21st Century Discipleship Resources

Session 6: Third Person

Who is the Holy Spirit? How does he work in my life?


Q) When you hear someone talk about the ‘Holy Spirit’ what do you understand?

Discovering the Holy Spirit

From the Bible we know quite a lot about Jesus and God but understanding who the Holy Spirit is takes a little more thought.

We first hear about the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:1-2:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. NIV

He was there at creation. We then see him at work throughout the Old Testament, when his power was given to particular individuals for specific tasks. Read, for example, about Gideon in Judges 6:34:

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him. NIV

The Holy Spirit is evident in the life and work of Jesus. It started when his mother Mary ‘was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 1:18).

His ministry began after he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22 and 4:1,14). And it was in the power of the Holy Spirit that he did all his teaching and miracles (Acts 10:38).

The life of the early church depended on the Holy Spirit. Look at Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in Acts 1:4-8.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command:“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them:“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 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.” NIV

Then see the outcome in Acts 2:1-4.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. NIV

From that time on, the Holy Spirit transformed the new believers and the first-century church began to thrive and grow.

The person of the Holy Spirit

Read John 14:15-18.

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. NIV

Q) What does Jesus tell his disciples about the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, God’s presence with us, just as Jesus was God’s presence on earth.

The work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit began to work in our lives long before we became Christians.

Q) Looking back, can you think of any ways this is now apparent to you?

The Holy Spirit leads us to faith and motivates us to change. John 16:8a tells us that he makes people suddenly aware of their sin and the need for repentance.

And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. ESV

He also plays a major part in our conversion as we saw last week (John 3:1-8).

Q) There is that familiar phrase ‘born again’. What do you think it means?

The Holy Spirit helps us to change from the inside out, to become more like our role model, who is Jesus.

Look at Galatians 5:22-25.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. NIV

Q) What are the qualities that he wants to develop in us?

This may seem impossible, but think of the changes that have already taken place in your life since you became a Christian! Creating character is the work of a lifetime. Fruit grows slowly and needs to be nurtured.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power to do God’s work

The disciples were ordinary people just like us. Yet they took on the authorities and helped to change the world they lived in.

To see what made this possible look again at the following verses:

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.” Acts 1:8, NIV

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them:“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel:It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. Acts 4:8-13, NIV.

The Holy Spirit has certain gifts to give us, which will help God to work through us. (The fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be studied in a later session.)

Q) In what ways have you experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in your own life?

Be filled with the Spirit

The teaching of the Bible is that the Spirit impacts our lives at conversion, but that we need to keep asking for him to fill us, throughout our Christian lives. Look up Ephesians 5:18.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. NIV

In the original Greek, the sense of this passage is that we should ‘keep on’ being filled.

You can ask the Spirit to fill you at any time, in the quietness of your own home, at a church service, or when meeting with others. God wants to change us to be more like Jesus, and he wants to use us. So he will not refuse to give us the gift of the Spirit. Take a look at Luke 11:9-13:

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. NIV

Q) What do you imagine it is like to be really thirsty? What words would you use to describe this feeling? Do you think this can also have a spiritual dimension?

Read John 7:37-39.

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. NIV

Q) From this passage what do you think are the conditions (if any) for being filled with the Holy Spirit? Who should we come to? What must we do?

Your choice (home study option)

The Holy Spirit is instrumental in helping us to become Christians. We now have the Holy Spirit ‘living inside us’. But this is only the beginning. How thirsty are you for more of the Holy Spirit?

A sure sign of the Spirit working in your life is that, as God gives you more of himself through the Holy Spirit, so you will want to respond giving more of yourself to him.

Reflect on what you would like him to do in your life. Remember that the Holy Spirit gives us the power to change as well as the power to do God’s work. Then pray for the Spirit to fill you afresh.