Who, or what, do you become when you start trusting in Jesus? Do you become a mindless automaton with no will of your own, something like the alien invasion of the body snatchers? Or is Christ in us something totally and completely different?
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
This may sound like a ridiculous question, but for generations who grew up outside of the influence of Christian schools and churches, they are legitimate concerns because the Bible clearly teaches that when we come to trust in Jesus, God fills us with His Holy Spirit. Paul refers to it in today’s verse as “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” Colossians 1:27 calls it “…Christ in you the hope of glory.” Even the Old Testament speaks of this; in Ezekiel 36:27 God says, “I will put My Spirit within you…”
Those of us who have experienced the presence of God in our lives through His Holy Spirit recognize it as a tremendous comfort and help, but for someone who is unfamiliar with what is involved it can be disconcerting, because the only other point of reference the secular world has of the influence of something outside of us entering into us is demonic possession, which is frightening, evil and hurtful. Add to this the sci-fi movies of alien invaders possessing human bodies, and we can begin to understand how people who have no religious background can be apprehensive and fear they will give up full control of themselves when they accept Christ.
Yet what happens when we come to trust in Jesus is not a giving up of self. You see, who we are is obviously not just our body; there is also our soul–that part of us that animates the body–as anyone who has ever seen a dead body can attest to. It involves our temperament, our personality, our mind–who we are, in other words. And that doesn’t change when we become Christians. We don’t stop liking chocolate or classical music or swimming or the color blue.
What does change is the part of us God says is naturally opposed to–wants no part of–Him from birth: our spirit. The Bible refers to it as the new birth or being born again. Before we couldn’t care less about God; after we trust in Jesus, God gives us an affinity for Him that wasn’t there before–that part of us that was dead from birth because of the effect of sin in us becomes alive with a vivid consciousness of and concern for our relationship with Him! But what about Paul’s comment that it isn’t he who lives any longer but Christ in him?
So here’s the thing: demons are bad; God is incredibly and completely good. To be possessed by an evil alien power intent on harming you is frightening, scary, and to be avoided at all cost, but that’s not God–it’s the opposite of what and who God is! God is everything that is good; He is, in fact, the ultimate good. So when He gives us His Holy Spirit, it’s incredibly good, not bad. Listen to how Jesus describes Him:
“Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you. I won’t leave you like orphans. I will come back to you. In a little while the people of this world won’t be able to see me, but you will see me. And because I live, you will live. Then you will know I am one with the Father. You will know you are one with me, and I am one with you. If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you and show you what I am like. I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.” (John 14:15-21, 25-26 CEV)
Rather than being scary, Jesus giving us His Spirit is the living presence of the holy ultimately loving God always with us. Its the best comfort during difficulties, guidance for wise living, and assurance of how incredibly and deeply loved we are by our Father God! It’s why it’s impossible to convince Christians God isn’t real–they know better because they actively know Him–and rather than turning us into mindless zombies, through His presence in our lives God’s Spirit gives us the wisdom and strength to be the people we were meant to be!
Dear Lord God,
Help me have faith in You; show Yourself to me through Your Holy Spirit! Amen.