But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
When a group of Bible students were reciting the words of a creed they had learned, one girl stood and said, "I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and Earth." Another followed, "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son who was crucified, buried and rose again the third day." There was a pause, then a girl's voice rang out, "I think the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today!"
Indeed! God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe in all three, or so we say; however, we know little about the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The boy who believes in the Holy Spirit--the absent one--has grown into a man.
When Dr. Armin Gesswein was a young man, it was his privilege to walk across a college campus with a veteran missionary, a Presbyterian who had spent many years in China, whose name was Jonathan Goforth. Taking advantage of the moment, Armin asked Goforth what advice he had for him as a young man. This white-haired saint, who had spent a lifetime in missionary service said, "Find out about the Holy Spirit." Do we need that advice today? Sometimes torn between the excesses of fanaticism and the ignorance of avoiding the whole subject, we find ourselves spiritually bankrupt, still in need of the power which Jesus promised to those who waited in the Upper Room. We have never learned that the Spirit is God, not an "it" or an influence but a person who accomplishes the work of the Father and the Son in our lives.
Jesus told the disciples that if He went to the Father, He would send the Spirit, who would indwell and empower them, who would make their bodies the temples of God, and who would be a force which gives them inner strength and guides them into His will.
Writing to the Ephesians Paul closed one of his prayers, saying, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). Did you notice the last phrase, "according to his power that is at work within us"?
The big difference between the way the Holy Spirit interacted with people before and after the coming of Christ is his relationship to them. In Old Testament days, the Holy Spirit came on people. For example, the Spirit of God came upon Samson, and he took the jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand Philistines. In days of old, He was with people and empowered them to accomplish God's purpose. But after the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost, He came to indwell God's children, to work in their lives, to be a conscience who would guide them to truth and keep them from sin.
A final question. If the Holy Spirit is God--the power who works in us, using Paul's terminology–why are we so afraid of Him? That fear is two-fold, I think. First, the old King James term, "Holy Ghost" conjured up images of spooks and goblins--an unfortunate translation. But then, there is also the fear--stemming from abuses which we have seen--that we would lose control and that the Spirit would turn us into blathering idiots or cause us to do something we would later regret. Both are irrational and nonsensical. God never makes a fool of anyone, but the Spirit of God does dwell quietly within His children, empowering, guiding and going beyond our human limitation in accomplishing His will.
The advice of Jonathan Goforth is still needed: "Find out about the Holy Spirit," and when you do, you will be a stronger, more balanced, better informed believer.
Resource reading: John 14:15-17