Do we understand who and what the Holy Spirit is? First we must understand what we mean by "spirit". Spirit is a specific and identifiable substance; as real as matter, but different. In our physical bodies we are matter. We have weight; we yield to gravitational pull; we have dimension and shape, and are extended into space. Matter bumps against other matter and stops. But Spirit is different in that it has the ability to penetrate. In fact, Spirit can penetrate everything. For instance, your body is made of matter, and yet your spirit has penetrated your body completely. And Spirit can penetrate spirit.
But what is the Holy Spirit? The answer is that He is a Being dwelling in another mode of existence. He doesn't have weight; can't be measured or sized; doesn't have color, or extend into space. But He nevertheless exists as surely as you and I do. He is a Person, with all the qualities and powers of a personality.
We often think of Him as being the literal breath, or wind, of God. If that's how you see Him, then you think of Him as nonpersonal and nonindividual. But the Holy Spirit has will and intelligence and feeling and knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think and hear and speak and desire the same as any person has.
[I would venture to say that] many of us have grown up on the theology that accepts the Holy Spirit as a Person, and even as a divine Person, but for some reason it hasn't done us any good. We are as empty as ever; we are as joyless as ever; we are as far from peace as ever; we are as weak as ever. Why?
Historically, the Church has recognized the Holy Spirit as God. I mean, how many of us grew up on the Nicene Creed: "we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified". We say we believe this, just as we believe the Scripture: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Yet, if you would go to most churches and ask the preacher, "Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?" he would reply, "Sure, I do!" He believes it, but he doesn't teach it, and what you don't believe strongly enough to teach won't be evident in your life.
It is the same with being filled with the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but few experience it. Instead, this truth has been buried under mounds of inactivity and inattention, although the Lord Jesus made it clear this was His intention for Believers. Jesus spoke of the "promise of His Father" in Luke 24:49, which was a reference to the promised Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28-29, It shall come about after this that I shall pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
This promise was realized when the Father poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. He wanted to take religion out of the external and make it internal and put it on the same level as life itself, so that a man knows he knows God the same as he knows he is alive and not dead. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can do that. The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from books [and rituals and traditions] into the human heart. The problem is that we too often try to confirm the truth of our Christianity [or faith] by appealing to external evidence. But the proof lies in an invisible, powerful, but unseen energy that visits the human soul and spirit when the authentic Gospel is preached.
Jesus came to do away with a religion that depended on external evidence, and gave us the promised Holy Spirit that brings a bright, emotional quality to our faith. What's more, we have inherited what He gave the Apostles -- direct spiritual authority that removes our fears, our questions, our apologies, and our doubts; an authority founded upon life in the Holy Spirit.
But, I want to explore a thought, here ... If you believe that the spiritual grace and power which was given to the First-Century Christians was only for them, or that it is unnecessary for us to desire it individually because it was given to "the Church", once and for all, then I have a question for you. Does each Christian need to individually be "born again" for his faith to be valid? Can you get born again by proxy? The fact that those first 120 at Pentecost were born again, does that mean that we don't have to be?
I'm assuming your answer was "no". In that case, is the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which those first Christians received, enough for us? Does it cover you and me? If not, [and if we have yet to experience the fullness of the Spirit] is our state a satisfactory fulfillment of the expectations of the Father and Christ? Didn't Jesus express that there were certain high expectations of what the Father was going to do for His redeemed people? Didn't He raise an expectation that was simply beyond words [and our ability to comprehend]; something so wonderful and beautiful and thrilling that it is hard for us to imagine? He gave us so much more than words can express, and the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment.
But look around us ... are we living up to that expectation for His people? Are we possessed by the Holy Spirit, and does our life reflect it? Is our life evidence of His internal presence flowing out of us in immeasurable fruit? Here is what I believe is an unmistakable truth: Satan has opposed the doctrine of a Spirit-filled life about as strongly as any other doctrine there is. He has confused it, challenged it, and surrounded it with false beliefs and fears. He has blocked every effort of the Church to receive from the Father her divine and blood-bought inheritance. The Church has tragically neglected this great liberating truth -- that there is now, for every child of God a full and wonderful and completely satisfying blessing of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
But here's the rest of that truth: You must believe that this is nothing added or extra to the Christian experience. The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part of the total plan of God for His people. It is not abnormal -- perhaps unusual, because we see so few people who walk in the light of it. We must believe that the Holy Spirit is the essence of Jesus imparted to Believers, and we have a right to a full, Spirit-filled life, purchased by the blood of Jesus on the Cross.
But here's the catch ... Before you can be filled with the Spirit, you must desire to be filled. I think, for too many people, there is fear or doubt when it comes to being possessed by a spirit other than their own. [They don't want to give up control]. And here is the kicker ... that Spirit, if He ever possesses you, will be the Lord of your life! If we're honest, we will admit we want His benefits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control/discipline). But do we truly want to be possessed by Him? Because He will not tolerate self-confidence, self-love, self-righteousness, self-magnification, or self-pity. Through God's holy Nature and Authority, He forbids these characteristics and He cannot send His mighty Spirit to possess the heart where these characteristics reside.
So we must decide if we are willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, and if we are willing to advance from our early stages of salvation to cultivate His presence, so that He might illuminate and bless and lift and purify and direct our lives. We must decide if we are willing to give up all so that we might have the All. And it is time to answer the hard questions ... Are we ready to give up our social concept of religion for the greater truth of the spiritual? Have we watered down the New Testament until it has no strength or taste in it? Are we more influenced by the world, and others' opinions, so that much of what passes for the Gospel Message today is little more than orthodox religion grafted on to a heart that is sold out to the world and its pleasures, tastes, and ambitions?
We must cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit if we desire to be possessed by Him. We must dedicate ourselves to the glory of Jesus, honoring Him by doing the things He told us to do, trusting Him as our All, following His voice as our Shepherd, and obeying Him fully. When we honor Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit will become the aggressor and seek to know us, and raise us to new heights of faith, enlighten us spiritually, fill us, and bless us!
I have just one more point: Cultivate the art of recognizing the presence of the Spirit everywhere. Begin by opening your Bible, getting on your knees, and saying, "Father, here I am. Begin to teach me".
FULL DISCLOSURE: While I am in full agreement with these thoughts ... they are not mine. What I have presented to you is a compilation of a series of sermons by one of the most preeminent theologians of the last century, A.W. Tozer. These are his words -- all of them -- they are not mine. This self-taught theologian lived from 1897-1963 and committed his life to the ministry of God's Word.
I ran across his tiny little 64-page book, titled "How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit" and read it in one sitting. While a man's thoughts are never a substitute for God's, I found Tozer's words to be written in the spirit of the Scriptures, and I was only slightly surprised to find that those thoughts mirrored my own. Although I'm not as bold as he, to declare that modern Christianity in the Church is a "pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh", I do recognize that, too often, the power of the Holy Spirit has left the building and been replaced by a weakened Gospel that leaves Christians influenced by man-made traditions and teachings, and suffering oppression from the devil. [I am reminded of the Disciples in John, Chapter 6, who were offended by Jesus's teachings, and turned away from Him, forfeiting all that He had to offer them].
So, I applaud A.W. Tozer for his straight-forward representation of the Holy Spirit. It saddens me to think that the weakness he saw in the Church three-quarters of a century ago is still prevalent, and I urge you to heed his instruction. Talk to the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is a Person! He desires relationship! And He wants you to become His sanctuary. He brings great power and revelation with Him, and if we surrender to Him, the most simple and menial task becomes a ministry to the glory of God. Search the Scriptures to see what is revealed about the Holy Spirit. Then, as Tozer says, "pray and yield; obey and believe". See if ALL of what the Lord gave us is what you desire. And then ask Him to fill you and possess you!
John 6:63 “The Holy Spirit is the One who gives life, that which is of the natural realm is of no help. The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.”