Pentecost2017: Encountering the Holy Spirit in a Pre-Christian Age
Many Christians today don’t seem to know the Holy Spirit nor His power.
In “Pentecost2017,” Stream editors have shared personal stories of the ways their fellow believers have changed their lives. Here senior contributor Deacon Keith Fournier reflects on the baptism in the Holy Spirit that makes Christians the sort of people who can change other peoples’ lives.
On the first Pentecost, the early Christians received and manifested the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Baptized in the Holy Spirit, they changed the world. They went from being a frightened group to a band of brothers and sisters who “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Yet many Christians today don’t seem to know the Holy Spirit nor His power.
The Disciples at Ephesus
The situation reminds me of Chapter 19 of Acts. It begins “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They answered him, ‘We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 19: 1, 2)
Too often we act as though we did not realize there even is a Holy Spirit. Yet, there is.
And the Spirit is still pouring out gifts on the Body. Still making it possible for us to do the works of Jesus. He explained to us that is why he returned to the Father, to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:12-14). Can we live this kind of transformed Christian life in the stuff of our own daily lives? Yes, by living them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am one of thousands whose life was changed by an encounter with the Holy Spirit decades ago. It was such an encounter with the Holy Spirit which led me home to the Catholic Church into which I was baptized as a child. The same Holy Spirit leads me to work with other Christians, across confessional lines, in evangelistic and culture-engaging missionary efforts.
Encountering the Holy Spirit
I am old enough to remember when those who had such an encounter in my Church were called “Pentecostal Catholics.” That was before the term “Charismatic” took prominence. Frankly, I do not care for any adjectival description. I am a Christian. I stand by choice in the heart of the Catholic Church, reaching out, with all Christians, into an age which needs to hear the Good News.
Sometimes, people ask me, all these years later, when they hear of my earlier identification with that movement, “What Happened to those Pentecostal/Charismatic Catholics?” I guess my life is one of many answers to that question.
My hunger for more of God and my passionate love for the Word of God, led me to continued theological studies and ordination. My heart for evangelization led me to assist in ministries and works in which I have been involved for decades.
I am often asked if I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for Christians today? You bet I do! I know they are. What are these gifts? Paul tells us they include wisdom, knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits and the gift of tongues. (I Cor. 12).
These gifts still empower the Church for mission. In the same passage, Paul tells us the Father gives them to the Body of Christ “for the common good.” The Holy Spirit also helps us manifest the character of Jesus Christ as we grow in fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22, 23).
My experience was not about joining a movement. It was about a new way of living in the Lord. Like the early believers in the Upper Room, I was immersed in the Holy Spirit, in the Church — for the sake of the world. I do not identify with a movement, I identify with the Lord Jesus Christ. He has been raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on His Body, of which I am a member, and He is the Head.
New Missionary Age
What does all this mean for us right now? It is time for Christians to stop using language such as “post-Christian.” It is time to get to work, empowered by the same Holy Spirit who transformed the Christians of the First Millennium.
We need to look at our moment in His Story as pre-Christian. We are not victims. We are His seed, scattered by His pierced hands in this age. We are to grow His Kingdom, together.
The culture into which we are sent is not that different than the culture into which the disciples were sent. They needed to be baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit to do their work, and so do we. The answer for this age is the answer they offered their age: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Like them, we are called to manifest a new culture, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are living in a new missionary age and the fields are ripe. We are called into the whole world to preach the Gospel in word and deed.
We need a New Pentecost! The Church needs to move in and manifest the same power with which she transformed the world of the first five centuries. She can. She will, by the power of the Holy Spirit!