Welcome the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in us
God is spirit and He places a deposit of His Spirit in everyone who repents of their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as their Saviour. This depositing is just the first instalment of everything that God has promised us for an abundant Spirit-led life. As we follow God’s Spirit, He will make us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image. An increasingly transformed life and active relationship with God’s Spirit is evidence that we are truly legitimate sons and daughters of God.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 >让圣灵来改造我们 | 繁體中文 > 讓聖靈來改造我們)
John 4:24 ESV God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NLT It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Romans 8:16 ESV The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Who is the Holy Spirit?
We cannot understate or ignore the Holy Spirit. It is vital that we become familiar with Him and understand who He is.
Try to imagine for a moment that Jesus Christ came to stay at our home for a few days. What a thrilling privilege! Then He tells us that He has to go and that this is only for our good; so that the Helper can come to us. This is how Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit to His disciples. What an exciting privilege to welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives too.
John 16:7 ESV 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.
The Holy Spirit has always been present and actively working in all the major events described in the Bible. He is mentioned on the first page (Genesis 1:2) as well as the last page of the Bible (Revelation 22:17.) He is also known as the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2), the Spirit of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2), as well as the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11). He is the person of our triune God coming to live with us. Many make the mistake of referring to the Holy Spirit as “it,” when we should really be referring to “Him”.
Genesis 1:2 ESV The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Revelation 22:17 ESV The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
The Holy Spirit played a significant role during Jesus’ time on earth. He helped in the conception of Jesus as a human being (Luke 1:35), anointed Him during His baptism (Matthew 3:16-17), and led Him throughout His temptations in the desert (Matthew 4:1). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus did many powerful works (Acts 10:38) and was raised from the dead (Romans 8:11). This too is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.
Romans 8:11 ESV If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The Holy Spirit is the Source of all life (Job 33:4). Naturally, all new spiritual life in us will also come through His power. He helps us overcome all things that lead to spiritual death.
Job 33:4 ESV The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
How the Holy Spirit transforms us
How do we develop a relationship with the Holy Spirit and become familiar with His voice and presence? Here is a brief overview.
John 10:27 ESV My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
First, we need to be anointed with the Spirit of God by repenting of our sins and being baptised in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38). Then the Holy Spirit will come into our hearts to gently guide our thoughts and attitudes in order to make us aware of the sin that is in our lives (John 16:8). In this way, He helps us to turn away from our sinful impulses and temptations (Galatians 5:16).
Acts 2:38 ESV And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:8 ESV And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
Galatians 5:16 ESV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
If we heed His promptings, we will be freed from the power of sin that leads to spiritual death.
Romans 8:2 ESV For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
If we try to change ourselves based on our own (sinful) understanding, however, we are likely to fail because no human being is able to break free from “the law of sin and death” on our own strength. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to do that transformative work for us. Salvation from our sinful patterns is not based on our works, but by putting our faith in and listening to God’s Spirit in us.
Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
Acts 1:8 ESV But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Only God has the power to transform us from inside out – if we follow Him. The Bible describes this as “throwing off our old sinful nature and former way of life” and “letting the Spirit renew our thoughts and attitudes.” Both of these are very deliberate actions and choices. Transformation does not come with us sitting still and wishing for it to happen. Instead, we are called to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God’s Spirit who works in us, both to desire and obey His will.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
How the Holy Spirit does His work in our hearts
Have we ever stopped to ponder about the qualities of the Holy Spirit? The different titles in the Bible for the Holy Spirit include the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4), wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17), justice (Isaiah 28:6), truth (John 14:17), grace (Hebrews 10:29), and glory (1 Peter 4:14).
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- He produces new spiritual life in us | John 3:6 NLT Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
- Imparts wisdom, power and fear of the Father | Isaiah 11:2 ESV And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
- Helps us discern the things of God | 1 Corinthians 2:10,14 ESV these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God… The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
- Teaches us and reminds us of God’s Word | John 14:26 ESV But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
- Convicts us of the sin that defiles our hearts | John 16:8-11 ESV And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
- Heals broken hearts | Isaiah 61:1 ESV The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me… to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
- Pours God’s love in our hearts | Romans 5:5 ESV … because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Literally prays through us if we invite Him to | Matthew 10:20 ESV For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
- Gives us spiritual gifts to build God’s Kingdom on earth | 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 ESV Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
- Fills us with abundant joy, peace and hope | Romans 15:13 ESV May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
- Empowers us to do good works and heal the sick | Acts 10:38 ESV how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
- Transforms us to become more like Jesus | 2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit
Romans 8 helps us understand our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9-17 NLT But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
Pursue holiness to honour God’s Holy Spirit in us
God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him and makes us holy temples for His Holy Spirit.
Acts 5:32 ESV … the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
The key word here is “holy”. God’s Word warns us not to defile our temples with idols and impurities – it would be equivalent to desecration and vandalism. We need to safeguard our spiritual temples just as we would our own physical homes.
2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…
This is why we pursue purity and holiness as part of a disciple’s life. No one wants to sleep in a filthy, stinking, and cockroach-infested toilet. To God’s Spirit, a rebellious, sin-infested body is similar. We become a stench to His nostrils. Let us not insult and put off the Holy Spirit from dwelling inside us.
Isaiah 65:2,5 NLT All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes… These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away.
We can snuff out the Holy Spirit by choosing to repeatedly submit to our fleshly desires, the occult, unbelief, and “every form of evil”. Over a period of time, it can feel like we can’t hear from God or connect with Him. Our hearts become spiritually dull, indifferent, or heavy.
1 Thessalonians 5:19,22 BSB Do not extinguish the Spirit… Abstain from every form of evil.
As we move further and further away from God, our lives start to bear “thorns and thistles” (Hebrews 6:4-8) – a reference back to Genesis 3:17-18 where God pronounced Adam’s curses and banished Him from His presence.
Hebrews 6:4-8 NLT For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
Finally, we run the risk of cutting ourselves off from God for all eternity if we ever blaspheme Him by accusing the Holy Spirit’s character, will, and deeds as being evil.
Mark 3:28-29 ESV “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—
Pursing holiness is not about acting in traditional ‘religious’ ways, such as merely going to church or putting on a righteous attitude so that people can see that we desire to be holy. It is not about putting on a performance to convince others that we are good.
To pursue holiness is to pursue spiritual purity by humbly submitting to God’s Word and by confessing and repenting for our sins on a daily basis. To pursue holiness is to ask God to examine our hearts, and we do so because we love and fear Him, and want to honour His Spirit’s presence in our lives.
Becoming pure and holy is impossible for any human being. This is why God the Father, in His great compassion and love for us, has chosen to deposit His own Spirit into us so that He can personally guide us back to Him for comfort, correction, and counsel in the name of Jesus Christ – even on those days when we are still stinking of sin. God has certainly done the heavy lifting for us! This is His amazing grace. In our next post, we will describe how we can avoid the Ways we extinguish the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Drunkenness opposes the Holy Spirit
How to test for the Holy Spirit
Living a holy life, free from sin’s power
The Holy Spirit as our perfect Counsellor
The role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation
7 things that block the fruit of the Holy Spirit
What it feels like to be purified by the Holy Spirit
Ways we extinguish the Holy Spirit
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