The Nicene Creed states, “And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.”
“God” and “Jesus” are both fairly well understood by most Christians, but I’m afraid the “Holy Spirit” remains something of a mystery to many of us. After all, we can’t even decide whether or not we should call Him the “Holy Spirit” or the “Holy Ghost!” We talk enough about God that we generally are pretty comfortable with Him. Jesus is clearly pretty well understood (although most people have given very little thought to what God the Son was doing BEFORE Christmas day). But the Holy Spirit remains somewhat mysterious.
When Jesus was telling his disciples that he would be leaving them he said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7–8).
Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Paraclete,” which is translated “Counselor” (other translations say “Helper,” “Comforter,” and “Advocate”). This word Paraclete literally means “One who is called alongside.” I like to think about the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) as my sherpa. A sherpa is a guide who helps a hiker navigate difficult terrain: he directs, advises, and generally aids the climber to the top of the mountain. The sherpa is “called alongside” the climber in a similar way to how the Holy Spirit functions in our lives as Christians.
Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would convict the world (not only generally, but each of us individually too, which is clearly seen through Pentecost) of “guilt, righteousness, and judgment.” This means that the Holy Spirit guides us from danger (sin/guilt), towards godliness (righteousness), and leads us to our heavenly destination (judgment, where we will receive the crown of life because of our faith in Jesus Christ).
But here’s the thing: All Christians receive the Holy Spirit upon repentance from sin and confession that Jesus Christ is Lord… but that doesn’t mean that we’re always filled up to the brim with godliness and wisdom and “warm fuzzies.” We still sin. We will neglect godliness. We still fear judgment because we know it’s what we really deserve. So what’s the deal!?
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:13-14,“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
We need to ask ourselves, “Am I living in submission to the Holy Spirit’s teaching?” So often we fall into old habits of listening to what the world considers wisdom, and then we complain that our relationship with God is broken (and, obviously, it’s not OUR fault!).
Imagine you have a cup filled with dirt: you’re the cup, and the dirt represents sin. When we’re forgiven our sin (justified) our dirt/sin is dumped out and we’re filled with the Holy Spirit (mentally picture water in the cup representing the Holy Spirit). As you go about your business and stray from Christ and sin, you notice Coke mixed into your cup, making it dark and polluted. No one would say, “Yeah, give me a cup of that!” It’s no good, but it’s not filled with dirt anymore, so it can’t be that bad, right! Well… God wants more for you, He wants you to be pure. So you repent and begin to listen to the Holy Spirit guiding you in walking with him (remember the Paraclete), and the Holy Spirit fills you up again and makes your cup filled with water again.
The Christian life isn’t perfect and none of us perfectly walk in step with the Holy Spirit. But He is our Guide (notice that we do not refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it”… the Holy Spirit is a Person of the Trinity, not a “thing” of the Trinity!).
Galatians 5:25 – “Since we are filled with the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”