Luke records in the New Testament that Jesus said this, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Ref. Luke 24:49)
The “promise” of which Jesus was speaking is recorded in the Old Testament where God said in the book of Joel, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh...” With this promise, God was forecasting a time when He would make the Divine Spirit, universally available to mankind on a personal basis. (Ref. Joel 2:28)
So, Jesus was simply letting His disciples know that the time for the fulfillment of that promise was at hand. Thus, He was encouraging them to wait for this divine enrichment in Jerusalem.
We now know that the promise was,
indeed, fulfilled shortly after Jesus gave them these instructions. That fulfillment
came in dramatic fashion to a group of Christ’s disciples who were gathered in
an upstairs room in Jerusalem during the celebration of the Jewish feast called
Pentecost. And, with that event, both a new era and a new dimension of the God
/ man relationship came into being, as we shall see. (Ref. Acts 2:1-4)
Generally, On the Holy Spirit
In a real sense, you could say that the Holy Spirit is God in His natural state. The New Testament clearly indicates that God is a Spirit. It also indicates His intention to be Emmanuel, meaning, “God who lives among us.” And so we see the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity simply being God in both of those ways. (Ref. John 4:24 // Matthew 1:23)
The Holy Spirit is, indeed, always an invisible Spirit. And, He is, every day, very near to each one of us as the perfectly blended expression of God’s love and respectability, as discussed earlier. And through this invisible nearness, He enables a basic God consciousness for non-believers and an entirely new level of God awareness for the truly devout.
The difference in these two impacts is due to a simple variation in conditions. It is the difference between encountering God as merely an intellectual issue of life as opposed to having an intimate personal involvement with Him.
Thus, in the first case, in order for the non-believer to ultimately experience an intimate relationship with God, the Holy Spirit becomes merely an everyday God consciousness. His purpose is to help the non-believer experience a correct response to God. Always then, He is nudging (sometimes lightly and sometimes not so lightly) the non-believer toward an enlarging and truth-based relationship with God.
It is true, sometimes non-believers suppress this urging. Sometimes they pervert it. But, the Holy Spirit is always that loving, invisible God who is ever near them to move them, subject to their willingness, toward His love and friendship.
For believers, on the other hand, the Holy Spirit has an entirely different impact – actually on two levels. For the new believer, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a “truth guide” and provides the new believer’s introduction to “God, close-up.”
Nevertheless, for the new believer, the Devine Spirit remains external. That is, He is not yet living within the believer. It is more like He is gently leading the believer by the hand through the early process of getting to know God in a fresh, new way.
But, eventually, as the new believer becomes more initiated, the Divine Spirit becomes the medium of that metaphysical merger between the character essence of the believer and that of the Living Christ, as described earlier. And, at this point, a whole new level of God awareness comes to the believer.
Through this very intimate metaphysical connection, a new intuitiveness is enabled within the believer regarding God. Suddenly he or she becomes attuned to the divine nuances at a level which simply does not exist before the Divine Spirit enables this mystical merger with the Living Christ.
So, Jesus would say to His disciples as He spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (Ref. John 14: 15- 21)
About That Invisible Thing
Now, let’s revisit that Invisible thing for a moment before we move deeper into the details of the unique role of the Holy Spirit in the divine drama. A lot of people have a problem with invisible when it comes to God. But, invisible is simply what God looks like in His natural, Spirit form. And a friendship with Him definitely involves becoming comfortable with that reality.
So, to begin that process, consider this. Invisible makes God no less real. It makes Him no less loving. It makes Him no less attractive. In fact, it may actually make Him even more attractive by virtue of the mysteriousness of invisibility. But, in any case, invisible is very much a part of His identity.
And beyond the issue of sight, it is also true that we cannot touch God, nor can we smell Him, or taste Him, or hear Him with our physical ear - at least on most days. So, out of the five physical senses, exactly none of them usually enable us to encounter and meaningfully explore the reality of God.
This has not always been true, of course. Christ, as God, enabled us to know God through all of our physical senses as He walked upon the earth. But even then, with all of our physical senses in play, we found ourselves still unable to really grasp God - so much so, that we crucified Him, instead of embracing His love.
So, bottom line: we will never be able to know this invisible God with just our physical senses. He is simply beyond the reach of such puny equipment. On our best day, God will still be incomprehensible to humanity’s sensory and even our empirical probes of whatever type.
And granted, there are some among us who get very upset at that thought. Their attitude seems to be, “How dare God presume to be bigger than my sensory comprehension?” They seem almost to expect an apology for such a presumption.
However, I don’t really think an apology will be forthcoming. I believe God is pretty confident about who He is. And I am pretty sure He is not going to be apologizing for that any time soon.
I’m truly sorry for those who think God is somehow obligated to present Himself to their physical senses or the scientific method for inspection. He did, indeed, do that once, in Christ. But, He seems to be of the opinion that, once is enough, at least for now.
And, I don’t think He is very inclined to do it again during this redemptive period, and certainly not on a demand basis. He has never really shown Himself to be a big fan of such human arrogance.
So, for those who would embrace such a self-important approach, perhaps I could simply suggest another. You might consider humbly presenting yourself to Him for His inspection, under the auspices of Christ, instead of expecting Him to present Himself to you. I think you will find this a much more effective way to discover the invisible God.
Without question, He is a really big fan of such humility; and, He responds to it quickly. And, in fact, it is only through such an approach that He ever surrenders the opportunity of His intimate friendship. But, within the bounds of this humility-based approach, He absolutely becomes very perceptible through a whole new set of inner sensibilities which Christ enables, as previously mentioned. (Ref. John 14:19-21)
So, it’s simple, really. To be friends with God requires that we become comfortable with “Invisible.” It’s just the way God looks as a Spirit. The reality is that the color of God is normally - well - clear.
Now, The Role of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit has several very
important aspects to His role as a player in the redemptive drama. So, let’s
now consider those that are more prominently exposed in the New Testament to
better understand the whole of His role.
The Holy Spirit:
The Conveyor of the Living Christ
Again, the New Testament records these words of guidance from Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And, I will pray the Father; and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you...” (Ref. John 14:15-18 NKJV)
This passage of scripture begins to expose the idea of the Holy Spirit as the Conveyor of Jesus to mankind following Christ’s return to the Father after the resurrection. Jesus, here, begins to introduce to us His perfect Surrogate, the Holy Spirit, who brings the Savior to mankind in an omnipresent (present everywhere at once) way.
But, these passages also raise the question of how this relationship between Christ and the Holy Spirit works – exactly. And the wording of the above passage certainly does tend to stimulate that discussion.
Jesus begins by saying that He is going to send “another Helper,” to His disciples. He then makes it clear that He is speaking of the Holy Spirit when He identifies the Helper as “the Spirit of Truth.” But then, He concludes by saying, “I will come to you,” seemingly indicating that He will be the Helper. So, the obvious question is this: What gives here?
These statements by Jesus can be explained easily once we introduce three key terms into this discussion. When we understand these ideas, the sense of it all becomes quite clear. The three key terms are these: Influence, Control, and Character Essence.
Understanding the realities which surround these three terms will make very obvious what Jesus is conveying here. And, as promised in our earlier discussion of the Trinity, we will also come to a much better understanding of its real operational mechanism.
And additionally, the realities flowing out of the Divine Trinity will also introduce us to the greater complexities of our own nature. So, let’s begin with the concepts of Influence and Control.
The Proverbial Question
Let’s start with a simple and familiar question which brings sharp clarity to the issues of Influence and Control. The question is this: Which is better - to be a big fish in a little pond, or a little fish in a big pond? Most people quickly choose, Big fish - little pond. But, why?
People typically gravitate toward this option because they instinctively understand that they would have more control over their immediate reality in a big fish - little pond situation. And, in fact, this need for circumstantial control is a universal motive which moves all of us on the most basic level.
So, let’s examine this need for control, more closely. This examination will show us the central place of this motive in man’s existence, in our relationship to each other, and in our relationship to God. And we will be able to note its central standing in God’s redemptive work.
The “Real Money”
Really, everything starts and ends with this idea of control. Whether you are black, white, yellow, or brown, a Type A or B personality, Muslim or Christian, prince or pauper, your daily life, your eternal destiny, and certainly your relationship with God are all very impacted by this one question, “Who is in charge?” The idea is, of course, who has control, and thus, the ability to govern my life.
Because this issue of control is so primary to our existence, it actually creates the “universal currency” after which we all seek - whether wittingly or unwittingly. And, this universal currency is simply what we've come to know as “Influence.”
Influence, It's All About Influence
Influence, by definition, is the power or capacity to produce a desired result. In simpler terms, influence is the power to effect your own will (to exercise control) within a given situation.
In still more “earthy” terms, influence might be said to be our total personal power to bend circumstance to suit our wishes. So, our influence can be seen as the sum total of our ability to express our self within and upon our reality.
Influence - Who has it? How much do we have? What will we do with it? And, what can it do for us? These and other issues surrounding the idea of circumstantial control are the subliminal issues which drive us all on a very primal level.
And, while most of us don’t often look at life merely in terms of influence and control, God absolutely thinks about life in these terms. And Satan certainly thinks in these same terms. These are, in fact, the prime issues of life, whether we have a keen awareness of them or not.
These are the terms which really explain who we are, and why we do what we do. And, these are the issues which mostly define our relationship to God and the workings of His redemptive agenda.
Power In Many Forms
Influence comes in many forms. For example, knowledge, material wealth, military might, social position, or political clout are all just forms of influence. So, as we employ these various means to manage and control life, they simply coalesce under the one heading of a very personalized (you guessed it) - Influence.
And, as the idea of “universal currency” indicates, we can simply use real money as an analogy to better understand the realities surrounding the idea of influence. This is true because the actions, appetites, and motives connected to influence perfectly mimic those which are connected to money. And, that is understandable, since again, money is perhaps the most liquid form of influence.
So, like money, influence is all about how much we have. It is about how we can use it to express ourselves and further our own ends.
Influence is about where we might strategically invest it to gain more. It is about having more than the next guy. It is about always having enough to get what we want - just like money.
Indeed, influence is the real driver and medium of exchange in both the physical and spiritual dimensions of life. So, deep in the human psyche, we all covet this “wealth.”
We want this raw personal power which allows us to impose our will upon our reality - and sometimes, upon the reality of others. And we use many tactics to be able to achieve those ends.
The Means Of Enlargement
For example, many of us busy ourselves, sometimes entirely, in the aggressive pursuit of material wealth. But, again, what we are really pursuing is the power to better control our life circumstance through the use of that wealth.
Sometimes, as mentioned, we also invest our influence to gain more influence later. We invest our energies in education, for example. Sometimes we align our influence with others to enlarge it, as in politics or labor unions.
But, all of these tactics, are really just expressions of our deep seated desire to have and wield personal influence. They simply facilitate our ability to maintain as much control as possible over our life circumstance.
Influence: Personalized and Identified
The Bible says in Genesis “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” And, with that gift of life, man also became a very personalized influence in the Universe.
From the very beginning, mankind had the capacity for sophisticated, consequential, and completely self-determined thoughts and actions. And that capacity was very personalized to each individual. And, that “personalization” of influence is entirely achieved through one thing: our Character Essence - that core essence within us, what the Bible figuratively refers to as our “Heart.” Obviously, the idea of character essence has already widely permeated our previous thoughts up to this point. But, now let’s delve a bit deeper.
The Character Essence
Very obviously, human beings have never been mere mindless clones of each other. Indeed, exactly the reverse is true. We each have this absolutely unique character essence from the moment our soul is formed. And it is from this character essence that our influence develops and our personal identity is established. (Ref. Jeremiah 1:5)
So, what exactly is our character essence? It is simply our uniquely identifiable core being. If we were forced to parse out the different ingredients which make up our character essence it would certainly involve our conscious and subconscious minds, our emotions, and our value system. But, in general terms, it is merely that unique “inner wiring” which makes us who we are as an individual.
So, the overview is this. Our character essence thoroughly identifies and defines us, and thus, shapes the nature of our distinct personal influence. And, in turn, the nature of our influence clearly reflects back to our character essence because it is the express product of that essence.
When you think about it, on those occasions when others seek to truly get to know us, they are really just searching for our true character essence and the influence which it expresses. So, they watch us. They listen to what we say. They delve into our reputation.
Further, they seek to understand our value system. And, they weigh our actions, our interactions with others, and our reactions to life. But, in all of this, what they are ultimately seeking to know is our true identity (character essence) and our influence (our personal impact upon reality) over time.
And additionally, it’s also often true that, as they try to accurately identify us in this way, they are also able to clearly identify the “character image” and influence of others through us. The character image of our parents, for example, can often be well identified by their influence (impact) upon us.
So, identifying someone in this more in-depth way, in terms of their character essence and their influence upon reality, is not really that unusual at all. We simply think of it as carefully vetting a person in order to truly know them. And, obviously, this deeper look can be a precise, thorough, and accurate way to achieve that end.
Now, The Application
With these thoughts in mind, we are ready to return to the previous statements of Jesus. We can now better explore what He was indicating about how the Persons of the Divine Trinity interact to convey each other – and especially, how the Holy Spirit conveys the Living Christ to mankind.
Again, Jesus said this, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And, I will pray the Father; and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (Ref. John 14:15-18 NKJV)
So, it comes to this. Very obviously, God also has a character essence and an influence. And, because the various Persons of the Divine Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share that single Character Essence (the inner make up of their core being) they have a unique ability. They are able not only to be themselves, individually, but, they are able, at the same time, to perfectly represent each other – because they are one in their character essence at all times.
Even when their respective actions may differ in a given moment, yet, they always remain one in that identifying inner character essence that is God, as mentioned earlier. And even those differing momentary actions, in all cases, merely point back to that same shared character essence.
So, when it comes to one
person of the Trinity being a surrogate for the other, it is not even hard for
them. They are always naturally that - due to their shared character
This reality clearly emerges from the conversation which Jesus had with his disciple, Philip, as part of his discourse on the coming Holy Spirit. The Bible records this request of Philip to Jesus during the conversation: “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’”
Jesus then said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father?’” (Ref. John 14:7-11)
What Jesus was actually indicating to Philip was that He, Jesus, was one in character essence (core make-up) with the Father. Thus, He could accurately say, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
So, what these followers of Christ, at the time of this discussion of the Holy Spirit’s coming, failed to recognize was that they had been observing the character essence and the influence of the Father through the Son, all along. They did not understand that Christ, in His daily activities, was constantly and perfectly expressing the character of the Father in the form of values, thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. And through that exhibition, He had already clearly identified for them the character essence of God the Father.
Thus, Jesus would also say to Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” [the expressions which clearly point right back to and identify the Father’s Character Essence which I share]. (Ref. John 14:7-11) [Brackets added]
And this idea of a surrogate representation of the common character essence remains exactly the same when it comes to the Living Christ being conveyed by the Holy Spirit. The character essence of Christ is also perfectly conveyed to the believer through the Holy Spirit by the same oneness of essence which allows Christ to convey the Father.
Thus, the Holy Spirit becomes the believer’s constant and intimate connection to the living Christ. He literally provides all devout believers with constant and simultaneous access to the character essence of Christ through that New Testament, metaphysical merger with their own individual character essence.
The Holy Spirit:
The Bringer Of Newness And Power
So, the Holy Spirit changes everything by serving as the agent of this very personal access to the Living Christ. And, through this agency, He is able to effect a very literal merger between the character essence of Christ and that of the believer.
Again, He is the medium through which Christ is able to become truly enjoined to every devout believer. And, in turn, through this merger of the divine with the human essence, we are able to know the personal newness and empowered existence which comes from Christ living within. So, Jesus would say, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NKJV)
So, the major aspect of the role of the Holy Spirit is to affect this very real merger between the devout believer and the Living Christ. And, the ultimate purpose of this merger with is to empower a thorough renewal of the believer’s core essence, which, in turn, radiates renewal outward into their entire influence.
And, again, the purpose of this thorough renewal is to bring the believer to a true heart-oneness with God. And, indeed, this brilliant, grace-designed redemptive process does precisely that. It brings an intimate, comfortable, and durable daily friendship with God based in the strong matrix of that shared core oneness.
So, Jesus would say near the end of His discussion with His followers on the coming of the Spirit, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (Ref. John 14:19 -21 - NKJV)
And, a short time later, as Jesus anticipated His return to the Father, He would say this as He prayed to the Father for His followers in light of that departure, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are...
“…I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (Ref. John 17:11-23 - NKJV)
A Brief Clarification
We should note at this point that this oneness with the divine essence which we are discussing, as wondrous as it is, does not make us divine. It does not turn us into God, or make us almighty. Nor does it entirely erase our humanity or our personal identity.
What it does do, and all that it was ever intended to do, is renew our relationship to God through the renewal of our fallen nature. God created the human creature that He wanted to love and with whom he want to share life. So, He is not now trying to re-make us into a god, or absorb us into His God-nature, through Christ. He is simply restoring and enriching the beautiful human nature of the creature He created to love and with which He wanted to share life in the first place.
To be sure, there is a dimension of power afforded to the devout believer who shares in the Christ-essence. But, this power is a very defined and targeted energy which only ever works in the interest of human renewal.
It is not, and never will be, a broad based power which operates on the level of the Almighty’s. So, the empowerment that we receive through our connection to the Christ-essence does not turn us into superseding titans of power. It simply enables us to become a renewed human being, so we can experience a truly elevated and enduring relationship with the God who created us for that simple purpose.
The New Testament Twist
Now, getting beyond all of that, this renewing merger with Christ through the Holy Spirit, is the element in God’s redemptive plan which no one really saw coming until these New Testament times. But, this empowering Spiritual connection is, actually the Target Event of these times.
Our penitent conversion is but the gate through which we pass to get to this truly life changing event: our personal metaphysical integration with Christ. And, this powerful and trans-formative experience is what the Holy Spirit enables as He makes Christ universally available to the truly devout.
The Holy Spirit:
Our Interpreter for Truth
Again, as we have already read, Jesus also said this of the Holy Spirit, “…And He will guide you into all truth.” And remember, as discussed earlier, the definition of Truth is really very simple. Truth is the correct interpretation of reality. The Holy Spirit actually becomes that for the believer every day, just as Jesus promised. (Ref. John 16:13)
If you recall, we discussed, in earlier sections, how, as a part of the treachery of that first temptation in the Garden, man was induced to embrace his own alternative and very subjective interpretation of reality. Also recall that, resulting from this deception by Satan, good and evil became subject to the individual’s point of view.
Thus, the Adversary managed to ingrain into the thinking of mankind the confusion of alternative interpretations to God’s view of reality. So, sin (self-determination: the self-guided approach to life) was born in the heart of mankind. And, by this devastating divergence of heart, man became separated from God.
However, the Holy Spirit has now become the powerful and completely effective remedy for that ingrained confusion which was introduced so long ago. Now, finally, in these New Testament times, believers are reconnected to the truth, God’s correct interpretation of reality, though their merger with the character essence of Christ, by the Divine Spirit.
So, the Holy Spirit enables us once again to see true good and true evil. He becomes the believer’s real clarity, furnishing us, once again, with not only an awareness of the Godly perspective on life, but a Christ-empowered inclination (faith) to embrace it.
The Holy Spirit:
Bringer Of A
Whole New Way Of Life
Having discussed the previous issues, we are now better able to appreciate a powerful message in the timing of God’s broad based offering of His Spirit to humanity. As we noted earlier, God chose the Jewish holiday of Pentecost as the occasion upon which to first make His Spirit universally available to devout believers.
The Feast of Pentecost was and is celebrated by the Jewish culture to commemorate “the giving of the divine law” which occurred in the region of Sinai in the Jewish culture’s early history. That law, given through Moses, was God’s graceful guidance to them for a good and fulfilling life.
But, there was one very pronounced problem with the Mosaic Law. It was external to the human nature. It was written on tablets of stone, both literally and figuratively. The law was not integral to the human psyche. That is, the Law was not intuitive or instinctive to those early Jewish recipients.
So, lacking this natural internalization, the Law, though intended for good, yet remained to them awkward and hard to consistently implement in their daily lives. It simply couldn't naturalize itself within the fallen human nature.
But God, even at that early beginning place, already had a plan to do that very thing. It was a plan to entirely solve this problem of “awkwardness” bound up in the externalized nature of the law. It was a plan, entirely based in Christ, to bring us once again to a true harmony of heart with our Creator in the most wondrous and durable way.
Now, A Deep Dive
To glimpse of this wondrous redemptive thing which only the graceful heart of God could devise and initiate, we will, from this point, need to do a “deep dive” into the details of it all. My promise to the reader is that in less than fifteen pages from now, we will come up again for air. But, indeed, we must go to this depth of detail to really catch the genius of what God has done for mankind in Christ.
So, I would just implore the reader to explore these depths with patience, giving this relatively brief excursion the little bit of time and mental energy it takes to truly connect the redemptive dots which we will encounter as we go to the depths of the authentic redemptive plan.
If you will do this, I think it safe to say, you will always be glad you did. We are about to glimpse the truly magnificent redemptive workings which have, in Jesus, set the devout forever free of Satan’s wretched darkness. So, take a deep breath, and in we go.
The prophet Ezekiel beautifully
foretold God’s ultimate plan for healing mankind’s struggle to internalize God’s
values and views. In his writings the prophet conveyed this hope from the Lord,
first to ancient Israel, but prophetically and ultimately, to New Testament
believers who would truly embrace the Lordship of Christ.
God said through the prophet, “…Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.” (Ref. Ezekiel 36:24-27- NKJV)
So, on the day of that very special Pentecostal Feast in that upstairs room in Jerusalem, God began to fulfill His thoroughly trans-formative promise to make His Spirit universally available to mankind. Beginning with that first small group of Christ’s devoted followers, everything changed in the God / man relationship on that day. (Ref. Acts 2: 1-4)
On that day the righteousness of God’s law became truly internalized and naturalized in man’s heart through this Spirit-enabled character merger with Christ. And, God’s truth again became the beloved and fulfilling thing in man’s heart (character essence) that it was always meant to be.
This happened then, and still happens today, because, through that character “link-up” with Christ the believer’s heart is connected to the divine value system, which is contained within the character essence of Christ. And, as a result of this internalization of the divine values, God’s truth, His interpretation of reality, becomes naturally comfortable to us once again.
So, God’s truth, His correct interpretation of reality, is now, no longer an awkward external. Rather, it has become a very instinctive part of our own essence through our merger with Christ.
Thus, on that very first post-ascension Pentecost, the faithful began to actually experience and celebrate the final, and wonderfully effective, “Giving of the Law,” so to speak, as a beautifully internalized value system. This was truly the Pentecostal Celebration (the giving of the law) that God initially had in mind and had long anticipated for His people.
This time, God’s love appeared as what it truly is. No longer is it just some rigid, stone-like external, but a completely benevolent, comfortable, and fulfilling life view which is now fully owned by the believer as their own within their own heart. Through Christ, then, the divine values become as much a part of the believer as they are of the Divine Trinity.
So, for the first time since man’s fall in the Garden, through this merger with the character essence of Christ, mankind began to taste, once again, the sweetness of a true heart-agreement with his Creator. And through this new Christ-based view of life, man began to discover a whole new level of personal intimacy with his Creator, and to taste the profound inner peace which flows out this new heart-agreement.
The First Impact: Our Faith
This personal merger with Christ is, indeed, inestimable in its value to the believer’s quality of life. And, one of the most immediate impacts of the Spiritual merger is to our faith.
It’s really very simple. As our core person becomes integrated with the enriching character essence of Christ, own puny faith (humility of influence before God), is immediately strengthened by His faith, His strong and consistent humility. This is the direct result of His value system beginning to overwrite that of the believer in a renewing way.
In the New Testament, the apostle, Paul, describes this transition from merely our own small and inconsistent faith to the much more vital and empowering faith of Christ in this way. He says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Ref. Galatians 2:16 KJV)
And, in another place the apostle, Paul, said, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith…” (Ref. Philippians 3:8-9 KJV)
So, among the foundational corrections made to our own character essence through this Spirit brokered merger with Christ is the inconsistency of our faith. The strong vitality of Christ’s faith immediately begins to bolster our weaker faith as we connect to His essence.
And, out of this more consistent attitude of humble trust is born, not only a consistently obedient lifestyle, but a new level of peace in our relationship with God. And how could that not come to pass as we begin to experience a more consistent heart-agreement with God through this new Christ-based humility?
Enlarging harmony is only the natural outflow of a deepening heart-agreement. And that is certainly the case as our Christ-empowered faith begins to deepen our embrace of all that God is. As the New Testament indicates throughout, this enlarging heart-oneness is, again, the foundational matrix of our friendship with Him.
Another immediate impact of the merger of our character essence with that of Christ involves the idea of Grace. Obviously, grace is also a very important concept in redemption. However, in more recent times, grace has come to be widely, but erroneously, understood to mean merely, “unmerited favor.”
This is actually more the definition of mercy (which is only one product of grace) than it is grace. However, “Mercy” and “Grace” do not equally interchange as terms.
So, to accurately understand the meaning of Grace, and thus, its full scope in the redemptive work, let's just look at the dictionaries’ recognized definition of the word.
And, we should probably point out here that the Bible does not have its own special meanings for the words which it contains. In fact, just the reverse is true. In any reputable translation of the Bible, every effort goes toward the accurate rendering into the commonly held usage.
It is a necessary requirement for a Bible translator that he or she have a broad and accurate knowledge of both the language which is being translated from and the language which is being translated to. This is always the prime requirement so that words can be employed accurately regarding their well-established meanings.
So, to understand the Bible correctly, and therefore to understand God correctly, we should hold to those accurate common meanings as well. Off-handed catch phrases and the clichés of pop-preaching are not really the stuff of durable truth. So, let’s consult the books that are.
Webster's Dictionary defines Grace as, “Seemingly effortless beauty, ease and charm of movement, proportion, or form; a charming quality or characteristic.” Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary defines it as, “Any excellence, characteristic, quality, or endowment.”
The Greek word which is translated as grace every time, save one, in the New Testament is “Charis.” Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, a widely and highly regarded work, gives this definition for that word. “That which affords joy, pleasure, delight.”
Strong’s Dictionary of the Greek New Testament, also a very highly regarded work, gives this meaning for “Charis”. “Graciousness (as gratifying) of manner or act.”
Obviously, these dictionaries give us a much broader definition of grace than is involved in the popular but very limited idea of “unmerited favor.” And, the broad, composite idea that they provide is really a very simple one. These respected lexicons describe grace, in short, as simply an “innate goodness” (innate meaning, occurring naturally).
So, this broader idea of Grace as simply a characteristic goodness of one’s nature is, indeed, a much larger idea than that of mere mercy or unmerited favor. And, this distinction becomes very important to an accurate understanding of the transforming process which brings us to a vital friendship with God.
It is this larger idea of grace as a naturally occurring goodness which is exactly the way the term should, and really must, be understood. This larger and more accurate definition allows us to mine all of the richness which the New Testament offers to believers in this word.
And, if we are truly astute, we will not ponder this larger concept of grace for long before we start to wonder about God’s capacity for this naturally occurring goodness. In other words, we will start to ask questions like, Where does God’s grace come from? or What is the underlying mechanism which causes this naturally occurring goodness to occur in the character essence of God – and for the matter, in man as well.
So, let’s explore, for a time, the implications of this larger idea of grace. And, while we’re at it, let’s just go ahead and deal with those “How does this come to be” questions which attend this issue of grace.
True Grace - And Its Distilling Mechanism
So, the operations of grace unfold like this in God’s renewal process. Again, as we are integrated with Christ through that Spirit arranged character merger, grace, like faith, is another aspect of the divine character essence which is immediately transferred to the believer through this event.
But, what is important to understand is that this transfer is more about the “Goose” than the “Golden Egg.” In other words, it is Christ’s whole capacity, including the underlying mechanism which produces this instinctive goodness in His nature, which is shared with the believer through the Spiritual merger. I know, clear as mud, right?
So, let’s dive even a bit deeper here, into the intricacies of what happens when we are Spiritually enjoined to Christ. And, as we continue our careful dissection of this character merger, the nature of the “grace mechanism” will become clear.
Are The Key
So, here we go into the very depths
of the Spiritual transformation of the devout believer. And, let’s begin with
this. In short, when we are joined to the nature of Christ, we experience a transition
to a whole new plane of God-awareness.
And this sudden, new perspective can be explained by one occurrence: the inflow of a new set of values, the divine values, as we have already noted. And, as previously mentioned, the faith value is the foundational value. But, beyond that, we are also connected to the whole of Christ’s value system through the Spiritual baptism.
So, by now, we have mentioned the idea of values several times throughout earlier discussions. But, at this point, we need to discuss the issue of values a bit more extensively.
Values: Life’s Filter System
A value is simply a very primary and dearly held belief, life tenet, principle, etc. And a value system is the whole of all of our values taken together. And, these values are so basic to our character essence that they actually become mostly instinctive in their impact on our thoughts and actions.
And, these very visceral heart motives serve as our first line of perception, the interpretive context through which we filter all of life. Thus, our value system serves as a very intuitive motivational autopilot to guide our actions and reactions in and to life.
So ultimately, our values filter and interpret all of the issues of life. As a result, it’s our values which determine our likes and dislikes. They determine what is important and what is not. And, our values determine what we understand to be right or wrong. And, it is our value system which always decides the most basic issue of all: the issue of good and evil.
So, understanding all of this about values, it’s easy to see how God’s good value system produces gracefulness (an innate or naturally occurring goodness) in His nature. And, it then becomes easy to see how, as we start to share the value system of God through our Spiritual integration with Christ, the same is done for us.
Spectacular Impact Of Grace
And, at this point, we dare not fail to take note of the superlative benefit to devout believers which flows out of this proper concept of grace. For believers to gain access, through the Living Christ, to this intuitive goodness enables a hugely positive change in the way God’s people are personally governed and guided in their day-to-day responses to God and to life.
It all plays out like this. As the divine values become internalized within
our own character essence so that we own them as our own, our good responses to
life’s various circumstances become much more instinctive. They simply flow naturally from those good divine values which have now truly become
ours through our character connection to the Living Christ.
So, this symbiotic, Christ-furnished grace, this new naturally occurring goodness within us, begins to provide the believer with a whole new and much easier and more natural form of personal government. The apostle, Paul confirms the transition to this new “Grace-based heart-government” by his statement in Romans, chapter 6. There he says, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
With this and many other such statements, the Bible affirms that, in these New Testament times, the living Christ has enabled us to move beyond that difficult to manage and awkward system of external rules. Rather, He has brought the believer to this fully ingrained awareness of good, which is now truly part of the human make-up. As such, it is a much more intuitive means of governing our heart, and thus, our behavior. (Ref. Rom.16: 20 & 24 // 1Cor. 1:4 / 15:10 / 16:23 // 2 Cor. 1:12 / 9:8 / 13:14 // Gal. 6:18 // Col. 3:16 / 4:6 // 1 Thes. 5:28 // 2Tim. 2:1 // Phm.1:25 // Heb. 12:28 / 13:9 // 2 Pet. 3:18 // Rev. 22:21)
And, with this very fundamental change comes a wonderful new simplicity to the believer’s daily existence and to his or her relationship with the holy God. Now, instead of a constant and demanding rule management process, the Christ-enabled believer simply responds from her own Christ-provided awareness of true good. So, in this very comfortable and natural way, grace (our naturally occurring goodness) becomes the very effective internal replacement for the awkward and ineffective external law.
Obviously, this is a far superior means of heart government and life management. Now, the believer is able to naturally and comfortably respond to a given life circumstance in the simplicity of their shared Christ-based instinct for goodness. And they are able to respond to God in the same way. Such is the ease of this new, heart-government. And, it is entirely the gift of the Living Christ, living within the believer who then symbiotically shares His truly good value system.
But, What About Our Druthers
But, how could this high degree of spontaneity in Christ not take us far astray in our perspectives, and thus ultimately, in our behavior. What keeps our powerful want-to’s, for example, from overriding our real need-to’s. What keeps our druthers, from derailing our duty?
To be sure, it is very important to understand that this new grace guided life does not make us a law unto ourselves. Rather, it attunes us to God’s highest law – His own good heart. So, what keeps those outlandish tangents from occurring?
Well, grace does. This is the precise thing it is designed to do. So, either this Christ enabled grace (innate goodness of heart) is real for the devout believer, or it is not. Either it does bring us a viable and durable internal government which easily produces a day to day life which is consistently pleasing to God, or it does not.
But, indeed, the Bible teaches that it does, as in this passage. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And, the failure of some to experience this higher plain changes nothing. It is, nevertheless, always there for the having, in the Living Christ. (Ref. Ephesians 2:10 NKJV)
The sad reality is that, from the beginning, some among us have always very deftly managed to ignore, and squander, and deny, and suppress, and pervert the magnificent opportunity which Christ offers to a true heart. And, that will seemingly, in this dimension of life, always be the only religious reality that some ever know.
But, because some are deceived, and/
or deceive themselves, and get it wrong,
does not mean that this genuine and quite spectacular transformation of the
human experience cannot possibly exist for anyone. And, in fact, it does. This
entirely new and elevated plain of life, does absolutely exist for the devout
Values, Restored Truth
And still, even beyond the
inestimable value of this new graceful heart government, we are also able to
experience through the indwelling Christ essence, yet another invaluable benefit.
Indeed, it is the resulting benefit of restored
truth, i.e. a Christ-interpreted reality.
As we begin to share in Christ’s interpretive context (His values) and filter our life through them, we are brought back to a true perspective on life’s issues, especially the ultimate issues of good and evil. Thus, that precious thing which we lost in the Garden of Eden, the divine perspective on life, Authentic Truth, again, the correct interpretation of reality is, through the Living Christ, also restored to the devout believer.
So, this new Christ-based value system then, is, indeed, the “goose” which constantly lays the daily “golden eggs” of grace (intuitive goodness) and authentic truth in our daily lives. And, in doing so, it enables us to escape the delusions of those deceptive, self-based perspectives to actually see life correctly - as God sees it.
So, such is the spectacular and far-reaching impact of one’s Spiritual integration into Christ. It brings to our own character essence the mechanism which actually distills grace in God’s heart – the divine values. And, as our value system is overwritten by that of the Living Christ that grace (naturally occurring goodness) which those values produce in Him, also produce the same in us.
In Infant Form
And certainly, we should note that all of this, the value system of Christ and the grace and truth which it produces, comes to us first in primordial (or infant) form. In fact, it is easy to see an analogy between the Spiritual rebirth and the physical birth in this regard.
It goes like this. Notice that in the physical birth, at the very moment of conception, the stage becomes set for an entirely new personality expression in the world. And that expression is largely defined by the encoded DNA message contained within that new life.
And, that defining genetic message is there from the very beginning of our existence as a person. But, also note this. It only ever fully expresses itself with time and life experience.
So also, is the process of this new metaphysical birth in Christ. Indeed, it is very important to understand that we receive the Christ essence, including His values, in infant, form. And, God then uses time and the circumstances of life experience as maturing agents to bring full expression to “the Christ Code,” (the new value system) within us.
And, we should also note that, just as there are environmental impacts, challenges, and setbacks, etc. in the physical process of growth to maturity, so also are these in the metaphysical process of growing up in Christ. Nevertheless, these struggles do not disable or disavow this metaphysical growth process.
In fact, they are actually an integral and important part of it. Thus, with time, this new “Metaphysical DNA,” the primordial “Christ Code” within the believer, eventually finds its full expression in the form of a mature Christ-based character essence containing this wonderfully mature grace producing value system.
Paul describes this growth process and the eventual maturity which results from it, in these words. “And He [Jesus] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ…” (Ref. Ephesians 4:11-15 NKJV) [Brackets added]
So, through one’s Spiritual integration with Christ is transmitted the values of Christ. And this new value system begins, as the “grace production mechanism,” to actually produce grace (an innate goodness) within the believer as he or she matures in Christ. And, grace then enables a spontaneously correct response to life's issues and to God.
The Faith / Grace Advantage
Before we close, for now, our discussion of the Role of the Holy Spirit and His redemptive impact on the believer, we should also point out something else. To be clear, we should note that even sharing in the faith and grace of Christ does not make good choices and actions a completely automatic response for the believer.
Never – neither in this physical life or in the life to come – is the human being relieved of his or her moral capacity or responsibility to always volitionally choose good over evil. This capacity and this responsibility are intrinsic and indispensable elements of the human essence. God created us with this moral dimension, and our reclamation in Christ in no way erases that dimension or diminishes its necessity and importance.
So, if the guiding faith and grace of Christ, does not make good choices and actions an “auto-response,” what do these things do? Well, the short answer is this. A Christ enabled faith and grace simply changes our attractions.
How It Works
It works like this. The sinful motive of self-determination, the motive to merely please one’s self, once seemed so irresistibly attractive. But now, revitalized in Christ, our new Christ-based value system recognizes and exposes this essential sin motive for what it truly is: ugly and evil. And similarly, our Christ renewed values also expose the faith and grace based motives for what they are: truly good.
So, in the Living Christ, those now engrafted divine values, by giving us a new and more accurate instinct for what is truly good, has shifted the weight of attractiveness away from previously dominant sin motive of self-determination to those faith and grace generated motives. Thus, equipped with this new awareness of, and attraction to true goodness, those truly good motives become more than a match for that old sin motive, which was once so irresistible.
So, while good choices and actions are not absolutely automatic to the believer, yet, in Christ, that responsibility is no longer overwhelming. Instead, it has been made completely manageable and consistently doable as the faith and grace of Christ, now operates within us on the most primary governing level of our heart.
So, when faced with the choice to humbly trust God’s perspective or gratify self, it becomes, not automatic, but much easier to choose correctly. The reason being, it is now the more naturally attractive choice – made so by the value system of Christ operating within us as devout believers.
Paul framed his description of this new Christ-based affinity for the faith/grace response this way in his writings. “For by grace [God’s] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ref. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV)
Now, to really enjoy the power of these verses and the wonderful redemption they describe, lets’ take a moment to paraphrase them by plugging in the concepts which we have just been discussing. In that case, the verses could be read like this:
A Conceptual Paraphrase
Through His innate sense of good (grace) God found a way to forgive you by recognizing your faith response to the Savior (your willingness to make your personal influence entirely subject to His - by embracing His values, His truth, and His directions for your life).
But, be advised and do not be proud or boastful regarding this faith decision. For, the faith which finally saves you is not really yours at all. It is the faith (influential humility) of Christ operating in you, a gift from Him, provided through the Spiritual baptism (your metaphysical merger with the Living Christ).
this renewal of your inner person, through that Spiritual connection to the
character essence of the Living Christ is truly the redemptive workmanship of
God. And, as a result, you, too, are now equipped to embrace true good and
produce truly good works, just as God intended, all along, that you should do.
Not Just A Growth Process
Now, there remains but one final caution to be offered regarding this core renewal which the Divine Spirit brings to us as the perfect Surrogate of the Living Christ. Obviously, as noted, the temporal aspect (the personal growth, in Christ, which happens over time and through life experience) is important and intrinsic to our Spiritual (metaphysical) maturity. However, the Spiritual renewal process should never be thought of only as a simple growth process.
As noted earlier, our Spiritual merger with Christ certainly initiates this time-based aspect of the renewal process. But, to be clear, it is not, and never can be – merely that.
Genuine newness and our eventual maturity in Christ never results from merely the longevity of a religious walk or the enlarging of religious experience or knowledge. Becoming a “new creature in Christ” is always rooted in an actual Spiritual integration with Christ, not merely in growing older, wiser, and more sophisticated in your religious walk.
Again, Jesus said in John, chapter 15, of the Bible “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
So, absent a personal merger with Jesus Christ (an actual connection to the vitality of the “Vine,” which is His character essence) the believer is left without any real possibility of reaching a “God-approvable” state of completion.
To be sure, intense human effort can, in some measure, make us wiser and enable us to live somewhat more consistently than if we did not try at all. But, such effort, in any measure, cannot literally connect us to the real character essence of Christ.
Thus, it cannot connect us to His empowering faith or to His grace and truth distilling value system. So, mere learning and personal growth, in and of itself, can never bring us to a truly intimate heart-oneness with God.
Only a personal, Holy Spirit-enabled merger with the Living Christ can do those indispensable things. Human effort, in and of itself, simply has no real capacity for true and thorough redemption. That occurs only through our literal connection to the metaphysical vitality of the Living Christ which brings His shared character essence to life within us.
The Present Grassroots Condition
As we close, for now, this discussion of the redemptive role of the Holy Spirit as our connection to the Living Christ, it becomes very obvious that the New Testament is new in much more than just a chronological sense. It is completely new in terms of the believer’s Christ-enabled capacity for a daily intimacy with God.
Because the Spirit now literally connects the very nature of Christ to that of the believer, everything has, indeed, changed. Thus, the apostle could truly write “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (Ref. 2 Corinthians 5:17 - KJV)
But, the sad truth is that the grassroots condition of the contemporary Church, under all of its different labels, has become, and is becoming, increasingly deteriorated in this regard. And, that deterioration is largely based in two errors in contemporary thought.
First, the Spiritual vitality of the Church is presently sagging because of the widespread assumption that the Spiritual merger is simply intrinsic to the conversion moment. That is, the believer’s Spiritual baptism into Christ is just an automatic and indistinguishable part of one’s conversion to Christ. Thus, the believer has no inclination to intensely pursue this experience after conversion as a stand-alone event in the redemptive process - as we are encouraged to do in Luke, chapter 11, and other places in the New Testament.
And second, the present Church is struggling to find this elevated Spiritual life-plane in the Living Christ because it has widely embraced an unbalanced pop-gospel. In truth, the ascendant Gospel of the modern Church is one which maximizes the idea of forgiveness and virtually ignores the idea of a real and thorough personal renewal of the believer’s character essence and life through the power of the Living Christ.
Error #1: The Timing
So, let’s look first at this idea of the Spiritual baptism as being “intrinsic” to the conversion event. In other words, this is the idea that the Spiritual baptism occurs at the very moment that we consciously embrace the Lordship of Christ.
In truth, the Spiritual baptism is not normally “an automatic” of the conversion moment. It is vastly more often a stand-alone event which occurs sometime later in the redemptive process following our initial embrace of Christ. And, indeed, the timing of this life-changing integration with the Savior is, in truth, very much predicated on the intensity of our desire to find and experience this trans-formative event.
This is why Jesus would say, regarding the gift of the Spirit, “…ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The idea here is that we are expected to actively pursue this intimacy with God. (Ref. Luke 11: 9)
And, Jesus was very specific that we should be truly adamant in this desire. And again, the successful pursuit of the Spiritual baptism is very much dependent on the veracity of the believer’s appetite for God’s up-close friendship. (Ref. Luke 11: 5-8)
In truth, there are no specific explanations in the Bible as to whether the baptism of the Spirit is intrinsic to the conversion moment or involves something of an intervening time after conversion. But, all of the anecdotal evidence in the Old and New Testament, save the one very specialized incident at the home of Cornelius in the book of Acts, clearly indicates that there is typically an intervening time of varying length between the moment of conversion and the believer’s Spiritual baptism.
In The Old Testament
For example, in the Old Testament, the comparison of the Jewish Exodus to the New Testament redemptive journey is an analogy which works very well for our New Testament redemption. Indeed, we can gain great insight from that Old Testament transformation of the nation of Israel as we compare it to the New Testament transformation of the individual believer.
However, this analogy only accurately holds up if we recognize the significance of the intervening period of time between the Jew’s initial commitment to follow God out of Egypt and their later entry into the Promise Land.
That intervening period in the wilderness was intended to humble God’s people and affirm their faith. And, the words of the Bible indicate that the people were aware of this. The Old Testament records these words.
“And all the people saw the thundering’s, and the lightning’s, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, 'Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” (Ref. Exodus 20: 18-21)
So, in the Exodus journey of the Jewish nation, a wonderful Old Testament archetype of New Testament redemption, there was this confirmation period which occurred before the Promise Land was made available. And, it had this very definite purpose: to confirm the devotion of God’s people.
And a similar period of confirmation was precisely the necessity which the Apostle, Paul, indicated to be still very necessary for New Testament believers in his letter to his aid, Timothy. In that letter, the apostle said, “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily…” This was a direct reference to that first century means of commending a believer to God as a candidate for their Spiritual baptism into Christ. And, the apostle’s simple indication here is, Do not do that too quickly after their profession of faith in Christ. (Ref. 1 Timothy 5:22 NKJV)
In The New Testament
We can also point to many believers in the pages of the New Testament who were converted to faith in Christ well before they received the gift of the Spirit. Among these would be the original Apostles and other early disciples. (Ref. Acts 2:1-4)
We can also notice references in the writings of the New Testament to those who received the Spirit fairly quickly after their conversion – but still very clearly after the conversion moment. This would be, most notably, the Apostle, Paul, and the believers which he later discovered at Ephesus during one of his missionary journeys. (Ref. Acts 9:1-18 // Acts 19: 1-7)
And, indeed, there does seem to be one incident in the New Testament where the baptism of the Spirit was received essentially at the moment of conversion. This occurred on the occasion of Peter preaching the Gospel to a group in the home of Cornelius.
However, this was a very unique situation though which God intended to convey a clear message to the early Jewish Church, in an unmistakable way, that salvation in Christ was also available to the Gentile world. And the scripture makes it fairly clear that this was a group of people who were already, for some time, devoutly pursuing God, though in innocent ignorance of Christ. (Ref. Acts 10:1-45)
Obviously, God is always free to do as He pleases, and He did so in the case of Cornelius to suit His ends. However, the vast preponderance of scriptural examples indicates that the norm is definitely to encounter a waiting period, a confirmation time - sometimes longer, sometimes shorter - between one’s conversion and the baptism of the Spirit.
But, the intent of all of this case building is not simply to win an intellectual point. It is to expose the error and the danger of this widespread contemporary notion that the Spiritual baptism is always intrinsic to the conversion moment when, in fact, the opposite is true. This mistake causes believers to exert no substantial effort in pursuit of the Spiritual baptism – when substantial investment is actually the requirement.
So, resulting from this failure to follow Christ’s instructions to adamantly ask, and seek, and knock after the gift of the divine Spirit, the believer fails to experience the Spiritual merger with Christ. And that failure entirely preempts the renewal aspect of redemption, as we have seen. And thus, ultimately, it defeats redemption, itself.
So, we come to the far too wide-spread condition in the contemporary Church. It is a non-Christ-empowered life where believers are left attempting to follow and serve Christ with nothing more than their own puny resources. But, as noted earlier, mere human resource and effort is totally insufficient to bring us to a God-approved condition.
Thus, the obvious and correct course of action is simply rise above this prevailing error of our times. The right thing to do is to pursue, with all of our heart, a personal and vividly perceptible Spiritual baptism into the character essence of Christ, following our conversion.
Error #2: Forgiveness Only
We have been noticing throughout this section on the Holy Spirit, just how indispensable this Spirit-provided metaphysical connection is to the redemptive process. And it is true that the Holy Spirit immediately begins to nudge us toward this “Priority-one Experience” after our conversion. However, due to pop-preaching and bad theology, those urging’s are being widely defeated in the modern Church by another serious mistake.
We often fail to respond to this leading of God’s Spirit simply because, as mentioned, we have widely begun to conceive of redemption only in terms of forgiveness. But, in truth, the authentic redemptive plan of God is now and has always been about, not just forgiveness, but forgiveness and renewal.
So, the New Testament writer would pen this encouragement: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ref. Eph. 4:17-24 - NKJV)
When we understand that God’s redemptive intention is not only to provide forgiveness, but to immediately initiate a here-and-now renewal process in the believer through his or her symbiotic relationship with the Living Christ, then the importance of the Spiritual baptism becomes easily apparent. But, when we conceive of redemption as only being about forgiveness, the real point of the Spiritual baptism, and thus the impetus to pursue it with intensity, is lost.
A Quick Side Note: It’s Also a Process
And, as a quick side note, this fundamental mistake also widely causes the modern Church to make a residual mistake in its thinking. This one-dimensional, “forgiveness-only gospel” also causes us to conceive of redemption, essentially, as a momentary decision rather than the life process that it actually is.
This happens because, indeed, our forgiveness is initiated in the moment of our conversion to Christ. So, if forgiveness is all you are thinking about, then redemption, itself, becomes essentially defined by that conversion moment where you were instantly forgiven.
But, in the correct view of a redemption, which takes into account the necessity of both forgiveness and renewal, we start to understand redemption in a much more accurate, multidimensional way. We start to see it, as we should, for the longer, every-day process that it also involves.
So, for sure, authentic redemption is initiated in a moment of time. But, it is by no means concluded in a moment of time, as the pop-gospel of mere forgiveness has caused us to widely believe across the rank and file of the contemporary Church.
A Dangerous Course
So, these are all serious errors in the thinking of the contemporary Church which have contributed to our widespread Spiritual anemia. And these mistakes have deeply eroded our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s role in our redemption. And they are the reason we are largely losing our experiential grip on this constant symbiotic connection to the Living Christ.
But, in this critically late hour of God’s redemptive time table, it is both ludicrous and dangerous to be minimizing the experience of this indispensable, stand-alone, redemptive event which follows our conversion in the normal course of the redemptive process. This personal character integration with Christ is absolutely the “Ultimate Target Event” of God’s authentic redemptive agenda for mankind. And it certainly deserves better than to be minimized or made into some childish sideshow of personal aggrandizement.
Truly, it is Christ’s magnificent Cross which enables our forgiveness. But, it is His equally magnificent Resurrection which furnishes us with the Living Christ who can, in turn, share His living essence with us through this divinely arranged metaphysical merger. And, in that sharing, believers are then able to experience, not only God’s forgiveness, but also a Christ-empowered here-and-now renewal.
So, redemption is not just about the Cross and forgiveness. It is also about a game-changing Resurrection and a life-changing renewal. The authentic Gospel has always been about both of these elements.
The Holy Spirit:
“I will not leave you comfortless [helpless]: I will come to you.” Those were the words of Jesus with which we began. And, indeed, across the centuries, He has fully kept this promise to devout believers in the most life-transforming way, as we have discussed. And, it is the superlative role of His perfect Surrogate, the Divine Spirit, to bring the character essence of Christ to the heart of every believer who will seriously seek this life-changing daily intimacy with the Savior. (Ref. John 14:15-18 NKJV) [Brackets Added]