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The Holy Spirit Is Not an ‘It’

We charismatics celebrate the Holy Spirit, yet our theology of the Spirit is often off balance.

Two popular charismatic speakers stood on a stage two years ago and decided they should demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. One guy pretended to throw an imaginary "fireball" at his friend, who promptly fell over as if he had been zapped by the divine power. Then, feeling equally playful, the guy on the floor stood to his feet and threw the "fireball" back at his friend—who fell after the "blob" of God hit him.

Everybody laughed and had a hilarious time at this outrageous party. There was just one problem. The Holy Spirit is not a blob, a fireball or any other form of divine energy that can be thrown, manipulated, maneuvered or controlled.


"It's incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity."

This scenario happened in a charismatic church—a place where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presumably honored and understood. It's incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity. At the risk of sounding way too elementary, I'd like to offer this basic layman's guide to pneumatology—the study of the Holy Spirit and how He works:

1. He is the Spirit of the Lord. He is not a force (as in Star Wars), a magical power or an "it." The Holy Spirit is God, and we should revere Him as God. The concept of the Trinity doesn't make sense to the human mind. Yet Scripture reveals God as a triune being. As theologian Norman Geisler writes: "God is one what (nature) with three whos (persons). This is a mystery but not a contradiction."

2. He is our Regenerator. Jesus told Nicodemus that we are born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). True conversion is the most supernatural thing we will ever experience! When a person puts his faith in Christ for salvation, it is the Spirit who opens the heart and quickens divine life. He then indwells us. While this is an invisible process, it is no less miraculous. When we are converted our hearts cry out, "Abba! Father" because the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of adoption" (Romans 8:15); He gives us confidence that we are now children of God.

3. He is our Empowerer. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are "clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49, NASB). The Spirit who already indwells us fills us to the point of overflowing. Jesus said the Holy Spirit's power would flow out of us like "rivers of living water" from our innermost being (John 7:38). This overflow releases supernatural boldness (Acts 4:31) as well as the anointing for various gifts of the Spirit including prophecy, speaking in tongues and healing.

4. He is the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of God. When we abide in Him, He leads us continually into truth—causing us to grow and mature spiritually. He wants to fill us with the treasures of heavenly revelation. We can fully trust Him because He never does anything to violate the Word of God. As our teacher (1 John 2:27), He knows the difference between truth and error, and those who depend on Him will walk in discernment and avoid deception, pride and carnality.

5. He is our Counselor. This word is also translated "Advocate," "Comforter" or "Helper." The Greek word, parakletos, means "one called alongside to help." It implies that the Spirit comes to our legal defense when we are accused or troubled; it also means He is a close friend who offers encouragement, consolation and direction when we face any difficulty. He is truly a friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24).

6. He is our Intercessor. This is probably one of the greatest miracles of grace. The Spirit who lives inside of us "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8:26). Even when we don't know how to pray, the Spirit prays the perfect will of God. No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit travails for us until we emerge on the other side.

7. He is our Unifier. Like the master conductor of an orchestra, the Holy Spirit pulls together each individual Christian—with all of our diverse gifts—and causes us to flow in synchronization as one body. The Spirit distributes His gifts to individuals (1 Cor. 12:11) and He brings about the "fellowship of the Spirit" (2 Cor. 13:14)—a supernatural, loving harmony among believers that overcomes jealousy, envy, strife and bitterness.

8. He is our Refiner. The Spirit took the form of a dove at Christ's baptism, but He is often portrayed in Scripture as a fire. He is the "refiner's fire" (Mal. 3:2-3) who purifies us of selfishness, pride and wrong motives. The Holy Spirit is indeed the fire of blazing holiness, and He can be both grieved (Eph. 4:30) and quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) when we disobey His promptings.

As we prepare to celebrate the day of Pentecost in less than a month (it's on May 23), let's meditate on all aspects of the Spirit's work in our lives—and invite Him to fill us in a fresh way.

 

J. Lee Grady served as editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now contributing editor. You can find him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book is The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale. read more

From Revival to Resurrection Power

On Saturday, March 6, during a time of worship, the Lord spoke to my heart. I was caught up in His presence when the voice of God spoke these three things to me:
  1. Church gatherings are about to experience a fresh wind of God's Spirit as whole meetings will be caught up in His manifest presence.
  2. Mantles are soon to be released over the church, empowering people to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. Those who have been in a place of hiding and preparation are about to come forth in power.
  3. The voice of the Lord will be heard not only from the pulpit, through anointed preaching and teaching, but also from the pews. A fresh anointing for the corporate prophetic utterance is about to be revived. God's voice will be heard through His people. read more

Why are Liberals so Afraid of Prayer?

The last two weeks have been anything but calm in the world of faith and religion. Conservative Christians are wondering whether they are being betrayed by both officials in the White House and in the court system. The ruling of a Wisconsin judge that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and violates the concept of the separation of church and state has been like a blow to the solar plexus for battle weary Christians. In the much touted culture wars, there has never been such an open case of liberals throwing down the gauntlet in a specific area that has been deemed "Christian territory." read more

Dinner With the Granddaddy of Christian Rock

After spending some time last week with Bob Hartman, founder of Petra, my hat is off to a true musical pioneer.

Last week while I was preaching at Cumberland Worship Center, a charismatic congregation in Crossville, Tenn., the pastor invited a musician to the stage to play during the offering. I didn't think anything about this performance at first, until a friend reminded me that the unassuming guy with the gray beard was Bob Hartman, founder of the Christian rock group Petra.

There's a rock star in the house! read more

If God is for You

The presence of Jesus is all you need. It is exciting to enjoy His presence daily in everything you do. The Bible records the story of a group of friends who broke through the rooftop of a house, so they could bypass the crowds blocking their way to Jesus, and bring their paralytic friend before Jesus to be healed.



I love that "whatever it takes" spirit to be in the presence of Jesus. But you know what? Today we don't have to climb mountains, swim vast oceans or even break through rooftops to be in His presence. Right where you are, Jesus, your Immanuel, is with you! read more

The Winds of Pentecost

On December 31, 2009, the Holy Spirit spoke through me and said: "I'm going to shake the earth. You will begin to see earthquakes—I am going to shake everything that can be shaken. Look where the earthquakes are hitting because God is going to release a wind of Pentecost in those places."

Since that time we have seen an increase in earthquake activity on a large scale. Haiti experienced horrible devastation during a recent quake. But afterward, the president called for three days of fasting and prayer for the nation. This was a miracle in a country that had formerly been dedicated to voodoo. read more

A New Generation Embraces the Holy Spirit’s Fire

At the Empowered 21 Conference last week in Tulsa, thousands of people celebrated the renewal of a movement.

At a time when many Christian conferences are suffering from sluggish attendance, at least 10,000 people jammed into the Mabee Center on the Oral Roberts University (ORU) campus last week to honor the pioneers of the Pentecostal movement and to pass the torch of Holy Spirit renewal on to the younger generation.

The Empowered 21 event, nicknamed E21, was a bold attempt to bring every stream of the charismatic and Pentecostal movements together under one huge roof. When I arrived on Wednesday night for a welcome dinner, I met leaders from the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and even the United Pentecostal Church International—plus directors of such varied ministries as Teen Mania, Every Home for Christ, International House of Prayer and Convoy of Hope. We even had Matteo Calisi, an Italian man who gives leadership to thousands of charismatic Catholics. read more

Steele Must Be Fired - Up

In recent weeks, several leading Republicans have been crying for the ouster of party Chairman Michael Steele. If Steele is fired or resigns before he completes a critical stabilization plan for the party, it may spell doom for the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2010 and beyond. Let me say it simply: Steele must be kept in place until there is a clear vision and mandate that is created for the party's future.

His situation is very reminiscent of what happened to world-class CEO and businesswoman Carly Fiorina in 2005. During the time in which the technology powerhouse Hewlett-Packard felt that they needed to change their image and revitalize their brand, they sought to circumvent the normal painstaking process of self-analysis, restructuring and rebuilding by bringing in a management superstar - Fiorina. Her academics were impeccable, framed at Stanford University, University of Maryland and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But all of this was inconsequential because the board of directors had made an improper assessment of where the business was. Their vision was murky. Their mandate was muddled. Therefore the corporate message was unclear. Thus in a few short years, they fired the woman who once graced the covers of major national periodicals in their name. read more

Let's Pray, America!

On March 18, 2010, my ministry, Prepare the Way International, sent out a prophetic bulletin that was reprinted in Charisma's Prophetic Insight e-newsletter a few days later as "A Call to Repentance." This bulletin was in essence an urgent call to repentance and intercession for Los Angeles, California, regarding the imminent divine judgment on Hollywood for projecting evil throughout the world over the past century and thus becoming a stumbling block for the nations. read more

Is Brewing Tea Dangerous?

A few weeks ago, Colbert King of The Washington Post wrote an incendiary op-ed about the Tea Party movement. Titled "In the Faces of Tea Party Shouters, Images of Hate and History," the piece was incredibly skewed. The article’s condescending tone called the protesters “racists.”



King equated the people that rallied in D.C. (just before the health care vote) with the folks who wanted to block the first black student from entering the University of Alabama in 1956. Further, he suggested that those who blocked nine black kids from entering a Little Rock, Ark., high school in 1959 resembled Tea Party members. Most shockingly, he compared the faces he witnessed nearly 20 years ago at a David Duke rally in Metairie, L.A. with the party faithful.  He went on to describe the folks at the Duke rally as “sullen with resentment, wallowing in victim-hood, then exploding with yells of excitement as the ex-Klansman and Republican gubernatorial candidate spewed vitriolic white-power rhetoric.” read more

The Power of Relational Discipleship

Last week 91 guys gathered for a three-day retreat. It reminded me that real Christianity has nothing to do with superficial religion.

For at least three years I've wanted to gather a group of friends for a time of encouragement and personal ministry. I couldn't afford to host a fancy event, and I didn't think these guys wanted a big hoopla with expensive hotels and high-priced speakers.

So we went with a simple format that involved a donated church facility (thank you, Pastor Donna), a totally informal dress code (jeans and T-shirts), home-cooked meals (we met in North Carolina, the barbeque capital of the South) and cheap rooms, courtesy of the local Hampton Inn. What surprised me was that 91 guys from 20 states and four foreign countries showed up for three days of worship, small group interaction and inspiring messages from 32 of the guys (everyone kept their comments brief to allow time for fellowship). read more

Empty or Opportunity

Empty is not fun. No one likes the thought of an empty glass, an empty gas tank and least of all, an empty bank account. When considered in those terms, empty is just plain undesirable. But what would happen if we could begin to think of empty as opportunity? What if, every time we saw barren, we could imagine bounty?



The idea of seeing what could be instead of what is, would not be, however, an earthly exercise in wishful thinking, merely an act of human intellect. Instead it would be a spiritual application of a powerful biblical principle, which simply teaches; "We [the righteous] live by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7, NKJV). In other words, we are to live in expectancy, standing on what we know and believe to be true and not living in despair, troubled by what we see with our natural eyes. read more

Transition Into Your Destiny

You and I are at the halfway point in a three-year time of transition. A prophetic word has come forth that the years 2008 through 2011 are a season of transition. In God's timing, the halfway point can be the most dangerous time during transition. It is a time when some people decide the journey is too difficult. They can't seem to catch the vision for the new place, so they decide to go back to an old place. Others make wrong turns that cause them to take a detour from their destinations. read more

Inheritance Transfer

In 1993, Pete Myers faced one of the toughest challenges in sports history. To that point, the 6-foot-6-inch journeyman had played sparingly for seven NBA teams in seven years. But prior to joining the Chicago Bulls that year, Myers was asked to do the impossible: Fill in for Michael Jordan after the greatest basketball player of all time abruptly decided to retire (for the first time).

I’m thankful I don’t face as daunting a task as Myers did—not because the person I’m replacing isn’t as extraordinary, but because of the remarkable inheritance he’s left behind and the way it’s being transferred. Lee Grady is one of the most distinct and respected voices in Christian journalism today. After serving Charisma for 17 years, he’s made my task of following in his footsteps extremely challenging. Yet one thing I love about Lee is that he’s never wanted me to trace his trail, but instead to blaze one for myself. As anyone close to him knows, Lee leads by empowering. He believes in handing over the necessary tools to let people run their own course, all while he offers them his unconditional support.

The church desperately needs more Lee Gradys right now. We need battle-proven generals who are willing to make way for and empower a new generation of passionate, Spirit-filled leaders. We need veterans with proven wisdom to help guide those eager to venture further.

But let me remind my fellow emergents of this two-sided coin: We may be blazing new trails, but we must not neglect the wisdom of the pioneers who came before us. Our success will be directly proportional to how well we listened to the voice of God speaking through our predecessors. If the church is to truly flourish in the next season, young and old must understand the need for intergenerational conversation, not monogenerational monologues.

This month Charisma highlights the Spirit-prompted generational transfer already in process—and shown in places such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the ongoing Empowered21 conversations will be celebrated April 8-10. We believe these pivotal multigenerational gatherings offer hope for all ages. Because as in this magazine’s transfer from one editor to the next, those involved understand that the state of the generational inheritance usually matters more than the individual inheritors.


Marcus Yoars is Charisma’s new editor. read more

Start to Do Good

Famed philosopher and orator Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s true. Doing nothing is easy, but it’s also dangerous. Where there is no opposition to evil, evil will multiply.

We all fall into the trap of complaining about the things that are wrong. But complaining does nothing except discourage us even more. It changes nothing because there is no positive power in it. read more

How the Resurrection Broke Eden’s Curse

Sin began in a garden. Thousands of years later, Jesus Christ stood in another garden and announced His ultimate victory.

The Easter story has many amazing scenes: Jesus' last Passover meal with His disciples, His arrest and brutal scourging, His crucifixion between two criminals, and the dramatic darkness that fell on Jerusalem at the moment of His death. But my favorite part of the story is when Mary Magdalene peered inside Jesus' tomb on that resurrection morning. John 20:11-12 describes it this way:

"But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying" (NASB). read more

Beauty is as Beauty Does

When I was a kid I had one particular "goin' to church" dress that made me cringe. I was 11 at the time and the dress—the height of fashion for the late '50s—was crinkly pink organdy, complete with a wide-swinging under-hoop. If I became too animated while wearing it, I lost my balance! Even worse, my two younger sisters, Carolyn and Diana, each had a matching crinkly-hooped dress. As you can imagine, trying to sit together on the front-row pew during a church service presented a problem. read more

A Great Visitation

The Spirit of God was heavy on our 11-year-old daughter, Destiny, when she came to us and said,"Mom and Dad, God just spoke to me and told me to come and tell you something." She really caught our attention because giving us words from the Lord is not something she normally does. She was trembling slightly, and we all felt the presence of God as she shared a vision she had had of a great harvest and told us what God had instructed her to say:

"Prepare your fields for rain, for I am coming!" read more

Signs of a Fresh Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

We are about to experience a new move of His Spirit. As we welcome it, let's protect the church from abuse and misuse of His gifts.


During the past few months I have prayed for many people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It has reminded me of the mid-1970s, when Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists were discovering the power of the Spirit in small prayer groups, renegade Bible studies and gatherings in hotel ballrooms.

Back then people seemed especially hungry for a deeper experience with God. Hollywood actor Pat Boone wrote a book called A New Song to testify how he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Episcopal priest Dennis Bennett led thousands into the experience after he was dismissed from his staid, traditional church in California because he admitted speaking in tongues. And Presbyterian novelist Catherine Marshall wrote Something More to describe her encounter with the Baptizer. read more

Reforming Health Care Reform

Last night I watched the health care vote on C-Span. I was disappointed in how partisan the vote concluded. Quality health care for all will undoubtedly not be the result of last night's vote. Quality care for all means that the breadth of who is covered is matched with the kind of care that compels foreign nationals from around the world to fly to the Johns Hopkins Hospital or the Mayo Clinic. Balancing these two dynamics of care without bankrupting the nation is a victory that every American would celebrate. read more
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