Summary: The Holy Spirit empowers, purifies, reveals, and unifies us today.
2. The Spirit purifies us—We are in an on-going process of spiritual growth, directed by the Spirit. He sanctifies us, making us “new creations”, leading us toward holiness. The Holy Spirit was given to live inside those who believe in Jesus, in order to produce God’s character within us. In a way that we cannot do on our own, the Holy Spirit brings us toward maturity. His work in us is seen by the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He produces in us evidence that we are born from Above. And when we pray to be kept from temptation, the Spirit helps keep us pure. This is why 12-Step groups rely on their “Higher Power”. The arm of flesh will fail us; we need to go higher than our own ability to overcome temptation…but the Spirit does not produce in us sinlessness. When we stray from His path, He can be “grieved”. Have you ever felt that God the Holy Spirit was especially pleased or displeased with you? Though we’re far from saintly, we’ve a better shot at righteousness by the Spirit’s help. We’ll never be perfect in this life, but the Spirit helps us make progress in our pilgrimage. Growing up in Heidelberg, Germany, I used to take a trolley-car to go places; the trolley was connected to an overhead cable. In our walk with God, we’re connected to a spiritual power-source that energizes us, directs us, and enables us to live for Him.
3. The Spirit reveals to us divine truth. He inspired and preserved the most tangible evidence of His activity, the Scriptures, and He enables us to understand God’s word. Paul writes that Scripture is “spiritually discerned”, meaning that the Spirit illumines God’s revelation, enabling us to clearly grasp and interpret its meaning and then apply it to our daily lives. Have you ever been reading in your Bible, and suddenly you’re hit with an insight that makes a difference in your life? That’s the Spirit at work. Peter states that the writers of our Bible were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). He also bears witness with us inwardly that we are God’s people, giving us assurance of our spiritual standing. Our security comes from within. Philip Yancey writes that our “sense of God’s presence may come and go. Yet the believer can have confidence that God is already present, living inside, and need not be summoned from afar.” He is as close as prayer. The Spirit doesn’t speak audibly to us, but impresses us, so that we live by divine guidance and direction. When people speak of having a calling, they mean that the Spirit is leading them in a particular way that is verified by others. Paul writes that he was “constrained” by the Spirit. When we seem to lose our way, the Spirit helps us get back on track. He gives us enough light to take the next step.
4. The Spirit unifies us—He gives us a sense that we are part of an extended family, the family of God, which connects us to all believers. However, we know the roster of Christian groups is quite diverse. What unites us as Christians is greater than that which divides us. We share a common faith and a common destiny, and we share the same Spirit. In one of Paul’s farewell blessings, he commends his readers to “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (II Cor 13:4), and another time he expands the idea to urge believers to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose (Phil 2:1-2). Paul states that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (I Cor 12:7). The same Spirit breaks down barriers and distinctions, making us one. Are we living in harmony? The church still suffers some divisions, but we’re making progress. We’re doing better at working together. This operates on the personal/individual level—when was the last time you took the initiative to invite someone from church over to your home, or out for coffee? How connected are you to your church family?