How do I get the Holy Spirit?
The work of the Holy Spirit has been prevalent on my mind lately, and I've seen that there's wayyy too much confusion about it.
To help us get into the swing of things, consider this text message I received from someone the other day:
How did you read it? Since I didn't reveal my relationship to the texter, did you read it with a base layer of sarcasm? Or rudeness? Or annoyance? Or did you read it like the dreaded:
If I told you that text was from my husband, and I asked him to pick up some blueberries at the grocer, maybe you would read it with this tone:
"Okay, hunny. No problem."
This is an example of how knowing the person who's speaking helps us to know the intention behind their words.
Similarly, God doesn't coldly demand that we try to know Him, or else we'll never understand His Word... No, He gifted us with His Living Spirit who lives within all followers of Jesus, helping us to know God and hear His voice.
NOTE: Let me just say I completely understand why the whole Holy Spirit talk is so confusing. I think by the time a Christian has grown enough to understand the work of the Spirit in a way that he/she can clearly explain, it's wayyy down the road. (It's like asking a physicist to explain basic addition -- they've just learned so much more, it's hard.) So then the convo becomes too evolved, and it's hard for newer Christians to understand. So forgive me and all of us if we've made this talk more complex than can be easily accessible. I know, personally, I was weary of speaking about this when I was younger and still figuring out if I was crazy or not! :P I wasn't trying to out-talk someone about the Holy Spirit; I just didn't know what the heck I was doing!
Throughout this blog post, we'll dive into various Bible verses which explain the work of the Holy Spirit.
How do I get the Holy Spirit?
There's a lot of confusion around what it actually means to "have the Holy Spirit". Does it mean you speak in tongues, or you don't have the Spirit? Does it mean you prophesy, or you don't have the Spirit? Does it mean you clearly & definitively "hear God", or you don't have the Spirit?
No, No, and No. These aren't absolutes. I speak in tongues pretty easily, and I prophesy on occasion. And I hear God throughout my days. But these aren't prerequisites or even clear signs of the Spirit in your life. These are some ways in which the Spirit works, but all Spirit-filled believers can't do ALL of the works of the Spirit. I have yet to miraculously heal someone, though I've tried. I have yet to de-venomize snakes, nor have I tried. HAHA!
Here is the first thing you need to know about "GETTING" the Holy Spirit. It's not some radical, incomprehensible, mystical thing. It's simply this:
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
If you've repented for your sins and you've allowed Jesus to be your Savior from those sins, then you HAVE received the Holy Spirit. You don't need a sayonce. You don't need someone to smack you on the head and yell, "Receive!" You already have the Spirit! ...but keep reading to the end to find out why you might not have known this.
The Spirit of God isn't illusive to believers. God is searching for believers to give His Spirit so we can be powerful in building His Kingdom!
What does the Holy Spirit do?
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
The Holy Spirit:
- "helps us in our weakness" -- If you open your Bible and read the verses before this, you'll get context to what weakness he's referring to: bondage to corruption, moral depravity, suffering for Jesus, our limited hope outside of God.
- "intercedes for us [in prayer]" -- The Spirit helps us to pray when we don't know what to pray for. Like when your friend tells you she's going to try a new career, and you don't know whether it's a good or bad move. You don't know whether to pray protection against her losing a good career or for godspeed in getting a more rewarding career. So instead of making a judgement call, you have the opportunity to rely on the Spirit to guide your prayer. Practically speaking, you can ask God to show you a Bible verse related to this situation so you are praying His Will, not your own. And if you don't know, don't pray out of turn. Ask the Spirit to pray on behalf of your request.
- "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" -- The Spirit CHANGES events in our lives to line up with God's will. This can look like the Spirit reminding us to do/not to do something. Or someone calling out of nowhere with the exact opportunity you were looking for. He's in the details and the things we don't even realize He's working on.
***Praise break for the things the Spirit is doing that I don't even know about!!!***
I included the last verse above to be clear that the Holy Spirit doesn't help non-Christians to get their way. He isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card. When we follow the Spirit, we ought not to do things that get us into trouble. This passage is addressing "those who love God", not those who love sin. When we're being selfish and following our own sinful desires, we can't try to call on the Spirit to complete our selfish work... The Spirit intercedes for those who love God. I'm not saying people who love God don't sin, but you can't stay in habitual sin without deciding that you love your sin more than Him. God is the one who checks your heart on that, not me and not you.
What did Jesus say about the Holy Spirit?
[Jesus' words:] "If you love Me, keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you."
John 14:15, 16 and 17
The Holy Spirit:
- Is a gift from the Father to those who love & obey Jesus.
- Is an advocate to help us (love & obey Jesus).
- Will be with us forever...even when it's difficult to sense His presence.
- Is also called Spirit of Truth.
- Is unseen and unknown by those who do not accept Him. (see Matthew 12:30-37)
- Is known by Christ followers and lives within Christ followers.
HOLD UP! There's a terribly important distinction hidden in that last sentence: "But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you." The distinction is between (1) knowing the Spirit, and (2) having the Spirit. The reason why that is important is because every young Christian I've encountered is curious why they don't "hear" God. Hey, a lot of older Christians are, too. There's a distinction between having the Spirit and knowing what you have.
Have you ever gone to the gym, either for the first time or your first time to a new program? You think you're decently fit, until Trainer Helga comes and demolishes your muscles. The next 7 days are painful, because you're realizing you have muscles in places you didn't know. You realize you have them because they are sore -- because you exercised them, even before you knew the difference between your quadricep and your hamstring.
In the same way, exercising or practicing your awareness of the Spirit will help you to know where the Spirit is moving in your life.
Try this exercise:
In your life, there have been events that transpired that you can't explain. Someone calls out of the blue and offers you a job or a favor that you really needed. You get dumped by someone who really actually was an awful bf/gf. You're driving down the road and feel a twinge to take a different route home.
What is a "coincidence" or an inexplicable event that has happened in your life, big or small?
With your coincidental event in mind, will you pray and ask God what He was doing in that event?
For example, I wanted to write a blog post last week about dealing with negative opinions. I typed it out, but before publishing it, I felt the Spirit telling me not to publish it. I shleved it, not knowing why. When I prayed about it the next day, the Spirit brought a verse to mind that says, "The wrath of man doesn't produce the righteousness of God". I realized that I was wrathfully writing about the copious negative opinions I've heard, rather than writing the loving words of God. Would that blog post (written in negativity) solved the problem of negativity? HAHA NO!!! So the Spirit stopped me.
NOTE: I say "stopped" very definitively, but please keep in mind that I've been growing my awareness of the Holy Spirit in my life for about 2 decades, on and off. So my matter-of-fact language comes from a lot of experience. It takes time to get to the place where you KNOW it's the Spirit and you feel comfortable saying that. Give yourself grace to grow where you are rather than comparing yourself to other people's faith journeys. The Spirit is working on your behalf no matter your stage of faith.
Grow Your Awareness
I want you to finish reading this blog with clarity that if you follow God, if you love Him, you already have the Holy Spirit living within you. You simply need to grow your awareness. Just like it's uneasy to build muscle when you first begin exercising, it's going to take some time. God's grace is sufficient for this worthy struggle, so let His grace take you through this season of great growth.
Try the exercise above every single day for a week. At night, in the quietness of your home, turn your phone off and set it aside. Dismiss any distractions. Get still. Let your mind meditate on God. Then begin praying, asking God to reveal how the Spirit was at work in your day.
I did this for (literally years) before I could confidently say I was hearing from God. I was very unsure, then kinda unsure, then somewhat sure, then unsure again...and over lots of practice, I began hearing God speak to me through His Spirit within me.
It's going to take time, and that is where you faith will play a huge role. Do you believe these verses we read above? Do you really believe? Is it true, whether you can (yet) feel the Spirit or not? If yes, you are well on your way to that spiritual confidence in God that brings joy and peace and certainty within the turbulent world we live in.
I'm praying for you, that you would take this practice seriously yet fun, joyfully yet disciplined. That when it isn't easy, and you can't tell whether you're hearing God or not, that you would rest in faith KNOWING before you see the end result. God is doing a good work in you, and He will complete it (Philippians 1:6).