Reflections on our ever-present need to walk in step with the Spirit.
While reading through the end of John’s Gospel recently, I noticed how the disciples are in a grieving and fearful tight huddle until the resurrected Jesus comes to dwell among them. He gives them an assignment: “I am sending you.”
Then Jesus does something miraculous. With the blowing of his breath, he says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:19–22). This is the Holy Spirit that was promised, which they needed, but would not indwell them until Jesus departed (John 16:5–15).
In sending the Holy Spirit, Jesus was sending God’s own self to be in his people. This was a prophetic promise from the Old Testament. God would mark and seal his own people—both Jew and Gentile—and call them his very own. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s people would become one with him, in the same way that the Father God is one with his Son, the God-man, Jesus.
It is the Holy Spirit that draws people to God. Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and death, and it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us how to walk in that freedom (1 Cor. 6:19–20) and sustains us on our faith journey. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that we cannot become the children of God (John 14:17–18, Rom. 8:8–17), or do the work of God, without the seal of the Holy Spirit. That’s why the disciples needed to wait on the Spirit’s arrival. We need the Holy Spirit for our spiritual health.
We also need the Holy Spirit for our individual and familial growth. The first-century church literally grew like a wildfire. From the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on God’s people and empowered them to speak in foreign languages, the church grew by the thousands. The church’s growth was not because of social media, great marketing and strategies, charismatic leadership, big budgets, entertainment and certainly not by changing God’s holy standards to appease the masses. No. The church grew by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31) and the persecution of the church, which required the daughters and sons of God to get crystal clear about who and what they believed and to proclaim it boldly among those who did not have the same Spirit. As a matter of fact, the disciples did not get defensive or apologetic, but rather rejoiced when they had the honor of being persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name (Acts 5:40–41, 16:22–25). And the persecution motivated them to work even more to advance the gospel.
So, when anyone asks us about how to grow a healthy church, I pray that our consistent and collective response is to keep in step with or submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:16–26). That is our only hope.