1 John 4:13
“By this we know that we abide in hm and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)
God has provided everything you need to live a victorious Christian life, putting the gold inside the clay casing on permanent display. You are created God-compatible, forgiven of all sin, transformed into a radically different kind of being, and empowered by God-in-residence. And best of all, you are united in an intimate relationship with the greatest Lover of all. The Holy Spirit enables you to overcome your inability to keep God’s law and grow in ever-greater likeness to Jesus.
The Spirit is your best friend, so in addition to these things, the Spirit prompts you when you start to make a wrong turn, helps you when you stumble, forgives you when you hurt Him, warns you when you get headstrong, guides you when you’re confused, laughs with you when things go right, weeps with you when things go wrong. And He loves you always—whether or not you deserve it. What a wonder the indwelling Spirit is!
What does the Holy Spirit do in this indwelling relationship? Jesus called the Spirit your Counselor (see John 14:16, 26; 15:26). You can think of Him as a companion, your best friend. Does the Spirit literally reside inside your body? How about Christ—does He live in there too? And the Father? It’s a mystery, isn’t it?
Nevertheless, Scripture teaches that God comes to reside in you, making you His intimate companion. Amazingly, the God of the universe, the God of the ages, the God of all infinities holds out to you a personal, one-to-one, intimate relationship. From the eternal love bonds that unite Father, Son, and Spirit, they invite you to join that relationship. It’s so intimate that the only way to describe it is to say that God is in you and you are in Him. Think about it: uninterrupted companionship for eternity.
The old me could do good things. Bad people often do good. Cornelius did; Acts 10:2 calls him a devout man who feared God, did charitable deeds, and prayed. But he didn’t have a new nature that comes with knowing Christ. An unconverted mother who dashes into a burning home to rescue her infant does a good thing. The problem is, she can’t consistently choose good. Without Jesus she doesn’t have the capability. Her jailer, sin, won’t let her. In fact, she probably doesn’t even know what good is most of the time, and even if she does, she usually doesn’t want it. Why? Because the old, unredeemed nature craves the things of the flesh, not the things of the spirit.
The new me can choose to do wrong, but I don’t have to. Because of my new nature in Christ, I now know what’s right, especially as my mind is informed by the Word and sensitized by the Spirit. Furthermore, my desires have been reprogrammed; I like the good, at least most of the time. But best of all, the new me has built-in capabilities to consistently choose good. All sorts of things have passed away; all kinds of things have become new!
But how you distinguished His voice from other voices? I don’t have a definitive answer to the puzzle, but here’s how I try to sort it out.
Learn what the Word of God says on the subject. Is this desire a temptation to sin as defined by Scripture, or is it something I’ve picked up from tradition or from a hyperactive, guilt-ridden conscience?
Identify whether the conviction is specific or general. The conviction of the Spirit is specific, not a general sense of unease or guilt. He puts His finger on the spot with scriptural truth, either directly or through someone else. Another difference from Satan’s promptings is that the gentle Spirit doesn’t harass me. He’s persistent, but His is a gentle, perhaps intermittent pressure, not constant, indiscriminate, accusing agitation.
Confess guilt anyway. If I can’t decide whether the agitation in my conscience is from above or below or just misguided judgment, I accept the accusation, treat it as a sin, confess it, and forsake it. I’ve discovered that to treat a problematic accusation as true, whether or not it is, usually does no harm, and I can walk the freedom trail anyway and settle the issue.
When I advocate instantly confessing sin, getting up and moving on, not wallowing around in a bog of guilt feelings, I don’t mean to treat sin lightly. There must be true repentance, deep sorrow for the hurt I’ve caused my Lord. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the first tears I shed over my own sin didn’t flow until 18 years after my salvation. I was confronted by the fact that it wasn’t the Romans or the Jews that nailed Jesus to the cross but my own carefully laundered, civilized sins. And I was crucifying Him again daily. The stony heart was broken, and tears of remorse flowed.
We must never treat sin lightly. Grace may be free, but it’s not cheap. The first, indispensable step toward freedom is my responsibility to confess that sin, acknowledging it without trying to excuse it, play it down, or explain it away.
How does being a new creation give you hope for living the Christian life? Perhaps it is that God has given you a new nature, transforming you into an altogether new kind of being.