From: Forgotten God
I think the worst part is when you get outside the church’s walls and interact with believers and nonbelievers in the same sphere. Can you really tell a difference? If you didn’t recognize their faces from church, would you know from their actions and lifestyle that they were followers of Jesus? Honestly, sometimes I am embarrassed by some of my “Christian” neighbors because my unbelieving neighbors seem more joyful, welcoming, and at peace. Why does this happen? And how is it even possible?
Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” According to this verse, if I am a believer, the Spirit of God dwells in me. Paul reiterates that truth in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Our bodies are the Spirit’s temple. Later we will delve more into what that means for us; but essentially, it’s that the Holy Spirit makes his home in our bodies. We are his place of dwelling.
And this is the question I just can’t get around: If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?
This may be a silly illustration, but if I told you I had an encounter with God where he entered my body and gave me a supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see an amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”?
Churchgoers all across the nation say the Holy Spirit has entered them. They claim that God has given them a supernatural ability to follow Christ, put their sin to death, and serve the church. Christians talk about being born again and say that they were dead but now have come to life. We have become hardened to those words, but they are powerful words that have significant meaning. Yet when those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God. And can you blame them?
It reminds me of James’s frustration when he writes about freshwater springs producing saltwater. You can almost hear his incredulity as he writes, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and saltwater?” (James 3:11). What he’s saying is that so-called Christians were doing something that should’ve been impossible – and this kind of doing the impossible is not a good thing!
He laments, “My brothers, these things ought to not be so,” (James 3:10). I echo James’s exhortation to those of us in the church today: My brothers and sisters who have received the Holy Spirit, we often lack love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc., even while many of our unbelieving friends exhibit these traits – brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so! Just as I advised my Jehovah’s Witnesses visitors, we need to begin afresh by reexamining our preconceived ideas about the Holy Spirit and what it means to be a temple of the Spirit. There is much more to God and following in the Way of Jesus than getting a bunch of talented people together to hold a church service.
When Jesus was preparing to leave this Earth, he comforted his disciples, telling them not to worry but instead to trust in him, (John 14:1). Hadn’t he proven himself faithful the past years that they had journeyed together? First, he comforted them by telling them that the separation would be only temporary and that he was going to “prepare a place” for them, (John 14:2-3). Second, he told them that he was going to be with God the Father, and that even from there he could hear their prayers, (John 14:12-14). Finally, Jesus gave the disciples the ultimate reassurance: Another Comforter would come. Jesus said that the Father would give the disciples “another Counselor to be with them forever, (John 14:16). In this case, the Greek word another means another that is just like the first (as opposed to another that is of a different sort or kind). So Jesus was saying that the One who would come would be just like him!
Have you ever thought about the significance of having “another” Counselor who is “just like” Christ? Right now, imagine what it would be like to have Christ standing beside you in the flesh, functioning as your personal Counselor. Imagine the peace that would come from knowing you would always receive perfect truth and flawless direction from him. That sounds amazing, and none of us could deny the benefit of having Jesus here physically, guiding and enabling us every step of the way.
Yet why do we assume that this would be any better than the literal presence of the Holy Spirit? Those of us who believe in Jesus would never deny the truth that we have the Spirit of the living God, the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead, living inside of us. I’m just not convinced we’ve internalized this truth and enjoyed his blessings as he intends. It seems like this is mostly head knowledge to us, and that we have not owned it. It has not really made much of a difference in our lives, to the degree that if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it is not true the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, most likely our lives wouldn’t look much different.
Jesus himself said to his disciples, “it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you,” (John 16:7). So Jesus is basically telling his disciples, “Yes, I was with you for three and a half years, but it is better that I leave you and the Holy Spirit comes to you.”
When the disciples heard that two thousand years ago, I’m sure it was hard for them to grasp. How could it be better to trade a human Jesus – a man they could talk and eat and laugh with – for a Spirit they couldn’t physically see? Thousands of years later, I think most of us would also choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for his followers to have the Holy Spirit? Do we believe him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?