Christians believe that God is not remote. He is alive and active in the world he created. God is invisible and (since the death and resurrection of Jesus) cannot be seen on earth in a human form. But in spiritual form his presence is real and can be experienced.
The name Christians use when they refer to God at work in the world today is the Spirit of God. Very often they call this the Holy Spirit. There are other names as well – the Spirit of Truth, the Counsellor, the Spirit of Christ. In past centuries the most common term was the Holy Ghost. But today the Holy Spirit is the name most frequently used.
Christians have a very distinct sense of God being within them. His love, his guidance and his peace are apparent in their lives in this spiritual form. The best way they have of describing this is as the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in them.
For the most part, the Holy Spirit within a person is a presence of which they are hardly aware. The more people are conscious of it, the more it allows them to think in godly ways. That shows itself in the way they serve poor people, seek justice and care for those in need. However, during prayer or worship that spiritual presence can intensify and become a joyful emotion. Some people in those circumstances have a strong but quiet sense of the closeness of God. For others it may be expressed in exultant words which aren’t recognisable as a human language but which allow them to praise God in a way that is beyond human understanding (this is called speaking in tongues).
The Holy Spirit of God is not just contained within human beings. It is present throughout the entire cosmos. It is the way God sustains everything that ever has been and ever will be. Men and women encounter God in three ways. There is the God who created all things. There is Jesus, who walked and talked on earth and was God inhabiting a human body. And there is the Spirit of God through which he is invisibly present among us at this very moment.
One God, but three different ways of experiencing God. (Christians call this a ‘Trinity’ of ways in which God makes himself known.)
The Bible describes nine signs of the Holy Spirit bearing fruit in a person’s life. As a result of his or her faith, a Christian can expect to enjoy a noticeable increase in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit strikingly, but unspectacularly, enriches a person’s life.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. The Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Where to find it:
About these words:
This was Jesus’ message to his followers the night before he died.
And they said…
Oprah Winfrey, media executive:
I am not telling you what to believe, or who to believe, or what to call it. But there is no full life, no fulfilled or meaningful, sustainably joyful life without a connection to the Spirit.
Amy Carmichael, missionary to Asia, 1867-1951:
Holy Spirit, think through me, until your ideas are my ideas.
Corrie ten Boom, writer and holocaust survivor, 1892-1983:
I have a glove here in my hand. The glove cannot do anything by itself but, when my hand is in it, can do many things … We are gloves. It is the Holy Spirit in us who is the hand, who does the job. We have to make room for the hand so that every finger is filled.
Agnes Sandford, US theologian, 1898-1982:
The Holy Spirit, who is the giver of the gift of healing, simply cannot be circumscribed within the walls of a church. He cannot abide it and he will not, but will dim his power in any church that dares to claim him as the exclusive tool of the clergy. For indeed the healing Spirit of God is in the wind and the sun and the little creeping things upon the earth and is most certainly available to the one who prays with faith, be he minister or layman, man, woman or child.
DL Moody, US preacher, 1837-1899:
I am filled with the Holy Spirit … but I leak.
Denzil Washington, actor:
Whatever gift God has given you, you just share it.
(Photo: Caroline Hoos)