When we believers struggle with the Holy Spirit in our lives, it doesn't mean we're fighting against God- not just against Him, anyway- it also means we're fighting against our own nature. Our war is a spiritual war, according to Ephesians 6:12
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Our nature as sinful people can't be trusted. On our own, we're weak. Our minds lie to ourselves, telling us we don't need God, we don't need redemption, and we don't need help.
But we do need help. And that help comes in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Over the last 20 years, I've learned a lot about God and Scripture. I learned a lot about Jesus Christ, and the early church in the book of Acts. But one thing I was hardly taught was The Holy Spirit. And the sad part is, i don't think it was intentional.
I think churches today fall into two main camps: those who completely ignore the Spirit's work in believers' lives, and those who overemphasize it to the point where even other believers think they're crazy. There seems to be no middle ground, no in-between. No common sense approach seems to have taken hold.
I'm just now, after 20 years in the faith, realizing that I knew next to nothing about the Holy Spirit. And that shouldn't be the case- certainly not in America.
What then, do we know about the Spirit? What does the Scripture say about Him? What is His role in my life?
I have spent the last few months listening to giants of the faith, and their takes on the Spirit. And you know what the most interesting thing I've discovered is?
They all believe in Him, and they've all experienced the Spirit in a huge way that they didn't initially receive when they were first saved. I'm not talking about gradual growth over years. I'm talking about in an instant, being completely smitten with God's power, love, and grace to the point of breaking.
World-famous preacher Dwight L. Moody said:
"In some sense, and to some extent, the Holy Spirit dwells with every believer; but there is another gift, which may be called the gift of the Holy Spirit for service. This gift, it strikes me, is entirely distinct and separate from conversion and assurance. God has a great many children that have no power, and the reason is, they have not the gift of the Holy Ghost for service. God doesn't seem to work with them, and I believe it is because they have not sought this gift."
This revelation came to me through someone I love dearly, and since I've been seeking it out, I have learned that many of the great Men of Faith, even in the Bible, were recipients of this "second blessing" or as some call it, "baptism in the Holy Spirit."
First, once I realized that this was real, and not some self-seeking ploy from the hyper-charismatics, I was infuriated. This blessing, this Spirit empowerment, was real! And not one of my pastors had told me about it.
The second thing I noticed was that it was all through the New Testament. In plain black and white, it's described by Paul, and Luke (in Acts). It was used to empower the Disciples with boldness, miracles, and much more. We were told this blessing was something God poured out on His people back then, but that "God doesn't work like that any more."
Except that I've seen it. And heard it. And I know they're wrong.
Why then isn't this taught in conservative churches?
Quite simply, it's two things: Fear, and Ignorance.
People fear what they don't understand. They understand Jesus. They understand the Father. But they don't understand Spirit. Any spirit. And so this massively important teaching goes completely neglected.
I think I'd have been satisfied with an explanation of "well, we know the Holy Spirit is real, but I've never experienced Him the way the Bible speaks of. But I'm praying for that blessing, as I know it's key to God working through me."
What I got instead was "I've got all the Spirit filling I need from God!"
But I'm not buying it. These people don't have the filling of the Holy Spirit that I've seen in others. I've been struggling spiritually for decades, and I'm always frustrated at why I could never reach an intimacy with God that I knew was possible. I'd do better for a while, but I recognize that trying to be good on my own strength is destined to fail- which I always do. I've never felt like I had the Power of God in my life. I thought I was just a screw-up, and I'm not the only one.
Reading through Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and Acts has opened my eyes to the entire ministry of the Holy Spirit that I was never told about.
Do we think God changes? Does God's Spirit change? Did God decide "Nah, I think I'm done with all the Spirit-y stuff. This generation can make do without My Spirit working powerfully in them."
I think we both know the answer to this question: God hasn't changed. His Spirit hasn't changed. We've turned away from the Spirit in our teaching, and for that, I'm deeply sorrowed.