about is the person of the Spirit himself because there is so much misunderstanding about him.
The short version is that the Holy Spirit is God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. They’re all members of the Trinity. They’re the three persons of the one God, the triune God. The Holy Spirit is just as much God as God the Father and God the Son.
The Holy Spirit is a he; he’s not an it. He’s not an impersonal, neuter pronoun. He is not a ghost. He’s not some ethereal spirit. He is an actual person. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit grieves and the Holy Spirit mourns. The Holy Spirit prays. The Holy Spirit speaks. The Holy Spirit acts. He is a person in our lives.
In terms of what he does for Christians, it starts at salvation. When we ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, it’s actually the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us. First Corinthians 3 says that our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit.
And then the Bible says that the Holy Spirit prays for us. He prays in us. He leads us. He directs us. The Holy Spirit teaches us. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will teach us all things.
And the Holy Spirit empowers us. He empowers us to be the witness that the Lord calls us to be in Jerusalem (where we live), in Judea and Samaria (the larger regions around us), and then to the very ends of the earth.
So the Holy Spirit is God living in us. Just as Jesus was God incarnate, God in flesh, so now we “enflesh” the Holy Spirit, as the body of Christ, and as the visible manifestation of Jesus’ ongoing ministry in the world today. The Holy Spirit is God living in us.
How do we experience the Holy Spirit’s power more fully in our lives every day?
That really gets to a massive issue in Christianity in our culture. We are such a self-sufficient, self-reliant culture. We reward the kind of self-made heroes—the old phrase was “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” I don’t know if people say that anymore. But the idea of doing it yourself: you can do anything if you get up early enough and stay up late enough and try hard enough and work long enough and all of that. That’s just not true as regards the work of the Lord in our lives.
We desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit to be at work in us. That’s why Ephesians 5:18 commands us to be filled with the Spirit. The best literal translation is “be continually being empowered by the Spirit.” So how does that work in your life?
It starts by asking Jesus Christ to forgive your sin and be your Savior and Lord. That’s when the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, comes to indwell you. And when he does, he’ll never leave. Once the Holy Spirit comes to live in you, as his temple, he will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He will live in you always, as God present in your life.
But then, every single day, we have to decide whether or not we’re going to allow the Holy Spirit to control us. He indwells us, but we have to decide whether we’re going to be filled or empowered or controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, to make certain that you’re being controlled by the Spirit right now, here’s what we do.
First of all, we get alone with him.
I would suggest you start the day this way. In Mark 1:35, Jesus got up a great while before day and went to a solitary place and prayed. It’s really important to start the day by getting alone with God to be empowered by the Spirit. You put gas in the car before you drive the car. You recharge your phone before you use your phone. So get alone with the Lord. Make a time and a place where you won’t be distracted, where you can be alone, just you and the Lord.
Next, ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind anything in your life that is keeping him from leading and empowering you.
Ask him to bring to mind any sin you’ve not confessed, anything in your life that displeases God and that blocks his power in your life. Then confess whatever comes to your thoughts. It may be something general or something very specific.
I encourage you, about once a week or so, to have a spiritual inventory, where you take a significant time to do what I’m suggesting. Get a piece of paper and a pen and ask the Lord to bring to your mind whatever you need to confess. Write it down on the paper. No one else is going to see this so be very specific, very blunt, very honest.
Then pray through that list. Whether it’s in your mind each morning or on that paper, maybe once a week, ask the Lord to bring to mind what you need to confess, and then confess it specifically, with a repentant heart, with a repentant spirit. Ask the Lord to remove it from you.
The Bible says that God forgives all that we confess. He’s faithful and just to forgive us for our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The Bible says that God separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west, then buries it in the depths of the deepest sea and remembers it no more. So claim that. Get alone with the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind what you need to confess, then confess that and claim God’s forgiveness.
Next, ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your mind, your thoughts, and your life.
Literally, submit to the Holy Spirit. Put him on the throne of your heart. Surrender your day and your life to him. Pray through your day. Pray through the opportunities, the challenges, the things that are before you. And ask the Spirit to take control of them all through the day. Just submit the day to him, surrender it to him, and then trust that he will do what you’ve asked him to do.
In no place does the Bible say how it feels to be filled with the Spirit, how it feels to be controlled by the Spirit. This is a matter of faith. This is a matter of trust and commitment. And walk through the day being submitted to the Holy Spirit.
Then, as you walk through the day, stay connected.
If you plugged in one of those old drills that didn’t have batteries, you’d plug it in to start using it, but then you keep it connected. Likewise, stay submitted. Stay connected to the power of the Spirit.
As you have a challenge, you pray about it. As you have an opportunity, pray about it. As you’re tempted, ask God to give you strength. If you fall to the temptation, then ask the Spirit to forgive you and cleanse you and reconnect you and restore you to God. But walk through the day practicing the presence of Jesus, as Brother Lawrence said. Stay submitted to the Holy Spirit. And then the Holy Spirit will empower you and lead you and use you to be the person the Lord needs you to be today.
Is there a sense of urgency in experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit?
Yes, there really is. We talked before about self-sufficiency in our culture. I’ve often said self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide. God cannot do in us what we won’t let him do. He won’t lead us if we won’t follow. He can’t give us what we won’t receive. And there are things only the Holy Spirit can do.
If we’re not submitted, if we’re not surrendered, he simply can’t do that through us. It’s the Holy Spirit, for instance, who convicts people of sin, not us. You and I can’t convict anybody of sin. We can’t save a soul. We can’t change a life. We can’t do anything spiritual or eternal. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.
That’s why Zechariah 4:6 says, “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” So if you want to be used to make an eternal difference in the world, if you want to see people come to the Lord and come back to the Lord, if you want to see God working in powerful ways, you have to be filled with the Spirit. You have to be submitted to the Spirit so that God can do through you what only the Holy Spirit can do. So reject self-sufficiency because it’s spiritual suicide, and instead live a life that’s submitted and surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit.
I will close with this story that I heard many, many years ago from a pastor. He talked about a father who had two small daughters. One was about six, one was about four years old.
Every day, when the father would get home from work, his daughters would be waiting for him. They’d be waiting at the window. They couldn’t wait to see their dad come home. He’d park in the driveway, get out of the car, and walk around to the sidewalk that made its way to the front door. Usually, by that time, if the weather was good, his little girls would be out the door, and they’d meet him on that sidewalk, and he would hug them and they would welcome him home. It was one of the things he did every day. It was, in many ways, the highlight of his day.
Well, one particular day, this father gets out of the car and around the front of the car. He’s where the sidewalk meets the driveway—there’s a hedge on either side of the sidewalk at that very spot. And he’s right there between these two hedges when his two daughters have rushed out the door to get to him.
The oldest daughter gets there first. She runs up to her dad. She throws her arms around his legs and hugs him and welcomes him home. Then the little daughter gets there and she can’t get to her dad.
Her big sister’s in front of her, and the hedges are on both sides, and she’s blocked from her father. She begins to tear up.
The older sister, seeing what’s happening, taunts her little sister and says, “Ha ha ha! I’ve got all of daddy there is.”
The wise father, seeing this, reaches down, picks up his little girl, and holds her in his arms.
She looks down at her big sister and says, “Ha ha ha! Daddy’s got all have me there is.”
If Jesus is your Savior and Lord, you have all of God there is.
The question is: Right now, at this moment of time, does God have all of you there is?
NOTE: For more on experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, request your copy of Empowered: A Guide to Experiencing the Power of the Holy Spirit, a forty-seven-day devotional by Dr. Jim Denison.