I believe it is impossible to understand the Bible, the structure of the church or Christian living without understanding something of the person and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible teaches us that God is in three Persons. God is One, but He is manifested in three Persons. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Don’t ask me to explain it—I can’t. It’s impossible for me to explain to you the Holy Trinity. I accept it by faith. God the Father; God the Son, who is equal with the Father in every respect; God the Holy Spirit, who is equal with the Son and with the Father in every respect.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is never to be referred to as “it.” He is a mighty Person, the Holy Spirit of God. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is eternal. The Bible tells us that He is holy. He is referred to in the New Testament alone some 100 times as the Holy Spirit—absolute holiness, absolute purity, absolute righteousness.
The Bible tells us of the work of the Holy Spirit. What does He do? We are told in John 16:8 that He convicts men and women of sin: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Before you can come to Christ you must acknowledge that you are a sinner. You must renounce your sins. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts you of your sin. He makes you feel uncomfortable. He pricks your conscience. He makes you admit that you are a sinner, and then He gives you the strength and the power to turn from your sins.
Men have come into our meetings and have gotten up and shaken their fists in my face and walked out. But they came back, because it was the Holy Spirit making them uncomfortable. You cannot come to Christ unless the Holy Spirit convicts you.
The Bible teaches that the moment you receive Jesus Christ as Savior, the Spirit of God comes in and gives you new life. For the first time, you begin to live with a capital “L.” There’s a whole new direction to your life because the Spirit of God has given to you the very life of God.
The Bible also teaches us that the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
This cluster of fruit should characterize the life of every Christ-born child of God. We’re to be filled with love, we’re to have joy, we’re to have peace, we’re to have patience, we’re to be gentle and kind, we’re to be filled with goodness, we’re to have faith, we’re to have meekness, and we’re to have temperance. But what do we find? In the average so-called Christian today we find the opposite.
Every person, before coming to Christ, is dominated by one nature—the “old man.” You’re controlled by your ego, your self. The moment you receive Christ as your Savior, that self is put down. Christ is put on the throne in your life, and the Spirit of God dominates your life.
However, self is still there—sometimes hidden, sometimes quiet—waiting for the opportunity and the chance to attack the citadel of your soul and take control again. You have the will as a Christian to yield either to the flesh and live a fleshly, carnal life; or to yield to the Spirit and live a Spirit-filled life.
Which life are you living? Are you living a fleshly, carnal life? Oh, you go to church, but there is no daily walk or fellowship with Christ. There’s not the joy, the buoyancy that you know a Christian should have.
God never meant it to be that way. God meant the Christian life to be on the highest possible plane at all times, bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
I cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit by my own strength. I cannot love, I cannot have joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance by myself. I have no power. But this Holy Spirit, who lives in me since I received Christ as my Savior, is the one who gives me the power to love. He gives me the joy. He gives me the peace. He gives me the patience. He bears the fruit in my life.
You say, “I’m a Christian.” Are you? Well, let’s see what kind of fruit you have produced. Is your life filled with immorality? Is it filled with idolatry? That is, do you have more time for other things than you do for God? Is there hatred? Is there wrath? Is there strife? Is there partying? Is there envy? Is there jealousy?
Now regarding the fruit of the Spirit: The first one is love, and this is the heart of it all, because all of them are wrapped up in this one word: love.
There are three words for love in Greek. In English there is only one. But in Greek, eros is sensual love. Philia is love between friends or the love between a man and wife. And there is one word to describe supernatural love, God’s love for us: agape.
Notice God’s love. You and I were sinners. We were enemies of God. We had rebelled against God. We deserved hell. But the Bible says God loved us anyway with an everlasting love, so that He was willing to give His Son to die on the cross for our sins.
When I see Jesus Christ dying there, the nails in His hands, the spikes through His feet, and the crown of thorns on His brow—when I see Christ suffering and dying—I see the love of God outpoured for us.
If Christ were dying for friends it would be one thing; but He was dying for enemies. The moment you give your life to Christ, the Bible teaches that God sheds abroad in your heart that same love—agape love.
There is not a person who has the ability to love that way unless he or she comes to Christ—unless the Holy Spirit has control of their life. You don’t have the power to love. But when men and women turn to God, God gives them agape love—and then they love their neighbors no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their circumstances.
This is the love that God gives as a gift, and it is produced in the heart by the Holy Spirit who lives there.
Then there’s joy. The summons to rejoice is sounded no less than 70 times in the New Testament. Seventy times in the New Testament it says that Christians should rejoice! Count it all joy, even when you face trials and tribulations and troubles.
There is a vast difference between pleasure and Christian joy. Pleasure depends on circumstances. Many times it requires good health to really enjoy yourself. But Christian joy is completely independent of health or circumstances.
When circumstances are savage, when circumstances are against you, when every modern comfort is withdrawn, there is still the miracle of joy produced by the Holy Spirit who lives within. How many sick people I’ve called on who knew Christ and there was a radiant joy—there was heaven on their faces.
And there is peace. Millions of people would gladly give their right arms to find peace. They would like to have deep, inward, satisfying peace.
You are searching for peace: you long for it. You thought you would find it if you made a lot of money, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it if you had sexual experiences, but you didn’t find it.
You thought you would find it if you got drunk, but you didn’t find it. You thought you would find it in getting and accumulating a lot of knowledge, so you got all the degrees you could get, but you didn’t find it. You’ve searched the religions of the world, but you haven’t found it.
There are a thousand ways you’ve turned, trying to find peace, but you haven’t found it. You’ve escaped from reality for a few moments, for a few hours, and then it’s back—the old burden, the old suffering, the old emptiness, the old monotony, the old grind. Give your life to Christ and let Him give you “the peace that passes all understanding” (Cf. Philippians 4:7).
As you yield completely to Him as Savior and Lord—when you come to Christ by an act of faith—He gives you the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of the Spirit. After the Holy Spirit is in you, you must yield to Him to the extent that He controls your life. Then sin will not rule over you. “He who is in you [the Holy Spirit] is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
You say, “What must I do?” By an act of faith you must receive Christ. You must give Him your total life, your intellect, your emotional life. Your will must be bent to His will—surrender, commit, receive. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Give your life to Him! Don’t let anything keep you back! You may never again be this close to the Kingdom of God.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.