Advent 10: The Holy Spirit

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:15-17 (ESV)

He is one of the most mysterious, difficult to grasp aspects of God.  The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  He can be tough to wrap around our heads around because so much about the Holy Spirit makes so little physical sense.  The Father is in heaven, and Jesus walked this earth with us.  We have some level of understanding, at least on a distant level.

But the Holy Spirit… He is the One Who brings it all home. (And, yes, the Holy Spirit is He, not “It”.  He is as much God as the Father and the Son.)  He makes faith very personal for each and every believer because He dwells inside us:

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38 (ESV)

This is not the place for a discussion about baptism and what it is and isn’t.  But, in essence what is being said here is that once we have turned away from our sin and embraced Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are cleansed and forgiven and we receive the Holy Spirit within us.  And I personally believe this all happens pretty instantaneously.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit?  He is the One Who brings us understanding of Who God is because He is God living within us.  Think about it: the twelve disciples walked with Jesus for probably about three years.  Day in, day out.  They heard Jesus speak.  They sat at His feet.  They witnessed – even participated in – a wide variety of miracles.  And yet, repeatedly, they didn’t get it.  Even in Jesus’ last moments leading up to His crucifixion, they didn’t get it.  They were confused.  They misunderstood what they saw.  Their faith was shaken.

They were human.  And they thought like humans.  Acted like humans.  Flawed, lacking understanding.

We are human.  We think like humans.  Act like humans.  Flawed, lacking understanding.

It is the Holy Spirit Who enables us, empowers us, guides us, teaches us, comforts us… helps us.

At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind and filled the disciples, we see God’s indwelling power make the necessary change these men needed.  Peter, who had previously acted like a coward by thrice denying Christ to save his own skin, is now standing up boldly and proclaiming Jesus.  He gave them the words to speak – and in languages they didn’t know so that all in Jerusalem, no matter where they came from, could hear and understand the message of Jesus Christ and be saved!

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26 (ESV)

God realizes our weaknesses.  He knows we are merely flesh, and sinful to the core.  Jesus forgives us of our sin; the Holy Spirit keeps us on track, even going to the Father on our behalf (since we ourselves are incapable of even knowing what to pray for).

“…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

What God has done for us – the ultimate act of selfless love, humbling Himself by sending His Son to live with us, give us the example of God in the flesh, and die as the perfect sacrifice for our sin, then sending the Holy Spirit to live within us as our Helper – is amazing.

And as I type that word “amazing”, it just doesn’t seem to do justice to what the Lord has done.  He created everything and let man enjoy perfection, only to have Adam and Eve disobey the one thing God told them not to do.  He has gone so far as to not only provide a way back to Him, but to dwell not just among us, but within us.  To guide us.  To strengthen us.  To intercede on our behalf.  God is doing the work for us.  We cannot do it.  We don’t deserve it.  But God, in His infinite love, grace and mercy, has made a way for each and every one of us.  We would be fools to look around us with our limited capabilities and say “yes” in faith to the gift the Lord God has offered us.

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” – 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV)

God promised to never leave us, never abandon us.  That promise, with the Holy Spirit living inside us, becomes very literal.  God in flesh (Jesus) came, dwelt amongst men, and left to take His place at the right side of the Father.  But God in Spirit (The Holy Spirit) has come, and remains, to continue the sanctification process we could never do alone.

And how do we know the Holy Spirit is at work?  Well, we know a tree by it’s fruit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV).

Hmm… sounds an awful lot like Jesus, doesn’t it?  This is how we recognize the Holy Spirit, how He is “proven”. He isn’t found in religious rituals, or nonsensical utterances, or anything of the sort.  The evidence of the Holy Spirit is the change He makes in a believer.  Because we are no longer our own.  We are God’s. The Father laid out the terms of the deal.  Jesus sealed the deal.  The Holy Spirit helps us keep our end of the deal.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” – Romans 15:13 (ESV)

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