This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the first disciples in power, enabling them to fulfill Jesus’ call to share the Gospel with the whole world. Jesus told them,
“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” (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:7-8), leads us to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3), makes us members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and gives us assurance of our salvation (1 John 3:24). He is our Counselor (John 14:16), who teaches us the truth (John 16:13), produces fruit in us to make us more like Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23) and gives us gifts to enable us to serve God (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
Jesus sends us out to reach all peoples with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. But we mustn’t think for a minute that we can do it without the Holy Spirit.
All Christians have the Holy Spirit. If you have surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit. But the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s empowering is not something that comes automatically. We need to ask. Again and again we must acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord and ask Him to fill us afresh and anoint us to live as faithful followers and servants of Christ.
Four biblical words describe the responses we can have to God’s invitation to receive the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit:
First, we can grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” When we choose to live our own way and not to follow God’s best for us, the Holy Spirit is grieved. Just as parents are saddened when a child rejects what Mom and Dad know is best, God is grieved when we choose our own way and say “No” to the Holy Spirit.
Second, we can quench the Holy Spirit by rejecting the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20). Refusing to accept the gifts of the Spirit douses the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Third, we can resist the Holy Spirit by pridefully living without the Spirit. When we trust in ourselves and think we can handle things on our own, we turn away the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 warns us, “You are always fighting against the Holy Spirit…” God wants to show us the truth about us and about himself. God knows we need his Holy Spirit. But when we think we know better than God, we are working against the Holy Spirit.
Or fourth, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit by surrendering to God. We can invite Jesus to pour out his Holy Spirit on us and fill us to overflowing, empowering us to live for Christ.
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit, don’t quench the Holy Spirit, don’t resist the Holy Spirit. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit and live in the fullness of His power.
This Pentecost, let’s seek the Holy Spirit anew, not relying on our past experiences of the Spirit, but opening our hearts to him daily. Let’s ask for His life-giving presence and power that we might faithfully witness to Jesus and the salvation that is found in him alone.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey