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Engage with the Holy Spirit

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2008 10 Jul
Engage with the Holy Spirit

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Graham A. Cole's new book, Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers, (Crossway Books, 2007).

The Holy Spirit is the part of God who lives right inside of you. Yet the Spirit’s work can seem mysterious when you’re trying to engage with it.

No matter what challenges you face figuring out how to relate to the Holy Spirit, you can overcome them and discover a closer relationship with God through the power of His Spirit.

Here are six crucial questions to ask that will help you learn how to engage with the Holy Spirit:

“What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?” This occurs when someone persistently rejects Jesus, and thus the Spirit who testifies about Him. It’s a person deciding to settle his or her heart against God. This is the one unforgivable sin, since without repentance, there can be no forgiveness. But the good news is that, if you’re worried that you may have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, you most likely haven’t. That’s because someone who is troubled enough to worry about committing that sin isn’t in persistent rebellion. Being angry with God, having doubts about Him, or expressing sorrow or disappointment don’t constitute blasphemy. God understands the reality of your difficult thoughts and feelings, and He even encourages you to express them. Blasphemy happens only if you reject Jesus completely.

“How May We Resist the Holy Spirit?” This happens when people resist the Bible – the Word of God, which the Spirit has inspired – by refusing to apply its truths to their lives. In the face of unbelievers’ apathy or even hostility toward Jesus, the Holy Spirit calls you to be bold about living out your faith and sharing it. You resist the Spirit when you refuse to speak the truth and let it guide your actions. But when you faithfully interpret and apply biblical truth, you’re inviting the Spirit to do amazing work in your life.

“Ought We to Pray to the Holy Spirit?” Praying directly to the Holy Spirit is fine if you’d like to, since God is a trinity, and the Spirit is just as much a part of God as the Father and the Son. But since there are no biblical precedents or explicit biblical commands of praying to the Spirit, you don’t have to pray to the Spirit. Praying to God or Jesus will involve the Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit always directs your attention back to the Father and Son. Your prayers – as well as your love, worship, praise, thanks, and everything else you offer to God – will bless all parts of Him, including His Spirit.

“How Do We Quench the Holy Spirit?” This means nullifying the Spirit’s work in your congregation by ignoring the preached or read Word of God (the Bible) that stirs your conscience, or by opposing ministries that reveal your life is out of moral sync with God’s revealed will. But as you seek to obey the Spirit’s guidance, you need to make sure that what you’re hearing is truly from the Holy Spirit and not from evil instead. Don’t be naïve or gullible, vulnerable to falling prey to false teaching or prophecy. Instead, test the spirits and pray for the discernment you need to be wise about what the Spirit is really saying to your church. Be open-minded, yet wise, about the Spirit’s work in your congregation.

“How Do We Grieve the Holy Spirit?” This occurs when there’s moral disparity between what people say they believe and how they actually behave. Wrong attitudes and actions cause the Spirit to feel grief and compel Him to withdraw. Realize that morality matters. Do your best to be obedient to God in every part of your life, and to treat others in the body of Christ well. Aim to grow in holiness.

“How Does the Holy Spirit Fill Us?” The Spirit fills people when they come to worship Him with a hunger to be filled by Him. Invite the Spirit to give you His gifts and spiritual benefits, such as faith, joy, and awe for God. Whenever you worship, pray for the Spirit to fill you. Think of the process like breathing: You breathe out bad air by confessing your sins and breathe in the good air of the Spirit by surrendering to the Spirit’s control. Life when you’re filled with the Spirit is a great adventure that will motivate you to do things like singing praise songs, giving thanks to God, and submitting to other people out of reverence for Jesus. Remember that your church’s worship service is much more than just a classroom for learning about God or a stage for being entertained when you think of Him. Every worship service is an opportunity to actually connect with the living God and be transformed as He fills you with His Spirit.

Adapted from Engaging with the Holy Spirit: Real Questions, Practical Answers, copyright 2007 by Graham A. Cole. Published by Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il., www.crossway.org
Graham A. Cole is professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. An ordained Anglican minister, he has served in two parishes and was formerly the principal of Ridley College, University of Melbourne. He has written articles for numerous theological journals and has contributed to several books as well as authoring Engaging with the Holy Spirit