Following Jesus, Led by the Holy Spirit

[This article is also available in Urdu here.]

Who or what are we following?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word became words.”

This quote, by artist Jillian Stovell,[1]  identifies one of the shortcomings of much of Christianity – that is, giving preference to the words of the Bible, above the actual person of Jesus Christ, who is called the Word by the Apostle John.   As followers of Jesus, our main focus should be on the person of Jesus.[2]

The Holy Scriptures are inspired, authoritative and tremendously important!  The Gospels in particular tell us a lot about Jesus and his ministry.  And the gospel writers have recorded some of Jesus’ own words and teaching.   The Bible tells us how to follow Jesus, but it does not replace Jesus as the person who we are invited to worship and walk with in a close, enduring relationship.

Christianity is Spiritual

When we have entrusted our life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us. We simply cannot follow Jesus or receive his Salvation without the Holy Spirit’s supernatural guidance and intervention.[3]  The Holy Spirit connects us spiritually to God the Father and to Jesus.[4]  In fact, everything about Christianity is intrinsically spiritual! [See endnote 5.]

While most Christians acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal or pledge – a kind of “down-payment” guaranteeing our future and final stage of salvation,[6] many do not pursue a deep dependence and intimate relationship with this third person of the Trinity.  Nor do they eagerly desire or seek the spiritual gifts (such as prophecy), despite Paul’s clear encouragement that we should do so.[7]

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The Holy Spirit as Jesus’ Replacement

After Jesus’ earthly ministry – including his redemptive death and resurrection from the dead, Jesus returned to heaven and is now seated at the Father’s right hand in glory.  The Holy Spirit was sent to earth in Jesus’ place.  At this present time, the Holy Spirit is effectively Jesus’ representative and agent on earth.[8]  The Holy Spirit is even referred to as the Spirit of Christ in the Bible.[9]

The Holy Spirit is a good gift from God[10] – an essential gift.  We must explore our relationship with the Spirit and become more aware of his presence in our hearts and lives.  We must learn to sense his leading and teaching so that we can become more obedient to him.  In this way we effectively follow Jesus and become more like Jesus in the process. One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles is to help us become more and more like Jesus!

Fearing the Spirit’s Power?

Perhaps one of the reasons why many mainstream, Evangelical Christians follow the words of the Bible more than the person of Jesus is because they mistrust the deeper workings of the Holy Spirit; and in so doing, they miss out on much of the vitality, power and joy of the Christian life.

There is nothing to fear from the Holy Spirit.  While the Holy Spirit can come like a mighty, rushing wind,[11] it seems that more often he acts as a gentle, quiet voice.  Some people have been suspicious, and even alarmed, by some of the unusual and unwise practices of more extreme forms of Pentecostal ministry, but we should not let extremes deter us from fully appreciating the good gift from God.[12]  We should embrace the Holy Spirit and welcome him into the deepest recesses of our being without any fear or apprehension.  He is our loving and supportive comforter and counsellor.

As Christians, at times it can be difficult to distinguish between our own thoughts and desires and those of the Holy Spirit.  At times it can be difficult to distinguish between our own human emotions and genuine spiritual fervour.  But we should not let these difficulties dissuade us from pursuing greater intimacy and greater knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Church

God wants us to be strong and courageous Christians; he wants us to minister effectively as Jesus did.  Jesus relied completely on the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power during his earthly ministry, and we should also.

The Holy Spirit has been wonderfully at work, in and among Christians, throughout the church’s almost 2000 year history.  He has manifested himself powerfully at times.  There is nothing new about Pentecostal power and we should not shy away from the more powerful demonstrations and manifestations of the Spirit’s supernatural ministry.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The words of the Bible are alive and inspired and authoritative, but Christians do not just follow words; we are in a vital relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. As people committed to following Jesus authentically, wanting to experience the fullness of the life that he offers, we must deliberately follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and pursue his spiritual gifts and empowerment.  The Holy Spirit and Jesus are inextricably bound together, so following Jesus means following the Holy Spirit.

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Endnotes

[1] Quoted in The Journey Ahead for the 21st Century Church and its Leadership, by Stephen W. Hinks, Carillion Graphic Communications, Australia, 2006.

[2] Hebrews 12:2a

[3] Titus 3:5-6

[4] Ephesians 2:18

[5] Christianity is essentially spiritual.  As children of God:

  • Our spirits are regenerated and reborn by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Rom 8:10; Titus 3:5-6: cf 1 John 5:1).
  • Our spirit is united with Christ’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:17).
  • We are led and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:5-9&14).
  • We are temples of the Holy Spirit.  (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21-22)
  • We can have the mind of Christ with spiritual understanding, through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:9-16).
  • Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit (John 14:20 & 23; Rom 8:9-10; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:22; 3:16-17).
  • We are given spiritual gifts and abilities by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:1-11).
  • We are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:8; Eph 3:16).
  • We have been given the Holy Spirit as a seal, or deposit, guaranteeing our eternal inheritance (Rom 8:15-17; 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30).
  • We have access to God the Father in prayer (because of Jesus), but the Holy Spirit provides the connection (Rom 8:26-27; Eph 2:18; 6:18).
  • We are ministers of the New Covenant, the Covenant of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:5-8).

[6] 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Romans 8:23

[7] 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 39

[8] John  14:15-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-15

[9] Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11.

[10] Luke 11:9-13, especially verse 13b

[11] Acts 2:1-4

[12] While some extreme forms of Pentecostal Christianity can seem downright silly, the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit is entirely biblical.

Image credit: © Arthur Carlo Franco (iStockphoto)


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