It was a day they’d never forget. For three years, they’d walked with the Master across barren deserts, camped by mountain streams or in caves, weathered the seasons, and witnessed miracles, and then they stood in horror as He died on a Roman cross.
They’d seen Him buried in a tomb, only to see Him reappear three days later inviting them to place their fingers in His wounds.
Now, they stood atop the Mount of Olives as their precious Teacher, Friend, Confidant, and Savior spoke to them what would be His last words on earth—though they weren’t aware of that fact at the time.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” He said, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter” (John 16:7, KJV), or “Advocate” (verse 7, NIV). “When he comes,” He told them, “he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned” (verses 8–11).
Notice something interesting. Jesus didn’t label the Holy Spirit as “the police officer,” “the judge,” or “the snitch.” No, the Holy Spirit’s job was to comfort with the truth in the middle of an error-filled world. He was to set the record straight when it comes to who God is and how He acts—a continuation of the work of Christ Himself. But, this time, Jesus wouldn’t be the vehicle for sharing this ongoing labor of love with the world. That responsibility would be ours.
God sent the Holy Spirit to help us do what He wants us to do. His “go, preach, baptize” recipe (Matthew 28:19, 20) included a powerful ingredient baked right in. When we serve up truth, we’re part of a team. We are not alone.
who is this Holy Spirit?
It’s easy for us to visualize God the Father because we can visualize His Son, Jesus, who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Daniel 7:9–12 informs us that the Almighty has a head with white hair, and He wears clothes. Well, of course He does. You and I were created in His image (Genesis 1:26). Although we’re a horribly distorted and sinful version of God, we still are constructed using the same basic blueprints that were used to create Adam and Eve.
But, alas, the Holy Spirit doesn’t share that description. The Bible identifies Him simply as “a spirit.”
Does it offer any other clues about His nature? Yes. He’s a Person, distinct from the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19). He intercedes with God on our behalf (Romans 8:26). He’s intelligent and has a mind of His own (verse 27).
I think what the Bible means is this: “Don’t worry about the fact that no one outside of God’s heaven has ever seen the Holy Spirit. You can find proof of His existence by what He does in your life.” God’s Word even offers this comparison: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
Like the wind, proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence comes by what He accomplishes in the lives of those who choose to partner with Him in the work of spreading the good news around the world.
an inside job
But don’t think for one moment that the benefits of working alongside the Holy Spirit are reserved only for those who hear us preach or teach. This Spirit also has an inside job—inside of us!
We fallen human beings truly do love our sins. They often bring us a comfort of sorts, a sense that we are worth something. It’s called pride. We sometimes think of ourselves as victims in the world and that sin offers a payback. We enjoy hurting others before they have a chance to hurt us. Our sinful natures do a very effective job of separating us from our heavenly Father, to say nothing of alienating us from our fellow human beings.
But that’s precisely where the Holy Spirit shines the brightest. He helps us recognize when we’re playing with the fire of wrong thoughts and destructive actions. He pulls back the curtain to reveal just where our intentions are taking us. That’s what Jesus meant when He said that “the Spirit . . . will guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13). And that will especially include the truth about our wrong attitudes, behaviors, and character defects. It’s nice to know that we’ve got our own “look ahead” device attached to our brains!
And as if that’s not enough, the most incredible work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes on our behalf is this: He actually changes what makes sense to us.
Listen to these words penned by the apostle Paul: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14–16; emphasis added).
Wow! Have you ever wished that you could have the “mind of Christ” to see you through the day, to help you make difficult decisions, to guide your choices? Relax. The Holy Spirit provides just such a service!
power to overcome
Referring to the Holy Spirit, John wrote: “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).
This “in you” Spirit offers us some potent personal powers. Through Him, we’re given the power to overcome our sinful habits (2 Peter 1:2, 3), and He can accomplish much, much more in us than we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). That’s encouraging because I, for one, can think and imagine some pretty great things for my life. However, the Holy Spirit offers to lift us even higher than anything we could possibly dream about!
So, when the devil slithers up and tries to make you feel unworthy, untalented, unhopeful, and without any hope of salvation, the Holy Spirit says, “Don’t you believe him! You can overcome anything because you’ve got Me working with you from the inside out.”
We may look at ourselves and think, I’m such a loser. I’ve made so many mistakes. My sins are so great and overwhelming. That’s when we hear that still, small Voice from deep inside saying “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV*). “Oh, and remember,” the Holy Spirit says, “I can help you make the needed changes. We’re a team!”
Science has revealed just how the Holy Spirit accomplishes this promise. When we change our line of thinking—for good or for evil—we’re actually reeducating, or reformatting, the nerves in our brains. New neural pathways are being built while old, unused pathways are being discarded. The Holy Spirit can actually help us rebuild our brains to better serve God and respond to His leading “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
handle on the pump
A. J. Gordon, one of the founders of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, was out for a walk one day. In the distance, he noticed what looked like a man pumping furiously at a hand pump. The gentleman seemed absolutely tireless, never slowing or pausing in his work.
As Gordon got a little closer, he discovered that it wasn’t a man at all but a wooden cutout in the shape of a man. His hinged arm was wired to the pump handle, and the water was pouring out—not because the figure was pumping it but because an artesian well was flowing through it, making the handle go up and down. The water was pumping the man!
Mr. Gordon concluded that this is a perfect illustration of the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. When we see a person hard at work for God and producing results, we must realize that the Holy Spirit is doing the heavy lifting, working through the person who is carrying out his or her ministry to others. The Holy Spirit’s blessings that flow through us humans to others are not because of our abilities but because the Spirit of God is hard at work in us.
Our job, our privilege, our heavenly responsibility as God’s followers, is to keep our hand tightly on the pump handle. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to allow the One who is already in us to do His work unencumbered by self. Then, all that we do will be amplified by our faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to work through us for others. “Let your light shine before others,” Jesus said, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The Holy Spirit helps us do just that!
* Bible verses marked NKJV are from the New King James Version®.
Charles Mills is a professional freelance writer who lives with His wife, Dorinda, in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. He is a frequent contributor to Signs of the Times®.