Spirit-Less Christianity

Perhaps you, like me, have heard something like this, “Christian Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have erred by placing less emphasis on the Holy Spirit because the Charismatics and Pentecostals have taken that doctrine to great excesses.” When the fact of the matter is that most of us do not even think of Charismatics and Pentecostals very often and we think of the Holy Spirit even less. Indeed, we have erred because we have neglected the third Person of the Godhead. 

The Holy Spirit is the forgotten member of the Trinity. I believe that many true Christians may have neglected Him and basically forgotten about His presence inside us; and He is literally inside us.  He is a Person who makes His home in us. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). 

Many of us have an understanding of the Doctrine of Pneumatology or the Spirit of God.  After all, this is orthodox Christian belief and if one denies this doctrine, he is a heretic and not a Christian. So we believe in the Spirit, but what we experience and actually flesh out as Christians is closer to the Ephesians that Paul encountered in Acts 19:2 when he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. Here is what they said: “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

We may have some level of understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but do we really have a sound, vibrant relationship with Him? I recently attended a Prayer Advance with 23 other men from our church. Before our half night of prayer, I asked them these questions, “How many of you have acknowledged the Spirit’s presence in you over the last year? How many have talked to Him? How many have prayed to Him? How many have asked Him to fill you with His presence in the last year?” Only one man raised his hand! And I believe that these were some of the most spiritual men in our church. For many of us, it may be closer to, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 

Recently, I was discussing this concept with a good friend who I respect greatly for his biblical discernment. One of his points regarding the matter was, “Where does it say that we should talk to or pray to the Holy Spirit?” My response was easy; it does not say it anywhere.  My question is, “Where does it say to pray to Jesus?” And in fact, it does not say that either.  However, in John 15:13-15, Jesus calls His followers His friends and who can imagine having a close friend like Jesus and never talking to Him? Who would liken someone to be their best friend, but have absolutely no communication with them? We need to be careful that we do not get into an “I have always done it that way” mentality. When it comes to prayer or any other spiritual discipline, we can get steeped in tradition. 

Many people end their prayers, “In Jesus name,” and we are certainly right in doing so since Jesus told us to ask in His name. But must we do it that way every time? In two of Paul’s great prayers, (Ephesians 3:14-21 and Colossians 1:9-12), he does not end them “in Jesus” name’. In the former he gives the Father glory in the church by Christ and in the latter he gives thanks to the Father. Can we only pray to the Father instead of the other two Persons of the Trinity? Are we not allowed to speak to them? Where in Scripture does it say we cannot? When we are praying in the Spirit, are we not in personal fellowship and agreement with Him? “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

We believe that there are three Persons in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Persons are co-equal, co-existent, and co-eternal. The Father is a Person, the Son is a Person, and the Holy Spirit is a Person. It seems only natural that we have a personal relationship with each of these Persons. 

I believe we have come to worship a Trinity of two, the Holy Duo.  We readily acknowledge the Father and the Son to the neglect of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is viewed by many as just a force or a non-personal power within. But without a living, exciting, inworking of the Spirit, life is nothing more than a flesh fest and the Christian life becomes drudgery, lacking in power and victory. Some of you may be experiencing that kind of Christian life now. 

Having the Holy Spirit is the same as having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Christ indwelling us, so that we are united to Christ as He is united to the Father. “At that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20).  The Spirit who was present and active at Christ’s conception, baptism, temptation, and miracles, who energized Him in His sacrifice, and who vindicated Him in His resurrection; now indwells disciples in this specific identity. That is why Jesus said, “It is for your good that I am going away!” 

The Apostle Paul knew something about what Philippians 1:19 calls “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The word “supply” means bountiful, complete sufficiency, and abundant provision, in other words “fullness”! We can have this “fullness”, but I believe we are settling for something far less when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in our lives. 

The Bible gives at least 6 associations having to do with the “supply of the Spirit of Christ.” Let us take a look at these specific associations.

Resisting the Spirit –

Though resisting the Spirit has to do with lost persons resisting Him (Acts 7:51), a Christian can resist Him in many ways as well. When the Spirit prompts us to do something and we do not obey, we resist Him. When He prompts us not to look, not to speak, not to get angry, not to gossip, not to take something that doesn’t belong to us, not to engage in immorality, and we do not heed or obey, we resist Him. Are you resisting the Spirit?   

Grieving the Spirit –

Ephesians 4:30, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” To “grieve” means to afflict with sorrow or to make sad. The context of this verse has to do with anger, wrath, stealing, corrupt communication, all kinds of evil speaking, giving place to the devil, and bitterness. It also refers to immoral and pornographic thoughts and desires.  All of these behaviors grieve the Holy Spirit and decrease His influence in your walk with Christ. The Spirit of God is pure, and he dwells not in a soul that is filled with corrupt imaginations. Grieving the Spirit also occurs through ingratitude. My opinion is that as humans we feel ungratefulness from others more than any other emotion. Ingratitude is a lack of acknowledgement of what someone has done for someone else. Why should we suppose that the Holy Spirit would not feel this as well? E. B. Pusey said this, “I fear that what will surprise us most, when we see our Lord, will be the extent of our own ingratitude.”

Neglecting the Spirit –

Many Christians are unaware that the Spirit of Christ is indwelling them. They are, perhaps unknowingly, actually ungrateful toward Him. “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” These things lead to neglect. The Spirit of God is lamented by neglect. If you had cancer in your body, there would not be a day that would go by where you were not thinking about cancer. In fact, there would hardly be a moment that you were not thinking about it. How is it then that we can go a year without thinking about God Himself indwelling us? He disposes the mind to seriousness and to a sober study of the Bible. Often He prompts us to pray, to forgive others, to share the Gospel, but we suppress and neglect Him by not engaging and acting on His prompts.

Quenching the Spirit –

First Thessalonians 5:19 commands us, “Quench not the Spirit.” The context here has to do with not despising God’s Word, with proving all things, and abstaining from all appearance of evil. Perhaps you have lost the desire for God’s Word. Maybe you leave the Sunday service and thirty minutes later, forget what was preached. Are you purposefully abstaining from people, places, practices, and fleshly desires that you know will quench the Spirit? The Scriptures frequently liken the Holy Spirit to a flame (Isa 4:4; Matt 3:11; Acts 2:3-4).  His fire can be quenched, diminished or even snuffed out if He is resisted. The Holy Spirit's functioning can even be opposed by believers. How is this done? No desire for the Word of God, no desire for prayer, no desire to be led by the Spirit, and no fruit. If you have quenched the Spirit you know it! You have no fire and you produce no fruit!     

Filled with the Spirit –

No matter how many times you try to start a brand new shiny car without a battery, it will not start. It is not connected to the power source. We must reconnect to the power source. Do you know why you can only beat porn for a few months at a time? You are not Spirit filled.  Maybe you are 0-4; you have resisted, grieved, quenched, and neglected Him. Why is it that you only have short term victory over anger, foul language, drinking, wrath, stealing, or mistreating your wife or children? You are not Spirit filled. Anything other than a Spirit filled life is a flesh fest and since the flesh profits nothing you cannot have victory. Ephesians 5:18 commands, “Be filled with the Spirit.” One commentator said this: “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be energized and controlled by the third person of the Godhead in such a way that under the acknowledged lordship of Jesus Christ the full presence and power of God are experienced. Spirit-filling leads to renewal, obedience, boldness in testimony and a noticeable difference in believers’ lives.” The filling with the Spirit is not confined to one experience, or to any one point of time exclusively; it may be repeated times without number. If you are not currently filled with the Spirit, when was the last time you got right with God and asked the Spirit to fill you?

The Fullness of the Spirit –

I have asked several men to memorize and meditate on this passage of Scripture: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21). This seems to be an even greater experience that one can encounter with the Spirit of Christ. This is as good as it gets for a Christian. Outstanding maturity! (Eph. 4:13).  How does being “filled with all the fullness of God” happen?  It is through the power that worketh in us; the indwelling Holy Spirit. This happened in Jesus by the Spirit of God in Him; “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him [Christ]” (Colossians 1:19).  That same Spirit is on us, with us, and in us. 

So the question is this, where are you in relation with the Spirit of Christ? Are you resisting Him or grieving Him? Have you quenched Him or neglected Him? If so, would you be willing to reconnect to the Holy Spirit and reestablish your relationship with Him?  

I have come to the conclusion that there are those who may want Spirit-Less Christianity.  If you really desire the Holy Spirit in His fullness, He will lead you in the way of the Cross. He will, in whatever painful process, make you more like Christ. Do you really want to do God’s will? What if He asks you to give up something you don’t want to give up? What if He leads you where you do not want to go? What if He tells you to change jobs or move? What if it cost you your life? Are you willing to surrender and ask Him to fill you?  

If I told you there was a spiritual filling station in a certain place where you could hook up to something to get a filling from God I am sure that you, like me, would make that trip immediately. There is such a place! That place is in you and that place is in the form of a Person.  The Holy Spirit is the one who dwells in us and is the power that works in us so we can be filled immediately with His power. I urge you to follow God’s command, “Be filled with the Spirit!” 

Ken Varney

12 March 2015

Additional resources you might be interested in:

The Missing Person In Prayer  article by Harold Vaughan 

The Missing Person in Prayer  audio message by Harold Vaughan

 

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  1. This was a great article. I am a preacher's daughter and also now a Pastor's wife. My dad was a Church of God minister as was my brother and uncle. I grew up on believing the power was through the Holy Spirit and even as a young child, I felt His presence and expected great things in every service.
    After leaving the church at 18 and got married at 19, I was in a marriage to an agnostic and for 30 years was out of church. My then husband divorced me because in 2001, I rededicated my life to the Lord and he did not want to be married to a Christian, so he divorced me.
    I knew I was being called to the ministry in some way, but was unsure what. I was instructed by the Holy Spirit to take nothing from the marriage but my clothes and my car. At that time, my husband and I had accumulated 3 farms and over 100 head of registered Charolais Cattle. Even though it was hard, I followed the Lord's instructions, and for 3 1/2 years, I went through a test of faith. I moved in with my mother and continued to pray for the Lord's guidance in my life. That is when my now husband and I began talking and after 3 1/2 years, got married.
    This is a long story and I will try to shorten it as much as I can. My husband is a Southern Baptist pastor and even though I came from a Church of God background, I was ok with whatever and wherever the Lord led me, but, when we were called to this small church in Princeton, West Virginia, it was a broken church that had been split many times in the past and was in need of a spiritual revival. Needless to say, I was "shocked" at how much God's church was without "God" in the midst of everything. There was no speaking of the Holy Spirit, and actually foreign to them as to the extent of His power in the Christian's life. Everything and everyone seemed like the "Walking Dead". I was not use to that. Eating and drinking had been allowed in the Sanctuary, cell phones, no piano, no altars, no pulpit, no choir, no reverence in this House of Prayer. Everything that I had experienced in the church as a child, was gone.
    I prayed and prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me in leading the women of this church to understand His ways. It broke my heart.
    We have been at this church now for 3 years and through His power, are beginning to feel the spiritual changes in the people and in the church. It is still going to be a long road ahead for us, but feel God is not done with us yet in this place.
    I go around to different churches speaking to women in finding "their place" where the world has taken them out of place in the home, in the church and in the world. I rely on the Holy Spirit's guidance and have always known the Trinity and have relied on each to fill my life in this walk of faith. I don't claim to know it all, but as I grow in this faith, I know if I trust in the Holy Spirit's guiding me, I cant go wrong.
    There was one missionary's wife that told me, most of the Southern Baptists left the Holy Spirit back at Pentecost. I don't know how much of that is true, but I know He is as much real today and powerful as He was then.
    I heard one pastor say, years ago, that in the future, which is now, the church would be 90% praise and worship and 10% preaching the Word.
    I have found that to be true in this day and time. As I love the praise the Lord in song, I feel that entertainment has taken hold more than the Word of God is hungered for.
    Thank you for your article and may God bless it and renew the minds of those who read it.

    Reply to Annette
  2. Paula Mclaughlin
    Mar 28, 2015 at 07:57 AM

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder of all that I have in the person of the Holy Spirit. I believe this message was part of God's plan for me this morning and sets the tone for continued fellowship with my Savior with a grateful heart of praise.

    Reply to Paula Mclaughlin