We hear a lot about the big moves of the Holy Spirit. We see Youtube clips of young millennials falling to the floor, or standing with arms upstretched in front of smoke filled stages, pulsing lights, glitter, laughing and sobbing. Afterward they smile tiredly, saying “The Holy Spirit really moved!” Or, “The Holy Spirit really showed up!”
As an aside, I dislike that phrase, ‘The Holy Spirit showed up.’ It’s crass. It’s akin to attending a funeral and saying to the bereaved, “So your wife croaked, eh?’ The Holy Spirit doesn’t ‘show up.’ He isn’t hailing a taxi running late, throwing a scarf around his neck while jumping out of the cab and huffing into the church. The Spirit doesn’t ‘show up’. The Holy Spirit governs the universe.
To the main point regarding big moves of the Spirit. Successive years of successive generations of younger church-goers have twisted Hebrews 11:1’s statement of what faith is:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Now faith is the substance of things we’ve come to tangibly possess, the evidence of things seen and experienced.
Spurgeon had something to say about these “Christian emotionalists” in Sermon 898, A Word with Those Who Wait for Signs and Wonders,
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign... (Luke 11:29-30)
There are some, and these are generally the most uneducated, who expect to experience remarkable dreams or to behold singular visions. Others we have met with, who suppose that in order to being saved they must feel some very peculiar physical sensation. Now you must not look for this. You must not put physical contortions or sensations as a test before the Lord, and say you will not believe in Him otherwise.
You seek what is quite unnecessary. What do you want a sign for? You want, you say, a token of God’s love. What token of God’s love to you can ever be wanted, now that He has given His only-begotten Son, first to live on earth, and then to die in pains extreme, the just for the unjust, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”! I blush for you, that you should ask any token of God’s love while Jesus Christ is before you…
I must tell you what is more, you are acting the part of an idolater. What does an idolater do? He says, “I cannot believe in an unseen God; I must have a golden calf or an image, that I can see with my eyes and touch with my hand.” You say just the same. You cannot believe God’s naked word, you demand something you can feel, something you can see. Sheer idolatry.
You might feel an overwhelming sense of joy, or peace, or well-being, or love for Jesus at times. These emotional times can occur when prayer is answered, providence is seen, worship is genuine, or Bible reading has deepened your view of the Savior. Strong emotion is good and appropriate. But to rely on such moments as proof of the Spirit’s presence casts a vain hope upon the shores of the Rock which stands above all. Your sure faith is in Him and His word that reveals Him.
Depending on signs is seeking a golden calf of experience over faith.
If you’re looking for a move of the Spirit, a miracle, sign, or wonder, there are many that we can name which exalt Jesus. Unsaved men are helpless and unable to come to God unless the Spirit draws them. (John 6:44). He saves by grace. Any new believer is a miracle, because they cannot save themselves. Sanctification is a miracle of God, because only by the Spirit can we resist sin and grow in His likeness. Providence is a miracle of God because He sustains the universe by the power of His word every minute, and He ordains every event that happens to all 8 billion people on earth at every second.
Stop looking for glitter dust falling from the ceiling, for personal prophecies, and visible signs when we already have the redemptive, sanctifying, providential work of the Lord occurring all over the world every second.
I’ll leave John MacArthur with the last word-
For all those true believers who love the Lord, the promise is a wonderful promise. … I think it’s time in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to give honor to the Holy Spirit, to worship Him, to love Him, to ascribe to Him the glory that He is due and to stop the nonsense that brings dishonor on His holy name.