And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
— Acts 19:1–2
As I read this text, it appears to me that the Apostle Paul made a visit to the church that I attended as a child. It wasn’t that we were scared of the spiritual, but we seldom spoke of the Holy Spirit. Of course, He received the obligatory nod, but we didn’t pay much attention to his work. I think we were afraid that, if we talked about him too much, we would soon fall off some charismatic cliff. We knew about the Holy Spirit, but we never encouraged an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Those waters were dangerous.
This passage has been the starting point for many doctrinal debates about the differences, and similarities, between receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. As interesting as those discussions may be, that is not the point of this particular devotion. The truth is that I went off to college without ever knowing much about the Holy Spirit, academically or experientially. I had not taken stock of the divine direction that I had available to me in the Spirit.
In one of my first Bible classes at Baylor, I did a study on the Greek word parakletos. This is the Greek word most often used for “Holy Spirit”. The word literally means the “one called along side,” but in English it is translated as counselor, comforter or helper. When I began to dig deeper into these realities, I learned that it is the Holy Spirit that walks along side me and points me to the truth of Christ. He comforts me in times of distress and shows me exactly what the heavenly Father would have me do here on earth.
I discovered that the Holy Spirit is not something to fear, but rather something to embrace as a gift from God. When I face uncertainty about an upcoming decision, the Holy Spirit will provide me with direction — that I must then choose to follow. After all, he comes along side me, but I have to choose to listen to the Spirit’s prompting.
The Holy Spirit guides me in truth, prompts me in holiness, and convicts me when I step outside of my spiritual birthright (referred to as “walking in my flesh”). The Holy Spirit is constantly pointing me to my kinship/union with Christ. After all, it is this awareness that allows me to fully experience the destiny that the heavenly Father has for me as a son.
I won’t wade too much deeper into what this understanding did for my spiritual walk, but ultimately it was the catalyst for every major spiritual moment that has since ensued. I echo the thoughts that I once heard a Pastor proclaim: “The Holy Spirit is my best friend!”