Let’s imagine that you want to learn to dance. Being the rational, cerebral person you are, you go to the bookstore and buy a book on dancing. After all, a book helped you learn to program a computer, and a book taught you accounting—surely a book can teach you how to shuffle your feet.
You take the book home and get to work. You do everything it says. The book says sway; you sway. The book says shuffle; you shuffle. The book says spin; you spin. You even cut out paper shoe patterns and place them around the living room floor so you’ll know where to step.
Finally, you think you’ve got it and you invite your wife to come in and watch. You hold the book open and follow the instructions step by step. You even read the words aloud so she’ll know that you’ve done your homework. “Lean with your right shoulder,” and so you lean. “Now step with your right foot,” and so you step.
You continue to read, then dance, read, then dance, until the dance is completed. You plop exhausted on the couch, look at your wife, and proclaim, “I executed it perfectly.”
“You executed it all right,” she sighs. “You killed it.”
“You forgot the most important part. Where is the music?”
You never thought about music. You remembered the book. You learned the rules. You laid out the pattern. But you forgot the music.
“Do it again,” she says, turning on the music. “This time don’t worry about the steps, just follow the music.”
She extends her hand and the music begins. The next thing you know, you are dancing—and you don’t even have the book.
We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We master the doctrine, outline the chapters, debate the rules, and stiffly step down the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts. We measure each step, calibrate each turn, and flop into bed each night exhausted from another day of dancing by the book.
Dancing with no music is tough stuff.
Jesus knew that. For that reason, on the night before His death He introduced the disciples to the song maker of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. “When I go away, I will send the Helper to you. If I do not go away, the Helper will not come. When the Helper comes, he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment” (John 16:7,8).
Of the three persons of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit is the one we understand the least. Perhaps the most common mistake regarding the Spirit is perceiving Him as power and not a person, a force with no identity. The Holy Spirit is a person. “The world cannot accept him, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him because he lives with you and he will be in you” (John 14:17).
The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” He is a person. He has knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He has a mind (Romans 8:27). He has affections (Romans 15:30). You can lie to Him (Acts 5:3,4). You can insult Him (Hebrews 10:29). You can grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30).
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is not Popeye’s spinach or the surfer’s wave. He is God within you to help you. In fact, Jesus calls Him the Helper.
Envision a father helping his son learn to ride a bicycle, and you will have a partial picture of the Holy Spirit. The father stays at the son’s side. He pushes the bike and steadies it if the boy starts to tumble. The Spirit does that for us. He stays our step and strengthens our stride. But unlike the father teaching the son to ride, He never leaves.
What does the Spirit do?
He comforts the saved. “When I go away, I will send the Helper to you” (John 16:7).
He convicts the lost. “When the Helper comes he will prove to the people of the world the truth about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment” (John 16:8).
He conveys the truth. “I have many more things to say to you, but they are too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you into all truth” (John 16:12,13).
Is John saying we don’t need the book in order to dance? Of course not; he helped write the book. Emotion without knowledge is as dangerous as knowledge without emotion. God seeks a balance. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
What is essential is that you know the music in you. “If Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life” (Romans 8:10). You don’t need a formula to hear it. I don’t have a four-step plan to help you know it. What I do have is His promise that the Helper would come to comfort, convict, and convey.
So think about it; have you ever been comforted? Has God ever brought you peace when the world brought you pain? Then you heard the music.
Have you ever been convicted of sin? Have you ever sensed a stab of sorrow for your actions? Then you’ve been touched by the Holy Spirit.
Or have you ever understood a new truth? Or seen an old principle in a new way? The light comes on. Your eyes pop open, “Aha, now I understand.” Ever happened to you? If so, that was the Holy Spirit conveying to you a new truth.
What do you know! He’s been working in your life already.
By the way, for those of us who spent years trying to do God’s job, that is great news. It’s a lot easier to get people to join the dance when God is playing the music.
Adapted from Discipleship Journal, Issue 91, 1996. Used by permission of NavPress.
Max Lucado loves words—written, spoken—it does not matter. He loves to craft sentences that are memorable, inspiring, and hopefully life-changing. In almost 25 years of writing, more than 100 million products—80 million books—filled with his words have been sold. He is the preaching minister at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, Texas.
Scripture references NCV.