We will never make it spiritually on our own. We need God's help through His Spirit to succeed. The Bible presents several analogies to help us see how His Holy Spirit is used in our lives.
God's Word likens His Holy Spirit to several things: wind, fire, water, oil and light.
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Christianity is about change —conversion. A true Christian is a convert in an actual sense, being a person who with God's help has changed his or her thoughts and actions to live the much higher standards taught by Jesus Christ.
The keynote address of Christ's ministry included the action step of repent (Mark:1:15). On Pentecost, the day Christianity was launched, Peter preached boldly about the life and death of Jesus Christ. The crowd responded with, "What shall we do?" The answer from the apostles was similar to the message at the start of Christ's ministry: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts:2:38).
A Christian's assignment in life is this: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans:12:1-2, emphasis added throughout).
Also, in Ephesians:4:24 we are admonished to "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."
Are you up to this task and duty?
You may be overwhelmed as you come to see where you need to be. You may be enslaved to your wrong habits, hatred, ill will, greed, selfishness and addictions. You may lack the willpower to change.
Christ knows this well. But He promises to give power to Christians to overcome and truly be converts. Just before returning to heaven He told His original disciples, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts:1:8). That happened 10 days later on the day of Pentecost. On that Holy Day, 3,000 were baptized, and they were "on fire" for God. They became new persons in Christ, and they were motivated!
Jesus did not leave His followers wondering if we could succeed or have the help we need to make the changes! He knows exactly what everyone needs, and He is ready to give it to you. One reason people fail to overcome and make lasting changes in their lives is that they try to overcome their human weaknesses on their own—not recognizing their dire need for constant help from God through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the power and the essence of God—not a third divine person, as many people believe. The Spirit of God is never prayed to or identified as a personage in Scripture, as God the Father and Jesus Christ are. (See our free Bible study guide Is God a Trinity? for a thorough examination.)
The power and function of the Holy Spirit has been diminished because so many have misunderstood what it is and its application to a Christian's life. Part of what's lost is the energy the Spirit can give you.
By understanding the characteristics of the Holy Spirit we tap a power source. The Holy Spirit becomes the way and the answer for making needed changes in thought and action. The result is a transformed life.
God greatly desires to give His children His Spirit. In Luke:11:13 Jesus said, "If you then, being evil [referring to human sinfulness], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Let's look at how the Bible describes the Holy Spirit and its function and use to you. God's Word likens His Spirit to several things—wind, fire, water, oil and light—to help us better understand how that Spirit can work to transform our lives.
Wind and fire—symbolic of power
The giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church on the festival of Pentecost, as earlier mentioned, was an open manifestation of power, as described in Acts 2:
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts:2:1-4).
We know how powerful wind can be. We witness the awesome power of tornados and hurricanes or typhoons. Winds can turn windmills to produce electricity. Such manifestations of power in the natural realm serve to represent the ultimate kind of power—the Holy Spirit of God.
In speaking with Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John:3:8).
Fire provides another illustration of power. In fire there can be great fury and heat. Fire can also give comfort and warmth. A small spark can ignite a forest. A blast furnace can reach temperatures of 2,500-3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,400 to 1,600 degrees Celsius). A nuclear reaction unleashes tremendous amounts of energy. A refining furnace can turn ore to iron. It can refine gold by removing impurities. How fitting an analogy to the Spirit that executes transformative functions in our lives as well!
Water—permeating us with power and life
Jesus in a festival message made a declaration about the Spirit of God: "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying: 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, [which] those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John:7:37-40).
Water is a powerful transmitter of power. Energy traveling hundreds of miles per hour can produce tidal waves that can wreak great destruction. Water can be delivered under a lot of pressure and perform a lot of work. Water can grind away stone and carve canyons over time. Water flowing into turbines below a dam can produce large amounts of electricity as well. Likewise, the Spirit flows, produces power, permeates and cleanses.
Water is the essence of life. Life exists on our planet because of water. Water is in every living cell. Water fills everything in nature. And so does the Spirit of God, which is everywhere, as David understood. He wrote: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm:139:7-10, New International Version).
The Holy Spirit should permeate every cell, thought, nook and cranny of our lives—our marriage, our work, relationships, everything —just like water in nature.
Water refreshes and renews. It quenches thirst. Gentle rain makes crops grow. After a drought, rainfall makes everything live.
Oil—representing fuel and energy
Luke:4:18 compares the Spirit of God to oil: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind."
Jesus is given the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the oil of anointing to perform these services to man (see also Acts:10:38).
The type of oil spoken of in the Bible is olive oil. This oil is a source of fuel and energy. It removes friction and brings peace. It is a fuel that brings energy and light. Matthew:25:1-10 is a parable in which God's people require a supply of oil to keep their lamps burning—bringing us to the next analogy.
Light—radiating God's greatness and overpowering darkness
The Holy Spirit shines forth God's greatness and power. It is "the Spirit of glory" (1 Peter:4:14)—or "the Spirit of shining-greatness" (New Life Version).
And by it we are "enlightened," with "the Father of glory" giving to us "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians:1:17-20).
A light can be a flickering flame, a lighthouse or a blazing sun or galaxy. Light overpowers darkness and reveals truth and reality. The Holy Spirit turns on a light of understanding in the mind.
Other analogies that teach about God's Spirit
There are other analogies where the Spirit of God is likened to breath—that breathes in life. The Spirit of God is life itself: "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job:33:4). Jesus also said, "It is the Spirit that gives life" (John:6:63, Easy-to Read Version).
How about this picture? "The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'" (Ezekiel:37:1-6).
The answer is yes: "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude" (Ezekiel:37:10, New Revised Standard Version). God tells these resurrected people, "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live" (Ezekiel:37:14). So not only would they receive physical life, but also true spiritual life.
And the Spirit serves as a deposit or down payment, so to speak, on our receiving eternal life: "You were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . . [as] the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians:1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit is further likened to a mind: "Now God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit [at work in us], because the Spirit intercedes for the saints [true Christian believers] according to the will of God" (Romans:8:27).
Jesus Christ on the night before His death promised to give His disciples what He called the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to help them bring into remembrance the things He had taught them: "The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you" (John:14:26, The Voice).
We see, then, that the Holy Spirit's varied characteristics are abundantly illustrated. They are all connected with enabling the nature of God in you. God wants you to be freed of what you are and transformed into a new creation in Christ. The Holy Spirit will clean, purify, enlighten and breathe eternal life into you.
As 2 Corinthians:3:17-18 states: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."