1. The Holy Spirit Is Not an “IT”
Too often we talk about the Holy Spirit as a thing, not a person. When we talk about the Spirit, we too often say things like, “It does this and it does that.” He is the third person of the Godhead. He is not an “it.”
The Spirit of God cannot be controlled or manipulated. His presence isn’t brought upon by dimmed lights, fog machines, or music. The Spirit of God isn’t a feeling. He is a person, just as the Father and the Son are persons.
2. The Holy Spirit is Experienced by Faith
There is not any biblical evidence that supports the idea that the Holy Spirit can be physically felt. Things like goosebumps, tingling feelings, or an inner warmness are commonly attributed to “feeling” the Spirit, but those things are simply not how the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit.
The way we experience the Holy Spirit is the same way we experience almost all things of God – by faith (see Ephesians 3.17). Scripture tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19) and I believe it. I accept and experience that fact by faith – meaning we have “assurance” and “conviction” about Him, though we don’t experience Him with any of our five senses (see Hebrews 11.1).
3. The Holy Spirit is Known by His Fruit
So the natural question is, “Then how do we know we have the Holy Spirit?” The answer is, by the fruit in your life. If God’s Spirit is living in you and you are walking by His Spirit, then your life will produce a fruit that has certain characteristics.
A living orange tree produces a fruit which is round, orange, juicy, covered with a peel, and contains seeds. A person in whom the Spirit of God dwells will produce a fruit that has the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).
4. The Spirit Dwells in the Body
And now let’s get into the most important thought. We all know the church is the body of Christ. But by “the church” I don’t mean a local congregation or even all the Christians in the world. When I say “the church,” I mean all of God’s people who are living now and all those who have ever lived.
Though they’re dead, the apostles and prophets are still part of the church (Ephesians 2.20). I don’t mean they “were” part of the church. I mean, they “are” part of the church. God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22.32).
A person’s spirit is what gives his or her body life, strength, and power. Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who gives the body of Christ life, strength, and power. He unites us and brings us together in love. He not only unites the living, but also unites the living with those who’ve gone on before. Though some are dead, they still speak (see Hebrews 11:4). The Spirit gives life to Scripture (Hebrews 4.12; 2 Timothy 3.16-17) and He gives life to the cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12.1).
The Spirit of God edifies, encourages, comforts, teaches, and leads us through the various parts of the body (see 1 Corinthians 12). He carried along the prophets and apostles as they wrote Scripture (2 Peter 1.21). So when Scripture is read, the Holy Spirit is continuing to work through the inspired writers to strengthen the body of Christ. In the living church, teachers, evangelists, shepherds, and servants walk by faith, using their gifts to serve one another (1 Peter 4.10). In this way, the body of Christ “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4.16) through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to stop thinking the Holy Spirit will empower us the same way He empowered the apostles or even the Christians in the first century. Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, are not gone from the body; they are the foundation (see Ephesians 2.20). The Spirit unites us with them and edifies us through their gifts every time we open the Bible. The Spirit comforts us – not with a shallow and temporary warm tingling feeling – but through the physical and tangible service of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So if you want to know the Holy Spirit, you must be in the church where He does His work and you must read Scripture to hear the words He gave the apostles and prophets. The Spirit works in the church – of the past, present, and future – “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12.7). He wants to work through you to strengthen and comfort others by your ordinary God-glorifying acts of service and obedience (see Romans 12.3-8; 1 Peter 4.7-11).
– Wes McAdams, www.radicallychristian.com