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Holy Spirit 101 at Harvard: Twelve Things You Need to Know About the Third Person of the Trinity

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In the fall semester, Fady Ghobrial, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Harvard University, challenged students to go deeper in their faith when he delivered a message about the Holy Spirit during DOXA, Christian Union Gloria’s Leadership Lecture Series. Ghobrial’s lecture, “Twelve Things You Need to Know About the Holy Spirit,” covered thematic threads through scripture, church history, and systematic theology. Below is a summary and highlights of the twelve points:

1. The Holy Spirit is God. He is to be worshipped and prayed to and glorified as God. The Holy Spirit is not an “it”—He is a personal being. He can be grieved, resisted, honored, and obeyed. The Holy Spirit is the power of God. In Luke, 24, Jesus tells his disciples, “You will be clothed with power.” In Acts 1:8, the Bible says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses.” The Holy Spirit gives us power because he is the source of creation power, healing power, salvation power, the power to witness, and  power to live a righteous life.

2. The Holy Spirit empowered the Ministry of Jesus. In Luke 3,  Jesus is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in a bodily form like a dove. In Luke 4, Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and then led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He is tempted, overcomes temptation, and then returns in the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. The Holy Spirit is the gift of the New Covenant. God’s desire was always to dwell with His people. Under the Old Covenant this was experienced in a limited measure. The Holy Spirit would come upon people and empower them for ministry for a period of time. But in the New Covenant, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we don’t have the Holy Spirit temporarily—the Spirit is now given to everyone who believes in Jesus. You and I are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the gift of the new covenant.

4. The Holy Spirit gives life and applies redemption by regenerating our hearts. He takes the work of Jesus, and he applies it to your heart. In Titus 3:5, the Bible says that God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” The Spirit regenerates us and renews us; He upstarts our dead hearts by His power.

5. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers permanently from the moment of conversion. If you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead—you have the Holy Spirit! If you have a growing love for Jesus and a growing hatred for sin…that’s evidence you have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in you. When we believe, we are sealed. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (Ephesians 1). The Holy Spirit does not leave us.

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6. The Holy Spirit renovates our souls, renews our minds, and sanctifies us. The Holy Spirit renovates our souls by working in us to make us look more and more like Jesus, to grow and to mature, and to become more and more holy. Ephesians 4:23 says “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” In Romans 12, we’re commanded to be transformed “by the renewal of our minds.” The Holy Spirit is the agent of renewal.

7. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of scripture, and is our teacher and guide. We are never alone when we read scripture because the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of scripture, is our teacher and guide. Jesus, in John 14:26, said, “…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” In John 16:13, Jesus says, “when the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.”

8. To be filled with the Spirit is to be clothed with extraordinary power by the Holy Spirit to advance the mission of God. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit to be witnesses, to have power, to tell the world about Jesus. In Acts 8, Philip was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached boldly. There were signs and wonders and miracles, and many people believe in Jesus. Why? Because the Holy Spirit gives power and boldness. Likewise, we need to be filled with extraordinary power in order to advance the mission of God on our campus, in our homes, in our world, and everywhere that God would bring us.

9. The Filling of the Holy Spirit is always discernible. The filling of the Spirit has visible effects that are seen or heard. It’s always connected to advancing the mission of Jesus to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations. It rarely happens in a vacuum. In Acts 1:8, the evidence of the spirit is power for witnessing. In Acts 2, they all spoke in tongues. At the end of Acts 2, when they receive the spirit, they have incredible unity and love for one another and generosity. In Acts 4:31, the disciples were all filled with the Spirit and they continued to speak the word of God with boldness!

10. The Holy Spirit gifts us differently in order to equip us appropriately. In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7, Paul said, “ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for edification and the advancing of the mission of Jesus.

11. Christians are to regularly be filled with the Holy Spirit. In John 20, Jesus breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In the book of Acts, they were filled multiple times. The filling of the Holy Spirit is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing lifestyle. In Ephesians 5:18, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. How would your life be different if you were filled with the spirit on a regular basis? How would your life change if you received power to overcome that sin you’ve been struggling with? What would happen if you received boldness to share the love of Jesus with the people around you?

12. We can be filled with the Spirit now by simply believing and asking. There are three steps to receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. We need to surrender, believe, and ask God to fill us with His Spirit. We need to believe that there is more; There is a greater depth and greater levels of walking in the experiential reality of the nearness and the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit. Would you pray, Lord, I believe that you have more for me. I believe that you want to fill me with your spirit. God, you’re a good father and you give good gifts to those who ask. Would you come and fill me? Please come and fill me with your spirit. Amen.

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