I want to write some present meditations on the Holy Spirit and our lives. I say "present" because I know that I am barely scratching the surface of these truths. I am fully aware of the fact that I still look through a mirror dimly, even as I talk about the Third Person of the Divine Trinity. Therefore, I do not speak as one who has complete knowledge, but as one who has read the Scriptures and experienced first-hand the life of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure that in a decade or two, I will see even more clearly, but I do not think that I am wrong at the present time to try to describe to you the beauty of this precious diamond-the Third Person of the Trinity. Still, I trust that as I gaze on Him more and more, He will give me greater understanding and greater ability to express my thoughts.
Explaining the workings and ministry of the Holy Spirit within a person is like trying to explain and predict how the wind moves. Just as we cannot bottle up the wind, we cannot reduce the Holy Spirit to a few bullet points or a numbered list. Please do not take what I write here as a formula. Our confidence is in God's Word, and faith comes from hearing the Words of Christ spoken to us (Romans 10:17). I share these meditations in the hope that maybe even just one point or one verse will be the right Word for you, the reader.
I hope that you read this short book, and anything else that I might have written, knowing the limitations with which I write.
To begin, I want to review some basic truths about the Holy Spirit. The role and function of the Holy Spirit has been abused and misused among various Christian groups, so I want to shed some light on my understanding of the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
First of all, we must always remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is fully God and one part of the Trinity of God who has been given to dwell inside of us. I know there can be a tendency to think of the Holy Spirit as a thing or as a power, but that's wrong. The Holy Spirit is a Person. Some like to call Him "Holy Spirit" instead of "the Holy Spirit." However, to me, keeping or dropping the "the" is secondary-the question is whether we really interact with Him as a Person.
The Holy Spirit Has Been Given to Attack All Sin
Why has the Holy Spirit been given? Has He been given so that we can perform healings and walk on water and have all our comforts met? Far from it! I believe that the Holy Spirit has been given primar-ily to help us attack all our own sins. By His very name, we know that the Holy Spirit fundamentally stands opposed to sin. Another word for holy is sacred. The Holy Spirit is the Sacred Spirit. The opposite of what is sacred is sin; so it only makes sense that the Holy and Sacred Spirit would primarily help us to be free from sin. Whenever Christians claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit but live lives persistently defeated by sin, I would question whether the Holy Spirit is even present in their lives (see Hebrews 10:26-31).
Now how does the Holy Spirit help free us from sin?
• First, the Holy Spirit can free us from the PENALTY of sin
• Next, the Holy Spirit can free us from the POWER of sin
• Finally, the Holy Spirit can free us from the PRESENCE of sin
Now my sense is that many sincere Christians will listen to the Holy Spirit's voice that assures them that they are freed from the PENALTY of sin (through the blood of Jesus that was shed for them). Many also believe that one beautiful day when Jesus returns to this earth, they will be freed from the very PRESENCE of sin through the Holy Spirit to be fully united with Jesus. But in the meantime, very few Christians know that the Holy Spirit desires to free them from the POWER of sin.
To experience the full Christian life, we must learn how to interact properly with this Holy Spirit (a Person, not an impersonal force or a thing), so that we can be increasingly freed from the grip that each of our sins has over us.
The Holy Spirit Gives Us the Power to Be a Witness of Jesus
We now know that the Holy Spirit can lead us to victory, but why? For what purpose does the Holy Spirit want to free us from our sins? Is it so that we too can be gods one day, or achieve some state of nirvana?
Not at all, look at Acts 1:8, " But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remot-est part of the earth. "
There is a SIGNIFICANT difference between BEARING witness and BEING a witness.
Bearing witness is something that we do externally. There are many evangelistic activities that we can do that are just bearing witness: handing out tracts, telling others about Jesus, posting Christian-related stories on social media, etc. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these activities. In fact, they can all be useful and helpful activities for advancing the message of Jesus. However, being a witness is very different. BEING a witness of Jesus implies that our whole being (identity) exemplifies and magnifies the Person of Jesus. It means that our innermost hopes and dreams and ambitions match what we sing while at church on Sunday and what we claim to believe to our family and friends. We might fool people or even ourselves, but we most certainly cannot fool God. As we consider our lives before God, we must ask ourselves if we are BEING a witness of Jesus in God's eyes.
How then can we be witnesses of Jesus Christ who lived 2000 years ago? To be a witness means that we saw something first-hand.
Were we there when Jesus was crucified? Has Jesus appeared to us personally so that we are truly witnesses of His resurrection? The people to whom Jesus spoke these words to in Acts 1:8 were actual witnesses. They all saw the cross on which Jesus died, and they probably all saw Jesus' dead body taken down from the cross. Yet days later, they encountered Jesus again, now resurrected from the dead-living, breathing, and eating.
How can WE, who live today, be witnesses of Jesus Christ? This then is the beautiful part about the role of the Holy Spirit! In addition to the apostles who saw Jesus that day, there was another Person who was there-the Holy Spirit. He watched the whole story as it unfolded. He saw them crucify our Lord. He was there when Jesus was raised from the dead. He was there when Jesus was seated at the right hand of God.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:30-32)
This very same Holy Spirit is available to us (Romans 8:11), and He can testify to our hearts that Jesus is real. He has been given to whisper in our hearts, " Jesus Christ is real. I was there when they crucified Him. And I am a witness that Jesus rose from the dead as well. Believe Me. "
There is a lot of scientific and philosophical research that give us historical confidence in the physical death and resurrection of Jesus. But my faith does not rest on their discoveries or proofs. My faith in Jesus rests on the hidden voice of the Holy Spirit that whispers to my heart that Jesus is real. And the Holy Spirit testi-fies to my spirit (heart) that, because He rose from the dead, I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).
The reason the Holy Spirit comes to give us supernatural (Divine) power over sin in our lives is simply SO THAT we can BE witnesses of Jesus as if we had seen it all ourselves. It is not so that we can be good and kind and have outstanding moral character. No, the Holy Spirit wants our lives to be proof that His power enables us to overcome every sin, showing that JESUS is real and that JESUS has conquered all sins and even death.
Basically, He wants our lives to act as one big sign pointing to Jesus!
Learning from Mary
The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we BECOME witnesses of Jesus Christ. As I wrote: BEING a witness of Jesus implies that our whole being increasingly magnifies the Person of Jesus.
As part of the New Covenant between God and man, we are all asked to magnify the life of Jesus from our innermost being. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are incap able of living out the very holy life of Jesus without God's help, because of how deeply sin runs within us.
Though it seems impossible for us to live as Jesus did, we know that God regularly accomplishes the impossible! Right from Jesus' birth, we see God doing the impossible. He caused a virgin to give birth to Jesus. Just as God miraculously enabled Mary to birth the physical Jesus, He can also now help us bring forth the life of Jesus miraculously.
The good news (gospel) began when God birthed the physical life of Jesus through Mary 2,000 years ago, with the power of the Holy Spirit. And the good news continues today as God seeks to birth the spiritual life of Jesus inside each one of us, through the same powerful Holy Spirit!
We must remember that Mary was a corrupt and sinful human being. She was not perfect-her heart too was exceedingly deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9 ). That alone can give all of us hope! But there was something special about Mary that made her a fitting vessel for the life of Jesus to be formed inside of her? God looked down upon all His creation and specifically identified Mary to be the favored vessel to carry Jesus (Luke 1:30 ). This was not a random and arbi-trary choice!
Let us then look at the story of Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and see how Jesus was formed in her. From her story, we can learn how the Holy Spirit might be formed in us too.
1. It is as IMPOSSIBLE for a virgin to have a baby as it is for us to BE witnesses of Jesus
Imagine for a second that I were to tell you that my sister was preg-nant, but that she had never had any sexual interaction with any man, nor had any medical intervention that would make it possi-ble for her to conceive a child. How would you react? You would probably laugh at me, maybe even to my face. And you would have a right to do so, because we all know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for ANY woman to birth a child naturally without help. From human biology, we know that the egg of a woman needs the sperm of a man to fertilize the egg and begin the process of forming a child.
We see this exact response from Mary in Luke 1:34 - "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
Now let us think about our desire to birth and bear forth the life of Jesus. Do we realize the absolute impossibility of the command that we must BE witnesses of Jesus and have the life of Jesus flow through us? Jesus gave us many daunting commands, and as we read them, we must embrace this attitude of our own insufficiency AGAIN and AGAIN.
How can it be, dear Lord, that I live a life where I never lust with my eyes?
How can it be, dear Lord, that I rejoice always?
How can it be, dear Lord, that I live a life being anxious for nothing?
How can it be, dear Lord, that I live my life completely without fear?
It's too high a standard, isn't it? Not only is it high, it's impossible. But what is worse than trying to manufacture this perfect life of Jesus by ourselves, is to pretend to have the life of Jesus when we don't actually have it. It's like pretending to have baby, but all we have is a doll. And for show, we can push around the stroller, shopping for baby clothes, buying milk bottles, and doing every-thing that actual mothers do. But when people look at what's really in there, they see it's all just fake. There's no real life behind all of our pretending.
So too, there can be Christians who pretend they have the life of Jesus formed in them. They claim to have Christ's victory over sin, but have little to show for it. Some men dominated by lust can fool their wives for a time, but eventually their wives discover their hidden pornography habit. Similarly, some will continue to have occasional fits of anger and rage. And it can be vice versa too. The wife can have a sweet demeanor, but she might love the things of this world, or have a biting tongue, with NO PLANS to give up these sins. Her entire mood is driven by how she looks, by whether her children are doing well in school, and so on. These are just a couple examples of how people can pretend to have the life of Jesus birthed inside them, when in reality they are empty of His power.
Then there are others who might not pretend to be holy, but who pretend to have the sincere desire to be holy, while lacking any serious intent. They are like women who pretend to be pregnant- they stuff pillows under their dresses, hang around real pregnant women, complain about morning sickness, etc. But they'll never go for a physical check-up, and they'll never let others get close enough to feel the baby kicking, because then they'll be found out as living a HUGE LIE.
Such Christians will sing with tears in their eyes that Jesus is everything to them, but if you look at their lives, you will see that Jesus is only a small part of their otherwise preoccupied lives. At the core, they still love this world system and the things of this world. Those close to them can see that they still love the approval of people and that they still are controlled by their emotions, incap able of getting over their bad moods. Below the surface, they know they are living a lie, so they'll never submit to somebody more spir-itual to them, nor even seek an honest spiritual checkup from a more spiritual person. The thought of their need and brokenness being exposed is too much for their pride to handle.
Let us not be like these Christians. Instead, let us embrace a simple but radical "How can this be" attitude of impossibility when it comes to birthing and bearing the life of Jesus .
And, as we see in Luke 1:35, God does make the impossible happen. After Mary asks how she will give birth to a Son even though she is a virgin, the angel answers, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God ." Again, in Matthew 1:20, we read, " An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. " So even though Mary is a virgin, the Holy Spirit enables her to bear the very Son of God.
Now let's be very clear, there was nothing the virgin Mary could do on her own to become pregnant with Jesus. She couldn't become pregnant by taking a pill, doing special yoga exercises, or anything else-the Holy Spirit was absolutely essential. It would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Mary to bear Jesus without the Holy Spirit.
It was the Holy Spirit who made the virgin womb birth Jesus. In the same way, the Holy Spirit can make our empty selves nonetheless birth the life of Jesus in us.
2. FULL SURRENDER: I am the Lord's servant
Imagine what would have happened if Mary had resisted this message. It sounds almost ridiculous to imagine this, but consider how Mary's life would change because of this unexpected pregnancy.
To begin with, Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph, but how could she convince Joseph that she was still a virgin, even though she would now be pregnant? Joseph had every reason to back out of the engagement, and then her prospects for marriage would be over. Afterward, she would be a single mother, and Jesus would grow up being ridiculed and made fun of because everyone thought that He was illegitimate. They would live as outcasts, all because she chose to obey God.
How then did Mary respond? I am the Lord's servant! Let the Lord do with me whatever He wants! What an incredible response! This is a wonderful picture of a truly surrendered person. Paul makes it clear that we must surrender. We don't belong to ourselves anymore. We have been bought with a price, so we must glorify God with our bodies.
When we, like Mary, are fully surrendered, we are able to receive the fire of God (a symbol of the Holy Spirit), as described in both the Old and New Testaments. Leviticus 1 describes how to offer a burnt offering, dividing the entire animal into pieces and placing each piece on the altar. For us in the New Covenant, Paul tells us that we must offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). So we must offer our bodies piece by piece; every part of our bodies dedicated to serve the Lord.
Once we have carefully and intentionally surrendered all parts of our body as in Leviticus 1, God will not disappoint us. When Aaron finished laying the animal body parts completely on the altar, fire from the Lord came and consumed the offering ( Leviticus 9:22-24). In the same way, the fire of the Holy Spirit will fall on our lives as we offer our bodies up entirely as living sacrifices.
This attitude of full surrender to the purposes of God is rare today. But then, this is precisely why so few are filled with the Holy Spirit today. If, at great cost, Mary's full surrender was required for the Holy Spirit to indwell her, we cannot expect an easier road. But I also hope that we can see the immense blessing (the fire of the Holy Spirit) that we will receive when we surrender all.
3. A RESOUNDING RESPONSE OF FAITH: May it be done according to God's Word
There are some who will confess the impossibility of bearing the life of Jesus and stop there. This honest statement remains true, but it MUST be coupled with a statement of faith. I believe that the reason why so many sincere Christians, who seem to be humble and honest, have never experienced the Holy Spirit in their lives is because they don't have the same faith that Mary had.
There is no spiritual virtue in honesty if it is not accompanied by faith . God's Word only works for those who are fully surrendered to the Lord. Therefore, if God's Word tells us that we are going to bring forth the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, we MUST say Amen and believe that it will be so (2 Corinthians 1:20), even AS we fully recognize how impossible it is to accomplish on our own.
The Holy Spirit makes the impossible possible!For nothing will be impossible with God ( Luke 1:37)!
This is the faith that Abraham had for 25 years when he believed God's promise that he would become the father of a multitude, even though his wife was already 65 at the time the promise was first given. This is the faith Joshua and Caleb had when they told 600,000 Israelites that the giants in Canaan could be defeated. This is the faith that David had when all the Israelites shook with fear but he alone fought Goliath and taunted him with "the armies of the living God" ( 1 Samuel 17:26). This is the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who told King Nebuchadnezzar, "even if God does not deliver us out of the blazing fire, "we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up" (Daniel 3:17).
Consider an area of sin in your life where you think it's impos-sible to BE a witness for Jesus. Is it more impossible than an 89-year-old woman or a virgin to have a baby? These are all not humanly possible. But we can share in their faith for God to do the impossible.
FINALLY: God wants to partner with us, so He sends the Holy Spirit to work with us
The Holy Spirit doesn't work alone. To bring Jesus into the world, He chose to work through the womb of Mary and made it an essential part of the Divine plan of God. Of course, God the Father was FULLY CAPABLE of creating a body out of nothing and placing the Person of Jesus in it, but in His glorious and perfect plan, He intentionally chose to PARTNER with humans.
This is because God loves to partner with us. Jesus could have produced wine at the wedding at Cana by Himself, but He worked with the servants - having them pour water into the pots first. Jesus could have turned the stones into bread that fed 5,000 people, but He instead chose to multiply the 5 loaves and 2 fish offered by a little boy.
So also, God can transform us to be like Jesus in an instant if He so desired. But this is not His plan. He PARTNERS WITH US to work this miracle. That is what brings Him the greatest glory!
I hope we will meditate on this incredible story of Mary 2,000 years ago, and learn from her immense honesty, surrender AND faith. May we approach the God of Mary in the same manner. We know that it is impossible to live this Christian life without the Holy Spirit's help, but we can offer ourselves in full surrender, and reach up to God in full confidence that He will give us the Helper we need to do the impossible.
I now want to consider a second characteristic that Scripture tells us embodies those who will receive the Holy Spirit: Spiritual thirst.
Jesus speaks of this thirst in John 7:37-39, Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" Here, the living water is the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him had yet to receive because the Spirit could only be given after Jesus had been glorified.
These words of Jesus carry even more weight when we recognize its context.
Jesus makes this statement on "the last day, the great day of the feast." This particular feast was the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (John 7:2), which God established for all Israel to observe ( Leviticus 23:33-34). This feast was a WEEKLONG celebration of thanks-giving for what God had done for them. All future generations of Israelites were to leave their homes and live in tents (booths) during the week of celebration, and they were to remember how God led them out of Egypt and how He had been with them as He led them into the Promised Land.
Have you ever experienced a weeklong feast? Some cultures in India have weddings that are a weeklong celebration, so some Indians might know something about this. But surely, having a week of nothing but celebration can be an incredibly satisfying time!
It was on the last day (finale) of the Feast of Booths that Jesus stood up and shouted out for those who were thirsty. Who could possibly be thirsty after a weeklong celebration of God and His goodness? What ache could possibly persist after a week of cele-brating God?
The answer to this question is something that I believe is very relevant for our times.
We live in an age where church services are so often synony-mous with music, entertainment, and celebration. Now to be clear, there's nothing evil about music or entertainment or celebration. God is the author of all these three, not the devil. However, the life that Jesus offers-available SOLELY through the Person of the Holy Spirit-is not brought about through music or entertainment or celebration. Rather, it is available only to those who are thirsty for more of God AFTER they have reached the end of their singing and praising of Him. Only those who are thirsty for God despite already having a time full of celebration for God, will access the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Sadly, the unfortunate reality is that most Christians settle for the entertainment-driven, pump-me-up church life. The typical Sunday morning church service is one big emotional high, and they keep coming back every Sunday for a refill. The true Christian life is supposed to be one in which we celebrate and glorify and meet with God at church on Sunday, but it should not stop there. After Sunday, we should have a heightened desire for MORE of God in our own personal lives throughout the week. So even as we are filled up by the love of God as we meet with our other brothers and sisters in the faith, we should leave with a greater thirst and longing to be close to God during the week. This heightened desire will be evidenced in our walk with God throughout the week. By the time Wednesday comes, can we say that we are still seeking Him when nobody else is around, for His living water to quench our thirst in secret?
Do we have this kind of thirst for God? Do we want the company of Jesus and long to please Him, even if there is no feeling or experience to accompany it?
We shouldn't skip over this too quickly. I know how easy it is to tie my spirituality to certain kinds of feelings. I have often tried to validate my interaction with God based on whether it met certain expectations on the feelings that should accompany it. However, But I am now learning to assess my relationship with God purely on the basis of God's Word . I read in John 14:15 that my love for God is proved, not by a set of feelings or emotions, but by my obedience to His commands. So as I choose to joyfully obey God every day, His Word guarantees that God IS well-pleased with me (regardless of how I feel).
I now see that a perpetual holy thirst for God will accompany every Spirit-filled Christian. I think that many sincerely want to be filled by God's Holy Spirit, but if we're honest, we will admit that we so often don't have a deep and perpetual thirst for God and His will and His pleasure.
When Jesus calls out to those at the feast in John 7:38, the Scripture He references may be Isaiah 58:11: And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Can you picture what a scorched place looks like? With ground that is so completely dry from the merciless heat of the sun? I picture parched ground caked and hardened by the sun, broken up with deep, wide cracks. This was not how the ground was meant to be. So then, when water does come, I can almost imagine the ground relishing the flood of moisture. The water softens and nourishes it, making it useful again for its original purpose-to bear fruit.
Do we maintain this posture as we walk with God every day? Have we ever stopped ourselves during our lunch break at work, to remember our need for God? Have we made this a longing of our hearts to be filled by Him as we walk with God all day long?
I am convinced that if we maintain this posture, God will quickly move to give us His Holy Spirit. Jesus tells me that if I am thirsty for God no matter what, I just need to come to Him and DRINK. If I want to quench this most urgent of thirsts, all I need to do is open up my mouth and drink (Psalm 81:10). Receiving the Holy Spirit is never more complicated than that!
Therefore, in addition to the HONESTY of our need (it is impossible to fully and joyfully obey God's commands without His Holy Spirit), may we also HUNGER AND THIRST for more of God.
I want to talk about a third characteristic that Scripture tells us embodies those who will receive the Holy Spirit. It is the consistent attitude of HUMILITY.
Thus says the LORD, 'Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? … But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit and who trembles at My word.' (Isaiah 66:1-2)
If you remember, we considered Mary's womb as the first womb (dwelling place) in which Jesus was formed by the Holy Spirit. And we are to be like her womb in that Jesus is now formed WITHIN us, through the same Holy Spirit that formed Jesus inside of her. You and I are the present-day houses of the Holy Spirit. And from Isaiah 66:1-2, we know that God is looking for humility and contriteness of spirit as a prerequisite for dwelling in us (making His home in us)!
Let's be very clear about something. We generally want to be humble. I don't think there's even one human being who likes to be called proud. Yet, very few people end up being truly humble, or even pursuing humility. What then is the reason for this?
First of all, I think we get in trouble because we look to the Webster dictionary and to culture's definition of humility, rather than the Bible's definition of humility.
There are many misconceptions about humility that are NOT Scriptural, and the devil has successfully used them to keep Christians from living in the freedom and glory of this virtue:
• Humility is NOT low self-esteem. I believe that having low self-esteem as a Christian is a serious sin. When we have low self-esteem, we are basically telling God that we are NOT precious children of God for whom His Son came and died for. That kind of thinking is something that every Christian should take very seriously and always battle against.
• Humility is NOT thinking that I am worthless. To be sure, we have no goodness to boast of in ourselves, but God tells us that Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Saying, "I am no good" is only half the sentence. The complete sentence is, "I am nogood on my own, but I can confidently stand before Almighty
God, because I only choose to stand IN Jesus Christ! "
• Humility is NOT being soft-spoken. Being soft-spoken is a personality trait, not a spiritual virtue. Extroverts are not more inherently sinful or virtuous than introverts. Neither is having a loud voice more good or bad than having a low, soft voice. Both were made that way by God. The connection between being humble and being quiet is primarily a cultural definition with no Biblical basis. As Christians, we must be extremely careful not to allow our cultural ideas of various virtues dominate our spiritual understanding of them.
• Humility is NOT being constantly deferential, or allowing others to dominate us. This attitude is timidity, and God has specifically told us that the Holy Spirit does NOT give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Being humble does NOT mean we allow others to dominate us, and being humble does NOT mean that we have to constantly concede to others.
What then is true Christian humility and how do we learn to be humble?
There is only one way to learn humility, and that is DIRECTLY from Jesus. And He Himself instructed us, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29). We must ruthlessly and consistently throw away all dictionary defini-tions of humility and learn it from Jesus alone.
Here then is how we can become more and more humble: We become humble by staying focused solely on Jesus and comparing ourselves constantly with Jesus and no one else .
Think about how today has gone so far. How many times did you compare yourself to your brother, or your sister, or your wife, or your husband, or your neighbor, or your co-worker, or your parents, or your grandparents, or the person at the store, or your non-Christian friend, or your unsaved relatives, or any of the cultural expectations you grew up with, and so on?
These are the social standards we interact with daily and in various ways, but we must be careful how these interactions affect our thoughts. Did I compare that person to me in a particular area? Maybe I thought I was better off than them? Or maybe that I was worse off? And when I made that assessment, did I feel a sense of self-satisfaction because I was better off than them? Or maybe a sense of discouragement because I was worse off than them?
The source of my pride is this spirit of comparison, which judges me based on the standards of this world. Here is where we must guard our hearts. We cannot lower the high standard of our calling to be like Jesus. So we must remain committed to fight-ing all comparisons with others, no matter how many years it takes to win that battle. If we keep fighting, we will slowly gain victory over this dangerous addiction.
In this age where social media is so pervasive in our lives, I find that the temptation to compare myself with others is all the more present. I have learned that I need to be very careful how I spend my time on these platforms. Like Jesus, I must not judge by what my eyes watch and where my thoughts go (Isaiah 11:3). So when reading about all the vacations that my friends go on, all the great advancements others are making, and all else that is going on, I must be on my guard that I don't allow any envy, jealousy, pride, arrogance, or other evil to slip in.
Comparing myself to Jesus is a different experience altogether.
• He had very little to boast about in this world
• He had no desire for self-gratification
• He was a friend to sinners and was also utterly holy
• He was full of compassion to the worst of sinners, and sternly rebuked the self-righteous
• He had no respect for empty religious titles, or for the rich and powerful
As I compare myself to Jesus, I find myself consistently and woefully short of His standard in my love, in my holiness, and my commitment to righteousness.
But here's a key difference when I compare myself with Jesus-I am not
discouraged one bit, because the Jesus I know is LOVE. Love is not just
one of His virtues or one of His attributes. Jesus is God-so Jesus IS
love. Thus, when I come to Jesus, I come to Love. And when I compare
myself to Jesus, I am comparing myself to infinite Love.
Now one would think that this should make coming to Jesus both enjoyable and easy, but sadly, we are such self-centered creatures that we still choose to resist the Love of Jesus. I think this is because we want a different kind of love, namely, a love of ourselves. We so often find more gratification from feeling sorry for ourselves, because that allows us to keep ourselves at the center (love ourselves). We also choose therefore not to come to Jesus. He is Love, and He will tell us that He loves us infinitely, but He will also tell us that He loves the whole world, and not just us. We are the apple of His eye, but so are many others.
As I assess my daily life, I find it very hard to consistently compare myself with Jesus alone. It is so very hard to keep it that simple. Nonetheless, I believe that this is the BEST TRUE TEST of my pride and humility, and so I must strive to keep to this defini-tion of humility.
The Holy Spirit of grace and supplication
The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace and supplication. As we read in Zechariah 12:10, " I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplica-tion ." Supplication means to seek favor, which is the posture of humility at its core. The Holy Spirit will identify with those who are humble, because He is humble too.
And grace is given to those who are humble (1 Peter 5:5). Grace is so much more than merely unmerited favor (as it is typically defined by most Christians). Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit that was introduced through the life of Jesus Christ (John 1:17). This same grace that came through Jesus Christ is available to those who are humble (1 Peter 5:5).
There is greater and greater grace available to those who humble themselves (do take the time sometime to read James 4:5-10). There is a greater and greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, available to those who compare themselves with Christ alone, and thereby see their great lack.
Hopefully this convince us to embrace this lifestyle of radical humility. As my Dad (Zac Poonen) often reminds me:The 3 secrets of the Christian life are humility, humility, and humility!
Think about all the amazing saints of God who lived in the Old Testament. These were people like Job, and Joseph, and Daniel. They were faithful and fearlessly obedient. I can't think of anyone in the New Covenant who lived a life so completely devoted to God as they did.
Yet, not one of them-nor anyone else in the Old Testament- had the Holy Spirit living inside of them. Because we are under the New Covenant, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit and live lives that are even more pleasing to God.
What an immense privilege we have under the New Covenant
But why are things different under the New Covenant (meaning New Agreement)? Is it that God decided one day to be forgiving and lower the standard? Not at all! Everything changed when Jesus completed His work here on earth and took the full punishment for our sins. With His sacrifice, the blood of Jesus can thoroughly wash and cleanse us of all sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:6-10).
The Holy Spirit requires a perfectly clean heart to dwell within us. There was a thorough cleansing work that was required. Our hearts need to be 100% clean to house the Holy Spirit, and the sacrifice of Jesus alone has that power - because He lived perfectly here on earth.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit isn't going to dwell in a being that has only had a one-time cleansing from sin. He can only take up residence in a place that is perpetually cleansed from sin. He can visit various places, but He will only make His HOME in hearts that are being constantly cleansed of sin. He is the HOLY Spirit, so He will choose to live in a HOLY place - a place that is cleansed of sin.
Yet, we also know that we all still sin from time to time. So what are we who sin to do, even as we know that all who are born again do not want to sin even once (Romans 6:1, 15)? God gives us this answer in His Word:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; butif we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, andthe blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7)
God Himself promises that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. However, there is an important conditional "if" at the begin-ning of that sentence. The condition that God gives us for being cleansed from all sin is to walk in the light as God is in the Light.
But, what does it mean to walk in the light?
a. God is the definition of Light (1 John 1:5), so He is the stand-ard. The qualities He exemplifies in the Bible-love, hope, faith, humility, courage, etc.-are what we must exhibit to walk in the light.
b. When we sin, we walk in darkness, and not in the light. Therefore, when we sin, the most important thing we must do is get out of darkness and back into the light-very simply, if we are sinning, we must stop sinning and return to obeying God's commands.
• For example, if we have been giving into sexual lust for the last 8 hours, we must immediately stop and get back into the Light where we do not allow our eyes to give into to sexual lust.
• Or if we have been allowing thoughts of envy or un-forgiveness to take root in our minds, then we must immediately pick up the fight again and, with soldier-like resolve, kick those thoughts out as soon as they come into our minds.
It should be comforting that the condition for being cleansed from all sin is not that we never sin again, and not even that we sin only once or twice a day-the condition is not based on HOW OFTEN we sin. Even though we often evaluate our own spiritual worth based on recent performance, it should have no impact on how quickly we return to living in the light. As soon as we get back into the light, it doesn't matter how many times we have sinned; all is cleansed.
But we cannot abuse this principle. God tells us that He gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). We must have a basic mindset that seeks to obey God if we want to receive the Holy Spirit. We don't have to obey God perfectly right away, just as we don't expect our children to automatically obey us perfectly. However, we should be deeply troubled if our children do not have a basic mindset that sought to obey us as parents. So also must it be in our lives with our Heavenly Father.
In summary, there is an important "past" and "present" compo-nent of sin that must be addressed for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.
• Past sins: CLEANSED. We must be cleansed of all previous sin for the Holy Spirit to live in us, and even incredibly faithful people like Joseph and Daniel didn't have this available to them. Just one sin committed when they were small disqualified them.
The best cleansing they had available to them was the blood of sheep and goats that needed to be continually offered to forgive them of their sins. We, on the other hand, are tremendously blessed to have been born after Jesus died and rose again. We have the blood of Jesus acting as an eternal sacrifice for our sins. His blood cleanses us completely every time we confess our sins; and our perfectly cleansed hearts becomes a suitable house for the Holy Spirit.
• Present sins: OBEDIENT. For all the sins that we find within ourselves (through the conviction of the Holy Spirit), the blood of Jesus is still powerful to cleanse us. Yet first, we must decide to repent (turn away from our sins) and recommit to being obedi-ent. This is what it means to walk in the light, as God is in the light.
To recap, those who receive the Holy Spirit should exhibit these essential traits:
1. A HUMBLE recognition of their absolute need for the Holy Spirit because of the lack they see when they compare themselves to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 66:1-2). At the same time, they let go of the tendency to compare themselves with others.
2. HONESTY about the stark impossibility of having the life of Christ borne through them. It is as impossible for them to bear Christ now as it was for the virgin Mary 2000 years ago to bear Jesus ( Luke 1:35).
3. A deep HUNGER for the life of Jesus to be evidenced in and through them (John 7:37-39). They recognize that their lives are like scorched ground unless they have a constant outpouring of His Spirit to keep them soft and fertile.
4. A complete CLEANSING of all sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7) by walking in the light (1 John 1:7) and confessing all recognized sin.
5. An earnest desire to be OBEDIENT to God (Acts 5:32).
6. A full surrendering of all selfish interests and ambitions, offering them up to God so that they are able to be a living sacrifice on which the Holy Spirit's fire can fall (Romans 12:1-2; Leviticus 9).
7. FAITH that their good, heavenly Father is faithful to His Word and will give us the Holy Spirit when we ask for Him (Luke 11:11-13).
In all that I have written so far, I sincerely hope that I have not made receiving the Holy Spirit more mysterious and complicated than that of a simple hungry child asking his father for food. I hope that the following passage may serve as the final word on receiving the free gift of the Holy Spirit:
Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:11-13)
If asked, a human father will quickly provide fish and food to his hungry child. Loud fanfare, spine-tingling feelings, and earth- shattering experiences may or may not accompany such a provision. The provision of nourishing food is what really matters! So it is when our Heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit. Furthermore, we know from Scripture that the Heavenly Father moves quickly to give His Holy Spirit to anyone who sincerely asks-just like a father moves quickly to help his child who is genuinely hungry for food. May we also open up our hearts to God in such a way, and accept with gratitude the FREE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
There is one thing in particular that I believe the Holy Spirit seeks to do in our lives, ahead of all the other work He wants to do, and it is to know God intimately as our "Daddy."
I base this conclusion on Romans 8:15-16, "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God."
These verses are very straightforward-the Holy Spirit leads us to cry out, "Abba! Father!", because we are now counted as children of God. The word "Abba" is closest to the English word, "Daddy," and there is something really special about being so intimate with God that I can cry out to Him as my "Daddy."
1. It is a cry of "Daddy" (Abba), not Father
I want to differentiate the cry of Daddy from the cry of Father. God is our Father, but the word Father can have such a formal ring to it. When our children are young, we don't teach them to call us father or mother. Almost every culture that I know of has a more endearing word for parents. For the father, there are words like Daddy, Papa, Appa, Baba, and for mother, there are words like Mummy, Mamma, Amma.
• Do I only know God as a Creator, who lives far away in heaven, detached from my daily life? If so, then I don't know the Daddy the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to me.
• Do I only know God as a formal Father who is a strict disciplinarian with no affection for me? If so, then I don't know the
Daddy the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to me.
God wants us to come close to Him, as close as a small child approaches their mom and dad, with intimacy and confidence.
2. It is a cry for Daddy, not merely a call for Daddy
There are times when my children call out for Daddy or Mummy. But then, there are times when there is desperation in their voices and they CRY OUT for Daddy or Mummy. Every parent knows the difference.
• If my daughter just wants me to do something for her, she calls out for Daddy. But when she's in pain, then she CRIES out for Daddy.
• If my daughter wants ice-cream, she calls out for me. But when she's really thirsty or hungry, then she CRIES out for me.
When our children are really in pain, or they are really tired, lonely, afraid, then they don't just call out for us, they CRY OUT with urgency for us.
Even so, in our spiritual lives, there are times when the pres-sures of temptation can feel strong and overwhelming. There can be extreme pressures of loneliness, fear, and exhaustion. When the situations around us grow to be more than we can bear and our feelings draw close to despair, we can't help but cry out for help.
Who then do we cry out for? If we have the Holy Spirit within us, He prompts us to cry out for God as our loving Daddy. He wants us to run to God who is our Daddy. He wants us to stop running to our favorite addictions, habits, and insecurities. He also wants us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Rather, God who is our Daddy is the one the Holy Spirit wants us to turn to.
Please know that the Holy Spirit is not trying to pretend that our feelings don't matter. He is not trying to make us completely ignore all our feelings. Not at all! But neither does He want us to be ruled by our feelings. Rather, He wants to birth the cry of "Daddy" within us, motivating us to take all our hurts to God who is our intimately caring Daddy.
3. The cry rises from the deepest part of me, my spirit
To cry out to God as Daddy requires that I have more than just an intellectual understanding of God's fierce love for me.
I must know deep within my heart that He loves me just as a loving human parent would. My mind may have its ideas, but unless my spirit really knows that God sees me as His beloved child, then I cannot cry out to Him as Daddy in my moment of desperation. God cares much more that we know this truth than that we can understand or explain this truth with our minds.
Here's what knowing really means. It is one thing to under-stand the law of gravity in my head and to remember that g = 9.8m/s2, but it is a completely different thing to know the law of gravity. I can prove whether I truly know it when I go to the top of a tall building. There, at the edge of the roof, it doesn't matter AT ALL if I know the exact value of g. What REALLY MATTERS is whether I know the law of gravity so that I stay away from the edge!
I hope this simple analogy shows the difference between knowing in our minds and knowing in our spirits. In a spiritual context, the building edges we approach are the temptations that keep tripping us up and that we never seem to be able to master. It could be anger, or anxiety, or sexual lust, or a critical spirit. Or maybe it is all of the above. It is at such times that we can really see if we know God as a Daddy. When hard times come, do we draw close to Him, confident that we are children He deeply cares for?
Many Christians know with their minds that God is a Father to them, but I believe that very few go through trials and temptations truly believing that they can cry out to God is their intimately caring Daddy!
4. Knowing God as our "Daddy" frees us from being enslaved to fear
From Romans 8:15, I see that I have two options in life-to inter-act with God as a Daddy, or to live a life enslaved to fear. And, I am not speaking of a fear that inspires reverence for God, but a fear rooted in this world, which distracts from the security we have in God's love. These are either-or options. If we want to know whether we are getting to know God more and more as a Daddy, we can ask ourselves if our lives are being increasingly freed from the various fears of this world that call out to us.
I have used this test in my own life to judge myself and truly assess whether I know God as my Daddy. If God indeed is my Dad, then I should be living my life free from all worldly fears, and if there is some fear left, I can root it out by remembering that He is my intimately and infinitely caring Dad.
If we claim to be "born-again," then we have a new identity, born of the
Holy Spirit (John 3:5). This is a birth where our Father is God in
heaven (John 1:13). The very first thing then for the Holy Spirit
to do in our born-again spiritual lives is to form an inward cry to God of
"Abba, Father" (Daddy, I need you).
What a wonderful gospel-what beautiful good news indeed! I pray that God will help us constantly open our hearts to this voice of the Holy Spirit within us.
I now want to consider the two ways in which the Holy Spirit is visibly manifested in the Bible-the dove and the fire. Though there are several other symbols associated with the Holy Spirit in the Bible (e.g. water, oil, etc.), I want to talk only about the two symbols of the Holy Spirit that are physically SEEN when the Holy Spirit comes to rest upon people in the New Testament.
Over the years, I have heard stories of the Holy Spirit appearing at the present time as gold dust, feathers, or some other visible manifestation. As for myself, I pay NO attention to these stories because I see no evidence for them in the Bible. I hope that you too will pay no attention to all such distracting accounts, but that you will pay attention to the symbols of the Holy Spirit that the Bible gives us.
THE SYMBOL OF A DOVE: The Holy Spirit comes to bring peace between God and us
The very first time the Holy Spirit appeared to humans in the New Covenant, it was as a dove, coming down from heaven to rest on Jesus after He reemerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan River ( Matthew 3:16).
The dove is a symbol of peace, which is central to the message that God wants to bring to ALL humans. His message is now for more than just the Israelites, who were favored in the Old Covenant, and His truth is now available to EVERY SINGLE race, culture, and ethnicity. NOBODY is excluded from gaining access to the promises of God.
As we read the Old Testament, we see what a unique role the Israelites had in God's plan. All humans had been created with a longing for God, as God had chosen to breathe life into humans alone, out of all creation. However, among all the cultures that existed during the time of the Old Testament, God chose only the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to receive His commands and instructions. These chosen people were told by God Himself how they might live in a manner pleasing to Him, while no other culture in the Old Testament times was given this revelation.
Yet something changed when Jesus died, rose again, and sent out His Holy Spirit. People of every race and nation could now be cleansed from all sin and even be joined together into the Body of Christ, all because of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of them (Ephesians 2:11-22). With the new identity given by the Holy Spirit, there was no longer any special distinction for one ethnicity or one group of people. Every human now had the same, EQUAL opportunity to enter God's presence.
This message of peace and reconciliation between God and all peoples is unbelievably good news, and it is something that some of us who have been Christians for a while can easily forget. So it is good for us to often remember this symbol of the Holy Spirit-the dove, the one who brings peace. Day by day, the Holy Spirit is a bearer of PEACE. Rather than running away from God in fear, He tells us that b ecause of Christ, we can be at peace with God. We can draw near to Him-so near that we can interact with Him as a loving Daddy and so close that we can be fully united with His first-born Son, Jesus Christ. Now, that's a kind of peace that nobody in the world can ever manufacture!
THE SYMBOL OF FIRE: The Holy Spirit comes as an unquenchable fire to purge us of all sin
When the Holy Spirit first came to dwell among believers in the New Covenant on the day of Pentecost, He rested on each one of them as a tongue of fire (Acts 2:3). Just as the Holy Spirit RESTED on Jesus as a dove, the Holy Spirit RESTED on each person that day as a tongue of fire.
The ministry of fire is also a necessary work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit desires to rest upon us as a symbol of consuming fire over our lives-because He comes to completely burn up every last sin that lies within us. The Holy Spirit didn't have to rest on Jesus as a fire, because Jesus had no sin within Him. However, for the rest of us, the symbol of fire is crucial.
When John the Baptist first spoke about Jesus, He talked about Jesus baptizing us with the Holy Spirit and fire ( Matthew 3:11-12). The Holy Spirit is here again associated with fire-and specifically as an unquenchable fire.
Now, if we read this passage carefully, we see that immersion by fire is intended to burn up all of the chaff. Please note that God does not want all of us to be fully burnt up. No, He loves us tremendously, more than we can ever imagine. But precisely because of His great love for us, He wants to burn up those things in us that cannot co-exist with Him, which is sin. Sin in our lives is just like the chaff that covers the wheat grain and prevents it from being able to bear fruit. All such sin must be burnt up.
But we might ask, isn't it good enough that the chaff just be removed from the wheat and then set aside, maybe for the animals to eat? Couldn't we just choose to not indulge in our pet sins anymore, but are not burnt up? If we see sin as cancer, all spirit ual cancer must be surgically removed from our lives. Yes, Jesus wants to separate us from every sin, and because He is so brutally opposed to these sins He desires even to burn them up with an unquenchable fire.
Do we still desire the Holy Spirit? Do we still want to be immersed in the Holy Spirit, now that we know that He comes as an unquench-able fire to burn up ALL sin within us? Will we still fully welcome Him into every area of our lives… so that He can utterly burn up all sin that gets in the way of bearing fruit for Him?
Those of us who have been Christians for a while know that some of our sins just don't go away that easily. It is not a trivial matter to give up sins that cling close to us and that have been sources of comfort and pleasure to us for many years, maybe even decades. Therefore, it is good for us to often remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit comes as a fire-because not only does He want to free us from those sins, He wants to take them and completely consume them until every last piece of them is burnt up.
Imagine if we all welcomed this fire into our lives, to burn up all the sins within ourselves (not the sins of others most of all, mind you). Just imagine if the world around us could see that we were passionate about every sin within us being burnt up! Think for a moment about those sins that give us temporary pleasure-our fits of anger, our sexual lusts, our evil and judgmental thoughts about others, etc. Imagine if we hated these sins SO MUCH that we persistently longed and cooperated with the Holy Spirit to burn them completely up.
I truly believe that this is God's intention in giving us the Holy Spirit. He desires that our hatred towards all our sins would increase day-by-day, and especially year-by-year!
Finally, I believe that in today's age, the symbol of the fire may be even more relevant. The Holy Spirit can continue to rest upon us in peace (like a dove) only if the fire of the Holy Spirit first has free reign to persistently burn up the chaff in our lives. If we are satisfied with a defeated life and continue to be overcome by our sins, we show that we do not want peace with a Holy God, and then the Holy Spirit cannot rest on us as a dove. However, if we acknowledge that we hate sin and allow the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit to help purge us of all sin, then the Holy Spirit can indeed bring the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
So I pray that God helps us to be Christians who fully embrace the Holy Spirit, both as a dove that seeks to bring complete peace between us and God, and as an unquenchable fire that seeks to burn up every last sin that dwells within us.
There is another important descriptor I want to use in connection to the Holy Spirit: HELPER.
Just before Jesus leaves this earth, He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit, and calls Him a Helper. We read in John 14:16, " I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever ." We should pay special attention to this mention of the Holy Spirit, because it is the first time that Jesus describes the Holy Spirit, and it is telling that "Helper" is the very FIRST name Jesus calls Him. Clearly helping is a critical virtue of the Holy Spirit.
It is so easy for us to pass over this word, without really embrac-ing the incredible good news that the Holy Spirit is a Helper to us. Let's think about our day today. Did we look to the Holy Spirit as a real Helper that we had with us? Did we ask Him to help us today, as we walked down the street, or as we were tempted at work, or as we were at home with our children?
We can be so quick to connect the Holy Spirit FIRST to speak-ing on tongues, or raising the dead, or healing the sick (because that's how most of Christendom tends to see Him). In fact, given the choice, I think even the devil would prefer if we thought of the Holy Spirit only in terms of His gifts and didn't see His immensely important role as our Helper!
We must also not forget that there is another key word in this verse: "Another." Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as ANOTHER Helper. In order to be another Helper, there had to be a first Helper. Who was that first Helper? Jesus of course!
Think about how the disciples lived with Jesus around. Was there a storm He didn't quell? Or a question He didn't answer? Or a problem He didn't solve? For three and a half years, Jesus faith-fully walked alongside the disciples, gently instructing them and supply all their needs. In essence, Jesus was their perfect Helper.
Now in John 14, during Jesus' last meal with the disciples, Jesus tells them that He will soon be leaving them. Yet, He leaves them with a promise. Yes, He is leaving them, but He is going to send ANOTHER Helper to take His place. And this new Helper is AS powerful to help them as Jesus has been! Can the Holy Spirit be as much help to them as a physical Jesus? ABSOLUTELY! As God, the Holy Spirit is as powerful and capable as Jesus was to the disciples. In fact, as Jesus Himself said, that it was better that He left and the Holy Spirit came - because we would be better helped from the Holy Spirit living inside of us, than if Jesus was to live alongside us.
We must embrace this perspective of the Holy Spirit; He is a Helper to us just as if Jesus were physically with us. If you and I were living in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and we were both Jesus' disciples, just imagine how stress and worry-free our lives would be. After the first few months of seeing Jesus solve every single problem that came our way, we would stop doubting His power. We would be sure that as long as Jesus was with us, He would take care of us through all our circumstances. Jesus wants us to know that because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, we have ANOTHER EQUALLY-CAPABLE HELPER!
Now with this context, I want to share an important way in which the Holy Spirit helps us.
The Holy Spirit is a Helper who washes us and makes us new
We have already seen the connection between the Holy Spirit and water ( John 7:37-39). Jesus says that those who thirst and believe in Him will have rivers of living water flow from their innermost being because of the Holy Spirit given to them. Therefore, the Holy Spirit's ministry of quenching our thirst for God is imme-diately understood by the symbol of water as a life-sustaining, thirst-quencher.
But in Titus 3:4-6, Paul describes the way in which we are saved. We must first remember that being saved is not merely an act of the past. Even now, we need to be saved from the sin that remains in us, and we will continue to need God's saving power until our earthly lives are over. God wants to COMPLETELY save us from sin, such that sin has absolutely nothing to do with us. To put it concisely, God wants to save us from the PENALTY, POWER, and PRESENCE of sin.
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God immediately removes the penalty of our sins, and so this removal becomes a past event for those of us who have come to God and trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ). From then onward (i.e. the present), God wants us to live in victory over the power of sin in our daily lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then in the future, when we get to heaven and are with the Lord, we will be completely freed from even the presence of sin.
This context helps us consider verse 5, as it relates to our past and present salvation, namely, "the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
This word describes a new creation and a new beginning. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that the life of a Christian involves being born again (John 3:3-8). Paul also tells us that all who are in Christ are NEW creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When we are saved we receive a brand new IDENTITY, and the Holy Spirit is the one who gives it to us. It is easy to reduce the washing of the Holy Spirit to simply the removal of all the stains accumulated from our past, evil deeds; however, His washing is so much more than that. He washes us down to the very core, so much so that our past identity before we came to know Christ personally is taken away. This identity I am referring to is the way in which we define and see ourselves. In the past, others may have spoken and acted towards us in ways that cause us to see ourselves as mangled, unsightly, un-loveable, but all this is washed away as the Holy Spirit regenerates me and gives me a brand new identity.
There is no part of my old identity that is untouched. Everything that gave me reason to be conceited or discouraged-aspects such as my skin color, level of education, brain capacity, and income level-comes under the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit. His washing is utterly thorough so that we can take on the amazing new identity He gives us: Son/Daughter of the Living
God (1 John 3:2-3), Younger brother/sister of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).
Dear brother and sister, have you embraced this kind of washing by the Holy Spirit? Yes, you might say that you are born again, but do you realize that by saying this, it means that all the honor and burdens of your old identity has been utterly WASHED AWAY? I can tell you from my own life that this is a truth that I must keep fighting for. So often, I do not FEEL like I have this new identity in Christ, but I need to learn that my feelings don't change the FACTS of God's Word. Just as God tells me that my sins have been forgiven, God also tells me that I am a new creation. So when I don't feel that my sins are forgiven or that I am new creation, I must decide to believe God's Word OVER all my feelings.
As we learn to hold fast to our new identity in Christ, God will introduce us to many other Christians in this broken world with dark stains from their past. God wants also to equip us with compassion and strength so that we can remind them of this wonderful washing of regeneration that is promised with the Holy Spirit, no matter how they feel.
It is important to note that the Holy Spirit doesn't regenerate us once and then and leave us. He doesn't leave us as newborns; He wants us to grow into maturity. The newborn is just as much a living being as the grown adult, but no one wants newborn babes to remain the way they are.
Because I continue to sin and corrupt myself despite my new, regenerated identity, I need continuous washings of renewal. I think we can all easily admit that we are in constant need of being washed and renewed, because we all know how frequently we stain ourselves with sin. Praise God that He did not leave us just at being regenerated; He has also sent us a constant Helper in the Holy Spirit, who is ready to wash our hearts over and over again, so that we may be perpetually restored from all sin and renewed to full devotion to Jesus.
Some of us may have become complacent knowing that the Holy Spirit has already regenerated us and given us a new identity. Yet, we forget that this new identity must also be renewed. We can easily tell ourselves that our past (even last night) doesn't matter because we have a new identity in Christ that enables us to be fully accepted by God. However, this is only half true. The Holy Spirit seeks to regenerate AND renew. Have you recently asked the Holy Spirit to minister this washing of renewal? The proof that we have properly understood the initial washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is that we also embrace the present, continual washing of renewal by the Holy Spirit. If we are now floundering with a lukewarm attitude towards God, then we must be washed again by the Holy Spirit and renew our devotion to God.
We must remember that our initial regeneration and our later repeated renewals go hand in hand. We know from Paul that we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), but he also tells us to expect renewal each day,
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Let me share one final picture to illustrate this truth. In John 13, we read about Jesus washing His disciples' feet just before the last supper. When Jesus came to wash Peter's feet, Peter objected, but Jesus insisted that He must wash Peter's feet. Peter responded that if Jesus were to wash his feet, He should not stop there, but wash his whole body as well. Yet, Jesus tells Peter that Peter's entire body need not be washed again and again, symbolizing the washing of regeneration. However, his feet do need to be repeat-edly cleansed, which represents the washing of renewal wherein the inner man becomes increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ. This dialogue clearly differentiates between the separate works of regeneration and renewal that the Holy Spirit is able to use to cleanse us of sin.
I hope that we clearly see how the washing of the Holy Spirit is key to obtain and maintain our new identity in Christ. Most of all, I hope that in our daily lives, we will increasingly embrace this Holy Spirit as the HELPER who regenerates and renews us by His cleansing power.
There is another ministry of the Holy Spirit that I hope every young Christian will come to understand and embrace - the groaning of the Holy Spirit. Though it may sound peculiar, this groaning is a word used to describe how the Holy Spirit works from deep within us.The Scripture shows us that the Holy Spirit helps us by groaning within us with infinite hope.
I base this from this beautiful passage:
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:24-27)
The passage can be complex to understand right away; so let me lay out its substance:
1. Hope is a key to salvation. But if we say that we hope for some-thing, by definition it cannot be something that we have already seen or attained.
2. What is it then that we are hoping for? If we look a few verses earlier in Romans 8:18-23, we realize that Paul is referring to the redemption of our bodies at some point in the future. We clearly don't experience that reality right now, but we nonethe-less HOPE for it.
3. How do we recognize hope? It is characterized by two virtues: perseverance and eagerness in waiting ( verse 25 ).
4. Likewise, the Spirit works in us with the same perseverance and eagerness of waiting (that are characteristic of hope), in order to strengthen the hope we have for redemption.
5. The Holy Spirit helps us grow in hope for our redemption by supplying us with deep groans that suffice when words fail to adequately express our desire to see this hope realized ( verse 26).
As I consider these verses, the immensity of what is written humbles and excites me. I hope you too can see what I mean in that too.
Let me take a moment to revisit the third item in the summary. My Christian hope must be marked by perseverance AND eager waiting. If I were to ask you if you were filled with hope as a Christian, would you choose these two qualities to characterize the hope that you have?
Many Christians fail to demonstrate this kind of hope to others. We often give up on God and His promises too easily, and we fail to demonstrate the perseverance that should characterize our Christian hope. Alternatively, we might lose our longing for God and His kingdom, thereby failing to demonstrate the eager waiting that should also make up our Christian hope.
But, here's the encouraging part. As much as we realize that we don't have the measure of perseverance and eagerness that we want to have, consider whom Jesus has sent to dwell within us. Think about how the Holy Spirit has watched and been grieved by the many ways that we have disrespected His presence in our lives and treated Him like a stranger. At some point, we asked Him to come and live within us, but we don't treat Him like the invited guest and the HOLY Spirit that He is. We allow filthy and angry and jealous and bitter thoughts to dwell in our hearts-all things that disgust the Holy Spirit.
So what do you think the Holy Spirit's reaction is to you-after you've offended Him over and over and over again, for years on end? You keep repenting, but you keep failing Him again and again, and maybe the recent failures are even more offensive than in earlier times. Remembering all that I've done to disappoint the Holy Spirit, I am greatly encouraged by His actual response: He continues in His role of helper despite my countless failings. He is faithful, even though I am unfaithful, and He helps me in my areas of weakness with the SAME HOPE of infinite perseverance and eager waiting!!!
Now, to be clear, the areas of weakness the Holy Spirit helps me with
are not in Mathematics, Science, History, or a poor sense of direction!
The Holy Spirit has not been sent for those trivial and temporal
weaknesses of mine. He is not the Smart Spirit or the Intelligent
Spirit, but the Holy Spirit. He has been sent to help me with the ONLY
problem that God has with me-my sins. Therefore, my sins are the real areas of weakness that the
Holy Spirit wants to help me overcome.
And how exactly does the Holy Spirit help us? He groans for us. Picture the Holy Spirit groaning and remember that He is God Himself. Can you picture this omnipotent (all-powerful) God ever having to groan? Can you imagine the infinite Holy Spirit, who is GOD Himself, groaning?
Here's how I see this picture make sense in my mind! While I believe that God is all-sovereign, I also know that He is fully committed to giving humans free will. He is NOT interested in robots. He has a countless number of robots that obey Him implicitly-the planets, the stars, and more. But with the human race, He is interested in a family in which His children, the younger brothers and sisters of His first-born Son Jesus Christ, grow up to be mature sons and daughters.
God the Father does not run an authoritarian dictatorship, threatening His children to obey Him. He desires sons and daughters who delight to please their Father and make Him happy.
For this reason, the Holy Spirit has been sent to be a helper to us, but will never possess or dominate us. Demons possess people. The Holy Spirit, however, seeks to come alongside us and give us power. Thus, when He sees us choose paths of sin that are offen-sive to His very nature, He is genuinely grieved. Still, He never loses hope. He perseveres with us and eagerly seeks out even the slight-est flicker of desire within us that longs for God and His holiness . And when He finds it, He works hard to tend to that smoldering ember and fan it to a flame, primarily by seeking to show us how much we are truly loved by God (Romans 5:5).
Is all of this almost unbelievable?? Yes, to me and my finite mind, it surely is. But I choose to believe it as truth, because it is written in God's Word. And I have found that in choosing to embrace these truths in my daily life, the Holy Spirit proves Himself to be more and more beautiful and worthy of all of my adoration.
The Holy Spirit is then the most wonderful Helper. He washes me-regenerating my core identity and renewing me again and again to the purity of Jesus-and He increases the perseverance and eagerness of my hope for redemption, because He Himself is infinitely hopeful. He is the hopeful Holy Spirit! He never gives up on me (perseveres), and He is always eagerly waiting for me to humble myself and surrender to Him. And as I allow Him to work, I experience a life in which sin increasingly loses its hold over me.
I pray that these truths will sink deep within us, so that we might continue to grow to be more like Jesus, by embracing the Holy Spirit who is the most wonderful Helper.
I now want to talk about the BIGGEST testament to the Holy Spirit's role in my life. I do not mean to unduly elevate this ministry of the Holy Spirit above His many other ones; however, from my personal testimony, this particular role of the Holy Spirit is most precious, and it is my best answer to the question, Is the Holy Spirit fully present in me?
He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (John 16:14)
Very simply, the Holy Spirit's main goal is to make Jesus More and More Special to Me.
At the end of the day, the essence of Christianity that differen-tiates it from all other religions and worldviews is the Person of Jesus. Jesus is at the center of our faith. It is Jesus-who He is, what He did, and what He desires from us-that allows us to call ourselves Christians.
Yet, the sad reality is that even many sincere Christians so often reduce the person of Jesus to facts about Jesus. Many of my so-called Christian activities in my younger days did not actually result in a greater knowledge of Jesus Himself. I preached sermons, debated competently on the validity of the Christian worldview, and even got others to agree with me from time to time. Yet, I did not have a growing adoration for Jesus. Sure, I became more secure in my point of view, and I comforted myself that I was not going to hell, but what about my relationship with Jesus Himself? Sadly, He had not grown more special to me in any significant way.
I am not saying that I was no longer a Christian, or that I had lost my salvation, or that the Holy Spirit was absent from my life. But I was certainly limiting the Holy Spirit's access in my life. While the Holy Spirit eagerly desires that I become holy in my actions, He is very specific about how I become holy. I become holy by Jesus first becoming most precious to me. As Jesus becomes precious to me, I increasingly lose my desire to do things that displease Him. This holiness becomes increasingly more natural when it springs from a deep adoration for Jesus.
So here's how I would answer somebody today, if they asked me whether I had the Holy Spirit richly dwelling within me at the present.
I would first ask myself whether, in the past week, I had found the Person of Jesus to be precious and enjoyable to me. If so, it would be evidenced by the following traits:
• I seek to enjoy Jesus and to value His opinion
• I value the things that He values
• What makes Him sad, increasingly makes me sad as well
• I value what He accomplished when He died for my sins
If these things were STILL true in my life, then I would know that the Holy Spirit still had freedom to do His work in my life.
I believe that looking for these indicators in our own lives is one way for us Christians to "judge ourselves" so that we may see that we are not better than others. If we are open to the Holy Spirit every day, He will show us ways in which we ourselves are in need of a greater love for Jesus. What He reveals will in turn create an inner divine compassion and humility. We will increasingly hate every form of sin, yet we will have a heart that increases in love towards every single person in the world.
If Jesus is precious to us, then we will mourn over His suffering and death on the cross. And this mourning will also be the work of the Holy Spirit.
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
Zechariah is a prophetic book, and just as someday there will be a physical fulfillment of this prophecy in Jerusalem, at the present time there is a spiritual fulfillment of this prophecy for the spir-itual children of Abraham (Galatians 3:14), which is the Church.
We as members of Christ's body are the spiritual inhabitants of Jerusalem today. Thus, when the Holy Spirit is poured out on me, I will view Jesus as the One whom I pierced. As I see that I was the one who put Jesus to death, I will mourn deeply-just as if I had lost my firstborn child.
I have children of my own now, so I can somewhat imagine the pain I would feel if I lost any of them. I don't think any pain compares to the pain of losing a child. This is an amazing promise that we can desire from the ministry of the Holy Spirit: Jesus can become increasingly special to me, so that I will realize the deep pain I cause Him by MY sin.
When I couple the promise from Zechariah with the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:4 - Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted - I see the beautiful and complete work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes me mourn (like no other kind of mourning) when I see what I have done to the Son of God. And the Holy Spirit is also the Great Comforter who comforts me in this mourning. This is the only kind of holy mourning that God seeks: A persistent mourning that is resolved again and again by His comfort and hope.
If we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit we can be assured that He will make Jesus more and more special to us.
But there are many things we can do to QUENCH the Holy Spirit ( 1 Thessalonians 5:19). From my own life, I have seen a few tactics that the devil uses to quench the work of the Holy Spirit:
• He may tempt us with a strong fascination with earthly success. We may allow ourselves to be caught up with pursuing wealth or advancing our career, ignoring the stern warnings in the Bible against the desires for riches.
• He may seek to use our sexual urges to entangle us, that we might be ruled and driven by them, despite the strong cautions in the Bible against all sorts of immorality.
• He may try to make us discouraged and depressed over our appearance by convincing us to place an inappropriately high value on the way we look.
• He may attempt to persuade us to love the things of this world through our friends. These friends might claim to be Christians, but they don't passionately love Jesus.
There is one common element behind every form of quenching the Holy Spirit, whether mentioned here or not. It is SELF. My selfish-ness longs to satisfy my own interests and my own gain and my own comfort. This craving is rooted deep within us; it has been there ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This self-love distracts us from the humility that is required for the Holy Spirit to work on us.
Yet, God is good! Even though the craving of my selfishness is strong, the Holy Spirit also groans for me. He groans to show me how my selfishness has deceived me. He groans to show me who I really am: the one who crucified the Son of God. He knows that if I were able to see myself accurately, I would mourn over my great depravity. Then He would be there for me, and then I would be able to find comfort from the Great Comforter.
I praise God that the Holy Spirit groans with a hope full of perseverance and eager waiting, always desiring that I would see my true depravity as well as His rich comfort.
This is the journey I am on. This is the fight that I am choosing to fight. The fight that is most important to me is the fight to main-tain my personal devotion to Christ. And this is a most precious fight, because I have the Holy Spirit groaning with me, fighting alongside me, to grow my friendship deeper with Jesus.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to a life of mourning coupled with deep comfort, all so that Jesus may become more special to us.
Allow me to start with a verse that many serious Christians may not understand: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father " (John 14:12).
What this verse plainly says is that we will do the works that Jesus did as well as even greater works. What greater "works" could there be? If we go to a village and thousands believe in Jesus Christ and become whole hearted disciples of Him, is that greater than what Jesus did because He had only 12 disciples? No, that's not a greater work, because quantity does not make something great in God's kingdom. God is more concerned with quality, and throughout history, He only needs a few quality people to accom-plish His work. Consider the stories of Joshua and Caleb, Gideon and his 300, or any of the others singled out for their faith.
When Jesus spoke of "greater" works, He didn't refer to works that would necessarily be greater in human eyes, but in God's eyes. What then is this other work that carries so much eternal weight that it can be called greater work?
The first indication of what the greater work might be is given at the end of the verse: "because I am going to the Father." It is only because Jesus went to the Father that we are capable of doing greater works than He did. Right away, we can see that our ability to perform greater works than Jesus is BECAUSE of Jesus, and that tells us something.
What happened after Jesus went to the Father? We may recall that Jesus promises them the Holy Spirit in John 14:16 , " I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. " However, let us remember that Jesus also had the Holy Spirit living within Him the ENTIRE time that He was here on the earth, so the bestowal of the Holy Spirit alone cannot explain the greater work. Rather, we find the full description of the greater work here :
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
We see here that as Jesus was about to leave, His greatest burden was that all of us, His disciples and those who would believe later, would be united with Himself and the Father, as well as with one another.It was this unity in love that Jesus desired most of all-unity is the greater work!
Jesus could not bring about this unity while He was on this earth. At the last Supper after Jesus had washed their feet and plainly said that He was going to die for them, the disciples still argued about which of them was the greatest. And a few hours later, every one of His disciples deserted Him when the soldiers came to arrest Him. Even after listening to the perfect Preacher reveal absolute truths about God for over 3 years, the same disci-ples who left all to follow Jesus could not be united with their Master or each other.
This should not be surprising; NO human is capable of having this divine unity with God or other humans by themselves, because selfishness is rooted deep within us. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can make us one with the Father and the Son Jesus Christ, and only this power can unite us with other brothers and sisters in the same way.
God helps us achieve unity with one another through the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, unity with Himself is required before we can access these manifestations of the Spirit. The fruit and the gifts come from abiding in Jesus, the Vine to which we, the branches, are attached (John 15:4-8).
Fruit of the Holy Spirit
We learn of the different types of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ."
Picture how fruit grows on a tree. Do we see the branches groan-ing and sweating to bear fruit? No! A branch must simply remain connected to the tree, and it WILL bear fruit.
Jesus uses the same illustration when He is speaking to His disciples at the last supper (John 15:1-11). Just as a branch continues to bear fruit when it remains attached to the vine, we will AUTOMATICALLY bear more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit when we stay united with Jesus. It is because this unity is so important that God tells us to pray without ceasing and to abide in Him. By being close to Him, we are able to become like Him.
The secret to the fruit of the Holy Spirit is NOT my own will power or self-control. The type of self-control that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit is very different from the self-control that comes from my own self-will. And here's the difference:
• Self-control from my willpower comes about when I understand what is right and what is wrong. Because I want to do what is right, I exert my willpower to grow in self-control in every area (not to commit adultery, not to retaliate, etc.).
• Self-control as a fruit of the Holy Spirit comes about when the
Holy Spirit makes Jesus precious to me so that I don't want to do anything that would make Jesus sad and drive Him away from me. The Holy Spirit wants to strengthen my friendship with Jesus. If I become more and more united with Christ every day, it will become more and more natural for me to choose not to flirt with my co-worker or retaliate against my neighbor- there is a change in heart, not a mere external rejection of sin.
The MOTIVE behind the self-control determines whether it is my own effort or the FRUIT of the Holy Spirit working in me. If my self-control is of the flesh, my motive will be derived from fear or pride.
However, If it is of the Spirit, my objective will be to become more united with Jesus.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in various passages (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-30; Ephesians 4:11-16), but rather than giving a detailed description of each gift, I want to make sure it is clear that these gifts are given to us so that we might be UNITED AS ONE FAMILY.Ephesians 4:1-16 demonstrates this plainly. Allow me to summa-rize the concluding verses:
• God provides leaders to the church (verse 11) who help equip EACH MEMBER OF THE LOCAL CHURCH to build the Body of Christ ( verse 12).
• All followers of Christ are to grow up to be like HIM in EVERY way (verse 15).
• Every follower must keep laboring until ALL attain the unity of the faith and are mature in their faith to the very maturity (full-ness) of Christ (verse 13-14).
• When EVERY member of the local church works diligently in their individual tasks, the Body of Christ will be built up ( verse 16).
God wants to build up the local church though us, and He has assigned each one of us a special function. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to help us in this effort, and we must eagerly peti-tion the Father for these gifts so that we might be fully equipped. None of us is excused from doing our part because every member of the Body is precious and valuable. The purpose of our gifts is NOT to impress other people or to start our own ministries (even though many Christians around us use the gifts of the Holy Spirit towards these ends). Rather, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts so that we might build up the church and be UNITED TOGETHER WITH OTHERS in Christ, even as we ourselves strive to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit by being individually UNITED TO CHRIST in our private lives.
In conclusion, I hope that understanding the goal of unity will change the way we seek the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, I pray that we might:
• BE rooted in the love of Jesus so that we more naturally bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (the character of Jesus).
• SEE our local church as the place to ACTIVELY use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build others up. Let us not try to build up our own reputation within the church, but also let us not sit in a corner thinking that others will do the work that God has specifically planned for us to do.
• REMEMBER that unity is the goal and the "greater work" that God asks of us. We desire to increase our unity with the Father and the Son, as well with other like-minded people, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we think of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I want to write on the final and ultimate goal of the Holy Spirit. And for me, as I look farthest into the Bible, I see our future life after this life here on earth is done (what we call eternity). As I look at this end point, and as I think about the Holy Spirit's primary work, I can't see anything more exciting than the ultimate wedding.
The Bible describes a coming wedding where Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride. Now the Bible does indeed describe Jesus as the Husband and the church as the wife (e.g. Ephesians 5:25-32). So there is a sense in which God already sees Christ and the Church as being one. There is a dual sense of "already is/not yet" in this imagery, since we're dealing with a God who is not bound by time. But I believe that there is going to be a real wedding feast when Jesus comes back: the wedding and the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).
So with that wedding in mind, I want to describe the Holy Spirit's role in preparing for it.
He Labors to Prepare a Bride
Revelation 22:17-The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost .
Revelation 22 is the last chapter in the Bible, and this verse is one of the final few verses in this chapter. So after reading about the final days of this present earth, the final judgment, and the new heaven and new earth in vivid detail, we are left with the present work of the Holy Spirit with that end in mind. And the call of the Holy Spirit is simple. It is a request to come to God.
But He is not alone in making the call. He stands alongside the Bride of Christ. I see the Bride here to be a picture of the entire Bride of Christ. She consists of all those who live their lives on this earth with a simple and pure devotion to Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the Bride that qualifies her to be married to Christ ( 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 ).
So these two stand on the other side of this life, and give this clarion call to all of us: Come! All of us can easily say that this is a simple command that is easily understood.
But yet, we find from this verse that yet not everybody comes:
• There are some who are so attracted by the things of this world that they do not even hear the voice of the Spirit and the bride. These are the people of whom John writes about in 1 John 2:15-17 - that they love the world and the things of the world. For such people, John tells me that the love of God is not in them at all. That is why we read that only those who hear also say "Come." These acknowledge the call they have heard. The rest miss the call altogether, so they carry on in their addiction to this world, and in being enslaved to the ruler of this world.
• But then, even among those who hear the call to come, there are some who do not end up coming because they are not truly thirsty. Such people want Jesus as an accessory but not as a Bridegroom. They want Jesus as a part-time convenient Friend to help them, but they don't have hearts that are constantly thirsty for more of His presence. They don't genuinely enjoy and long for His company. Most of their days pass without much thought for Him. Such people may clearly hear the Spirit's and Bride's call. But they cannot come because they do not find the need to drink of the water given to them; they are not really thirsty.
• But there is also one more requirement for those who will fully enter into the simple request to come. All who desire to comemust wish to take the water of life without cost. The complete absence of cost to the water of life indicates an utter rejection of all one's deeds (bad AND good) as being at all useful to receive the water of life (see Philippians 3:7).
Some people never receive the water of life because they think they're not good enough. Some others never receive the water of life because they think they do have some good works that they can barter in exchange for the water of life. Both such kinds of people suffer from an underlying problem - they don't believe that the water of life comes without cost. And so they miss out on being able to enter into the call of the Spirit and the Bride.
But in spite of all these folks who miss out, it is of great encouragement that there is a holy remnant of sincere people all across the world that do end up coming. Such people come and drop off all that they have at the garbage dump outside. They know that all the good and bad that they bring are useless. And this act only heightens their sense of poverty and their thirst (in their hearts). So when they hear the call of the Spirit and the Bride to come, they do come with their hearts FULL of gratitude, and glad to receive the water of life that comes without cost.
He Labors to Transform Us into the Image of the Bridegroom
2 Corinthians 3:18 -But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit .
For those who fully respond to the call of the Holy Spirit and the Bride, they know that they are not coming just to be satisfied. There is a satisfaction and rest that they obtain for sure, but there is a work that must be done as well - to be transformed into the heart of the Bridegroom.
That is what we see in 2 Corinthians 3:18. The Spirit summons us to come. And when we come, He shows us the tremendous glory of Jesus - and He helps us see this as clearly as we see our face in a mirror. As I wrote previously, He makes Jesus more and more special to us. And as we behold the glory of the Lord, He comes as a Helper to slowly but surely help us to be transformed into the same glorious image of our most precious Lord.
The Holy Spirit is the only one who can do this kind of transfor-mation. We might be able to become better people, and we might be able to reform our character. But I don't think ANY of us actu-ally believe that we can somehow transform ourselves to match the same glorious image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the proudest Christian is probably not that vain!!! So hopefully we all can see our need for the Holy Spirit to do this transformation in us.
And we must also realize that it is only just and fair that the Bridegroom get married to a Bride that is fit for Him. It is the Father's great pleasure to celebrate a wedding feast where the Bridegroom gets married to a Bride that is fit for Him - a Bride that has been transformed into the same glorious image as the Bridegroom Himself.
So the Holy Spirit and the Bride ask us to come. The Holy Spirit wants to take us to see the glory of Jesus, and be transformed into His image. Even when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, it is only because He is longing to make us part of Christ's Bride. And when He comes as a fire to cleanse us of sin, He is doing that to make us pure like Jesus is pure.
The Apostle John tells me the same thing. He says that when we see Christ, we will be like Him. But the proof that this is our unmovable hope is that we will purify ourselves just as Jesus Himself is pure ( 1 John 3:2-3).
And as we compare the purity of our lives to the purity of Jesus, we know we need much help if we are to purify ourselves just as He is pure. So when we respond to the call to come, we see that the Spirit is inviting us into a walk with Him where He helps us purify ourselves.
So I hope that we will keep this goal of the Holy Spirit in our minds.
• Let us constantly remind ourselves of the marriage on the other side of this life.
• Let us constantly remind ourselves of the wonderful event that is surely going to happen.
• And let us constantly seek to embrace the ministry of the precious third person of the Trinity who only seeks this very best for us.
I sincerely pray that God will make His Holy Spirit a reality to us in this increasingly dark world.
It is incredible that Holy Spirit comes to live within us.
• "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, butyou know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
• "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19)
The words used here are "abide" (or live). The Holy Spirit is not interested in dropping by every now and then to see how we're doing. He doesn't want to visit on special occasions, or when we've been particularly holy. Rather, He has come to this earth to LIVE and permanently reside within us. He intends for our hearts to be His permanent home.
The Holy Spirit is in it for the long haul. It is humbling to realize how seriously the Holy Spirit takes His ministry of abiding in us. I am especially saddened as I consider how I disgrace the home of the Holy Spirit when I intentionally choose to sin. To sin is to insult the very home that I have invited the Holy Spirit to live in, and it is shameful that I don't always see it this way. Even when I am quick to reach for the blood of Jesus to cleanse me of my sins (as I should; 1 John 1:7), I must not lose sight of the fact that my sins have dirtied the home of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit hasn't come merely to occupy a part of us, but all of us. We are His temple so He desires to FULLY inhabit us. It is in this context that we can understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is what we will consider next.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
In Matthew 11:11-12, Jesus preaches that John the Baptist was the greatest of the Old Covenant saints. However, Jesus was intro-ducing a brand new way of life, in whichevery one of His followers would be greater than even John the Baptist. How can that be? It is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist clearly stated that while he baptized people in water for repentance, Jesus would baptize us in the Holy Spirit (John 1:33).
Sothe "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is a fundamental message of the New Covenant. The distinguishing feature of Jesus' ministry should be evident in us as well. Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, so His followers are those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit.
After His resurrection, Jesus insisted that His disciples stay put until they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). If they had been disciples of John the Baptist, they could have gone out right away to execute their commission; however, without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' disciples were powerless to carry out His mission. When the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), only then were they able to begin the work Jesus had given them to do.
All of us also need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. When we are IMMERSED in the Holy Spirit, He will wash us clean by His regenerative and renewing power (Titus 3:5).
Among the three Persons in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the greatest mystery surrounds the Holy Spirit-the Person in the Godhead given to reside within us and be our "point of contact" to the Father and the Son. And I am sure this mystery is part of God's perfect plan.
Recall the two trees in the Garden of Eden; one is called the tree of life and the other is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eating from the tree of life was choosing to know and depend on the life of God. But Adam and Eve were seduced by the thought of being independent. Once they ate from that tree, they could discern what is good and what is evil for themselves, without God's help. They would no longer need to depend wholly on God to navi-gate them through their lives.
Since that choice of Adam and Eve, countless religions have sprung up, teaching people how to live moral and good lives. Their followers think that if only they diligently study and follow the rules, then they will be saved. Some may even succeed in living moral and upright lives, however despite all their effort, they do not realize their persistent need for God. Many Christians also fall into this category. They are stuck in a rules-based religion, which produces the empty kind of life that comes from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. On the other hand, those who eat from the tree of life recognize their enduring need for the Holy Spirit. They are like helpless branches that understand their complete dependence on the vine-even if they have already been connected to the vine for fifty years, or more.
In John 15, Jesus explains that He is the Vine and that we are the branches. In high school, I learned that life-giving water and nutri-ents flow from a plant's roots to its branches through passageways called xylem. If Jesus is the Vine, and I am a branch, then the Holy Spirit must be the critical xylem that gives me the life of Jesus.
We must always remember that the main point of our Christian faith is NOT that we become good people, but that WE REFLECT THE LIFE OF JESUS. If life is a journey, the destination God has planned for each believer is that they become an accurate reflec-tion of Jesus by the end (Romans 8:29). We are being transformed into the full glory of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). The best part of the New Covenant is not that we become rich or that we go to heaven, but that we are able to partake of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4).
When our eyes are opened to the true purpose of our faith, we also become aware of how impossible it is to achieve this purpose by our own efforts. If our goal is to live moral and upright lives, it's possible for us to think we can achieve this objective without constantly depending on the Holy Spirit. However, when we recog-nize that God intends for us to mirror life of Jesus, we realize that this is only possible if we are fully immersed in the Holy Spirit; will-power could never get us that far. When we find that we don't hunger and thirst for the Holy Spirit, it invariably means that we have lost sight of the goal set for us-to be like Jesus.
We must constantly keep our goal to be like Jesus in front of us. As we do this, we will naturally seek for total and repeated immer-sions in the Holy Spirit. Beyond the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit, the pure water of the Holy Spirit gives us the life of Jesus that quenches our thirst.
With this most-critical preface, let me explain my view of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
This term can be misleading because it's a confusing religious word, so let's use the word immersion in place of baptism. The concept of immersion is easier for all of us to understand, and it's what baptism really means. Very simply, to be immersed in water is to be completely surrounded and covered with water. Similarly, to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to be completely surrounded and covered and filled with the Holy Spirit.
1. Immersion in the Holy Spirit is NOT a single event that happens only at the time of conversion
We can incorrectly think that being immersed in the Holy Spirit is a one-time occurrence because we are only baptized in water once. But let's remember, water immersion is just a temporal, external symbol of what should be a constant inner reality- death to self and life with Christ. Yet, immersion in the Holy
Spirit is NOT a symbol; it's the real thing.
I believe that immersion in the Holy Spirit begins when a person FULLY surrenders their heart to Jesus Christ for the first time. It is not when they say a prayer and confess their sins. Surrender is not complicated, but it can be very difficult to do because we love ourselves so much. However, when someone readily recognizes their sinfulness and readily recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit to wash them and make them completely clean, then Jesus is faithful to immerse all such believers in the Holy Spirit.
2. For the born-again Christian, being immersed in the Holy Spirit is the same as being "filled" with the Holy Spirit
In Scripture, we find many references to being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) and "full of the Holy Spirit" ( Acts 6:3 ; 7:55). We can equate these instances of being filled to being immersed in the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:5, Jesus says, "For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." In the Acts 2:4, when Luke describes the actual event through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he writes, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." Thus, the first baptism of the Holy Spirit involved being filled with the Holy Spirit, and so the two must be fundamentally linked.
Therefore, if being filled with the Holy Spirit is the perpetual longing of our hearts, then we will automatically seek to be completely immersed in the Holy Spirit, because we know that is how we will be filled. We can only be at ease spiritually when we have gone to God and been filled with the Holy Spirit to the point of overflowing. Similar to having an automobile full of petrol, we can be confident that we can do anything that God might want us to do when we are full of His Spirit.
3. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is NOT a one-time event
I find that there is a widespread misconception that the baptism of the Holy Spirit happens just once for a believer. Maybe people confuse baptism in water with baptism in the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is required only once, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit should be continual.
In Acts, we read that the disciples were filled again and again with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8, Acts 4:31, Acts 13:52). Since being baptized with the Holy Spirit is no different than being filled with the Holy Spirit, we should not think of it as a one-time experi-ence isolated to a single event at a particular time and location.
Rather, we should expect to be filled again and again with the Holy Spirit so that we are always to the point of overflowing.
If we remember that baptism actually means to be immersed, it is easier for us to understand how we will be filled up when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the river flowing from the throne of God ( Revelation 22:1; John 7:37-39)- let us now be immersed under the mightiest waterfall of all.
4. Immersion in the Holy Spirit is a lifestyle, not an emotional experience
We Christians should be quick to recognize that we ALL are in constant need of immersion in the Holy Spirit because we continue to sin and fall short of God's glory.
Therefore, we should always seek to be re-immersed in the Holy Spirit, surrendering all of ourselves to Him and asking Him to rule over our lives. I find that the majority of what passes in the church as immersion in the Holy Spirit is just an explosion of emotions. There are countless counterfeit stories of baptism with the Spirit because many are deceived into receiving a baptism of emotion. Sadly, they are often satisfied with the counterfeit, because all they want is "to belong to the club" or "to have a good testimony with others." In much of the church, it is the blind leading the blind.
If we are desperate for God, we will never be satisfied with a one-time experience of the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit to fuel our pursuit of God. Just as a vehicle that is always full of gaso-line will always be able to move, we don't want to risk running dry by living on a past experience or "filling" of the Holy Spirit, even if it were as recent as yesterday.
Why would I ever settle for just one "baptism"? Surely when I see the sin still within me, I will seek to immerse myself over and over again in the purifying waterfall of the Holy Spirit.
5. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is freely available to Christians of every level of maturity, but only to those who meet the conditions laid out in Scripture
The blood of Jesus can cleanse every sinner of every sin, but only if they have a heart of repentance and faith. In the same way, those who desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit must satisfy certain conditions.
a. They must be desperate for the Holy Spirit because they see how much they are lacking when compared to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 66:1-2).
b. They must be honest about the stark impossibility of having Christ born in them through their own efforts. It is as impos-sible for them to bear Christ as it was for a virgin to bear Jesus two thousand years ago ( Luke 1:35).
c. They must have a deep hunger for the life of Jesus to be proved in them (John 7:37-39).
d. They must be completely cleansed of all sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7).
e. They must have a heart that is willing to obey God (Acts 5:32) and walk in the light (1 John 1:7).
f. They must live a surrendered life in which all selfish inter-ests, ambitions, and plans are offered up to God as a living sacrifice on which the Holy Spirit's fire can fall (Romans 12:1-2; Leviticus 9).
g. They must have faith that our good heavenly Father is faith-ful to His Word and will give us the Holy Spirit when we ask for Him ( Luke 11:11-13).
6. When I fulfill the conditions for baptism in the Holy Spirit, God does not make me wait to receive the Holy Spirit
God knows that I need the Holy Spirit to be victorious over sin, so He does not withhold the baptism of the Holy Spirit from me if I am ready to receive it. I don't make my children wait when they ask me for food. Likewise, when I genuinely seek the Holy Spirit to help me conquer sin, my Heavenly Father WILL give me the Holy Spirit because He knows what I need (Luke 11:11-13).
Many believe, if only subconsciously, that they are ready and eager to receive the Holy Spirit, but that God is withholding His Spirit from them for some reason. This lie is what the devil would like for us to believe. The truth is that the Holy Spirit is NEVER withheld from anyone who asks for Him to help them overcome sin. NEVER! He is given freely to those who meet the conditions of true desperation. Then, the Spirit fills us just like sunlight floods a dark room when we pull away the blinds from the windows. The sunlight is always ready to enter, but we must first pull away the blinds to walk in the light for the Spirit to rush in.
I am persistent to keep asking God for the Holy Spirit (Luke11:7-8), not because God has delayed in giving me the Holy Spirit, but because I never stop needing Him-both in my own life, because I am a needy branch, and to satisfy the hunger of others.
7. All interactions with the Holy Spirit must exalt the holiness of God
There is a reason why God calls the Third Person of the Trinity the HOLY Spirit. If He were the Laughing Spirit, He would produce people known for their laughter. If He were the Crying Spirit, His people would be distinguished by their crying.But He is the HolySpirit, so we should see that He makes His people holy!
Ask yourself what proof you have, or seek to have, of receiving the Holy Spirit? Is it a feeling or emotion? Or is it a clear shift in how you view sin and how you view the holiness of God? I find that very few Christians use this obvious test for the presence of the Holy Spirit,and it is why many assume the Holy Spirit is at work when He is not.
8. The Holy Spirit is given to us as a Helper - so that WE over-come sins with His help
The Holy Spirit is all-powerful because He is God, but God does not
want Him to overpower us, and thus take away our free will, so He restricts how the Holy Spirit interacts with us. He gives
us the Holy Spirit to help us win the battle against sin,
but the Holy Spirit will never fight our sins all by Himself. On the one
hand, we cannot win the battle against sin without the Holy Spirit. And yet
on the other hand, the Holy Spirit does not magically overcome our sin
while we sit and watch. WE are the ones who must fight and overcome sin
with the help of the Holy Spirit.If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13).
The story of Jesus fighting the devil in the wilderness wonderfully illustrates how the Holy Spirit helps us defeat sin ( Matthew 4:1-10). Jesus was fully God and fully man, but He overcame sin as a man. We know this because God cannot be tempted ( James 1:13). Also, we see that Jesus was tempted right after the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Matthew 3:16-17). So even though He was the Infinite Word in human form (John 1:1, 14), and even though He had just been anointed with the Holy Spirit, He conquered the temptations of the devil by always wielding the Sword of the Holy Spirit, the written Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
Since Jesus was tempted as a man and overcame sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, He is our Example for overcoming sin. We too therefore, must also wield the Sword of the Spirit to fight every last temptation to sin. If Jesus overcame every sin by the written Word of God available to Him (and not by His own supernatural powers as God), then we too can overcome every sin in the same way.
9. The filling of the Holy Spirit MUST be constantly coupled with our full obedience
Paul, who undoubtedly lived a life continually filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks very little of the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" to live a holy life. Paul's emphasis in all his epistles is on the many practical acts that we can and must do to live a holy life. All of this we must do with the help of the Holy Spirit, and by being continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
This is something very important for us to recognize. The Holy Spirit will never change us such that we CANNOT sin anymore; He has been given to help us so that we WILL NOT sin anymore. We see this in the lives of Peter and Paul. Both of them were individually filled with the Holy Spirit, and I'm sure they both sought to always live full of the Holy Spirit.
But yet we find, that Peter at one point failed to listen to the Holy Spirit's guidance in a specific situation years later - when tempted to go back to the Jewish regulations of the Old Covenant ( Galatians 2:11-21). It was therefore necessary for Paul to confront Peter in the Spirit over this sinful attitude, so that the church would not be misled.
The temptation to sin does not suddenly vanish when I am baptized in the Holy Spirit - my flesh will always be attracted to the passing pleasures of sin. However, we can expect that sin will become increasingly easier to overcome because the Holy Spirit magnifies Jesus to me and makes His Word an increas-ingly sharp Sword (John 16:14) against sin . The Holy Spirit seeks to transform the way we see God, the way we see Jesus, and the way we see holiness. As the Holy Spirit changes us to have hearts and minds more like Christ's, we will respond to sin differently. But till the end of our lives, choosing God's way over sin will be a choice we need to repeatedly make.
10. Jesus baptizes individuals with the Holy Spirit so that they might have power over sin; He does not baptize the church as a whole
There is absolutely no evidence that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 brought immediate victory to all the 120 gath-ered there in their struggles with sin. To achieve victory over sin, each of the disciples had to work out their own salvation individually with fear and trembling, considering themselves dead to sin, not having their minds set on worldly things, and seeking the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death their selfish desires. To the extent that each disciple was individually faith-ful to listen to the Holy Spirit every day, they were able to live in daily victory over their sins.
So there is no such thing as God baptizing an entire church in the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. Jesus looks at each person individually and whether they fulfill the conditions required for being immersed in the Holy Spirit. So each person in the local church must individually strive to love God completely and hate all sin. Each one must seek for the power of God to conquer all of the sin and dead works inside of them.
11. The baptism of the Holy Spirit united Jesus' first disciples as bold witnesses (Acts 2), but it did not give them instant victory over sin
While the disciples didn't receive immediate victory over all their sins, we do see that baptism of the Holy Spirit gave them immediate unity and boldness to proclaim the message of Jesus. This unity and boldness persisted throughout the rest of their lives. We similarly see Paul filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking fearlessly and boldly against evil people ( Act 13:9-11).
Therefore we can look for these two things right away if we are baptized in the Holy Spirit:
• A BOLDNESS to proclaim the good news of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
• A passion for UNITY with fellow whole-hearted believers (especially in their local church).
12. Being immersed in the Holy Spirit makes us delight more in the fear of God and frees us from the fear of men
Jesus was the first Person to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. There was not one second when He was not immersed in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He is our example for the Spirit-filled life. As Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him… And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear (Isaiah 11:2-3).
For those of us in the New Covenant who know God as a Father, we too must fear God. But this is not because we are afraid of making Him angry. Rather, we are afraid of causing Him pain. This is the "fear of the Lord" that Jesus had towards His Father. He chose to do nothing on His own initiative and to seek to please the Father in everything, all because He knew how much the Father loved Him (John 5:19-20). It is this immense love of the Father that created a deep fear in Jesus-a fear that kept Him from doing anything that would make His Father sad.
When we fear our heavenly Father because we have a deep longing to please Him, we are also freed from a fear of men. We are no longer interested in seeking to please people rather than God. We only look to the Father to see what makes Him happy, so we are not influenced by what our eyes see and what our ears hear. To paraphrase The Living Bible,when you fear God, you need not fear anything else ( Isaiah 8:13).
13. Immersion in the Holy Spirit NEED NOT be accompanied by some gift of the Holy Spirit
In the book of Acts, we see that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was almost always accompanied by the gift of tongues, which served as proof of this baptism. But I am convinced that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is confirmed differently today - because we now have the complete, written Word of God that the Holy Spirit can use to confirm His presence within us. The gift of tongues remains active and useful in the church today; however, many faithful believers have never experienced this gift, and it is not from any fault of their own. One of the best recent examples I can think of is John Wesley, who never spoke in tongues, but who was more full of the Holy Spirit than most, as is clearly seen by the impact of His ministry on the church of this generation.
In 1 Corinthians 12:30, I read clearly that all do not speak in tongues. When Paul wrote this, he was not rebuking the tongue-less believers, but explaining a reality. Just like all did not heal or work miracles, all do not speak in tongues either. So the gift of tongues is simply one of many gifts provided by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the church. In fact, it is the least of all of the gifts ( 1 Corinthians 12:28). So I believe that where God gives people the gift of tongues, it is meant to embolden their faith to seek the greater gifts, ones even more valuable than the gift of tongues ( 1 Corinthians 12:31).
Whether the gift of tongues accompanies a person's baptism in the Holy Spirit or not, the enduring proof of the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes from His Word coupled with faith. Every aspect of the Christian life hinges on the faith held in our hearts, and our faith and assurance must ultimately come from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). It should not be based on evidence from external signs, no matter how much of this evidence there is. In fact, it is helpful to recognize that there is a perverse and wicked instinct deep within us to seek for signs (Matthew 12:39). It is the Word of God that must act as an especially sharp sword, sinking deep into our hearts. It must go beyond our soul, with its emotions and intellect, and into our spirit ( Hebrews 4:12). Only the Word of God brought alive with faith can attest to whether our sprits remain full of the Holy Spirit, or whether we are relying on a human, emotional experience of the soul.The baptism in the Holy Spirit is performed by Jesus alone
We are commanded to baptize believers in water Matthew 28:19 ), but Jesus remains the only One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Even though the apostles laid hands on many to receive the Holy Spirit, it was still Jesus who baptized those believers with the Holy Spirit.
In the Acts of the Apostles, there are instances where the Holy Spirit fell on believers without the laying of hands (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-46). Yet we also notice that the apostles had a unique authority to lay their hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6).
I believe that God gave this ability to the early apostles to prove that His authority rested upon them rather than on imposters who pretended to know God but were in fact greedy and enslaved to sin. Such was the case with Simon the sorcerer, who saw many receive the Holy Spirit after Peter and John laid hands on them and then sought to buy this ability from the apostles, only to receive their rebuke (Acts 8:17-24).
Today, I do not believe that the Holy Spirit is received through the laying on of hands, and I cannot think of anyone in recent centuries who could reliably lay hands on people for them to receive the Holy Spirit. It was useful and even necessary in the early days of the New Covenant, before we had the complete Word of God written out and available. So one big reason that we do not receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands is that we have the complete written Word of God. So we who live today now rely on God's written Word to confirm the pres-ence of the Holy Spirit within us. Like Abraham told the rich man in hell, the greatest way that God speaks to us through the Word of God (Luke 16:31). If we do not believe His Word, we will not be persuaded by any miraculous sign.
15. The baptism in the Holy Spirit must first teach us to live with God as a Father, before we seek out the gifts of the Spirit
Good parents want the best for their children, and they know that it is most important for their children to have good family relationships. This is far more valuable for children than their talents in music, language, and art. These talents can be of great help to them in the world, but their security in being loved is far more important. So also, God wants His children to first learn to relate to Him as a Father, long before they discover how to be useful to help others in His family. It is only as we are secure in God's love that we can properly exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
For us to live with God as a Father, we need the Holy Spirit to teach us to "cry out, 'Abba! Father!'" ( Romans 8:15). We must have full assurance of our place in God's family, as the Holy Spirit "testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" ( Romans 8:16).
Many Christians are busy looking for supernatural gifts even though they have not yet come to live (abide) with God as their loving Father. God wants it to be the other way around. He would much prefer that we cultivate child-like faith in Him before we start concerning ourselves with external acts of righteousness.
16. As we live with God as our Father, we must in LONG for the gifts of the Holy Spirit
Another picture that God uses to describe His relationship with us is the human body. Every member of the human body has a specific function. Jesus immerses us in the Holy Spirit so that we can each become individual members of His Body, with Him as the Head (Ephesians 4:4). If each of us are individual members of the Body of Christ, then we have a specific func-tion that we MUST EACH play in order for the Body to function properly.
It is false humility to believe that I am of no use to God. We can fall into this line of thinking because we assume that God is self-sufficient and doesn't need us. Even though it is true that God does not need us as all-powerful God, this is only part of the truth. The whole truth is that Jesus CHOSE to give Himself to be broken SO THAT we would be His Body. So based on God's Divine choice, now the Head DOES need the body (1 Corinthians 12:21).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit grafts us into the Body of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Therefore, it is an insult to Jesus' sacrifice and to the role of the Holy Spirit when we claim to have no value as members of Christ's body.
Some churches try to help members identify their spiritual gifts by giving them a Christianized personality test that assesses their strengths and weaknesses. While this question-naire might shed light on human strengths and weaknesses, this has NO bearing on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The super-natural gifts of the Holy Spirit are given as gifts from God, even sometimes despite our natural tendencies. A man who is deeply afraid of speaking boldly about Christ can be super-naturally empowered to speak confidently with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and bring many to repentance (as we see in the life of Peter in Acts 2). Therefore, when we seek God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must not limit ourselves by the perceived liabilities in our personality, family background, or circumstances; God's power is not limited by such things.
17. Jesus Himself received the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip Him for His public ministry
Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit, meaning that His very essence and DNA were of the Holy Spirit because He was fully God and fully man. Yet, Jesus did not begin His public ministry until the age of thirty, when He was baptized in water, and the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him in the form of a dove. Remember, He had been perfectly sinless for those thirty years, as the power of the Holy Spirit had been upon Him from birth. However, when the Holy Spirit "rested upon" Jesus at thirty, it was to give Him gifts He would need in His public ministry to help others. It was the Father's Sovereign plan that Jesus wait all those years, and Jesus submitted to God's plan.
It is important to recognize that the external ministry of the perfect, sinless Son of God began only after He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, because it should be the same for us. Each member of the local church (the present Body of Christ) needs the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to help others in the Body of Christ. We must seek to be equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even if we are already living by the power of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives. If we want the Church of Jesus Christ not to degenerate to just being a social service group, the members of the local church must continuously seek to be anointed by the Holy Spirit to be spiritually equipped to help others in the body of Christ.
For many years, I sought the baptism of the Holy Spirit to live a life of increasing purity, so that I might become more and more like Jesus in His character. Yet, I did not see the equally important need for the Spirit's baptism in order to fulfill my calling as a member of Jesus' Body. As I looked at the life of Jesus, our Example, I came to realize how crucial the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to fulfilling our calling to become useful members of the Body of Jesus Christ here on earth. I urge you also to seek the Spirit's anointing and His gifts so that you might be productive members of the Body.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is NOT complicated. NOT AT ALL. But the way is extremely narrow and many give up when they realize it requires our full and perpetual surrender.
Perhaps some of us had a fully surrendered attitude in the past. During those times, the Holy Spirit was able to live within us without any issue or conflict. But since then we might have set up idols in our hearts and lost some of our hunger for God. Maybe we now think that we can manage somewhat without God. What should we do if this is the case? It is simple; we must be freshly re-immersed in the Holy Spirit.
Do not be content with having been filled with the Holy Spirit at one point, but ask whether Jesus IS PRESENTLY IMMERSING US in the Holy Spirit and whether we ARE PRESENTLY FULL of the Holy Spirit.
There are three simple questions that can tell us whether we are full of the Holy Spirit:
a. Do I have a deeper love for Jesus than ever before? One clear way I can know that I do is that I have an increased desire to obey ALL of His commands.
b. Do I have a deeper hatred for sin more than ever before? It will be proved by an increased freedom from the mastery of sin over my life.
c. Do I have a greater longing to be united with other whole-hearted Christian believers, and for them to be united with Christ so that we can be ONE just like the various parts of the human body are one? If so, I will seek to be equipped with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to minister to others with Divine love and power.
I find that the answers we have right now to these simple questions are what really matter. If we are confident in our answers, then we can know for sure that the Holy Spirit FULLY RESIDES within us and has His rightful place in the temple that is our heart.
Many years ago, I first started praying for God to continuously fill me with the Holy Spirit. I am now convinced that Jesus longs to do so, even more than I long to be filled. But He is looking to see that I desire it more than any earthly thing. He is a loving Father, and just as I would never dream of withholding bread and meat from my children when they are hungry and they ask for it, so also do I know that God would never withhold the Holy Spirit from me when I ask with the same kind of hunger.
After seeing God immerse me again and again in the Holy Spirit, I want to describe these three clear evidences of being baptized and living in the Spirit.
1. An increasing knowledge of the love of God being poured out in my life (Romans 5:5)
When the Holy Spirit is given to me, I receive power to be a witness of Jesus (Acts 1:8). But what does the power of the Holy Spirit look like? Is it the ability to work miracles or to speak in other tongues or to move mountains? Is it a heart that is willing to give up all possessions? No, all these are meaningless without love (1 Corinthians 13).
Rather, the power of the Holy Spirit is love. And we read, "The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).
However, God's love is not what we see in Bollywood, Hollywood, or romantic novels. It is a different love, and it has a different power. God's love enables us to be rooted and grounded in Him; it gives us the ability to love God with all of ourselves; and it empowers us to love others even as Jesus loved us. As we hold fast to God's magnificent promises, we can partake of the Divine Nature of love (2 Peter 1:3-4). Love is the TRUE power of the Holy Spirit, and God must reveal this truth to us individually ( Ephesians 1:17-19 ).
2. An increasing passion for the holiness of God to be reflected in my life (Matthew 3:11-12)
Despite the great power made available to me through God's love, there is still a cross that I must endure. God never prom-ises that this cross will be pleasurable, for I must surrender all my worldly desires. Jesus Himself submitted to the cross, and it was not just the physical cross. He had to crucify His own will every day of His life (Luke 9:23; John 6:38).
The true baptism of the Holy Spirit performed by Jesus is accompanied by fire. It is a fire that seeks to thoroughly cleanse us of all our sins (Matthew 3:11-12). So I cannot say that I am filled with the Holy Spirit if I do not find a growing ruthlessness to get rid of all the other unclean "spirits" that reside within me. There is the spirit to hold grudges, the spirit to return evil with evil, the spirit to lust, and the spirit to lose my temper, to name a few. Any treasured enjoyment that I find from these other spirits proves to me, and also to God and to the devil, that my longing for the Holy Spirit is blind repetition and mere lip-service to a theological truth. God is not fooled, and neither is the devil. The devil then doesn't mind all my prayers for the Holy Spirit, because he sees that I still treasure the pleasures of sin. People might say they are thirsty for water or hungry for food, but whether they truly are is proved by how they respond to oil, grease, sugar syrup, sand, dirt, and rocks. What do we conclude when they say they are hungry but constantly try to satisfy themselves with things that are not really food? It simply proves that they are not truly hungry. Those who are truly hungry or thirsty will reject and despise everything that does not satisfy. In the same way, a person who claims to long for the Holy Spirit, but does not increasingly prefer that which is holy over the easy, temporary pleasures of this world, is really inter-ested in another spirit. Instead of having an increased passion to be purified from all the filthiness of sin, they might desire a feel-good spirit, the power-to-have-an-easy-life spirit, or the ability-to-heal-people spirit. So all their claims to be baptized with the Holy Spirit are completely false.
3. Fellowship with God and Jesus (1 John 1:3-4)
If we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we will be filled with the power of God's love and gain an increasing passion for holi-ness. However, these attributes are only stepping-stones to the deepest joy available to us: Fellowship with God the Father andJesus Christ (1 John 1:1-4).
The promise of restored fellowship with God is a marvelous truth that we must grab a hold of. The immense joy we have because of this promise is the same joy that motivated Jesus to endure the worst of all crosses-separation from God Himself. He endured this worst of all curses so that we might enjoy the greatest of all blessings, fellowship with God!
My dear brothers and sisters in God's family, this is my honest testimony. I have found that the presence and closeness of my Father in heaven is the primary reason that I stay away from sin. Yes, I must grow in the fruit of the Spirit of self-control so that I can increasingly say no to my self-will. However, at the end of the day, my Christian life is about saying "Yes" to God and not merely saying "No" to sin and self. As many of us can attest, there is very little satisfaction in saying "No." The atti-tude of my heart must always be to say "Yes" to God, and then I will be able to run towards the One who offers me a good and infinite inheritance.
Precious fellowship with the Father consists of staying close to
Him and enjoying His approval. These are the greatest moti-vators
that I know of. When I learned to enjoy this kind of communion with
God, my own Christian life certainly began to head in a new
direction. Yet, I always have to remind myself that this
fellowship, which I now greatly enjoy, only remains possible if I
continuously seek to be immersed in the Holy Spirit of God.
Looking for signs and wonders as proof of the Holy Spirit's power can be misleading. On the day of judgment, God will reject some who performed miracles in Jesus' name during their time on earth because, even though they had an external ministry, they had never known Him intimately ( Matthew 7:21-23). The Word of God also warns us that the Antichrist will deceive many people with the great signs that he performs. He will be able to cause fire to come down from heaven just as Elijah had - Revelation 13:11-18).
What then is the true power of the Holy Spirit promised to ALL believers? See this passage from Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
In verse 16, I see that I can be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit, and in the remaining verses, I learn of the spiritual qualities that this power is intended to develop.
1. Strengthened in the inner man
First and foremost, we must know that the power of the Holy Spirit is made available to ALL believers so that they may be strengthened in the inner man. The holy life prescribed by the Old Covenant, or the Law, was focused on one's external life.
However, Jesus showed us what full spiritual life looks like. When He was on earth, He ALWAYS did the will of God (Hebrews 10:5-7) and never sinned in deed, thought, or motive (Hebrews 4:12-15). His righteousness was not just external, but from His innermost being. He utterly depended on the Holy Spirit to offer Himself without blemish to the Father (Hebrews 9:14). And now, we too can have the life of God gushing forth from our innermost beings through the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). It's easy for miracles and ministry successes to grab our attention, but we must be diligent, even ruthless, to renew our minds with the truth that the power of the Holy Spirit is for our inner lives.
2. Rooted and grounded in love
The power of the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we might have the faith necessary for Christ to dwell in our hearts. And how do we know if Christ is indeed dwelling in our hearts? We will be rooted and grounded in the love of God.
If we are secure in the love of God, we will be like plants whose roots have reached deep into the ground, able to withstand the storms of trial and affliction. What nourishes and grows these roots? The love of God!
Real faith makes such a life possible, but it comes at the cost of our
feelings and our intellectual ideas. If Christ is to dwell in my heart
through faith, there must be no feeling or emotion or intellectual thought
that can shake my conviction and strong assurance that He lives in my heart
(Romans 8:31-39). Jesus wants to reside permanently in our hearts;
He does not want to be kicked out with every next wave of emotion, bad
mood, or intellectual doubt. As long as we have faith, Christ will remain
with us through difficult circumstances and trials.
Living a life secure in God's love does not come simply by seeking to be a
better version of ourselves or striving to fill up our minds with thoughts
of gratitude and bliss. It does not even come by merely meditating on God's
Word. The Holy Spirit's power is required to bring the Word of God to life.
We are strengthened in the inner man by the power of the Holy Spirit so
that we can first grow in the SECURITY of God's love for us, which will
help us to withstand all trials.
3. Comprehending the love of God with the saints
As we become deeply rooted and grounded in the love of God in our inner lives, the Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend the multi-dimensional love of God together with ALL the saints (Ephesians 3:18). Paul prays that we would know the length and breadth and height and depth of this love. I see this is a love that engages all of us. God wants our minds and our emotions and our actions to take part in this knowledge. Accordingly, we read God's Word to search out greater lengths and heights of God's love; we also sing songs of praise and thanksgiving and devotion so that our emotions are stirred up to greater depths of God's love; and we serve each other in practical ways to see greater breadths of God's love. In other words, we seek to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength ( Mark 12:30).
But Paul stresses that this is something that we do together with all the saints. We might wonder why we are asked to fellow-ship with other believers, if the inner life is what matters most. All of us who have been married for even one year know that we discover another level of selfishness after we got married.
We can easily think more highly of our holiness when we are by ourselves. But when we seek to be united with other saints (starting with our spouse), differences because of personality, culture, spiritual maturity, etc. show us areas of legalism and self-seeking that we never knew existed.
This is why we are instructed to seek a deeper understanding (comprehension) of the love of God with others who are seeking after it as well. And for this too, I need the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is a wonderful purpose behind gathering for a church meeting. Each
one of us, together with all the other saints in our local church, is called to lay hold of
the ever-increasing love of God. I can now
come to every church meeting longing to be filled with the power of the
Holy Spirit, hoping that as a local body we can together comprehend higher dimensions of the love of God.
4. Knowing the love of God that surpasses knowledge
There is a finite limitation to the love of God that we can compre-hend with all the saints, since we cannot deeply commune with them in our spirits. However, God wants us to pursue Him and know His love beyond all that we can comprehend with our minds.
The knowledge that surpasses understanding isn't just about being rooted and grounded in the love of God so that Jesus might dwell in us. He wants us to be secure in His love, but He wants more than that. If Christ abides with us, but we only rarely marvel at His unfathomable ways, His unsearchable judgments, and the rich depths of His wisdom and knowledge (Romans 11:33-36), then we have not yet fully experienced the full extent of His love. If this describes me, I must press deeper into God, asking Him for the power of the Holy Spirit to give me such intimacy with Him that it is simply indescribable.
For this, it should be very easy to see that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Infinite Holy Spirit to show us the boundless love of God.
The remaining verses in Ephesians 3 (verses 20-21) remind us that:
• God can do "far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think." But even then, He can only act "according to the power that works within us." Do I want to be filled with the fullness of God? Then I must seek for a greater measure of the Holy Spirit's power, so that I might be more and more deeply rooted in God's love, tapping into an intimacy that cannot even be explained.
• The motive behind Paul's prayer is so that God would have glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations and forever and ever.
What a wonderful life we have access to, and that is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit! We won't all be given the gift of performing miracles, but each one of us can have something more excellent than any of the gifts of the Spirit-a life full of God's love (1 Corinthians 12:29-31).
God is eager to flood us with His love through the Holy Spirit ( Romans 5:5), but He desires that we grow in our capacity to fathom His love. As I have heard it said, I can fill a cup of water from the ocean, but the ocean is so much greater than what is in the cup. So also, God wants me to be perpetually and increasingly immersed in this lavish outpouring so that we might:
• Grow more secure in His love, as a tree that has deep roots
• Gather together in Christian fellowship to increase our under-standing of His love
• Draw closer in private intimacy and devotion to Jesus to know His unfathomable love
• Seek for this together as a church so that we can bring glory to God through Christ Jesus
Acts 1:8 tells me that I will receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be a witness of Jesus. As I mentioned earlier, we are witnesses of the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit participated directly in the resurrection, and this SAME Holy Spirit has now been given to live in us ( Romans 8:9-11). He bears witness to us of our own rich inheritance in the life of Christ (Romans 8:16-17).
As witnesses of Jesus, we are not primarily concerned with handing out tracts about Jesus, declaring our love for Him on social media, or wearing "Jesus lives" t-shirts. Rather, we are to live our daily lives as witnesses of the life of Jesus, which is summed up in His Infinite Love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
May the Lord immerse us again and again in the true power of the Holy Spirit, which is the infinite love of God. The Holy Spirit alone is the life-giving fire that will anoint all our otherwise dead attempts to share the infinite love of God that we witness in the life of Jesus.