When my nephew was a very young boy, I remember my mum making us a cup of tea and, being a good grandmother, she was trying to help him learn at the same time. She asked him, ‘Where do we get milk from?’ She, anticipating another answer, received the reply ‘From the shop!’
Of course, my nephew’s answer was true enough, but it was not the whole truth.
For many years, there have been a lot of people who have adopted that approach to the Christian faith. People’s understanding can be limited by what little they know or even by what other people tell them rather than what is really the truth.
Perhaps, you could argue, they are more comfortable with things being this way.
But then, if the great explorers of the Middle Ages had not set out in their ships to sail the world, we may still believe the world is flat, but because of their courage and determination, we know now that this is not the case.
But the reality was that the world was always round, we just didn’t realise it.
The truth of the matter as to what makes a Christian is not that they simply go to church, believe a bunch of rules passed down from generation to generation, or even that they outwardly look the part, but rather that they are inhabited by God himself in the form of His Holy Spirit.
For without it, there is no life (John 6:63/Romans 8:9).
Sin has rendered people dead. The Holy Spirit makes them alive.
The power people need to live a transformed life as a Christian comes from this indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, not through their own effort. Anyone who attempts to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit will come unstuck and those who seek to suppress it will live a frustrating life which is less than the fullness of which Jesus promised believers in John 10:10.
With the Holy Spirit living inside of you, your eyes are opened to a whole new reality that you may not even have thought about before, let alone witnessed - the fact that the spiritual realm is as real as the natural one.
As true believers are spiritually alive, the supernatural becomes part of everyday life. They are naturally supernatural.
Prayer is an example of this.
Countless millions of believers from many cultural backgrounds talk every day to God, opening their heart up to Him and where they create opportunity to listen to Him. Man was made to have communication with God. What sin distorted and destroyed, the Holy Spirit has renewed and facilitates.
The impact of the power of prayer is most clear on people’s lives when the sick are healed, when provision is made miraculously for the poor and when seemingly impossible circumstances are overcome.
All this, through the power of the Spirit filled prayer. Another aspect which will be easy for all to relate is worship.
This is usually the corporate singing of hymns or praise songs in a church service or other meeting/event and this has special significance where Christians gather because it is reflective of the
true reality of all created beings giving due praise and worship to God as the supreme being. Furthermore, it acts as a conduit for God himself in the guise of the Holy Spirit to move in and through the meeting of believers. Both are reasons as to why church services involve singing.
Churches also have sermons or preaching/teaching for a reason too.
The Bible is brought to life by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the gifted preacher who helps bring timeless truth and encouragement to people and which will always point people away from themselves and to the centre of Christianity, Jesus Himself.
But, more than this, the supernatural life of the believer under the influence of the Holy Spirit enables them to speak specifically into people’s lives or given situations, even when they have no prior knowledge of the set circumstances.
This can be through a spoken word at that specific moment through the believer (the ‘now’ word of knowledge) or it can be again a spoken word giving direct reference to a person or group of people and their circumstances brought to them by someone (the prophetic word).
It is not something that a person is able to do in and of themselves, through their own effort or aptitude. It is the realm of the supernatural and the source is the Holy Spirit indwelling in the believer.
It’s not something to be freaked out about or to be made a circus show of. It is perfectly normal behaviour for believers inhabited by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You want to check the spiritual pulse of a church?
Forget size of congregation, dress code, slick multimedia presentation, use of modern musical instruments, trendy décor/location or hip and cool attending crowd.
The real test lies in the:
vibrancy, sincerity and centrality of collective worship and prayer of believers to God;
the clear, simple yet powerful oral presentation of truth through preaching;
the facilitation of the prophetic function of Holy Spirit filled believers including the now
‘words of knowledge’;
speaking in and, where appropriate, interpretation of special language referred to as
the ability to spiritually discern the truth.
These, for me, form the primary indicators of the presence of the life of the Holy Spirit in a church.
The presence of these five things is both healthy and normal.
There is no need to be afraid, worried or concerned or to seek to control the Holy Spirit in any way.
For the Holy Spirit is God and we already know that God is good, He seeks our good and He works for our good continually.
And I believe it is His desire for us to be more like Jesus and live out a naturally supernatural life under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.