Not too long ago, I was in conversation with a born-again, bible-believing, spirit-filled, Pentecostal follower of Christ, who has served the Lord for many years. As in most conversations, one subject generally leads to another. Our conversation was no different. There is nothing I enjoy more than to engage in a spiritually rich conversation with a fellow believer regarding the word, our Lord and the things of the Spirit. Strangely, and much to my surprise, the conversation seemed to go south when the topic of the Holy Spirit and tongues came up. I was informed that tongues no longer has a place in the church setting and that the gifts and moves of the Spirit are not what is needed, but rather, it is all about love. How does one argue with that? Of course, it’s all about love. Shockingly, I have had subsequent conversations with believers that have echoed a similar sentiment. But one must be spiritually adept enough to realize that it is not a matter of ‘either/or’. The notion that there is a choice to be made, preferring one over against the other is ludicrous. God the Holy Spirit and love are one and the same. They are inseparable. There can be no agape love experienced without the work of the Spirit. God poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to love Him, love the brethren, and love the lost soul. In fact, without the work of the Spirit we, ourselves, would still be lost souls! So, when has it ever not been about love?
It seems apparent that the deceiver is alive and well, and is doing a fine job of outwitting a great many believers who have interpreted the ‘it’s only about love’ lie as a new movement; a more contemporary church experience. If we are falling for this, and it certainly appears that some are, does this not build the case for the exact reason why we can never side-step the ministry of the Spirit, corporately or individually? It is precisely the work of the Spirit that enables us to discern the deceptive maneuvers of the enemy. Shooting ourselves in the foot can never be good. We can never let our guard down, nor can we ever dismiss as obsolete the divinely purposed ministry of the Spirit of God in the church of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul urges the ‘believer’ to keep step with the Spirit. Since it is by the Holy Spirit that we have life in Christ, should we not go on to walk with the Spirit, having our conduct influenced by the Spirit? It should be noted that living by the Spirit is our best defence against sin. Keeping step with the Spirit requires discipline and necessitates much prayer. Yes, even praying in tongues, frequently and at length. Praying in tongues heightens our spiritual sensitivity, enabling us to discern; to single out the voice of the Spirit of God over and above the voice of the world, the enemy, and our own emotions.
The bible says, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself...” The dictionary definition of ‘edify’ is quite interesting: to build; to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge; enlighten; to instruct or improve spiritually; uplift. There are many benefits - spiritually rich and profound benefits to the use of this divinely imparted utterance called tongues.
Why are we not desperately hungry for all of God and earnestly seeking Him for the outpouring of His Spirit? Essentially, the Holy Spirit has been given a seat - a back seat to compromise. This new cerebral and more self-accommodating faith will get us about one inch shy of the holiness that God requires of those He calls His own. By what other means is it possible to be made ready for ‘That Day’, if not for the willingness on the part of the believer to be shaped into Christ-likeness by the holiness of God’s Spirit? How is it possible to arrive at the place of holiness without the work of the Spirit, working out the necessary changes in us? Throwing the Holy Spirit (or any function of His ministry) under the bus is spiritual suicide.
God has chosen to create for Himself a new people (2 Corinthians 5:17); a people that would live the life of God, and live that life by His Spirit. What God wants for those of the new creation in Christ is to be radically transformed into a people that will live out the character of Christ, upholding the moral attributes of righteousness and holiness.
It is the cross and the Spirit from beginning to end. The early believers did not go around asking, “Are you a Christian?” No, they asked, “Do you have the Spirit?” How profound the work of the Spirit of God. Without Him, there would be no creation, no new birth, no bible, no faith, no power to proclaim the gospel, and no transformation.
I am a Pentecostal not because of an institution or denomination. I am Pentecostal because I have had an encounter with the Spirit of the living God, with whom I must keep step. We must turn back to the Spirit and allow Him to complete His work. I cry aloud to the living God for the work of His Spirit to be completed in my life. I am prepared to count the cost for more of Him.
The Holy Spirit is the most overlooked and least understood person of the trinity. Our theology states that we know Him, but we will only consider Him worthy of our love and surrender when we realize Him to be, in actuality, the infinite living God dwelling within us.