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How Can God's Spirit Transform Us?

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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 Mark 1:15And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×
). 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 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
).

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 Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Also, in Ephesians 4:24 Ephesians 4:24And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
American King James Version×
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 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×
). 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 Christ promises to give power to Christians to overcome.

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 Luke 11:13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
American King James Version×
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 Acts 2:1-4 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×
).

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 John 3:8The wind blows where it wants, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
American King James Version×
).

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 John 7:37-40 37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. 38 He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
American King James Version×
).

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” (Psalms 139:7-10 Psalms 139:7-10 7 Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
American King James Version×
, 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 Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
American King James Version×
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 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
American King James Version×
).

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 Matthew 25:1-10 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
American King James Version×
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 1 Peter 4:14If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests on you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
American King James Version×
)—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 Ephesians 1:17-20 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
American King James Version×
).

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 Job 33:4The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.
American King James Version×
). Jesus also said, “It is the Spirit that gives life” (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×
, 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 Ezekiel 37:1-6 1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the middle of the valley which was full of bones, 2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, see, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, you know. 4 Again he said to me, Prophesy on these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: 6 And I will lay sinews on you, and will bring up flesh on you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

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 Ezekiel 37:10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.
American King James Version×
, New Revised Standard Version). God tells these resurrected people, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:14 Ezekiel 37:14And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
American King James Version×
). 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 Ephesians 1:13-14 13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
American King James Version×
).

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 Romans 8:27And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
American King James Version×
).

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 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
American King James Version×
, 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 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD.
American King James Version×
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.”

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    Comments

  • Pamela Joan Bartholomew
    I like what Christ said, His words were Spirit and life. That is one way we can connect to receiving God’s Holy Spirit power, by reading the Bible. The Bible was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and the Father. It is living. We read it and are cleansed is what Christ said.
  • Rod Salzman
    As Christians I wonder if it is better to think we are human developing a Godly nature, or Godly overcoming a human one? I find it more helpful to think I am Godly, dealing with this pesty human nature that hangs around. I wonder if this is wrong?
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi Rod, I think that both are true, though I prefer to think that I am human developing a Godly nature, since I believe myself to be far from perfection at this point. If we are Christians, we are already partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4 2 Peter 1:3-4 3 According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
    American King James Version×
    ). But it takes time and God’s Spirit to make progress as we struggle daily against our human nature which still rears its ugly head regularly. The apostle Paul described this ongoing struggle in Romans 7:14-25 Romans 7:14-25 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
    American King James Version×
    . However, we can take heart, because if we are converted, Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
    American King James Version×
    ), and we have His Spirit, which is the power to overcome sin (Romans 1:16 Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
    American King James Version×
    ; John 16:7-13 John 16:7-13 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
    American King James Version×
    ). As our elder brother, Jesus is there daily to make intercession to the Father for our sins (Hebrews 7:25 Hebrews 7:25Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.
    American King James Version×
    ). He can sympathize with us, for He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16 Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
    American King James Version×
    ). We need to stay close to God, confess our sins to Him and ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9 1 John 1:8-9 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    American King James Version×
    ), and over a lifetime of praying, studying, and keeping His laws (which teach the habit of obedience), we will grow to the point that we sin less and less, and grow in God’s character (2 Peter 3:18 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
    American King James Version×
    ; Philippians 2:12-13 Philippians 2:12-13 12 Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
    American King James Version×
    ; Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
    American King James Version×
    ).
  • kyancy
    Very well put Malachi 3:16 Malachi 3:16Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought on his name.
    American King James Version×
    ,18 studying how the holy spirit plays a major part in our lives is so important to know. Now I have better knowledge and for that I am so grateful for.
  • Malachi 3_16-18
    Hi kyancy, Glad my comment helped. Some very helpful passages on how the Spirit helps us are John 14:16-17 John 14:16-17 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.
    American King James Version×
    and 16:7-14. Of course there are many others, too, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Happy studying!
  • sweetpete
    can the holly spirit come and go as they please? can we loose the holly spirit of GOD or is it in us forever?
  • Pamela Joan Bartholomew
    Hi Sweetpete, You’ve asked two very good and hard questions. I would ask a minister of United Church of God what he thinks. I’m not sure if the literature of the church addresses that specifically. The Bible says God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him and King David prayed to God that He would not take His Spirit from Him after he realized he had sinned greatly in causing Uriah’s death because he slept with Uriah’s wife and she became pregnant while Uriah was off fighting wars(Psalm 51). He also asked God to renew a right spirit within him.
  • Sabrina Peabody
    Sweetpete — The Holy Spirit can be quenched or stifled by our sins or from our neglect. If you are a proper vessel, “proper” meaning living a godly life and drawing close to God, then the Holy Spirit will dwell with you, otherwise it will flow away like water. The following article is an interesting read and said the following: “Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
    American King James Version×
    says our sins cut us off from God. After David sinned with Bathsheba, he prayed to God in Psalms 51:11 Psalms 51:11Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me.
    American King James Version×
    , “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” David was afraid God would take away His Spirit because he sinned.” -“When the Power Goes Out” http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/when-power-goes-out/ Here is a great study aid about the Holy Spirit you can check out: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/power-holy-spirit/

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