The empowerment that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God is not at all surplus to need and one we can do without. Even though we may not officially declare that to be our position, our actions, however, may tell a different story and speak otherwise when we demonstrate reluctance and are unenthusiastic or passive in our seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is imperative that we maintain a keen desire and sharp hunger for Him in our lives if we are to receive the promise recognising the benefits of His infilling and our need for Him in our Christian lives. We need to continually keep on seeking Him and be empowered by Him in acknowledgment of the benefits He is designed to bring and the essential role He is meant to play in our lives here on earth.
The question of the essentiality of the abiding and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a no brainer as Jesus emphatically commanded the disciples not to budge from where they were (let alone attempt to embark on their mission) without receiving the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives that comes from baptism in Him.
Being clothed with power from on high is so essential that we see the Lord warning His disciples not budge anywhere until they have been so. Being baptised, drenched, overwhelmed and filled with The Holy Spirit is an indispensable tool necessary for the effective carrying out of the task of testifying to the saving power of Christ, being His witnesses and holding high His banner declaring His lordship. None of this can be (or was ever meant to be) effectively carried out or executed without the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is as if The Lord is saying that the task in hand to which He called and appointed us and the environment that we are being thrusted into requires, not only the abiding presence of a comforter but the empowering element of the Divine too.
Power is needed and required because it is enemy territory we operate in and it is enemy territory that we are invading. We are at the heart of the cosmic battle between good and evil, on the very battleground where souls are being wrestled from the grips of the enemy’s hand and he is not going to take it lying down. Supernatural power is required because the mission field is the world, which, by and large, is under the sphere of influence of the enemy from under whose nose we are to snatch his captives and set them free for Christ. The context, as put by Christ himself, is like sheep going out in the midst of wolves – Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
It is His (the Holy Spirit’s) increased presence that imbues us with the power, boldness and fearlessness associated with a witnessing lifestyle that deliberately and intentionally reaches out to one’s neighbour purely out of love and care for them.
The essentiality of the requirement of the Holy Spirit is therefore undeniable – don’t even attempt it without the Holy Spirit and His power in your life.
In previous seasons and discourses on the Holy Spirit the Lord had also been very clear that He never meant to leave them alone upon His return to the Father but that He would send another comforter, someone else to abide with His followers, with us here on earth. The Holy Spirit is our abiding comforter, counsellor and advocate, the One who stands with and by us all the time, in all situations and circumstances of life unlike no other. He is there to stand for us, on our behalf and benefit, to fight our case, to lead us in paths of righteousness and into the truth that in turn brings us into the freedom wrought for us by the Son of God.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,… John 16:13
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
You are not expected to dig or discover truth through speculation and on your own but through the words of Christ and in dependence on the Spirit of God whose role it is to do precisely that. And when He does, it is not only about knowing the truth but entering into the freedom its discovery is designed to bring.
It is convinced of this truth of our need of this supernatural and awesome power that we continue to seek His infilling united and open to however God wants to execute it free from any presumptions and assumptions – just open and putting our trust in Him and His promises.
Further benefits (again essential, as none are surplus to requirement) the Holy Spirit’s powerful and overwhelming presence is designed to bring in our lives can be found scattered all over the entire New Testament especially in the realm of our own, personal prayer life.
In Jude 1:20-21 we are encouraged and exhorted to pray in the Holy Spirit in the context of building ourselves up in the faith with a clear implication that praying in the Spirit plays a key role in building ourselves up in the faith.
But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.
Again, in Ephesians 3:14-17 this time the Apostle Paul in one of his potent prayers for the Ephesian saints clearly indicates that the strengthening in power of our inner person is effected via none other than the agent of the Holy Spirit.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,…
It is God’s explicit intention that we be strengthened in our spirits (inner persons) with power through His Spirit. There lies another major and irreplaceable role that the Spirit of God plays in our lives. It is where we experience the tangible power of God deep within us (through His Spirit), strengthening our faith and eliminating any doubt of our being in Christ and Him being in us. Christ is already there and the purpose is not to bring more of Christ in us but to lift and build up our faith so that we grow in our confidence of His presence in us and with us. It is basically a faith building exercise.
In Romans 8:26-27 the apostle Paul introduces and expands on another key benefit of the Holy Spirit’s abiding presence in our lives.
Likewise 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 groanings 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.
The Spirit of God steps into our world at that point of weakness – where we do not know what to pray for as we ought to – to lift us out of that realm and transport us directly into a realm where our weakness is superseded by His strength. He intercedes on our behalf according to the perfect will of God – something that we often miss and don’t get. Elsewhere we are indeed encouraged and instructed on how to practise the art of discerning the perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-3) which we are to regularly do. However, as we do not do that regularly and we are in an ever fluctuating learning curve ourselves, we are often caught out in life in this weakness, hence the invaluable intervention of the Spirit of God who knows the mind of God unfailingly.
One of the most frequently manifested gift of the Spirit at baptism is singled out by Paul as a major tool of building oneself up spiritually. In 1 Corinthians 14:2-4 Paul explains that the gift of tongues is not so much meant for horizontal but vertical communication, communication with God and not with men. In fact, the person speaking in tongues themselves do not even understand what they are saying for it is not a natural language but a supernatural gift the exercise of which bypasses the natural human mind. It is a spiritual language of communication with the Divine that temporarily disables the natural mind during its operation.
For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
When speaking in tongues without interpretation present, it is God that one is addressing directly bypassing not only others but one’s own natural/human mind too. This builds your spirit up immensely strengthening the inner man and your spiritual person even though you do not even understand what it is you are saying. The gift of tongues operates purely in the spiritual (and not natural) realm. The apostle Paul observes that whenever you are speaking in tongues your mind may well be out disengaged but your spirit has already made its way to the gym and is engaged in some serious spiritual work out developing the muscles required to land those match-deciding killer punches on the flesh. What a privilege to have such a gift, a supernatural gym facility for our spirits to work out and develop the required muscles and fitness of spirit to overcome the world and the flesh!
The apostle Paul concludes with a cautionary note that both praying in tongues and praying with the mind have their respective places in the healthy Christian’s life and that these are not meant to cancel each other out.
1 Corinthians 14:14-15
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
Praying in the Holy Spirit therefore has a threefold objective:
- To build us, our inner person, our spirits, up,
- To strengthen our spiritual person or inner man through power. And finally,
- To assist us in prayer by transporting us directly into the throne room of God with prayer that is unmistakably in line with His will.
This is what all the groaning and praying in the spirit does – all the above.
We cannot afford to disregard any of them or consider them surplus to need. These are all essential elements required for effective kingdom lives on earth, hence the reason why God provided us with the presence and power of the third person of the Trinity and Christ warned His disciples not to budge from Jerusalem without His power.