100 Answers in 100 Days

More questions answered on this blog:

Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Monday, January 17, 2011

#17: What is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

We can pick up here where we left off yesterday. Ezekiel, in the Old Testament, gave us the promise of God that He would put His spirit within His people...

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

What does it take for a person to obey God, because by nature we are sinful and disobedient? What it takes is a new nature... a new heart and a new spirit. This is why God is here promising a new heart and a new Spirit, so that we can “walk in His statutes and be careful to obey His rules.” Jesus discussed this issue with Nicodemus...

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5)

Being born again refers to receiving a new nature. Nicodemus' response is understandable; we often fail to understand the things Jesus says when He talks of being “born again”, or where later He speaks of Himself being the “bread of life”, because Jesus is trying to communicate spiritual realities. So He uses illustrations. He says “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” This is a direct allusion to the Ezekiel passage. Being “born of water” relates to Ezekiel's saying “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses”. It speaks of the forgiveness of sins. All who put their faith in Christ are forgiven of their sins, and He will “remember them no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Then we read of being born of the Spirit which, as we have discussed, enables us to obey God. Jesus continues...

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:6)

Throughout the New Testament we read of references to “flesh” and “Spirit”. We are all “born of the flesh” and must be “born again”. Christ promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would commence after His resurrection and ascension to heaven...

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: 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)

We know that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as Paul says...

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)

However, as Christians it is true to say that we have two natures... the old and the new. This is as it must be until Christ returns to gather us together. In many places in the New Testament we are encouraged to live according to the Spirit; to be led by the Spirit, and not to “grieve” the Spirit. I would never say that a Christian is not capable of sin because he has the Spirit of God and a new nature... that's un-Biblical and untrue. But a Christian certainly ought to display a life of righteousness; of love and compassion for others, and of doing what is right, not out of fear of condemnation but simply because that's who they are inside.

Until tomorrow, I leave you with this...
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

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