A group of swimming instructors were gathering to discuss among themselves over the topic of “swimming in deep water“.
Swimming instructor A was the first to make a comment, “For the sake of completeness of the course, we have no choice but to teach swimming in deep water. But it is better that we cover this topic in lectures only and skip the practicum. Swimming in deep water is far too dangerous. If students are out of breath in the deep end and we can’t spot them in time, they can be drown. For safety sake, we should limit the swim area for our students to shallow water only.”
Swimming instructor B echoed wholeheartedly, “I couldn’t have agreed with you more. Have you not heard? Years ago, one of our instructors took his students to swim in the deep end and one of the students suddenly had a seizure. Luckily emergency help came in time, but the parents still threatened to sue. It caused such a scandal to our swimming club. Never would we take that chance again.”
But swimming instructor C looked puzzled, “But if students trained by our swimming club can only swim in shallow ends, are they equipped sufficiently to swim for life? What if they go on vacation, and want to go snorkeling in deep sea? They won’t be able to participate! I hate to think about the amazing scenery of sea habitat of deep ocean; or the fun of swimming along side fishes that they will miss! Are we offering our students the best opportunity to enjoy swimming to the fullest?”
Feeling offended, swimming instructor A snapped back, “Do you swim in the deep end yourself? Have you experienced what you have talked about?” Swimming instructor C quietly shook his head in embarrassment, “No…. But I’m just saying…”
I feel that many churches teach “walking with the Holy Spirit” in similar ways that these swimming instructors teach “swimming in the deep end”. Yes, this topic has been taught in sermons or even Sunday school and the teachings were even biblical based. But these teaching of the Holy Spirit is only taught theologically and intellectually, included for the sake of completeness, since it is a significant part of the scripture. But there is a widespread lack of personal testimonies and shared experiences of the Holy Spirit, there is such a pervasive absence of role models and spiritual mentors to inspire and to provide practical hints and tips of walking in the Spirit.
This results in an unspoken ‘understanding’ that those scriptures related to the Holy Spirit are not expected to be a living reality, eventually developing into an extremely dangerous attitude of doubt and unbelief regarding the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we live by default in the mode and spirit of self-reliance and independence. We have no expectation of asking the Holy Spirit to get involved in our everyday situations. This has become such a deep rooted church culture, that makes talking about the Holy Spirit a taboo. Anyone dares to ask what the Holy Spirit says about a situation is far too often responded by awkward silence, followed by a swift switch of topic. Asking our leaders how they hear from the Holy Spirit will often be labelled as rebels. I think many Christians out there would echo these far too common negative experiences.
Swimmers who only swim in shallow water will not experience the joy of swimming in deep waters. Disciples of Christ who live independent of the Holy Spirit will miss the deeper spiritual reality of our salvation, and the reality of living in the realm of heaven here on earth. How an electric mixer distinguishes itself from a manual one? Without plugging into a electricity supply, this electric mixer has no more power than the manual one. But kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20). How else can a Christian be different from a non-Christian without the Holy Spirit? How else can our lives manifest God’s glory that draw others to Christ if we are unplugged from the Holy Spirit in our everyday life?
You and I are temples of God within which the Holy Spirit dwells. The Spirit who dwells within us is much more than electric power. The Spirit who dwells in us is the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. He knows the heart and thoughts of God (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19), so that through Him:
- We may understand God’s heart, and even the deep things of God
- We may speak in words taught by the Spirit that are not from human wisdom
- We may explain spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words that can only be discerned through the Spirit who lives in us, but cannot be understood nor accepted by those without the Spirit
- We may see visions, prophesy, dream dreams, and see signs and wonders
- We may be confirmed about God’s salvation, testified by signs, wonders, miracles and gifts
- We may distinguish who and what is from God versus who and what is from this world
- We may distinguish truth from falsehood
(1 Corinthians 2: 10-16, Acts 2:17, Hebrews 2:3,4, Romans 8:4-12).
Do we experience these spiritual realities of living in the Holy Spirit that these words described? Do our lives and our ministries manifest the power of resurrection dwells within us?
The fear of losing control and the fear of the unknown inhibit us from living with the Holy Spirit in our everyday life. It is like first learning to swim in the deep end, letting go of the ground of the pool as our sense of security is not an easy step to take but we must overcome in order to swim in the deep end. Establishing floating as our new sense of security takes a lot of courage, practice, trial and error and stepping out by faith. In the same token, we have to let go of our established way of thinking and doing things, leaving our comfort zone, our independence as our sense of security and to embrace a new sense of security through our hearing from the Holy Spirit and our responding in obedience by faith in order to taste the joy of knowing Him and abiding in Him. This new spiritual horizon is well worth the thrill. Like swimming in deep end, it requires us a lot of courage and practice.
Quite a number of us are also trapped in our Spirit phobia from past bad experience. For example, there may be deep, unresolved wound by past spiritual leaders, whose spiritual pride led them to abuse what they thought they received from the Holy Spirit to lord over the congregation. Or past experience of spiritual leaders who used the name of the Lord in vain, using “I heard from the Spirit”, but in fact they didn’t even ask nor seek, or they have not lived a lifestyle of tuning in the voice of the Spirit, but just use this as a phrase, a saying with no spiritual substance, to force their preferences upon others, produced disharmony and a spiritually toxic atmosphere within the church (Please see this other blog entry: Why I avoid the word Charismatic entirely). These spiritual abuse of “revelation” gave a foothold to the evil one to exploit the resulted spiritual trauma, who lures the victims of spiritual abuse to believe in lies about the Holy Spirit that is against God’s Truth, resulting in a stronghold of spiritual phobia. These victims made inner vows to have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit ever again. That is exactly the strategy of the evil one: to strip off Christ’s disciples’ spiritual weapon of mass destruction through the power of the Spirit living within us such that we are no longer a threat to the kingdom of darkness.
But if having car accident does not stop us from driving, why we let these bad experiences rob us from experiencing the fruitful and abundant life that is in the Spirit? The cost of spiritual discernment; joy and excitement in experiencing the divine in a supernatural way, living in the reality of heaven here on earth is too high for such phobia.
The Spirit has led me to a new spiritual season that I started learning to “float” and “swim” in a deeper end. Hearing personal testimonies with true stories of real experiences from these bible verses about the Holy Spirit creates a deep spiritual hunger within me to want to move beyond the elementary teachings and be taken forward to maturity.
What is your experience in your journey with the Holy Spirit? Please share your story in your comment!