People want power! Car power and computer power. Political, economic and military power. Physical and mental powers. And spiritual power.
Tragically, however, most people search for help in the wrong places. Some believe they have an inner psychic power they can uncover and unleash. Others are convinced there is a mysterious "universal energy" they can align with or tap into. Some even turn to outright spiritism.
Many people put their hopes in one of the countless false religions, either non-Christian or counterfeit Christian. They may choose an ancient "ism" or some New Age philosophy. A cafeteria approach is also common, where a person picks ideas from several religions to create a combination
The awesome power of God's Holy Spirit
What mankind most needs is spiritual power from our Creator God—the force He offers that can govern our lives, solve our problems and lead us to real peace. It is the fuel of spiritual transformation. And most importantly, for those who receive that Spirit, "If he plants in the field of the Spirit, from the Spirit he will gather the harvest of eternal life" (Galatians 6:8, Today's English Version).
It's exciting to understand the reality of the Holy Spirit and how God uses it! But what exactly is it?
First of all, it is not something we are born with. It can only be received as a divine gift from God after one believes the truth of the Bible, repents of his sins and is baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-44).
Secondly, contrary to popular tradition, the Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit is not a third person in a Trinity. (In fact, the word "trinity" is never mentioned in the Bible. It is hardly mentioned in historical records until about three centuries after the writing of the Bible was finished!)
In reality, the Bible shows that the Holy Spirit is the nature and essence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. In fact, "God is Spirit" and the source of the Holy Spirit (John 4:24, emphasis added throughout). "The Spirit," "the Spirit of God" and "the Spirit of Christ" are used synonymously in Romans 8:9.
In the Bible, God's Spirit is compared with water (that one is "baptized with"), rivers (that "flow"), oil (that is "poured out"), a cloud (that "filled" the temple) and fire (that one can "quench" or "stir up" to rekindle). These comparisons would not make sense were the Holy Spirit a person.
God's Spirit emanates from Him and radiates everywhere, which explains the omnipresence of God—how God can, in effect, be present everywhere at all times. As David wrote: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" (Psalm 139:7).
God's "broadcasting" by His Spirit has been easier to understand since the invention of radio and television. We can enjoy sights and sounds in our own homes as much as if we were in the faraway TV studio. We can get perfect "reception" from God no matter where we are.
God uses His Spirit as His "remote control." When "God created the heavens and the earth," He used the power of "the Spirit of God" (Genesis 1:1-2). After praising God's creation, the psalmist wrote, "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth" (Psalm 104:30).
Ever since creation, God has used His Spirit to sustain and maintain the universe—everything from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. All creation functions perfectly according to the laws of nature—which God put in force and keeps in force.
God not only disseminates knowledge by His Spirit, but His Spirit brings Him awareness of all things. "You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off . . . For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether" (Psalm 139:2-4). Thus, by His Spirit God is omniscient, which means He has total knowledge!
And God is omnipotent—having universal and unlimited power! He is El Shaddai —God Almighty. Therefore, "with God, all things are possible" (Mark 10:27), whether it is parting the Red Sea, changing water to wine, healing the sick or resurrecting the dead. With every miracle, God is using the infinite power of His Spirit.
Perhaps the most far-reaching miracle was the incarnation of God when the Father sent His Spirit to impregnate a young virgin named Mary (Matthew 1:18-20). That was Jesus Christ's first coming. The next great highlight in His story will be His second coming!
The greatest ongoing miracle
That brings us to the world's greatest challenge—the transformation of human nature! This spiritual conversion is taking place in the people God has called and who are submitting and committing their lives to Him.
Compared to instantaneous miracles, it is a slow process because God has given human beings free will—freedom of choice. Like a master potter with his clay, God patiently forms His nature in us as we yield to Him.
The big challenge is the rebellious nature of man! Jesus Christ cited the evils that come "out of the heart of men" (Mark 7:20-23). Paul related the corruption in people's character when they turn their backs on God (Romans 1:24-32). Later he explained how humanity's evils "will grow worse and worse" in the end time (2 Timothy 3:1-13).
Paul also called the ugly traits of human nature "the works of the flesh." He concluded his list by saying "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Like noxious weeds in a vineyard, sins must be eradicated. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5, New International Version). God's Spirit is the power that liberates us from being "slaves of sin" (Romans 6:16-18).
God pinpointed the problem of all mankind when He said, "Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments" (Deuteronomy 5:29). Everyone has spiritual heart trouble, and everyone needs a spiritual heart transplant!
Through His prophet Ezekiel, God said: "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:30-31).
A later prophecy for all mankind states, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh"—a heart that is soft, pliable and receptive (Ezekiel 36:26).
The indwelling of God's Spirit is the very thing that defines a true Christian, a son of God. You are "in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you" (Romans 8:9). And "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14).
It is by following the lead of God's Spirit and relying on its power that one's life can be spiritually transformed!
And it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the Church to carry out Christ's work here on earth in preparing the way for His return (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8).
The promised "fruit of the Spirit"
If you missed it, we recommend you read the previous article in this series—"Jesus Christ's Command to Us: Bear Good Fruit and Much Fruit." It explains and amplifies what Christ said in John 15:1-16.
Just as a fruit grower demands more than pretty leaves, God will not be pleased if we are merely religious and nice. He wants productive servants who are growing spiritually and at the same time serving God and their fellow man with every opportunity.
Keep in mind that we human beings "can do nothing" that is spiritually good on our own (John 15:5). That's why we need God's Spirit to guide and enable us!
Each of us was created to be "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). That is why Paul could say, "Christ lives in me" and "we have the mind of Christ" (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 2:16). And when Christ lives in you, He changes you. His work is a complete remodeling job, to make your character a replica of His own.
Another analogy is that God's Spirit carries the code of God's "DNA," as it were. When you receive an infusion of His Spirit, it brings with it the righteous spiritual attributes that enable and empower you to develop the fruit of God's character.
God's Spirit is necessary to comprehend the spiritual truths of the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:7-16). Knowledge of God's Word is essential to spiritual growth. The Bible and the Holy Spirit are synergistic—each is much more effectual because of the other. In a sense, the Bible guides us from without while the Holy Spirit guides from within.
God literally in-spires our understanding when He puts His Spirit in us. Without God's Spirit, people can understand only pieces of spiritual truth, like seeing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but not being able to visualize the overall picture.
In addition, God's Spirit imparts desire, motivation, willpower, zeal and strength to put that spiritual understanding into practice. God promised, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts" (Hebrews 8:10). When that new nature is internalized, they, like the author of Psalm 119, begin to love God's laws (Psalm 119:97).
Indeed, God's Spirit profoundly changes people! Paul wrote that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). In this series of articles, we will thoroughly examine each of these aspects to understand them and learn how to practice them in our daily lives.
Note here that although "fruit" is singular, God has many characteristics that all harmonize to form His holy character. John summarized God's character with one word: "God is love" (1 John 4:8). But just as we can distinguish the individual colors of the rainbow when white light passes through a prism, it is profitable for us to examine each attribute of God's character.
Fruit production requires patient perseverance
After a believer has been baptized, he receives the gift of God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). New disciples of Jesus Christ begin as spiritual children, but God expects them to rapidly grow up to become mature Christians (Ephesians 4:11-16). To do that, we all need to keep spiritually fed with the daily nourishment of prayer, reading the Bible and meditating on it, and striving to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4).
After someone has received the gift of God's Spirit, why does he not produce abundant fruit immediately? Think of a healthy fruit tree in early spring. The tree is receiving plenty of sunshine and water, and the sap is flowing. And there may already be the tiny emergence of fruit. But the fruit is not desirable until it has grown to full size and ripened to sweet maturity.
Likewise, a new disciple of Jesus Christ has immense potential, but he starts out with fruit that is small and "green" or immature. If we are ever to bear ripe luscious fruit, we must assist the Owner of the orchard with our own horticulture—our own fruit cultivation—day after day for the rest of our lives.
James put it very well in James 5:7-8: "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."