Now the Lord is the Spirit; and 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. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
What an incredible gift – that our God has provided each believer with the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. This is the ongoing grace of God, His very power within us to enable and empower us to achieve His purposes in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that empowered Christ’s death in our stead, and His resurrection and ascension into glory at the Father’s right hand. It is the Holy Spirit that enabled the eternal truth of Christ, who is Himself the Word of God. He is the ‘third person’ of God – holy, almighty and eternal, together with Son and Father.
Mention the Holy Spirit, and a few names come to mind – comforter, counselor, guide, teacher, intercessor, seal of our inheritance… There are others, but from my experience, these seem to be the most ‘popular’ or those that are used first to describe or identify the Spirit. These are all accurate in that they illustrate certain aspects of His ministry. But we easily lose sight of the fact that the Spirit is not defined by His ministry. He is, first and foremost, God. He is the Spirit of God. His divinity and separate identity within the trinity should never be questioned or overlooked. It is this identity that makes the infinite grace of His indwelling so remarkable and so incredibly poignant – the absolute of ‘I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.’
The real practical significance of the Holy Spirit lies in His purpose rather than in His roles. He has many roles, but all of these are the outworking of His purpose – the ways in which He works the purposes of God in and through us. In listening to people talk of the Holy Spirit, I often hear the word ‘helper’ and am left with a sense that, for many believers, this is their understanding. He is their helper, one sent to serve them. By focusing only on the Holy Spirit’s roles, we reduce Him to the level of servant or a kind of divine vending machine through our perception that He is sent to serve us. The real truth is that He is sent to help us to serve God.
The real purpose of the Holy Spirit is to manifest Christ – the living Word of God – and God Himself in and through us. He is, first and foremost, the living witness or testimony of God in us and through us. His purpose is transform us, not meet our needs and purposes. He is with us to teach us the truth, reveal God and His purposes, witness to the saving power and love of Christ, comfort us in the trials and hardships that threaten our faith, give us strength to persevere in our Christian walk, convict of us of sin and lead us to repentance, encourage us to step out in faith, to witness and to righteousness.
It is so important that we understand the roles of the Spirit within the context of His purpose, which is ultimately to achieve the purpose of God for our lives. We are not saved to continue on as ‘me’ and one day go to heaven. We are saved and remain on this earth to manifest Christ and His salvation, the saving power of God and the absolute glory of God. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, simple dwellings, not commanders of the Spirit. He owns the dwelling rather than the other way around.
I find it useful to consider the symbols used for the Spirit to fully understand this. The dove represents simplicy and humility. It’s not an eagle or some splended bird that rules the skies. It’s a simple, intelligent little bird which really doesn’t stand out at all. The ministry of Christ evidenced by the Spirit descending as a dove is one of mercy, gentleness, humility and simplicity. The Spirit is also represented by water – both cleansing and the source of life. As wind, He manifests both the cleansing and the power of God. And finally, as fire, we see Him as both cleansing and refining, a process of ‘extreme cleansing’ where dross is utterly burnt away. As fire, the Spirit also represents the holiness of God, that same holiness that must inspire fear and reverence.
We should perhaps challenge ourselves to evaluate our response to and relationship with the Spirit. Do we acknowledge Him only for what He can do for us, or do we recognise that His purpose is to cleanse, resurrect, transform and refine us to reflect the glory of God? Do we acknowledge that His is God, that He is holy, that He is the power and we simply the vessels, or do we decide how, where and when He is to move? Are we willing to yield all to Him, to acknowledge Him as Lord, and allow Him to work in us and through according to His will and purpose?
Much is said and written about the necessity of developing a relationship with the Spirit, but is it possible that we grieve Him daily by seeing only ‘friend’ and never God? Real relationship is based on truth. Excluding the fundamental nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit effectively limits us to our perception rather growing us into God’s perception. Do we bemoan the lack of power in our lives? I believe we are to blame. It’s not possible for the Holy Spirit to manifest in and through us in real power if we deny or ignore His real identity and purpose. The vessel does not dictate the terms of the arrangement. It simply is. It exists only for the purposes of the inhabitant. Without the real life, it’s an empty shell.
In a world gone mad, rapidly plunging into a downward spiral to depravity, immorality and the absence of God, revival is a popular cry. Surely the Spirit of God waits to revive His people, to fulfil the purpose of God in this time. But to be revived, something must first be dead. We look at others and see their ‘death,’ but what of ours? Have we truly died to self? Are we willing to lay it all down and enter into a right relationship to the Spirit? Can we adjust our thinking to accept Him as Lord rather than personal attendant?
Crying out for revival, for the full purposes of the Holy Spirit to work within and through God’s people, will never bring revival. It is the humble heart, the willing servant, the repentant spirit, that will yield to the Spirit. Our level of our willingness to yield will determine the level of our ability to receive. The Spirit will show us what needs to go at any particular moment. But unless we empty the space, clean the space, prepare the space, He will not be able to fill it. Yes, His power is supreme, and all things are possible with God. But we are to be active participants. We are to listen, hear and obey, and then allow Him to move in us according to His purposes.
If we refuse to yield, if we hold onto self and limit our vessels for self-designed purposes, if we see the Holy Spirit as ‘ours’ rather than ourselves as His, everything else will be limited to that personal perception and attitude. ‘Letting go and letting God’ is not simply for those big things we feel we can’t handle. It’s for everything, including our relationship with His Holy Spirit. Unless we truly die, we will never truly live. For some, this ‘half life’ may be comfortable and contented. But how much are we missing? We short-change ourselves, but worse, we short-change God and must surely grieve the Spirit along the way.
God has given all to reveal His love – His Son and His Spirit. Let us never forget that Spirit is the manifestation of God and the living witness of Christ. He is God. When we recognise and relate to Him in that way, we will find it so much easier to give our all.
Lord, we thank You for the immeasurable gift of Your Holy Spirit. Forgive us if we have taken Him for granted. Help us to see and acknowledge Him as He really is, to accord Him the respect He deserves, and to yield ourselves fully to the work and purpose You have determined for us and He works out Your will in us. Help us to allow Him to change us from glory to glory, so that our lives may be a pure reflection of Your glory.