Have you ever been asked the question (or asked yourself): “Do you feel the Spirit?” It is a question that attempts to gage the experiential nature of the Christian life. We may shirk at the question since it may come from a different (and at time errant) theological position. Theologically, we reject a second baptism of the Spirit, or charismatic gifts as a test of one’s salvation. We also deny experience as a simple marker of one’s faith. To avoid extreme and errant positions, we may eschew the experiential nature of our relationship with the Lord. But we must not deny it, we should embrace the experiential guided by Scripture and sound theology. To be sure, our covenant relationship with the Lord, is just that: a relationship. It is doctrine when we express that we are adopted, God being our Father; joint heirs with Christ; and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
When thinking of the experiential nature of our relationship with the Spirit, what is pondered is the notion of the presence of the Spirit in our lives. As believers we can rest assure that the Spirit abides with and indwells in us. This is an objective reality. It is the Spirit that creates new life in us (Titus 3:5), confirms in us that we belong to the Lord (Romans 8:15-16), gives us His fruits as evidence of our faith (Galatians 5:22-23), gives us gifts for the edification of the church (1 Corinthians 12:11), and much more. The Spirit is doing these works whether we feel them or not. Yet, there may be moments when we sense the presence of the Spirit in a greater way than “normal.” I would suggest that it is not when we “feel spiritual” though. In contrast, it is when we are weakest when the Spirit’s presence gives us strength (2 Corinthians 12:10). As we ponder the Apostle Paul’s experiences in prison and even our Lord’s moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, we think on our own moments of weakness, yet indescribable strength and joy. We may experience the mocking of our faith or even the tragic loss of a loved one, yet we do not lose hope. We are experiencing the presence of the Spirit.
We not only experience the presence of the Spirit, but also the power of the Spirit. With a clear understanding that the apostles were empowered in a unique way, even to “tread on serpents and scorpion, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19), we do not hold to an idea that the Spirit no longer empowers believers. It is precisely the power of the Spirit by which we overcome sin (Romans 8:12-13). We cannot deny the experience of the empowering work of the Spirit when faced with temptation and yet we do not succumb to it. We also sense the work of the Spirit in the proclamation of the gospel. Preachers of old would speak of the unction of the Spirit – the empowering and anointing of the Spirit as one faithfully proclaims the gospel of our Lord. Presbyterian minister, Francis Grimke, would even write in his Meditations on Preaching, that “in preaching, I am not speaking for God, it is God speaking through me.” Whether from the pulpit or over coffee, the proclamation of the gospel is the empowering work of the Spirit through the believer. Be assured that as our heart races and our hands seem to tremble, it is the power of the Spirit in and through us telling someone the good news of Christ. On our own, we would take the easy road of shrinking back and remain silent, but through the power of the Spirit, we press on.
May we not deny the experiential aspect of our relationship with the Spirit due to cold Stoicism, to be theologically faithful. Yet, let us remember that we are not called to go looking for extraordinary emotional moments. May we, like the church in Acts, simply go proclaiming and living in light of the gospel. And let us be grateful for the moments when we are weakest yet cannot deny the work of the Spirit in a great way through His presence and power, for the glory of our Triune God.