The Spirit Within
I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.
Late one summer I stayed at a hill resort in the home of a mechanic and his wife, both of whom was my joy to lead to a simple faith in the Savior. When the time came for me to return to Shanghai, I left them a Bible.
During the winter, the man was in the habit of taking alcohol with his meals, sometimes to excess. Soon, with the return of the cold weather, the wine reappeared on the table, and, as had now become his custom, he bowed his head to give thanks for the meal. But today no words would come! After one or two vain attempts he turned to his wife, “What is wrong,” he asked, “Why cannot we pray today?” The wife took the Bible, but turned the pages in vain, seeking light on the subject. They could find no explanation, and I was far away. “Just drink your wine,” she said; but no, he knew he must give thanks, and could not. “Take it away,” he exclaimed at length; and then together they asked a blessing on the meal.
When eventually the man was able to visit Shanghai he told me the story. Using an expression familiar in Chinese; “Brother Nee,” he said, “Resident Boss wouldn’t let me have that drink!” “Very good,” I replied. “You always listen to Resident Boss!”
We cannot put too much emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit since it was Jesus who said, “it is expedient that I go away so you can receive the Holy Spirit.” The passage from Ezekiel speaks of a shift in God’s relationship with humanity; or perhaps a realignment. In the Garden of Eden, there was a personal relationship and daily encounters with God. As they were led out of the slavery of Egypt, the Israelites experienced the visible presence of God through the cloud and fire as well as hearing His voice. Rather than inviting God to dwell with them, they sent Moses to God to have Him remain at a distance and to just give them a set of rules that would satisfy Him. We call them the Ten Commandments. As you read the Old Testament you become aware that keeping those commandments was impossible for any length of time. To be sure there were seasons that people willed themselves to obey as least most of them but James tells us that if we break one we are guilty of them all. Paul will say to us that there is none good, not even one. He will say that all have come short of the mark.
By the time Ezekiel prophesied, the Israelites had for years vainly attempted to have an external, rule-keeping relationship with God. Prophets such as Malachi had revealed that the rituals and sacrifices in and of themselves weren’t sufficient to please God. As a matter of fact Malachi said they were wearisome to the Lord. Jeremiah and Isaiah called the people to worship God and obey God from their hearts. Jeremiah proclaimed that God would remove “hearts of stone” and give them “hearts of flesh.”
We can conclude that God is more interested in what goes on inside us more than He is the outward keeping of the law. In other words until our hearts are transformed we will continue to indulge in sin. In the Beatitudes, Jesus shifted the emphasis from outward actions to heart attitude. For example, He said that we might not actually murder someone but we still may hate them. We might never have an actual affair but we can still entertain lust in our hearts. He emphasizes that all outward sin stems from a heart already given to the influence of sin. In another place He tells us that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks.
We know, in the case of Peter that both godly and ungodly words came out of the same mouth. Yet after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the ungodly ceased.
Let’s look at what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit and His work:
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you and will be in you. But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.
John 14: 16-17, 26
“But when the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, He will testify bear witness about Me. But you will testify also be My witnesses, because you have been with Me from the beginning. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you]. And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment: about sin [and the true nature of it], because they do not believe in Me [and My message]; about righteousness [personal integrity and godly character], because I am going to My Father and you will no longer see Me; about judgment [the certainty of it], because the ruler of this world (Satan) has been judged condemned. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future]. He will glorify honor Me, because He (the Holy Spirit) will take from what is Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Because of this I said that He [the Spirit] will take from what is Mine and will reveal it to you.
John 15: 26-27, 16: 7-11, 13 16: 13-15
Listen carefully: I am sending the Promise of My Father [the Holy Spirit] upon you; but you are to remain in the city [of Jerusalem] until you are clothed (fully equipped) with power from on high.”
While being together and eating with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Of which,” He said, “you have heard Me speak. For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized empowered united with the Holy Spirit, not long from now.” But you will receive power ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1: 4-5, 8
I realize that many of us have not hear much about the Holy Spirit. Some have heard about weird conduct by “Holy Rollers.” Others of us have been told that all the experiences with the Holy Spirit were left behind to those in Scripture. Some may feel that the Holy Spirit is the silent partner. But Jesus was clear about the fact that the Holy Spirit would represent the Trinity on earth during the church age and through His power, sinners would be convicted, saints would be strengthened, and the mission of Christ would be carried out.
Today would be a good day to open the door of your heart and invite the “Resident Boss” to come in and take charge of your life. You can always trust that whatever gift Christ has for you is good and good for you.
Dr. John Thompson