The church wasn’t born at Christmas. The incarnation wasn’t enough to establish the gathering of the new covenant people of God. And the church wasn’t born during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus didn’t establish any churches as a part of His work here on earth. Presumably, He could have spelled out a lot of things and got them off on a good footing, but He didn’t. The church wasn’t born at Easter, either. Jesus’ resurrection, as crucial as it was, wasn’t enough to launch the church. Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days, but He chose not to set the church in motion. Even Jesus’ ascension wasn’t enough to start the church. The church wasn’t born as Jesus was carried up into heaven. As amazing as that event was, it left the disciples “with great joy” “continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52-53), but there was still no church.
The church wasn’t born until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And as it was being established, it was clear that the Holy Spirit was the One building and expanding it. It was His power that fuelled its growth. His presence is obvious and prominent in the biblical record. Is His presence obvious in your church? Is His presence obvious in your life? Those questions sound like they’re for the local Pentecostal church. At times, Pentecostals and Charismatics have become so preoccupied with the Spirit that Jesus seems like a lost uncle. Other churches have responded by swinging the pendulum in the other direction. They’re all about Jesus but the Holy Spirit becomes ‘He who shall not be named.’ That’s unfortunate. Does your church need the Holy Spirit? Or are you doing just fine without Him? Here are three signs that you don’t think you need the Holy Spirit:
1. You feel pretty confident about your resources and abilities.
People who don’t rely on the Holy Spirit, inevitably rely on themselves. This was one of the big criticisms of the church in Laodicea. In their mind, they were rich and had greatly prospered. They didn’t need anything! But Jesus’ evaluation was different. He rebuked them for not realizing that they were, “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). A reliance on the Holy Spirit starts with a recognition that our natural talents and abilities ultimately count for nothing without the spiritual resources that only God can provide.
2. You’re able to get by and do most things without prayer.
After three years of Jesus’ investment in them, the disciples were, in one sense, some of the best trained shepherds and evangelists that you could ever find. But all that training was still of limited value. Jesus promised that it was only as the Holy Spirit came upon them that they would “receive power” and be His “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). After they received the Holy Spirit, they continued to seek God’s power in prayer (Acts 2:42). Gatherings for prayer resulted in people being “filled with the Holy Spirit” and emboldened to share the good news (Acts 4:31). Do you feel the same urgency to gather with other believers for prayer? Or do you think you can get by on your own?
3. You have a ‘right understanding’ of the Holy Spirit but don’t think about Him very much.
Many Christians pride themselves in getting the doctrine of the Holy Spirit right. They know how those other Christians misunderstand Him. But many Christians with an orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit, don’t think about Him very much. By contrast, the New Testament presents the filling of the Holy Spirit as the means by which we’re to live the Christian life. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, consciously submitting to His power and will for your life is the way that He energizes your growth and fuels your joy (Ephesians 5:18-21).
Are you living like you don’t need the Holy Spirit? Agree with Jesus when He said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Pray daily that God would fill you with His Spirit and give you grace to submit to His leading in your life. Become an ‘ask-seek-knock’ Christian (Matthew 7:7) and do everything with prayer. And make gathering with other believers for prayer a priority in your life. Let’s seek God together for what He would do in our midst!
In awe of Him,