by Polly Gwinn

Have you ever wondered why some believers are spiritually vibrant while others act unexcited about their salvation or even despondent about life? Some churches are "on fire" but others seem asleep. Their worship services are cold and no one is preaching the truth of the Gospel. What accounts for the difference is our relationship with the Holy Spirit.

God's Spirit is essential to the life of faith, but tragically, many believers do not understand who He is, why He came or how He works in our lives. First of all, the Holy Spirit's ministry is crucial to salvation, even though the person is unaware of His work while being attracted to Jesus and investigating Christianity.

The Father uses the Spirit to draw us toward the Savior (John 6:44). Before we are saved we are spiritually dead and unable, on our own, to understand the things of God (Ephesians 2:1, 1 Corinthians 2:14). The Holy Spirit enlightens our mind so that we are able to understand what the Word says. In addition, He convicts unbelievers of their sin and convinces them about the Savior's righteousness as well as the coming judgment for sin. Through the Holy Spirit we receive new life in Christ upon our salvation. He indwells us in order to live the Christian life through us (John 3:1-21).

Another aspect of the Spirit's ministry is our sanctification. Though we will never be perfect in this life, the Holy Spirit is at work building godly character in us so that we increasingly resemble Jesus Christ. A brand new revelation about a familiar verse or peaceful reaction to a trial can be evidence of this progressive transformation (Galatians 5:22). A third characteristic is that the Spirit's ministry is vital to our service. Every believer is called to serve the Lord for the greater good of the entire Body and the Spirit of God endows each Christian with a spiritual gift for that purpose (1 Corinthians 12:7). Jesus assigned His disciples a humanly impossible mission but then sent the empowering Holy Spirit, who enabled them to succeed in leading the lost to Christ (Matthews 28:19-20, Luke 24:49). God has a purpose for each of us but in our own strength we are doomed to failure and must rely on the strength of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:13).

The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all the divine attributes ascribed to the Father and the Son are equally ascribed to the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes born again by believing and receiving Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13, John 3:3-21), God resides in that person through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16). The Holy Spirit has intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), emotion (Romans 15:30) and will (1 Cor. 12:11). A primary role of the Holy Spirit is that He bears witness of Jesus Christ (John 15:26, 16:14). He tells people's hearts about the truth of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit also acts as a Christian's teacher (1 Cor. 2:9-14) and reveals God's will and God's truth to a Christian (John 14:26, John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will build into our lives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Christians are told to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) thus allowing spiritual growth (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4).

The Holy Spirit performs functions for the non-Christians as well. He convicts person's hearts of God's truth concerning how sinful the un-saved person is and how much we need God's forgiveness. The Holy Spirit tugs at hearts and minds, asking (He never pushes) for repentance and urging us to turn to God and a new life. We do not pray to the Holy Spirit to confess our sins nor do we plead to the Spirit for forgiveness. As Jesus taught in the Lord's Prayer, prayers go to the Father so that the Son may step in for us now as He did when on earth. The different persons of the Trinity do different things. The Spirit moves you to turn to God in prayer and repentance, brings to mind that there is hope in doing so and makes you aware of the truth and the need (John 16:8). The Spirit prays with you and when you reach the point where your prayers get stopped by human limits, the Spirit picks it up and keeps it pointed upward to the Father (Rom. 8:26-27). Remember this the next time you feel "inadequate" or "intimidated" in prayer. The devil will do anything to get our minds off of our "really praying" by telling us that someone else can do it better, that God only listens to preacher/teacher's prayers or by telling us that we need to "learn to pray before we speak out loud".

Throughout Christian history there have been stories of people whose prayers have astonishing effects. In the Book of Kings, Elijah prays and God makes incredible things happen. Today there are some leaders whom many people look up to as "prayer warriors". This is not what powerful prayer is about. James 5:16-17 writes in praise of Elijah's powerful prayers but then says that Elijah had "a nature like us". This meant that God's Holy Spirit had entered him and he was operating in the gift of faith. The gift of faith is a special gift which is given supernaturally by the Spirit as He wills (1 Cor. 12:9 and 11).

Those who operate in the gift of the Spirit can believe God in such a way that God honors their word as His own, and miraculously brings to pass the desired result. Anyone can be a mighty prayer warrior. You can be one! It takes hard work and a dedication to read the Word of God regularly with the faith that the Holy Spirit that resides within you can teach you all things, including how to pray. In prayer, we go from thinking about or talking about God to talking with God and listening when God calls. It is by grace through faith that we were saved and it is by faith that we can approach the throne of grace that we may receive mercy (Hebrews 4:16). "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22).

One of the great spiritual problems with man is that God keeps doing things in us, with us and for us but we still believe it is our own choice and by our own strength. We are so blessed to have a God that will continue to work within our pitiful minds to steady us and be our strength even in times that we do not recognize where the strength comes from. Our opening up to Christ is something that is done solely by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit starts to re-create you to have the character of Christ. The new you, powered with new gifts from the Spirit, willingly works with the Holy Spirit on this re-making. The old you is still within you, fighting these changes and the devil is helping you all you will allow. A person spends his entire life in this struggle but we are encouraged by Paul's words; "not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Phil. 3:12-20). Know this; after entering you upon salvation, the Holy Spirit will not leave you as you were but take you from glory to glory. "We are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). How quickly the Holy Spirit works in changing you will depend on how quickly you submit to His will.

"Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant" (1 Cor. 12:1). There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit and each is the manifestation of the Spirit (12:4-7). These gifts are listed in verses 8-10 and for the purpose of this study we will refer to them as the "greater gifts". The "lesser gifts" are special gifts given also by the Holy Spirit in order to administer or use the greater gifts that they are given. These "little gifts" can be recognized by the things you do that you cannot explain how you knew to do them. Such as comforting someone when you do not know the circumstances, an uncanny sense of timing and the sudden disappearance of fear that may have held you back from something you needed to say or do. These "little gifts" include: Missionary ... to minister whatever other spiritual gifts you have in a second culture or community (2 Cor. 2:17); intercession... enables Christians to pray for extended periods of time with great positive effect for the building of the kingdom (Eph. 6:19, Phil. 4:6); craftsmanship ... ability to use your hands and minds through artistic or creative means (Ex. 28:3-4); hospitality ... opening up your homes willingly and offering food, bed and fellowship (2 Kings 4:8-10); mercy ... exceptional empathy and compassion for those suffering (Luke 10:33-34); giving ... material blessings offered to the church willingly (2 Cor. 8:1-7); administration ... keeping the church on course (2 Cor. 8:17-21); help ... bearing the burdens of others (Gal. 6:2); serving ... identifying unmet needs and making plans to meet those needs (Isaiah 58:6-7); exhortation ... standing by fellow Christians in need and bringing comfort, counsel and encouragement (Acts 11:23-24, 14:21-22); music ... praising God through various forms of music (1 Cor. 14:26, Mark 14:26).

What the Holy Spirit gives us is NOT an unspecified magical power or method or tool which gives each of us an ability to be like Christ. Instead, the Spirit gives us Jesus Christ Himself. "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). This divine presence in itself is the greatest gift of all. Ask God for a renewing of the Holy Spirit, accept His power in your life, live like you are a child of the King and "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).

The Christian Counter