During the past month, I have been involved with an extended study and meditation over the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and followers of Jesus Christ. I first started writing about these stirrings around May 17th on the blog. This begins a two part (at least) essay sharing an ongoing reflection I continue processing. I don’t profess this work as academically complete, so feel free to join in the conversation if you are so inclined.
Pentecost: In-Dwelling Holy Spirit [Part One]
♦ Acts 4:1-–6:7
♦ John 14:15-–17:26
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” John 14:15-17
I am burdened by thoughts about the functional implications of the “Indwelling Holy Spirit.”
As we began approaching the season of Pentecost, my thoughts, prayers, studies, and writing began to settle upon the ministry and indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. Specifically, I consider this incredible and marvelous gift of God, to us and living in us (assuming this is true), and how it is integrated and lived in our daily experiences. I still haven’t completed the processing of my thoughts, but I’m leaning in a direction of belief that probably isn’t popular with a lot of folks. My experience is restricted to the Church in the West and that in particular to the United States (since that constitutes the majority of my personal experience). What I’ve taken note of is this; our ability to live out the teachings of Jesus seems minimal at best. This may not be all that unusual though, considering it was an issue faced in the early New Testament Church or so it seems…
“And so, brothers and sisters I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather a people of the flesh…as though you belonged to the world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.” (1 Cor. 3:1).
Therefore, it is from this observation that I believe very many people making the profession of Christian faith are not filled with the Holy Spirit at all. This is a problem; however, I believe a bigger problem is that the church seems to have accepted this “lack of spirit-filled life” as normal… or maybe, it is only expected for the “super Christian,” whoever and whatever that may be. The alternative to this thinking may be just as insidious with its results, but more palatable to hear—”The spirit-filled life is an optional path of discipleship.” This alternative, I believe, is a lie of massive proportion for it was Jesus who commanded the disciples not to depart Jerusalem until they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit (God) is the source of all power, understanding, wisdom, and guidance for every person who believes and follows Jesus Christ. I do not think it possible to follow him as a faithful disciple without this indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Even more well-intentioned believers drift and find themselves nearly comatose spiritually, numbed by years of religious activity without transformation.” Bill Hull, Choose the Life
Maybe I sound frustrated. Maybe I sound judgmental and critical; I sincerely hope that is not the case. Maybe my thinking is flawed. I’ll share my logic and let you be the judge. When I consider the Holy Spirit, I think; this is God… The Holy Spirit, according to the Bible and my theological training, is THE Third Person of the Trinity. I understand this Holy Spirit to be the very same Spirit of God introduced to us in the first chapter and second verse of Genesis. I consider this Holy Spirit to be the same Holy Spirit who descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Matthew 3:16). I understand the Holy Spirit that came like tongues of fire and a mighty rushing wind who “filled” the believers on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem is as much God as is God the Father and God the Son, Jesus (Acts 2:1-4). This is my premise: The Holy Spirit that fills and dwells within believer-followers of Jesus is the same Holy Spirit that is God, so God dwells in men.
I don’t think this premise is farfetched. Jesus tells his followers that the Holy Spirit will “live in you” when He comes (John 14:17). Jesus laid out similar “indwelling” theology in his prayer recorded in John 17:22-23 as follows:
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The Apostle Peter also writes about “sharing the divine nature” in his second letter (see 2 Peter 1:3-11) as does the Apostle-Evangelist John in his first epistle (1 John 2:3-–5:21). I also remember that the Apostle Paul writes extensively on the subject and work of the Holy Spirit who indwells follower-believers, especially in the Letter to Romans (chapter eight). Therefore, the first steps in my logic trail proceeds as follows: The Holy Spirit is God and believer-followers have been promised by Jesus that they can be “filled” (meaning to live within you) with the Holy Spirit-God. Jesus also teaches that this “indwelling” Holy Spirit will be a teacher, comforter, discerning Guide, provider of wisdom and knowledge, Bringer of Peace, and Truth leader. I believe Him. I believe Jesus is teaching us faith promises regarding the role of the Holy Spirit who lives in men and women and have no reason to doubt anything He shares about this Holy Spirit.
“For millions of Christians…God is no more real than He is to the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.” A. W. Tozer, A Treasury of Tozer