Experiencing the Spirit

Thanks to everyone who responded to my post asking for people’s experiences of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some common themes (with the warning from Marcus Honeysett against making our experience normative for everyone else):

  • a passion for the word, for prayer or for intimacy with Jesus
  • enabling us to hear God speaking through his word, other people, circumstances, promptings and words of prophecy
  • conviction of sin, a desire for personal change or a removal of sinful desires or preoccupations
  • an assurance of forgiveness and our adoption

Matt was not sure he ever ‘felt’ an experience of the Spirit, but could see the effects of the Spirit’s work in his life. I’ve been pondering Matt’s statement. I’m sure it’s true that genuine Christians often do not ‘feel’ an experience of the Spirit even when he is at work in their lives. But I was reading Galatians this morning and I’m not sure we can be content with this. Perhaps those us from conversative and Reformed circles have over-reacted against the excesses of some who seek experiences. Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:1-5 and 4:1-7 depends on an appeal to the Holy Spirit as someone who is directly and clearly experienced by believers. Without this the argument backfires! His argument is ‘You experience the Spirit through faith and without law.’ If the Galatians are at all uncertain about their experience of the Spirit then they will conclude, ‘We need to law to have this experience of the Spirit about which Paul writes.’

One or two suggested ideas for increasing our experience or awareness of the Spirit. Julie asks God ‘for eyes to see him present in my life’. Marcus bemoans the infrequency with which we ask one another, ‘What is God doing with you at the moment?’ In other words, we may not always have to ‘do’ anything to experience more of the Spirit. What we may need is a greater awareness of what the Spirit is already doing in our lives.

Jonathan Dobson offers three ‘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.

5 thoughts on “Experiencing the Spirit

  1. I’m not convinced that those passages in Galatians lead to that conclusion. Paul was writing to people who had experienced life pre-pentecost. No one reading this blog has experienced life as a believer pre-pentecost. If we had, and experienced the change in the cosmic order that people did at that time, fair enough. But many Christians have believed since early childhood and don’t know what life apart from the Holy Spirit is like. They could be experiencing his leading as much as any other Christian but never feel quite that way. I think the same could work for Romans 5:5.

    These things aside, we could always do with more understanding and acknowlegement of the wonderful things the Spirit does. Everything obedient I do is him working a miracle!

  2. I think that’s the point I want to make. As you say, people could be experiencing the leading of the Spirit, but never feel quite that way. So let’s encourage one another to recognise and celebrate the work of the Spirit in our lives and to look for it more. Let’s not allow a fear of extremes to prevent us from experiencing the Spirit.

  3. Sometimes I feel tingling or heat when i lay hands on people. I don’t always feel it but some times i do. I think we should always weigh carefully where the feelings come from.
    I would suggest being in a small group and asking the holy spirit, who is always with you, to reveal the love that he has for you. share what ever comes to mind, mental pictures, phrases or single words. Have each person reflect out loud on all these new things.
    You can lay hands on anyone who has been baptized and ask Jesus to pour his love into that person. It can be good to pray for specific parts of the body[hands feet ears etc] that the spirit seems to high light for you. Obviously you always ask permission before you touch anyone and use discretion. This for me is the ultimate adventure and if you listen to one another and pay attention to the very quiet whispers of the spirit you will receive something incredible.

  4. I still have reservations about the idea of adressing God the Holy Spirit in prayer. Is there any encouragement in Scripture to do this? To not address the Holy Spirit directly is not to ignore Him, but merely recognises the different roles of the three persons of the Trinity in our lives. We are prompted, aided and empowered by God the Holy Spirit to pray to God our heavenly Father through the access gained and opened for us by God the Son. The primary intention of both the Holy Spirit and Jesus christ was to bring glory to God the Father, not to bring attention to themselves.
    I’m not saying it is completely ‘wrong’ to ever address the Holy Spirit directly. God is God. However, I do think it confuses our understanding of one God in three persons. In my experience this also only confuses our dealings with Muslims and Jews when we try to explain how one God can be a Trinity of three distinct persons. Addressing God the Holy Spirit directly in prayer makes it sound as if we are dealing with three separate Gods, none of whom we must neglect.
    I have no disagreement with the fact that those of us in Reformed circles – missional or not – have a tendency to avoid discussing the person and work of the Holy Spirit and that we do neglect His working in us. I’m just not persuaded that regularly addressing the Holy Spirit in our prayers is the answer, although I’m very willing to be challenged on this if someone can show from Scripture why it is something I should be doing and have been neglecting.

    Enjoy Grace!

  5. Hi mate

    I had some “interesting” and, to some, “extreme” experiences when in my early twenties that I didn’t feel that free to comment about on the blog. No experience was sought, in fact all were contrary to my own understanding of the Holy Spirit. Never was looking to “feel” the impact of the Spirit, but was pretty upended by it (literally). I don’t have a category to put that stuff to this day.

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