Christians, don’t neglect the Spirit

Published 10:00 pm Friday, March 31, 2017

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

Picture a really busy teacher in her class. She gives her students an assignment to do and then says, “OK, I’m going to step out of the room, and I’m giving you this assignment to do while I’m gone. I’ll be back in a while.”

That is exactly the impression that many people have of what Jesus has done. They believe he gave some final instructions (“Go and make disciples of all nations…”) and then disappeared into the clouds, leaving us to carry out his instructions on our own until he returns.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that Jesus promised not to leave us alone, but to come to us. And that is what the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is all about.

Unfortunately, there is a ton of misunderstanding regarding the work of the Holy Spirit, and also a ton of neglect in teaching about him. (That’s right, the Holy Spirit is a “he,” not an “it.” He is a Person of the Triune Godhead, just like the Father and the Son. We don’t refer to Jesus or the Father as an “it.” Neither should we refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it.”)

Speaking of the neglect in our teaching about the Holy Spirit, J.D. Greear says that many Christians relate to the Holy Spirit “in ways similar to how I relate to my pituitary gland. I know it’s in there somewhere, and that it’s necessary somehow for bodily growth and life, but I have no real interaction with it.”

How incredibly sad, especially since Jesus made the coming of the Spirit one of the primary themes of his teaching. He promised that he would not leave us as orphans, but would come to us. In fact, he said that we would be able to do even more than the disciples had done while he was physically present with them.

That is undoubtedly the case. When you read the four gospels, it is abundantly clear that the disciples — despite traveling and living with Jesus for three years — were incredibly muddled and confused about him and his teaching.

There is just so much that they didn’t “get” until after his resurrection, and after Pentecost.

Oh, yes, Pentecost. We barely recognize Pentecost as an event on the Christian calendar anymore. But Pentecost, along with the resurrection, were the primary events that launched the early church.

Before the resurrection, the disciples were going back to their jobs. They thought they had “backed the wrong horse.”

Before Pentecost, they lacked the power to bear witness to the resurrected Christ. After Pentecost, they were filled with such power and boldness that the church became an unstoppable force that took the Greco-Roman world by storm.

Our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit needs to end. Read John 14-16 and you’ll see the amazing promises that Jesus made about Him. Read the book of Acts and you’ll see how the work of Jesus continues through his Spirit-empowered followers.

Will you be one of those Spirit-empowered followers?

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.