“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:38–39)
It is impossible to overestimate the significance of the Holy Spirit in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, that transformed the first disciples from a confused and frightened circle of has-beens, cowering for fear of their lives, into a bold, cohesive, revolutionary band of leaders who changed the course of history. The difference between the former and the latter was just one variable, the Holy Spirit.
The coming of the Holy Spirit was so important that just before he ascended, Jesus instructed his disciples to do nothing until the power of the Holy Spirit was given to them:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4–5, 8).
In the Old Testament there are numerous times when we are told that the Holy Spirit was specifically made available to certain people at certain times. Moses was guided by the Holy Spirit. Gideon, Joshua, Saul, David, Isaiah, Zechariah, and many others are said to have had the Spirit of the Lord upon them. Almost always the Spirit was given when power or discernment or courage or prophecy was needed. The Spirit enabled them to do something they could not otherwise do. But the Spirit was not given to everyone—until Jesus.
Once Jesus had risen and the curtain in the temple had been torn in two, access to God’s presence was no longer limited to or controlled by the priesthood. God’s presence no longer dwells within the temple but within every follower of Christ. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).
We are now, as Peter said, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [we] may declare the praises of him who called [us] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
Heaven has been torn open, and God has come to dwell within us; the kingdom of heaven is near.
How often do you think about the Holy Spirit as a real presence in your life?
Father, thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for not leaving us on our own.