The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. As with the other members of the Trinity, I cannot completely cover the topic in a single article, but I will mention the high points. It is He that exerts the power of the Almighty here on Earth. The Bible often refers to the power of the Spirit1. In the Greek, the word translated as "power" is "dynamis" (or a related word), which is the root of the English words "dynamo" and "dynamite". But He is not simply a force or a label for the power of God. He can be grieved2, He teaches3, He bears witness4, and He has a mind5. Jesus calls Him "the Comforter"6.

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to provide the power to progressively change the believer more and more into the image of Jesus. Before becoming saved, a person is a slave to sin7 - he cannot long avoid its allure. With the Spirit, however, the believer is no longer enslaved. He may still sometimes give in to sin for various reasons, but he has been set free even if he doesn't always live like it. It takes time to learn to listen to the Spirit and walk where He leads, but one who is saved, and serious about it, will do so more and more - and sin less and less. And this power over sin is probably the biggest indication and guarantee8 that one is saved when one begins to doubt it. If there is no evidence of power over sin, one has a good reason to wonder if one is saved at all.

So, trying to live a righteous life without the Holy Spirit is futile. Living a sinful lifestyle with the Spirit is a recipe for major dissatisfaction in one's life. The Spirit is going to convict your heart of the wrong you are doing. This is more than merely feeling shame or guilt - that can happen even in unbelievers. It is something more like the sick feeling you get when you are having relationship issues with someone you love. That is, in fact, exactly what is going on. Some believers may persist in sinful behavior despite this, even for a long long time, which could result in God taking them home to heaven to put an end to the behavior9 (either directly, or through the believer's own self-destructive behavior). One does not intentionally grieve the Holy Spirit for long without paying a consequence for it, one way or another10. God is serious about the business of saving people from themselves.

Some might ask, "why doesn't the Spirit just take over control of the believer". But God doesn't violate the human will (compare this to demon possession which is a complete taking over of someone's will). First off, He shows more respect toward us than that. Second, He wants our love of our own volition. If we were merely Spirit-controlled robots, He would derive no satisfaction from that. What the Spirit does is give us that ability to love Him - at our choice.

Besides the power provided by the Spirit, there are other ramifications of His influence in the believer's life. First, He helps us to understand spiritual things that unbelievers cannot understand without the Spirit, and to recall what He has taught us in the past11. Second, He provides one or more abilities (spiritual gifts) to each believer12. I'll get more into that in the future. Third, He provides a conduit of communication and intimacy with the Father. We may not know how to express ourselves or how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us by providing a direct line to the Almighty13. Fourth, and most importantly, He manifests certain personality traits in the believer, which are called the "fruits of the Spirit". "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."14

Some people equate these fruits with emotions, but that is incorrect. As I said, they are personality traits. Emotions are dependent upon circumstances, while personality traits are not. They may outwardly appear similar, but they are not the same. For instance, "love" is not the "warm fuzzies" of romantic feelings - it is the decision to place another person's welfare before (or at the expense of) our own. Likewise, "joy" is not equivalent to "happiness". It is the consequence of a relationship with Almighty God. I would describe it as the opposite of depression or despondency (note: clinical depression is different - it is probably biochemical and may require medication for treatment). Hate is the opposite of love while sorrow is the opposite of happiness. One can be both sorrowful and joyful. "Peace" is not the absence of conflict, but a quiet assurance in one's heart that God is in control, even during conflict. "Forbearance" is the ability to "put up" with circumstances and "power through" them instead of giving up. It is sometimes translated as "fortitude" (intestinal fortitude - or "guts"). "Kindness" is not the same as "being nice" - it is doing or saying what is necessary to benefit another person. Sometimes being nice is in conflict with being kind. The rest of the fruits are fairly self-explanatory, although a word study of the Greek for each word will bring some depth to understanding. Maybe I'll revisit this in the future.

What are the fruits of the Spirit contrasted with? "The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like..."15 So, one can live under the direction of the sinful nature or under the direction of the Spirit. And the contrast between them is stark. Note that new believers tend to be rough around the edges, but they still bear the fruit of the Spirit. As a mentor of mine once said, "They may bear immature fruit, but they bear fruit nonetheless".

We are told to live (or walk) in the Spirit16. This means a continuous and intentional following of the Spirit's direction. One might ask how one hears His direction. There are many ways that the Spirit speaks to us. There are instances of audible voices in the Bible, but that is exceedingly rare and if you are seeking after that, you are seeking an experience rather than seeking God's will. A primary source of direction is the Bible itself. Uncountable times, during my normal Bible reading, a verse or passage will catch my attention in a way that hits me like ton of bricks. But He also speaks via dreams, visions, through other believers, circumstances, and often directly in our hearts or minds. He's even spoken to me through seeing examples of other people. Many times, while praying about a situation, how to proceed will simply occur to my mind without any explainable train of thought. Now, not every fool thought that crosses my mind is the Spirit speaking to me. In fact, if the Spirit seems to be telling you something, but that thing is contrary to the clear teaching of scripture, the Holy Spirit is not the source. As a young believer, I spent a lot of time obsessing over how to be sure I was truly hearing His voice. But Jesus said that His sheep (believers) hear His voice17. If we believe what He says then we must believe that. This was a revelation to me. So part of my walking in the Spirit is to believe what Jesus said - and trust that I will hear His voice if I'm looking for ways He is speaking to me. I don't need to fret about it. The main issue I have with walking in the Spirit is being distracted by things that take my mind and attention off of Jesus. He will always draw me back from distractions, but I'm aiming for living in the Spirit 100%.

1 Luke 1:35, Acts 1:8, Romans 1:4, etc.
2 Ephesians 4:30, etc.
3 Luke 12:12
4 1 John 5:6
5 Romans 8:27
6 John 14:6
7 John 8:34
8 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
9 1 Corinthians 11:30
10 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
11 John 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 2:14
12 Romans 8:26
13 1 Corinthians 12:7
14 Galatians 5:22-23
15 Galatians 5:19-21
16 Romans 8:9,14, Galatians 5:16,25, etc.
17 John 10:27