Core Christian Beliefs

3 Messed-Up Views on the Holy Spirit

Brian Strider

The Holy Spirit is vital to the life of a Christian. But opinions vary wildly about His nature and His role in our lives. Here are three popular misconceptions about the most misunderstood member of the Trinity.

MESSED-UP VIEW #1 — The Spirit is like “the Force” in Star Wars.

It’s the Spirit that gives a Jedi his power. The Spirit is an energy field created by all living things, surrounding and penetrating us and binding the galaxy together.  

Nice try, Obi-Wan, but no. Although the Spirit does empower believers, there is a crucial difference between the Holy Spirit and the fictional Force.

The Holy Spirit is personal. He intercedes and comforts. He calls, sends and empowers His people. Jesus said the Spirit would teach and bring to memory His teachings. The Holy Spirit rejoices, is tested, and can be grieved and blasphemed. As God, He is eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent. He intimately knows the Son and all things.

MESSED-UP VIEW #2 — If it’s not amazing and over-the-top, it’s not the Spirit.

I mean, read Acts. The Spirit crashes down like fire on people — who then rattle off languages they don’t know, cure the diseased using their shadows, cause others to drop dead using their words, exorcise demons and even develop immunity to snake venom! Since those types of things aren’t going on in my life — which is boring, lacking the Spirit’s special effects — then the Spirit must not be working in me.

Unfortunately, many go about their day unaware of the Spirit’s power and transformation. They overestimate their own abilities and underestimate His sometimes-quiet, life-sustaining work in them. “Witnessing to Jesus Christ, glorifying Him by showing His disciples who He is, and making them aware of what they are in Him” is at the core of the Spirit’s ministry, writes J.I. Packer in his book “Concise Theology.” “All God’s work in us is done by the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit creates new life in our hearts. He illuminates our minds and applies God’s Word to our hearts. He makes “sin repulsive and Christ adorable in the eyes of people who previously loved sin and cared nothing for the divine Savior … God implants desires that were not there before,” writes Packer. The Spirit continually strengthens our inner person, making us holy.

When we struggle to even know what to pray, He is interceding. He provides access to the Father through the Son, every moment of each day. We come to the Father by the Spirit, who unites us to Jesus, our mediator. We commune with and pray to God by His Spirit in Jesus’ name. 

MESSED-UP VIEW #3 — The Spirit is a consolation prize.

Don’t focus on the Spirit and get distracted from Christ. Christianity is all about Jesus — He is the center of God’s plan. Remember, Paul preached Christ crucified.

Close, but no cigar. The Spirit and the Son are not at odds with one another. In fact, before ascending to heaven, Jesus said He would give the Spirit to His followers for their advantage (John 14:6). God has given Himself for us in the Son — Jesus became our righteousness, substitute and wisdom. But God has also given Himself to us in the Spirit — The Holy Spirit is given to us from the Father and the Son (Luke 11:13). Our dependence on the Spirit does not contradict our worship of Jesus. Living by the Spirit glorifies Jesus and expresses His lordship in us.

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