The Presence of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit indwells all who have turned from sin and placed their faith in the atoning work of Jesus. His fullness is expressed in delegating to us authority and power to live our lives and overcome evil. His fullness is expressed in the transforming of our lives in holiness. He enables us to obey our Lord, directs our steps, reveals truth, manifests Christ’s love through us and enables us to give thanks in all seasons of life.
But we can’t see the Holy Spirit. How do we know He is present?
Some people equate the presence of the Holy Spirit with emotion. If the music and preaching are exciting, they say, “The Holy Spirit was really among us today.” Emotions are a wonderful gift from God but they come and go. Does that mean the Holy Spirit comes and goes? Not at all.
Some people equate the presence of the Holy Spirit with signs and wonders, miraculous manifestations of the power of God. We praise God for miraculous demonstrations of His power because these glorify God and bless people. But when there is no miracle, does that mean the Holy Spirit is not present? Not at all.
Let’s consider 8 demonstrations of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
1. We know the Holy Spirit is present because that is God’s promise to us. Jesus said,
“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:38).
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).
“You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5).
The Apostle Peter, preaching on the day of Pentecost, said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:38,39).
We know the Holy Spirit is present because that is what our Lord promised and He always fulfills every promise.
2. We know the Holy Spirit is present because He witnesses to us that we are children of God:
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
The confidence that you have been born again as a child of God, translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, that God loves you and has included you in His kingdom — this is the testimony of the Holy Spirit. You have confidence in the resurrection promise of Jesus because the Holy Spirit is testifying within you.
The confidence that our steps are being ordered, that doors are opening and God’s purposes are being worked out, these are testimonies of the presence of the Holy Spirit, of whom it is said, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
Admittedly, we don't always experience that confidence. In seasons of trial or stress, when we are under pressure or we have sinned or failed at something, we may not feel or experience the presence of the Holy Spirit on an emotional level. But we are not living this new life by what we feel but by what we know. The word of God clearly says that the Holy Spirit indwells every born again follower of Christ: “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands” (Acts 7:48).
“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2 Cor. 6:16).
We know the Holy Spirit lives in us because this is God’s promise and even when we do not feel the confidence that we are the children of God, even when we have doubts about our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will continue to bear inner witness that we are God’s children.
3. The Holy Spirit testifies of His presence by opening the Word of God to us:
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12,13).
The same Holy Spirit who inspired the holy Scriptures also interprets those Scriptures to us. As we read the word, listen to the word being taught, the Spirit of truth — the Holy Spirit, enables us to understand. He gives us insight into the mind and heart of God revealed in Scripture.
Paul reminds us, “We have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16). This wasn’t true before we were born again. When we were separated from God by our sin and spiritually dead, we had no insight into the Scriptures because the Holy Spirit was not dwelling in us and our eyes were blind to the things of God. The Apostle Paul says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
I have listened to people with doctoral degrees in theology and philosophy who did not know the Lord and though they were considered brilliant by the world, they had no insight into or understanding of the word of God. Why? Because, being spiritually unregenerated, they were blind to the things of God. The Apostle Paul dealt with highly educated Greeks and Jews who had no insight into Biblical truth. He said, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14).
Biblical truth is foolishness to those who do not have the presence of the Holy Spirit to interpret and open truth to them. But if we have turned from our sin and believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior, we have been raised from spiritual death to new life and the Spirit of truth dwells in us. He unveils our eyes, opens our minds, illumines our hearts. In fact, it was the Holy Spirit “who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
We are surrounded today by a flood of lies, propaganda, false philosophies and error. Even in the church false teaching abounds. But the same Spirit who inspired the writers of Scripture indwells us and interprets the Scriptures to us. That is one of the proofs of His presence.
4. He testifies of His presence by glorifying Jesus in our heart.
When we believed on the Lord, the Holy Spirit baptized us into a living relationship with a living Savior, immersed us into union with Christ. He opens to us the life of Jesus, makes real to us the life of Jesus among us in our day, opens our hearts to worship Him and love Him. Jesus said of the coming of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14).
The Spirit makes the presence of Jesus real to us, exalts Jesus, glorifies Him. He shows us the attributes of Jesus revealed in Scripture. He plants an anointing of praise within us so that we may glorify the Lord. He pours the love of the Father for the Son into our hearts so that we can pour out our love to the Lord. The Holy Spirit takes the Jesus of history and brings Him into our present moment, enables us to experience a living fellowship with a living Savior.
5. He testifies of His presence by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in us.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22,23).
The fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus and only the Holy Spirit can produce that in us. But as we gaze at the glory of Jesus, we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). We gaze into the glory of Jesus in prayer, in worship, in reading the Scriptures. As we commit to live and obey the truths of God’s word, as we commit to this disciplined life of fellowship with the Lord, the Holy Spirit cultivates within us the very character of Jesus.
The world, the flesh and the devil whisper to us every time we stumble and sin, “You really missed it just then. I don’t see the fruit of the Spirit in you.” Yes we do fail sometimes. But the fruit of the Spirit is not about perfection — that comes in the next life. The fruit of the Spirit is about direction — a gradual, progressive transformation of character in the grace and knowledge and likeness of Jesus. And that fruit is evident in us.
6. He testifies of His presence by placing us in the church and gifting us for ministry according to His purpose.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord … But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ … But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (I Cor. 12:4,5,11,12,18).
The Holy Spirit shepherds us into the church that is right for us and plants us there, makes a place for us there. He imparts spiritual gifts in us and anoints our natural giftings so that we can share in the ministry of Christ through His church on earth. Your place in the church and your gifted ministry in Christ is a proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence in you.
7. The Holy Spirit testifies of His presence as He gives us spiritual discernment.
The Apostle John was writing to the church about the antichrist spirit that was attempting to deceive the saints in the first century church and John said, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know” (I John 2:20).
There is a spiritual gift called discerning of spirits (I Cor.12:10). It is a special anointing to discern spiritual reality in people and circumstances. Not everyone has that special gift of the Spirit but we all have an anointing to discern the difference between truth and heresy, Scriptural truth and doctrines of demons, light and darkness, that which is real and that which is counterfeit.
That anointing is the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and light.
We can all remember times when we were listening to professors, preachers, philosophers, social commentators who were far better educated than we are but they were unregenerate, spiritually dead, blind to spiritual truth, and as we listened to them tear apart the truth of the Bible, we knew they were wrong. There was an instinctive witness in our spirit that in spite of our lack of education and their titles and degrees, we know the truth and they do not.
Likewise, we have listened to truth-speakers and there was a witness in our spirit that we were listening to the truth. This confidence that we can discern truth from heresy is a witness of the Holy Spirit. He gives us discernment to know light from darkness, truth from error. This does not mean that we do not need teachers. Godly teachers are one of the Lord’s gifts to His church and as we listen to truthful, Spirit-led teachers, we grow in our spiritual discernment.
8. He testifies of His presence by interceding for us:
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26,27)
The indwelling Spirit of God is praying, interceding for us, through us and from within us. How do we know the Holy Spirit is interceding for us? First of all, because the Bible says He is. But also we know by the way God works out our lives for His glory and our good.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). (Please don’t quote a fraction of that verse to an unbeliever as if God is working out His purpose in that life while they are living in a state of separation from God. God is not working all things together for good for all people. But He is for “those who love God” and those who are committed to live according to His purpose.)
God is working all things together for His glory and our good because the Holy Spirit is praying for us, through us and from within us and God always answers the prayers that are prayed within the heart and mind of the Trinity. That is a proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. We may not always see or understand that process; it may not always be apparent to us but we know it is true because God says so.
9. He testifies of His presence by strengthening us for the crises, trials and burdens of the day.
This does not mean that life will be easy or trouble free. To the contrary, when the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phlp. 4:13), he was writing from imprisonment in Rome, awaiting trial for preaching the Gospel. But he considered himself to be an overcomer because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
When the Apostles were threatened with punishment if they continued to preach the Gospel of Jesus, they prayed, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Though the Holy Spirit indwelt them, they were freshly filled to meet the crisis of that day.
So with Paul when confronting a magician, a cultist who was seeking to turn people away from the faith. Paul was filled (you could translate “freshly filled”) with the Holy Spirit for the purpose of discerning, confronting and speaking judgment over the deceiver (Acts 13:9).
Paul prayed to the Lord for each of us, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). That is a prayer which the Lord always answers. He will give us the ability to overcome the temptations and challenges and storms and trials of life through the Holy Spirit at work in us. He will freshly fill us with the spiritual resources to live this day as witnesses of Christ.
We are overcomers in Christ not because of our ability or talent or intelligence. We overcome through the indwelling presence of the Spirit.
In the days of the Old Covenant God promised to someday pour His Holy Spirit into the lives of all who have been inwardly cleansed of sin. That required a perfect sacrifice, the Holy Lamb of God. Once that sacrifice was made, the Holy Spirit was poured into the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. From that day on, all who repent of sin and place their faith in Jesus are gifted with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Fulness of the Holy Spirit is expressed in an anointing of divine authority and power, a progressive work of holiness within us, the capacity to walk in obedience to God as He directs our steps and reveals truth to us, as He enables us to walk in love and thankfulness.
1. We know the Holy Spirit is present because that is God’s promise to us.
2. We know the Holy Spirit is present because He witnesses to us that we are children of God.
3. He opens the Word of God to us, enabling us to understand the testimony of Scripture, giving to us the mind of Christ.
4. He glorifies Jesus in our heart — baptizes us into a living relationship with a living Savior, immerses us into union with Christ, opening to us the life of Jesus so we can worship Him and love Him.
5. He cultivates the fruit of the Spirit in us.
6. He places us in the church and gifts us for ministry according to His purpose.
7. He gives us spiritual discernment.
8. He intercedes for us and we know He is praying for us because of the way God is working out His purpose in our lives.
9. He testifies of His presence by strengthening us with fresh infillings of His wisdom and power and all resources needed for the living of our life.
God no longer dwells in temples made with hands. He has planted His Spirit within us — we carry this treasure in earthen vessels. The Spirit of the living God dwells within us releasing through us rivers of living water, expressing through us the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory.
1. How do we know the Holy Spirit is present within us?
2. With so much lying and deception in the world today, how can you be confident that you will discern truth from error?