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  • Writer's pictureJim Hays

Expectations of the Holy Spirit

I’m sure many of you have visited the National Meteor Crater landmark just west of Winslow, AZ. I went there as a kid and I remember thinking how cool it was! It looked like a moon crater, but this was on the earth! I tried to imagine a huge ball of burning rock hurtling from the sky and creating that massive hole in the earth—"a force 150 times greater than an atomic bomb!" the advertising claims. As holes go, this one is quite impressive.

Some years later, when I was living in West Texas, some of the people from church invited me to see the Odessa meteor crater. “Are you kidding? Yeah! Let’s go!” In my mind, I was visualizing the Arizona Meteor Crater.

Upon our arrival, I couldn’t have been more disappointed. Why, we had caliche pits in my hometown of Jal, NM that were more impressive than this! Do you call this a meteor crater? It’s just a hole in the ground! And much of it had filled in over the years by countless desert sandstorms. My expectations were crushed, and my heart was deflated. This was not what the advertisements claimed it to be.

Let me ask you some questions. When it comes to the Holy Spirit in your life, what are your expectations? What are your expectations of what it means to be “Spirit-filled”?

Maybe we had high expectations after our baptism. Maybe some of us thought that the indwelling Spirit would lift us to some higher plane of existence—that because God was living inside of us now, we would have this great sense of empowerment and ability as we’d never experienced before.

Perhaps others of us had absolutely no expectations. We had been taught since birth that, yes, we are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but that didn’t really mean anything. The things of the Spirit had gone the way of the buggy whip as soon as the scriptures were written and distributed back in the second and third centuries. The things which were “in part” had been “done away.”

We were told that the Spirit was only manifest on the pages of scripture and there was, in our day, no “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit at all. He was only for the early church. Well, that’s a let-down.

I really believe much of our attitude regarding the Spirit in Churches of Christ had to do with a phenomenon in the 1970’s (and probably before) called glossolalia or speaking in tongues. We had churches in my little town where the members claimed to be speaking in unknown languages with no interpreter to tell the congregants what was being said. Some even claimed to be speaking in the “tongues of angels”… a language spoken nowhere on earth—only in heaven. In fact, one of the churches made it a requirement for membership. “If you can’t speak in tongues, hit the road! You’re not one of us! And you’re not one of the saved elect.”

So, we were afraid to discuss and preach how the Holy Spirit works in the New Testament church. We didn’t want to risk being like the church across town.

Church family, our expectations and knowledge of the Holy Spirit must come from a detailed view of scripture. And the Bible’s presentation of the working of the Holy Spirit is anything but false advertising. He is truth—accurate and real. The Holy Spirit is not just a concept and He’s not an “IT”. The Holy Spirit is a person, part of the Godhead—three in one, one in three. And we should have great expectations of what the Holy Spirit will do in our lives and what He wants to do in the Southern Hills Church.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus says to His followers, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The disciples must’ve had great expectations of this power promised by Jesus! They had studied at the feet of Christ. They had seen the miracles and heard the sermons. They had witnessed the death and resurrection of the Messiah! But they weren’t ready to preach the Gospel—not yet. They needed the power of the Holy Spirit.

The very first reference of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The Hebrew word there for Spirit is the same word as “wind” or “breath”. The Spirit is “the breath of God”. The breath of God was moving or hovering over the waters. So, the first picture of the Spirit in the Bible is this picture of “air in motion”—energy being released, wind stirring up.

And all through the Creation account, you have this energy of the Spirit being released. And what happens when the Spirit moves—when the Spirit stirs—is that things become living things. The Holy Spirit is the Breath of Life.

In his nocturnal dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus said that “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Then in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes in power on the Day of Pentecost. And He comes with the sound of a violent, rushing wind.

What are your expectations of the Holy Spirit—in your life as an individual Christian—and in the life of the church? Over the next several weeks, we will be using the book of Acts to show us how the Holy Spirit inspires Christians, how the Holy Spirit moves churches.

Between now and Sunday, I ask you to pray for two things: First, pray for a fresh understanding of what it means to have God’s Spirit living in you and, two, pray that the Spirit will move us as a church that we might become the church God intends us to be.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”(Luke 11:13).

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