What’s your experience of the Holy Spirit?

What’s your experience of the Holy Spirit?

I’ve been thinking a little about the Holy Spirit recently. My hunch is that debates over the baptism of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit (whichever side you fall in those debates) have distracted us from a proper appreciation of the Spirit’s work in our lives. Plus in our church we’re going to be looking at life in the Spirit, especially in Galatians, later in the year and into next year.

So I’m interested to hear how people would describe their experience of the Holy Spirit. I’m not looking for theological explanations of the Holy Spirit’s work. Instead I’m interested to hear how people experience the Spirit in their daily lives. What does it mean, for example, for you to be led by the Spirit or to walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5)?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Thanks.

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20 thoughts on “What’s your experience of the Holy Spirit?

  1. I became a follower of Christ during high school because of a construction worker named Jared who took an interest in my life. It wasn’t until after I started following Christ that I had any interest in “cleaning” up my uses of drugs, pornography, and other self-medicating tools. I believe when the Spirit came upon me I began to do what I had never done before in my life, feel convicted of sin and want to change. I guess that’s how personal I get with Galatians 5 (which I love). Christ is who drew me in (Christ through a contruction worker), and the Spirit is who sanctifies.

  2. Just wondering if people’s experience of the Spirit can be no experience, as in they don’t feel they get any major input from the Spirit. Some people will go through their lives feeling they are constantly experiencing the Spirit, yet some will feel nothing. Is this a reason why some leave the church? Discouragement from apparent lack of Spirit involvement? Personally I hardly ever feel like the Spirit is at work yet I’m sure when I look back He is.

  3. This is how I identify the Holy Spirit at work. I ask God for eyes to see Him present in my life…the people with whom I come into contact, the Scripture I read or hear preached, the words fellow believers speak into my life, the providences of daily life, prayers answered, the sin He uncovers in my life,and more. I used to see the spiritual disciplines as these distinctly different pursuits. Now I see the Christian life more as a Venn diagram…at least three intersecting circles: the Gospel, my every day life, and prayer. All the time, things are going on among these “circles”, and the Holy Spirit is directing. Paul Miller’s book “The Praying Life” has helped me immensely.

  4. Tim, I see the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to God speaking to me through so many things I see around me…always bringing me back to God and who He is. (This is not some sort of mysticism, saying that God is in everything. But He does speak through countless means in the world around me). I also often find when I’m spending time reading the Bible, I be reading along and I’ll come across some verse or phrase or section and the words come to life in an almost IMAX kind of way. I’m then taken to a new understanding of words I may have read before and not been changed by them in the same way. My heart gets stirred when I am around others who love God. He dwells in me so I never feel alone or separated from God. That’s definitely the Holy Spirit, not just my mind holding onto a promise. I am so blown away by the incredible gift of the Spirit. Generations longed to be so near God’s heart. Amazing.

  5. Great question. I agree completely with your premise about arguments over “baptism in the Spirit.” It is, and largely always was, a distraction. I have some friends who thought it was so important to “win” the battle on that one, that I think they lost the war over the work of the Spirit in our lives.

    The most critical thing is not to fall into this assumption: all Christians have the Spirit at conversion (correct). I am a Christian, therefore I have all that God, by the Spirit has for me (incorrect). Anyone following this argument normalises their experience (or lack of experience) to date, and assumes that = all there is to have. Anyone suggesting any different is therefore automatically suspect. It is all too easy with this argument to cease to “eagerly desire” as 1 Cor 12 and 14 commands.

    My own experience of the Spirit is remarkably poor.

    1. The main thing from Galatians 5 and Romans 8 is to “desire what the Spirit desires” – ie to eagerly pursue the things of God and yearn for him to work in us and through us.
    2. In Galatians 3 the expectation is that God gives his Spirit and works miracles among us because we believe the gospel with faith.
    3. In 1 Cor 12 and 14 the expectation is that we should be eagerly desiring spiritual gifts, especially prophecy.

    In day to day life I think I experience some of number 1 but want more. Little of number 2, but where I have experience that it tends to be when exercising faith outside of my comfort zone, often in missions or pioneering frontier situations. And little of number 3. I can identify some spiritual gifts that I have in small measure, and have occasionally been on the receiving end of people using more obviously supernatural gifts more strongly than I have (obviously I am on the receiving end of supernatural preaching and teaching a lot more, but have heard some remarkably divinely-pointed prophetic words over the years)

    Many believers in my circles have fallen out of the habit of asking others “what is God doing with you at the moment” and hence out of the habit of eagerly desiring that he should be doing things. So easy to replace that with regular activity, passively receiving teaching, and desire for him that is low

  6. Interesting stuff.

    It was only when I embarked on reading theology that I came across people who had a very different view and experience of the Spirit. For some, this appeared to be none at all apart from conversion. They rejected the notion of gifts operating today as Romans 12 and 1 Cor 12 indicate and were particularly concerned about tongues. The debates always seemed to focus on the gifts not the fruits. I have personally been greatly blessed by the gift of tongues in my private prayer life despite some advising me I am deluded, it doesn’t exist and I am apparently bananas!

    The experience of the Spirit must be assessed as it relates to passionate love for and service of Jesus. To be more Spirit-filled is to be more Jesus-loving and people serving (point 1 above). The prayer in Ephesians 3 suggests there is much more that I have yet to experience- as have we all? I like D L Moody who, when he was asked if he was filled with the Spirit, said ‘Yes- but I leak’. It amusingly describes well the reason for Paul saying ..’.go on being filled’..in Ephesians 5. Tim Keller said in a sermon once that to make progress in the Christian life you can’t somersault all the time, you must walk-’left right left right’ (scripture and prayer). But a life without a somersault or two would be rather dull. My experience is that the Spirit sometimes causes us to ‘somersault’ for a season and this can be a joyful thing. I would argue as we read more and pray more somersaults become more frequent?

    What might these be? For me, over the years:

    1. Times of overwhelming joy, resilence, courage, faith etc
    2. An awakened desire for the truth of the word (for me this happened 13 years after conversion)
    3. A quickened passion for prayer
    4. Times of special intimacy with Jesus during times in the ‘secret place’
    5. A quickened hunger to share the gospel with others and enhanced fruitfulness in people’s response.
    6. Conviction of and victory over persistent sin
    7. Receipt of new gifts (tongues)
    8 Finally ‘Promptings’ is a good catch-all word. It says in 2 Thes 1:12 ..’prompted by faith’ and these promptings happen often as we keep in step with the Spirit. A sense of a need to be patient with someone, to speak to someone you don’t know, to offer encouragement, to pray, to embark on something new or innovative , to show an act of kindness etc. Mostly, these promptings are not spectacular. Of course, we are encouraged to eagerly desire the greater gifts.

    This is a big subject-so I will hold off on thoughts on prophecy:)

    One of the people who has been a great help to me is my friend Simon Ponsonby. His two books ‘More’ and ‘God inside out’ are excellent on this and I long for them to be more widely read and reviewed. ‘Inside -out’ was written to give the church a much more thorough understanding of the Spirit’s work.

    A timely and good post Tim- it has got me thinking too so thank you.

  7. Hi,

    If we believe that Jesus embodied what it was like for one person to walk in close intimate fellowship with the Father, it is only because of the Holy Spirit.

    John 1:33
    “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.

    The Spirit remained on Him.

    Jesus I believe did not do do the following nor should we.

    1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

    19Do not quench the Spirit;

    20do not despise prophetic utterances.

    Ephesians 4:30
    Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    Full disclosure, I am a charismatic and my Christian life is so much richer because of this, if we do not walk in the spirit we fulfill the desires of the flesh.

    Small example, in the past 18 months I have had three people I know give me the exact prophesy concerning a spiritual gift that I never operated in. This led me to start practicing this gift and it is slowly manifesting itself. I would have never thought that I had this gift and now I am walking out what he has given me. If I was not around people who prophesy, I would not have received this prophesy.

    I find it very difficult to being led by the spirit, but I am learning to take risks and slowly willing to be humbled when I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to say something to some one. Many times I have been spot on and a few times I was way off.

    I have also found praying in tongues to be so encouraging to my spiritual life as it says:

    1 Corinthians 14:4
    One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.

    I believe tongues are for every believer, there are two types of tongues, one for public interpretation and one for personal edification. The one used publicly edifies the people in the gathering, but a personal tongue edifies the believer.

    I can not imagine one Christian who would not need continual edification.

    I believe man fears what he can not control or totally understands. There have been many excesses over the gifts, but that is no reason for Christians to abandon or ignore the gifts. The same could be said of grace, etc..

    I think New Frontiers is making a real difference in bringing the person of The Holy Spirit back to where it belongs, into the priority of every believer. If Jesus needed the spirit of God on Him to do all that he did and walk in the spiritual authority that he did, why do we think we could do it with all the power and presence of the spirit in all that we do. If the Holy Spirit is not moving in our lives or our meetings, our lives are not changed, we are left with religion.

    Leonard Ravenhill once said: The man who has an experience with God is never at the mercy of someone who has an argument about God

    Tim

  8. As my former pastor said, “I don’t believe in once filled always filled” and I agree with that statement. I’ve experienced the gift of prophecy and other revelatory gifts, but in recent days I’ve been seeking more of the fruit of the Spirit in my life. The fullness of the Spirit in my life causes me to become more sensitive to His leading. He’s always leading me away from sin and trying to teach me to be sensitive to his voice. I might find myself in a conversation and actually giving a prophetic word without realizing it. I’m no prophet! But openness to the Holy Spirit puts you in situation that God can use you to bring edification to others.

  9. Hi,

    I was reflecting on what I wrote and then I realized that I had left out what I consider an important insight in understanding and perhaps a real struggle with the gifts of the Holy Spirit for many Christians is this- they are Gifts-they have nothing to do with character at all. If Jesus has given you a gift- you have have it regardless of your maturity. Now to become a faithful steward of that gift will take character, humility, courage, perseverance, faithfulness, wisdom, discernment.

    I have seen people very young in Jesus has these amazing gifts and it is humbling seeing them operate in their gifts if I am not fully aware of the gifts that have been given to me and being faithful with that gift.

    I believe it is a false dichotomy to seek the giver and not the gifts, or to seek character and not the gifts. I do not see that anywhere in the Bible.

    We all have lots to learn from each other.

    Tim

  10. Here’s one way I would say I experience the Holy Spirit. He brings verses to mind at appropriate (or inappropriate depending on your POV) times. A favourite seems to be Jonah 4:4 “Have you any right to be angry?” It leaves me knowing what I need to do / ought to do, and a sense that God has spoken to me.

  11. Tim, I’m 51years old and have seen gifted prophetic people come and go. I’ve been in meetings with these people and seen them move in extraordinary power only to see them fall into sexual sin. The people I respect most are those men who have developed good character .( I Corinthians 13) John Wimber was an excellent example of a man who moved in the power of the Spirit and had good character also.

  12. Hi Bobby,

    I agree that people who are involved in a public prophetic ministry have fallen because of private sin and it has been made public. I would also venture to say that a persons involvement with prophetic ministry is a not a prerequisite for a person to stumble or run into sexual sin. I am sure every reader of this blog can think of numerous people personally who have become involved in sexual sin regardless of their lack of or presence of their prophetic gifting. I want to walk both in his giftings and express his character. I will do both only to the degree of my honesty and willingness to become vulnerable to the people around me and invite them to challenge me in every area of my life. This life becomes reality when I get my identity out of sonship instead of my public face to others.

    Tim

  13. I agree Tim. I love spiritual gifts and as long as we work on character I’m fine with it. Some of these prophetic men hold up William Branham as a powerfully gifted man; and he was. He also died thinking he was Elijah. A few of the high profile prophetic guys have divorced their wives in recent times. All I’m saying supper gifting doesn’t impress me but godliness does. I could say more but it wouldn’t be appropriate.

  14. Hi Tim,
    not sure if this is the sort of thing but a couple of anecdotes sprang straight to my mind so thought I’d include them. very every day examples but anyhow:

    When I first became a christian I could NOT STOP reading God’s word. It happened overnight. I was hooked. Supernaturally. And a few times since I’ve had the same experience of that unusual hunger and drive. Those times have really equipped me through my christian life so far.

    Secondly, I distinctly remember going to a church meeting here at TCH about an issue I felt really strongly about. It was a congregation reshuffle of some sort and I thought I knew what was best (not what was being suggested!) and I had shed many tears. As I sat in the meeting (which I had been dreading!) Steve suggested we open with prayer. As someone (no idea who!) prayed the first prayer (just your standard opener that we’d all be Godly or something) I literally felt my will/heart melt within my chest. Just like that. Immediately I couldn’t remember why I had been so bothered about it all. In fact, I sat there trying to muster some of my previous angst, I was so convinced I must have been right! But there was none to be had. It turned out in retrospect that I would have been wrong, the suggestion was the right one and its been a blessing to be able to look back on that moment as God worked in my heart and knew better than I!

    Lastly, and most commonly, I would say it’s those times when God’s word springs right off the page and into my heart. Those times when words I’ve heard or read a thousand times enliven, convict, reassure, comfort, rebuke, encourage, teach me without me really even trying.

    I’m encouraged even thinking about it: thanks!
    :-)

  15. I love this question, Tim.

    The Holy Spirit is, for Evangelicals, the red-headed step-child of the Trinity. It’s a shame, really shameful. We’ve allowed our fears of charisma to get the best of us, leading to a devaluing of God and a disfigured relationship with him. For those struggling in this area, I strongly recommend that you take your eyes off of charismatic extremes and place them back on the Spirit. Begin talking to Him, know him through study, and consider all the commands to “pray in the Spirit” and begin talking to the Spirit in prayer. One reason we are weak on the Spirit because we are weak on prayer. It is the Spirit who knows the depths of God and freely discloses the understanding of God’s will and Word (1 Cor 2). Therefore, to cut Him off is to diminish our understanding (and enjoyment) of God. It stifles the advance of the Gospel.

    Here are some practical steps in relating to the Spirit:

    1. Repent for diminishing and ignoring the third Person of the Trinity. Repent for sinful self-reliance and fear-motivated neglect of the Holy Spirit. Mortify the sin that has been an obstacle to your knowing and walking with the Spirit. Receive God’s gracious forgiveness in Jesus and rejoice that the Spirit is in you!

    2. Begin addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer every day. Talk to him as a Person; don’t ignore him as an energy force. Ask him for filling and direction for your entire day. Ask him to guide your decision-making, to direct your thoughts, and to fill your heart with affection for Jesus.

    3. Read the Bible with a Holy Spirit lens. Look for him in the Bible and ask yourself: “Who does this text tell me the Spirit is?” Then, refine the way you relate to him. It’s like getting to know your wife, the more you study her the better you can love her.

  16. Some ways I’ve experienced the Spirit in my life:

    Mostly it’s showing me my sins, which I then try and fight, and then think I’ve got sorted, and then fall into them horribly and feel terrible and like I’ll never conquer them and can barely be forgiven and then I’m reminded of the cross and God’s grace and feel freed from them and able to fight them and finally make progress by trusting in Jesus’ death for them. (is this Galatians 5:5???)

    Lots of being amazed at God when studying the Bible, hearing preaching, singing great songs with other Christians when I go away knowing that following Jesus is the best thing in the world.

    Just being sure that I’m forgiven and am God’s child and heir.

    Not being able to enjoy sin any more

    Much needed help in opening my mouth to talk about Jesus, which I often resist rather than seek

    Dave

  17. Wow – big topic; I haven’t read all of the above comments, as I don’t have time right now, but wanted to leave a few random thoughts here.

    1. I completely believe in a “baptism of the Spirit” or “filling of the Spirit” as something that we should eagerly desire, but am aware that many people have not experienced it. For me the experience happened in a car travelling to Glasgow from Aberdeen and at the time I described the feeling as being aware that “God could give me infinitely more than I could take every day from now until eternity and still have infinitely more to give.”

    2. I believe that the gifts are there to build up the church and thus are a powerful tool for the gospel. If the gifts purely become inwardly focused, or are an end in themselves, they are being abused.

    3. The Holy Spirit points to Jesus, always to Jesus. If we’re looking only for the Spirit, then we’re looking in the wrong place.

    4. Gifts are gifts of grace, and are not an indication of God’s pleasure with us, or His agreement with our theology. We should not idolise someone with a powerful gift, nor should we assume that what they teach is automatically true because they exhibit a gift.

    That’s probably enough for now. Back to work ;)

  18. Pingback: Experiencing the Spirit « Tim Chester

  19. I really wanted to share this because everything came together just as God said in the Bible, yet I didn’t understand it yet. After reading the Bible I think I can define it.

    A few weeks ago I was sitting in a college class and my teacher had been talking about the importance of truth, something that I had been thinking about for quite awhile, it started to make since in my mind. This phrase entered my mind “the truth will set you free” and I felt like I understood it for the first time.

    I walked out of class and had this feeling, for about a half hour. Even though I was normally she and reserved I had no trouble talking with people and I got into a really deep discussion with one of my friends. I felt like I was telling the complete truth for the first time in my life. I told my friend that it felt like I had been stumbling around in the dark and suddenly the lights were turned on.

    In the shower today I was thinking back to that and a phrase popped into my head “the spirit of truth” so I looked it up and what I read confirmed what I had experienced.

    Jesus said that the spirit will not speak on its own, but only speak what it hears. When I heard this truth from my teacher the Holy spirit resonated within me. I also read that the spirit of truth brings clarity, and that’s exactly what I told my friend I felt like that day.

    If I had to describe it physically it was like a light was penetrating the top of my head and was shining out from my chest.

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