We’ve just finished the Alpha weekend and I find myself, once again, reflecting on the incredible importance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the individual believer. If you’re not familiar with the Alpha course, it’s a 10 week course designed for non-Christians, to help them explore the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. There are specific sessions on Jesus, the bible, prayer, the church, etc. But in the middle of the course there is something special. Participants are asked to come away over a weekend to spend an extended time together around the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There are actually three talks devoted to this subject!
Seems a little unbalanced right? I mean, shouldn’t Jesus get the most air-time? Why this inordinate amount of attention to the Spirit? Well, if you’re an everyday evangelical Christian you might be surprised to learn the answer to that.
The Holy Spirit is essential to everything about God, faith, Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, church – you name it. The Holy Spirit is the One who undergirds it all. Now I’m not saying that the Holy Spirit is more important than any of those things – each is infinitely important in its own way! But without the action of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life none of those things will be understood in the fullness of their realities. It is the Holy Spirit who brings all the things of God to life in the heart, mind and soul of the believer.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:12-15). The Holy Spirit doesn’t make up his own stuff. He takes the stuff that comes from the Father, through Jesus, and makes it known to us! It is the Spirit who gives us the understanding of God, Jesus and spiritual things. The Spirit is not an end in itself; He is the ultimate means to every end.
You don’t need the Holy Spirit to believe that Jesus lived, or that he was a great moral teacher. Anyone can come to that conclusion with a little common sense. But you cannot come to believe in Jesus as God incarnate, Messiah and Saviour, Lord and King, without the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them”. So how exactly does the Father do that? He does it by sending the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit, who makes known the things of God! (If you still need convincing, check out 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.)
Raniero Cantalamessa is the Vatican preacher who has served through three different popes. In the Alpha talks, he says that the Spirit does not add to, or take away anything from Jesus. What the Spirit does do, is make Jesus alive to us today. He goes on to say that, “whatever the Spirit touches, the Spirit changes.”
And that’s why the Holy Spirit is key to the Alpha Course. People need the touch of the Holy Spirit to come to faith! Over the course of the weekend, we encourage and help people to listen to the Holy Spirit, who has come alongside of them. Psalm 104:30 says, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” The Holy Spirit is the midwife attending every new believer’s birth. But notice – it is also the Spirit who gives renewal!
So the Holy Spirit is for everyone, not just our Alpha guests. If you haven’t thought of the Holy Spirit recently, you should. If you’re feeling a bit parched spiritually – if your life in Jesus has become routine and humdrum – you need to be renewed by the Holy Spirit. And as we tell the folks attending Alpha, God gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who asks (Luke 11:13). If you want to experience a resurgence of life in Jesus, and all that comes with that – ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. And be sure to let us know how that turns out!