Monthly Archives: November 2015

“Catching the Holy Spirit”

Catching the HS

When you grow up and are involved in church life, you hear a lot of things, a lot of sayings, especially if you visit churches of a different denominational stripe than your own. I will never forget the time I heard someone use the phrase, “Catching the Holy Spirit.”

“Boy, did you see Sister So-and-So today? She caught the Holy Ghost during worship service today. She was shouting all over the place.”

“Wasn’t service awesome this morning? I saw you catch the Holy Spirit today when you were singing and crying.”

“The Holy Spirit must have really come upon you today because you were raising your hand during worship, which is something you rarely do.”

And the examples could go on and on. Am I about to strain at – what some would consider – a theological gnat in this post? I wouldn’t say that. However, I do think this issue is important enough to address because there are unhealthy spiritual and theological ramifications that could result for embracing such an idea.

But before we delve into this topic, I need to make something clear. Human emotions have a place in the worship of God. Psalms give evidence of this. This hymn book of Israel captures the affections we are to display in praise and worship to our God.

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:11)

“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1)

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1)

When centered on the character, acts, and word/gospel of God, praising and worshipping God with emotion is an appropriate response. The truth of and about God must be at the wheel of our worship (and our lives). But if we allow our emotions or feelings to occupy the driver’s seat, we can easily find ourselves spiritually careening off into terrain that is dangerous and damaging to our souls. This point may seem like I have digressed from the subject at hand. I assure you I have not because it is related to this idea of “catching the Holy Spirit,” which you will see in a moment.

Here are four potential ways in which the acceptance of this phrase “Catching the Holy Spirit” is spiritually detrimental to our lives:

It equates the evidence of God the Holy Spirit being in our lives with a specific emotion, feeling, or response.

For example, there are those who, if they do not have a certain experience during corporate worship or in their personal devotional time with Jesus (i.e., crying, a warm sensation over or in their bodies, shouting, dancing, kneeling, sitting, laughter, etc.), erroneously conclude that because they did not feel, respond, or emote a certain way in those moments that maybe they missed the move of the Holy Spirit or that he was not active among them, or, even worse, that he had perhaps departed from their lives due to sin.

Brothers and sisters, there is no doubt that when the Holy Spirit impresses the truth of Scripture (whether through song or preaching) on our hearts, we will at times emote, feel, or respond with exuberance or solemnity. But the evidence of God the Holy Spirit being present in us has more to do with the fruit we exhibit in our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23) than a feeling/emotion/response we experience in a worship service.

It mistakes the person of God the Holy Spirit to be that of a force or power.

The Holy Spirit is not an it, a thing, a feeling, or a power. He is the Third Person of the Godhead or Trinity. He is not something you catch, but rather someone you obey. We are not to grieve, quench, or sin against him. We walk after him. We submit to him. We revere him.

It intimates that the presence of God the Holy Spirit is primarily outside of us rather than inside of us.

To catch the Holy Spirit implies that he is primarily present outside of us. This is not how the Scripture, specifically the New Testament, speaks of his presence in our lives. We don’t have to welcome him into the room when we gather for corporate worship as the church.  He does not need to be invited into a service or into the hearts of believers. And we don’t have to worry about him leaving us. He is forever present with us because he permanently indwells us (John 14:15-17; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22).

It reduces, in our minds, the work of God the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Adopting this phrase, this belief can lead us to think that the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our lives takes place largely on Sunday mornings during our designated corporate worship time. This severely limits and reduces our understanding of His work in our lives as Christians. What he does in our lives is not relegated to an hour or two on weekends, nor is it solely about giving us a feeling of euphoria. He does much more than that on and beyond Sundays.

  • He makes us into Jesus’ image.
  • He comforts us in our affliction.
  • He convicts us of our sin.
  • He illuminates our minds/hearts to understand the Scriptures and the immensity of God’s love for us in Jesus.
  • He strengthens us to serve the church (through general acts of service and the exercising of our specific spiritual gift or gifts that he has given us).
  • He guides us into the Father’s will for our lives.
  • He assures us of our salvation in Jesus.
  • He prays to the Father on our behalf.
  • He empowers us to preach the Good News of Jesus to the lost.

So, in light of this, I encourage you to retire the phrase, “Catching the Holy Spirit”, and embrace the concept Paul gives us in Ephesians 5:18 related to the Holy Spirit:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit

Being filled with the Spirit has to do with allowing yourself to be led by him (according to the Scripture) on a continual basis. It is about living life under his influence. There is no need to catch him; yielding to his control in and over your life will be just fine.

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Submission Isn’t For Your Wife Only, Brother

submit pic

If there is one verse that guys have memorized, it is Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Yet many of us have misconceptions about submission and thus misapply it in the context of our marriages. Our view of submission almost, at times, seems to closely resemble the “She’s Your Queen To Be” scene from the 1988 classic movie Coming to America more than it does the Bible. Prince Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy), heir to the throne of Zamunda, is introduced to his arranged-bride-to-be, Imani Izzi (played by Vanessa Bell Calloway). Prince Akeem kindly leans over to Imani and asks to speak to her in private. He escorts her into a private chamber to have a conversation.

Prince Akeem: “So…”

Imani Izzi: “Ever since I was born, I’ve been trained to serve you.”

Prince Akeem: “Yes, I know this. But I would like to know about you. What do you like to do?”

Imani Izzi: “Whatever you like.”

Prince Akeem: “What kind of music do you like?”

Imani Izzi: “Whatever kind of music you like.”

Prince Akeem: “Look, I know what I like. And I know you know what I like because you are trained to know what I like, but I would like to know what you like. For instance, do you have a favorite food?”

Imani Izzi: “Yes.”

Prince Akeem: “Good! What is your favorite food?”

Imani Izzi: “Whatever food you like.”

Prince Akeem: “Are you saying that no matter what I tell you to do you will do?”

Imani Izzi: “Yes, your highness.”

Prince Akeem: “Anything I say you’ll do?”

Imani Izzi: “Yes, your highness.”

Prince Akeem: “Bark like a dog.”

And then the awkward hilarity commences. She complies and barks like a dog, and according to Prince Akeem’s other requests, even hops on one leg and makes a noise like an orangutan. We all know that is Hollywood, but in reality there are unfortunately men who want, expect, and even demand robotic submission from their wives. Don’t express your opinion, no matter how respectful the tone and approach, unless it is solicited. Agree with everything we do. And definitely don’t lovingly hold us accountable. Just do as we say and all will be well. This is submission, some think. It might be that way in a movie, but not in real life and especially not according to God’s script.

So my aim is simply to help us as husbands to understand biblical submission. To begin, I want to bring to the surface two common beliefs many men in general, and husbands in particular, hold to as it relates to submission, and examine them under the microscope of God’s word to see if they are true.

Submission is for Women

Is submission solely relegated to our female counterparts? In other words, is submission for women only? The answer is no. If you take a cursory read through the New Testament letters, you will discover that submission is a virtue of the Christian life and, therefore, applicable to all believers, no matter your gender.

 All Christians Submit to Jesus. Interestingly enough, in the very same passage of the verse that was just referenced at the outset of this chapter, Paul uses this idea of the church, or all Christians, submitting to Jesus as an example of how wives should submit to their husbands. He writes, “Now as the church submits to Christ…” (Ephesians 5:24a). Submission is a way of life that is to be continually exhibited by all Christ-followers, men and women alike.

All Christians Submit to their Parents. Paul commands us as children to obey our parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1; also cf. Colossians 3:20), whether we were raised by a father and mother, a single mom or dad, grandparents or some other relative, or foster parents. And even though we are married and living in our own place, this command is still valid. The dynamics of it look different now, of course. So, although we are not directly under their authority anymore, when we go home, for example, to Mom’s and/or Dad’s place, it is their house, their rules.

All Christians Submit to the Elders/Pastors of their Local Church. When we join in covenant membership with a local church, we come under the pastoral leadership, care, and preaching and teaching of those elders/pastors. The writer of Hebrews instructs all believers to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

All Christians Submit to the Governing Authorities. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, directs all of us Christ-followers in Romans 13:1ff to individually submit ourselves to the governing authorities. If there ever was a morally loose and corrupt, and religiously idolatrous, pluralistic and syncretistic government, it was the Roman Empire. And yet Paul commands the believers in that sociopolitical context to submit to the authorities. So it is for us in America and for our other brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries around the world as well. Should Christians be involved in politics to help shape and steer legislation according to God’s word? Absolutely. Is there a time for civil disobedience? I am sure there is, especially those believers who find themselves in closed countries (i.e., where the government is explicitly hostile towards Christianity). But, overall, we are to submit to, honor, and respect our governing officials and authorities, from the President to the police officer. Regardless of how democratic a government is, it will never be perfect because flawed, sinful, and even lost human beings are involved. But that does not circumvent our obedience to the Lord Jesus in submitting to the authorities he has established and sanctioned, as long as they are appropriately executing their authority according to, and informed by, God’s word.

Women Should Be Made To Submit

Quite frankly, this is just absurd. Excuse me for being passionate and straightforward when it comes to this point. But this idea of husbands feeling justified in their passive or aggressive attempts to bring their wives in subjection to them is patently unbiblical. I would even go so far as to say that if we seek to do such a thing we are sinning against God and our wives and need to repent. On what basis can I make such an indictment? Fair question. And I don’t think it will be difficult to substantiate. There is a real simple explanation. Let’s go back and read Ephesians 5:22, 24: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord….Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything their husbands.” Who does Paul address in these verses? Wives. To whom is the command directed? Wives. So who is responsible for carrying out this divine instruction? You guessed it…wives. Submission in marriage is the sacred responsibility of our wives to fulfill out of reverence for the Lord Jesus. It is up to them to see to it that they respect us (Ephesians 5:33). Did it say anywhere in those two verses about husbands forcing this upon their wives? No. Absolutely not. God will always call a foul on us when we seek to force them into submission. Any attempt to manipulate or threaten our wives into submitting to our leadership is an offense against them and God and an insidious abuse of our headship as husbands.

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Note: This article is adapted from a portion of the chapter “Understanding Submission” in my book Husbands By Design: A Biblical Blueprint of Godly Husbands. To read more, purchase your copy here.

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