Holy Spirit – Still Active Today or Not?

“If little else of practical benefit comes to you who read this chapter, I pray that you will move forward in your Christian life and in whatever ministry God has given you with a newly found and biblically grounded confidence in the authority and power given to every believer in the name of Jesus.

Don’t live in fear of the devil and his minions. Stand firm.”
– Sam Storms

Stop or Go with Gifts?

Do you believe the Holy Spirit still works today in miraculous ways? Or instead do you believe he stopped moving supernaturally near the end of the first century?

Whichever view you hold, this book might interest you.

Practicing-the-Power-Sam-Storms

Sam Storms (also the author of One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God), in his newest book, Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life, says this:

“I believe that one of the reasons why spiritual gifts are less frequent in certain seasons of church history than in others is due to the fact that people didn’t seek, pursue, or passionately and incessantly pray for these gifts. And often the reason they didn’t pray for them or ask for them is because they had a prior conviction or belief that they did not exist or were not available to them.

In other words, they had not because they asked not, and they asked not because they believed not!”

In other words: if you don’t think it will happen, it’s less likely to.

So chapter by chapter, gift by gift, Storms writes why he does believe that the Spirit still works through humans with special gifts.

I agree with him on many points, and disagree on others. My views are still in flux.

But whether you agree or not, you won’t feel pushed in this book. Storms writes with humility. He includes scriptures and personal experiences to back up his claims. The tone of the book is positive, not prideful for those who do believe or condemning for those who don’t.

Worship in the Spirit

I particularly enjoyed Chapter 12, “The Importance of Worship in the Spirit.” Storms doesn’t say worship itself is a gift of the Spirit. He does say worship can be awakened, sustained, and energized by the Spirit.

He differentiates between . . .

  • those whose greatest fear in worship is emotionalism and those whose greatest fear is intellectualism,
  • those who only sing about God and those who sing to God,
  • those who mostly cultivate fear and reverence and those who aim for joy and love.

I’ve worshiped in both types of churches. The differences are real. I have a preference. You likely have one, too. It’s not a right or wrong choice.

This happened yesterday at our church as part of Palm Sunday. I call this expression of worship a spiritual gift. It’s a gift I’ve not been given. But it’s one that moves me when others share it.

[click here if you can’t see the 1:27 video]

Lists of Reasons

The book ends with two appendices, An Alternative Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, and Are Miraculous Gifts for Today, derived from Storms’ previous writings.

The latter appendix includes this list: “Twelve Bad Reasons for Being a Cessationist” (one who believes certain gifts have ceased, stopped). One of the reasons is:

“If signs, wonders, and miracles were essential in the physical presence of the Son of God, how much more essential are they now in his absence?

. . . In other words, if the glorious presence of the Son of God himself did not preclude the need for miraculous phenomena, how can we suggest that our possession of the Bible does?”

Storms follows that list with another list: “Twelve Good Reasons for Being a Continuationist” (one who believes that all the gifts of the Spirit continue to be given by God today).

This list includes reasons like #3, the extensive New Testament evidence of miraculous gifts among Christians who are not apostles, and #5, the fundamental continuity or spiritually organic relationships between the church in Acts and the church in subsequent centuries.

Read them for yourself in Practicing the Power to form your own conclusions.

Quotes

Here are a few quotes from selected chapters in Practicing the Power.

  • Chapter 1, Welcome the Spirit

Regarding embarrassing examples of faith healers on TV (or in person), Storms says, “I resolved in my heart that I would never justify my disobedience to God’s Word because of the abusive or embarrassing practices of others.”

“God is far more pleased with our obedience than he is with our success. Success is not something we ultimately control. I can’t guarantee that my prayers for the sick will result in healing. I can’t promise that my word to you will be spot-on accurate. But I can control whether or not I am willing to step out and take a risk. And the risk is worth it.”

  • Chapter 3, Praying

Pray for people-Sam-Storms

“When God wants to bless us with a miraculous answer to our prayer, he will take the initiative to cultivate and build into our hearts the fulfillment of the condition he requires.”

  • Chapter 4, Fasting

“Fasting is about spiritual indulgence! It is not a giving up of food (or some activity) for its own sake. It is about giving up food for Christ’s sake.

We are always driven to fast because we hunger for something more than food.”

  • Chapter 5, Healing

“The primary reason God healed through Jesus prior to Pentecost was because he is a merciful, compassionate God. And the primary reason God continues to heal after Pentecost is because he is a merciful, compassionate God. God is no less merciful, no less compassionate, no less caring when it comes to the physical condition of his people after Pentecost than he was before Pentecost.”

  • Chapter 9, Deliverance

“Don’t ever think of yourself as at one end of a rope and Satan at the other, both of you struggling to overpower the other. No! You are in Christ who is over all. Satan is beneath you, in Christ’s name.”

  • Chapter 11, Ministry

“We are to pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ and be confident that he will, whether or not manifestations follow. If they do, we should not prevent them from occurring. But neither should we take steps to artificially induce them.”

Conclusion

I recommend this book be read with an open mind. You may or may not change your mind on anything you believe, but in the challenge, you’ll still learn and grow.

We likely can all agree on this prayer offered by Storms in his conclusion:

Pray yet again that God would increase your spiritual hunger pangs, that he would intensify your thirst for godly power, that he would never allow you to settle for the status quo.”

* * *

Do you believe the Spirit is still active today, or that he now speaks only in the words of the Bible? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book.

32 thoughts on “Holy Spirit – Still Active Today or Not?

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Looks like an interesting book.

    I think the point is not God’s continued mercy, but our ability to receive it. At the end of the first century, there would have still been living wittnesses to jesus’ earthly ministry which -I postulate – would have given a more pure faith and motivation.

    I think the reason we see so few miracles today – or seem to see few – is that most of the people practicing the Gifts do so for their own glorification, or at best to lay at the altar f an imaginary God, one whom they think they can either bribe or placate with their works.

    I suspect that there are many, many miracles, say, of healing, performed by people who don’t advertise them on websites, and whose grateful recipients realize that there is something holy about the right hand not telling the left what it’s doing.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/04/your-dying-spouse-295-patient-pride.html
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 295 – Patient PrideMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad to get your take on this, Andrew. I always value your opinions. I agree that sometimes we don’t see as many miracles because we aren’t looking for them. And I also believe that other times, we look and look and they just don’t come because it’s not how God is at work. I wish I could understand his ways better. 😉

      Your concluding paragraph is so true: the working of the Spirit is often through people that are quiet and “invisible” as they allow him to move through them. I’m grateful for examples of humility when I’m fortunate enough to see them.

  2. Barbara H.

    I do believe the Holy Spirit is very active today, but personally I don’t think what we call the “sign gifts” are what He primarily uses today. Being a cessationist doesn’t mean I think the Holy Spirit is inactive or is just waiting behind the scenes quietly until the end of the world. The times I have heard of when these types of gift seem most genuine and most in line with Scriptural examples and teaching have been in situations where people didn’t have the Bible or had been restricted from it. So in that sense maybe I wouldn’t call myself a cessationist, because I do believe God can and does work through those kinds of gifts on occasion, but I just think there is much less occasion for it now that we have the written Word of God, which can reach many people more effectively than a miracle here and there. Re his question, “If signs, wonders, and miracles were essential in the physical presence of the Son of God, how much more essential are they now in his absence?” I don’t know, but on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus met up with two disciples after He had been resurrected, it’s significant to me that He ministered to them from His Word rather than with His physical presence. He didn’t say, “Hey, guys, it’s me!” At least until much later. But instead, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” If the Word of God is God-breathed, it seems natural that it would be the primary way He speaks to people these days.

    I do very much agree that we shouldn’t “take steps to artificially induce” those manifestations. Once as a teenager (not having grown up in church or been taught about any of this at that point), I called the advertised phone number of one of the better known Christian TV programs, and I don’t remember if the guy said anything to me about grace or forgiveness or Jesus. He just asked me if I had ever spoken in tongues and then told me I could “prime the pump” by loosening my jaw and saying syllables over and over, and eventually it would come. It didn’t, and even in my untaught state I thought that was a little suspicious.

    Then at a later time I was reading books like The Cross and the Switchblade, famous at the time, where this kind of thing was just taken as perfectly natural. I begged God in my bedroom to let that happen to me if it was something I needed. It never did, and I grieved for a while, thinking there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until years layer that I realized God HAD answered, and it didn’t happen because it wasn’t something I needed.

    I have known people who have been miraculously healed, but it hasn’t come by laying on of hands or someone praying over them and pronouncing them healed. It as more like a number of people praying for them, and when they went back for tests, the tests showed nothing was wrong.

    I now this is an area where good people who love God can differ (John MacArthur and John Piper are on different sides of this issue), and I don’t make it a test of fellowship. But since you asked us to share our thoughts…I did. :-)
    Barbara H. recently posted…Book Review: SnapshotMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I so appreciate you taking the time to write down these thoughts, Barbara. I find them very helpful. I did want to hear what you’d have to say on this. You make such a valid point that there is a middle ground between total cessationism and total continuationism (is that a word?) (as I would define them anyway).

      I also appreciate you sharing your personal experiences. I’ve definitely known MANY more people who have prayed for healing and not received it, than the reverse. While that doesn’t negate the healings that do occur, it does remind me that (1) miraculous healing is not something we can conjure up on our own, and that (2) healing doesn’t always look like we think anyway.

      I’m also grateful that this issue isn’t a test of fellowship. My thoughts continue to evolve on it so I might have to disfellowship myself otherwise. :)

  3. Anita Ojeda

    It sounds like a good book, Lisa! I have spoken with missionaries who work in areas where devil worship is alive and well (and much more out in the open than it is here in the US). Miracles abound. Maybe it’s because those praying actually believe in the power of God to overcome evil. Maybe we don’t realize how subtle the devil’s power is in our culture, so we don’t pray hard against it.
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…The Simple Antidote to Not Enough: PraiseMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for bringing that up, Anita. I also have heard friends who have been in foreign countries come back with stories that we can hardly believe here in the states. Their faith is forever changed and solidified because of it. God definitely shows up where he is wanted and in ways he can be seen!

  4. Carol

    What Anita said. Because I have been blessed to have witnessed a number of miracles I can honestly say I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work. However, sometimes when I don’t get my way, or receive the answers I want, I view that as the Holy Spirit not answering. I have to be careful to not get caught up in MY view, but to trust in God’s plan!
    Carol recently posted…Karma or GraceMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a blessing to have witnessed a number of miracles, Carol. I’ve been blinded in the past by my own disbelief in them to have seen as many as I could have (if that makes sense). I’ve found now that the more open I am to believing, the more able I am to see. God’s work has been the same; it’s just my vision is often distorted. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Mary Geisen

    Thank you for the book review. I do believe the Holy Spirit is active today. I see him at work in my own life and in the lives of those around me. I imagine Sam’s book could be controversial in the minds of some people but your call to read with an open mind gives fair warning.

    I like the quote about success and obedience. I have been hearing a lot about obedience recently and I like that God is not looking at out success but out obedience. I pray you and your family have a blessed Easter.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…What Can You Do In One Week?My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for your personal testimony, Mary. I agree with you–because I’ve seen the Spirit actively at work in my own life and in the lives of others, I believe that he is definitely still active today. It’s hard to argue with that. :)

      Letting go of “success” is a difficult thing, especially in our American culture where we often equate obedience WITH success. But yes, they can be two different things. I appreciate you sharing that.

  6. Lesley

    This sounds like a helpful book and I think it’s important for people to look into this topic. I have seen both sides of it- being in a church where I was taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit didn’t operate today and also a church where the gifts of the Spirit were encouraged but where I think there was some wrong and dangerous teaching around them- e.g. the expectation that God should heal everyone who was prayed for and if he didn’t the problem must be a lack of faith.
    I do believe the Holy Spirit works today but I think it’s not always in a way we can predict or control.
    Lesley recently posted…Why Have You Abandoned Me?My Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear you, Lesley. I’ve seen, too, how the extremes on either end can be unhealthy. I’m still trying to find the right belief for myself. Your final statement sums it up well for me, too: “I do believe the Holy Spirit works today but I think it’s not always in a way we can predict or control.”

  7. Ifeoma Samuel

    Dear Lisa, i think i will like this book..

    For the most part, whether we think or believe what we want, it doesn’t change who God is.
    I am beginning to see our opinions about what or how we think of God does not make Him less or More! And Our intellectual knowledge is limited. The drive to figure out and explore what is and what is not about only asked us push towards blurred lines. That’s the here humanity has reached…. Trying to physically prove existence of God. When in actuality even nature shows us His awe!

    That’s why He asks us to believe!
    Will there be counterfeits posing and acting, yes.
    But it doesn’t negate the presence of the very thing.
    As Andrew says there are still raw miracles and moves of the Holy Spirit by seemingly ordinary people who truly follow Jesus.

    God is God… Saying the Holy Spirit is not active is saying God is not! Because He is the Holy Spirit.

    Happy Easter, dear Lisa.
    Ifeoma Samuel recently posted…The Golden Flute 4: The RequestMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You speak wisdom here, Ifeoma: “For the most part, whether we think or believe what we want, it doesn’t change who God is.” God is who God is, regardless of what we believe about him. We can see him differently based on our right or wrong beliefs, but who he is remains constant. I’m so grateful for that! I’m sure my opinions on many aspects of spirituality are still majorly flawed, but his underlying truth and grace still cover my errors since I belong to him. God is God. Yes. :) Happy Easter to you too, friend!

  8. BettieG

    Dear Lisa,
    Thank you for a great and inviting review! I grew up in churches where we believed strongly in the gifts of the Holy Spirit being in operation for today, so yes I still believe that. However, I missed out on a lot of the spiritual disciplines that were deemed a little too “traditional” or “ritual.” So in the last few years, as my pace has greatly slowed down, God has led me to research and look into some of those older practices. I believe that each “side” of these belief systems can benefit from listening and joining in with the other. There is so much blessing to be had when we glean and learn from each other! May you have a Blessed Holy Week!
    BettieG recently posted…In Awe of WondersMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Isn’t it interesting how we go back to fill in those gaps once we get to be an adult? I missed out a lot on the traditional spiritual disciplines as well, and have enjoyed learning, as an adult, about how to do contemplative prayer, lectio divina, etc., from a nearby Catholic community. So much to learn from each other indeed! Thanks for sharing, Bettie. May you have a wonderful Easter!

  9. Linda Todd

    “I believe that one of the reasons why spiritual gifts are less frequent in certain seasons of church history than in others is due to the fact that people didn’t seek, pursue, or passionately and incessantly pray for these gifts. And often the reason they didn’t pray for them or ask for them is because they had a prior conviction or belief that they did not exist or were not available to them.
    In other words, they had not because they asked not, and they asked not because they believed not!”

    The aforementioned paragraph is key. If it once was, it still is, however, there are certain qualification that must be present in our life. I think some people are afraid to believe in the gifts, and do not ask to receive. The Word of God does not change, nothing will be taken away or put to it.

    My scripture this mornings hits it pretty well. ” 2 Peter 1: 20 – “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” v21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

    The Holy Ghost will not dwell in an unclean temple, therefore for Him to work more in our life, or any other spiritual gift, our life must be clean, and ready to receive.

    When Jesus told His disciples that He would send another comforter, I do not believe that He was saying for them only. This is a deep subject, and the Bible even tells us the following: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:12.

    Great subject, thanks for sharing

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can tell that this is a subject you’ve spent time studying, Linda. I appreciate hearing your views and your enthusiasm. I love learning from others who have had different experiences and studies. We all have much to learn from each other. Thanks for sharing this here.

  10. Michele Morin

    I love how your words and your reading force me to think. I’m pretty fond of God in a nice neat box, but I’ve learned that there is peril in this, and am getting more and more comfortable with saying things like, “I don’t know for sure, but I’m hesitant to limit God by saying what He will or won’t do to manifest His glory.”

    Thanks, Lisa, for using your mind and your heart to advance the kingdom of God and to encourage us to be thinking people.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Culture Care: Filling Up the Longing for BeautyMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “I don’t know for sure” has become a phrase I’ve had to use a lot more in the past several years as well, Michele. Hopefully it will spare me some of the mistakes I made in the years prior to that, thinking I understood so much about God. ha. He certainly won’t stay in the box I made for him! And I’m glad. :)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes it’s a good thing when you know NOT to finish a book. :) I typically have the problem on the other side–even when a book isn’t good, I feel too compelled to finish it. ha.

      I totally agree with you that the Spirit communicates with us when we’re receptive to listen! Thanks for stopping in, Margaret.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Such a blessing that he is here and working! Even when we can’t see him, we can know he is with us. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing. Praying you have a meaningful Easter!

  11. Pam

    Well done, Lisa! Over my lifetime, my understanding has broadened and my husband and I have been in churches where the gifts are active as well as ones where they are not. Even where they are not, in some (including where we are now) I often sense a powerful evidence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps one of our challenges is that we human types tend to like boxes and our churches seem to often separate on a continuum as a result of our human efforts to under a divine God. I have seen excesses, but I have also been in quiet settings where I have seen power that was undeniable. Miracles? I think as we read about the body of Christ around the world, we often find evidences of extraordinary things occurring. Perhaps that is how God is moving there or perhaps they are more likely to come to Him in childlike faith without so much thinking included.

    As always, it DOES look like a great book.

    As an aside, I am currently about 1/3 of the way through the book you recently mentioned to me, Grit, and like it a great deal. Yes, I took the Grit Scale and am pretty gritty, but I am sure that it would not have been quite so much so when I was younger.

    Have a blessed Easter weekend worshipping our Lord!
    Pam recently posted…God’s Darkest HoursMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I really enjoyed reading what you have shared here, Pam! It’s always uplifting to hear others’ experiences of how they have seen God at work, in all kinds of places. This is true for me, too: “I have seen excesses, but I have also been in quiet settings where I have seen power that was undeniable.” I’m so glad the Spirit knows how to show up regardless of the situation.

      I’m so glad you are enjoying Grit. I continue to think about it, even after I finished the book (which is one sign of a good book to me). I love seeing gritty people. Glad you are one. :)

  12. Ashley Davis

    I definitely believe the Spirit works today, through the Bible and through us.
    My views have changed over the years. I think He works in different ways and whatever the situation may be. For example, I don’t think we necessarily need to speak in tongues during a meeting with fellow Christians. However, I think if you were with someone who doesn’t understand your native language, God may choose to work through you and allow you to speak a different language. I don’t ever want to limit what God can do through the Spirit.
    I was in Africa on my second mission trip, and we prayed for a woman’s leg to be healed. Honestly, then I was like, this is kind of crazy. Now, I wouldn’t think that it’s crazy, but maybe her healing wouldn’t happen on the spot, but maybe years later.

    I know plenty of people who use 1 Corinthians to say that gifts don’t happen today, but I think that verse doesn’t say that at all. I would be interested in hearing what the author’s interpretation is.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My views on Holy Spirit have changed through the years, too, thankfully. That’s one reason I hold my current beliefs with an open hand because I trust God is always transforming us to more full truths. Our minds just can’t seem to handle everything at once; he’s way too big! :)

      The author of Practicing the Power believes that the Spirit still gives gifts today. His book focuses a lot on how the gifts can work within a church setting. He does a balanced job of showing pros and cons of how people have used and misused the gifts in the past.

      I’m always amazed at stories of missionaries in foreign countries. I think people are often more open to seeing and receiving from the Spirit in countries outside of the States. Here we have so much and have a harder time understanding that we still need to depend on God.


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