In light of the recent Strange Fire Conference, I was reminded of the simple but glorious truth that the Holy Spirit is a gift to us- that He is a person and is sovereign to do as He wills. I highlight below what one pastor-theologian said concerning the person of the Holy Spirit, and have punched in my own conclusion with regards to the ongoing in-house debate that has arisen in the bloggosphere as a result of the conference:-
“The Holy Spirit is sovereign and works in varied ways. Jesus said, ” Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit ” (John 3:8-LB). You can’t control the wind – either its speed or its direction. So too with the Holy Spirit. And yet many believers think that they can control Him and make Him work according to their rules and patterns. When the Second Person of the Trinity was here on earth, the Pharisees tried to tie Him down with their petty rules and traditions. But he refused to be locked up in their water- tight compartments. The descendants of the Pharisees in evangelical Christianity are today trying to tie down the Third Person of the Trinity. But He refuses to work according to man-made patterns. He blows where He wishes. We can hear the sound of His working, but He will not be controlled or directed by us. We cannot say that He should work in the same way in other lives as He has worked in ours; neither should we expect Him to work today in the same way as He worked in days past. No. He is Sovereign. The best thing that we can do is to set our face towards the direction in which the wind is blowing and to let that wind carry us along. The Holy Spirit cannot be tied down in any doctrinal compartment of any denomination. We shall find that He surprises us by the way He works. Both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals need to recognise this.
The Holy Spirit may at times manifest Himself like a whirlwind. There may be deep stirrings of the emotions and even physical reactions too. We must be willing to accept this. God spoke to Job out of a whirlwind (Job 38:1). But we also need to remember that the Spirit may at times blow like a gentle breeze. When Elijah heard the whirlwind, it says that God was not in the whirlwind (1 Kings 19:11). No. Every stirring of the emotions is not from God. And so we must be careful. To Elijah, God spoke in a gentle breeze (1 Kings 19:12). The Holy Spirit does not always blow like a tornado. Sometimes He does, but not always. We should not expect Him to blow like a whirlwind all the time in everyone’s life, just because He did so once in someone’s life. Equally, we should not expect Him to blow always like a gentle breeze. We do need His blowing as a tornado upon many of our churches today, to uproot the things that are dishonouring to Christ therein.
The wrapping should never be mistaken for the gift. The Holy Spirit Himself is the Gift of the Risen Lord to His Church. When He falls upon people, it may be with shouts of Hallelujah, tears of joy and the gift of tongues, or it may be quietly, silently and without much emotion. Temperaments vary, and the Spirit of God (unlike many Christians) is willing to adapt Himself to each temperament. It is foolish therefore to expect that others should receive the Gift in the same wrapping in which we received Him – whether spectacular or commonplace. Only babies are taken up with the tissue-paper in which a gift comes to them. Mature men recognise that the gift itself is more important than the wrapping. The Apostle Paul was converted through a vision of Jesus. But he did not preach that all needed a similar vision before they could be saved. No. He recognized that it was the inner reality that mattered, in whatever wrapping it might come. So too with the fulness of the Holy Spirit.” (The Sovereignty of the Spirit by Zac Poonen- Dec. 2001- South India).
The Holy Spirit is a person who has not ceased to exist, and the gifts are His gifts- freely given by Him as He wills. If one believes in the Trinity- and the sovereignty of God, surely one must also believe that the third person of the Trinity is sovereign to do anything as He wills. Hence, our Cessationist brothers who claim to believe in the absolute Sovereignty of God may be “charismatics” in denial. It seems to me that the Holy Spirit, in His sovereignty, chooses to approach each context differently as He wills so that (given our sinful nature) we would not idolize His work in one particular context and turn them into methods for every context.
So let’s love one another well, and not get too caught up on endless in-house debates. Dialogue is helpful and there is a time and place for such, but not at the expense of the more important things- like loving the Lord with all our hearts, and loving our believing and unbelieving neighbors. In the process, let’s be charitable to one another; and fixate our eyes on Jesus (in whom is the fulness of the Spirit) and obey His commands to make disciples of all nations. It’s time to get off our theological high-tower, get our boots on the ground, and take up our aprons and crosses and follow Jesus. For there are better battles to fight ahead, in the mission of making Jesus known– among those have never heard of the things that keep us preoccupied in the warmth of our living rooms. It is crucial to remember that when the Lord ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit of whom He said:
“..you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). All of us, no matter what camp we’re in, need more power to fulfill the command that Jesus gave to the disciples then, and to us now. The power of the Holy Spirit was given for us to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28: 19, 20). Let’s put our sails up and be blown by the wind to where He leads us in the cause of making Him known. The question is: