Most Western Christians have an aversion to the supernatural power of God. Much of the time when God touches us through His Holy Spirit, it impacts us emotionally. This should not be a surprise to us because we received our emotional nature from Him. We are made in His image and He is an emotional being. A rich emotional life is to be a characteristic of the Christian. And most of us can agree with this as long as we are not emotional about God or, if we have occasional warm feelings about God, it is fine if we don’t get “carried away.”
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What an interesting phrase, “carried away.” It suggests that we are in one place and end up in another and the connotation is that the second place is not as good as the first. It also suggests that rather than take ourselves there, someone or something else is carrying us. There is surely uncertainty in this image and a measure of not being in charge or in control.
These two realities, being uncertain and not in control, are very threatening realities for us humans. Despite our aversion to uncertainty and not being in control, I wonder if this is exactly what God had in mind for our interaction with His Spirit? Maybe we are supposed to be uncertain about where this experience is going and where we will end up? Maybe interacting intimately with His Spirit is an exercise in trust. Maybe this is how He wants it to be. Maybe we really do start in one place and end up in another and maybe getting there is not up to us, maybe we are supposed to be “carried away.”
What does it mean to be “in the Holy Spirit?”
The phrase, “in the Holy Spirit” appears several times in the New Testament. Here are most of those verses that refer to someone being or doing something “in the Holy Spirit”:
1] Luke 10:21: Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.”
2] Jude 1:20: “… pray in the Holy Spirit.”
3] Rev. 1:10: “On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice …”
4] Rom. 14:17: “… the Kingdom of God is about peace righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
5] John 4:23: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
In each of these passages something is happening; rejoicing, prayer, a vision, the experience of peace, the experience of knowing our righteousness, and finally worship. Something is happening through people and to people and it is somehow “in” the Holy Spirit.
The key to what “in the Holy Spirit” means lies in the word “in.”
Here are the three definitions that best describe an activity or experience happening “in” the Holy Spirit;
1. a marker of a state or condition e.g. “in torment”,
2. a marker of close personal association, e.g. “one with”, “in union with” “joined closely to”
3. a marker of the means by which one event makes another event possible, e.g. “by means of” or “through.”
If we put all these definitions together, we get this definition of the phrase “in the Holy Spirit”: “a state or condition of close personal association or union or joining with the Holy Spirit by which another state or condition, event or activity, is made possible.”
By way of example, what is made possible in John 4:23-24 is worship. What this means is that worship “in the Holy Spirit” is a condition or state which happens to us through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can make happen. It comes about by union with or joining close to the Holy Spirit. It is a different state or condition from that which we were in before we entered into “worship in the Holy Spirit.”
The same thing is happening to Jesus when He was filled with joy in the Holy Spirit. It means that something happened to him through the Holy Spirit which was different from what He was experiencing before the Holy Spirit brought the joy. Similarly, praying in the Holy Spirit is a different state from what may be prayed apart from the Holy Spirit.
In all these events, there is an increase in the “personal closeness or association” with the Holy Spirit. There is an increase in intimacy and an increase in communication between us and Him. And finally, He [by His power] makes something happen which could not happen without His intervention [with spiritual power].
We really are carried away in the godly sense of the word. We are moved from one state of being to another which results in a union with Him, which is not theoretical, but experiential. And finally, some activity or experience is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which could not have been possible without His power. In every case, such an experience leaves us with a greater understanding of the nature of God, not because we read it or heard it in a sermon, but because we experienced it/Him.
My story of being overcome with His love led to a profound experience of His love and great power through my preaching, which has lasted until today. It was the means by which the “anointing” for teaching came to me.
God is emotional, and God is powerful.
God expects us to be emotional in our response to His emotions and He expects us to move in His power.
It is fine for us to be “out of control” as long as we allow Him to be the one who is in control.
Do you really want to get to Heaven to find out that you missed so much of God’s power in your life because you were so worried about how you would appear if you got “carried away?”