I’ve heard it said — well, I had it pulpit-pounded into me — that I’d better be on my best behavior today because I “may be the ONLY Jesus someone sees!” Sigh. Not only is that guilt-ridden, legalistic attitude unbiblical, it’s just an exhausting way to live.
You see, the Christian life isn’t meant to be experienced from the outside-in, with behavior modification that’s dependent on whether or not others are watching. That type of “righteousness” was something Jesus dismissed as disturbingly fatal, akin to “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). Isaiah described it as having the same value as contemptible “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
Instead, the Bible teaches that our authentic Christian life is lived from the inside-out — meaning our daily attitudes and actions are a natural outgrowth of what Christ’s Holy Spirit has done, is doing, and will do within you and me each day.
So what does the Holy Spirit do in us today? Let’s explore that now.
The Holy Spirit Regenerates Your Spirit
The Calvinist will tell you this happens before a person chooses to follow Christ. The non-Calvinist will say this happens after that choice, or simultaneously with it. Yet, by fixating on the “when” rather than the “what,” both sides tend to gloss over this stunning truth:
Christ’s Holy Spirit takes that sin-cancered, corpse-like human spirit within you and miraculously breathes relentless new life into your soul.
The Apostle John quotes Jesus explaining it this way to the Pharisee, Nicodemus: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Translated more literally from the New Testament Greek, that capital "S", Holy “Spirit” and lowercase "s", human “spirit,” could read like this: “The Breath gives birth to breathing.” This calls to mind the moment of Creation when God “breathed” life into Adam (Genesis 2:7) and foreshadowed what Christ would do after his resurrection: “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
This regeneration of the soul is what the Holy Spirit once did within you to bring your soul from death to life. And because one breath requires another to maintain life, this is what Christ continues to do in you today, and what he will faithfully perform in you tomorrow. It’s astonishing, a daily miracle happening deep within our very being, yet we barely notice it.
The Holy Spirit Resides within Your Soul
When I was a child, we used to sing in church the old hymn, “He Lives.” Perhaps our music leader was a bit melodramatic, but the high point of that song was always when he gesticulated and the congregation roared, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”
That’s a beautiful sentiment, and true, but… what exactly does it mean?
This is one of those “intangibly tangible” mysteries, explaining the unseen reality of the Holy Spirit by means of simplified symbolism. Biblically speaking, the “heart” has only slightly to do with that aortic pumping mechanism in your chest. Instead, it encompasses all of your human existence, including your physical life, your personality, intellect, memory, emotions, desires, hopes, dreams, thoughts, personal history, will, and anything else you can throw into that kitchen sink of humanity.
So, when the Apostle Paul declared to the Galatians: “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,” (4:6) and when Christ promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), they were both saying the same thing: Your finite soul has mystically, irrevocably merged with the infinite Spirit of Jesus. And now, as John recorded, “He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).
It’s impossible to overstate the enormity of this supernatural residency! The Holy Spirit is no passive, neutral “guest” within your soul. The obvious assumption in all the Scriptures listed above (and more to come) is that Christ’s ever-present Spirit is dramatically active, constantly nurturing new life within you, communicating his never-ending love for you, guaranteeing the promises he made to you. Perhaps best of all, the Holy Spirit living in you is proof that you are legitimately adopted into God’s family — one who can now be constantly intimate like no other with your eternal Father.
“Because you are his sons,” Paul reminded, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).
The Holy Spirit Accomplishes Your Authentic Christian Life
(Mark 13:11; Luke 2:25-27; Luke 10:21; John 4:24, 14:26, 16:13; Romans 8:5-6, 8:26-27, 15:13, 15:16; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 12:3-4, 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 1:9, 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:21)
And now we are back to the beginning — and why it’s so frustrating when well-meaning Christian leaders say absurd things like, “Now, the Holy Spirit can't do all the work for us….” Scripture is very clear that the opposite is true, that only the Holy Spirit of Jesus CAN do all the work for us. Only Christ can sufficiently wear the mantle of authentic, holy living in our daily lives. He said so himself, quite plainly:
“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
In case you’re wondering, that Greek word which we’ve translated as “nothing” in this verse is oudeís. It means… um… nothing. That about covers it, doesn’t it?
Still, in case you don’t believe me, here’s a shortlist of what the Holy Spirit does in you each day (today included!) to accomplish your authentic Christian life.
Christ’s Holy Spirit:
- Governs your mind (Romans 8:5-6)
- Sanctifies you (Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11)
- Helps, strengthens, and empowers you (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:7)
- Sustains hope in you (Romans 15:13)
- Enables you to know and understand God (John 14:26, 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:9)
- Reveals Gods plans, and prompts your response to God’s intentions (Luke 2:25-27)
- Creates holy character within you, which can be expressed by you (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Makes it possible for you to worship God (John 4:24; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Colossians 3:16)
- Makes it possible for you to pray to God (Romans 8:27)
- Makes it possible for you to serve God and others (1 Corinthians 12:4; Philippians 3:3)
- Makes it possible for you to speak truth of/from God (Mark 13:11; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:21)
- Supernaturally fills you with joy in any circumstance (Luke 10:21; 1 Thessalonians 1:6)
- Safeguards your spiritual freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)
So, if it truly is the Holy Spirit who continually regenerates my spirit, who actively resides within my soul, and who accomplishes my authentic Christian life, then what am I supposed to do?
This is your sole responsibility and mine. In response to the heavy lifting that the Spirit of Jesus is doing within and through you, your job is simply to cooperate. To be on the lookout for the transformation he’s working in your life. To acknowledge it. To support it. Not to fight against it. Paul said it this way, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19), “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). (See also Ephesians 5:18, and Hebrews 3:15)
So today, don’t worry too much about trying to be “the only Jesus someone will see.” Just be aware of Christ’s Holy Spirit doing his work in you and through you… and try to go along with it, OK?
- Spiros Zodhiates, General Editor, The Complete Word Study New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992) 307, 848-849, 929, 936.
- Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grover, IL: IVP Academic, 1998) 368.
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Mike Nappa is an Arab-American Christian. He regularly writes Bible commentary and theology articles for Christianity.com, and feature articles for Crosswalk.com. He’s also a bestselling and award-winning author with more than a million copies of his books sold worldwide. Learn more about Mikey at Nappaland.com and MikeNappa.com.