Who is the Holy Spirit? How did our relationship with the Holy Spirit change from the Old Testament to the New Testament? What are the common misconceptions we have of the Holy Spirit? How are we to think, speak, (and sing) rightly about him?
Bible Gateway interviewed Daniel Henderson (@DanielHenderson) about his book, Transforming Presence: How the Holy Spirit Changes Everything—from the Inside Out (Moody Publishers, 2018).
You share that the biblical discoveries presented in this book exposed your misguided views of the Holy Spirit. What are those views and how did you respond to that confrontation?
Daniel Henderson: A recent study by LifeWay Research revealed that 56% of evangelical Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person. While I knew, biblically, that the Holy Spirit was the third person of the Trinity, some of my common words and perceptions were still rooted in impersonal ideas about the Holy Spirit as some kind of “force.” I believe these misconceptions are widespread, and even promoted, throughout the modern-day church. Francis Chan wrote that the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” I’ve concluded that he is also the “misrepresented God.” So, through my personal study and the process of writing this book, I submitted all of my preconceived ideas and our common slogans to the clear teaching of New Testament truth about the Holy Spirit.
Why does a gospel lens empower us to enjoy a new and full experience of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: When Jesus announced in his final supper with the disciples, “this is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:17-19; 1 Corinthians 11:25) it signaled the fulfillment of all the Old Testament had pointed toward (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:31-35). This introduced a new reality in how believers would understand and experience the Holy Spirit. Jesus immediately proceeded to teach his disciples about this profound work of the Holy Spirit in his final discourse (John 14:15-22, 15:26-27, 16:5-15).
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was present but would come and go, temporarily empowering certain people. Today, because of the work of Christ, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells, enables, and transforms every believer in a powerful and personal way. The gospel signaled the new reality of inside-out living. The New Testament is full of promises about the God who works in us and how the Spirit’s indwelling changes everything.
How can pastors lead their congregations to recognize their deep need for the person and power of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: Our website, www.transformingpresencebook.com, provides some amazing resources for pastors, including eight practical suggestions for helping congregations embrace a new covenant experience of the Holy Spirit. We also feature sermon outlines, small group questions, video introductions, and an audio prayer for each chapter in the book. The bottom line is that a pastor must understand, model, teach at various levels and consistently emphasize the inside-out work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. This is especially imperative in light of the widespread misrepresentation of the work of the Spirit in today’s slogans and songs.
What is the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose and why is it often undermined?
Daniel Henderson: The Holy Spirit is a true “purpose-driven” Spirit. Jesus described this when he proclaimed “he will glorify me” (John 16:14). J.I. Packer uses the illustration of a floodlight in a beautiful building which does not exist for its own glory but to make clear and visible the splendor and wonder of its object by illumining its features. The mark of a true Spirit-filled believer, church, or worship service is the degree to which the aim and outcome is the glory of the person and purposes of Jesus Christ.
What are the effects of depersonalizing the Holy Spirit? How does technology in the church contribute to the impersonal view of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: I tend to speak in a lot of large churches from a variety of theological backgrounds. They have all the tools of what we call “worship arts.” They feature digitized lights, environmental smoke, and gargantuan sound systems. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tools. Yet, in these same gatherings, they speak and sing of the Holy Spirit as if he’s reluctantly hovering in the atmosphere or coming through the vent system. I fear we’re creating a generation of “atmospheric addicts” who equate the work of the Holy Spirit with the emotions and technological sizzle of our gatherings, rather than living day-to-day with a clear biblical assurance of the constant, sufficient, indwelling presence of God.
Why do you feel misgivings toward the common church greeting, “Welcome to the house of the Lord”?
Daniel Henderson: Words matter, especially when they’re repeated by leaders week after week. Jim Cymbala has noted that “instead of understanding the full benefits of the new covenant in Christ, most in the church live in a no-man’s land between Jesus and Moses.” We have a lot of confusing Old Testament hold-overs in our worship language. This is one of them.
The building is not the “house of the Lord.” Jesus dismissed all facility-oriented worship when he announced to the woman at the well that his followers would not understand worship in terms of buildings, but would worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). This truth is carried throughout the New Testament. Jesus is now our temple and we are his temple.
In a recent pre-service prayer gathering one sincere participant prayed, “Thank you Lord that we can come into your presence” (referring to the building as the dwelling place of God’s presence). Instead we need to pray, “Thank you Lord that your presence has come into us.” This prayer aligns with a true gospel understanding of the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit. This is new covenant language.
What does God want believers to experience in worship?
Daniel Henderson: In recent years, it’s become common in worship gatherings to view music as the means by which we’re “brought into God’s presence.” This emphasis eclipses and confuses the overwhelming New Testament teaching that his presence has already been assured by the Holy Spirit through the sacrifice of Christ. We don’t sing in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We’re filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might sing.
In truth, there’s no New Testament verse teaching that music is a means of mediating the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t summon some external “force” in our worship. Rather, we’re to submit to the indwelling person of the Spirit as the core focus and source of our worship. In conjunction with the word of Christ, he produces praise and thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16), prayer (Romans 8:26), understanding of the Scriptures, mutual ministry to one another (1 Corinthians 12:6-7), a true organic unity (Ephesians 4:3), and more—from the inside-out.
What are the implications of using phrases of invitation or ambiguous descriptions to describe the work of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: When we confuse the paramount truth of the indwelling Spirit, we devalue the finished work of Christ and his clear teaching about the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. We lead people to false expectations about the reality of a true, biblical work of the Spirit. Ultimately, we fail to give them a clear and compelling assurance of the promised inside-out, personal empowering of the Holy Spirit—sufficient for daily living—beyond the worship gathering.
What is the language of new covenant truth that should be used to speak of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: In the back of Transforming Presence I offer a “new covenant” vocabulary chart. The bottom line is that we should always speak of the inside-out work of the indwelling Holy Spirit as we live in full surrender to him rather than referring to some distant “presence” that we summon to come, as if he were not already living within us.
Share the inside-out power of the Holy Spirit that you personally experience in your daily life.
Daniel Henderson: I love the clarity and passion of Andrew Murray’s words, “Within you! Within you! . . . God created man’s heart for his dwelling . . . the kingdom of God is within you. It is within we must look for the fulfillment of the new covenant. . . . The Spirit of Christ himself is to be within us as the power of our life.” Waking up every day in light of these truths has changed the way I reflect on my life, react to people, respond to temptations, and recognize spiritual opportunities. My communion with the Lord has been richer, my insights in the Scripture deeper, and my sense of power for living greater.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Daniel Henderson: One that has really resonated with me in recent months, especially in light of this book, is Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Daniel Henderson: Bible Gateway is an incredibly helpful, relevant, and reliable source for Christians at every stage of spiritual growth. I’m grateful for your far-reaching ministry of spreading the biblical understanding and encouragement across the globe.
Bio: For almost three decades Daniel Henderson has served as a pastor to thousands in congregations in California and Minnesota. Today, as Founder and President of Strategic Renewal International, he leads renewal events and coaches pastors across North America. His commitment to encouraging pastors has allowed him to speak in plenary sessions and lead prayer experiences at dozens of national and regional pastors’ conferences including The Moody Bible Pastors’ Conference, Alistair Begg’s Basics Conference, and John MacArthur’s Shepherds’ Conference. With a passion for world missions, he has traveled to over 45 countries.
He is also the National Director of The 6:4 Fellowship, a cross-denominational community of pastors focused on the primary biblical priorities of “prayer and the ministry of the Word” based on Acts 6:4. Daniel is the author 11 books, including Transforming Presence, The Deeper Life, Old Paths New Power, and The Prayer God Loves to Answer, and his articles have appeared in publications like Leadership Journal, Pray! Magazine, PrayerConnect, and ChurchLeaders.com. He and his wife, Rosemary, live near Denver, Colorado.
Get to know your Bible better! Try Bible Gateway Plus right now!