What Does the Holy Spirit Actually Do?

What Does the Holy Spirit Actually Do?

May 17, 2024 by Gregg DeMey

This coming Sunday, Christians all over the world will celebrate Pentecost, otherwise known as the day when the Holy Spirit arrived in force. One of Jesus’ surprising promises is that his followers would be better off after he departed from them in the flesh because the promised Counselor would arrive, by which he meant the Holy Spirit (see John 14:15-31.)

When the Holy Spirit was first poured out on the disciples, wild things happened. A visible ember of fire manifested and rested on their heads. They began speaking and witnessing in other tongues and languages to the international holiday crowd gathered in Jerusalem. Powerful sermons were improvised in the moment and testimony to Jesus’ resurrection were shared. It was all so exuberant that a common conclusion was that these first Christians must all be drunk. But, no. Not drunk. Filled with the Spirit.

I encounter many Christians these days who wonder if they are filled by that same Holy Spirit. We sometimes worry that the persistence of sin or our lack of certain spiritual gifts may indicate that we don’t have the Spirit at work within us at all. However, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we can easily find signs that what Jesus promised is coming true: he has sent his Spirit “to teach us all things and to remind us of the things that he said.”

I once had a seminary professor who illustrated this beautifully. He wrote the name “Jesus” in huge letters on a white board. He then emphatically stated, “I’m the Holy Spirit'' and then went behind the white board and proceeded to hide. Every few moments he would emerge for one side or the other and point with both hands towards the name of Jesus. Then he popped out from underneath, later he jumped as high as he could (he was a diminutive man), still doing all in his power to point towards the name of Jesus. Many of us laughed out loud – it’s not every day you witness an eminent theologian trying to max out their vertical jump.

The visual has remained with me all these years later. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus. Any time there is attention, glory, honor, affection, connection, prayer, or worship directed from us to Jesus, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is at work.

When was the last time your attention was directed toward Jesus? Perhaps through a song – that was the Holy Spirit at work! Perhaps outdoors on a walk or in the presence of the beauty of a forest or stream – Spirit at work! Perhaps through the Scriptures – that’s the Spirit! In a worship service – Holy Spirit working! There are unlimited ways in which the Holy Spirit can point people toward Jesus: dreams, visions, tongues, languages, sermons, stories, poems, music, astronomy, biology, harmony… just to name a few. What a blessing when we find ourselves influenced by the Spirit and more deeply drawn to Jesus. And, what a blessing when the Holy Spirit uses imperfect people like us as an instrument to point somebody else to Jesus and his love. By God’s grace and goodness, some of that will happen this very Sunday as we gather in Jesus’ name.

– Pastor Gregg

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