Holy Spirit Theology 101

Here are my notes for the third session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

If we stop short of applying the truth to our lives, then we do not actually grasp that truth. Our belief determines action.

More important than what we know is how we act. For lack of understanding we grieve the Spirit.

Think about KGBC in light of the huddle analogy. How have you been running from the huddle to the bench?

God gave the Spirit so that we might change the world. How might we look if we all began running plays?

We study biblical truth, which makes us smarter and knowledgeable, but doesn’t affect our lives. We are educated far beyond our obedience.

So, the result of this study could be that we walk around with more knowledge of the Spirit, or we can know the Spirit.

  1. The Spirit is a person, rather than a force, an it, or a ghost. (Matthew 28:19, the trinity / Ephesians 4:30, emotions)
  2. The Spirit is God, not less than the Father or the Son. (Acts 5:3-4, the Spirit is called God)
  3. The Spirit has his own mind and will (Romans 8:27, 1 Corinthians 12:11) and enables & empowers us to fulfill our mission.
  4. The Spirit has emotions (Ephesians 4:30), grieving when there is disunity, or lack of love for others or God. Sin affects God.
  5. The Spirit is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable. (Zechariah 4:6, First Corinthians 2:10, Psalm 139:7-8).
    1. The point is not to completely understand God but to worship him. Allow him to lead you to value him more.
    2. Jesus left this earth and gave his followers an impossible task (Acts 1:8). He made it clear the Spirit’s power was needed.

What the Spirit does in and through us:

  1. He helps us when we are in precarious situations ((Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12).
  2. The Counselor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know, and remember what Jesus taught (John 14:26).
  3. The Spirit brings peace in the midst of turmoil (John 14:27, Romans 15:13).
  4. The Spirit works in the hearts of all people, convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11, First Thessalonians 1:5).
  5. The Spirit seals us in Christ, and is a pledge of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  6. The Spirit confirms in us that we belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).
  7. The Spirit is the revealer of truth that helps and guides us to understand and interpret God’s Word (John 16:13).
  8. The Spirit is our Helper, Counselor, Comforter, (Paraclete) (John 14:16).
  9. The Spirit convinces us of the deity of Christ (John 15:26).
  10. The Spirit is a gift-giver (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, Romans 12:6).
  11. The Spirit is a fruit producer (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
  12. The Spirit is a witness empowerer, and equipper (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:26, Ephesians 3:16-19).
  13. The Spirit is a slave redeemer, he sets us free (Romans 8:2, 10-11, Second Corinthians 3:17).
  14. The Spirit is an adoption confirmer, being witness we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16).
  15. The Spirit is a weakling strengthener (Romans 8:26-27).

Now that we know all this, we must ask, “What does the Holy Spirit want from me right now?” “How can I cooperate with him in his work?” Don’t just ask what he can hypothetically do, but ask what he can do in your life.

Ponder the amazing power of the Spirit…

Here are some quotes from the book:

  • What you do and how you live are absolutely vital. Without action and fruit, all the theology in the world has little meaning. But theology is still important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act.
  • The point is not to completely understand God but to worship Him. Let the very fact that you cannot know Him fully lead you to praise Him for His infiniteness and grandeur.
  • I have heard the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit described like the three parts of an egg: the shell, the white stuff, and the yolk. I have also heard people say that God is like a three-leaf clover: three “arms,” yet all are a part of the one clover stalk. Another popular comparison is to the three forms of H2O (water, ice, and steam). While these serve as cute metaphors for an unexplainable mystery, the fact is that God is not like an egg, a three-leaf clover, or the three forms of water. God is not like anything. He is incomprehensible, incomparable, and unlike any other being. He is outside our realm of existence and, thus, outside our ability to categorize Him. While analogies may be helpful in understanding certain aspects of Him, let’s be careful not to think that our analogies in any way encapsulate His nature.
  • Yet when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples was ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to this fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul (formerly Saul) go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too.
  • I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. Maybe it’s not due to a lack of belief but rather a lack of concern. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own.
  • In 1 Corinthians we read that the gifts of the Spirit are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (12:11). This is an important reminder of who is in control. Just as we don’t get to choose which gifts we are given, so also we don’t get to choose what God intends for us or for the church.

How God Has Spoken

The only way for us to know God clearly is for God to speak to us, by revealing himself. Keep in mind that HOW God speaks is less important than the fact THAT God speaks. In the past he has spoken is various ways (Hebrews 1:1)…

  1. Angels (Genesis 16)
  2. Visions (Genesis 15)
  3. Dreams (Genesis 28:10-19)
  4. Use of the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30)
  5. Symbolic actions (Jeremiah 18:1-10)
  6. Gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12)
  7. Miraculous signs and wonders (Exodus 8:20-25)

Important factors to remember about God speaking:

  1. When God speaks, it was usually unique to that person: Moses had a burning bush, so we are not to look for our OWN burning bush experience.
  2. When God spoke, the person was sure God was speaking: Moses had no excuse to not know who it was speaking to him from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
  3. When God spoke, the person knew what God said: Moses knew exactly what God said and wanted him to do… or Moses would not have come up with all those excuses.
  4. When God spoke, THAT was the encounter with God: he is not just revealing new information, he is inviting you into an encounter with him.

Open and Closed Doors:

Many people want to do God’s will and say something like, “Stop me if I’m wrong and bless me if I’m right” or “I’m proceeding in this direction and will continue through open doors until the doors are closed.” Henry Blackaby says this pattern is found nowhere in Scripture.

He says that in following open doors, we are allowing experience to guide us; or a tradition, or a method or a formula. The key is then a relationship with God to know him, his purposes and his ways. I understand what he’s saying but I found an example of just the opposite.

Paul is doing the work that God had called him to do, preach to the Word of God to the nations, to people who needed to hear about salvation through Jesus Christ. Then we come to this passage in Acts 16:6-8.

6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

It sound a lot like they were traveling through open doors until those doors began to close. Are we to believe that God did not want the gospel to go to Asia? There will be billions of lost people in that direction. Hindsight would tell us that it was not God’s timing for Paul to go then. I’m sure Paul was confused until he received the night vision, the Macedonian Call is the very next passage (Acts 16:9-10).

9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

My point is that Paul used this method of open and closed doors, before he had this direct revelation from God!

Open Doors and Delays:

Here’s a question: “Does God allow us to choose between two ‘right choices’ and the outcome does not really matter?” For Paul the choices were Asia or Europe? Both areas are full of lost people in need of the gospel. He chose a direction and the door gets closed. So, here I find a different case, in Isaiah 30:20-21.

20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. 21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.

Did you catch that? God will confirm to you the “right path” only AFTER you make the decision, whether we go to the right or the left seems immaterial. Blackaby mentions delays… that we should wait on God until we hear a clear word from him. We often pray that way; to know the right path BEFORE we have to make the decision. We say, “God show me the way.” In the Isaiah passage, it sounds as if there are some decisions that will honor God no matter which direction we go. Delaying is not encouraged here, since we don’t hear God’s word of confirmation until we have stepped out in faith.

The Meaning of Isaiah 30:20-21

Perhaps Isaiah is speaking of a future time when God will be so close, like seeing him face to face, and we are so in tune with his Spirit, that we constantly make the right choices. In context the adversity and suffering is the captivity; God reminding them that although they were defeated by the Assyrians, God has not abandoned them. He is near and will guide them. When you know his voice and follow in obedience, he will confirm your good decisions.

The word teachers or a teacher could mean the prophets to come, but since the word is singular, perhaps it means one divine teacher who is to come. God himself would teach his people. His presence will be visible and active, everyone will know the direction to go.

The words, “Walk in it” contrasts with “turn aside” in Isaiah 30:11. The people had been living in such a way that they were oblivious to their spiritual teachers (Isaiah 30:20); now they would be taught by the Spirit of the living God. After their period of judgment because of disobedience, God is to open Israel’s eyes to the soundness of the message of His prophets (Isaiah 29:24). When they hear “a word behind you,” the teachers will be near and the pupils sensitive to the Lord and his prophets, in strong contrast to the callousness they had been demonstrating (Isaiah 29:10-11).

Where God is at Work

We do not always know where God is at work, so how can we tell where God is working. First there are some things that only God can do, so identifying these are a good place to begin:

  1. God draws people to himself (John 6:44)
  2. God causes people to seek after him (Romans 3:10-12)
  3. God reveals spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  4. God convicts people (John 16:8)
    1. Of sin
    2. Of righteousness
    3. Of judgment

No one will seek after God or pursue spiritual things unless the Father is at work in his life. If someone is interested in spiritual matters, the Father is at work in their life. The great thing is that we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us through the spirituality of our lives (John 14:15-17, 26)

A great example is that of Zacchaeus. Jesus left the crowd that day and focused on one man in particular, and salvation came to that house (Luke 19:5). Jesus looked for the activity of the Father and joined him in that work.

So what can we do to put ourselves into a position of hearing a word from God, and see where God is working?

  1. Start by praying.
  2. Then get off your knees and watch to see what God does next.
    1. Watch for people with needs.
    2. Discover people who might be interested in spiritual matters.
  3. Ask questions to people around you.
    1. How can I pray for you?
    2. Do you want to talk?
    3. What do you see as the greatest challenge in your life?
    4. What do you see God doing in your life?
    5. What is God bringing to the surface of your life?
    6. What burden has God put on your heart?
  4. Then listen to people.

Here is a convicting part: we often don’t join God in his work because we are not really committed to God. We are more interested in his blessings that in his work. How many times have you prayed for God’s blessing? I am convicted that prayer needs to change from focusing on God blessing us to God’s revealing to us where he is at work. When we focus on God working through us, the blessing will follow.  I intend to stop asking God to bless me, and my church, and will ask him to reveal to us where he is at work, and to work through us.

God speaks when he is about to accomplish his purposes, and we can be assured that what God initiates, he will complete (Isaiah 14:24, 27, 1 Kings 8:56, Philippians 1:6).

When we say that we have a “word from the Lord” be careful. We need to stick with that leading until God brings it to pass. Abraham waited 25 years for the son of promise, and Moses was in training for 40 years before God sent him back to Egypt. If your “word from the Lord” does not come to pass, you are in danger of being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-22, Jeremiah 28:9, Ezekiel 12:24, 25).

Loving God and Obedience

The love of God is so strong that he pursues us in this love relationship, yet it is not supposed to be a one-sided relationship. God desires that we love him back. The verse for this week is one of love, obedience and trust:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him. (John 14:21)

When we obey Jesus, we show him that we love him. The reward for obedience is that he will show himself to us. It is not just keeping the letter of the LAW, but keeping the SPIRIT of the Law. Where there is an obedience problem, there is a love problem!

I like to pair two verses together:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16)

There are three trustworthy statements regarding the attributes of God (This is a conditional statements):

  1. If God is love, then his ways are always best.
  2. If God is all-knowing, then his directions are always right.
  3. If God is all-powerful, then he can enable you to do his will.

When it comes to God’s commands, they are also an expression of his love. Sometimes we tend to think that God’s rules are there to keep us from having fun or enjoying life, but actually there are two great reasons to obey God’s Word:

  1. God wants to protect us.
  2. God wants to provide the best for us.

Read what God said at the very beginning of the nation of Israel:

He said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess. (Deuteronomy 32:26-27)

When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; 23 He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.’ 24 So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. 25 It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded. (Deuteronomy 6:20-25)

Notice the progression:

  1. When you come to know God by experience, you will be convinced of his love.
  2. When you are convinced of his love, you will believe him.
  3. When you believe him, you will come to trust him.
  4. When you trust him, you will have confidence to obey him.

You would listen to the guy who has the information to avoid land mines in a war zone, so why will we not trust the God who created this world, loves us and wants to protect us and provide the best for us?

God is looking out for your very best, so if you will not obey him, it means you really don’t trust him or love him.

God Takes the Initiative

God always take the initiative in the relationship we have with him, people do not seek after God. That can be a tough statement for a lot of people, but the Scripture supports it.

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” –Romans 3:10-12

Now ask yourself some penetrating questions:

  1. How many people are righteous on their own?
  2. How many people understand spiritual things on their own?
  3. How many people seek God on their own?
  4. How many people do good on their own?

Sin has affected us so deeply that no one seeks God on his own initiative. My first reaction is that many churches these days have “seeker sensitive services.” Sort of interesting that God’s Word says that their ARE NO SEEKERS, but I digress.

For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me… Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” –John 6:44-45, 65

Again, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Who can come to Jesus without being drawn by the Father?
  2. What does a person do who listens to the Father and learns from him?
  3. What is the only way a person can come to Jesus?

God came to all the godly characters in the Bible and revealed himself: for example, Saul/Paul (Acts 9:1-19), the Disciples (John 15:16, 19), and specifically Peter (Matthew 16:13-17).

You cannot know the activity of God unless he takes the initiative to reveal it to you. –Henry Blackaby

Here are a few more verses to support this fact (Deuteronomy 30:6, Luke 10:12, John 15:16, Philippians 2:13, 1 John 3:16, Revelations 3:20).

Henry Blackaby uses the words, “God pursues a continual love relationship with you that is real and personal.” At first glance I feel as if God is a stalker, pursuing us and we cannot get away from him. I prefer to say that “God takes the initiative in the relationship” knowing that “there are none who seek him. No, not one.”

I did not chose God, he chooses me, he loves me, and reveals his eternal purposes for my life.