The Holy Spirit
What if Jesus came to your house today for a visit, and you told him you wanted to grow. What would you expect him to do? Heal you? Teach you? Challenge you? Give you new talents? Think about it.
I can come up with many things I would want him to do, and I can think of a number of things I might expect him to do, but one of the last things I would expect him to say is, “Oh, you want to grow? Well, if that is what you want, I will have to leave. See you later.” And I would never expect him to walk away. Wouldn’t this be a strange way for him to produce growth in us?
But that is exactly what Jesus did. For reasons we do not fully understand, Jesus decided to go to heaven and work on us from there. He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and produce the growth and change we seek. He said that this is better than his being here himself. Given this information, think of how incredible it is to have the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So what are we to do with the Holy Spirit?
When I first began my path of growth, I wondered one day if God wanted to have anything to do with me anymore. I prayed, and God did not seem to answer me; my hurts and pains were not quickly going away. I thought God had left me.
In the midst of these thoughts I remember a pastor telling me, “If God were through with you, you would not be worried about it or wanting to have anything to do with him. The desire you feel for him and for growth can only come from him and his Spirit. If you are moving toward God, it’s because he’s moving toward you. Rest in this fact. If you want him, he is looking for you.”
God not only begins a process in us, wooing us to him, but also pushes our growth to completion. If we feel some desire toward completion, God has not given up on us. He is still wooing, revealing light, and working to make us whole. Knowing his Spirit is at work in you is a very good place to begin working on any issue in life. So the first point of how the Holy Spirit operates in our life is this: The Spirit begins the process of growth by wooing us to Jesus, and he is working to finish the task.
Last week, in the feature article on The God of Grace, we talked about the importance of knowing that God is for us and not against us. In any relationship, to grow and change we must first know we are secure. Our relationship with God is no different. How can we know we belong to him? How can we be sure we are secure?
The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us this security. After bringing us to a relationship with God, he locks the door behind us. Just as Noah locked the door of the ark to save a remnant of life from the flood, the Holy Spirit locks the door of our saving “ship,” our relationship with Jesus.
When we put our trust in Jesus, we enter the boat, so to speak, and the door is sealed behind us. Through the sealing work of the Holy Spirit, God himself protects us to be always his. This has wonderful implications for the growth process. We cannot work on the real issues of our lives if we are insecure in our relationship with God. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit sealing us in him, we can stop worrying.
One way to help someone know that this has happened in her life is to ask her what she believes about Jesus. If she believes he is the Christ and she trust him forgiveness, then this is proof she has been sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says we can only believe if we are born of the Spirit, if he is inside us.
After we know we are secure, then what? I wish I had a formula to give you about how the Holy Spirit works in the rest of life. It feels as if I have read everything ever written by those who say they do know the formulas, and I’ve tried almost everything I’ve read. All I can say is that in my experience, the formulas have mostly failed me. The Holy Spirit cannot be controlled.
But when we think about it, this makes perfect sense and also fits what the Bible says, for the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a thing. We can’t reduce the work of the Holy Spirit to a formula. What we can do is what the Bible tells us to do: Ask for him to be in our lives and to help us. God promises us that if we ask him for the Spirit, he will come. Basically, if there is a formula to how the Spirit works in our lives, this is it. It is to seek him, ask for him, and then follow him.
The best way to think about the Holy Spirit and growth is to think about a moment-by-moment relationship of dependency on him. We depend on him to guide us, lead us, talk to us, reveal truth to us, empower us to do what we can’t do, give us gifts to be able to give to others what they need, and many other things. But all this happens in an “abiding” sort of way. We yield to him and follow. We open up our hearts and begin to be “filled” with him. We ask him to invade all that we are and to work in us. In a sense, we give ourselves to him as we live out the life of growth.
Therefore, in light of the growth processes we encounter, life in the Spirit means that we do not “do growth” without him. It also means that he does not do growth “without us.” The miracle of the Holy Spirit’s invasion of our lives is that he is at work within us to change us, to lead us and to guide us, but there is still an “us.”
Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” What a paradox.
The important thing to remember is this: The Spirit-filled life is a supernatural life that surpasses our strengths and abilities. We can depend on that. The Spirit has promised it. But his does not mean that we do not have to do anything. We still have to step out in faith. We have to risk. We have to love, open up, confess, reach out, repent, obey and do all the other things we are commanded to do. Our part is to live the life. But we do not have to do it alone or in our own power. We are partners with the Spirit.
One thing is sure, the Holy Spirit cannot lead us any further unless we take the first step to follow him into the truth he is showing us. If he shows me an issue I have to deal with, then I have to take the steps to deal with it. If he shows me a sin, I have to deal with that. He leads, we follow. That is “keeping in step with the Spirit.” It is a relationship we follow step by step.
Taken from How People Grow, © Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Zondervan 2001
This article is part 6 in a series of Feature Articles adapted from How People Grow.
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