The day that I came to know Jesus as my Savior was the greatest day of my life. Ecstasy, love and peace that I had never experienced completely overshadowed the horrible days that preceded it. This was a mountaintop experience I never wanted to leave, and believed could never be eclipsed. I no longer knew about Jesus as a historical character, but had an intimate (He knew the good, bad, and ugly) relationship with the greatest person (singularly capable of unconditional love) to ever walk this earth.
My encounter with Jesus forever changed my heart, but HE didn’t immediately reign in my willful ways. I became very frustrated with behaviors I wanted to change, but felt powerless to alter. Because misery loves company, I found consolation in Paul’s letter to the Romans. “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (7:18-19)
Fortunately, there was more. Not only did Paul give encouraging instruction to the Romans, but his letter to the Colossians contained a gold nugget that I have gratefully claimed. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.“ (2:6-7) The clear distinction and directive was to live IN Jesus, not just with Him. That being the case, how could I be planted in Him so that life’s hardships and challenges couldn’t uproot me?
Jesus beautifully explained it to His disciples. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you.” (John 16:7, 13-14) Jesus is explaining His role that John the Baptist introduced: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
Jesus never intended that we, His disciples, should try to function without the fire/power of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit brings wisdom, revelation, instruction – amplification of the voice of God so that we hear clearly. He also brings supernatural power to the operation of all spiritual gifts, enabling us to function beyond what we know we are capable of doing. Both of these factor into our spiritual growth and sanctification, enabling the abundant life Jesus intended.
But the enemy of our souls hates this closeness to God and our partnering with Him to advance the Kingdom of God on Earth. One of his most clever deceptions is with regard to the role of Holy Spirit when we make Jesus our Savior. That glorious decision activates the presence of Holy Spirit, but is not the same as being baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit. The first flips the on-switch; the second immerses us in His power. Misunderstanding the difference can delude the believer into being content with his/her salvation experience without pursuing more. The result is like trying to operate a car’s combustion engine without gasoline. To some degree, you might be able to coast on the easy downhill parts of the journey, but for the tough uphill parts, you will need the “gasoline” of Holy Spirit to empower you.
Life in the Holy Spirit makes each day an adventure, minimizing obstacles through our trust in His goodness. Paul said it best: “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21)