We live in a world where people are starving for authentic relationships and genuine intimacy. People look everywhere for it, and mostly aren’t finding it. People sit night after night in bars desperately looking for it…people search for it in conversations that only ever scratch the surface…people hook-up (or what use to be called one-night stands) looking for it. They have mistaken sex for intimacy – physical contact for intimacy.
People of all ages look for it today. Younger people may look for it in bars and hook ups and older people may look for it in deep conversations hoping someone will really care about them, but everyone is looking for it. We are simply wired that way.
Jesus knew this about his disciples. They had become very attached to Him. They had experienced a very intimate relationship with Him. And this is why as He was preparing to leave them He said He would send His Spirit to them.
You may want to read: John 14:16-17…
The Spirit of God would not only live with them, but in them. This is real intimacy.
Many of us are familiar with God the Father. Many of us pray to Him this way or have heard Him referred to this way. Even the unchurched have heard of the Son, Jesus. But for many of us, the Holy Spirit is a mystery.
And even though the bible doesn’t use the term “trinity” it means three. And Christianity believes in One God in three forms – Father, Son & HS. Nobody can fully explain the trinity, but it is a truth in the bible.
Why does Jesus give His follower then and those of us who are His followers today the Holy Spirit?
1. He fills us – This is God up close and very personal!
2. As followers of Christ, we are called to walk by the power of God, and not by the flesh (Romans 8:6, 9)
3. The HS helps get us into our spirit (the place where we connect with God and are made in His image) so we can hear, feel and see God at work in ourselves and in our world
Ultimately, the HS has been given to us so we can connect to God and stay connected to Him through relationship.
And let’s understand this, the deeper our relationship with God, the better and deeper relationships we have with other people.
Let’s go back to Garden of Eden for a moment with Adam and Eve (the first man and woman according to the book of Genesis in the bible). There was a time that they only knew about the good. But when they disobeyed and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, what happened? They were exposed to the bad and evil. From here on, they like us, now have to struggle in a broken world to try to live out the good.
You see, ever since then, according to the bible, we as humans have developed this system to try to be good – to try to earn God’s favor by doing good things. The bible calls this living under the law of “sin and death.”
Under the law we learn, and much of it is instinctive, that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. We learn it is wrong, even as kids, to shoplift or to lie or to throw rocks through windows. We may do some of these things, but an alarm goes off inside of us that is called our conscience. When it is violated, we know it. We feel guilty. We have a sense of right and wrong. And here is the thing, the older we get, the longer this list becomes of what we know to be right and to be wrong.
And what we all struggle with is the enormous pressure to do right in a broken world. It is walking a tight rope…it is so hard to always do the right thing. And the more you care about doing the right thing, the harder it is. Being good almost feels like being cursed – the more I care, the more I try to do right, the worse I feel when I blow it.
And this is everybody, not just church people. Everyone has a conscience. And because of this pressure, we are always searching for a loophole or the edge. In other words, how far can I go without crossing the line into being bad.
You want to know the speed limit – how many miles can I go over it without getting caught…
How much can I say to someone before getting into trouble…
You hear teens talk about when it comes to sex, “how far can we go…we didn’t go all the way…”
We are all looking to push the limits, because that is what it is to live under the law. The results of living under this pressure is predictable:
- People giving-up and leaving the church and the faith
- Chronic guilt and anxiety
What this system really does is leave you hopeless – hopeless that you can really get it together. The bible calls this state CONDEMNATION (Romans 8:1)
You see, to live under the system of the law is to be committed to trying to be good, to following a list, to trying to earn God’s favor, to try to find your direction with a broken compass.
It works for awhile, but never in the long run. But Jesus is offering a different and better way to live.
He offers us His Spirit. His Spirit is given to us for the purpose of a relationship with God, not keeping rules.
In Galatians 5, Paul goes further into painting a picture of living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.
You may want to stop and read: Galatians 5:19-21
Do you notice something – everything in this list is anti-relationship. These are all relationship destroyers! They destroy relationship with God, other people and yourself.
Now read this list: Galatians 5:22-23
These are all things that build up relationships!
One list creates relationship breakers while the other is a relationship maker.
This is often why our best attempts in the flesh under the law produce alienation and broken relationships.
But if we will invite God’s Spirit to come into our lives and fill us with His presence, we move from trying to keep all the rules to surrendering to God. We begin to allow Him to lead, and we follow.
Our lives begin to be characterized by being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. Our lives begin to change as we submit and surrender to the Holy Spirit. We no longer live under the pressure of trying to do it all right… to keep all the laws… living feeling defeated and condemned.
What our lives really become about is listening. So many times in the bible it says, “be still and know that I am God.” This truth becomes more real to us when we begin to make the focus of our lives listening.
Listening to what? The Holy Spirit who now lives inside of us. He becomes that quiet, intimate voice from within us that directs us.
Now, I’m not suggesting that when you get up you stand there and wait for God to tell you to go to the bathroom…to stand in the kitchen and wait for God to tell you whether to eat cereal or eggs…or to decide which shirt to wear for the day.
It isn’t like that. It is walking through your day, doing what you need to do (you know what you need to do – at work…stop at the store…make dinner…take care of the kids…). But as you are living your day, you will begin to notice the inner voice speaking to you now and then. And the more you take the time to listen, the more you will hear.
Life led by the Spirit is about listening…desiring to hear that quiet voice… feeling differently about things…
It is living being aware of God’s presence in your life. It is being willing to listen and hear what others say, because the Spirit may speak to you through them.
Sometimes it is sensing a direction you are to go, but not being completely certain, but stepping out in faith, and God later confirming that what you did was by His guidance.
And sometimes, it is spending time in God’s word, and the Spirit speaks through the word. And sometimes, as people honestly gather together and share about their lives, the Spirit uses the group to speak into the life of a person.
I hope you can see that living by the Spirit is much different, much freer and much more productive than living under the law trying to follow the law by the strength of your flesh.
I hope you can see that life in the Spirit produces intimacy with God that living by the law never will.
The Church, which can be greatly used by God, can either operate out of its own power and ideas, or be led by the Holy Spirit. The Church is at its best when it surrenders its own ambitions to hearing and being led by the voice of the Holy Spirit. The world would be a better place if people and the Church followed the Holy Spirit rather than their desires.
Questions to reflect upon…
- Think of a time when you were hurt or offended by another person?
- Did you sense at the time they were operating out of their own selfishness or ambitions rather than out of your best interest?
What do you make of Jesus’ words that the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) can live in a person and be their counselor and comforter?