Don’t look now, but if you asked Jesus to save you, the Holy Spirit of God is living inside of you. Wonder of wonders, salvation comes with two huge gifts: the forgiveness of our sins through what Jesus did for us, and a whole new way of life through what the Holy Spirit can now do inside of us. Just as Jesus became our death (at the cross), so the Holy Spirit becomes our new life (when we die to self). That is an unbeatable combination!
The Holy Spirit is the power and presence of Jesus living within us, ever-ready to raise us into Christ’s way of living. This is so truly amazing, that it is positively astonishing that many Christians don’t seem to know much about the Holy Spirit. We know and love Jesus. We have fairly clear ideas about the Father. Yet, the Holy Spirit has often been called the “Mystery Person” of the Trinity. How can God-inside-us be so well hidden from us?
Would it be OK, if I try to lift the veil on that one? I can’t put all I’d like to share with you into one article—the Holy Spirit is just to HUGE a subject. So, I’m going to focus on questions that inquiring minds might be asking, misunderstandings that need clearing up, and what I hope are fresh insights into the secret life of our Mysterious Guest. Yes, we are all hosting a Mystery, but don’t let that spook you. No one could be kinder or more considerate, or love us better than this devoted Friend. He is truly our Helper, just as Jesus said.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father even the Spirit of true knowledge who comes from the Father—he will give witness about me.” John 15:26 BBE
When Jesus told the disciples that He would “send” the Holy Spirit to them, His words touched off a lot of speculation later on that has lasted down to our day. Did that mean that no one has the Holy Spirit until He comes to them through faith-conversion? Does it mean that only Christians “have” the Holy Spirit? Did it mean that the Holy Spirit only came to the disciples at Pentecost? Is it only Pentecostals who have the Holy Spirit? Perhaps you have heard questions or statements like these. The answer to all of them is no.
Let’s note what Jesus actually told the disciples (in the above quote). He told them that the Holy Spirit was already dwelling “with them.” This was before His death and resurrection, before saving faith was given to anyone, before the Spirit was “given” first in the Upper Room and later at Pentecost. What’s more, Jesus thought that they should already “know” the Spirit due to the fact of His dwelling with them. The simple truth is that God has always and will always be doing helpful things for everyone by the Holy Spirit. That is nothing new.
It’s no secret that Holy Spirit did great things for Jewish believers in ancient Israel. Or that He does great things for anyone who calls on the name of the Lord. Beyond this faith connection, however, He is the giver and sustainer of life for everyone, regardless of whether they know Him or not. He is also the giver and sustainer of life for all creatures, whether plants or animals. None of this has changed through anything that Jesus did for us by His death and resurrection. What did change?
“You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:17 ESV
The altogether new thing that God is doing for us is that the Holy Spirit now lives inside all who give their lives to Christ through faith-conversion and the new birth. He who has always been “with” us, is now “in” us. This (along with Christ’s sacrifice) makes the “new and living way” possible. The Holy Spirit lives inside us, helping us to live in a new way that was never before possible outside of childhood—the way of surrender and trust.
Before we became Christians, the Holy Spirit was always doing things for us, even if we didn’t know it, but now that we are Christians, He is helping us from the inside to live through Him. Faith-conversion helps us in two tremendous ways. We can call on the Lord with confidence that God by His Spirit will do for us more than we can ask or think. We can also call on the Lord for His help in yielding to Him so that God by His Spirit can live through us in ways He never could before.
As the inner “witness” Jesus mentioned, the Holy Spirit confirms our faith in the Risen Christ and acts as a guarantee that we are going to heaven, but there is so much more to it than that. The Holy Spirit brings into our lives absolutely everything necessary for new life and right living to take place. That this doesn’t seem to happen for many of us needs some explaining.
As we all know, the Christian life is not easy. Following Jesus at all times, trusting Him in the face of every challenge and denying self whenever it raises it’s selfish, ugly head, is not only hard, it’s impossible! Impossible, if we try to do it in our own strength and under our own leadership. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. Since we cannot live the truly Christian life without God’s help, Jesus has sent God the Holy Spirit to be our Helper.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” John 14:16 ESV
As our ever-present Helper, the Holy Spirit does a lot of things for us for free—without any effort on our part, even without our knowledge. Nevertheless, most of what He has come to do, requires our co-operation. He is our Helper, not our “doer.” This is why finding the joy, peace and fulfillment promised to us, doesn’t come automatically. There is still a part, a rather important part, that we have to do.
I said the Christian life is hard and you probably agreed with me. May I remind you now that it is also easy, as easy as child’s play? It is easy whenever we surrender all to Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit lifts and leads us into new life and we flow in a river of peace guided by the Lord. This is the way we are meant to live at all times, but it cannot happen by force of will or intensity of effort, only by the yielding of our will to the Lord.
Holy Spirit helps us on all sides of this equation. He helps us realize our need to surrender; He helps us find what we need to release, so that we can surrender; then He helps us by being the new life within us once we finally and fully yield to Jesus.
No child has to figure this out. They live surrendered most of the time. They simply let go all care, trust their parental covering and go with the inner flow. Unrecognized and unheralded the Holy Spirit supplies that inner flow. Children flowing out of their “good nature” are the joy and wonder of the world.
Little children are not only a picture for us of what “kingdom living” is like, they represent the direction of true growth. Jesus said that unless we are converted and become like little children we cannot enter “the kingdom”—the quality of life He has planned for us on earth where “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” reign (Romans 14:17). Holy Spirit helps us surrender and live as little children, if we let Him. But He cannot and will not do it for us. That choice is always ours.
None of this is obvious at conversion. We are given an extraordinary gift, but without any fanfare. This indwelling by the Spirit is automatic, involuntary and unheralded. Strange to say, we receive the Holy Spirit without our asking or our knowing. Incredibly, you can become a born again Christian without even realizing that the Holy Spirit now dwells within you.
In fact I have never yet met anyone who got saved because he or she desired to be indwelt by the Spirit of God. At conversion our eyes are elsewhere. We are thinking about our need for rescue, or forgiveness, or eternal life. Our focus is almost entirely on ourselves and on Jesus. Once Jesus is revealed, there is nothing that can compare with Him. We hunger for more of His presence; we seek to follow Him and try to trust Him. That’s a lot to keep up with!
Meanwhile, The Holy Spirit is quiet as a whisper. According to scripture, He loves directing our attention to Jesus, preferring not to “speak of Himself.” Holy Spirit resides so gently and unobtrusively inside that He is easily overlooked. As a consequence, many Christians don’t know Him like they could. Why would God do things this way?
Have you ever thought that the disciples had it made? Jesus was with them bodily. It’s no wonder they took off like rockets. Every day they could bring all of their questions and problems right to Him. If He headed out in a new direction, they knew immediately and could easily catch up. Following Him was a breeze. What could be better? Actually, Jesus Himself said that it would be better for them—to their “advantage”—that He was going away.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
Jesus may have been referring to what was about to happen the next day. He had to secure for them (and us) a “better resurrection.” To do that He had to “go away” by dying on the cross. When He came back on the evening of His resurrection, He breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. For a brief moment in time (40 days) they had Jesus visibly with them and the Holy Spirit living inside them. Then Jesus ascended and ten days later the Holy Spirit came down upon them at Pentecost.
Alternately, Jesus may have been referring to the fact that He would be “going away” by ascending into heaven in the near future. But the disciples were not to worry: He would send the Holy Spirit to them. Either way we understand it, after forty days Jesus went away and stayed away. This is apparently His idea of making it “better” for us!
Remember “doubting Thomas”? He was allowed to see Jesus’ wounds, but was chided that a greater blessing would have been his, had he only “believed without seeing” the Risen Lord. That statement includes us. Incredible as it may seem, we are evidently blessed by not seeing Jesus with our natural eyes. From the Lord’s point of view gaining spiritual sight by means of faith alone is the greater blessing.
Why on earth would Jesus think that giving us an invisible Helper is better? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, the truth is that if the visible presence of Jesus is what we really needed, God would have given it to us. Instead, He did something no one could have imagined. He gave us “another Comforter” by sending the Holy Spirit to live inside us. Instead of a visible Savior, known for His coming and going, we now have an invisible Helper who never leaves.
This really is better. Even back then, Jesus couldn’t be visibly present to all of His disciples all of the time. There were plenty of occasions when He sent them ahead or intentionally left them out of things He was doing. They had to fend for themselves without their favorite Companion to comfort or guide them. And that was when He only had twelve people to keep up with. Now, He has two billion! It would never have worked for Jesus to be visibly present to all of us. He had to leave so the One could come who would be perpetually with us all.
Here’s where it gets a bit difficult to think about, because there’s more to this than the impossibility of Jesus being visible everywhere at once to all of His followers. The steadfast, perpetual presence of the Holy Spirit actually requires that He be both invisible to us and barely sensed by us. “No, no,” you might say, thinking that it would be better to sense His presence all the time, especially since we can’t see Him. I agree, that would be (and will be) heaven. But don’t let it come too soon! We aren’t ready for prime time.
Would you believe me, if I told you that it would bother you no end, if you could see Jesus or sense the Holy Spirit all of the time? I hate to bring it up, but there might be some edgy, unlawful or immoral moment (God forbid) when you wouldn’t want to be “forced” to encounter a visible Lord, or anyone else for that matter. You would rather have it the way it is with your free will intact, with life being a process of discovery with you in charge, and with God calling you gently to repent if you realize (with His help) that you went wrong. Children want their parent watching over them from a distance, not in the sandbox playing with them the whole time.
Similarly, there are even some legitimate private moments, when few of us would want the intrusion of God’s visible presence. For instance, would you really want to see Jesus in the shower with you? Or, see Him looking on when you are in the bridal chamber? Yet the Holy Spirit is present even then and you don’t mind that at all. That’s because He veils His presence so that we don’t sense Him. Thank God for that!
Harder to see is that we need “space” from God in order to freely choose to move closer to God. It’s a free will issue. If Jesus (or the Spirit) reveals too much of Himself, it compromises our freedom by forcing our choice. If we were feeling too much of the love, we would be drawn to Him like moths to a flame with no say so in the matter. On the other hand, if too much holy fear were upon us, it would turn us into cringing slaves or send us fleeing in terror, regardless of our feelings. He has to watch over that one for us.
That’s as far as I can carry the thought—the mystery is too deep. The main idea is that with the Holy Spirit living permanently but insensibly inside of us, we have the very comfortable knowledge of God’s abiding presence without any uncomfortable sense of invasion of our privacy. How He pulls that off is still amazing to me!
7 Ways He Helps Us
Here are seven main ways the Holy Spirit helps us. There’s a lot more, especially in the area of supernatural power for doing ministry the way Jesus and the apostles did it. I’ll put that in a newsletter soon, but if you’d like to skip ahead, follow this link to The Baptism of Power.
Holy Spirit reminds us that Jesus is alive and that He is our Savior and Lord. I used to think that this was me doing the remembering, but later I understood better that the Spirit holds these thoughts in place. Through my work “on the streets” of Savannah, GA, I have met many a backslidden Christian. They lose a lot of precious things—family, identification cards, memory and money—but they still have this inner witness quietly at work on the inside, reminding them of the direction they need to turn and the One they need to turn towards.
The Holy Spirit works the same way with those of us who merely drift away from our true Focus due to distraction or distress. Once He gets us willing to turn, He helps us pray, reminds us to cling to and call on Jesus, and leads us back into the “sweet spot” of total surrender.
This is absolutely essential, because until we start calling on Jesus in a situation of trouble or temptation, we are actually “calling on” ourselves. Self will never be a sufficient savior. Leaning on Self always leads to stress, anxiety, depression and fresh disasters. The new life is leaning hard on Jesus, clinging to Him and calling on Him. This activity on the inside does more than anything else to change us from being self-centered creations operating out of our fallen nature, to Christ-centered new creations filled with His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit reminds us what we have already been taught by the Lord, both in our conscience and by the scriptures. Jesus said that we have an enemy who seeks to steal out of our hearts the Word that God sows. Holy Spirit works to keep God’s truths in our remembrance. Hint: You can make His work easier by memorizing key scriptures.
In addition to this I have found that I can ask the Holy Spirit to remind me of things to do, when to do them, and practically anything else. So long as the prayer is honest, the reminder always comes in, but be careful. The reminder doesn’t always arrive at a moment I might consider convenient. If I act upon it, I discover reasons to be glad I did. If I brush it off, usually no further reminder comes and I’m on my own. Since I don’t like having to depend upon my “Swiss cheese” memory, I try to heed the Spirit’s call when it comes.
Imagine anything you might need help with: studying, planning, organizing; memory, reason, skill; loving, laughing, weeping; working, buying, trading; creating, cleaning, cooking… Nothing is too small for His concern or too big for His abilities. Keep in mind that He has been with us all along. He was there in the beginning helping us learn to suckle and grasp, teaching us to forms sounds and learn language, even guiding us into play and laughter as little children.
Now that the world’s greatest Teacher is living inside us, we have an edge in any field of endeavor. Learning how to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s enabling power can carry us further than mere natural abilities alone. One way to “link up” with what He has already been doing is to take a moment each evening to acknowledge His help during the day. It works like this: Anything you did or said wrong, that was you. Anything you did or said right, that was Holy Spirit helping you! This will grow your spiritual eyes to see more of His Hand in your life.
This is one of those intimidating (and boring sounding) church words. What it should convey to us, however, is a sense of the refreshing way it feels to shower up after a grueling day of hard labor. Strictly speaking it means being set apart. We have been set apart as a dwelling place for God by the Blood of Jesus which separates us from our sins and by the Holy Spirit who dwells within. In that sense we are already sanctified. We are holy because He who lives in us is holy.
Just don’t get carried away with that one. We’re nowhere near the home stretch yet. Between here and heaven, the Holy Spirit will be continually at work, sanctifying us by slow degrees. In one situation after another, with one scripture after another, He will seek to separate us from wrong thoughts, wrong beliefs, wrong attitudes, wrong actions and wrong desires. That’s a tall order! It stretches from here all the way up to the full stature of Christlikeness.
This is, perhaps, His most important and all-encompassing job. Holy Spirit has come to reveal truth to us so that we can be progressively freed from bondage to darkness and gain ever more liberated entrance into the Kingdom of Light. Jesus said that if we continued in His Word we would know the truth and the truth would make us free.
Truth is preeminently the Spirit’s domain for one of His divine titles is the Spirit of Truth. So is freedom, for Paul tells us that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Truth and freedom are, therefore, inextricably linked. The Holy Spirit works to lead us into increasing knowledge of God’s truths and greater freedom of spirit. This involves liberating us from the binding power of spiritual darkness.
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:8-11 ESV
Among other things this means that Holy Spirit helps us to a) recognize sin as sin and turn from it, b) understand what righteousness is and turn towards it, and c) realize that God’s judgment in these matters is all that matters.
Basically He points us to God’s Word and to the Person of Jesus to awaken our conscience and settle the issue: Where the Bible is clear the case is closed; in other matters we look to Jesus. How would Jesus handle it? What would He do? What would He want us to do? It pays to spend a lot of our scripture time pouring over the gospels to see Jesus in action and absorb His thoughts. Whatever is contrary to the nature and character of Jesus is sin. Whatever aligns with Him is righteousness.
Not only does the Spirit show us truths to believe, He has also come to lead us in the true path. He is our Guide and Companion in the way who knows the Way. If we are attentive to Him, He shows us the next right thing to do. That’s all we really need, since He also helps us trust God for the things we don’t know. In this way the one who is Truth can lead us step by step through each day’s choices and onward through the whole of our lives. If we let Him.
This brings His gift to us as Truth Teller into every dimension of life. By trusting our hearts to God through faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit lifts and leads us into a whole new way of living. We emerge into the glorious liberty of the children of God!
By dwelling within us the Holy Spirit is in position to help us dwell within Jesus. The indwelling Spirit is essential for our being able to experience, cultivate and live filled with the fruit of the Spirit—peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This good fruit comes to us as we abide in Christ through trusting and obeying His leadership over our lives. All of these beautiful and enjoyable qualities comprise that river of “living water” which Jesus said would flow out of our hearts. And so it does anytime we surrender all our concerns and complaints to Jesus.
His Part; Our Part
Naturally enough, the Holy Spirit is a self-starter. He isn’t going to sit on His Hands waiting for us to get in the right mood in order to begin His divine assignments. With or without our permission He goes to work helping us, sanctifying us, revealing truth to us, guiding us and supplying us with the fruit of new life. It just goes so much better when we cooperate. Good spiritual health is letting the Holy Spirit have His way by yielding our hearts entirely.
In all these ways and more, our Helper points us always to Christ, working to get us to trust Jesus with all He allows and all He asks of us. As we trust Jesus, the Holy Spirit raises us into the peace of Christ, shows us the next right thing to do (so that we can follow the Lord step by step), and then helps us want to do that next right thing.
All of this, of course, depends on our willingness. But the Holy Spirit will even help us with that—if we want Him to. Learn this prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to work in your heart, especially at those times when you sense that you don’t want to surrender to God:
Lord, help me want to want, what You want, desire what You desire, and hate what You hate. Make we willing to be made willing to surrender everything to You.
Let the Good Hunt Begin!
Jesus said He would not leave us comfortless and He hasn’t. He is living in us through the Holy Spirit who is “sealed” to us a sign of our eternal destiny and as a present source of help and hope for any situation of need we may encounter. All the while He draws so little attention to Himself, you would hardly know He is there. Part of the “fun” is learning to recognize and acknowledge our incomparable Guest.
By all means, keep on thinking of God as “out there” and “up there,” but add to that “in here.” Think of Him as willing to work for you, but think also of Him as wanting to live through you. If you are in Christ through faith, then the Holy Spirit is in you, working, working, working to help you learn how to live in and with and through His enabling grace.
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