Nothing inspires such concentration on scripture for me than teaching an adult class or speaking to a group. I live my topic. I absorb it from the writings of others, print or online, and the Bible itself.
My problem is that just as I think I’ve nailed down what I want to say, I find another salient point that I must include. By starting far in advance of my talk, I have time to assimilate the information I’ve gathered and then condense it to fit within the time frame.
This Saturday’s topic is “The Spirit Within Us,” two 45-minute talks on the Holy Spirit. For this I truly need Holy Spirit guidance!
The fellowship in which I grew up did not talk about the Holy Spirit. Our “theme verse” seemed to be Acts 2:38: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Preachers preached on it; Bible studies focused on it. After all, it was the answer to “What shall we do?”
But all those studies focused on baptism for the forgiveness of sins—a worthy part of giving our lives to Christ. But never did I hear an emphasis on the last part—receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. As I’ve studied, I realize that the Bible—both Testaments—is permeated with the Holy Spirit. The word “spirit” is 368 times in the New Testament, and “Holy Spirit” is there 93 times.
I’ve pondered why the Holy Spirit’s presence was never mentioned, and here’s one of my thoughts: I grew up with the King James Version of the Bible, and in that version, the term “Holy Ghost” is used 89 times and “Holy Spirit” is used only four times. Could it be that the “ghost” part of it was too mystical, too frightening? I have no idea.
Fear of being too charismatic might have hindered the thinking of our leaders. Whatever it was, I’m excited to be learning more and more about how the Spirit works in our lives, how the Spirit lives in us, and how the Spirit intercedes for us with the Father. After all, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11.)
Primarily, I want to be more and more attuned to the Spirit’s guidance. I want to respond to those little nudges he sends—to write a note, make a call, take food, send an email, visit. I want to be willing to speak to both strangers and friends about Jesus and his love for us.
I was particularly struck by the Upper Room devotional by Rachel Noles yesterday. A stranger spoke to her in a checkout line, simply saying “Jesus loves you.” Those words stayed in her mind for years and she finally chose to accept them and change her life.
I’ve never said “Jesus loves you” to a stranger. I would feel awkward doing so. But what could it hurt? I don’t know this person, but I can offer truth to him or her. Her story really made me rethink how the Spirit might prompt me to interact with strangers.
Since I don’t work at a place where I’m in contact with people who might not know Christ, I have limited opportunities to talk about Jesus outside my church family. In my neighborhood, yes, and I want to do more of connecting with my neighbors.
But I can also tell strangers of the love of Jesus—when the Spirit prompts me to do so.