I can’t remember where it was I heard him say it, but I’ll never forget something Dr. Lewis Foster said in a Bible study I was attending. Talking about Christians he said, “I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us.” I didn’t grasp the full impact of what he was saying that day, but after all these years I’m coming to understand it.
When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death, resurrection, and return to heaven He told them the Father would give them another advocate to be with them (John 14:16). A little later He told them: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7b). There is a lot more from Jesus about the Holy Spirit in chapters 14, 15, and 16; but I want to focus on the designation another advocate for the Holy Spirit and as a replacement for Jesus.
The Holy Spirit really isn’t a replacement for Jesus (that is my word to get your attention), except in the sense of Jesus’ presence with and in His followers. Jesus’ absence from them when He returned to heaven was replaced by the coming of the Holy Spirit. I certainly don’t understand exactly what and how it all happened, but after His resurrection Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). Following His ascension they “were filled with the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born (Acts 2:4).
The rest of the New Testament makes it clear that every follower of Jesus has the gift of the Holy Spirit. While much more can and should be said about His role, the basic purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit in believers is to help them live the Christian life. But the Spirit does not force us—He does not make us do what is right or keep us from doing wrong. He invites us to allow Him to help us and to cooperate with Him.
I’m intrigued by this term advocate for the Holy Spirit. (Remember Jesus said the Spirit would be another advocate, indicating He was the first one.) The Greek word literally means “one called alongside of.” In addition to advocate, the word is variously translated comforter, helper, counselor, strengthener, supporter, and exhorter. There are no clear distinctions among these meanings as they overlap, but I’m confident we all would agree that at times we need what each meaning suggests.
We will never perfectly understand how God can be three in one as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or exactly how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. But we know God is three in one and that as Christians we have received the Holy Spirit. Our challenge and privilege is to continue to invite Him more and more into our lives and to cooperate with Him in what He wants to do in us and for us and through us.
I don’t think we make enough of the gift of the Holy Spirit in us. Do you?
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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/45409431@N00/2522669590“>”Flying gull” – Möwe im Flug</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/“>(license)</a>