In our worship services here at Grace Church, our desire is to glorify God by exalting Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Glorifying God makes complete sense, and exalting Jesus Christ seems like a no-brainer. But what does it mean for us to engage in these activities in the power of the Holy Spirit? Before we answer that question, however, we need to come to an accurate understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit in Scripture
In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem provides a concise and precise description of the work of the Holy Spirit: “The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church” (Grudem 634). Although we see God’s Spirit at work from the beginning of creation and throughout the Old Testament (Gen. 1:2; Num. 27:18; 1 Sam. 16:13; 1 Kings 8:10-11), we encounter a clearer manifestation of His presence in the New Testament: in the anointing of Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 3:16) and in the empowering of the earliest Christians to proclaim and live out the gospel boldly (Acts 4:8; 1 Thess. 1:5). Brothers and sisters, the good news of the gospel is that we have the same Spirit in and with us, the same Spirit who authored creation, who came upon David, the judges, and the prophets, who anointed Jesus at his baptism, and who empowered our early Christian ancestors to spread the good news of Jesus to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). He reveals to us the glory of God in the face of Christ and is “in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22) of God’s faithful presence and ongoing blessing in our lives. For this reason we want to be a church who acknowledges the Holy Spirit’s active role in our growth as Christians. We want to consistently recognize His power in enabling us to accurately comprehend and obey God’s Word. And we want our corporate worship services to be saturated with reminders of God’s Spirit at work in our lives and the abundant blessings of His presence.
The Holy Spirit in Song
One particular song we often sing in our services provides us with a great opportunity to collectively become more aware of and celebrate the Holy Spirit’s working. Written by Bryan and Katie Torwalt, the song is aptly entitled “Holy Spirit” and focuses on the Spirit’s role in manifesting “the active presence of God” as we gather in worship. In order to help us sing with even greater understanding and fervor in the days ahead, let’s take a look at some of the language used throughout the song.
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here…
First and foremost, we know that God initially welcomed and continually welcomes us into His presence. By grace through faith in Christ alone, we were adopted as sons and daughters of the King (Eph. 1:3-7), and by this same grace through faith in Christ alone, we have ongoing access to the King (Hebrews 10:19-25). It should be said, then, that our welcoming of the Spirit to manifest and reveal the presence God flows from His initial and perpetual welcoming of us. And as such, our welcoming of the Spirit should be filled with joy and anticipation for how He will shape us more into the image of Christ (Psalm 16:11; 51:11; 100:2).
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…
This line in particular could be interpreted as a sort of summoning, as if the Holy Spirit and His power are subject to our requisitions. However, when we consider this line in the context of the entire song, a different interpretation arises. In the bridge we find these words: “let us become more aware of Your presence.” If the Spirit is already in and with us, and we need to become more aware of His presence, then this line is clearly not communicating that the Spirit is submissive to our beckoning. Instead, this line alludes to the presence of God as the atmosphere of our worship. We are asking the Holy Spirit to fill our minds and our hearts with a greater awareness of God’s presence (see 1 Kings 8:10-11; Rev. 7:15), and as we find hope and joy in God’s presence, the Spirit will compel us to worship unashamedly.
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for…
The Westminster Shorter Catechism probably says it best: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Praise God for songs that help us remember why we were created and to what end our lives should be lived! Praise God for His Spirit who reveals to us the glory of God and compels our hearts to long for His glory in all things (Rom. 8:18-21; 2 Cor. 4:17)!
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord…
Consider this account from 1 Kings 8:10-11: “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” When we are overcome by the presence of the Lord, we are overcome by the baffling reality that God in His grace actually descends to dwell in our hearts. As a result we will confess our idolatry, repent, and once again be drawn to treasure Christ above all else.
Church, let us not be afraid to address the Holy Spirit in our worship together. Let us welcome Him as He welcomes us. Let us acknowledge God’s presence as our atmosphere of worship. Let us long for God’s glory in our lives and in our church. And let us collectively be overcome by our God’s eternal dwelling with us. This is glorifying God. This is exalting Jesus Christ. This is worshiping in the power of the Holy Spirit.