“Catching the Holy Spirit”
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.