My article for the June Crossways newsletter for St Paul’s Church Spennymoor and Whitworth Church.

Very often in our services we say that we believe in the Holy Spirit. But how often do we stop and think about what that means? We think a lot about God the Father. And we think a lot about Jesus, God’s Son. But what about the Holy Spirit? No wonder the Spirit is sometimes described as the forgotten Person of the Trinity.

I am writing these words just before Pentecost, when we celebrate the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ followers, on the 50th day after Jesus was raised from the dead. (‘Pentecost’ means ‘fiftieth’.) But Pentecost could be described as the forgotten festival of the church year. Traditionally, the Church of England has urged people ‘to receive the Holy Communion regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and … Pentecost’. Christmas is impossible to miss, and most people know about the baby Jesus. Easter is difficult to miss, with bank holidays either side, even if people associate it primarily with bunnies and chocolate. But how many people even notice Pentecost?

Why is it so important to think about the Holy Spirit?

Without the Holy Spirit, there would be no Christians! Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, God with us. He died and rose again. But what does that have to do with me? It’s the Holy Spirit who unites us to Jesus. Baptism with water is a sign pointing towards the Holy Spirit, who makes us clean on the inside. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings God’s life into our lives. ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ’ (Romans 8:9, NIV).

But how can I be sure that I have the Holy Spirit? In other words, how can I be sure that I am really a Christian? By the Spirit ‘we cry, “Abba, Father”’ (Romans 8:6). Do you know God as your Father? Paul speaks about ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22–23). Does your life display something of this? It’s the Holy Spirit who gave us the Bible (2 Peter 2:20–21). As you read the Bible, does it resonate with you? All of these are encouraging signs.

The wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit is that we can always have more! Paul says, ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Why not ask God now for more of his Holy Spirit?

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful people,
and kindle in us the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.