Christians believe that God lives inside of them.
That’s right. GOD—the eternal, infinite, all-powerful Creator—lives inside every believer.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? I Cor. 6:19
Why are we not absolutely mesmerized by this concept? How can we go on with our lives as if the Holy Spirit is just about as useful as a back-up appendix, little more than a backstage pass to heaven?
When Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he told them that he would not leave them as orphans, but would send the Holy Spirit, who would come alongside them, sort of like a spiritual counselor or personal trainer, moving them toward a quality of life that they couldn’t even guess or imagine.
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:12
The Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit, so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. I Cor. 2:10 – 12
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. Rom. 8:11
So God puts his own Spirit inside of us, giving us access to truth from the source, the deep secrets of God, and the creative power behind the universe. Yet we’d rather talk about Trump and Hillary. We stress about our health and finances, feeling hopeless, as if God is about as near and present as Santa Claus in September.
What keeps this basic Biblical reality from sinking in, diffusing our worries, filling us with bold confidence and enduring hope?
As a child, I was asked to invite Jesus into my heart. Ignorant to the bizarre and pseudo-unbiblical nature of this invitation, I didn’t think twice. I just nodded, believing my teacher, eager to keep Jesus as close as possible.
If you ask a Christian if God is inside of them, most would say yes. If you asked for a specific location, they might tap their chests or heart. No one would probably tap their arms, legs, stomach or head.
However, since many of us rarely seem to experience the dramatic impact of God’s indwelling presence, we still tend to pray outward, with our hands raised toward the ceiling or the sky. We claim that God is within us, yet pastors continue to invite him to our services, asking him to fall on our congregations like rain, quoting verses about where two or more are gathered.
Is God’s presence just too subtle? Is that why we say one thing and do another?
Even though the ministry of the Holy Spirit is a clear teaching of Scripture, many churches do not emphasize it, focusing primarily on the death and resurrection of Jesus, and our resulting trajectory toward eternal bliss. Either that, or churches seem to overemphasize it, spending most of their time in an active demonstration of charismatic gifts, ignoring tradition and ritual.
When I was growing up, conversations about the Holy Spirit revolved around things like healing services, speaking in tongues, prophecy, dancing and flag waving. I’m an introvert. In my young mind, Holy Spirit people were way too hyper, way too eager and social and giddy, driving me toward the kinds of people that would rather worship sitting down.
It wasn’t until after college when I was seriously struggling with sin and confusion that I started asking questions about the Holy Spirit. Not only did I find resistance to the conversation, but concern. One church leader actually said to me: “You should go to the church down the street. They emphasize the Holy Spirit. We emphasize Jesus.”
Can we separate them like that? Why does the Holy Spirit seem to be relegated to our charismatic brothers and sisters, as if they found a secret bonus level of Christianity, or somehow earned an extra blessing?
Why is the Holy Spirit so misunderstood or ignored by certain denominations? Why all the confusion and concern?
According to John 16, the Holy Spirit is the point of contact between the Church and the risen Christ. As I like to say: if Christ is our head, and the Church is his body, the Holy Spirit is the central nervous system.
Jesus does not live in human hearts. According to Scripture, he is in heaven with his Father, and we are waiting for his return. The Holy Spirit was given to the people of God on the day of Pentecost, allowing us to share the life and purpose of our risen savior.
This is not just a gift for special Christians. In fact, you can’t be a Christian without the indwelling Spirit of God:
. . . 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. Rom. 8:9
So why don’t we see a dramatic difference between the people of God and everyone else?
Well, maybe it’s because we already have our parents and pastors and teachers. We have Wikipedia. We have Barnts in the Belfry! The Spirit is invisible. The Spirit is subtle. Besides, how can we be sure that what we hear is really him and not some fleeting thought or masquerading demon?
The same holds true for any other role that is meant to be filled by the Spirit. Unless we are absolutely out of options, we will reach for something physical, something that is easy to connect with. And we’ll probably thank God for it.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t use doctors and teachers and pastors and on and on. Of course he does! Community is an essential aspect of life in the Spirit. But genuine love and unity is impossible if we leave the Holy Spirit out, never pausing to learn the spiritual discipline it takes to really connect with that still, small voice.
We are meant to live as a unified community in Christ by the Spirit for the Father. I think we’re much better at linking arms with our brothers and sisters, hoping that God is watching our efforts, hoping that one day we’ll be rewarded.
My solution? Just sit for a while and soak in this simple, profound reality:
God is in us. He’s actually inside his people.
Let your mind be blown by the possibilities.