by Martha Nelson
"If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:23
In this series on prayer, we've been talking about who the Holy Spirit is and how we can come to know Him. We concluded that he was indeed a person, not an influence or an "it" -- and that we are meant to know Him as a person. By a person, we mean that He has a personality -- characteristics and emotions like ours -- yet without a physical body. He can express joy (Romans 14:17); He can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30); His nature expresses "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22) -- attributes of PERSONAL beings, versus "influences".
We also saw that we could discover Him for ourselves by studying His character as described in the Bible. We can also come to know Him by beginning to treat Him like a person -- speaking to him in our thoughts and prayer times just as we would to a dear friend.
More Than Just a Casual Friend
However, the Holy Spirit wants to be more than just a friend we talk to from time to time. The Bible says that He wants to come and live permanently inside each of us. That's what the verse above, spoken by Jesus, means. The Holy Spirit wants to come and "make his home" inside of our bodies. How or why could this possibly take place?
To answer this, let's look at some other verses in the Bible that speak about this amazing possibility. In I Corinthians 3:19 it says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?" One definition of "temple" is: "a place in which God is regarded as residing." We may think of a temple as a holy place -- a place especially set aside for the worship and residence of God. It is incredible to think that the Holy Spirit would regard our bodies and personalities as a holy place to "make his home." How can this be?
Born of the Spirit
You may have heard someone say that they were "born again" or "born of the Spirit". This phrase is taken from John 3:3, where Jesus said, "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Later in that same chapter he also refers to this experience as being "born of the Spirit." (v. 6 & 8). The word "Spirit" is capitalised in all three of these verses, indicating that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit.
Some of us who have heard this phrase "born again" bandied about are justly sceptical. The media have made it a trendy clich?, and everyone from film stars to politicians claims to have been born again. What makes us sceptical is that we don't see a real change in their lives. They still live immoral lives, lose their temper, or get anxious about life's pressures. If we can SEE no change, has a change really taken place?
Yet the Bible explains this experience very clearly. When we are "born anew" or "born of the Spirit" the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us permanently. This experience is also described as the New Birth. When a person is "born again" the Holy Spirit comes to live inside them and makes everything "new." A definite change takes place in a person's personality when this happens, because the Holy Spirit gives us the characteristics of God Himself. One of the marks of the New Birth is that not only you, but others around you, can see a definite and growing change in your personality and actions.
You may remember our earlier discussions where we saw that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He is kind, gentle, generous and patient. When He comes to live permanently inside us, His gentle and pure nature changes the very way we act and think. The unique personalities God created us with are not annihilated; we do not become robots. In fact, in an amazing way, the living Holy Spirit makes us more alive than ever before -- in a way that expresses God's beauty and holiness. That is why Jesus said we would be "born anew". Everything is made new!
But something has to take place on our part before this Special Guest -- the Holy Spirit -- can come to live forever inside us. Before we can be "born of the Spirit" there are definite steps we each need to take, in order to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit's coming. Let's begin to look at those steps next month.
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