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Do We Substitute Words for the Holy Spirit?

So often I hear preachers and teachers of doctrine say that we have to do this or that in order to have a more power-filled Christian life and more effective “witness”. Really? Is that what is wrong, and is that how we fix it? Or is the fix that is wrong? The apostle Paul said he came not with the power of words, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. (1Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: )

We humans have a tendency to throw words at problems. At least, in the Western cultures. We are full of what we think of as wisdom about what to do about just about anything. So then as Christians, we tend to throw scriptures from the Bible. We may pray of course, but we pray long winded and lofty sounding words. Then we counsel the same way, often combining our wise words into our prayer, just to be sure we are understood, I think. But true wisdom is to operate in the things of the Spirit. The people wondered what wisdom it was that Jesus had, to do the things He did. The answer is that He had the Spirit without measure, remaining with and on Him.

Sadly, our wise words and prayers and counsel sound like Job’s miserable comforters most of the time. We try to help the one who is having the problem by telling them what they must have done wrong and how to do better. We tell them to repent of whatever “sin” it might be. But Jesus seems to say that our problems aren’t from sin, but are so the glory of God will be seen. We haven’t broken any law that we are being punished for. There just are troubles in the world. And He said to rejoice, because He has overcome the world!

You know, I can’t think of a worse ploy of the enemy than to get believers to stumble over the means of receiving their power by reducing it to the letter of the written scripture – or to the persuasion of spoken words. Those who do not believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit – with the evidence of speaking in tongues, will not like what I am saying. And again, what better ploy of the devil than this! Those who do know what I am talking about will agree. We are not operating in His fullness of power without the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us.

So, let’s learn to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. When we miss the mark, He will let us know. Just the way He let the apostles know. He will show the way, just like He did for the apostles. And all the early Christians – even while they missed it – for they were set right again if they paid attention. God never forces us to love Him or to follow Him. Let’s stop trying to live everyone else’s life and just let Jesus live in us, and we in Him. That is the goal, and that is where the prize is. Substitute nothing for the Holy Spirit in you.

AFTERWORD

As an extension to this, I submit that we too often substitute doctrine (which is defined by words) for the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking specifically of a few very good teachers of grace who say we have it all when we come to Jesus. They don’t allow that we could ever need any more than what we get via the Holy Spirit when we believe for salvation. Those who teach this way are not in the charismatic/pentecostal/full-gospel camp, by very definition. They are also often cessationists, meaning they believe the supernatural gifts, signs, wonders, and of course, speaking in tongues as evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism, have ceased with the end of the apostolic age – and especially they deny the tongues part.

So for those who believe it all ended, there is no observable infilling of the Holy Spirit, no tongues, no extra touch, no special anointing, no “more” of God to seek today. This is quite sad, because even in the book of Acts, they were all filled a second time, as at the beginning. The place where they were was shaken (Acts 4:31). Further, tongues are still the only observable evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism. Now just as at the beginning, this is how we know someone has the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When it is squelched in an assembly, we are left to guess, to hope, to wonder. And the enemy has succeeded in keeping believers from realizing that fullness, that victory, that peace and joy.

In practice, we know that the Holy Spirit often comes upon us and refreshes us, stirs us up, and speaks through the gifts as well as directly to our own spirit. We are told to desire the best gifts. And Paul wished all spoke in tongues as much as he did. The desire to know more of God by way of the Spirit is one that should not be quenched by teaching that we have it all. There is no way we could ever have all of God, or know all of Him. But we can desire to see and know and feel Him more. He delights to give us His goodness and we should desire Him in fullness – all that we can bear.

There is something lacking in those who do not embrace the fullness of the Spirit. I was one of them once, and can tell you that the difference is like night and day, black and white to Technicolor, silents to talkies. There is a discernible missing spiritual element when the one bringing a teaching does not have the fullness of the Spirit, be it in print or speaking. Doctrine has been substituted for the sweet Holy Spirit.

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