In September, I spent a week teaching about what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit to 23 students at Messiah Theological Institute (MTI). MTI is a training program that we run to help village church leaders (and members) have a solid foundation in theological matters and practical church leadership. One of the most confused doctrines here in Uganda (and I would argue around the world) is what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit. So it was fun and interesting to spend time examining deeply what the Word of God says about the Spirit of God, and then sharing what I found with these students.
The reality is that most of our students have always based their beliefs about the Holy Spirit more on their traditions, cultural norms, and what different people have taught them rather than looking to the Bible for the Truth. The most common understanding in village churches seems to be that the Holy Spirit is the power of God in my life and should give me great power on a daily basis to accomplish what I want. The Holy Spirit is seen in doses and degrees in different people: “this one is more powerful in the Spirit because he can speak in tongues” or “this one has more of the Holy Spirit because he is a powerful preacher.” But that isn’t what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit.
So the first thing we did was begin in the Old Testament looking at how the Holy Spirit was at work from the very beginning (Genesis 1:2 says “the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Click HERE for video.) We then looked at the Holy Spirit’s relationship with the prophets in the Old Testament, and even specifically the prophetic visions Holy Spirit gave that promised the coming of Messiah. Well then of course we looked at the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how we see the Holy Spirit active throughout His story. And how there are multiple times where we see the Father, the Son, and the Spirit all together as God, yet remarkably unique as each one. It was awesome to see most of the students read these passages for the very first time; many of the students thought that the Holy Spirit didn’t exist until the New Testament, so there was much to learn.
After we had a good foundation of how the Holy Spirit moved from Genesis through the Gospels, we then turned to the Acts of the Apostles and how the Holy Spirit moved in the early church. The conversions, miracles, personal indwelling, guidance and leadership, and so much more kept us on the edge of our seats. But the book of Acts can be less doctrine and more narrative at times, so we had to examine the Epistles for teachings regarding the Holy Spirit. And we got into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and what the Spirit does in and through each of us. These made for some lively discussions. But always we sought to go directly to what the Bible teaches us.
One of my favorite lessons was about the difference between being “Indwelled by the Holy Spirit” and being “Filled by the Holy Spirit.” I heard it somewhere that “When the Holy Spirit indwells you, he becomes a resident. But when the Holy Spirit fills you, he becomes the president.” Which means living a life BY the Spirit, and what a huge difference this makes. EVERY believer in Jesus is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but not EVERY believer lives a life full of the Spirit. This the battle that Paul describes within himself in Romans 7, and the struggle that we all face on a daily basis.
All in all it was a great week. Boy was I exhausted (I’m not really used to teaching that many hours and that many students in such a concentrated timeframe). But I was also very thankful for the opportunity. The biggest thing I wanted the students to take away, and I hope you also remember, is that “The most powerful demonstration of the Holy Spirit is a transformed life.”
Go and be TRANSFORMED!