God’s will #2: The Holy Spirit
I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
John 14:26-27 NRSV
If God’s will is for us all to be saved, as we saw on Wednesday, then you’d better believe that he’d give us a way to become saved, a way to pursue his will – something he does in the form of the Holy Spirit. This is the second aspect of God’s will, that his people have and live in the Holy Spirit.
Why do we need the Holy Spirit? Understanding this has its roots in understanding salvation. We read constantly that salvation entails being made new in Christ. We understand this as a departure from our previous way of life. But it’s a little more than that – Louie Giglio calls it literally the difference between being dead and alive. When we become saved, we are made alive and new in Christ because at that moment, we receive not only the salvific work of Christ and our redemption through his blood – we also become inhabited with God. That connection we had with God at the beginning, however your understanding of it looks, is restored in the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ death was crucial to this process – before, we were too fallen to be so connected to God. But through the Holy Spirit, we become living temples (1 Peter 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
I don’t think we really understand this privilege, for two main reasons. First of all, most of us have known little of life without the Holy Spirit both because Jesus’ death and resurrection long preceded us and because a lot of us have long been Christians. But take a look back at the Old Testament. If you’re like me, you read something like Moses’ run-in with the talking burning bush and you think, Man, that’s neat! I want me some of that! But once you start reading more closely, you realise that that external voice was necessary because God couldn’t indwell those people permanently. A Redeemer hadn’t yet died for them. Thus the need for first the tabernacle, then the temple, and thus the reason for this episode in Mark 13:1-2 NLT:
As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”
Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Jesus destroyed that old system; he basically turned it off and on again, restored its factory settings.
The second reason I think we miss this enormous privilege is because a lot of us are unsure about whether we have the Holy Spirit. This will vary with church tradition, but I think a lot of us are waiting for a rather large “Bang!”, something supernaturally perceptible to convince us that, yes, indeed, the Spirit dwells in us. The reality might at first appear a little more mundane. No parting waters, no rolling thunder, no doves, no streaming light. The reality is that it was the work and presence of the Holy Spirit that allowed you to come to God in the first place. The Holy Spirit prompted you, you accepted, you surrendered, you were saved. That was the “Bang!” No smoke machine needed! Our salvation and our indwelling were explosions of power, life and light in the universe, regardless of what we perceived physically, emotionally or spiritually. It was, in a very literal sense, resurrection.
There are a few things God wills through the Holy Spirit, and in ending I want to briefly list these (source):
- The HS teaches (John 14:26)
- The HS testifies about Christ (John 15:26)
- The HS convicts us (John 16:8)
- The HS leads us (Romans 8:14)
- The HS reveals truth (John 16:13)
- The HS strengthens and encourages (Acts 9:31)
- The HS comforts (John 14:16)
- The HS helps us (Romans 8:26)
- The HS intercedes (Romans 8:26)
- The HS searches and sanctifies (1 Corinthians 2:11, Romans 15:16)
- The HS bears witness (Romans 8:16)
- The HS forbids (Acts 16:6-7)
If we consider all these ways the Spirit works in our lives and that it is part of God’s will that we each have the Spirit, what then can we infer of God’s will? I think we can conclude, again, that God’s will is good. Holy. Compassionate. Full of mercy.
In light of this, let’s pray St Francis’ prayer again:
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”