“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1)
Don’t you love how kind and gentle Paul’s letters are?
What was it that got the apostle so worked up? It was because the Galatians had the wrong idea about the importance of the Holy Spirit. They understood the role that the Spirit played in their conversion, but they were missing out on his role as Helper in the ongoing life of a believer. Their new life in Christ had begun by responding to the Holy Spirit through faith, but they were now trying to maintain it by human effort, rather than relying on him.
Many Christians today get caught in the same trap as the Galatians: we forget why the Holy Spirit is so important. If we want to avoid being “foolish Galatians,” we need to respond to the Holy Spirit and the way he moves in our lives.
Here are five key roles that the Holy Spirit plays.
1. He guides you into Jesus’ truth
Jesus was clear on the importance of the Holy Spirit: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth... he will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (John 16:13-14). Do you want to know what Jesus is saying to you as you journey through this life? Do you want to be able to hear God’s voice as you read through the pages of the Bible? It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who communicates all of that to you.
2. He directs your steps
The Holy Spirit not only speaks the words of Jesus to you, but he actually is the one who leads and directs your steps into the abundant life that Jesus promised. Paul wrote, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit…. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:9, 11). The Holy Spirit is the conduit of life from God into your heart. He is the one who controls your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions as you follow his leading. He will direct your steps through all the complicated paths of life and keep you from sin. That is abundant life!
3. He gives you spiritual gifts
The Holy Spirit is also the one who gives spiritual gifts to all followers of Jesus so that we all can play our role in the Body of Christ. Paul gave us a sampling of those gifts in his first letter to the Corinthian church:
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).
It is through these gifts of the Spirit that we function best as the Church, and it is through these gifts that we are able to proclaim the power of Jesus to people who desperately need to know our Savior.
4. He empowers you to proclaim
In Acts, Luke recalls over and over the crucial role the Holy Spirit played in the early Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. When Peter and John stood accused before powerful leaders, Luke reported that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One they had crucified, was the only way to salvation (Acts 4:5-12). This is the same Peter who only two months earlier had denied Jesus. And now, standing in the very place where Jesus had been condemned, Peter accused these religious elite that they had crucified the Messiah. That new boldness could only be possible through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
5. He guarantees your hope of heaven
The Holy Spirit is also important because he is the guarantee of your inheritance in heaven. “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Satan wants to destroy your hope and tries to get you to doubt your Savior’s love. But the Spirit’s leading, teaching, gifting, and proclaiming is proof that you belong to God forever.
So don’t let anyone “bewitch” you. The Holy Spirit is of vital importance in your life. It is through him that the character of Christ is revealed in you: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law… . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23, 25).
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