Imagine this: Monday morning, you crawl out of bed and are not feeling particularly spiritual. Despite a motivating worship service on Sunday, the emotions and richness of that experience have faded. As you sit down to read your Bible, your mind keeps drifting and the text seems lifeless. But then you remember that Jesus said His Spirit would “teach you all things” (John 14:26), so you pause and ask the Lord to help you understand the passage. It’s amazing what a difference this prayer makes. The Word of God comes to life, and your morning becomes a time of wonderful fellowship with the Lord as you yield to His authority.
On the way to the office, the usual irritation with other drivers is replaced by supernatural patience. At work, you’re able to stay calm in stressful situations and respond kindly to an aggravating coworker. You even have an opportunity to share Christ with someone. And when you finally arrive home and are greeted by quarreling children, the Spirit whispers, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19) before harsh words even have a chance to form in your mouth.
Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, none of us can consistently live the way God desires. That’s why Jesus told His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). They must have wondered how anything could be better than having the Son of God with them. But Jesus said the Spirit would not just be with them, but would also be in them (John 14:17). Now that’s as close as you can get. This was a radical change from the way the Spirit of God had worked in the past.
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God sent His Spirit upon individuals in order to accomplish specific tasks. For instance, the presence of God was with Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egypt (Ex. 3:12). But the Lord also put His Spirit on 70 elders in the congregation, who were given the task of helping Moses govern the nation (Num. 11:16-17). The Spirit of God likewise filled Bezalel with the wisdom and artistry he needed to make all the articles for the tabernacle (Ex. 31:1-5).
Jesus said the Spirit would not just be with them, but would also be in them. Now that’s as close as you can get.
Whenever the Lord sought to bring something about, He empowered an individual. The prophets spoke as the Spirit gave them God’s messages for the people. Warriors like Samson and Gideon overcame Israel’s enemies, and King Saul and David ruled over the nation. However, the Spirit’s presence was not necessarily permanent. When Saul rebelled against the Lord, the Spirit left him (1 Sam. 16:14).
The Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus
But once it was time for the Son of God to come to earth, we see the Spirit work in a unique way. When Jesus was baptized by John, “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’” (Luke 3:22). This was not the beginning of the Spirit’s indwelling presence, but a visible anointing that signaled the start of our Savior’s ministry. Although Jesus retained full deity, He chose to depend entirely upon the Spirit. That’s why He said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28). What an example this must have been for the men who followed Him.
Yet Jesus knew it was better that He live within His people rather than with them in physical form. As His ministry on earth drew to a close, He promised to send the One who would work through each believer. Shortly before Christ ascended to heaven, He gave His followers the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). However, knowing that they were inadequate for the task, He told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power from heaven to come upon them (Luke 24:49).
Christ’s Spirit working through His church
Just a few days later, during the Jewish feast of Pentecost, the Spirit of God came to indwell the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4). When those disciples were baptized with the Spirit of God, they were transformed from fearful men to bold evangelists who received power to carry out the assignment Jesus had given them. They were endowed with the ability to speak many languages they’d never learned; as a result, people from various nations and regions who’d gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost could hear the message of the resurrected Messiah in a way they could understand.
He’s always with us whether we feel Him or not.
The powerful and transforming Spirit who came on Pentecost is the same one who lives within every believer today. We’ve been sealed as God’s children and never have to fear that He will depart if we fall into sin. He didn’t come as a result of our good behavior, nor will He leave because of our failures. However, because He loves us too much to let us ruin our lives, we can be sure that He will discipline us if we refuse to repent.
Have you ever contemplated what it means to be indwelt by the Spirit? As a Christian, you have almighty God living within you. Your body is a temple, set apart and holy to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This fact should impact everything you think, say, and do. What greater privilege is there than to have the constant presence of God indwelling you?
He’s always with us whether we feel Him or not. Many people want an emotional encounter of some kind, but we never see the Spirit producing ecstatic experiences in Jesus or the apostles. His work is to teach us the truth of Scripture, guide us into God’s will, transform our character, gift us for service in the church, and empower us to obey, suffer hardship, and share the good news of salvation in Christ.
The key to being filled with the Spirit is not in experiences but in obedience (John 14:21, Eph. 5:18). So if you’re a Christian, you are always in the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the more you surrender your life to His control, the more you will sense His love and power.
Adapted from the sermon “The Holy Spirit—His Presence” by Charles F. Stanley