Even though we’ve just entered February, many of us still possess a remnant of New Year’s hope. We have a God-given desire to make positive changes: to lose ten pounds, to lower our cholesterol or blood pressure, to strengthen our marriage by attending a retreat, to pay down debt, or pass a professional exam to be considered for a promotion. Or perhaps want to be less angry, more patient, to forgive more quickly and often. Some of us want to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ: to pray more efficiently, to read the entire New Testament or even the whole Bible!
But the hard truth is that we cannot change using our strength. None of us has enough willpower, grit, and discipline. Thus the key to growing and changing is to know who’s leading us—that is, where we can find lasting power and wisdom.
May I suggest the Holy Spirit?
Who is this Spirit? In the Christian tradition, he is God: the third member of the Holy Trinity consisting of the Father, Son, and Spirit. He is fully divine, equal in power and glory to God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Furthermore, this Holy Spirit is a person, not some nebulous, weird ghost. In John 14:16 Jesus calls the Spirit our “Advocate.” In the original language, this word means “legal advocate, advisor, comforter, helper.” The Spirit is our advisor, our comforter, our helper. How does he advise, lead, comfort, and help us? Well, it’s helpful to know he lives inside every Christian. 2 Corinthians 1:22 says God “put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” Think about that: if you’re a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in your heart. God the advisor, comforter, and helper, lives inside you right now!
The Spirit helps us in so many ways but let me give just two examples: Romans 8 says the Spirit confirms our identity and helps us pray. According to Romans 8:16 the Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children,” and Rom. 8:26 states “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” (In the Protestant tradition, generally speaking, we pray to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.)
And because the Holy Spirit is God, and a person we can have a relationship with, we are called to cultivate and guard that relationship. Galatians 5:16,18 puts it this way: “Walk by the Spirit…[be] led by the Spirit.” Moreover, Ephesians 4:30 commands, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit,” while 1 Thessalonians 5:19 instructs, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
Now, here’s where the rubber hits the road. Chances are we need more of the Spirit operating in our lives. And so are you (and I) willing to ask God the Father, in the name of Jesus, to allow the Holy Spirit to increasingly flow inside you and take up further space in your life? That is, to offer the Holy Spirit every part of you, including your fears, your secret sins, your hidden shame? Are you willing to give the Spirit your highest hopes and dreams? Although the Spirit is in us, sometimes we hold back part of ourselves, thinking “God, you can have my family, but not my bank account,” or “you can have my house, but not my internet browser,” etc. I believe the Spirit will give us the power to grow and change if we will surrender more of ourselves to him in 2018.